What Does The Bible Say About Rape?

All verses are in the NRSV unless otherwise noted. When I first started writing this I thought I had to admit that the Bible did not explicitly prohibit rape of an unmarried unbetrothed woman. However, I have now realized that the Bible does explicitly prohibit rape in Ex 21:16 and Deut 24:7 because it prohibits the capture/seizure of people which is part of rape. I argue that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is connected with Exodus 22:16-17 and is about seduction and not rape but I don’t have time to make that argument here, instead see this article: https://cbmw.org/topics/sex/did-old-testament-law-force-a-woman-to-marry-her-rapist

I do think rape is explicitly against other laws–for instance it would at least be covered under the laws concerning damages to people and certainly against the law to love your neighbor. However, I will argue that just because it is not explicitly named that the Bible’s attitude should not be taken as lax towards it. In fact, I will argue that under the biblical law that rape requires the death penalty.

So why isn’t rape itself explicitly mentioned in the law? For a few reasons I suspect

1 The first one is pretty obvious: it was covered directly by other laws against capturing and indirectly by laws against slavery which came almost immediately in the giving of the law.

There was no reason to add specific cases to a good comprehensive general one. This comes by observing that the Tanakh is very much against capturing and slavery:

Whoever kidnaps h1589 a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:16)

If someone is caught kidnaping h1589 another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 24:7)

You shall not steal. h1589 (Ex 20:15)

Notice it uses the same Hebrew word for “steal” in the 10 commandments. There are some translations that have “and” in-between each case here rather than “or” which causes some to argue that it only prohibited the combination of them: kidnapping, selling, and found in their possession. However, in YLT this seems to be the result of translating the vav literally and consistently as “and” and is not a mandate for how to understand the vav in that particular context. Keil and Delitzsch correct the misconception that vavs can only mean “and” and note the severity with which this capturing was treated:

Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (Exodus 21:15), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), and cursing parents (Exodus 21:17, cf. Leviticus 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the “smiting” (הכּה) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case ומת would be added as in Exodus 21:12, but any kind of maltreatment. . . . Man-stealing was also no less a crime, being a sin against the dignity of man, and a violation of the image of God. For אישׁ “a man,” we find in Deuteronomy 24:7, נפשׁ “a soul,” by which both man and woman are intended, and the still more definite limitation, “of his brethren of the children of Israel.” The crime remained the same whether he had sold him (the stolen man), or whether he was still found in his hand. (For ו – ו as a sign of an alternative in the linking together of short sentences, see Proverbs 29:9, and Ewald, 361.) This is the rendering adopted by most of the earlier translators, and we get no intelligent sense if we divide the clauses thus: “and sell him so that he is found in his hand.”

https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/exodus/21.htm

This attitude is consistent with the Bible’s libertarian treatment of individual freedom and the prohibition against forced servitude:

15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )

It even says the type of slavery that happened in Egypt was wrong since it says that you shall not crush (H3905) the sojourners like has been done to you in Egypt:

You shall not wrong or oppress H3905 a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)

This is because the same word H3905 is used to describe the oppression of the Egyptians upon the Israelite:

The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress H3905 them. (Exodus 3:9)

You shall not oppress H3905 a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. H3906 (Deu 26:7)

It in fact says that you should treat sojourners as natives:

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

It says that you should never rule over anyone like the Egyptians did to the Israelites (the context in Ezekiel is criticizing their behavior):

The Egyptians became ruthless H6531 in imposing tasks on the Israelites, (Exo 1:13)

You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled H6531 them. (Ez 34:4)

So if they couldn’t behave like the Egyptians and they couldn’t capture or force people to stay with them then what motivation could servants have for staying? I think this was a way for people who had gotten into debt (by committing a crime or otherwise) to get back on their feet by making an extended contract with someone. The servant could break that contract but if they broke it for no good reason then other people would be less likely to want to have them as a servant. It also says to provide them with resources when they went out, this may have been partially motivation for staying. In addition this may imply that they came in with nothing, hence were working to get back on their feet:

And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. 14 Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 15:13)

There are intricacies to these contracts that often escape our notice; servants could be given authority to manage the household and manage the marriage of a son (Genesis 24:2) and also may have been heirs automatically when no children were present (Genesis 15:3). They could own property (2 Samuel 19:17), and they, or a relation, could buy their freedom regardless of the master’s will to keep them (Lev 25:47–50).

And it seems to have had a positive connotation:

Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13)

You could replace “servant” with “daughter” and it would still make sense. Interestingly a son is said to serve the father and it uses the same word that means “servant” elsewhere:

They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve H5647 them. (Mal 3:17)

Since you have to capture someone to rape them and you can’t capture people this would outlaw rape. Also raping a person is like taking them temporarily as a sex slave so the prohibition against forced servitude or slavery would indirectly outlaw rape as well.

2 The second reason it does not explicitly mention rape is because of the nature of ancient law which is not meant to be comprehensive:

Excursus: The Paradigmatic Nature of Biblical Law

Modern societies generally have opted for exhaustive law codes. That is, every action modern society wishes to regulate or prohibit must be specifically mentioned in a separate law.  Under the expectations of this exhaustive law system, state and/or federal law codes run to thousands of pages and address thousands of individual actions by way of requirement or restriction or control or outright banning of those actions.  By this approach, all actions are permitted that are not expressly forbidden or regulated.  Thus it is not uncommon that criminals in modern Western societies evade prosecution because of a “technicality” or a “loophole” in the law—their undesirable actions are not exactly prohibited or regulated by a written law, so they cannot be convicted even though an objective observer may be convinced that what they did surely deserved punishment.

