There is a passage in the Old Testament I have been worried about for some time now, and my unease with it and my gut rejection of it as basic, primitive and misogynistic has grown.

I can’t remember where it is, but I hope church leader readers will know the part I’m talking about.  I think it might be Leviticus or one of the first 5 books.

It says if a woman is attacked or raped and she cries out for help it isn’t her fault, but if she doesn’t cry out for help it is.  Something like that.  I might be remembering it too black and white.  I can’t find it quickly because I can’t remember the wording.

I don’t think there is any provision for if she is being threatened in any other way and is afraid to shout for help.  If she is afraid to shout for help is it still her fault, and does the fact that she might also be afraid for her own life or someone else’s so doesn’t scream mean the man is not to blame for his actions?  If she feels too threatened or confused to scream or register objection outside of the situation, does that mean the man has not committed an offence?

Also, it seems to be allowing a provision that the woman might have ‘brought it on herself’ or that she deserves it in some way.  If there is that provision, people who think that of her or who want an excuse to not get involved would ignore her and judge her even if she did scream.

I might need to look it up to get a better understanding of the passage.  However, when it comes to the way people act and react and judge and reason I’ve got it right.

Edit note: I just found it and read it.  It’s Deuteronomy 22.  If it’s in a field only the man dies because there was no one to hear her scream.  If it’s in the city and she doesn’t scream, they both die because she should have screamed.  That is if she is married or engaged.  So according to the law the man should get it both ways.

Should I assume that rape and violent threat didn’t go together in those days as they do now?  Should I assume that, because of the death penalty, if the woman had screamed the man would have tried to escape?  Should I assume that these good, law-abiding people would always have obeyed the law to intervene and put a man like this to death?  The prophets are always telling them that they tolerate things they shouldn’t.  Would they have turned a blind eye like people do today?  Yes, they would, at least sometimes.  The existence of law has never been a guarantee that people are going to obey it and that wrongdoers will always be punished.  And the Bible recognises that there is lawbreaking among leaders as well, and that they also act corruptly and irresponsibly.

Sometimes Bible teachers teach this kind of passage as if the existence of the laws meant they were always kept without question.  That is bad teaching and poor understanding because it is just not true.

If she isn’t married or engaged, and a similar situation is discovered, the man has to pay the woman’s father for the offence and marry her.  They say in rape a woman’s feelings are mixed. This might seem like a monstrous rationalisation, but I wonder if this is a provision to help her deal with these feelings?  For the man it is a punishment for the offence and maybe an opportunity for expiation.  Hmm.  There is no mention of what should happen if the situation is not discovered.  I suppose it assumes consent from the woman.  At least if it isn’t discovered no one can do anything about it.  So it’s probably just a practical observation.

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