Until well into the 20th century, most translators and commentators did not recognise any texts in the Hebrew Bible as containing acts of rape, that is, sexual actions performed without the consent of both participants. Some narratives such as those of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) and Shechem and Dinah (Genesis 34) were even interpreted to be love stories (e.g. about elopement) rather than rape stories.:19 An example of a rare exeption to this is a claim by Thomas Paine, who asserted in The Age of Reason (1795) that Numbers 31 portrayed Moses as ordering the Israelites to kill all Midianites except the virgin girls, whom they could keep for what Paine termed "debauchery": "Among the detestable villains that in any period of the world would have disgraced the name of man, it is impossible to find a greater than Moses, if this account be true. Here is an order to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers, and debauch the daughters." In An Apology for the Bible (1796), Richard Watson, the Bishop of Llandaff, sought to refute Paine's arguments: "I see nothing in this proceeding, but good policy, combined with mercy. (...) The women-children were not reserved for the purposes of debauchery, but of slavery." In any case, Paine was not so much focused on sexual violence in particular; this example was part of his general critique of Christian ethics. Johannes Pedersen's work Israel, Its Life and Culture (1926, 1940), commonly cited by scholars for information about Israelite sexual mores, never mentioned rape, only 'forbidden degrees of relationship'. Several Bible passages, which were later widely recognised as 'rape texts', were referred to by Pedersen as 'inappropriate marriage arrangements'.:21-22
It was not until the late 1970s, with the emergence of the anti-rape movement due to second-wave feminism, that feminist scholars reached the consensus that some texts in the Hebrew Bible referred to rape, such as the Levite's concubine and the Benjamites seizing the virgins of Jabesh-Gilead and Shiloh as gang rapes (Judges 19-21).:19-20, 25 However, they also initially disagreed whether some narratives such as Dinah (Genesis 34) and Hagar depicted sexual violence or not.:19-20 Some of the most notable works in this formative era in the study of biblical rape literature were::33-38
Although some biblical scholars disputed whether proposed examples should be classified as 'rape texts', rape has become a prominent topic in biblical studies and had become recognised as amply present in the prose and poetry of the Hebrew Bible by the 2010s.:38
Scholars such as Susanne Scholz (2021) have pointed out that the meanings of words in the Hebrew Bible always depend on their context, and Bible translators or commentators often misinterpret terms, miss important nuances, or use euphemisms for sexual violence. Even in modern English, the verb 'to rape' doesn't necessarily always refer to sexual violence, but could be used metaphorically to describe being subjected to a deeply unpleasant yet non-sexual experience.:211 Similarly, a Hebrew verb such as anah usually means 'to rape, to force/violate sexually', but in some non-sexual contexts is best translated as 'to oppress', 'to weaken', and so on. On the other hand, normally non-sexual words may sometimes describe something sexual; a verb such as 'aq usually means 'to crush, to destroy, to oppress', but in one particular Bible verse (Isaiah 23:12) may actually mean 'to rape' in connection with the term 'virgin daughter', as the latter has a special sexual meaning.:235 Biblical Hebrew is also full of euphemisms and sexual slang that may be difficult for modern readers to understand. 'To lie with', 'to know', 'to come to', and 'to uncover the nakedness of' are such examples which, in particular contexts, mean 'to have sex'. Such phrases don't necessarily imply that this sex is forced by one person upon another, and could actually describe consensual sex, but especially if the context of the narrative adds forms of coercion (such as violence and intimidation) upon someone, or claims that this serves as a 'punishment', then 'to rape' becomes a plausible translation. Likewise, nouns such as 'skirts', 'nakedness' and 'shame' may be euphemisms for 'women's genitals'.:233
Genesis 19 features an attempted gang rape. Two angels arrive in Sodom, and Lot shows them hospitality. However, the men of the city gathered around Lot's house and demanded that he give them the two guests so that they could rape them. In response to this, Lot offers the mob his two virgin daughters instead. The mob refuses Lot's offer, but the angels strike them with blindness, God eventually destroys the city, and Lot and his family escape.
Genesis 19 goes on to relate how Lot's daughters get him drunk and have sex with him. As a result, the eponymous ancestors of Moab and Ammon, recurring enemies of Israel, were born. A number of commentators describe their actions as rape. Esther Fuchs (2003) suggests that the text presents Lot's daughters as the "initiators and perpetrators of the incestuous 'rape'."
Gerda Lerner (1986) has suggested that because the Hebrew Bible takes for granted Lot's right to offer his daughters for rape, we can assume that it reflected a historical reality of a father's power over them.
