How could the Bible command a rape victim to marry her rapist?

This article is from Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book—Collector’s Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008)
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According to Mosaic Law, “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 the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives” (Deuteronomy 22:28–29). Isn’t that barbaric?

First, the Mosaic Law is hardly about letting a rapist off easy. The consequence for raping a woman engaged to be married was stoning (Deuteronomy 22:25). If the woman was not engaged, the rapist was spared for the sake of the woman’s security. Having lost her virginity, she would have been deemed undesirable for marriage—and in the culture of the day, a woman without a father or husband to provide for her would be subject to a life of abject poverty, destitution, and social ostracism. As such, the rapist was compelled to provide for the rape victim for as long as he lived. Thus, far from barbaric, the law was a cultural means of protection and provision.

Furthermore, there was precedent under the Mosaic Law for the victimized woman not to marry the victimizer if her father determined that she could be provided for in a more suitable manner (Exodus 22:16–17). Thus, the law was not designed to force the rape victim into an unbearable marriage, but to secure her future and that of her children.

Finally, neither then nor now, there is no perfect resolution for a woman who has been violated through the horror of rape. The modern–day solution of aborting a child conceived through rape only compounds the horror. Indeed, if we are completely satisfied by any earthly solution—even the death penalty—our moral sensibilities are seriously skewed. Ultimately, only eternity will make all wrongs right.

For further study on Mosaic laws, see Hank Hanegraaff, “T.V.’s The West Wing vs. The Bible,” available through the Christian Research Institute (CRI) at www.equip.org.


“The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.”

ISAIAH 25:8

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