Biblical Laws on Rape – Commentary on Deuteronomy 22:28-29

๐๐ข๐›๐ฅ๐ข๐œ๐š๐ฅ ๐‹๐š๐ฐ๐ฌ ๐จ๐ง ๐‘๐š๐ฉ๐ž โ€“ ๐‚๐จ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐š๐ซ๐ฒ ๐จ๐ง ๐ƒ๐ž๐ฎ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐จ๐ง๐จ๐ฆ๐ฒ ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ:๐Ÿ๐Ÿ–-๐Ÿ๐Ÿ—

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


In Deuteronomy 22: 28-29, we learn that a man who rapes an unbetrothed virgin must pay 50 shekels to her father and marry her:

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her [taphas], and lie with her, and they be found;

Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days [ Deut. 22:28-29]  

One must ask a simple question here, who is really punished, the man who raped the woman or the woman who was raped?

The Bible states that a man who rapes an unengaged virgin shouldn’t be punished to death but marry his victim and pay some silver cheeks to the father. Note also that the 50 shekels the rapist pays for his victim’s bride price is half of what a man must pay to a woman’s father if he unjustly slanders her virginity, per Deut. 22:15.

The author of the Bible felt that sullying a father’s honor by accusing his daughter of having unmarried sex is worth twice as much monetary compensation as raping his daughter.

Some Christians off course have a problem to accept this biblical law and argue that the woman in Deut. 22:28-29 consented to the sexual act. In this paperwork we shall refute the arguments of those who argue that Deut. 22:28-29 is a reference to consensual premarital sex instead of rape. Their main arguments / claims can be found below:

Claims of the Christian apologists      

Claim number 1:

It isn’t clear that rape is what is happening here at all. Deut 22:25 refers to the case of a man raping a betrothed woman. The word used for this act in the original Hebrew is “chazaq” [rape].

However, in 22:28, the Hebrew word “taphas” [ to catch/lay hold of/seize] is used. This would indicate that these are two different acts.

I think 22:28 should use the word “seduce” as a modern English translation for “taphas”.  [ Christian claim]

Claim number 2:

Deut. 22:28 uses the expression โ€œand they be found / discovered” which indicates that the verse is a reference to consensual premarital sex [Christian claim]



The actual Hebrew word used in Deut. 22:25 isn’t chazag” but “hehezik“, which means ‘he held’ or ‘he held on to -‘, which derives from the root verb  chazag” , a verb that has about a dozen different meanings depending on the stem in which it is conjugated – ‘[to] hold’, ‘[to] be strong’, ‘[to] be hard’, ‘[to] contain’, etc.

It is therefore wrong to claim that the actual Hebrew word for rape is chazag”. Further the word “taphas” in Deut. 22:28 cannot be translated as seduce. The word means:

to lay hold of, seize, arrest, catch, to grasp [ in order to] wield, wield, use skilfully, to be seized, be arrested, be caught, be taken, captured  catch, grasp [ with the hands ] [ Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary ]

As one can see the word “taphas” [ lay hold of] is similar in meaning to the word “hehezik” [ he held on to] . This becomes more clear when we compare Young’s Literal Translation of the word “hehezikโ€ in Deuteronomy 22:25 with the translation of the word “taphas” in Deuteronomy 22:28 by the Kings James Version of the Bible.  

And if in a field the man find the damsel who is betrothed, and the man hath laid hold on her, and lain with her, then hath the man who hath lain with her died alone; [ Deuteronomy 22:25 , Young’s Literal Translation ]

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; [ Deuteronomy 22:28 , King James ]

As one can see the words taphas” and “hehezikare similar in meaning to each other. Both words are used here in connection with the phrase “and lie with her”. Both words [ taphas and “hehezik ] therefor point out that this act was done by force.

The other verses in Deuteronomy 22 which only talk about adultery or fornication [ not rape or sexual abuse] don’t use words like taphasor hehezikto describe the act of sexual intercourse between the man and the woman, see:

If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, [both] the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. If a damsel [that is] a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;

Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, [being] in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighborโ€™s wife: so, thou shalt put away evil from among you.