In Genesis 34, Shechem had sex with Dinah, but how this text is to be exactly translated and understood is the subject of scholarly controversy. Most modern scholars claim that it describes rape, and many modern translations render it as 'raped' (or with similar verbiage of sexual forcing), while some earlier commentators also proposed elopement.
|Leningrad Codex (1008)||King James Version (1611)||New International Version (1978)||Susanne Scholz (2021)|
| ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?||And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite prince of the country saw her he took her and lay with her and defiled her.||When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her.||When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he took her, and he laid her, and he raped her.|
| ?||And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.||His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her.||And he stayed with/kept Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and he lusted after the young woman, and he tried to quiet the young woman.|
Mary Anna Bader (2006) notes the division between verses 2 and 3, and writes that "It is strange and upsetting for the modern reader to find the verbs 'love' and 'dishonor' together, having the same man as their subject and the same woman as their object." Later, she writes that "The narrator gives the reader no information about Dinah's thoughts or feelings or her reactions to what has taken place. Shechem is not only the focalizor but also the primary actor...The narrator leaves no room for doubt that Shechem is the center of these verses. Dinah is the object (or indirect object) of Shechem's actions and desires." Frank M. Yamada (2008) argues that the abrupt transition between Genesis 34:2 and 34:3 was a storytelling technique due to the fact that the narrative focused on the men, a pattern which he perceives in other rape narratives as well, also arguing that the men's responses are depicted in a mixed light. "The rape of Dinah is narrated in a way that suggests there are social forces at work, which complicate the initial seal violation and will make problematic the resulting male responses. [...] The abrupt transition from rape to marriage, however, creates a tension in the reader's mind...the unresolved issue of punishment anticipates the response of Simeon and Levi."
Contrary to Bader and Yamada, however, Scholz (2021) asserted that, despite being a passive object, Dinah rather than Shechem is central in the narrative, and the verbs in verse 3 are widely mistranslated. dabaq, frequently translated as 'to love (someone)', is never translated like that elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, but as 'to cling to (someone)' (Ruth 1:14 NRSV), 'to keep close to (someone)' (Ruth 2:23 NRSV), 'to remain close to (someone)' (Psalm 101:3 A. A. Anderson), 'to retain (the inheritance)' (Numbers 36:7,9 NRSV), or 'to keep something (possession)' according to Wilhelm Gesenius. Scholz concluded: '..."to love" is entirely inadequate. A better translation emphasizes spatial closes: "Shechem stayed with Dinah" or "Shechem kept Dinah," in the sense of not allowing her to leave.':53-54 In the given context, the middle verb aheb is better translated as 'to lust after (someone)' or 'to desire (someone)' rather than 'to love (someone)', as this feeling is sexual rather than romantic and entirely one-sided from a controlling subject to a sexually forced object.:54-55 The third verb is part of a phrase, way-?ab-bêr 'al-lê? han-na-'?-r?, literally meaning "and he spoke to the young woman's heart". While many translations render this as "he spoke tenderly to her" (NRSV), Scholz followed Georg Fischer (1984), who noted the same phrase in the Hebrew Bible always appears when "the situation is wrong, difficult, or danger is in the air",[note 1] and should be understood as "to try to talk against a negative opinion" or "to change a person's mind." Therefore, Scholz argued that Shechem tried to calm down Dinah after the rape and to change her negative opinion by talking to her, and rendered the last part of verse 3 as 'He tried to quiet down the young woman.':55-56
Shechem's rape of Dinah in Genesis 34 is described in the text itself as "a thing that should not be done." Susanne Scholz (2000) writes that "The brothers' revenge, however, also demonstrates their conflicting views about women. On the one hand they defend their sister. On the other hand they do not hesitate to capture other women as if these women were their booty. The connection of the rape and the resulting revenge clarifies that no easy solutions are available to stop rapists and rape-prone behavior. In this regard Genesis 34 invites contemporary readers to address the prevalence of rape through the metaphoric language of a story." In a different work, Scholz (2010) writes that "During its extensive history of interpretation, Jewish and Christian interpreters mainly ignored Dinah. [...] in many interpretations, the fraternal killing is the criminal moment, and in more recent years scholars have argued explicitly against the possibility that Shechem rapes Dinah. They maintain that Shechem's love and marriage proposal do not match the 'scientifically documented behavior of a rapist'." Scholz (2000) argued that Dinah's silence does not mean she consented: "The literary analysis showed, however, that despite this silence Dinah is present throughout the story. Indeed, everything happens because of her. Informed by feminist scholarship, the reading does not even require her explicit comments."
