According to classical Jewish interpretation, Dt 22:22-29 all deal with various situations of forcible and statutory rape as well as extramarital relations. The differences in the cases are mainly:
- the woman's marital status
- the woman's virginity
- the degree of consent or lack thereof that can be inferred from the geography
Verse 22:28 deals with only one of the cases, that of an unmarried virgin woman. The verse could apply to statutory rape as well as to forcible rape. The wording "seizes her" indicates that the man is taking the initiative but does not necessarily indicate forcible rape, as the wording leaves some room to think that the victim would not have been in a position for this to happen had she not wanted to be in the man's presence in a private setting. Remember that we are talking about a conservative middle eastern society with relatively strict gender separation. There are no other verses that deal with rape.
In most of the cases, the verses indicate that the punishment, at least for the man, is death. The verses do not specify either of the two methods of execution given in the Torah, stoning and burning. The Talmud deduces that this should be death by strangulation, considered the "easiest" of the death penalties.
The punishment stated in verse 29 is obviously unworkable as written and like lex talionis, there is no evidence that it was ever applied according to the simple understanding of the verse.
The verse was not interpreted to mean that the victim could not refuse to marry the perpetrator. If she refused, her father received the fifty shekels on her behalf.
The victim had the right to demand that the perpetrator marry her and support her until either he or she died. For example, if the relations had been consensual to some degree and the victim was not averse to marrying the perpetrator then the punishment meted out to the perpetrator is for causing the embarrassment of being caught in the act to both the victim and her father's house (hence the payment to the father).
In the event that they married but did not live together, the perpetrator had to pay a type of alimony to the victim, equivalent to what his expected expenses would be for maintaining her and her children in his household, until his or her death, without the ability to pay a fixed, one-time payment (her marriage contract or ketubah money) as in the case of a divorce. In this case the victim could not marry another man.
Fifty silver shekels was interpreted by some authorities to mean what we would call an average middle-class wage for one year. That is, a large sum of money.
What verse 29 leaves open for interpretation is how to peg the exchange rate for the shekel, and what sanctions to take against a perpetrator who cannot pay or who otherwise does not fulfill marital obligations. There is room to interpret that although the perpetrator could not divorce the victim, a court could annul the marriage without releasing the perpetrator from the obligation to continue to pay support.