[Deuteronomy 22:22-24, King James Version]

Notice how these verses clearly don’t mention anything like โ€œtaphas” or “hehezik” [ he seizes her or lay hold on her etc.] before the phrase “and lie with her”. This clearly proofs those words like “taphas” or “hehezik” are used by the biblical author to point out that the act of “lying with the woman” was done by force. 

Also, the argument that Deut. 22:28 cannot refer to rape because a different hebrew word is used to describe the act of “lying with the woman” then in Deut. 22:25 is invalid for another reason: “The Bible in another place also mentions an act of rape by using a different hebrew word then “hehezik” [ which is used in Deut. 22:25], see:

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized [ “laqach”]  her and lay [ “shakab” ] with her and humiliated her. And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob.

He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, ‘Get me this girl for my wife.’ Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah.

But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him.

The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done. [ Genesis 34:1-7, King James Version]

The above famous story is widely known as “the rape of Dinah”.  As one can see the Hebrew word “laqach” [ he seized] is used to describe how Shechem “lay with Dinah”. In other words, the Hebrew word laqach” is used to point out that Shechem took Dinah by force.

In Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary we see that the Hebrew word laqach” is similar in meaning to the Hebrew words taphas [ which is used in Deuteronomy 22:28] and hehezikโ€ [ which is used in Deuteronomy 22:25]:

Laqach – to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize  [ Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary ]

As one can see laqach, taphas and hehezikare similar to each other in meaning. All are used in the Bible to describe how the man “lay with the woman”. In this context all have the meaning of taking a woman by force [ he lay hold on her or seized her].

It is very desperate to argue that the word taphasin Deut. 22:28 refers to seduction and not rape, while the word is similar in meaning to the Hebrew words laqach and hehezikโ€ which are used in Gen. 34:7.

And Deut. 22:25 to describe an act of rape. Gen. 34:7 and Deut. 22:25 both talk about rape but use different Hebrew words to describe the act.

In other words, Gen.34:7 and Deut.22:25 proof that the Bible describes rape by various and different Hebrew words which are similar to each other in meaning.

Therefore, the argument that Deut. 22:28 cannot refer to rape because a different Hebrew word is used to describe the act of “lying with the woman” then in Deut. 22:25 is invalid. Words can be different but mean the same!

As for the second claim, the expressionand they be found outis simply used to point out that the rapist was caught in his crime of raping the woman. Secondly to understand the correct meaning of this phrase one should look at the previous text of the verse in question [Deut. 22:28] which says that the man “seizedโ€ [taphas”] the woman and “lay with her”.

Anything but mutuality is described here! One should remember that the Hebrew word taphas [ to seize, lay hold of capture] is used to describe how the man “lay with the woman” in this verse.

In other words, the word taphas is used to point out that the man lay with the woman by force. For this reason, we can conclude that the phrase “and they be found out” is used to point out that the rapist was caught in his crime of raping the woman.

If the woman alone was found it cannot be proven that she was raped or abused. In other words, the man must be caught in his crime of raping the woman. The next two translations of the Bible moreover confirm that the phrase and they be found outis used to point out that the rapist was caught in his crime of raping the woman:

This is what you must do when a man rapes a virgin who isn’t engaged. When the crime is discovered the man who had sexual intercourse with her must give the girl’s father 11/4 pounds of silver, and she will become his wife. Since he raped her, he can never divorce her

[ Deut.22:28-29, Gods Words Translation ]

If a man sees a young virgin, who has not given her word to be married to anyone, and he takes her by force and has connection with her, and discovery is made of it;

Then the man will have to give the virgin’s father fifty shekels of silver and make her his wife, because he has put shame on her; he may never put her away all his life. [ Deut. 22:28-29, Bible in Basic English]

Further the argument or claim that the expression “and they be found” shows that the sin was committed by both is also used by M. Weinfeld, who also argued that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:15-16 are identical laws. 