Ancient laws did not work this way. They were paradigmatic, giving models of behaviors and models of prohibitions/punishments relative to those behaviors, but they made no attempt to be exhaustive.  Ancient laws gave guiding principles, or samples, rather than complete descriptions of all things regulated.  Ancient people were expected to be able to extrapolate from what the sampling of laws did say to the general behavior the laws in their totality pointed toward.  Ancient judges were expected to extrapolate from the wording provided in the laws that did exist to all other circumstances and not to be foiled in their jurisprudence by any such concepts as “technicalities” or “loopholes.”  When common sense told judges that a crime had been committed, they reasoned their way from whatever the most nearly applicable law specified to a decision as to how to administer proper justice in the case before them.  Citizens of ancient Israel, and especially its judges, had to learn to extrapolate from whatever laws they had received from Yahweh to whatever justice-challenging situation they were dealing with.  The number of laws dealing with any given application of justice might be few, but that would not prevent justice from being applied.  It would simply have been the case that all parties were expected to appeal for guidance to those laws that did exist, whether or not expressed specifically in terms that dealt with the case under consideration.  In other words, the Israelites had to learn to see the underlying principles in any law and not let the specifics of the individual casuistic citation mislead them into applying the law too narrowly.

God’s revealed covenant law to Israel was paradigmatic.  No Israelite could say: “The law says I must make restitution for stolen oxen or sheep (Exod. 22:1), but I stole your goat. I don’t have to pay you back,” or “The law says that anyone who attacks his father or mother must be put to death (Exod. 21:15), but I attacked my grandmother, so I shouldn’t be punished,” or “The law says that certain penalties apply for hitting someone with a fist or a stone (Exod. 21:18), but I kicked my neighbor with my foot and hit him with a piece of wood, so I shouldn’t be punished.”  Such arguments would have insulted the intelligence of all concerned and made no impact on those rendering judgments.  It is in connection with the paradigmatic nature of Israel’s covenant law that Jesus, following the established tradition in Judaism, could make so sweeping an assertion as that two laws sum up all the rest [Matt. 22:34-40].  Properly understood, two laws do indeed sum up everything in the entire legal corpus of the Old Testament.  So do ten laws (the Ten Words/Commandments); so do all six hundred and thirteen.  The numbers go no higher, nor would they need to.  If a reasonable number of comprehensive and comprehensible laws (as few as two, as many as six hundred and thirteen) are provided to a people as paradigms for proper living, there is no excuse for that people to claim ignorance of how to behave or to claim innocence when their sins are found out.

. . .

A final implication of paradigmatic law: not all laws will be equally comprehensive in scope.  That is, some will be very broad in their applicability (love Yahweh your God) and some much more narrow (do not bear false witness).  One might ask, “Why not say ‘don’t be dishonest in any way,’ which would be broader and more comprehensive than ‘don’t bear false witness’?”  But that would be missing the way paradigmatic law works: through a somewhat randomly presented admixture of rather specific examples of more general behaviors and very general regulations of broad categories of behavior, the reader/listener comes to understand that all sorts of situations not exactly specified (either because a law is so broad or so narrow) are also implicitly covered.  In other words, when all the laws are considered together, one’s impression is that both the very narrow, precise issues and the very broad, general issues fall under the purview of God’s covenant.  The wide variability of comprehensiveness is intended to help the person desiring to keep the covenant to say, “I now see that in the tiniest detail as well as in the widest, most general way, I am expected to try to keep this law—in all its implications, not just in terms of its exact wording.”  Some commandments are thus less broad in scope in the way they are expressed than is necessary to cover all the intended actions; others are so broad in scope in the way they are expressed that one could never think up all the ways they might be applied.  This is just as it should be.  The narrow and the broad taken together suggest the overall comprehensiveness of God’s covenant will for his people.  (p. 442-45)
https://www.rodneychrisman.com/2010/08/11/the-paradigmatic-nature-of-biblical-law/ see original source: https://books.google.com/books?id=8H9E00e5PSwC&pg=PA442#v=onepage&q&f=false

3 There was already a law mandating that servants not be held against their will. This can be combined with the rule of “light and heavy” to also outlaw holding anyone against their will which is a prerequisite for rape.

15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16 )

Essentially servants would have had the least rights in the society, so if people with the least rights couldn’t be held against their will then how much more the non-servants? Light and heavy is described below:

Kal Vahomer (Light and heavy)

The Kal vahomer rule says that what applies in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case. A kal vahomer argument is often, but not always, signaled by a phrase like “how much more…”

The Rabbinical writers recognize two forms ok kal vahomer:

kal vahomer meforash – In this form the kal vahomer argument appears explicitly.
kal vahomer satum – In which the kal vahomer argument is only implied.
There are several examples of kal vahomer in the Tenach.

For example: Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner. (Proverbs 11:31)

And: If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? (Jerermiah 12:5a)

Other Tenach examples to look at: Deuteronomy 31:27; 1 Samuel 23:3; Jerermiah 12:5b; Ezekiel 15:5; Esther 9:12

There are several examples of kal vahomer in the New Testament. Y’shua often uses this form of argument.

For example: If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (Jn. 7:23)

And: What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Mt. 12:11-12)

Other examples of Y’shua’s usage of kal vahomer are: Matthew 6:26, 30 = Luke 12:24, 28; Mathhew 7:11 = Luke 11:13; Matthew 10:25 & John 15:18-20; Matthew 12:12 & John 7:23

Paul especially used kal vahomer. Examples include: Romans 5:8-9, 10, 15, 17; 11:12, 24; 1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 12:22; 2 Corinthians 3:7-9, 11; Philippians 2:12; Philemon 1:16; Hebrews 2:2-3; 9:13-14; 10:28-29; 12:9, 25.

http://www.yashanet.com/studies/revstudy/hillel.htm

4 The fourth reason rape may not have been mentioned is because of cultural differences that made it not as important to address directly.

