If you’ve ever been to Israel and walked among the ancient ruins, you will be surprised by literally how small the houses were. Basically, they were big enough to lay your body down for however many people were in your home. That’s about it. And the walls typically connect to one another, so loud sounds definitely would carry.
Another important cultural point to know was that in these times, a woman without a husband was destitute. Marriage was more than just about love, it was about survival.
A third cultural point and one that is practiced in some countries today (like Tajikistan and other places in stan-land), a woman’s virginity was/is highly treasured. On their wedding night they save the sheet that is blood-stained from a woman’s viriginity. This sheet is then presented to the parents as proof of her virginity.
Taking those things into consideration, here were the laws for Israel regarding sexual immorality and rape.
- If a man didn’t like his wife and accused her of not being a virgin when they married, he could take her to the gate to dispute her as a wife. If the parents presented proof of her virginity (by presenting the blood-stained sheet), the city elders are to punish the man. They were to fine him 100 silver shekels and give them to the woman’s father because he ruined her reputation. She is to remain the man’s wife and he cannot divorce her as long as he lives. But if it’s true and no evidence is found, then they can stone her to death (Deut 22:13-19).
- If a man has sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be stoned (22:22)
- If a young woman is engaged and a different man has sex with her, both must be stoned. The man because he had sexual relations with her, and the woman because she should have cried out and didn’t (implying consent, because otherwise someone would have heard).
- If a man as sexual relations with a woman in the country and seizes and rapes her, only the man is to die. Because if he woman would have screamed, no one would have heard (22:25-26).
- If a man encounters a woman and rapes her, he must marry her (otherwise she would not be marriageable and would be destitute her whole life). He must pay her father 50 shekels, and he can never divorce her as long as he lives.
There are several thoughts I have reading this. It sounds harsh that if a man violated a woman, he had to marry her and could never divorce. But this is very much cultural.
Some Observations on These Rape Laws
– An unmarried woman had no life in those times so to defile her was beyond awful for her in particular. She would be completely destitute and unable to function in society. Nor would she have children. There’s a responsibility in sexuality that we miss even today, even though women have more opportunity. This law was not meant to harm women, but to protect them from being utterly destitute.
– Violation of the marriage covenant was not something small to God.
– It was a woman’s responsibility to cry out and scream.
Times have changed and we deal with things differently, but the core of these still remains. I think these things do still matter–valuing virginity, sexual responsibility, honoring the marriage covenant and speaking up when violated.
The last one I think of as it is in the news right now every day. We are living in an age where a woman is violated, and then cries out 30 years later on the media when an important decision is being made. It’s not a judgment but a call for women to speak up sooner when violated.
There are definitely fears, terrors and threats made to women who speak up. They are extremely vulnerable and I can’t imagine, though I’ve met unfortunately many rape victims. But ideally it’s important to speak up at the time of the incident. It’s hard for prosecutors dealing with events that happened 30 years ago.