These claims however have been refuted by Prof. Bernard S. Jackson in the “Jewish Law Annual”, see:

There is a great difference between the law in Exodus and the similar one in Deuteronomy Weinfeld believed that the two laws are transformations of the very same law and that both of them deal with a seduction and not with a rape.

But this conclusion is not entirely convincing: A) He claims that the plural form “and they be found” (venimtse’u ) provest hat the sin was committed by both of them.

But in the LXX, we find a singular form: “And he found” ( venimtsa ). It looks to me that the final vav of venimtse’u is a dittography of the vaw which opens the next word venatan.

The singular form venimsta appears also in Deut. 22:22…. Another proof that our law deals with a rape is the use of the verb utefasah “and lay hold on her” [ cf. Deut. 21:19, 2 Kings 14:13 and many others] 1 

Extra info about the word “taphas”

Richard Abbot writes in his footnote on Deut. 22:28 the next about the Hebrew word taphas”:

tรขphas, here used in the Qal perfect form with suffix, has a violent or forceful air, hence seize. 2  

Mary Anna Bader writes in response to Lyn Bechtel the next:

I understand Deuteronomy 22:28-29 to be descriptive of rape, not “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unbonded people.”

The man seized the woman; the law says nothing about “voluntary sexual intercourse.” The man did not “seize the heart” of the young woman; he seized her. The First is affective; the second, rape.

I do not find “taphas” to be used in contexts describing mutual consensual relations anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. Let us consider those passages.

When the verb “taphas” is used in Genesis 39:12, Potiphar’s wife seized or caught hold of Joseph by his garment as she begged him to lie with her. Anything but mutuality is described here.

Bechtel’s Point that this verb is indicative of mutuality can be substantially undermined. Potiphar’s wife, we would say today, was sexually harassing Joseph.

He was not willing to participate in a sexual liaison with the wife of his master. 2 Kins 7:12 uses the verb “taphas” when Elisha described the ploy the Arameans had prepared, capturing the Israelites alive and then infiltrating the city.

 Force is obviously an element in the attack of the Arameans, and it is also involved in the situation described in Jer 37:14, where the verb “taphas” is used in the context of Irijah’s seizing or arresting Jeremiah.

The verb does not Carry the connotations of mutuality that Bechtel alleges it does nor is it used in contexts describing reciprocity.

Ezekiel 14:5 is the only place in the Hebrew Bible where “taphas” and “heart” are found together. Ezekiel 14:5 reads:

“I, the Lord, will answer those who come with the multitude of their idols, in order that I may “seize” [ “taphas] the house of Israel in their hearts all of whom are estranged from me through their idols.”

Elements of threat and estrangement are clearly present, not the reciprocity and tenderness Bechtel proposed were associated with the verb.

Bechtel maintained that “seizing the heart โ€œdescribes mutual consensual intercourse in Deut 22:28-29.

That conclusion is problematic for a number of reasons: First of all, the passage has no mention of “heart”. Second, as has been demonstrated above, “taphas” frequently involves the element of force.

I, in direct opposition to Bechtel, would conclude that the situation described in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 constitutes a rape”.  3

Eugene H. Merill [ Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary] writes:

22:28-29 At first glance the next example, the rape of an unbetrothed girl, might appear to have been a lesser offense than those already described, but this was not the case at all.

First, he seized [ Heb. tฤpaล›, “lay hold ofโ€] her and then lay down [ ฤkab ] with her, a clear case of violent, coercive behavior. Moreover, the assailant had forever marred the purity of the woman, making it nearly impossible ever to enjoy a normal, happy marriage.

This had negative repercussions on her father as well, for he stood to lose the bride price [ Heb. Mรดhฤr]  that a prospective husband would have paid him [ cf. Gen 34:12; Exod 22:16; 1 Sam 18:25 ].

In fact, the compensation for this loss was the fifty shekels of silver assessed as a penalty by the court [ v. 29 ].