Unlike the Greeks and Romans, the ANE was not very ‘into’ using slaves/captives for sexual purposes, even though scholars earlier taught this:

“During the pinnacle of Sumerian culture, female slaves outnumbered male. Their owners used them primarily for spinning and weaving. Saggs maintains that their owners also used them for sex, but there is little actual evidence to support such a claim” [OT:EML:69]

http://christianthinktank.com/midian.html

There’s no case in that Bible where rape was taken lightly. The rape of the concubine in Judges was avenged by a national civil war. (Judges 19-21) The rape of Tamar by Amnon was avenged by Amnon’s death and possibly was the cause of another national civil war because David didn’t punish Amnon. (2 Sam. 13) What’s commonly called the rape of Dinah (Gen 34:2) (which may have even been consensual) was avenged by genocide. (Gen 34:25-31) Do we even take rape that seriously today? I think not. Another interesting difference is that women were protected from having their conjugal duty diminished “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.” (Ex 21:10) and Rachel and Leah were able to trade a night with Jacob for mandrakes Gen 30:14-18. Also note that it’s the less attractive Leah that tells Jacob: “‘You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.” God killed Onan for not having sex in a way that would cause pregnancy when he was supposed to perform the duty of the Levarite in Genesis 38:8-10. Hannah’s prayer was answered by God when she cried because she was not able to become pregnant and was ridiculed by her rival 1 Samuel 1:1-28. Part of one of the Jewish interpretations of Leviticus 19:29 in the Talmud is to not deny your daughter her right of marriage for too long:

Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition), Sanhedrin 9:1
(Fol. 76) You shall not profane your daugher (Lev. 19, 29). R. Eliezer says: “This refers to one who marries off his [young] daughter to an old man.” R. Akiba says: “This refers to one who leaves his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.” R. Cahana in the name of R. Akiba said (Ib. b) Who is to be considered poor and shrewd-wicked? He who has left his daughter unmarried until she enters the age of womanhood.”

Rather than sex being an obligation of women, it seems that it was an obligation of men especially for the purpose of giving women children. This probably breaks a lot of the preconceptions most people have about the Biblical culture.

Here’s an interesting statement on how culture really determines what people are likely to do:

At the same time, many of the men who have violated a woman sexually do not meet clinical diagnostic criteria as either sociopaths, sexual deviants, or for that matter neurologically (or intellectually) impaired. While “stranger danger” stirs deep, easy dread (and is hence a useful trope for screenwriters and politicians), most sexual violence takes place among otherwise normative people who are familiar with each other and are involved in some type of relationship. This raises the possibility that to these perpetrators, the violence appears, in context, normative. By this argument, a sizable proportion of the men who attack women are following, rather than flaunting, social dictates.

The role of social dictates in shaping individual behavior is often overlooked because we are inclined to favor internal causes when explaining other people’s behavior. This tendency is so fundamental that it has a name: The Fundamental Attribution Error. (When evaluating our own, particularly negative behavior, however, we often rely on less damning external explanations. To wit: you’re late for work because you’re lazy. I’m late because of traffic. This is called the “actor-observer effect”).

It turns out, however, that social and situational variables often override individual characteristics in predicting one’s behavior and overall future. If I need to predict whether you’ll be dancing next Friday night, it’s better for me to inquire about where you’ll be that night than about your extraversion score on a personality test. If I want to know whether you’ll become wealthy, I’m better off basing my prediction on whether your parents are wealthy than on the conscientiousness score on your personality test. We are more beholden to our circumstances than we tend to believe. This is true in general; and it’s true for sexual violence in particular. For example, contextual and group factors (such as orders from the leadership, pre-conflict rates of sexual violence, intra-group dynamics, gender inequality) predict the prevalence of war rapes better than the personalities or characteristics of individual soldiers.

Circumstances matter in part because they set (or remove) certain hard parameters. Regardless of your personal characteristics, if you’re at your wedding, you’re going to dance. The fact also remains that if you are born in Afghanistan to poor parents, you have no access to capital. If you’re born in Manhattan to wealthy parents, you do. Circumstances, particularly social ones, also matter greatly because as herd animals, we are utterly dependent on the approval, acceptance, cooperation, and support of others. Thus, we are wired to notice, take into account, and align with the behavior of those around us.

If you’re still telling yourself that you are your own person, doing your thing, not giving a damn about what others think—then you need to grow up and face the (social) facts. Society gives you life. It is your main source of strength and identity. Without it you’re hopeless—an ant that has lost its colony. Society provides you with the tools and rules for living. It has fearsome powers of reward and retribution. In other words society, as the sociologist Randall Collins has argued brilliantly, is God.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201902/when-men-attack-why-and-which-men-sexually-assault-women

We expect people back then to be like they are today. However, this isn’t always the case. The first difference we do know is that they were a polygynist society which is sometimes caused by a need to deal with the issue of lack of men (sometimes caused by war):

“Deal with the “problem” of surplus women.”
http://www.religioustolerance.org/polyprac.htm

However this is speculation. I haven’t had any luck on finding what the actual gender ratio was in biblical times and when I have found articles there seem to be different opinions.

