February 13, 2020
Scripture: Deuteronomy 22:23-25
If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. But if the man meets the engaged woman in the open country, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.
Thought for the Day: I was rereading this passage, only to be caught off guard by the way it places blame and responsibility upon the woman. If the woman screams in town, then she won’t be put to death, but if she is silent, then we can only assume she “wanted it.” If it occurred in the countryside, where no one would hear her screams, she does receive the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s gracious. But to understand this passage in context, we must understand that the man is put to death for “stealing” another man’s property. There are so many things wrong with this that it is hard to organize them in my brain. I’m sure you see many of them yourself. For people who suggest that our culture would be better off if only we returned to some good Biblical teachings and morality, I am going to suggest we not in the case of this passage. First of all, I am not a big fan of stoning people. I am also not real excited about sitting in judgment of another person, especially when the rule of judgment is based exclusively on geography of an event and whether or not someone screamed. I am also really nervous about assuming that a scream or a lack of a scream indicates a person’s willingness. We know that many, during a sexual assault, freeze and then later feel guilty for not fighting back. Such victims should never be made to feel guilty as the blame full falls on the one who instigated the attack. This is all to say that the Bible has some amazing passages that speak to love, mutuality, healthy relationships and life-giving joy. There are other passages, like the one above, that were probably written with the best intentions of those who simply viewed their betrothed or spouse as their property, and they wanted to put forth some drastic rules that might cause someone to think twice before stealing their property. Yet no real attention was given to the woman’s humanity. It is hard to provide a good ethic of sexuality, commitment and love based upon this passage.
Prayer: Good and Gracious God, assist us as we grow into the beautiful and amazing images of life and commitment found within scripture, while also being mindful of passages that speak to cultural values that no longer align with the sense of value and dignity we believe you offer to every single human being. Amen.
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