This was half the amount demanded of the man who misrepresented his wife’s virginity [ v. 19 ] , for she already was married and would never have command any additional bride price whereas the girl in the present situation

not only would have afforded her father fifty shekels of compensation for her humiliation but most certainly the normal bride price in addition.

In any event, the perpetrator of the act must marry the girl [ assuming her willingness] and could never divorce her.  4

It is quite clear now that the Hebrew word taphas” – to seize, lay hold of –   in Deut. 22:28 refers to rape.

Bible Commentaries on Deut.22:28-29

Peter C. Craigie writes in his commentary on The Book of Deuteronomy:

[ Deut 22:28-29]. If a man uses force on a woman, he must marry her after paying a fine of fifty shekels of silver to her father, and?

he must never divorce her for as long as he lives’ [ 22:29].  5

Prof. Alexander Rofรฉ in the journal “Biblica” writes:

If a man seduced a girl, he must now โ€˜seduce’ her father and gain his permission to marry her [ Exod 22,15-16]

If a man “raped” a girl – since he took her by force, he is forced to keep her as a wife and is not permitted to divorce her [ Deut 22,28-29]. In both cases, of course, the bride-price, the mhar, must be paid.

 Both of these cases are characterized by a kind of ‘mirror punishment’ which results in humorous retaliation: you convinced the girl, now convince the father; you forced the girl, now you will be forced to keep her as a wife. The feelings of the girl are given little consideration6

Mathew Henry writes in his classic commentary on the Bible:

If a damsel not betrothed were thus abused by violence, he that abused her should be fined, the father should have the fine, and, if he and the damsel did consent, he should be bound to marry her, and never to divorce her 7

Prof. A. Harper writes in the “The Expositors Bibleโ€: 

Further if any violence was done to a woman who had been betrothed, the punishment of the wrong was death; if done to a woman who was not betrothed, the wrong was atoned for by payment of fifty shekels of silver for her father and be offering marriage without the possibility of divorce.  8

Earl S. Kalland writes in his commentary:

The law is more lenient with a man who forces a virgin who is not pledged in marriage to another. The penalty, however, is not light.

The offender must pay a fine of fifty shekels of silver, marry the girl, and keep her as his wife as long as he lives; she cannot be divorced 9

Rev. James Orr writes in his commentary:

III. The Woman Ravished. [ Vers. 25-29. ] The cases specified are those of rape. 1.If the woman was betrothed, and could not save herself, she was to be held innocent, but her violator was to be punished with death.

2. If she was not betrothed, the man who had injured her was heavily fined, and was compelled to take her to wife, with no right of subsequent divorce. Possibly our own law might fitly imitate that of ver. 29.  10

Mary Anna Bader writes in her work:

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 involves the rape of a virgin who was not betrothed. In this case, the rapist was to pay the young woman’s father fifty pieces of silver, and the woman was to become his wife. 11

These commentaries clearly confirm that Deut.22:28 is about rape.

Why must a rapist marry his victim here?

It’s important to know that the Bible lays extreme emphasis on virginity before marriage. Let us look at the following verses in the Bible:

If a man takes a wife and, after laying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, ‘I married this woman but when I approached her,

I did not find proof of her virginity,’ then the girl’s father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate.  The girl’s father will say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 

Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’  But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.’ 

Then her parents shall display the cloth with before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him.  [ Deuteronomy 22:13-18, New International Version]

As one can see Jewish men had a dislike for non-virgins. The above passage shows us how much importance they laid on the virginity of an unwed woman. It’s clear that none of them would like to marry a non-virgin.

These verses also proof that a girl before her marriage had to undergo a virginity test, so the father could later always proof that he married his daughter off as a virgin. Elsewhere we see that the Bible disrespects and disregards non-virgins

[ see Numbers 31:17].

What does this say about the position of a raped unwed woman in such society? Scholars like Ra McLaughlin [ M. Div.] explain that if a woman was raped, she was considered by the Jewish community as tainted, and unmarriable due the lost of her virginity.

