Recent headlines have seen a resurgence of reports of sexual assault at the hands of powerful men. One such case—the numerous allegations against filmmaker Harvey Weinstein—has propelled and empowered a number of women to come forward with their own stories. The #MeToo movement has gained steam, and over the past months the number of these allegations has increased.
Sexual assault is not a modern issue. Sadly, as King Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 Ecclesiastes 1:9The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
American King James Version×). There are examples of sexual assault and rape found in Scripture, and God is not silent on this topic.
The key passage within the law of God regarding sexual assault is found in Deuteronomy 22:25-27 Deuteronomy 22:25-27 25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.
26 But to the damsel you shall do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man rises against his neighbor, and slays him, even so is this matter:
27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
American King James Version×:
“But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.”
The Hebrew word used in this passage to indicate assault is chazaq, which indicates force, violence or an overpowering of someone. This is by definition not consensual because the individual overpowered the victim. Additional proof of it being non-consensual was the implication that the young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.
This passage is describing what we would term in our modern vernacular rape, or sexual assault.
What is important to recognize is what this is clearly stating.
1. It’s not the woman’s fault. Notice the phrase: “There is in the young woman no sin deserving of death.” The perpetrator of this crime holds all of the guilt in the described scenario.
2. The perpetrator is to be put to death, just as a man who rose up against his neighbor and killed him. Its punishment was to be equivalent to that of murder.
As a result of these verses, we can conclude that God does not condone sexual assault. Unfortunately, however, this does not prevent man from committing these crimes when they are not living their lives in accordance with the law of God.
The rape of Dinah and the spiral of violence
There are a few more examples of sexual assault in Scripture, all of which brought negative consequences.
One of the first examples is the story of Dinah in Genesis 34. Dinah was one of Jacob’s daughters, born to him by Leah. When Jacob and his family moved to the outskirts of the city of Shechem, Dinah went out to meet with the women of the land. When Shechem, the son of Hamor, saw Dinah, he assaulted her.
His heart was then drawn to her, and he attempted to have his father negotiate for her to be his bride. Ultimately, her brothers, Levi and Simeon tricked Shechem, Hamor and the men of the city to become circumcised so they would be able to intermarry with them. When the men were healing from their circumcisions and in pain, Levi and Simeon set the city to the edge of the sword, killing all of the men in the city as a reprisal for the rape of Dinah.
Levi and Simeon wrongly meted out the death penalty on more than just the perpetrator, and in Genesis 49, when the blessings and curses were given to Jacob’s sons, Levi and Simeon were cursed for their anger, likely referencing this event.
Chaos in the royal family
Another example of sexual assault in the Bible is the story of Tamar and Amnon, children of King David, found in 2 Samuel 13. In the account, Amnon burned with desire for his half-sister Tamar. He was so desirous of her that he made himself ill. He confessed the situation to a confidant, who helped him scheme a plot that would allow Amnon to take advantage of her.
Amnon follows through on the plan, asking Tamar to bring him food that he might eat it from her hand. She unsuspectingly enters his bedroom to feed him in his illness. He then demands that she come to bed with him, to which Tamar responds, “No…don’t force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing!” (2 Samuel 13:12 2 Samuel 13:12And she answered him, No, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not you this folly.
American King James Version×). She did not consent.
Amnon overpowered and raped Tamar. Afterward, he loathed her and put her away.
Tamar’s blood-brother Absalom caught wind of what happened, telling her to remain quiet about the situation instead of reporting it. He didn’t let on to Amnon that he knew what he had done, but all the while his hatred for him grew. When their father, King David, found out about the situation, he was furious, but didn’t do anything about it. Tamar lived in Absalom’s house in desolation.
Two years later, Absalom exacted revenge, ordering Amnon killed at a gathering for the princes of Israel. David grieved over the murder, and Absalom fled.
This entire episode—Tamar’s rape, Amnon’s murder and Absalom’s part in it—further drove a wedge into the relationship between David and Absalom, eventually resulting in Absalom’s coup, David’s exile and Absalom’s death at the hand of David’s chief military men. Even the division of the nation of Israel into its northern and southern kingdoms has its roots in this conflict between David and Absalom.
In every situation involving rape or sexual assault in Scripture, there are negative ramifications.
God does not condone sexual assault. He expressly forbids it. God loves His children and He has compassion on those who have been affected by this crime. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, please get help. It’s not your fault.
You can go to www.rainn.org , or call 1-800-656-HOPE to receive resources to assist you as you go forward in your healing.