How can you be apart of a religion that promotes slavery? Why do you believe in a book written by men who advocate rape?
There have been many times after having expressed an opinion that favors a Christian viewpoint that I have been slammed with these questions. I could be defending a business to operate in accordance with their faith in a manner that does not harm anyone, or attempting to explain how a person of faith can be against a particular act without having hatred for the person, when these unrelated accusations come from nowhere.
Without fail, they always come from someone who does not even believe in the validity of the Bible yet somehow it is valid enough to prove their points against it. After having many times addressed these questions individually I have finally decided to do myself a favor and put the answers to these questions in an easily referenced article. If you are reading this, first of all thank you, and chances are you have made these accusations in a manner unrelated to the topic we were discussing. You wanted to know, so here you go.
Does the Bible in fact condone rape? The short answer is "of course not" but somehow that phrase isn't satisfactory to those making the claim that it does. With a quick Google search many sites will give you what seems like the evidence that it does and with a quick copy and paste in the comment bar they will press enter and claim victory.
Never mind that most making this accusation haven't studied the Bible with anything more than a cursory read already having a bias against it, or that they are applying a modern value system and culture to an ancient people in times that were much different than today. In any case, it is clear that the Bible does not advocate rape regardless. Let's begin with one of the most popular references used inaccurately to show that the Bible promotes the rape of women, Deuteronomy 22:22-29
22 “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman ; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel."
Many who say the Bible condones rape add their own flavor to this text changing the word "lying" to "raping". This is describing two engaged in the act of adultery. The woman is someone who is married caught having sex with someone who is not her husband. Notice that the punishment is not just upon the woman. The real victims here are the cheaters spouses who do not deserve the venereal diseases these adulterers would bring home. That they are both put to death would ensure that this evil would not soon be repeated. Whether you agree with the sentence or not, there is no action of rape here.
23 “If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death ; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you."
Once again those who make the claim the Bible promotes rape will change the words of this verse to suit their agenda changing "lies with her" to "raping her" and "did not cry" to "did not cry loud enough". This young virgin woman is engaged to another man and sex is forbidden until after the marriage for both. To be in the city literally means to be in a public area and though she had the chance to cry out to put a stop to this act she clearly does not showing this is a case of consensual sex. She is not raped because she is willingly participating in the act with the man who has defiled her and taken her purity. Notice that once again, both the man and woman are put to death.
25 “But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. 26 “But you shall do nothing to the girl ; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. 27 “When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her."
Here we have the only case of actual rape in the entire passage. Notice the phrase absent from all the other instances, "and the man forces her and lies with her". The Bible does not accuse the woman who was raped showing clearly that she has done nothing wrong so she is not punished. The only one to be punished in the act of rape is the rapist who is directly to be put to death putting the act of rape in the same category as murder. This is righteous judgement that any sane person could agree with. If we practiced this today in America then the instances of rape would dramatically decrease.
28 “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days."
This is the act of two people not engaged to anyone and could be equated to what we might call a "one night stand" or could also be an on going secret relationship outside of marriage. What more than likely caused them to be discovered is that the girl who should not have been having sex with anyone became pregnant. The fifty shekels of silver, which was a hefty amount, was not the price of the woman but a sign of repentance brought to the father to ask for his forgiveness. The word "seized" in this verse is not "forced" but suggests that she was manipulated or trapped into the relationship by promises of fidelity. The earlier verses 25-27 show what is to happen to a man who forces sex upon a woman. That this does not happen shows it was not rape and since he deceived her he is not to be put to death but instead is to make an honest woman out of her.
Yet these few scriptures here which show without a doubt that a rapist should be put to death are not enough for those who like to make the claim that the Bible advocates rape. So maybe the Bible says not to rape your own people but clearly it does not have a problem with the Israelite peoples raping those they conquered, right? Once again I am pleased to tell you that idea is dead wrong. Let's take a closer look at the verses those who say the Bible condones rape will use.
Let's look at the book of Numbers 31:7-18
7 "And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males."
8 "And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword."
9 "And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods."
10 "And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire."
11 "And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts."
12 "And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho."
13 "And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp."
14 "And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle."
15 "And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?"
16 "Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord."
17 "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him."
18 "But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."
The two questions that must be asked here are as follows: Did God instruct or permit the soldiers to rape the women and did the soldiers actually rape them? That God permits the act of rape of any kind has already been proven false by the condemnation of the act and the sentence of death placed upon the rapist in Deuteronomy 22:25-27. Directly after the edict not to kill the innocent women who have not had sex with anyone they are commanded to purify themselves in verses 19 and 20.