She would be destitute the rest of her life. No man would like to marry her. For this reason, the Bible states that a rapist must marry the unwed woman he raped. 

In other words, the Bible based its law on the cultural norms of a male macho society. Why didn’t the Bible try to the change the image of non-virgins in such societies?

Prophet Muhammad [ peace be upon him] on the other hand set a great example by marrying a widow, i.e., a non-virgin. By this he demonstrated that it is not shameful or disgraceful to marry a non-virgin. Why should we view widows or raped women as tainted or unmarriable?

Only a male superior anti-female religion could hold such views. Biblical laws have proven to be the fundament of such religion.


The rape of Tamar in the Bible

Additional support for the view that Deut. 22:28-29 is a rape law can be found in the story of Tamar:

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin.

And Amnon thought it hard for him to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother:

and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.

And Jonadab said unto him, lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.

So Amnon lay down and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.

Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, go now to thy brother Amnon’s house, and dress him meat. So, Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes.

And she took a pan and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him. And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand.

And Tamar took the cakes which she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.

And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go?

and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her.

And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone. And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.

Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.

And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins appareled. Then his servant brought her out and bolted the door after her.

And Tamar put ashes on her head and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying. And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee?

But hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So, Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.

[ 2 Samuel 13:1-20]

In this story Ammon, under the pretense of illness, lures Tamar into his house and rapes her. Next Tamar is mouthing the patriarchal interpretation of rape as she implores Ammon to marry her.

In full accordance with the biblical rape laws, Tamar appears to be more outraged by Ammon’s rejection than by her rape: ‘And she said to him:

No, for this sending me away is a greater evil than the one you have done to me [ v.16] ‘. She was a princess and was supposed to be given in marriage to a prince, or any honorable man; but in the ancient Israelite society it was very difficult for a woman to get married if she was not virgin.

That is why she told him that this second evil deed was worse than the first one. According to the Scriptures, she remained desolate, which strongly suggests that it was her definitive state. The Hebrew word used here is “shamem, the same one that we find in Isaiah 54:1, and conveys the meaning of “devastated“, “wasted“, “astonished.

Esther Fuchs [ Associate Professor, Program of Judaic Studies and Department of Near East Studies, University of Arizona] also points out that Tamar was crying out for compensation:

Tamar’s response lends authority to the biblical rape laws. The rape laws compel the rapist to marry his victim and to pay her father 12

Michael De Roche in the Journal of Biblical Literature writes:

Ammon is guilty of two crimes:

[ 1] he rapes a virgin, after which

[ 2] he refuses to marry her [ cf. Deut 22:28-29] .

And as Tamar states, the second crime is worse than the First. As the injured party Tamar is entitled to restitution. Indeed, the juridical force of the verb za’aq suggests to J.P. Fokkelman that Tamar is not just weeping but crying out for compensation [see: Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel, (Assen: van Gorcum , 1981 ) , 1.111 ] . 13

Pastor David Guzik writes in his commentary:

What Amnon did to Tamar was wrong, but he could still somewhat redeem the situation by either marrying her or paying her bride-price 14

Someone may object to this interpretation / view and refer to the prohibition of marriage between brother and half-sister. Laws like Leviticus 18:9, 20:17, 18:11 and Deuteronomy 27:22.

State that a man was not to lie with his own sister, whether she was his father’s or his mother’s daughter. So according to the four laws, Tamar would not have been an acceptable marriage partner for Ammon. Then why did Tamar cry out for compensation?

Why did she condemn Ammon for leaving her alone after the rape? 

Why is Tamar more outraged by Ammon’s rejection than by her rape?

