FB#2: Rape Allowed By God Because Might Makes Right

This is the second of four points I made in a Facebook discussion in June and July of 2013. The people whose names are occasionally mentioned were the other participants in the discussion. It appears here for future reference since I deleted my Facebook account in April of 2018.


I reviewed the video, and the words spoken in it do mistakenly give the impression that God commanded rape, and not simply allowed it. Gil has asked, “As far as their accusation that God commanded the rape of virgins, where is that found? These guys are out to beat up on God and they are not intellectually honest about it.” I agree with you as far as the speaker on the video being mistaken when he implies that God commanded rape. God did not command rape in Moses’ era, nor do I find such a command anywhere in the Bible. As far as jumping from a mistake like that to concluding that the speaker is therefore intellectually dishonest, I cannot go that far. I don’t have enough evidence to make that conclusion. Until I do, I will assume it was an honest mistake.
Here’s my transcript of the relevant excerpt (from 0:20 to 0:33; emphasis mine):

“Dan Barker brought up the parts of the Bible where God commands the Israelites to [screen shows ‘Joshua 6:20-21; Deuteronomy 2:32-35; Deuteronomy 3:3-7; 1 Samuel 15:1-9’] slaughter all the innocent women and children in a neighboring tribe and [screen shows ‘Numbers 31:7-18’] rape their virgin women…”

Gil apparently reacted to the video’s wording, whereas I hadn’t remembered the speaker’s words as much as the phrase written in the summary paragraph of the video. Here is that summary:

“Christian morality scares me because it starts with the premise that ‘Whatever God says is good, is good.’ Which means you can literally think that even murder and rape are morally good if that’s what God says is good – if that’s what the voice in your head says.”

To the question of the speaker’s character, it may be an important distinction between God commanding the rape of virgins, or just allowing such behavior in his people. However, it must be admitted that this is a meaningless distinction to the victim of the rape. It really is meaningless to the larger question of why God’s people were getting away with any of these behaviors which made them no better morally than any plundering peoples of the Bronze Age, raping and pillaging as they conquered their neighboring tribes.

It also should be admitted that God passed up an opportunity to command the men of the world to NOT rape, which would have been a great moral good, and would have been a great gift to those who take on the task of evangelizing for biblical religion. Just as specifically as He allows his warriors to get away with dragging off conquered virgins as wives in Numbers 21, etc., He could just as easily and specifically have forbidden that behavior, along with eating pork and working on the Sabbath. How could a morally good God allow such immorality and evil in His own special people? Why would He refrain from protecting the most vulnerable among the peoples they were conquering?

Here are some of the passages which imply that God approved of the rape of captive virgins:

The Israelites took the women of Midian captive along with their little ones, and took all their herds, all their flocks, and all their goods as plunder. They burned all their towns where they lived and all their encampments. They took all the plunder and all the spoils, both people and animals. They brought the captives and the spoils and the plunder to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the Israelite community, to the camp on the plains of Moab, along the Jordan River across from Jericho. Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the community went out to meet them outside the camp.

But Moses was furious with the officers of the army, the commanders over thousands and commanders over hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all the women to live? Look, these people through the counsel of Balaam caused the Israelites to act treacherously against the Lord in the matter of Peor—which resulted in the plague among the community of the Lord! Now therefore kill every boy, and kill every woman who has had sexual intercourse with a man. But all the young women who have not had sexual intercourse with a man will be yours.

(Numbers 31:9-18)

When you go out to do battle with your enemies and the Lord your God allows you to prevail and you take prisoners, if you should see among them an attractive woman whom you wish to take as a wife, you may bring her back to your house. She must shave her head, trim her nails, discard the clothing she was wearing when captured, and stay in your house, lamenting for her father and mother for a full month. After that you may have sexual relations with her and become her husband and she your wife.

(Deuteronomy 21:10-13; the whole chapter is worth looking at for a wide variety of weirdness, by the way)

The video accurately references verses from the Old Testament which permit His people to behave like the stereotypical conquering warriors, entitled by the twisted rule of might makes right. Please let us not argue the point about whether it was Moses permitting the behavior, or God Himself; I’m sure we all can admit that in these stories, God had ultimate veto power over anything Moses might have done, to the extent that He later vetoes Moses’ entrance into the promised land. God also took the liberty to veto Israel’s behavior, such as when He prevented the first generation of the Exodus from entering the promised land after believing the ten faithless spies’ report.

In the Bible stories, God showed time and again that He was the one responsible for everything that happened to His people, and was willing to legislate their behavior and discipline them for their misbehavior. This is why the argument that God was bringing Himself to the Israelites in a manner they could relate to breaks down and falls apart. He changed almost everything about their culture, religion, and political institutions. Yet He also allowed lots of immoral behavior to continue.

The taking of the virgin daughters of conquered peoples as wives was allowed by God to His people (Deuteronomy 21:10-12; Numbers 31:15-18). This is tantamount to rape. That is a type of behavior I would like to hear some comment on. What does a Bible believer do with these kinds of allowances by God? “Reaching people where they are,” or “speaking through their cultural norms” doesn’t work too well for the young girl who’s life got trashed by the God who allowed the man who just killed her father, mother, brothers, and older married sisters to take her as his prize for being on the winning side of a battle. If she was still sane after this trauma, her reaction would be to hate that kind of God and continue valuing her old idols.

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