However, some things I can observe from the law and culture is that: 1 there is no premarital sex, a man who sleeps with a woman is supposed to marry her “he shall surely marry her” and “unless the father absolutely refuses” in Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:29 (I argue that this is indeed a seduction but don’t have time to go into this now) Here’s something I wrote that touches on premarital sex: https://kingdomofgodcommunes.org/2019/02/03/gesenius-and-leviticus-1929/ This makes early sexual competition over mates virtually non-existent if followed correctly. 2 Marriage is arranged by the family at a young age which also prevents any rejection based on sexual prowess that seems to increase the risk of men becoming rapists. It is possible however that someone’s wife would reject them and that might increase risk of rape. However, based on my arguments on the Torah the consent of both the person being married and the guardian was required because the Torah gives the freedom to run away for any reason based on not holding servants against their will and the rule of light and heavy. Also the modern rise in narcissistic personality disorder may be a result of modern living and individualism all of which would be absent in the tribal society of the Bible: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201401/why-is-narcissism-increasing-among-young-americans

Heavy drinking, perceived pressure to have sex, a belief in “rape myths” — such as the idea that no means yes — are all risk factors among men who have committed sexual assault. A peer group that uses hostile language to describe women is another one.
Yet there also seem to be personal attributes that have a mediating effect on these factors. Men who are highly aroused by rape porn — another risk factor — are less likely to attempt sexual assault if they score highly on measures of empathy, Dr. Malamuth has found. What about the idea that rape is about power over women? Some experts feel that research into hostile attitudes toward women supports this idea. In general, however, researchers say motives are varied and difficult to quantify. Dr. Malamuth has noticed that repeat offenders often tell similar stories of rejection in high school and of looking on as “jocks and the football players got all the attractive women.”As these once-unpopular, often narcissistic men become more successful, he suspects that “getting back at these women, having power over them, seems to have become a source of arousal.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/health/men-rape-sexual-assault.html

I should be clear when arguing this that I am not blaming women rejecting men for causing men to rape. I am saying based on science allowing men to freely compete and be rejected by women on an individual basis seems to increase the likelyhood that narcissistic men will rape. A family based method of choosing mates would redirect anger towards a rival family which could be bad as well, it’s just not likely to result in rejected narcissistic men blaming women. There’s a similar behavior in orangutans for those who find animal studies helpful in explaining human behavior:

One possible reason for the rapes, she said, is because it takes so long for males to mature in the rain forest. In zoos, captive male orangutans usually become mature at age 13 or 14. In the rain forest of Borneo, however, they do not become mature until age 20, only then developing the cheek pads and large throat sac of a male adult. Although they are capable of sexual activity before that, females in heat are not attracted to them, so their only sexual option becomes force.

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-01-13-me-231-story.html

There’s a Biblical ethics paper I am working on that will address more misconceptions like this and fill in some details on how ancient Israelite law was supposed to work. I think there is a huge amount of bias in the way people interpret the Bible from chronological bigotry. Us moderns looking backwards/downwards like to feel good about ourselves and like we are making moral progress. We also just like to be able to feel outraged about something, whether it’s Harambe’s killing or ancient people mistreating their women. This seems to be the case irrespective of our level of knowledge on these topics. However, the bias that comes with interpreting the law through a lens that assumes things like “slave” (used by some translations of the Bible) meant the same thing back then as it does today is even worse. If we poison the well with misunderstandings as bad as that, it’s no wonder that we see other parts of the law as barbaric.

Gesenius Leviticus 19:29 And Premarital Sex

I had a discussion with some people that thought Leviticus 19:29 could have just prohibited forcing your daughter to become a prostitute. One person argued that prostitution wasn’t wrong on its own while the other stated that prostitution was wrong not because it was premarital sex but because sex was supposed to be free! This view about premarital sex being permitted is becoming more common among Christians today so I thought I’d share what I’d found. All verses are in YLT unless otherwise noted.

`Thou dost not pollute thy daughter to cause her to go a-whoring, that the land go not a-whoring, and the land hath been full of wickedness. (Lev 19:29)

1 How can we take the meaning of “cause to” given the definition? http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cause “Cause” is different than “force” even though force certainly can be a cause. Can we cause our brother to stumble only if we do it forcefully? Romans 14:13-23

2 Yeshua says:

But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

(Matthew 5:32)

This is not about “causing” by force but about “causing” by neglect hence why must Leviticus 19:29 be about “causing” by force?

3 Gesenius defines the word translated “pollute” as “to lay open, to give access to [“to profane from the idea of opening”]

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H2490&t=NASB

The “laying open” is easier to understand if you look at the father as having responsibility for the daughter (other examples are his right to annul her oaths and refuse a marriage) There are many ways to “lay open” your daughter to prostitution, and I think forcing them to become one is certainly laying open access. I think their issue with it being an intensive Piel of “profaning” (hence they think it implies force) is resolved with Gesenius by the fact that laying open access to your daughter is an intense way of profaning your daughter (or is REALLY profane to put in another way)

I also should point out that that word for pollute/profane is only used in that exact form in Leviticus 19:29 and Lev 18:21
http://biblehub.com/text/leviticus/18-21.htm Lev 18:21 doesn’t really give us much insight but it would seem a bit odd if it allowed you to let God’s name be profaned and only prevented you from forcibly profaning it.

The expanded Brown Driver Briggs says: that it is to “sexually defile” a woman. So you can say that this is related to the prostitution and not to the act of causing:

1 defile, pollute:

a. sexually, Genesis 49:4 (poem) = 1 Chronicles 5:1 (the father’s bed); a woman = זנהLeviticus 19:29; …

https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/hebrew/hwview.cgi?n=2490

However the “opening” in that lexicon is only in the Hiphil:

Hiph`il also begin (literally untie, loosen, open, ….