Bible scholar Charles Concroy gives us an answer to these questions:

A prohibition of marriage between brother and half-sister was not recognized in the urban setting of Jerusalem in David’s time 15

This view is backed up by the fact that David himself in the Bible had a relationship with his half-sister:

According to I Chr. 2: 16-17, Abigail was a sister or half-sister of David and doubtless in the source of I Samuel 25 it is this sister who delivered her previous husband over to death and became her brother David’s wife.  16

Another proof that supports the conclusion of Charles Concroy can be found in Tamar’s entreaty to Ammon: “…. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.” [ 2 Samuel 13:13]

Mary Anna Bader correctly observes that Tamar truly believed that she and her half-brother could marry:

Tamar’s words to Ammon allow us to conclude that David would have been able to give her to Ammon. I have chosen to interpret Tamar’s words in this way.

Even after the rape, when Tamar implored Ammon not to send her away, she seemed to be working with the understanding that they still could have been together, as long as Ammon did not send her away.

Tamar operated with the understanding that Ammon and she could have been together.  17

There is also another option. Jack M. Sasson in:
“Absolom’s Daughters:

An Essay in Vestige Historiography discusses the reference to Tamar, the daughter of Absalom, in the Bible. The author speculates that in the original biblical text the woman that Amnon rapes is not his sister, David’s daughter, but his niece, the daughter of Absalom. 

Jack Sasson notes that David is noted as having 19 sons, Tamar is noted as ‘the sister of my brother Absalom [ II Sam. 13:4]. Absalom is also noted as having three sons, unnamed and one daughter named Tamar [ 14:27]. 

Is the raped woman Tamar Amnonโ€™s niece and not his sister?

There is no Hebrew word for niece and niece and daughter are words often interchanged. Did Amnon actually rape Absalom’s daughter?

If that is the case, then Tamar actually went to her father’s house.

Absalom told her to be calm, perhaps hoping that David, the King would punish the heir to the Kingdom and perhaps Absalom would then become heir to the throne.

When King David did not react, Absalom executed Amnon and fled. When he returned, he no longer had respect for his father and King.


What about Exodus 22:15-16? 

Exodus 22:15-16 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 are not identical laws. The verses in Exodus read:

And if a man “enticeโ€ [ “pathah” ]  a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.  [ Exodus 22:15-16]

The Hebrew word translated as “enticeโ€ is “pathahโ€ which is defined as:

Pathah – a primitive root; to open, i.e. be [causatively, make] roomy; usually figuratively [in a mental or moral sense] to be [causatively, make] simple or [ in a sinister way] delude: – allure, deceive, enlarge, entice, flatter, persuade, silly [ one ].  [ Strongโ€™s Hebrew Dictionary]

In other words, the maid was “seduced” here [ not raped]. The case in Deut. 22:28-29 is different:

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her [taphas], and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days

 [ Deut. 22:28-29]  

In this verse the man did not “entice the maid, but took her in a forceful manner [ taphas]

Taphas – to lay hold of, seize, arrest, catch, to grasp [ in order to] wield, wield, use skilfully, to be seized, be arrested, be caught, be taken, captured catch, grasp [ with the hands][ Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary ]

As one can see the Hebrew words “taphas [ Deut. 22:28] and pathah  [ Exodus 22:15 ] are completely different to each other in meaning. It’s therefor incorrect to argue that Deut. 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:15-16 are identical laws.

Exodus 22:15-16 refers to consensual pre-marital sex, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 refers to rape.

The passage in Exodus treats of connection with consent; that in Deuteronomy treats of rape 18

This fact is backed up by the fact that the “rapist” is punished more than the seducer“. 

Jeffrey H. Tigay, A.M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, points out the differences between Exodus 22:15-16 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29:

Dt. 22:28 – “who is not engaged” Hebrew lo’ orasah is in the perfect tense and means literally “was not engaged, ” in other words, has never been engaged.

As noted by Rabbi Yose in the Mekhilta, this excludes a girl who was once engaged but whose fiance died or broke the engagement.

In such a case, her father had already received a bride-price for her and would not have suffered financial harm because of the rape, and the rapist’s fine may have been adjusted accordingly.

The present law, requiring a payment of fifty shekels, deals only with a girl for whom a bride-price had never been paid.

