As I’ve brought out in other posts at the site JWvictims.org, Jehovah’s Witnesses hold a very stringent view of rape. A woman is required to scream and fight and resist during an attack, otherwise she faces the threat of excommunication and shunning.
Elders are told to “discern” if a woman has been raped, based on some flimsy instructions about her “mental disposition,” and if she delayed reporting the incident.
These views are insulting enough to women, but let’s discuss for a moment how the god of the Old Testament, Jehovah, views rape, if he even believes in the concept at all.
Let me first explain very quickly about the laws given to the nation of Israel. After Moses rescued Israel from Egypt (we’ve all seen the movie), god wanted them (the Israelites) to live by their own culture and laws. However, they had been slaves in Egypt for so many generations that their own laws and culture were lost to them.
God then decided to dictate new laws to them, starting with the ten commandments (same movie). God then added some 600 other laws, covering such subjects as whom they could and could not marry, what they weren’t allowed to eat, and even their everyday hygiene.
These laws also included a penal code, meaning crime and punishment. Note what is said in Deuteronomy 22, starting in verse 23 (bold added for emphasis):
23 “If a virgin is engaged to a man, and another man happens to meet her in the city and lies down with her, 24 you should bring them both out to the gate of that city and stone them to death, the girl because she did not scream in the city and the man because he humiliated the wife of his fellow man. So you must remove what is evil from your midst. 25 “If, however, the man happened to meet the engaged girl in the ﬁeld and the man overpowered her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her is to die by himself, 26 and you must do nothing to the girl. The girl has not committed a sin deserving of death. This case is the same as when a man attacks his fellow man and murders him. 27 For he happened to meet her in the ﬁeld, and the engaged girl screamed, but there was no one to rescue her. 28 “If a man happens to meet a virgin girl who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies down with her and they are discovered, 29 the man who lay down with her must give the girl’s father 50 silver shekels, and she will become his wife. Because he humiliated her, he will not be allowed to divorce her as long as he lives.
By way of explanation, when a girl became engaged, she was considered a man’s wife and property even before the marriage took place; that’s how the girl in the first verse was a “virgin engaged to a man” but is then referred to as “the wife of his fellow man” in the next verse.
This idea of being a man’s property is very important, because you notice two big differences in these scenarios. Verses 23-27 talk about a woman engaged to someone else, but verse 28 refers to a woman not engaged, or not someone’s property. In the first scenario, if the woman screamed or was set upon in a field, the man was put to death for his crime.
However, note the girl in verse 28; it doesn’t say anything about screaming or a field or anything else. If he raped a virgin girl who was not someone else’s property, no matter what else happened, he was to pay the father of the girl 50 silver shekels (depending on the price of silver and the interpretation of the weight of a shekel, this might be $100 to $400 by today’s standards). The girl, his rape victim, would then become his wife, and stay his wife forever.
THEFT OF PROPERTY
Think seriously about what this means, when comparing these scenarios. The rapist wasn’t really being punished for what he did to his victim, otherwise his punishment would be the same despite her marital state.
With Jehovah’s law, the punishment of the rapist took into account how the rapist wronged the victim’s husband, or her owner, and not simply what he did to her. The rapist was punished, not for the crime committed against the woman, but for the crime he committed against another man.
According to god’s law, the rapist stole something, or vandalized something that belonged to someone else. That was the real crime here. It didn’t matter how the rape affected the woman, as he wasn’t being punished for what he did to her or for what he stole from her, but for what he stole from her husband.
If the girl was not someone else’s fiancee or wife, the man simply paid a bride price to the father, and the girl was now his. Again, this goes to the concept of property. The man didn’t really rape her, but he simply marked his territory, like an animal urinating on a tree. After marking that territory or possession, the rapist later settled up with her father, and took his new possession home.
If you read the first part of the bible itself, you see that Israel was very much a warring nation. Jehovah had (according to the scriptures) promised them certain lands, but by the time they were rescued from Egypt, those lands were inhabited by other nations. The Israelites were given instruction to invade those nations and slaughter all the men and older boys.
Women, children, and livestock could be taken for themselves; again, they were possessions, things, spoils of war. Note Deuteronomy 21, starting in verse 10:
10 If you go to war against your enemies and Jehovah your God defeats them for you and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you are attracted to her and you want to take her as your wife, 12 you may bring her into your house. She should then shave her head, attend to her nails, 13 and remove the clothing of her captivity, and dwell in your house. She will weep for her father and her mother a whole month, and afterward you may have relations with her; you will become her husband and she will become your wife.
Take a step back and look at this from the woman’s point of view. She was living her life in her homeland with her family, when this foreign army invades, kills everyone she knows, and drags her away to another country.
If a man wanted her to himself, she then needs to shave her head and trim her beautiful nails, and is given a month to cry for her family. After that, she becomes his “bride.”
Where, in this scenario, are her wishes ever talked about? Her entire country is slaughtered in some bloody massacre, she’s taken away like a chest of gold, and then forced to copulate with some oily, hairy stranger.
That’s murder. That’s kidnapping. That’s rape.
This has been done in modern times, such as by the terrorist group Boko Haram. When it happens, there is great international outcry, not just for the slaughter of citizens, but for making women part of their insurgency and war brides.
In these bible passages, it’s obvious that women were just objects, property to be bought from their fathers, or simply taken from their own lands. Their own feelings about being violated were not important, as those feelings or preferences, and even the women themselves, were never mentioned. Nothing is said about the woman’s agreement or lack thereof; it was simply a matter of how much money was given and to whom, or how much time needed to pass before an Israelite man could force himself on his captive war “bride.”
There really wasn’t a concept of “rape” in the bible, as much as there was the concept of property laws.
Women are property.
Even rape victims, who then become the property of their rapists… for him to do as he wished, night after night, day after day, for the rest of her life.
No, the god of the bible, this Jehovah whom I’ve been told my whole life is so loving and kind and benevolent and worthy of my worship, doesn’t recognize the actual concept of rape. There is no such thing, according to him, as violating a woman and her rights and her feelings. Her sense of self, her dignity as a human being; these things did not exist to him. A woman was property, to be bought and sold, or marked as territory.
This, too, is yet another reason why that god means nothing to me, because I mean just that much to him as well.