4 The word translated “harlotry” refers both to prostitution and premarital sex.

For instance: ‘They shall not take a woman who is profaned by harlotry, H2181 nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for he is holy to his God. ( Lev 21:7 KJV)

then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her unto death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing H2181 the harlot H2181 in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deu 22:21 KJV)

Would you say that this only applies if she did it for money? Of course there is the more monetary definition used as well:

“Thus you are different from those women in your harlotries, in that no one plays H2181 the harlot H2181 as you do, because you give money and no money is given you; thus you are different.” (Eze 16:34 KJV)

But my point is that it means both things (gaining monetarily from promiscuity and just plain promiscuity) and is narrowed by context. This is why I think the respected Stone’s edition to the Tanakh translates this word is many places as “promiscuity” because that is the broadest definition.

I would also point out as a matter of context that promiscuity in any form is looked at as negative and used as a metaphore for very negative things: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?page=2&strongs=H2181&t=NASB#lexResults

It also condemns promiscuity in the next part of the verse:
“so that the land will not fall H2181 to harlotry H2181 and the land become full of lewdness.” It says to prevent the land from “falling” from a better state into a worse state of harlotry. It also doesn’t say anything about force it says “lewdness” which is related to sexual sin: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/zimmah_2154.htm

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2455&t=NASB H2455 has the root H2490 ( H2455 is used in Leviticus 19:29 for “pollute.”) The word H2490 implies sexual defilement. The word is never used for sexual uncleanliness, even in it’s expanded search in the strong’s. The other occurrence of the exact form is without a doubt negative. The usage seems to be only for prohibited sexual relations (when it is sexual):
https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?page=1&strongs=H2490&t=NASB#lexResults
http://biblehub.com/hebrew/techallel_2490.htm

If it was about “uncleanness” it would say uncleanness, not defilement, which is a much stronger negative word.

They also seem to think that the Piel form implies force, but it’s really just an intensive
https://books.google.com/books?id=SCEWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA117&lpg=PA117&dq=piel+verb+force&source=bl&ots=_YHNH7pdzT&sig=bmtZ6vVdocAaF393Ony2ODHVOR4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwju7tW70ozMAhXlsYMKHUSZB64Q6AEIKzAD#v=onepage&q=piel%20verb%20force&f=false

http://www.dabar.org/Tools/Heb-Piel-Pual.html

And the only place I can find “force” used to describe the Piel verb in general is a force in terms of intensity, not in terms of overpowering
https://books.google.com/books?id=h-AtAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA200&lpg=PA200&dq=piel+implies+force&source=bl&ots=cHzfIBiPD2&sig=p3etlU-gv5SSpUWTNBVTtResI9Y&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8mpPj04zMAhVFnIMKHck2AVwQ6AEILjAD#v=onepage&q=piel%20implies%20force&f=false

There seems to be a lot of nuance in the Piel forms of words
“The biblical Hebrew D stem (piel) seems to be inconsistent from verb to verb, both in its meaning and in its relationship to the G stem (qal).”
https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/17463966/BECKMAN-DISSERTATION-2015.pdf?sequence=1

And while they can mean “violence” in some cases, that is only for certain words and even then there is debate occasionally:
https://books.google.com/books?id=hxn3PfjwNaYC&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=piel+verb+forceful&source=bl&ots=hCgehtlR6J&sig=Hiu2QJWYcL0DbKs2i0DXiqF0AJY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiO9a651IzMAhWHgYMKHa8fBmUQ6AEIIjAB#v=onepage&q=piel%20verb%20forceful&f=false

One of them was arguing that in places like Deut 23:7 it only prohibited cult prostitutes and not regular prostitutes. However, I argued that qedesh and zonah (cult-prostitute and prostitute) were used as synonyms. I cited the following:

“Contrary to the claims of some 20th-century scholarship, the Hebrew Bible never refers directly to cult prostitutes. Many modern Bible translations are simply misleading in this respect. Much of the confusion results from a misunderstanding of a few Biblical texts that mention qedeshot, the plural of qedeshah, which is related to qodesh, “holy place.” Originally qedeshah referred to a “consecrated maiden,” but Biblical authors used it in the sense of “harlot.””
https://members.bib-arch.org/biblical-archaeology-review/40/1/10

“As Lipiński argues, however, there is nothing in the story of Judah and Tamar to suggest sacred prostitution was involved; rather, it seems that zonah and qedeshah were synonyms and that the latter has simply been misinterpreted by translators.
Qedeshah likely originally referred to “consecrated maidens” who were employed in Canaanite and later Phoenician temples devoted to Ashtoreth worship. As such, the Biblical writers came to associate the fertility rites of Ashtoreth worship with sacred prostitution, and the word qedeshah, therefore, came to be used as a pejorative term for “prostitute.””
https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/ancient-israel/sacred-prostitution-in-the-story-of-judah-and-tamar/

When they responded that the articles I quoted narrowly defined “cult prostitution” as Ashteroth worship. I responded: The main article does not use this as an argument from what I have seen. Here are examples of arguments it uses about Israel related to Astoreth:

The Hebrew meaning of qedeshah as harlot possibly derives from the perception that some “consecrated” maidens employed in Canaanite temples were also prostitutes in the context of fertility cults, especially of the goddess Ashtoreth. Indeed, the simple fact that such women served a heathen deity may have led to the understanding of the word qedeshah by outsiders in the sense of “harlot” and to its use in Biblical Hebrew as a synonym of zonah, “prostitute.” In short, in the Hebrew Bible, qedeshah (and its plural) simply refers to a prostitute, not to a cult prostitute in particular.
. . .
A widespread modern misunderstanding of the term asherah as a pagan goddess has led some to conclude that cult prostitution was involved in this passage, i.e., 2 Kings 23:7. It thus becomes important to unpack this reference to asherah and explain how it became confused with a Canaanite goddess, either Ashtoreth or Ashratu. The conclusion, however, as we shall see, is that asherah in the Bible refers to a shrine or sacred grove, not to a goddess.
The confusion can be easily recognized because in several West Semitic languages (Assyro-Babylonian, Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew), the common word for shrine (aširtu/ešertu in Assyro-Babylonian, ’šrt in Phoenician, ’trt in Aramaic and ’šrh/’šyrh in Hebrew) is similar to Ashtoreth (’štrt) and to the name ’Atrt of the Ugaritic goddess Rabbatu Atratu Yamma, “The Lady Who Treads upon the Sea.” The similarity of Biblical asherah to these terms in other related languages led modern mythographers to invent a goddess Asherah in the Bible. Modern translators followed suit.

It is clear, however, that asherah in the Bible cannot refer to a goddess. In the Bible, asherah has a plural, ’šrym,3 sometimes ’šrwt.4 This would hardly be the case if asherah were a goddess. Moreover, in the Bible asherah sometimes occurs with the article ha- (“the shrine”)5 and with the pronominal suffix (“his shrine”), as in the well-known Hebrew inscriptions from Khirbet el-Qom, near Jerusalem (yhwh w’šrth, “Yahweh and his shrine”), and from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud in the Sinai (yhwh šmrn w’šrth, “Yahweh of Samaria and his shrine”; yhwh tmn w’šrth, “Yahweh of the South and his shrine”).a This proves that asherah cannot be a proper name. In addition, asherah could be “built” (1 Kings 14:23), “made” (2 Kings 21:7), “set up” (2 Kings 17:10) or “installed” (2 Chronicles 33:19), again showing that asherah cannot be a goddess. Asherah was no deity but simply a grove or a shrine that eventually became a small construction.6

Provincial shrines, like those referred to at Khirbet el-Qom and Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, were prohibited after the centralization of religious observance in Jerusalem by King Josiah in the seventh century B.C.E. (2 Kings 23), but the prophet Jeremiah in the seventh–sixth centuries B.C.E. still refers to the asherim (in the plural), the sacred groves or shrines in the shade of spreading trees. In other texts, such as Jeremiah 2:20 and 3:6–10, the metaphors of prostitution and adultery are used as poetic descriptions of Judah’s infidelity to the Lord.

These passages do not allude to cult prostitution performed by young Judahite women, although the existence of fertility cults in Canaan was certainly known. They were even exported by Phoenicians to the western Mediterranean and appear in Phoenician and Carthaginian colonies.

There’s two other mentions of Ashtoreth in that paper that relate to the Canaanite practice (exported by the Phoenicians to Phonecian and Carthaginian colonies) and one related to an Etruscan version of the Goddess:
“At Pyrgi, north of Rome in what was Etruria, archaeologists uncovered a temple (Temple B) from about 500 B.C.E. A bilingual inscription found in the excavation records the dedication of a “holy place” to the Etruscan goddess Uni (Latin Juno), called Ashtoreth in her Phoenician version.”
None of these are making the argument that there is no evidence of cult prostitution in Israel because there is not evidence of Astoreth worship. They clearly recognize that other types of cult prostitution took place since Lipinski states “maidens employed in Canaanite temples were also prostitutes in the context of fertility cults, especially of the goddess Ashtoreth.” In fact Lipinski also states:

A further explanation is needed concerning the qadesh. In the well-known cuneiform texts from Ugarit (on the Mediterranean coast of modern Syria), which date to about 1200 B.C.E., qdšm (= Hebrew qedeshim) are often mentioned with the khnm (= kohanim, “priests”) and seem to be cultic servants assisting the priests. There is no indication that they were male prostitutes. They were simply priestly assistants. The qdšym of older Biblical psalms may have exercised a similar function, but the word was later understood in the sense of “holy men” and vocalized accordingly. In fact, the priestly assistants got a bad reputation in the seventh century B.C.E., as shown by 2 Kings 23:7, possibly indicating that prostitution did occur in the Temple, even a kind of cult prostitution. In the time of Josiah, the Biblical text tells us, the king “pulled down the houses of the qedeshim in the House of the Lord, where women were renting2 cubicles as a shrine (asherah)” (2 Kings 23:7, my translation). There is no evidence, however, that the qedeshim were male cult prostitutes. As at Ugarit, the qedeshim were priestly assistants. In 2 Kings 23:7, Josiah is said to have torn down the cubicles (literally, houses) of the qedeshim (male) in the Temple precinct. The qedeshim are thus said to have been renting houses in the Temple precinct to some women, possibly for prostitution. Perhaps the men were also acting as pimps.

Note that the women who rented their houses (or cubicles) are not called qedeshot. Whatever the women were doing in the cubicles (the JPS translation suggests they were weaving coverings for the shrine), it had something to do with a shrine, as indicated by the term asherah, which designates a shrine, a sacred grove or a tree under which an illicit cultic ritual is performed.

. . .
Cult prostitution existed in some parts of the Near East as well as in the Phoenician colonies of the western Mediterranean. It reflected the ritual practices of the Canaanites surrounding ancient Israel and Judah. Its faint reflection recorded in the Hebrew Bible serves as a metaphoric allusion to Israel’s infidelity to God or as a synonym of harlotry. Modern translations of the Hebrew Bible often unfortunately give another impression. There is a single passage (2 Kings 23:7, discussed above) that may contain an obscure reference to cult prostitution; it mentions a shrine rented to women in the precinct of the Temple and destroyed by King Josiah. But that is all.