Dt. 22:29 – “fifty [ shekels of] silver”:  This is often taken to be identical to the “bride price for virgins” mentioned in Exodus 22:16 that the seducer must pay to a virgin’s father, but this is questionable.

There is no other evidence that the bride-price for virgins was fifty shekels.

Leviticus 27:5-6 – although not necessarily a guide in the present case – states that the value of a woman between twenty and sixty years old, whose value is pledged to the sanctuary, is thirty shekels, and that of a girl aged between five and twenty, ten shekels.

Furthermore, it seems unlikely that a rapist’s penalty would be identical to that of a seducer, since his offense is graver. If the seducer of Exodus 22:16 is required to pay an average bride-price.

The fifty shekels paid by the rapist probably represents a combination of an average bride-price plus punitive damages

[Weinfeld, DDS, pp. 285-286, notes that there was no standard bride-price.

But that it varied with the economic circumstances of the families involved]. – “she shall be his wife …… Dt. 22:29 – “he can never have the right to divorce her”:

Exodus does not impose this restriction on the seducer. The rapist’s offence is graver and he is treated more stringently.

Several of these features are paralleled in the Middle Assyrian Laws: the rapist must pay triple the normal bride-price and marry the girl [ if her father is willing] without the right of divorce[ MAL A, 55] 19

Exodus 22:15-16 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 are clearly not identical laws!



A man who rapes an unbetrothed virgin must pay 50 shekels to her father and marry her. Ester Fuchs writes:

Tamar’s response lends authority to the biblical rape laws. The rape laws compel the rapist to marry his victim and to pay her father

[Deut. 22.28-29; Exodus 22.15].

Until recently is has been assumed that these laws indeed secure the interest of the raped woman.

However, it is not the raped woman but her father who receives monetary compensation for the rape. Furthermore, the raped woman must marry her rapist.

The law seeks primarily to protect the father’s interests and Legal authority as the custodian of his daughter’s virginity.

The patriarchal law also penalizes the daughter by forcing her to marry her assailant, her rapist forever, the law penalizes her as well. The rape laws and the rape narratives refer to rape as an institution based on male honor code and on male Financial Legal interests. The solution they offer does not redeem the woman.

But rather her custodians. By presenting the patriarchal interests as the victimโ€™s, the text “proves” that the law is just and valid. In effect, however, the description of Tamar’s response is prescriptive. It reflects the way in which a raped woman “ought to react to her rape”.

As the perfect daughter and sister who unquestioningly obeys her father’s and both brother’s orders, Tamar also epitomizes the perfect rape victim. In the final analysis.

Tamar’s protest against Ammon indicates that violating the law is worse than violating a woman. Tamar’s outcry decries the threat to the institution of rape, more than the act of rape itself.  20

Judith Romney Wegner [ Ph.D. Judaic Studies, 1986] points out in her excellent work:

the sages distinguish between a seduced girl and a rape victim by awarding pain and suffering to the latter; and they force the rapist to marry his victim [ Deut. 22:29] – unlike a seducer, who may do so only at the father’s option [ Exod. 22:16]

But these measures do not necessarily reflect a concern with the victim’s personal rights. All scheduled payments, including pain and suffering for rape, go to the victim’s father [ M. Ket. 4:1].

Thus identifying the father [ not the girl] as the injured party; the requirement that the rapist marry the victim probably stems more from a wish to spare the father the trouble of finding her another husband than from any concern with the girl herself.

The father collects damages for the daughter’s reduced value as though she were his slave injured through someone’s negligence [ M. Ket. 3:7 B]. Even in a rape case, the compensation for pain and suffering goes to the father, not the girl.

Furthermore, it is not the girl’s embarrassment or humiliation that counts, but that of her father [ M. Ket. 3:7 A].  21  

In the Bible the feelings of the girl are given little consideration. She is clearly treated as chattel. The Bible views the victim of rape only from the father’s economic standpoint.

