(Deut. 22:23-29) Does this passage allow for rape?

Deuteronomy reads:

(Deut. 22:23-24 NASB) 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.

This is not rape. The logic of this verse is this: if the woman was being raped in the city (where people were around and could hear her), then why didn’t she cry for help? Now, compare this with the rest of the verse:

(Deut. 22:25-27 NASB) 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.

Do you see the difference? The woman was not “in the city.” She was “in the field.” That is, no one could hear her cry for help. The rapist is punished, but she is clearly protected by the law. Let’s compare this with ANE law. Copan writes,

Middle Assyrian laws punished not a rapist but a rapist’s wife and even allowed her to be gang-raped. In other ancient Near Eastern laws, men could freely whip their wives, pull out their hair, mutilate their ears, or strike them –a dramatic contrast to Israel’s laws, which gave no such permission.[1]

The rest of the passage reads:

(Deut. 22:28-29 NASB) 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 case is similar to statutory rape (i.e. the seduction of an unengaged woman). It is similar to Exodus 22:16-17. Notice that “they are discovered.” It appears that both are culpable.

Also note that the punishment is not death. Instead, a sum of money was given for the future dowry of the girl. She had been ripped off. Either the man had to marry the girl (barring the daughter’s and father’s objection), or he had to pay her money for her future marriage. In that culture, a non-virgin bride brought shame on the family, and it was difficult for her to get married. Therefore, this woman and the father were compensated, so she could still get married one day. Remember, marriage was a way of survival back then.

[1] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011. 140.