There is a mistaken notion that “asherah” meant a shrine to Ashtoreth in the Bible which Lipinski argues against. However, this does not describe his full argument for why he believes qedesha and zonah to by synonyms. Their argument is as follows:

The earliest Biblical attestation of qedeshah is found in the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38. Judah’s son Er, married to Tamar, died. Judah then gave his second son Onan to Tamar. Onan also died. Judah was reluctant to give his third son Shelah to Tamar, as was required when a brother died without children. Later, Judah himself was widowed. He saw a woman on the road, assumed her to be a harlot (zonah), and slept with her. He gave her his seal as assurance that he would pay her with a sheep from his flock (Genesis 38:15–18). The zonah turned out to be none other than his daughter-in-law Tamar, who had dressed herself in a veil and sat by the road because Judah had refused to give her his third son as a husband. When Judah’s friend went to redeem the pledge, he inquired of the people of the town where he could find the assumed prostitute. They replied that there was no qedeshah in the area (Genesis 38:20–21). Obviously the two words (qedeshah and zonah) are used as synonyms. And there is no indication whatever that cult prostitution is involved. There is no cultic context here.

Lipinski says something similar with Deuteronomy

No Israelite shall be a prostitute (a prohibition expressed in the third person): “There shall be no prostitute (qedeshah) among the daughters of Israel; there shall be no qadesh among the sons of Israel” [my translation]. The word qedeshah here is a synonym of zonah, which is used in the prohibition in verse 19 [i.e. verse 18 in English]. This is the same situation we have seen in the story of Judah and Tamar.

I can also observe that the Hebrew uses these words as synonyms: zonah (h2181) and qedesh(ah) (h6945/h6948)

There shall be no whore H6948 of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite h6945 of the sons of Israel. (Deu 23:17 KJV)

Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, h2181 or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Deu 23:18 KJV)

This is how the septuagint treats it as well translating both as porneia (G4203/G4204)

17 There shall not be a harlot G4204 from the daughters of Israel, and there shall not be one whoring G4203 from the sons of Israel. 18 You shall not bring the hire of a harlot, G4204 nor the price of a dog, G2965 into the house of the lord your God for any vow. For [4an abomination 5to the lord 6your God 3are 1even 2both].

Deuteronomy 23:17-18 https://studybible.info/interlinear/Deuteronomy%2023:17-18

κύων, κυνός+ N3M/F 3-19-4-10-6=42
Ex 11,7; 22,30; Dt 23,19; Jgs 7,5
dog Ex 11,7; id. (as derogatory term for non-Jews) Ps 21(22),17; male prostitute Dt 23,19
→ LSJ Suppl(Dt 23,19); LSJ RSuppl

http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf

The same is true of the judah and tamar:

Gen 38:15
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; H2181 because she had covered her face.
Gen 38:21
Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, H6948 that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot H6948 in this place.
Gen 38:22
And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot H6948 in this place.
Gen 38:24
And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; H2181 and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. H2183 And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. (KJV)

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2183&t=KJV

Or take the LXX ABP of Genesis 38:15-24:

15 And [2seeing 3her 1Judah], assumed her to be a harlot. G4204 For she covered up her face, and [3not 1he recognized 2her]. 16 And he turned aside to her in the way. And he said to her, Allow me to enter to you. For he did not know that [2his daughter-in-law 1she is]. And she said, What will you give to me, if you should enter to me? 17 And he said, I will send to you a kid of the goats from out of my flocks. And she said, You should give a deposit until you send it. 18 And he said, What deposit shall I give to you? And she said, Your ring, and the pendant, and the rod in your hand. And he gave them to her, and he entered to her. And [2in 3the womb 1she conceived] from him. 19 And rising up she went forth. And she removed her lightweight garment from herself, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20 [3sent 1And 2Judah] the kid of the goats by the hand of his shepherd the Adullamite, to deliver by him to the woman the deposit. And he did not find her. 21 And he asked the men of the place, Where is the harlot, G4204 the one being in Enaim upon the way? And they said, There was no [2here 1harlot G4204]. 22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I did not find her, and the men, the ones from the place, say, There was no [2here 1harlot G4204]. 23 [3said 1And 2Judah], Let her have them, but lest at any time we should be ridiculed, I indeed sent this kid, but you have not found her. 24 And it came to pass after three months, it was announced to Judah, saying, [3fornicated G1608 1Tamar 2your daughter-in-law]. And behold, [2in 3the womb 1she has one] out of harlotry. G4202 [3said 1And 2Judah], Lead her out, and let her be incinerated!

https://www.stepbible.org/?q=version=ABP|reference=Gen.38&options=HNVUG
https://studybible.info/interlinear/gen%2038:15-24

ἐκπορνεύω+
V 14-9-23-0-1=47
Gn 38,24; Ex 34,15.16(bis); Lv 17,7
to commit fornication, to play the harlot [abs.] Gn 38,24; to commit fornication with, to play the harlot
with [ἐπί τινα] Ez 16,26; id. [ἔν τινι] Ez 16,17; to resort to sb for fornication [εἴς τινα] Nm 25,1; to
prostitute, to cause to commit forni-cation [τινα] Lv 19,29
to go whoring after [ὀπίσω τινός] Ez 20,30; to seduce into immoral practices [τινα] 2 Chr 21,11
neol.
Cf. HARL 1986a, 266; HELBING 1928, 78; →LSJ RSuppl; TWNT

http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf

A different version of the Septuagint even feels the need to add the idolatrous context to Deuteronomy 23 to make the case clear, showing that the original words did not necessarily mean just cult prostitution but included prostitution in general:


17 There shall not be a harlot of the daughters of Israel, and there shall not be a fornicator of the sons of Israel; there shall not be an idolatress of the daughters of Israel, and there shall not be an initiated person of the sons of Israel. 18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot, nor the price of a dog into the house of the Lord thy God, for any vow; because even both are an abomination to the Lord thy God.

https://www.biblestudytools.com/lxx/deuteronomy/passage/?q=deuteronomy+23:17-18

Septuagint Greek definitions from here: http://www.glasovipisma.pbf.rs/phocadownload/knjige/greek%20lexicon%20for%20the%20septuagint.pdf

One other thing I think is interesting in the paper is that this adds some context to Lev 19:29:

In the ancient Near East, women could in fact be dedicated by their fathers or their masters to a deity. Women could also devote themselves to the service of a god or a goddess in order to secure their living. This was done mainly by young widows without grown children, by repudiated wives, by female slaves sent away (like Hagar, Abraham’s concubine in Genesis 21), by lonely women, etc.

So the reason for becoming a prostitute could be from lack of support as well as compelling by the father. (both of which could be termed a cause by the father since the father was supposed to provide for them) Lipinski goes on to describe another nuance in their argument:

These “consecrated” persons performed tasks in the sanctuary, provided domestic help in temple annexes, perhaps provided musical entertainment and possibly sexual services, remitting their fees to the temple. However, qedeshot in the Bible never appear as performing religious sexual rituals, which is the key attribute of a cult prostitute. Women on duty at the entrance to Israelite sanctuaries are mentioned in Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22, but their tasks are not described, and they are not called qedeshot.

At the end of their paper Lipinski has this as well:

Genesis 38:15, 20–21
When Judah saw her, he took her for a harlot (zonah); for she had covered her face.

Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to redeem the pledge from the woman; but he could not find her. He inquired of the people of that town, “Where is the cult prostitute (qedeshah), the one at Enaim, by the road?” But they said, “There has been no prostitute (qedeshah) here.”

Deuteronomy 23:18–19 [17–18 English]
No Israelite woman shall be a cult prostitute (qedeshah), nor shall any Israelite man be a cult prostitute (qadesh). You shall not bring the fee of a whore (zonah) or the pay of a dog [i.e., male prostitute] into the House of the Lord your God in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God.

It looks to me like their main argument is from the biblical text and from Hebrew grammar concerning “Asherah.” Their argument that cult prostition (as it was practiced in Cananan) was at least extremely rare or even unheard of in Israel is just an additional fact that strengthens their argument. I do think it’s possible that we may just be missing the archaeological evidence that the Israelites were indulging in cult prostitution but the fact is that evidence is hardly in the bible (if at all) and the fact that Archaeologists are better than me at figuring out when we have enough archaeological evidence to conclude that an absence of archaeological evidence is indeed evidence of absence.

They (the people who believe in premarital sex) also stated that in the story of Judah and Tamar the context is cultic prostitution. I responded:

There is no cultic context here, she is sitting in the open not in a temple (as is the practice of cult prostitutes) and he recognizes her as a prostitute simply because she has covered her face. An interesting parallel is Rebecca wearing a veil for Isaac. Surely we are not to conclude that Rebecca is acting as a cult prostitute for Isaac:

The veil is also used as a means of enticement/attractiveness/sexuality when Rebecca is being led by Abraham’s servant to meet for the first time her new fiance, Isaac. (Gen 24) Upon being told that the man in the distance is in fact Isaac, she puts her veil on. (v. 65) Mind you, she had no veil on for the entire journey with Abraham’s servant – APPARENTLY, there was no “modesty requirement” compelling her to wear a veil when with the servant. Rather, when she meets her fiance – someone who she wants to and should look sexually attractive for! (see v. 67) – she then decides to put on a veil.
(Much of this answer is developed at length by Olivia Wizniter, at

http://curiousjew.blogspot.com/2008/02/symbolic-veil.html )
https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/26864/biblical-significance-of-face-veil

In addition, it seems like Lipinski is saying that there wasn’t archaeological evidence in the area that Judah and Tamar were in for that. In addition we have plenty of testimony from the Hebrew and the Septuagint that Lipinski’s understanding of zonah being synonymous with qedesha is how the earliest translators would have understood those passages. You again have to insert assumptions into the passages that are not there (and even contradict with Rebecca’s behavior) to make the Bible allow for premarital sex. Just like you have to assume that when Judah promises Tamar to Shelah he is betrothing her and hence her later being declared “zonah” might refer to “adultery.” However, it states in Gen 38:14

“And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.”

If Shelah was betrothed it would have been a big deal to break off the engagement so he could marry someone else. (engagements were treated like marriages) Remember Judah is planning on Shelah NOT marrying Tamar. Tamar obviously doesn’t think that she is going to marry Shelah, this is the whole reason she seduces Judah.

Another reason to connect H3611 and H2181 (hence prostition and “cultic” prostitution) is the following:

Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, h2181 or the price of a dog, H3611 into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Deu 23:18 KJV)

Gesenius notes that qedeshim (“cult” prostitutes) and the word for “dog” H3611 are used synonymously at the end of his lexical entry: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3611&t=KJV However, in the verse it is “a whore (zonah) or the price of a dog”

On the biblical and translational evidence alone I think it’s pretty overwhelming that qedashah and zonah are synonymous.