According to biblical standards defloration by force reduces her value on the marriage market.

This perception of the violated girl as “damaged goods” takes no account of her as a person. Above all it ignores the heinousness of rape. Moreover, it is not the raped woman but her father who receives monetary compensation for the rape.

written by Kevin Abdullah Karim

Rape in the Bible?

Paul the False Apostle of Satan


References and Notes:

[1] Bernard S. Jackson, “The Jewish Law Annual: V. 4”  ( Brill 1981 ) , pp. 30-31

[2] Richard Abbot, Old Testament Studies, – Word study bethรปlรขh  – ,  source

[3] Mary Anna Bader: “Sexual Violation in the Hebrew Bible – A Multi-Methodological Study of Genesis 34 and 2 Samuel 13″ in:”Studies in Biblical Literature”, vol. 87 [ 2006 ] , pp.18-19

[4] The New American Commentary Vol. IV: Deuteronomy by Eugene H. Merill [ Broadman & Holman Publishers 1994 ] , pp.305-306

[5] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament [ Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976 ] , p. 295

[6] Alexander Rofรฉ: “Defilement of Virgins in Biblical Law and the Case of Dinah [ Genesis 34 ]”  in “Biblica”  vol 86 , no. 3 [ 2005 ] , p. 369

[7] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible [ Hendrickson Publishers 1995 ] , p. 265

[8] The Expositor’s Bible: Deuteronomy and Joshua, Commentary by Rev. Andrew Harper, B.D. , p. 400  [ A.C. Armstrong and Son 1905 ]

[9] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. III: Deuteronomy by Earl S. Kalland, [ Zondervan Publishing House Grand Rapids, Michigan 1992 ] . p. 139

[10] The Pulpit Commentary Vol. III, Homilies by Rev. James Orr,  [ Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids, Michigan 1950 ] , p. 360

[11] Mary Anna Bader: “Sexual Violation in the Hebrew Bible – A Multi-Methodological Study of Genesis 34 and 2 Samuel 13″ in:”Studies in Biblical Literature”, vol. 87 [ 2006 ] , p. 72

[12] Esther Fuchs: “Sexual Politics in the Biblical Narrative –  Reading the Hebrew Bible as a woman” , JSOTS , supplement series 310, [ Sheffield Academic Press 2001 ] ,  p. 216

[13] M. De Roche:Yahweh’s Rib against Israel: A Reassessment of the So-Called Prophetic Lawsuit in the Preexilic Prophets” in “Journal of Biblical Literature”, Vol. 102 , No. 4, 1983, p. 566

[14] Verse by Verse Commentary on the Book of 2 Samuel: Enduring Word Commentary Series by David Guzik, [ Enduring Word Media 2004 ] , p. 105

[15] Charles Conroy: “Absalom Absalom ! : Narrative and Language in 2 Sam 13-20”  [ Analecta Biblica 81: Rome: Pontifical Institute, 1978 ] , p. 18

[16] G. R. H. Wright : “Dumuzi at the Court of David”  in: “Numen” , Volume 28, No. 1 [ Jun., 1981 ],  p. 56

[17] Mary Anna Bader: “Sexual Violation in the Hebrew Bible – A Multi-Methodological Study of Genesis 34 and 2 Samuel 13″ in:”Studies in Biblical Literature”, vol. 87 [ 2006 ] , p. 72

[18] David Halivni Weiss, “A Note on ashr la arshh” ,  Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 81, No. 1 [ Mar., 1962 ] , p. 67

[19] The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy by Jeffrey H. Tigay [ The Jewish Publication Society 1996 ] , pp.208-209

[20] Esther Fuchs: “Sexual Politics in the Biblical Narrative –  Reading the Hebrew Bible as a woman” , JSOTS , supplement series 310, [ Sheffield Academic Press 2001 ] ,  p. 216

[21] Judith Romney Wegner: “Chattel or Person ?  – The Status of Women in the Mishnah” [ Oxford University Press 1988], pp. 26-27