Re: Challenge #2

Date: Wed Jul 17 2002 - 01:21:24 EDT

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    Shuan writes,

    << While I agree with you that rape is too strong a word, I think most people
      would find impossible squaring this custom with the ethics of the Sermon on
      the Mount. BTW, what happened with the not so good looking enemy women? Were
      they enslaved? Or just simply killed? >>

    In the ancient Near East, men and women captured in war were usually settled
    as serfs, a tax-paying lower class. Some were made slaves; and slaves did not
    have the status or rights of the free. In the case of Deut 21:11-14 it was to
    the advantage of the woman who had been captured to become the wife of a free

    I looked at half a dozen commentaries across the theological spectrum on Deut
    21:11-14 today. All of them agreed that the legislation was in the interests
    of the woman. Wright specifies four reasons. 1. She is not to be raped or to
    be enslaved as a concubine, but is to be accorded the full status of a wife
    (vv. 11, 13). 2. She is to be given time to adjust to the traumatic new
    situation and to mourn for her parents, and this within the security of her
    new home. 3. The law restricts even the soldier's "bridegroom rights" by
    postponing any sexual intercourse with the woman until this month of mourning
    and adjustment is over. 4. If the man finally changes his mind, she is to
    leave as a free woman. He cannot sell her as a slave.

    Other commentators speak of "such kindly consideration" "a humane motive,"
    "the established rights of a female captive," "the desire to protect the

    I think the passage must be seen against the background of the father's
    authority over even his free-born daughters in those days. This authority
    was often used in the best interests of the daughters and even included
    consideration of their desires, but it could also be used as Caleb, the man
    of faith, used it: to offer his daughter in marriage to any man who would
    spearhead an attack on Kiriath-sepher. Yet, even in the latter case, are we
    really justified in saying the daughter married off without any choice was
    "raped"? I don't think Caleb's daughter (or the captive woman) thought of it
    that way.

    The offer of Caleb and the legislation in Deut 21:11-14 are clearly not up to
    the standards of the Sermon on the Mount. And divorce in the case of the
    captive woman was apparently even easier than the easy divorce of Deut 24
    which Jesus saw was a concession to the hard-heartedness of the times. But,
    though worthy of condemnation as falling short of God's perfect will, I think
    the redeeming features of Deut 21:11-14 should not be overlooked. The
    implication of the law is that less humane treatment may well have occurred
    if the law had not been given. In the midst of the accommodation, there is
    divine revelation and grace.


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