Having sex out of marriage would have made any man unclean. Not only this but prior to this event the Israelite people had experienced a plague as a result of having sex with the Midianite women. (25:1-9) Anyone who had sex with a Midianite woman was killed. This was because that was how Balaam had instructed the Midianite king to overtake Israel as the Midianites could not have won in standard warfare. So instead of going into battle, the Midianite women were instructed to seduce the Israelite men and destroy Israel through cultural dissemination. After everyone who had sex with the Midianite women recently experienced death through plague or by an Israelite sword it is highly unlikely that these men would engage in extra marital sex with these women. Given that God requires the death penalty for rapists, it is equally unlikely that they would have raped any woman.
God did give permission to the Israelite peoples to marry those whom they took captive but it is clear that they are to treat their wives with respect as in the relationship between Sarah and Abraham. They were also to give the women time to mourn their families and were in no way to be mistreated. (Dt 21:10-14) Those who didn't want to marry were to become servants for 6 years and there were rules against mistreating them as well. We will get into the rules for how the Bible instructs the Israelite people to treat female servants in the second half of this article.
It is abundantly clear that the Bible does not condone rape and by extension God Himself does not promote such an abhorrent act. Those that claim that it does do a great deal of adding their own words and cherry picking certain verses out of context to make their assertions. Keep in mind that the Midianites were politically connected to the Moabites and the Amalekites. They were practitioners in the worship of Ashteroth who required the sacrifice of infants and engaged in cannibalism. These were not a peaceful people who should be held up in any great esteem. Why anyone would want to defend them is probably only because they are ignorant of their culture. Even so those innocent women whom Moses ordered not be killed were actually direct descendants of Abraham so it should be no surprise that God would show mercy on them.
This brings us to the second portion of this article and the answer to the question, "Does the Bible promote slavery?" The short answer is, well yes, but the explanation is not so cut and dry. It was not the form of slavery that you might expect. In fact, the slaves of the Israelite people enjoyed a life much better than most "free" US citizens.
When most people think of the word "slave" they think of the plight of the African Americans in the US around the 19th century. Here men and women were routinely abused and raped for the delight of their masters. The atrocities that occurred during that era are a blight on American history and a shame to what is supposed to be the beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. The slaves of the Israelite people were nothing like those of the American slave owners. In the ancient world every culture on earth utilized slaves of some sort. For the Israelis the word "slave" is a bad term and would more accurately be called "servants".
Unlike the slaves of 19th century America, there were rules for the proper treatment of servants. Those who killed their servants were to be punished as this was not permissible (Ex 21:20) and anyone who would cause permanent injury to their servants were to set those servants free. (Ex 21:26-27) Any servant that had left was effectively freed and even if they were discovered at a later time they were not to be returned. (Dt 23:15-16) Your traditional slave was not given a day off, but the servants of the Israelite people were commanded to have a day of rest every week. (Ex 20:10, Dt 5:14)
Becoming a servant was not exclusive to the people the Israelis conquered. There are couple of examples where the Israelite people themselves could become servants of one another. If someone had committed a theft against another in their community and did not have the money to pay the fine they could become a servant until their debt was payed off. (Ex 22:1-3) If a family had become impoverished and had no other way to survive they could enter into indentured servitude to another family within the community. At no time was it permissible to kidnap someone and sell them into slavery. In fact this was punishable by death. (Dt 24:7)
In many ways the Israelite who sold themselves as slaves were not your traditional slave and were treated very differently than you might expect. A slave was not so much a slave but more of a hired worker. (Lev 25:39-43) Your traditional slave had no hope of being free but every six years all slaves were to be freed. (Ex 21:2) What is more after a slave was given freedom they were to be given provisions to ensure their survival with a supply of wine, grain and livestock. (Dt 15:12-15) In some circumstances slaves did not even want to be freed and could remain in servitude if they believed it was in their best interests. (Dt 15:16-17) An Israelite who sold himself to a foreigner could buy his freedom and was still to be treated as a hired servant. (Lev 25:53)
Though foreigners could be made slaves for life they were not treated as inferiors and could not be mistreated. (Ex 23:9) They were to be treated as part of the family and loved as if they were a fellow Israelite. (Lev 19:33-34) There were laws that protected foreign slaves from abuse and it was not permitted to mistreat them in any way. (Lev 24:22, Num 15:15-16)
Though it was true that in ancient Israelite culture fathers could sell their daughters as a servant or a wife, neither was ever subject to mistreatment. If she were a servant she could be set free after six years. Should she be taken as a wife then she would be treated with the highest respect as apart of the head of the family. If a man bought a wife for his son then the wife was to be treated as if she was his own daughter. It was not permissible for a husband to mistreat his wife. Neglected wives were freed from the relationship. (Ex 21:10-11) Should it be that a husband would divorce his wife, that would be "unfair treatment" and she could do as she pleased. (Ex 21:8)
Men could choose to marry women taken captive in war, but there were laws that protected these women and once married they would be given the full authority of a wife over the house. Like the Israelite women if divorced by their husbands for any reason they were free to do as they please. If they had lost loved ones during the war they were given a month to mourn before they could even be considered for marriage and were under no circumstances to be sold to anyone. (Dt 21:14)
Remember rape was punishable by death and this was the same standard for those women captured by and married to the conquering Israelite. Husbands were in under no circumstances to prostitute their wives, captured or otherwise. (Dt 23:17-18) Husbands who had wives from captured cities were not to have any sexual relations outside of that marriage. (Ex 22:16-17) Just because a woman may be a slave only engaged to someone else there was no permission for someone to have sex with her, consensual or not. (Lev 19:20-22) Any forced intercourse with anyone was strictly forbidden by law and punishable by death.
