“Third, the reason the rapist in Deuteronomy 22:25 is put to death is not because the woman he raped was betrothed, but because rape is a crime equivalent to murder. Verses 26b and 27 read: “For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.”
Francis Nigel Lee writes
‘Why precisely death to this rapist? God says: “For it is as when a man rises against his neighbour and slays him, even so is this matter” (Deuteronomy 22:26b). Rape is thus like a case of premeditated murder, where God says also the murderer is to get the death penalty’ (Genesis 9:6). [4. Lee, Rape!!!, 10.]
The reason rape is equivalent to murder is because the woman is forced against her will: “because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.” This can and does happen to betrothed and non-betrothed women alike. Since forcing a woman to have sex against her will is the basis for executing the rapist, then rape always warrants capital punishment—regardless of whether the victim is betrothed or not. Just as murder is always a capital offense, regardless of who is murdered, so rape is always a capital offense, regardless of who is raped.
Fourth, one might still ask, “Why then does Deuteronomy 22:25-27 deal only explicitly with a betrothed woman?” Michael H. Warren, Jr., believes it
speaks of a betrothed virgin because it is continuing the theme of Deuteronomy 22:23-24 in which a betrothed virgin consents to sex with a man not her husband, not because the latter was meant to limit the death penalty for rape to betrothed virgins. The distinction that is the focus of the section is between betrothed virgins who consent (Deut. 22:23-24) and unbetrothed virgins who consent (Deut. 22:28-29). [5. Michael H. Warren, Jr., e-mail message to author, January 3, 2010.]
Moreover, while Deuteronomy 22:25-27 deals explicitly with betrothed women, it does deal implicitly with unbetrothed women. As noted in the previous point, rape in and of itself is equivalent to the capital crime of murder.
Fifth, the interpretation that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 deals with a man committing rape is counterintuitive, since the man is required to pay the woman’s father fifty shekels of silver and to marry the woman. But how many fathers would even want to see a man who raped his daughter, let alone permit him to marry her? How can he even look at the rapist without wanting to kill him? Moreover, “And what if the man rapes five virgins seriatim? Should he then marry all five?!” [6.Lee, Rape!!!, 11.] Or, what if five men gang rape one virgin? Should they all marry her? Finally, the requirement for the woman who is raped to marry “would lay a burden and penalty on the woman who had no part or consent in the act, which is as unfair and senseless as punishing the victim of attempted murder.” [7. Bahnsen, Pre-Marital Sexual Relations.] The Bible requires punishing the criminal, not the victim. Eye-for-an-eye means “you take an eye, you lose an eye”—not “you lose an eye, you lose another eye.”
“God is Just”