This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Question and Answer

Why would the Law of Moses require a woman to marry the man who raped her? This just seems so wrong.

This reflects a misunderstanding of Deuteronomy 22:28–29: “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.” The word translated here as “rapes” could also be translated as “seizes” or “seduces.” “Seduces” best captures the meaning, for several reasons.

First, the previous paragraph describes an actual rape and uses a different Hebrew verb that means “forces” or “overpowers,” making a distinction with what is described here in verses 28 and 29. Second, in the parallel instruction found in Exodus 22:16–17, the Hebrew verb used is translated “entice,” and clearly refers to seduction and not rape. Third, the verb used in Deuteronomy 22:28–29 most literally means “captures,” but it is also used figuratively, as in “to capture one’s heart” (Ex. 14:5), which conveys the sense of seduction.

The law in Deuteronomy 22:28–29 is best understood as referring to a man who seduces a virgin so that she consents to have sex with him. This law was designed as a protection for her, so that he could not cast her aside and bring shame to her. The seducer must pay the bride price to her father and stay married to the woman.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible teacher on Moody Radio’s Open Line, answering listener Bible questions on over 200 stations nationwide across Moody Radio. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in an observant Jewish home in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a high school student, Michael became a follower of Jesus the Messiah and began teaching the Bible almost immediately. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary, a commentary on the whole Bible by the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael is a regular contributor to the Day of Discovery television program and appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons who call and write all the time. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill., and enjoy leading study groups to Israel and hiking with their two collies.

Find Monthly Issue Content by Date