Rabbi and scholar Burton Visotzky (2010) stated that the story describes a marry-your-rapist rule: 'It was a society in which the victim's shame had to be accounted for, and marriage did erase the shame attendant upon the loss of virginity. But this is shame of an empathically male construction and stunningly lacking in sympathy for the woman victim. There is little face to be gained from the dubious honor of marrying your rapist. At least Dinah's brothers agree with this last point, if not with how I arrived there. (...) I do not believe rape was an issue for them. Shame and control were their buttons. Rape is one of ours.'
Sandra E. Rapoport (2011) argues that "The Bible text is sympathetic to Shechem in the verses following his rape of Dinah, at the same time that it does not flinch from condemning the lawless predatory behavior towards her. One midrash even attributes Shechem's three languages of love in verse 3 to God's love for the Children of Israel." She also put forth that "Shechem's character is complex. He is not easily characterized as unqualifiedly evil. It is this complexity that creates unbearable tension for the reader and raises the justifiably strong emotions of outrage, anger, and possible compassion." Therefore, Rapoport regards Genesis 34 as condemning rape strongly, writing, "The brothers' revenge killings of Shechem and Hamor, while they might remind modern readers of frontier justice and vigilantism, are an understandable measure-for-measure act in the context of the ancient Near East."
In Genesis 39, a rare Biblical instance of sexual harassment and assault perpetrated against a man by a woman can be found. In this chapter, the enslaved Joseph endures repeated verbal sexual harassment from the wife of his master Potiphar. Joseph refuses to have sex with her, as he has no marital right to do so and it would be a sin against the god Yahweh (Genesis 39:6-10). Potiphar's wife eventually physically assaults him, demanding that he come to bed with her and grabbing at his clothing (Genesis 39:12). Joseph escapes, leaving the article of clothing with her (different translations describe the article of clothing as, for example, Joseph's "garment," "robe," "coat," or even simply "clothes"). Potiphar's wife then tells first her servants, and then her husband, that Joseph had attacked her (Genesis 39:13-18). Joseph is sent to prison (Genesis 39:19-20), where he remains until his God-given ability to interpret dreams leads the Pharaoh to ask for his help (Genesis 41:14).
Scholars such as Meir Sternberg (1985) characterise the woman's repetitive behaviour towards Joseph as sexual assault. McKinlay (1995) noted that Potiphar's wife is treated as an object in his master's possession (Gen 39:8-9), and the reason Joseph refuses is not because he doesn't want to have sex with her, but because it would violate his master's trust and be a sin against Yahweh. It could be argued that the woman is trying to assert herself as a subject who makes her own choices instead of remaining an object owned by her husband, and invites Joseph to join her in this action which the narrative frames as a 'sin'. Simultaneously, however, she abuses her position of power as the slave master's wife to coerce Joseph into sex, and to punish him for refusal. Susan Tower Hollis (1989) demonstrated that the narrative of Potiphar's wife 'is in line with certain ancient folk-tales, where a 'woman makes vain overtures to a man and then accuses him of attempting to force her', with the man 'unjustly punished for his alleged attempt to seduce the woman.'
The phrase "you may keep them for yourselves" has been interpreted as a passage depicting rape. However, it can be interpreted to mean how the virgin girls became Nethinim, according to Smith's Bible dictionary (1863). Rabbi and scholar Shaye J. D. Cohen (1999) argued that "the implications of Numbers 31:17-18 are unambiguous (...) we may be sure that for yourselves means that the warriors may "use" their virgin captives sexually," adding that Shimon bar Yochai understood the passage 'correctly'. On the other hand, he noted that other rabbinical commentaries such as B. and Y. Qiddushin and Yevamot claimed "that for yourselves meant "as servants." Later apologists, both Jewish and Christian, adopted the latter interpretation."
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Deuteronomy 20:14 indicates that all women and child captives become enslaved property:
But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
Deuteronomy 21:10-14 states:
When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.
This passage is grouped with laws concerning sons and inheritance, suggesting that the passage's main concern is with the regulation of marriage in such a way as to transform the woman taken captive in war into an acceptable Israelite wife, in order to beget legitimate Israelite children. Caryn Reeder notes, "The month-long delay before the finalization of the marriage would thus act in part as a primitive pregnancy test."
The idea that the captive woman will be raped is supported by the fact that in passages like Isaiah 13:16 and Zechariah 14:2, sieges lead to women being "ravished". M.I. Rey notes that the passage "conveniently provides a divorce clause to dispose of her (when she is no longer sexually gratifying) without providing her food or shelter or returning her to her family. . . . In this way, the foreign captive is divorced not for objectionable actions like other (Israelite/Hebrew) wives but for reasons beyond her control." However, sexual slavery in a wartime context is depicted negatively in the Bible. For example, the perpetrators of the mass rape in Isaiah 13:16 and Zechariah 14:2 originate from 'ungodly' nations. The Bible also laments the capture of Moabite women by Sihon, an enemy of the Israelites.
