Today, I want to consider another passage, Deuteronomy 21:10-14:
When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.(NIV)The word translated "dishonored" in v. 14 is the Hebrew verb `anah (ענה ). In the Piel perfect it means compressit feminam [Latin], to deflower a woman, usually by force (Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon, p. 783). The Latin compressit feminam means to suppress/control/stifle/frustrate/subdue/ a woman . This word obviously refers to rape and is so translated in other Hebrew scriptures. For example,
Judges 20:5: They raped my concubine, and she died.The captive was taken from her family by force and made to live with the one who had killed her family. To think that a woman who had gone through such tragedy would voluntarily agree to become the wife of her family's killer is incredible. The fact is she had no choice in the matter. As the text says, she was "raped."
2 Sam. 13:14: since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
2 Sam.13:32: ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar.
The following could have been written by one of these so-called "war brides."
I was compelled to live under the same roof with him--where I saw a man forty years my senior daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature. He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection?Instead it was written by Harriet A. Jacobs, an African-American slave in 19th century America.
So, the obvious fact is that, if the OT is really a divine revelation, then God condones the selling of a human being as property and the forcing of the female slave to grant the sexual wishes of her master. One may argue that the regulations laid out here are better than those in some other ANE societies but that is beside the point. There is no condemnation of this practice by the Hebrew God. He is not hesitant to condemn other practices that he finds abhorent such as homosexuality but apparently forcing women to have sex with a man is permissible or at least tolerable.
Now, as I expected some Christians have objected to my interpretation of these texts and offered arguments in an attempt to mitigate what is obviously repugnant.
First, I am told that the phrase in Exodus 21:8, "if she does not please her master," does not relate to sex. That is extremely naive. As Pressler notes: her economic worth is, first of all, her sexuality and her reproductive capacity. (Gender and Law in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, eds. Victor Matthews, Bernard Levinson, and Tikva Frymer-Kensky , p. 162).
Then, I am told that she is a concubine not a slave. While this admission contradicts the first claim (that "not pleasing" doesn't refer to sex), it is a "distinction without a difference" anyway. As Susanne Scholz says with regard to Genesis 35:
Overall, however, the roles of a concubine and a female slave are similar, so that the term "concubine" in Gen. 35:22 does not necessarily indicate a socially higher status than the term "slave." Even as a concubine, Bilhah is owned by Jacob, who has unrestricted sexual access to her body. It is thus inconsequential to Bilhah's position whether she is a concubine or a slave because in either case Bilhah lacks control over her life. She is property, and so Reuben challenges his father's property rights when he rapes Bilhah. Thus, this sad narrative illustrates an important, though depressing, truth about rape in androcentric and class-stratified texts: men rape women, enslaved or free, to mark their territory over against other men (Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible, p. 75, see also Thomas Dozeman, Eerdmans Critical Commentary: Exodus , p. 529).Next, I am told that these passages in the OT do not suggest that God approved of the practices but that he merely tolerated the hardness of man's hearts. The objector says: To equate toleration with commendation is to impose one's preconceived view of the will of God onto the progressive revelation of Scripture.
My question is: How can a perfectly moral God regulate a practice that is clearly immoral? Can these Christian apologists imagine their God regulating homosexuality or idol worship? No, he condemns them unequivocally. If slavery and rape are "objectively wrong," based on the nature of God, how can God do anything but condemn them? If I tolerate improper behavior, I am tacitly approving of the behavior. The word tolerate means: to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction . Thus, it seems crystal clear to me that the God of the Bible condones both slavery and rape.