Question:

Are there any Old Testament examples where the future wife to be actually objected to the wedding but was forced into it? Just curious because I understand they were treated as property, but just wondering if there examples of a marriage where the wife objected beforehand. I know there are at least one or two examples where the future wife "agrees" to the marriage.


Answer:

The myth that women were treated as property in the Old Testament is false, but people are so certain that ancient society was not as "enlightened" as today that it had to be true.

When Abraham asked his servant to find a wife for his son, Rebekah was asked if she was willing to marry a man she never met. "Then they called Rebekah and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."" (Genesis 23:58).

There is no record in the Bible of any woman being forced to marry against her will. The closest I can think of is Jacob being fooled into marrying Leah against his will (Genesis 29:21-25).

Opponents of the Bible typically cite "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days" (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). This verse needs to be considered with "If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins" (Exodus 22:16-17).

Typically the argument goes that a woman is forced to marry her rapist. The assumption is that "seizes her" implies forced sexual relations. The problem is that rape in Hebrew uses a different word, chazaq. This word is used to describe rape in "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" (Deuteronomy 22:25). It is the same word used when Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar (II Samuel 13:11, 14). The other word used for rape is 'anah. "Then Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David's brother, answered and said, "Let not my lord suppose they have killed all the young men, the king's sons, for only Amnon is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar" (II Samuel 13:32). The problem is that in Deuteronomy 22:28 is taphas, which means to capture. Exodus 22:16 uses the word pathah, which means to entice or deceive. These words are not used to describe situations where rape is known to take place.

In the case of Amnon and Tamar, a rape did take place; yet, even though Tamar wanted the marriage, Amnon was not forced into marrying her. If Deuteronomy 22:28-29 was about rape then that should have taken place. As a matter of fact, in every case of rape the the Old Testament, there is no record of a marriage taking place between the rapist and the victim.

What Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:16-17 describe are cases where fornication is taking place. Interestingly, it is the man who is held primarily responsible. He is the one who is described as trapping or deceiving the woman into letting him have sex with her. As a result it is the man who is forced into marrying the woman he deceived with no allowance for a future divorce. The woman's father is given the right to refuse the marriage, which should be clear enough that if this was a case of rape, he would not allow the marriage. He would only consent if his daughter thought she wanted this man.

The requirement of paying 50 shekels, which is about seven years of wages, shows a completely different attitude toward sex outside of marriage than what people are claiming. Let's just assume that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 could include rape in its description, then a rapist is fined seven years of labor -- a quantity of money that few young men would have available to them, which would mean that likely he would end up as a slave for seven years, unless his family stepped in to pay off his fine. In other words, all sex outside of marriage results in the man being punished by a fine that likely would put him into slavery for a while. If it was sex with a married or engaged woman, it would result in his death. This is not a male-dominated, men can do no wrong type of society that detractors of the Bible attempt to portray.