David Resnick praises the passage for its nobility, calling it "evidently the first legislation in human history to protect women prisoners of war" and "the best of universalist Biblical humanism as it seeks to manage a worst case scenario: controlling how a conquering male must act towards a desired, conquered, female other." He argues that after the defeat of her nation in war, marrying the victors "may be the best way for a woman to advance her own interests in a calamitous political and social situation." By treating her as a wife, rather than as a slave, the law seeks to compensate for the soldier's having "violated her" by his failure to procure her father's approval, which was precluded by the state of war.
Deuteronomy 22:22 states: "If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel."
This passage does not specifically address the wife's complicity, and therefore one interpretation is that even if she was raped, she must be put to death since she has been defiled by the extramarital encounter. However, the use of the word 'they' implies that the offense was consensual adultery, according to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.
If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. (v. 23-24)
But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then only the man that lay with her shall die. But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her. (v. 25-27)
If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. (v. 28-29)
Cheryl Anderson, in her book Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Bible Interpretation, said that "Clearly, these laws do not take into account the female's perspective. After a rape, [the victim] would undoubtedly see herself as the injured party and would probably find marriage to her rapist to be distasteful, to say the least. Arguably, there are cultural and historical reasons why such a law made sense at the time. [...] Just the same, the law communicates the message that faith tradition does not (and should not) consider the possibility that women might have different yet valid perspectives."
Frank M. Yamada opines that Deuteronomy 22:23-24, which commands punishment for the woman if the act takes place in the city, was not about rape, but adultery, because the woman was already considered to be the reserved property of a future husband. He also argued that although the laws treat women as property, "the Deuteronomic laws, even if they do not address the crime of rape as sexual violence against a woman as such, do provide a less violent alternative for addressing the situation.
Regarding 22:25-27, Craig S. Keener noted that "biblical law assumes [the woman's] innocence without requiring witnesses; she does not bear the burden of proof to argue that she did not consent. If the woman might have been innocent, her innocence must be assumed," while Davidson added, "Thus the Mosaic law protects the sexual purity of a betrothed woman (and protects the one to whom she is betrothed), and prescribing the severest penalty to the man who dares to sexually violate her."
Many modern translations interpret Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as referring to a case of rape.
Tarico was critical of Deuteronomy 22:28-29, saying that "The punishments for rape have to do not with compassion or trauma to the woman herself but with honor, tribal purity, and a sense that a used woman is damaged goods." Exodus 22:16-17, while not explicitly mentioning sexual assault, is similar to this verse. It mentions how the father of the woman can turn down this offer of marriage.
Robert S. Kawashima notes that regardless of whether the rape of a girl occurs in the country or the city, she "can be guilty of a crime, but not, technically speaking, a victim of a crime, for which reason her noncomplicity does not add to the perpetrator's guilt."
Richard M. Davidson regarded Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as a law concerning statutory rape. He argued that the laws do support the role of women in the situation, writing, "even though the woman apparently consents to engage in sexual intercourse with the man in these situations, the man nonetheless has 'afflicted/humbled/violated her'. The Edenic divine design that a woman's purity be respected and protected has been violated. [...] Even though the woman may have acquiesced to her seducer, nonetheless according to the law, the dowry is 'equal to the bride wealth for virgins' (Exodus 22:16): she is treated financially as a virgin would be! Such treatment upholds the value of a woman against a man taking unfair advantage of her, and at the same time discourages sexual abuse."
Conversely, theologian Charlies Ellicott interprets Deuteronomy 22:28-29 as a law concerning the offense of premarital intercourse. John Gill observes that both parties were described to be "found together" and hence, witnesses and confessors of their own offenses, implying that the act was consensual.
Trible devotes a chapter in Texts of Terror to the rape of the concubine in the Book of Judges, titled "An Unnamed Woman: The Extravagance of Violence". About the rape of the concubine itself, she wrote, "The crime itself receives few words. If the storyteller advocates neither pornography or sensationalism, he also cares little about the women's fate. The brevity of this section on female rape contrasts sharply with the lengthy reports on male carousing and male deliberations that precede it. Such elaborate attention to men intensifies the terror perpetrated upon the woman." After noting that differences in the Greek and Hebrew versions of the Bible make it unclear whether or not the concubine was dead the following morning ("the narrator protects his protagonist through ambiguity"), Trible writes that "Neither the other characters nor the narrator recognizes her humanity. She is property, object, tool, and literary device. [..] In the end, she is no more than the oxen that Saul will later cut in pieces and send throughout all the territory of Israel as a call to war."