No one could be forced to be a slave for life. In order for someone to even choose to be a servant for life there had to be a ceremony that took place in front of a judge. (Ex 21:5-6) The servant had to openly confess that he loved his masters and was willingly choosing to be bonded to that family. A master could not coerce his servants to do anything by force. (Lev 25:53) If this should happen anyone who knew about this threat of violence to the servant would be just as guilty as the one who threatened the violence. (Lev 19:16-17) If anyone should break any of these commandments of fair treatment for servants they were subject to a curse from God. (Dt 11:26-27)
Now you and I might find arranged marriages to be distasteful but this type of practice continues even today by enlightened cultures who are in no way mistreating their children. This is simply a cultural difference and it is wrong of some to impose their culture based value systems on another people just because we might disagree. This is not the same as slavery and would be highly offensive comparison to any culture still engaged in arranged marriages. To equate arranged marriage to slavery is incredibly arrogant and not a reasonable estimation.
Making servants out of the conquered peoples is not exclusive to the ancient Israelite people. Even the most enlightened cultures of the past would make slaves out of those they conquered either through direct servitude or by imposing taxes and laws. The slaves of Rome and Greece had no rights and there was no code of conduct to prevent their mistreatment. Slaves in ancient Sumeria were routinely sexually abused, beaten and sacrificed to their gods. Children could be sold as slaves by their parents into a lifetime of hard labor free from rest if they were lucky. The Mongols killed almost all inhabitants they conquered and Genghis Khan himself raped so many women that is was said he was directly related to about 8 percent of his population at the time. You will see the Greeks, Romans, Sumerians and Mongols treated with far greater respect than the ancient Hebrews by most and even venerated by holding their philosophies in high esteem. It is clear that the ancient Israelis treated the people they conquered with far more grace and civility than any other culture of that time.
What does any of this matter to the person who tries to claim the Bible advocates rape and unfair treatment of their servants although it is clear through this article it does not? Not a bit and knowing will in no way change their bias against the Bible. They have most likely already developed such a hard core bias against it that they will overlook this debunking to claim that the atrocities of the Crusades or Inquisitions show that those who follow the Bible are thieves and murders in the highest degree. They will of course neglect to see the reasons for the Crusades or take notice that the religion that produced the various Inquisitions is actually closer to the mystery religion of ancient Babylon and has no semblance of anything that the Bible teaches.
More than likely they will cite injustice of what some offshoot denomination has done such as the Salem witch trails or the likes of David Koresh neglecting the point that the Bible did not condone killing innocent people, marrying multiple women or engaging in sexual relations with prepubescent children. They might even try to make vain attempts to show that the Bible contradicts itself and therefore can't be a trustworthy document. In the end their argument will always devolve into the Bible was written by men and has become so corrupted over time that it is no longer a valid text for anything.
All of those topics deserve articles of their own. For the purposes of this article I believe I have given sufficient evidence that the Bible calls for the death of rapists and for the fair treatment of those people who either were conquered in war or given over by choice into servitude to the ancient Hebrew people.
We here in America should be so fortunate as to be set free every six years from the system of over taxation imposed by our government. We are never given that choice and are under the threat of confinement if we do not comply to stay within the bounds of our outlined "freedoms". We will never be given the chance to live in a way we wish that does not hurt anyone else in a system of ever growing oppression by a continued constricting of laws and taxes forcing us to submit to our corporate and political masters. If given the choice, I would far rather be a servant to a wealthy Israelite family who treated me as one of their own over being a wage slave to an oligarchy that could not care if my family lived in prosperity or died in poverty.