Articles Archive -- Topical Index -- Textual Index

by Al Maxey

Issue #812 -- December 14, 2020
Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape.
In seduction the rapist bothers to buy a bottle of wine.

Andrea Dworkin {1946-2005}

The High Cost of Seduction
Do the Scriptures Indirectly Support a
"Rape Culture" for Sexual Predators?

The radical American feminist Marilyn French (1929-2009), in her best-known work titled "The Women's Room," wrote, "Whatever they may be in public life, whatever their relations may be with men, in their relations with women, all men are rapists, and that's all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, their codes." Throughout history, especially in patriarchal societies, some have suggested that too often the laws and customs of a people tend to favor sexual predators over their victims. Freda Adler (b. 1934), a noted criminologist and university professor who has served for many years as a consultant to the United Nations on matters relating to criminal justice, wrote, "It is little wonder that rape is one of the least-reported crimes. Perhaps it is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused, and, in reality, it is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety." Regardless of how one feels about the feminist movement, most of us would likely agree that they have exposed some of the injustices of the societies in which we live.

Although such criticisms and calls for reform are most common in secular societies, and such injustices need to be responsibly addressed, one might be surprised to learn than these same criticisms have been directed toward the sacred writings we find within our Christian Bible. Some have charged that in the Scriptures, the Old Testament writings in particular, we find God's law favoring the sexual predators, and that by these divine directives the victims of sexual assault are further victimized and traumatized. Some feel that God "winks at" the sexual mistreatment of women; that He only half-heartedly reprimands such men with a "slap on the wrist." One of the passages cited by these critics is Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which reads, "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days" (New King James Version).

Most of us are probably horrified by what seems to us to be a monstrous situation. A young virgin is raped. But it doesn't end there! The rapist is then fined a monetary amount and given his victim as his wife, a wife from whom he is never allowed to be divorced. In other words, the young virgin who was raped must now live with her rapist as his wife. Injustice upon injustice? Trauma upon trauma? What was God thinking?! If I find a young maiden whom I find attractive and force myself upon her, and my rape of her is discovered, all I have to do is pay a fine and then I get to move her into my home and "legally" have sex with her for the rest of my life?! Seriously?!! As you might imagine, this passage has troubled people for centuries. A few days ago I received an email from a young Christian man in Nigeria, Africa. In his studies of the Scriptures he came across this passage. It bothered him a great deal, so he wrote to me: "How can one, after reading Deuteronomy 22:28-29, not conclude that the Bible supports a rape culture?!" As the cartoon to your right suggests, could we not make the same claim with regard to the issues of slavery, genocide, and polygamy? Let's be honest, there are some things written in the Bible that leave us shaking our heads in confusion and even disgust.

I find it interesting that not a few biblical commentaries refuse to even comment on this passage. Adam Clarke, for example, commented on Deuteronomy 22:25 and then jumped immediately to verse 30. He did not even acknowledge the existence of the verses in-between [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 1, p. 796]. Nor was he the only one who ignored this passage. Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown likewise refused to deal with this passage. Instead, they wrote, "The regulations that follow might be imperatively needful in the then situation of the Israelites; and yet, it is not necessary that we should curiously and impertinently inquire into them" [Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 158]. In fact, they even go so far as to opine that such passages as this should never have been written, for they "tend to corrupt the imagination, and will be abused by evil-disposed readers" [ibid]. In other words, as the young man from Africa noted, passages such as this seem to "support a rape culture," so maybe we should just ignore them, never mention them, and pray no one stumbles upon them. Right?!!

No, I do not recommend the above. The passage is there for a purpose; God has a message for us. It may not be immediately obvious, but it is there! Thus, we should not ignore this passage, but rather inquire into it more deeply so as to discern what our Lord is seeking to convey to us. To do this, it is always important to begin by establishing the context of the difficult text in question. The book of Deuteronomy "may be viewed as a constitution for the theocracy of Israel. ... Included are repetitions of many of the laws contained in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. ... Much of the material in the book elaborates the responsibilities of Israel as God's covenant people" [Ryrie Study Bible, p. 260]. Chapter 22 is captioned in some versions as "Sundry Laws." In other words: a collection of miscellaneous divine directives for this young nation. Some deal with the ceremonial aspects of their religion; some focus on daily living within a society, and how to keep order and peace; and some deal with moral issues. The latter is the focus of the second half of chapter 22, with special emphasis given to relationships between men and women. "Marital fidelity looms large in the Mosaic legislation" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 138]. "Higher and still holier than the order of nature stands the moral order of marriage, upon which the well-being not only of domestic life, but also of the civil commonwealth of nations, depends. Marriage must be founded upon fidelity and chastity on the part of those who are married. To foster this, and to secure it against outbreaks of malice and evil lust, was the design and object of the laws that follow" in chapter 22 [Drs. Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 - The Pentateuch, p. 410]. To bolster this view of the importance of purity in marriage (and in male/female relationships in general), one finds the Deuteronomic formula "You shall purge the evil from among you" (or "...from Israel") three times (vs. 21, 22, 24) just prior to our difficult text. In other words, God takes very seriously all "crimes against marital fidelity" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 138]. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (Hebrews 13:4).