Scholz notes the linguistic ambiguity of the passage and the variety of interpretations that stem from it. She wrote that "since this narrative is not a 'historical' or 'accurate' report about actual events, the answers to these questions reveal more about a reader's assumptions regarding gender, androcentrism, and sociopolitical practices than can be known about ancient Israelite life based on Judges 19. [...] Predictably, interpreters deal differently with the meaning of the story, depending on their hermeneutical interests."
Yamada believes that the language used to describe the plight of the concubine make the reader sympathize with her, especially during the rape and its aftermath. "Thus, the narrator's elaborate description of the woman's attempt to return to the old man's house highlights for the reader the devastating effects of the preceding night's events, emphasizing her desolate state. The woman's raped and exhausted body becomes a symbol of the wrong that is committed when 'every man did what was right in his own eyes.' The image of this woman struggling to the door demands a response from the participants in the story."
Since consent was impossible, given her powerless position, David in essence raped her. Rape means to have sex against the will, without the consent, of another - and she did not have the power to consent. Even if there was no physical struggle, even if she gave in to him, it was rape.
Other scholars, however, suggest that Bathsheba came to David willingly. James B. Jordan notes that the text does not describe Bathsheba's protest, as it does Tamar's in 2 Samuel 13, and argues that this silence indicates that "Bathsheba willingly cooperated with David in adultery". George Nicol goes even further and suggests that "Bathsheba's action of bathing in such close proximity to the royal palace was deliberately provocative".
In 2 Samuel 13, Tamar asks her half-brother Amnon not to rape her, saying, "I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee." Kawashima notes that "one might interpret her remarkably articulate response as mere rhetoric, an attempt to forestall the impending assault, but the principle of verisimilitude still suggests that David, as patriarch of the house, is the legal entity who matters" when it comes to consenting to his daughter's union with Amnon. When, after the rape, Amnon tells Tamar to leave, she says, "There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me", indicating her expectation, in accordance with the conventions of the time, is to remain in his house as his wife.
In The Cry of Tamar: Violence Against Women and the Church's Response, Pamela Cooper-White criticizes the Bible's depiction of Tamar for its emphasis on the male roles in the story and the perceived lack of sympathy given to Tamar. "The narrator of 2 Samuel 13 at times portrays poignantly, eliciting our sympathy for the female victim. But mostly, the narrator (I assume he) steers us in the direction of primary interest, even sympathy, for the men all around her. Even the poignancy of Tamar's humiliation is drawn out for the primary purpose of justifying Absalom's later murder of Amnon and not for its own sake." She opined that "Sympathy for Tamar is not the narrator's primary interest. The forcefulness of Tamar's impression is drawn out, not to illuminate her pain, but to justify Absalom's anger at Amnon and subsequent murder of him." Cooper-White also states that after the incestuous rape, the narrative continues to focus on Amnon, writing, "The story continues to report the perpetrator's viewpoint, the thoughts and feelings after the incident of violence; the victim's viewpoint is not presented. [...] We are given no indication that he ever thought about her again--even in terms of fear of punishment or reprisal."
Trible allocates another chapter in Texts of Terror to Tamar, subtitled "The Royal Rape of Wisdom." She noted that Tamar is the lone female in the narrative and is treated as part of the stories of Amnon and Absalom. "Two males surround a female. As the story unfolds, they move between protecting and polluting, supporting and seducing, comforting and capturing her. Further, these sons of David compete with each other through the beautiful woman." She also wrote that the language the original Hebrew uses to describe the rape is better translated as "He laid her" than "He lay with her." Scholz wrote that "Many scholars make a point of rejecting the brutality with which Amnon subdues his [half-]sister," going on to criticize an interpretation by Pamela Tamarkin Reis that blames Tamar, rather than Amnon, for what happened to her.
Regarding the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel, Rapoport states that "Amnon is an unmitigatedly detestable figure. Literarily, he is the evil foil to Tamar's courageous innocence. [...] The Bible wants the reader to simultaneously appreciate, mourn, and cheer for Tamar as we revile and despise Amnon." Regarding the same passage, Bader wrote that "Tamar's perception of the situation is given credibility; indeed Amnon's lying with her proved to be violating her. Simultaneously with increasing Tamar's credibility, the narrator discredits Amnon." Trible opined that "[Tamar's] words are honest and poignant; they acknowledge female servitude." She also writes that "the narrator hints at her powerlessness by avoiding her name."
Similarly, Yamada argues that the narrator aligns with Tamar and makes the reader sympathize with her. "The combination of Tamar's pleas with Amnon's hatred of his half-sister after the violation aligns the reader with the victim and produce scorn toward the perpetrator. The detailed narration of the rape and post-rape responses of the two characters makes this crime more deplorable."
Both Kate Blanchard and Scholz note that there are several passages in the Book of Isaiah, Book of Jeremiah, and Book of Ezekiel that utilize rape metaphors. Blanchard expressed outrage over this fact, writing "The translations of these shining examples of victim-blaming are clear enough, despite the old-fashioned language: I'm angry and you're going to suffer for it. You deserve to be raped because of your sexual exploits. You're a slut and it was just a matter of time till you suffered the consequences. Let this be a lesson to you and to all other uppity women." Scholz discussed four passages--Isaiah 3:16-17, Jeremiah 13:22,26, Ezekiel 16, and Ezekiel 23. In The Bible Now, Richard Elliott Friedman and Shawna Dolansky write "What should not be in doubt is the biblical view of rape: it is horrid. It is decried in the Bible's stories. It is not tolerated in the Bible's laws."
On Isaiah 3:17-18, Scholz (2010) wrote that there is a common mistranslation of the Hebrew word p?t as "forehead" or "scalp". Also often translated as "genitals" or "secret parts", Scholz believes that a more accurate translation of the word in context is "cunt", as first suggested by J. Cheryl Exum's The Ethics of Biblical Violence against Women (1995). They and other scholars such as Johnny Miles (2006) conclude that this stripping of women's clothes to expose their genitals refers to sexual violence as God's punishment for women's arrogance and pride.
Sandra Lynne Gravett (1994) argued that a proper understanding of the phrases used in Ezekiel 16:39 ( w?-hip?-?î- '?-w- b?--?a-yi?; usually translated as "They will strip you of your clothes" (NIV)) and Ezekiel 23:26 (? ? w?-hip?-?î- 'e?- b?---yi?; usually literally translated as "They will also strip you of your clothes" (NIV)) leads to the conclusion that they mean "They will (also) rape you". Some of the main arguments for this reading include the fact that the very similar phrase of "uncovering the nakedness" of a person in Leviticus 18 and 20 always refers to sexual activity (and is commonly translated as such), and the women in Ezekiel 16:39 and 23:26 do not consent, but are submitted to this sexual activity by coercion as one of several violent acts (also including mutilation, robbery and murder) of "punishment" (Ezekiel 16:38,41; 23:24,45,49) perpetrated by invading foreign men. Gravett insisted that both narratives are not just a metaphorical warning to all Juhadites and Israelites (with whom the women are identified through the capital cities of Jerusalem and Samaria, Ezekiel 16:2-3; 23:4,33) to not ethnically mix with foreigners through sexual or cultural exchange, but more specifically to warn all Judahite/Israelite women not to be unfaithful to their husbands and engage in "whoredom" and "adultery" (particularly Ezekiel 16:40; 23:48), or otherwise suffer said "punishment".
Scholz (2010) refers to both passages in Ezekiel as "pornographic objectification of Jerusalem." On Ezekiel 16, she wrote, "These violent words obscure the perspective of the woman, and the accusations are presented solely through the eyes of the accuser, Yahweh. God speaks, accuses his wife of adultery, and prescribes the punishment in the form of public stripping, violation, and killing. In the prophetic imagination, the woman is not given an opportunity to reply. [...] God expresses satisfaction of her being thus punished." Regarding Ezekiel 23, a story about two adulterous sisters who are eventually killed, she decries the language used in the passage, especially Ezekiel 23:48, which serves as a warning to all women about adultery. "The prophetic rape metaphor turns the tortured, raped, and murdered wives into a warning sign for all women. It teaches that women better obey their husbands, stay in their houses, and forgo any signs of sexual independence. [...] This prophetic fantasy constructs women as objects, never as subjects, and it reduces women to sexualized objects who bring God's punishment upon themselves and fully deserve it."
Conversely, Corrine Patton (2000) argued that "this text does not support domestic abuse; and scholars, teachers, and preachers must continue to remind uninformed readers that such an interpretation is actually a misreading" and that "the theological aim of the passage is to save Yahweh from the scandal of being a cuckolded husband, i.e. a defeated, powerless, and ineffective god. [...] It is a view of God for whom no experience, not even rape and mutilation in wartime, is beyond hope for healing and redemption." Regarding Ezekiel 16, Daniel I. Block wrote that "the backdrop of divine judgment can be appreciated only against the backdrop of his grace. If the text had begun at v. 36 one might understandably had accused God of cruelty and undue severity. But the zeal of his anger is a reflex of the intensity of his love. God had poured out his love on this woman, rescuing her from certain death, entering into covenant relationship with her, pledging his troth, lavishing on her all the benefits she could enjoy. He had loved intensely. He could not take contempt for his grace lightly."
