"Rape of Female Captives - "When
you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them
into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the
captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you
may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must
shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive's garb. After
she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations
with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife.
However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom,
if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was
married to you under compulsion." (Deuteronomy 21:10-14, NAB)
Once again God approves of forcible
examine this passage in further detail.
You can read the entire chapter here:
As mentioned in my previous article
("War Against Distant Cities"), slavery as a result of being taken
prisoner in war was common in the Ancient Near East . Another common practice was women marrying
those whom had conquered their city or tribe.
In this instance, the Law set down the procedure for an Israelite man
who decided to marry a woman from among those who had been captured as
prisoners of war.
Again, as in previous passages, this
passage must be considered in a cultural and historical context. We must consider the situation of the woman
who was taken captive. Her parents, or
at least her father, were most likely dead as a result of being killed during
the war. It is likely that any brothers
or other male family members that she had were also dead. This left her in a desperate situation
. The only choice that she would
have to survive would be slavery or prostitution. However, there was another way that would
slightly elevate her social status and give her a better future - marriage.
There were clear regulations set
down in this instance. For example, the
man could not have sex with the woman that he chose to take home as his wife
immediately. It is clear that this
passage is not approving rape. The
situation was very specific - she was not a sex slave or a victim of rape; the
man was to take her to his house with the intention of marrying her. Before they could be married, she had to
shave her head (an Eastern custom symbolizing the transfer from one nationality/religion
to another, also used as a sign of purification and new status; see Leviticus
14:8 and Numbers 8:7), trim her fingernails, and put away the clothes she was
wearing when she was captured, signifying the end of her old life and the
beginning of her new life. She was then
to mourn for her parents for a month (verses 12-13), and then the man could
marry her and they could have sex. This
gave the woman time to grieve her losses and adapt to her new situation.
We must remember when reading this
passage that people, especially women, who lived in the Ancient Near East had
little to no choice who their spouse would be.
Parents arranged marriages for their children . With this in mind, the woman taken captive
would be in a similar situation, marrying a man that she had not chosen. It may seem strange in our modern Western
culture, but this was the situation in ancient times.
Finally, there was a law in this
passage that protected the woman. If the
man who had married her decided he no longer wanted her, he could not then
enslave her or sell her as a slave to someone else. He had to let her go free (verse 14).
Far from being an approval of
forcible rape, this passage set clear boundaries for men who wanted to take
home captive women, detailing the proper procedures and providing protection
for the woman involved.
Code of Hammurabi (written circa 1772 BCE), translated into English by
L.W. King (1915) #27-29, 32, 133-135
 A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition),
Chester G. Starr, 1991. Pg. 43.
Exploring the World of the Bible Lands, Roberta L. Harris, 1995.
The Gospel of Ruth, Carolyn Custis James, 2008. Pgs. 77-78.  Life In The Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell,