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Does the Bible Encourage Rape?

The Bible encourages men to rape women.

Or so I’m being told by confident atheists on social media.

These secular prophets are basing their denouncements on the NIV English translation of Deuteronomy 22.28 which reads,

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes 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.

So… does the Bible encourage or condone rape? Does the Bible command rape victims to marry their rapists? Or have we misunderstood something?

Sadly, the NIV did – in the estimation of many – translate this quite poorly (as did the HCSB and NET). Many other solid translations – such as the ESV, King James, Geneva Bible, the NLV and the NLT - do not use the idea of or the word ‘rape’ here. Why? What’s going on?

What is Lexical Range?

Let’s get technical for just a moment. The confusion has to do with the Hebrew verb that the NIV translates as ‘rape’. It’s the word taphas. Like many Hebrew words, it has a big lexical range. What does that mean? 

Take the English verb ‘to hold’ for example. Is it a good word or bad word? Does a person usually want to be ‘held’?

As you would probably say, it depends on the context.

I want to be ‘held by’ someone I find attractive. I don’t want to be ‘held down by’ an aggressive person. And still more, if you’re going too quickly I may ask you to ‘hold on’ for a moment.

That Hebrew verb, taphas, is like our verb ‘to hold’. The connotations vary. Elsewhere it’s translated: manipulate, seize, catch, handle, hold, surprise, and take. At times, it has nothing to do with force. Some translations use two verbs here - one stronger and one weaker to help cover all the possibilities. The NLT - a version that seeks to translate the sense of a phrase rather than a word for word translation - uses the verb 'to have intercourse with'.

Of course, the actual word could mean 'rape' – but that would be at one end of the interpretive scale. Instead of just looking at the verb, we must ask what translation the wider context suggests? Most translators and commentators don’t think it should be 'rape'. Here’s why…


First of all, rape was just discussed in the previous verses. It talks about a woman being raped in the countryside and crying out for help. In those instances capital punishment is recommended for the man and the woman goes free. In those verses the word used for ‘rape’ isn’t taphas (above). It’s a completely different word, chazaq – which also has a wide lexical range. But in these previous verses, the context is clear that it should be translated as ‘rape’. If verses 28-29 were continuing the discussion on rape, it would be logical to use the same verb and not introduce a completely new one.

Secondly, not only is the word different, but it seems contrary to what is being discussed above – laws that seeks to protect women from punishment when force is involved in illicit sex.

Significantly, these laws were also listed previously in Exodus. The word ‘Deuteronomy’ means ‘second law’. It's called this because it’s a recap of what was previously covered in the Pentateuch. When the law is mentioned for the first time in Exodus, the wording is slightly different and it avoids the ambiguity found here. It reads,

If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to anyone and has sex with her, he must pay the customary bride price and marry her. –Ex. 22.16

Given both the immediate context of the passage and the larger context of the Mosaic Law, we are within our rights to argue that the word should be translated ‘seduce’, ‘trick’ or even pssibly  ‘to have intercourse’.

But Why Marry Her?

But all this may raise another question. Why this law? Why state that he should marry her? Is that being cruel to the woman?

The answer is simple: this law protected women. It protected them from players and all forms of sleazy dudes.

In the Ancient Near East, a girl who had given it up outside of marriage was damaged goods. She would stand little chance of finding a husband and thus securing her economic future.

By requiring guys to marry the girl – it drastically reduced the number of guys who were willing to chat a girl up just to bed her. This law killed the motivation of would be Casanovas who just wanted to knock boots with a girl and then move on - leaving her possibly pregnant and with little chance of finding a husband.

Not only does the law state that he must marry her, but it adds that he may never divorce her. Do you understand how significant that is? Under Mosaic Law, divorce could happen if one of the parties was unfaithful. But this law states that if a man has sex with a girl before marriage, then he cannot ever divorce her. He must continually support her always – regardless of what type of wife she becomes!

Can you see how this law was designed as a deterrent - to protect young women?

We also cannot forget the sub-clause. Mosaic Law also states that in this instance,

But if her father refuses to allow his daughter to marry him, the man must still give the usual payment for a bride who has never had sexual relations. –Ex. 22.17

That means if the father looks at the guy who seduced his daughter and thinks he’s a sleaze (and especially if he has reason to believe that the sex was forced or overly manipulated) then he can deny the man the right to marry his daughter – and still get the full bride price from the man! 

Often critics of verses like these imagine that Ancient Near East was similar to our 21st Century, Western culture. It wasn’t. Women didn’t marry primarily for romantic reasons like today. They married to secure their financial future. Being a single gal simply wasn’t an attractive option. If she slept with a man, she didn’t HAVE to marry him – but she would almost always choose that as the preferable option. She could choose to stay with mum and dad - but what happens when they die? 

True Biblical Rape

Lastly, let’s remember the actual recorded incidences of girls getting raped in the Bible. Read Genesis 34. When the Diana got raped – all the brothers went to war over her and killed every man involved. The same happened with Tamar (2 Samuel 13). 

Tonight if a girl gets raped in London… will there be the same passion to avenge her honour? Of course not. Rape was taken more seriously in the Bible than today.

Contrary to the accusation by secular preachers that this verse encourages rape - and thus puts women at risk - this law is one of the most protective, pro-woman verses found anywhere in the ancient world. The idea that the Bible encourages men to rape women is laughable to any careful reader - except those with an agenda to discredit it.
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bkFor a look at how the Bible says men and women SHOULD treat each other, please check out Forbidden Friendships - available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle in the USA and the UK.


  1. what ever enables to square the cruelty of the bible with your own consience. The simple fact is this: you were asked flat out whether you, as an individual, condoned or condemned rape (amongst other things). You refused to answer that question.

    That says everything about what comes first to you. Morality or the bible.

  2. funny how my comment has disappeared. PRAISE JESUS it's a miracle!!

    So, I'll repeat my point. This entire piece is nothing but a bit of personal consience cleansing on your part. You were asked, very simply, do you condone rape (amongst other things in the bible) or don't you.

    You refused to answer the question. That says it all.


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