Regarding Jeremiah 13, Scholz (2010) wrote, "The poem proclaims that the woman brought this fate upon herself and she is to be blamed for it, while the prophet sides with the sexually violent perpetrators, viewing the attack as deserved and God as justifying it. Rape poetics endorses 'masculine authoritarianism' and the 'dehumanization of women,' perhaps especially when the subject is God."
Amy Kalmanofsky (2015) opined that Jeremiah 13 treats the naked female body as an object of disgust: "I conclude that Jer 13 is an example of obscene nudity in which the naked female body is displayed not as an object of desire, but of disgust. In Jer 13, as in the other prophetic texts, Israel is not sexually excited by having her nakedness exposed. She is shamed. Moreover, those who witness Israel's shame do not desire Israel's exposed body. They are disgusted by it."
F. B. Huey, Jr. (1993), commenting on Jeremiah 13, wrote, "The crude description is that of the public humiliation inflicted on a harlot, an appropriate figure for faithless Judah. It could also describe the violence done to women by soldiers of a conquering army. [...] Jeremiah reminded [Israel] that they were going to be exposed for all to see their adulteries."
In chapter 2 of the Book of Hosea, the prophet Hosea (who is compared to the god Yahweh) is portrayed as fantasising about how he will punish his ex-wife Gomer (who is compared to the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria)) for leaving him for another man. In the first half, Hosea is afraid to lose control over his wife's sexual behaviour, and when he does lose control, he accuses her of being a 'whore'/'adulteress' (in the same way that Yahweh accuses the Israelites of 'idolatry' for worshipping other gods such as Baal), and threatens Gomer with severe physical and psychological violence, which includes a sexual component according to several scholars. In the second half, Hosea imagines how he will accept his ex-wife back with open arms as if nothing has happened and the world will be created anew, with language that refers to the Genesis creation narrative; a perfect reconciliation. According to Weems (1995), the poem claims that Hosea is 'the true victim in the marriage', namely 'a man driven to extreme behavior by his unfaithful wife'; it rhetorically presents his actions as all her fault, and seeks to convince the audience to side with the 'humiliated husband' rather than the 'battered wife'.:116-123
Scholz (2021) focused on the verb pathah in Hosea 2:14 (2:16 in Hebrew texts), which is usually translated as 'to allure/entice/persuade/seduce/attract' or 'to trick/deceive/mislead'. But in this verse, as well as in Judges 14:15 and Judges 16:5, the verb is in the pi'el, which adds force or coercion; therefore, some Bible translations such as NRSV, NIV and ISV translate pathah in these verses as 'to coax'. Scholz reasoned that in both these Judges verses (about Samson and Delilah) and in Exodus 22:16 (about premarital sex; unclear if forced or consensual), pathah refers to sex, and so verse 14 should be translated as "Therefore, behold, it is I who will enforce sex on her.":119-120
According to Scholz (2021), Nahum 3 describes how the city of Nineveh succumbs to a military attack (Battle of Nineveh (612 BCE)), with houses destroyed by fire and citizens subjected to killing by the sword, sexual harassment and rape.:233-234 In verses 3:5-7, the god Yahweh appears to threaten Nineveh (who is portrayed as a woman) with sexual violence, as Scholz translated:
She reasoned: 'The sentence "I will sexually violate you" uses the Hebrew verb n?bal in the piel, which appears also in rape narratives such as Gen 34:7, Judges 19-21, and 2 Sam 13:12.':233 Moreover, Nahum 3 mirrors other Hebrew prophetic poems in which a city (with Nineveh here being representative of the Neo-Assyrian Empire) destroyed by a foreign enemy is portrayed as a sexually promiscuous woman who receives sexual violence and the resulting shame as a just punishment for her sins. Even though the Israelite god Yahweh had no previous relationship with Nineveh that the latter could be 'unfaithful' to, it is presented as revenge for the Assyrian conquest of the northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and the Assyrian captivity in the 730s BCE.:233-234 Scholz, Francisco O. García-Treto and other scholars commented that this poem in which God presents himself as a rapist who violates and humiliates a woman in order to punish her 'is particularly abhorrent to modern readers', adding that 'these verses in the book of Nahum must be treated as dangerous territory'.:234
