"Here is a scripture that confuses me because it is unfair to the rape victim. In Deut 22, the rape victim must marry her rapist! I am a woman, and I and would loathe being married to the man who violated me. What do you say?
Of all the passages you've submitted, none may be more shocking than this. "Here is a scripture that confuses me because it is unfair to the rape victim. In Deut 22:28-29, the rape victim must marry her rapist! I am a woman, and I and would loathe having to marry the man who violated me."
At first blush this seems grossly unfair, adding insult to injury. Your loathing is understood. The creep has committed a sex crime. He should be put away for a long, long time.
Granted, Deut 22 is disturbing. Those of us who have known rape victims, or suffered personally from this pernicious sin, may find my discussion somewhat clinical. I don't know how to avoid that if we are to strive to get behind what's going on.
Background: Genesis and 2 Samuel
It's important to note that the passage is not referring to a serial rapist. The situation envisioned in more like that of Dinah and Shechem (although this was before the Law of Moses). If you are not familiar with this account, please take a moment to read Gen 34. Shechem was in love with Dinah; he wasn’t an ordinary criminal rapist. (The verb rendered "rape" in Deut 22:28, to take forcibly, does not appear in Gen 34:2, which has a more gentle "take.") However, instead of going through the proper channels of requesting her hand in marriage, he forced himself on her. There is no indication in the account that Dinah had any objection to marrying him. Nevertheless, what Shechem did was very wrong.
Christians believe the entire OT is the word of God. So if God truly communicated his will to his people under the old covenant (testament), we must not give up too quickly. Such an attitude could easily lead to a loss of confidence in all the difficult parts of the Bible -- like those that call us to be sacrificial, or remind us of the kinds of people we need to become as we resist the destructive currents in modern liberal society. We need to do some spadework, considering not only scripture but also ancient society. So let's read the passage in question:
If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes [literally, takes] her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives (Deut 22:28-29).
She has lost her virginity, but then that's not such a big deal, is it? Actually, it is. It's the violence of rape that shocks us. In our day, neither sex nor marriage is sacred. Fornication is so common that there's nothing remarkable about it. Back then, however, marriage was so sacred that if the virgin were betrothed (as good as married), the rapist was to be executed (Deut 22:25). How easily (and naively) we imagine the best thing for the woman would be release from the monster who'd abused her. But that could have effectively ended her chances for any future including a family and children. Unless she (and her family) were protected.
Notice that the man who violated the virgin is forced to pay the bride price to her father. The father also is a victim, since presumably the still wants his wife to marry (and produce grandchildren). Unless the rapist takes responsibility for his action, the woman might be "damaged goods." At least this way she has a future. The law was given to ensure a bad situation didn't become a worse one, and as we often find in the OT, regulations in Torah frequently serve to protect the weak.
Exactly such a situation occurs when Amnon (one of David's sons) rapes Tamar (one of David's daughters). On the verge of being violated, Tamar begs her half-brother to marry her (2 Sam 13:13). Yet he wrongs her a second time in refusing her request. "So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house" (2 Sam 13:20). A heartbreaking verse -- and the heartache was only just beginning -- read 2 Samuel!
As understood in the 1st century
In Philo’s day (the first century DA) was that it was the father’s decision of whether or not to give his daughter in marriage to the man who violated her. Knowing how protective most fathers are of their daughters, it’s unlikely a father would give his daughter to such a man unless his daughter was agreeable to it. Philo points out that if the father refused to give his daughter in marriage to the man who violated her, then the offender was fined by the court a sum of money that would serve as her dowry when her father gave her in marriage to another man. A large dowry would have made the young woman very marriageable. No young woman was ever forced to marry her rapist against her will (Philo, The Special Laws III, XI.69). (Thanks to my friend David Bercot for directing me to Philip.)
As soon as we consider the historical context, we realize that the regulation was intended to protect the woman. The way forward included the protection of marriage -- and without the possibility of divorce, which would have put her into the same defenseless position she'd have been in if he hadn't married her in the first place. Alternatively, as Philo mentioned, after receiving financial compensation, her dowry would be enlarged (doubled).
A chapter earlier, in Deut 21:13, we find another law that protected women. In wartime, it was common for female captives to be raped. This regulation effectively bans such a horrific practice, as well as providing space to grieve for lost relatives. Here's one more example. In Deut 24:1-4, the divorce certificate protects the woman from future claims by her husband. He may not come after her again, claiming they weren't properly divorced, attempting to take back her property. While these regulations do not transfer over to our culture, the underlying principles show God's wisdom and compassion -- a good reason for Christians to read Torah.
Of course on the surface Deut 22:28-29 may seem wrongheaded, and would certainly be out of place in the modern world. I am not suggesting for a minute that Deut 22:28-29 should be implemented in our culture. You can't just snatch the odd law out of the Torah and splice it into 21st century law codes -- a very wrong way of reading the law. (Some laws are repeated in the NT -- that's different.) Yet if we're willing to patiently examine the text and its context, our appreciation of God's wisdom and mercy is strengthened. It made sense (at that time). God cares about the victims of rape. God supports the family. Even as shocking a passage as Deut 22:28-29 can cause us to appreciate God. Think about it...