This blog is mostly aimed at Jehovah’s Witnesses and is meant to raise questions about their beliefs and interpretations of the bible, and their practices inside the religion. However, there are also some questions I have for Jehovah himself.
Before anyone immediately clicks away, thinking that I’m being disrespectful in asking god anything, in my opinion, if you believe god gave you a brain, you should also believe that he would want you to use it. This includes questioning everything we don’t understand, including how we got here, what happens when we die, why is there injustice, how do magnets work, and so on. Otherwise, he would make humans just like animals, running on instinct with no higher consciousness or morality.
As I’ve brought out in other posts, Jehovah’s Witnesses hold a very stringent view of rape. A woman is required to scream and fight and resist during an attack, otherwise she faces the threat of excommunication and shunning. Elders are told to “discern” if a woman has been raped based on some flimsy instructions about her “mental disposition” and if she delayed reporting it. See the Rape category for those posts.
These views are insulting enough to women, but let’s for a moment discuss how Jehovah himself views rape, if he even believes in the concept at all.
Let me first explain about laws given to the nation of Israel. After Israel was rescued from Egypt by Moses, god wanted them to live by their own culture and laws, which were lost to them since they had been slaves in Egypt for so many centuries. This law started with the ten commandments and then included some 600 other laws that covered such subjects as whom they could and could not marry, restrictions on their diet (what Jewish persons today call “kosher”), and even laws about their hygiene.
These laws also included crime and punishment, and the subject of rape. Note what is said about this in Deuteronomy 22, starting in verse 23 (bold added for emphasis):
23 “If a virgin is engaged to a man, and another man happens to meet her in the city and lies down with her, 24 you should bring them both out to the gate of that city and stone them to death, the girl because she did not scream in the city and the man because he humiliated the wife of his fellow man. So you must remove what is evil from your midst. 25 “If, however, the man happened to meet the engaged girl in the ﬁeld and the man overpowered her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her is to die by himself, 26 and you must do nothing to the girl. The girl has not committed a sin deserving of death. This case is the same as when a man attacks his fellow man and murders him. 27 For he happened to meet her in the ﬁeld, and the engaged girl screamed, but there was no one to rescue her. 28 “If a man happens to meet a virgin girl who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies down with her and they are discovered, 29 the man who lay down with her must give the girl’s father 50 silver shekels, and she will become his wife. Because he humiliated her, he will not be allowed to divorce her as long as he lives.
By way of explanation, when a girl became engaged she was considered a man’s wife and property even before the marriage took place, so that’s how the girl in the first verse could be a “virgin engaged to a man” but is then referred to as “the wife of his fellow man.”
This idea of being a man’s property is very important because you notice two big differences in these scenarios. Verses 23-27 talk about a woman engaged to someone else, but verse 28 refers to a woman not engaged, or not someone’s property. In the first scenario, if the woman screamed or was set upon in a field, the man was put to death for his crime.
However, note the girl in verse 28; it doesn’t say anything about screaming or a field or anything else. If he raped a virgin woman who was not someone else’s property, what was his “punishment”? He was to pay the father of the girl 50 silver shekels; depending on the price of silver and the interpretation of the weight of a shekel, this might be $100 to $400 by today’s standards. The girl would then become his wife, and stay his wife forever.
Theft of Property
Think seriously about what this means, when comparing these scenarios. The rapist in question wasn’t really being punished for what he did to this poor girl, otherwise his punishment would be the same despite her marital state. In U.S. courts the judge and jury don’t ask if a rape victim is single, married or engaged because it has nothing to do with the crime.
With Jehovah’s law however it’s very different. The punishment of the rapist was very much dependent on the marital status of the girl, and took into account how the rapist wronged her husband, not her. The rapist was punished, not for the crime committed against the woman, but for the crime he committed against another man. The rapist stole something or vandalized something that belonged to someone else. It didn’t matter how it affected the woman and he wasn’t being punished for what he did to her or for what he stole from her, but for what he stole from her husband.
If the girl was not someone else’s property the man simply paid a bride price to the father and the girl was now his. Again, this goes to the concept of property. The man didn’t really rape her, but he simply marked his territory, like a male cat urinating on something he feels is his. He then settled up with her father and took his new possession home.
If you read the first part of the bible you see that Israel was very much a warring nation. Jehovah had (according to the scriptures) promised them certain lands but by the time they were rescued from Egypt, those lands were inhabited by other nations. They were given instruction to war against these nations and slaughter all the men. Women, children, and livestock they could take for themselves. Note Deuteronomy 21, starting in verse 10:
10 If you go to war against your enemies and Jehovah your God defeats them for you and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you are attracted to her and you want to take her as your wife, 12 you may bring her into your house. She should then shave her head, attend to her nails, 13 and remove the clothing of her captivity, and dwell in your house. She will weep for her father and her mother a whole month, and afterward you may have relations with her; you will become her husband and she will become your wife.
If you just skim this scripture it might sound all well and good, as the man makes her his “wife” and doesn’t just rape her in a field somewhere. However, take a step back and look at this from the woman’s point of view. She was living her life in her land with her family when this foreign army invades, kills everyone including her mother and father, and drags her away to another country. Some strange man sees her and wants her, so she needs to shave her head and trim her beautiful nails and then is given a month to cry for her family. After that she becomes his bride.
Where in this scenario are her wishes ever talked about? Her entire family, all her friends and neighbors are slaughtered in some bloody massacre, she’s taken away like a chest of gold, and then forced to copulate with some oily, hairy stranger. It doesn’t matter if the law of his land calls her his “wife” and makes it legal in their eyes; if she didn’t consent to this, and being taken away as spoils of war would indicate a lack of consent, then it’s rape. Imagine this being done in today’s countries; if Saudis invaded America and dragged women back with them, or Americans invaded Saudi Arabia and did the same, there would be international outcry and no doubt retaliation, not just for the slaughter of citizens but for making these women war brides.
In these passages, it’s obvious that women were just objects and property to be bought from their fathers or taken from their own lands. Their own feelings about being so violated were not important, as they were never mentioned. There really wasn’t a concept of “rape” as much as there was the concept of property laws.
Why would I, as a woman and who doesn’t see herself as just property, want to worship the god behind these laws? If someone raped my child, I don’t think my response would be to ask for some money and then pack up her things and send her off to live with him, so why should I worship a god who thinks this is the right course of action? What do I learn about Jehovah from these scriptures, and why is he worthy of my worship if this is what he thinks of me?