Why are the Ten Commandments supposedly silent on rape? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Skeptics will always be finding something to complain about with Scripture. This time it’s about the Ten Commandments. Why do they not mention rape? Isn’t that worth talking about?
For one thing, the Ten Commandments are not meant to be all-inclusive of everything. (Note that if we followed the first one perfectly, the other nine would be done naturally.) Laws in that culture were more didactic in that they were guidelines. Today, if you read a single law on a federal website, odds are it will be longer than the book of Exodus entirely itself. Every single possible exception is meant to be covered.
The ancients instead gave general principles and the role of a judge was to be wise and know how to apply the Law in every single case. Even if there was a prescribed punishment, no judge was forced to go that way. It was as said before more of a guideline.
Yet what about rape?
A simple answer is to say that rape would be understood to fall under the commandment against adultery. Adultery is any improper sexual behavior that is done outside of the marriage covenant. Rape is such a case. Of course, that can happen in marriage as well, but a wise judge would know what was going on.
Why would adultery be mentioned? Because looking at Israelite history, Israel seemed to have a much more consistent problem with adultery than they did with rape. Of all the horizontal sins that are mentioned in the Ten Commandments, the #1 sin that the Israelites were committing on that level was adultery. The idea that sex is the great god that people pursue in our culture is nothing new. It has been the same in most cultures throughout history. Honestly, I’d be surprised to find one where that wasn’t the case.
In the history of Israel, I can only think of two cases where rape takes place and both of them are condemned. The first is in the end of Judges where we have a scene much like Sodom and Gomorrah and a slave woman is raped and raped so much that she actually dies. What’s amusing is when skeptics quote this passage as a look at the depravity the Bible has and actually think it’s being endorsed, when Scripture records this to show an example of what happens when a society abandons the covenant with God. If you think it’s something horrible and disgusting, Scripture agrees.
The second is the case of Amnon and Tamar. In this, Amnon is in love with his half-sister Tamar and rapes her. After that, the text says he hated her and he hated her so much that his hatred was greater than the love that he had for her. (Which shows that it wasn’t really love.) Again, this is condemned. It’s seen as a sign of judgment on the house of David and later, Absalom will sleep with the concubines of David, though that’s not specified as rape.
Ultimately, by condemning adultery, the Ten Commandments do condemn rape. It’s my plan that next time we will look closer at adultery. It’s one of those commandments that many of us didn’t ask about as kids and I always wonder now what goes through the minds of children at church when it is mentioned. Hopefully, we can give the adults a better answer.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)