Scholars have long recognised that many of the Nevi'im or prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible have the Israelite god Yahweh speak his judgement over a capital city (using it as pars pro toto for the state it governs), personifying this city as a woman who has committed various sins, so that she has become a "prostitute" / "whore" and/or an "adulteress", and thus deserves various punishments, almost always including being subjected to rape.:214-235 This judgement and punishment is usually applied when the city is subjected to a siege and conquered by foreign soldiers.:214-235 Although this metaphor, in which Yahweh often addresses a city as if it were his wife or virgin daughter who has forsaken him and her own honour, is often applied to Jerusalem (and once to Samaria), it is also applied to non-Israelite cities such as Babylon and Nineveh.:214-235 Caroline Vander Stichele (2000) demonstrated that similar patterns exist in the narrative of the "Whore of Babylon" (probably a personification of Rome, and by extension the Roman Empire) in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament (the Greek Bible). Scholz (2021) argued that these threats of rape and other punishments do not only serve as a warning to the Israelites and Judahites or to foreign peoples not to fall into sin lest they be judged and punished, but especially towards all women. Ezekiel 16 and 23 in particular send a double message to not just Israelite and Judahite society in general not to be unfaithful to Yahweh, but to women in those societies not to be unfaithful to their husbands (especially by having sex with foreign men); women who do, will be publicly raped, shamed and executed by foreign soldiers to deter other women from marital infidelity.:214-235 Along the same lines, J.K. Kim (1999) stated about the Whore of Babylon: 'The whore metaphor does not simply stand for the imperial city of Rome but also stands for women sexually involved in a colonizing context.' In Nahum 3, Yahweh seems to be threatening to personally rape the city of Nineveh himself instead of having foreign soldiers do it by his orders or with his endorsement.:233-234 Similarly in Isaiah 3 and Jeremiah 13, the Israelite god himself is threatening to sexually assault or rape the "Daughters of Zion" (women of Jerusalem/Judah).:214-218
|Personified capital cities threatened with rape:116-123, 214-235|
|Bible chapter||Woman, relation to Yahweh||City addressed||State personified||Alleged sins||Punishments||Punisher|
|Isaiah 3||Daughters of Zion||Jerusalem||Kingdom of Judah||Arrogance and pride||Public sexual assault and shame||Yahweh (God of Israel)|
|Isaiah 13||(Pride & glory Babylonians)||Babylon||Neo-Babylonian Empire||Arrogance and pride (Babylonian captivity?)||Murder, infanticide, rape, arson||Foreign soldiers (endorsed by Yahweh)|
|Isaiah 23||Virgin daughter (Sidon)||Tyre, Sidon||Phoenician city-states||Avarice, materialism (wealth from trade)||Rape? Arson||Foreign soldiers (endorsed by Yahweh)|
|Isaiah 47||Virgin daughter||Babylon||Neo-Babylonian Empire||Babylonian captivity||Futile resistance, rape, public shame||Foreign soldiers (endorsed by Yahweh)|
|Jeremiah 13||-||Jerusalem||Kingdom of Judah||Arrogance and pride||Rape, victim-blaming||Yahweh (God of Israel)|
|Lamentations 1||Virgin daughter Zion/Judah||Jerusalem||Kingdom of Judah||"Sins", military defeat (587 BCE)||Rape? Public shame, sacrilege, mixing cultures||Foreign soldiers (endorsed by Yahweh)|
|Lamentations 4||Daughter Edom||-||Kingdom of Edom||"Wickedness" (vassalage to Babylonia 605 BCE?)||Made drunk and raped||Foreign soldiers / Yahweh|
|Ezekiel 16||Wife||Jerusalem||Kingdom of Judah||Marital infidelity, mixing with foreign cultures||Mutilation, rape, public shame, murder, arson||Foreign soldiers (endorsed by Yahweh)|
|Ezekiel 23||Oholah, wife||Samaria||Kingdom of Israel (Samaria)||Marital infidelity, mixing with foreign cultures||Mutilation, rape, public shame, murder, arson||Foreign soldiers (endorsed by Yahweh)|
|Ezekiel 23||Oholibah, wife||Jerusalem||Kingdom of Judah||Marital infidelity, mixing with foreign cultures||Mutilation, rape, public shame, murder, arson||Foreign soldiers (endorsed by Yahweh)|
|Hosea 2||Gomer, wife||-||Kingdom of Israel (Samaria)||Marital infidelity, worshipping other gods||Dehydration, captivity, theft, public shame, rape||Hosea / Yahweh|
|Nahum 3||(enemy)||Nineveh||Neo-Assyrian Empire||"Prostitution and witchcraft" (Assyrian captivity?)||Public rape, shame and abandonment, arson||Yahweh (God of Israel)|
|Revelation 17||Whore of Babylon (enemy)||'Babylon the Great'||Roman Empire (probably)||Mixing cultures, blasphemy, persecuting Christians||Rape, cannibalism, arson||Rebelling peoples (endorsed by God)|