The immediate context, therefore, indicates convincingly that the Scriptures most certainly do not condone, support, or encourage a "rape culture." In fact, in verses 23-27 notice how many times the death penalty is stipulated for those committing adultery and/or rape. Even the betrothed virgin maiden, if she did not cry out for help while being raped, was to be executed. Why? Because her silence during the assault, if her cries could have summoned help, imply (in the eyes of ancient Jewish law) a certain level of consent. She could have screamed for deliverance, but chose not to. The exception would be if the virgin was away from other people (out in a field, for example) and her cries could not be heard. In this case, her life would be spared. "When he found her in the field, the betrothed girl cried out, but there was no one to save her" (vs. 27). Notice carefully that in each of these cases the female raped was not only a virgin, but she was betrothed. That is a key point to understanding our "problem text." In Jewish culture, "betrothal" was not even close to our present day "engagement." Men and women today get engaged and unengaged all the time, with little if any legal consequences. Not so back then in that culture. "Betrothal was a binding legal tie in Israelite law, and seduction of a betrothed girl was equivalent to adultery, with the death penalty decreed for both parties" [Clyde M. Woods, The Living Way Commentary on the OT, vol. 1, p. 187]. This helps explain why Joseph sought to secretly put away (divorce) Mary, to whom he was betrothed, for her apparent act of immorality (she was pregnant, and the baby wasn't his) would have brought upon her the death penalty (Matthew 1:18-19).

But, take a look again at Deuteronomy 22:28 - "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is NOT betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her...". Although this is a violent act against this woman, and is most definitely not something God approves of, nevertheless this sex act does not constitute adultery, but is rather fornication. There is no covenant of marriage being violated. Although sin is sin in the eyes of God, it is also true that some sins carry greater consequences (socially, spiritually, physically, emotionally) than others. Adultery was punishable by death under the Mosaic moral code, fornication was not. Thus, in our text (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) the death penalty is removed from the table. The punishment for seducing and having sex with a female virgin (whether it was consensual or not on the girl's part, the latter constituting rape) was less severe than if she was married or betrothed, for in that case there was a covenant in place with God as witness! We find this discussed further in Exodus 22:16-17 - "If a man entices (seduces) a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refused to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins" [NKJV]. The sin of the man, in both the Exodus and the Deuteronomy passages, was that he had defiled a virgin, thus making it very difficult for her to ever find a husband. This would prove to be an enormous burden not only for the girl, but for her father. The girl has been shamed, defiled, and ruined in the eyes of that society. She was spoiled goods; no one would want her. We today, in our time and culture, find this hard to grasp, but this was their reality!

The punishment of the rapist, therefore, was to personally provide to this girl (and to her father) what his act had taken from them. He would have to pay the father the dowry (fifty shekels of silver) ... he would have to marry this girl ... and he would have to provide for her as long as he lived ... and additionally, he could never divorce her. By his act of violence, she was now entitled to his full support and care for life! The only exception to this (stated in the Exodus passage, but not in the Deuteronomy passage) was if the girl's father chose NOT to allow his daughter to marry this man. The father had that option, and if he chose to exercise it, then the man had to pay "the bride-price of virgins," which could very well have been considerably more than the fifty shekels. "This procedure, in a way, reinstated the girl as a virgin, and she was afterwards not barred from marrying. The transgressor thus made good his crime as far as possible and showed his repentance" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 152]. "In ancient law the unbetrothed virgin was considered legally a valuable property of her father" [Clyde M. Woods, The Living Way Commentary on the OT, vol. 1, p. 187]. Thus, the father had the right to set the amount of compensation for his loss, with the normal amount apparently being around fifty shekels of silver. Thus, we find it within the power of the father to extend a measure of grace to both the offender and his own child. "The law was more lenient with a man who forced a virgin who is not pledged in marriage to another. The penalty, however, was not light" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 139].

Neither Exodus 22:16-17 nor Deuteronomy 22:28-29 support a "rape culture." Indeed, in the majority of cases of both rape and adultery the penalty was death. These were capital offenses under Mosaic law. In these two passages, however, we perceive the redemptive nature of our God to both victim and victimizer. Yes, there was even hope for the latter, although he would be forced to pay a rather high price for his sin of sexual seduction and aggression, which was intended to serve as "a powerful curb on disorderly passions" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 1, p. 415]. We also perceive in these two passages that "the Mosaic code highlighted the victim's rights, both to monetary compensation and to recovery of dignity" [The Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 1166]. "Consider, therefore, both the kindness and the severity of God" (Romans 11:22). God is a just God, and He will not hesitate to pour out His wrath. God is also a gracious God, and He will not hesitate to come to the aid of both victim and victimizer when there is some glimmer of hope for restoration of the one and redemption of the other. Praise the Lord for His amazing grace! Let me close this study with a quote from my book on MDR titled "Down, But Not Out" (published in 2005) in which I commented briefly on Deuteronomy 22:28-29. On page 33 of my book I wrote the following:


All of my materials (books, CDs, etc. - a full listing
of which can be found on my Web Site) may now
be ordered using PayPal. Just click the box above
and enter my account #:

Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Al, It has been a while since I have heard from you. I haven't received any of your Reflections for several weeks, so I decided to write and check up on your health. Please take care of yourself, and don't take any chances with this COVID-19 mess.

From a Reader in Nigeria, Africa:
(The same young man mentioned in the above article)

Bro. Maxey, I have been using your writings on your web site for about a year now. Your Reflections, though I don't agree with some of what you write, have really challenged me and helped me to better understand God's Word and His teaching on "the church." I especially like the way you handle difficult, sensitive, and "settled" issues. After reading through your Reflections, I have stopped calling myself a "Church of Christ" member. I am now simply a "Christian." When I first read some of your writings I really felt mentally down, yet I knew I had no choice but to "study the Scriptures to see if these things be so." In time, I stopped hiding under my desk and manned up. I started studying more and more, and the more I studied, the more I knew just how ignorant I had been of His Truth. It has been a most fulfilling journey. The problems you talk about in America are a bit different than the ones here in Nigeria. Most congregations here divide not on spiritual grounds, but because of egotistical individuals who want to be church lords. They aren't interested in any "conservative" or "liberal" tag; they just desire to be demigods. The congregation I worship at used to be lively, and we were allowed to openly and freely discuss the Scriptures in our search for Truth. Then the congregation hired an outsider as their preacher who had only been converted three years earlier, and who didn't understand our culture. He has shut down any differing views, and has taken control. The frustrating thing is that those who are older in the faith gave in to this novice, and he has silenced them and pressured them to leave the congregation. Well, I still have much to say, but I'll rest it there. God bless you, Bro. Maxey.

From a Reader on the Island of Barbados:

Al, I'm starved for your Reflections since for some time I have not been able to access them. I believe the problem is at my end, but I can't seem to be able to resolve it. I am still receiving your emails in which you alert your subscribers to your new article, and in which you provide a link to that article. However, when I click on the link it won't work for me. You have probably observed that I haven't commented on your studies in a while, so I felt I needed to inform you regarding the reason why. I trust that with God's help I will be able to resolve this matter very soon. Do continue writing your Reflections, which I consider to be an immensely important ministry to the nations. Blessings to you and your family.

From a Reader in Australia:

Hi Al, It has been a long while since I formally said "Hi" to you, even though you, Shelly, and the family have been in my prayers on a daily basis. We over here have been watching what has been happening in America with the covid virus with a great deal of stress and concern. I have been concerned as to how you and all the family are surviving. I do pray that you are all safe and continue to stay well and free of the virus. I look at your churches and see so many affected by this, and I can't help but agonize for you all over there. Thank you, Al, for continuing to prepare and send out your Reflections. They mean so much to me! To have such a resource for study in these covid times is so essential for us all. So, again, Thank You, my brother! We here in Australia are fortunate, as we have been able to keep the virus under reasonable control. Stay safe, my brother, and may all your family stay safe as well. Love you and Thank you!!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Hello Al, I hope you are all well and enjoying this holiday season. Over the past ten years I have been reading through your articles for insight, and I have come to know grace and the Holy Spirit, and your articles were a huge help in my coming into the light of Truth and leaving the legalistic patternism in which I had been entangled for my entire life. Thank you. I truly appreciate your walk and your effort to shed light on God's Truths.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother, While I have learned much from your writings, I do have problems accepting your view of immersion. You have referred to those of us who see immersion as God's means of conveying remission of sins as "sacramentalists," and have accused us of heresy and of being blasphemous in your article titled "Contacting the Blood of Christ: Examination of an Expedient Expression" (Reflections #608). You wrote, "When men elevate their own acts above that of the sacrificial act of Christ on the cross where He shed His blood, they reduce the latter to something ordinary and common; something of no real significance or value. A fearful fate awaits such people (Hebrews 10:29-31), a fact our sacramental immersionists would do well to carefully consider." Grace and Peace, brother.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I had not been acquainted with your writings until stumbling across your excellent article "Contacting the Blood of Christ." As a "lifer" in "our Movement," I have wrestled with the baptism dilemma for years, not only as a student and teacher of the Word, but also as a church leader. I simply want to commend your bold and fearless pursuit of Truth on this subject. When I did a search for the phrase "contacting the blood," practically every article written, as you probably know, was by someone in our Movement. The reason is, virtually no one else uses this language; it is part of "our" unique vernacular. It has always been remarkable to me that we have emphasized what neither Jesus nor His disciples did, and have instead neglected the very things they did emphasize: faith and repentance. Oh yes, we do give lip-service to these, along with confession, but we have conveniently ignored His emphasis on believing in Him (throughout John's writings), and Jesus' quote in Luke 24 that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name. I could go on, but you're way ahead of me! Thank you again for your courage and scholarship.

From a Reader in Colorado:

Dear Al, I just read "It's As Clear As Mud: Plainly Stated Biblical Truths?" (Reflections #811). I appreciate the way you attacked Hugh Fulford's words rather than attacking him. Thank you.

From a Reader in Washington, D.C.:

Hi Al, We hope you are doing well. I have a niece who has requested me to baptize her, with just a small family gathering for the event. I would like to do this, but there are no examples of women baptizing women in the Bible. I was hoping to get your take on this.

From an Author/Publisher in Nevada:

Wow! Your essay "YOU Can -- WE Can't: A Disturbing Dichotomy Involving Individual vs. Corporate Responsibility" (Reflections #109) on individual action versus church action is right on point!! It is a false distinction which legalists after WWII invented. I also read your latest essay ("It's As Clear As Mud"), and it is excellent. Nice work here. You have done a fabulous job of cutting down Hugh's misunderstandings of the Scriptures. In that one article by Hugh, which you reviewed, he has collected all of the trite, worn out interpretations of prominent doctrines held together by prooftexts which are regularly preached among legalistic Restoration Movement churches. Their numbers are slowly dwindling. I hope that teachers such as Hugh will speedily exit the preaching arena, so that justification by faith and the sacrifice of Christ will ever be in the forefront of Christian living. Legalism has damaged untold numbers of minds, and it has brought about division after division everywhere it is practiced. Also, legalists have a memory like an elephant's. Cross a legalist and you are looked upon with askance forever!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Good Morning Brother. I kind of laughed when I saw the topic of your latest Reflections ("It's As Clear As Mud"), as I knew what was coming! I'm glad you listed the applicable issues of your Reflections previously published that address more fully each topic you listed. I'm convinced that the only certainty we have is in Jesus, and yet, as you often point out, there have always been those who insist on trying to ADD something to that!! One has to wonder how many generations will continue to promote this dogma. Love ya, brother. Keep stompin' out ignorance!

From a Minister in New Zealand:

Al, just saw your latest Reflections on Facebook. I was thinking recently about John 8:24 - "Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins." Is that plain and simple? When considering the context, and to whom Jesus is speaking, it is. But when considering those who have never heard of Jesus, but who have repented of their sins like those referred to in Romans 2:14-16, or even Cornelius's pre-baptism righteousness, it is not so "plain and simple." Here again, as you point out, we have this insatiable desire to categorize everyone either "in" or "out." Well, the Lord knows who are His! It is unfortunate that Hugh Fulford does not realize that the "brotherhood of believers" is far bigger than what he acknowledges. God bless you, Al.

If you would like to be added to or removed from this
mailing list, Contact Me and I'll immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. These articles may
all be obtained on a special CD. Check the Archives
for details and all past issues of these Reflections at: