Deuteronomy 21:10-14 (NAU)

When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. "She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. "It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her.

Is "humbled" a mistranslation, (Lexicon Entry)? Is the text actually condoning rape? What is the proper translation of עִנִּיתָֽהּ?

  • People who rape don't usually plan on marrying their victims (otherwise, why the rush in the first place ?). The word (obviously) refers to the (oft repeated) concept of captivity, to which being sold as a slave would only act as an even further (unnecessarily gratuitous) humiliation (as if having been defeated on the battlefield wasn't already degrading enough).
    – Lucian
    Jul 17, 2019 at 7:25

4 Answers 4


The instruction from God has nothing to do with rape.

10When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, 11And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
-- Deuteronomy 21:10-11 KJV

These women were captives, and as such were wards of the nation, and since Yahweh was Father to the nation, they were his daughters to give away as wives, which is what the text tells us he did.

The truth is, these women were being rescued from nations that perpetrated great wickedness upon their women. Leviticus 18 lists all the abominations that caused the land of Canaan to be defiled, and thus spew out its occupants. Among those abominations:

  • men having sex with their mother and aunts, sisters and daughters;

  • men having sex with a women during menstruation;

  • men causing women/daughters to have sex with animals;

  • men sacrificing their daughters to the gods of the land;

Being taken from that situation to be given to a man who was instructed to ...

  • take her home to his house

  • have her cleaned up (ratty hair removed, nails cut and cleaned)

  • dress her in decent clothing

  • give her a month to grieve the loss of her father and mother

  • become her husband, and she his wife

... cannot be described as anything other than SALVATION.

Now, it was Hebrew social practice for the father to decide who he would give his daughters to in marriage. The daughter's consent might be considered, for example Genesis 24:55-61, but it wasn't required.

For the situation concerning these women captives -- wards of the nation for whom God had become their Father, and who had excerised His right as such to give them in marriage to men who would follow his instructions regarding their care -- to be considered rape, then so too would all prearranged marriages in Israel.

The fact is, it wasn't a daughter's consent not being sought that constituted rape, but the father's. In regard to daughters, a man taking another man's daughter without his consent was what defiled the girl, because he could not then give her to the man of his choice.

Added benefits for wives in Israel:

  1. they had one day out of every seven as rest from domestic duties (Sabbath)

  2. they had one week (approximately) every month rest from domestic duties and sexual congress with their husbands. (Leviticus 15:19)

  3. they had one week rest after bearing a male child, and two weeks after bearing a female child (Leviticus 12:2-5).

Such things were unheard of anywhere else at the time, and they set the standard for how to care and protect woman from that time onward.

The Hebrew word עָנָה is translated as "afflict" in the KJV forty-six times (~60%), seven times (~9%) as "humble", and once (~1%) as "defile" in Genesis 34:2. Whatever word one chooses, it should reflect the difficulty the woman would face without a husband. What is certain, though, the word doesn't mean rape.

  • A.) I think a "Reductio ad Absurdum" objection is valid here: "Does treating a rape victim nicely, even paying them, make it any less rape?" B.) You make a strong argument that arranged marriages were not rape, (in the text) - so why would this? But here, captive woman are also humiliated, (fingernails, etc). For this to work, a text is needed stating God acts in the role of "Father" to foreign women. C.) Claiming "עָנָה" is the state of women without husbands can bee seen as exactly opposite of the text - which describes women AFTER her "marriage" to an Israeli. Jun 24, 2017 at 18:24
  • @elikakohen There is no evidence of humiliation here, other than IF the man chose to send her away AND she went. Since the text says, "thou shalt let her go whither she will", then if it was HER WILL to stay, then he could not send her away, as she was his WIFE. This was a clause in the law that meant she could not be held AGAINST HER WILL.
    – enegue
    Jun 24, 2017 at 22:19
  • Regarding your point C, that is simply how you interpreting the text.
    – enegue
    Jun 24, 2017 at 22:22
  • @elikakohen If I were a judge in Israel at the time, and a man chose to send away a captive woman whom he had humbled, I would enquire if it were HER WISH to go, and if it weren't then THE LAW says she shall not go. The word עָנָה afflicted/humbled/defiled only becomes applicable IF SHE GOES.
    – enegue
    Jun 24, 2017 at 22:25
  • Enegue - I think we agree that the text isn't saying that "foreignness", or "capture" isn't what humbled her. I think the difference is whether the acts of having sex, etc, "humbled" her, or being "sent away", or both. It is a fair thing to say that "humbling her" is a euphemism in the texts for a woman's state after sex. So - you would have to show that this passage is exceptional, that no prior actions "humiliated her" - and that a better translation is: "because you [will] have [had] humbled her" - which you might have to show from the Greek syntax - if not supported by the Hebrew. Jun 24, 2017 at 22:42

1. Question Restatement:

Is “rape” the correct interpretation of the “עִנִּיתָֽהּ” in Deuteronomy 21:10-14?

2. Quick Answer

In the same exact chapter, in Deuteronomy 22:25, the context is clearly about rape. Completely different - clearer - words are used in both Hebrew, (וְהֶחֱזִֽיק) and in the Greek Septuagint, (βιασάμενος) of Deut. 22:25.

The Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 21:14 uses the the word, "ταπεινόω", (Perseus Lexicon). This word in Greek also denotes, "debasement, lessening, humiliating, submitting".

In Genesis 16:6, (Hebrew), Sarai "debased" Hagar, (showing that "rape" is not a necessary inference).

So no, "עָנָה" does not denote "rape". In Hebrew texts, it is consistently used to indicate a "humiliated, afflicted, or debased state" of a person, following some traumatic event - and rape is distinct in the texts, and understood as a cause of this state of mind.

3. Objection, False Dilemma Fallacy:

Having seen the series of questions relating to this - it is important to note that when logical fallacies are involved, (leading questions, false dilemmas, etc) - it is nearly impossible to frame a reasonable response - other than to point out the errors in reasoning.

A "False Dilemma" Fallacy:

The implications of this question are:

  1. Either - "Rape" is a better, more accurate translation for the Hebrew, "עניתה" in Deuteronomy 21:14, meaning the same exact things as "שָׁגַל", (see Deuteronomy 28:30, Isaiah 13:16, "כָּבַשׁ" in Esther 7:8, Zechariah 14:2) or even "עָלַל", (see Judges 19:25, Interlinear) - and therefore leads one to challenge the morality of God "taking delight in [rape?]" in Deuteronomy 28:63, (Hebrew Interlinear); ...
  2. Or - if "עָנָה" in Deuteronomy 21:14 really does "just mean" humiliated or disgraced - then the "moral challenge" is somehow lessened.

This line of reasoning is incredibly offensive, the crudest expression of idiocy, narrow-mindedness, and chauvinism that it truly does not merit a response.

It is not remotely rational to suggest that a lifetime of humiliation following this type of assault is not as horrific - if not worse - than the initial assault.

But in fact, the merits of the moral challenge do not change based on different definitions.

4. Answer - In Hebrew "Rape" and "Humiliation / Disgrace" are Two Very Different Words:

The question presupposes an immorality on the part of "God" in a backwards attempt at equivocation - to show that "עָנָה" should be interpreted as "rape" as though "a lifetime of humiliation" does not rise to the level of "rape" and therefore would not merit the same moral challenge.

In fact, "disgrace" and "humiliation" - in Scripture - is a very distinct word, from the words that denote "rape", often implying a far worse state than "rape" - because it often points to a state of mind following catastrophic trauma, often lasting a lifetime, sometimes "without measure", is a form of "torture", (and sometimes even self-inflicted humiliation and disgrace such as "fasting" which God denounces in Isaiah 58:5):

NASB, Isaiah 53:4 - Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted [humiliated and disgraced beyond measure].

NASB, Isaiah 64:12 - Will You restrain Yourself at these things, O Lord? Will You keep silent and afflict [disgrace, humiliate] us beyond measure?

The Christian doctrine that Jesus "advocated for man unconditionally", (Luke 23:34) does not even make any sense, if the "disgrace, and humiliation" mentioned in Isaiah 53 was not actually a horrific soul-shredding experience for Jesus:

NASB, Luke 22:44 - And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.

How is it not "Moral" to Judge people according to their own Judgments?

The implication, (stated in related questions) of this question is that it is somehow preposterous that God would delight in "Justice" that executes the same exact judgment upon someone that they themselves judge and condemn others by.

NASB, Ezekiel 7:27 - ... According to their conduct I will deal with them, and by their judgments I will judge them. And they will know that I am the Lord.’”

If there is any evidence of "God", or the "Wisdom of God", then it is certainly in this:

NASB, James 2:13 - For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Note: This is incredibly significant - because the revelation of this "wisdom" is how GOD, himself, determined to prove himself - to the world, (not through signs and miracles, or intellectual argument).

5. Addressing some Objections:

In discussion, several verses were mentioned where it was claimed that the contexts certainly require an inference of "rape". Without diving into all of the other translation issues in these passages, these objections can be addressed more simply:

  • Genesis 34:2 - Not necessarily rape. Shechem, (who had honor, v.19) made Dina "unclean", (v.13) because she was a daughter of Jacob (v.7), and Shechem wasn't "circumcised", (v.14). There is nothing in this passage indicating she didn't consent, or there was force.

  • 2 Samuel 13:14 - Regarding Amnon and Tamar, she states, "please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you, (v.13).” This renders it not as straight-forward as would be necessary. Regardless, the passage explicitly uses a word which certainly means "rape | וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק" in this context, distinctly from "וַיְעַנֶּ֔הָ".

  • Judges 19:24-25 - וְעַנּ֣וּ in verse 24, (which might have been considered "good" to them), does end up escalating to וַיִּֽתְעַלְּלוּ. But, this clearly shows a distinction between the words.

  • Lamentations 5:11 - Ironically, in the same context of "captive women". The problem ultimately requires Anthropological analysis at culture, and whether women consented with this - at least at a rational level. Esther is a very appropriate case-study for this - showing that in Scripture, captive women - generally - consented.

  • Ezekiel 22:10 - As Gen 34, lewd acts of uncleanness, resulting in debasing, humiliating, or humiliating women, (not necessarily requiring the reader to infer "rape".

6. Conclusion:

It is a misrepresentation that "God condones and delights in Rape" - when the text clearly implies that God is making a much more severe judgment - that God is "happy to oblige", and will judge people according to their own judgments that they pass on others - especially if that means to turn their own justifications to rape others on their own heads, (regardless if it is the foreign nation, or even Israel).

Under that same principle - that delight can go the exact opposite direction as well - that God delights in showing mercy, upon those who show mercy.

So - it is completely preposterous to minimalize "humiliation" and "disgrace" for the purpose of challenging the validity and morality of: judging an evil people - according to their own judgments.

Their might be other arguments that can be made from Scripture, showing that retaliating in the same way is NOT "just", but wrongfully employing an "equivocation fallacy" to conflate very different words in Hebrew is not one of those arguments.

All that being said, although "judging a person according to their own judgments" might actually be "moral", and "equanimity" - there are a lot of reasons to conclude that this is not "wise" and not what God desires, because it doesn't ever bring life, (see every prophet in Scripture).

NASB, Ezekiel 18:32 - For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”

NASB, Luke 5:38 - “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you ...


Sexual slavery is condoned in Deuteronomy 21 verses 10 to 14 which describes how a soldier can "marry" a female war captive which he finds attractive. If you disagree, ask yourself the following:

  1. Is it reasonable to assume that a girl/woman would voluntarily marry a complete stranger (from a different culture, religion and language) who was responsible for destroying her home, killing her family and kidnapping her?

  2. If she didn't want to marry him, is it reasonable to assume that she would resist any marriage demand from the soldier? Before answering, consider the power dynamics existing between a soldier and his young female war captive and her circumstances and the fact that she just witnessed her family being slaughtered.

  3. Do you think it is reasonable to assume that a soldier, after being told he could keep the girl for himself, would just let her leave if she wanted to?

I can't see how any rational person could answer yes to any of the above? These passages effectively allow the soldiers to take these girls as sex slaves. An apologist might say respond "but they were married and he had to treat her like a wife!". If she was an unwilling participant, how would a marriage ceremony and the title “wife” change anything? Rape is still rape regardless of whether the victim is married to the perpetrator. I recommend you watch the YouTube video “when rape is okay” by DarkAntics which is the best video on this topic I’ve seen so far.

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    – agarza
    May 14, 2021 at 3:41

NO. God does not condone rape.

I would vote to close this question as it is commonly raised by many who hate God, and raise false claims without knowledge, seeking to cause others to stumble.

The question has been asked and answered on the Christianity site: here

However, there are some points to be considered.

None of us are capable of, nor should ever attempt to pass judgment upon our heavenly Father, our Creator. We are the created, not the creator; and we are not able to know all that He knows (Isa. 55:8-9). We do not know the hearts of men as He knows them (1 Kings 8:39). We do not see the secret things that He sees (Dan. 2:22). We do not have His foreknowledge, nor His omniscience.

Isa. 29:16,

"Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?" (KJV)

We have limited capability to judge rightly when we see someone else's overt actions that cause harm to others, but He has full capability and His judgments are true and righteous.

Psa. 119:160,

"The sum of Thy word [is] truth, And to the age [is] every judgment of Thy righteousness!" (YLT)

Job 34:10-15,

" Therefore hearken unto me ye men of understanding: far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.

11 For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways.

12 Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.

13 Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world?

14 If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; 15 All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust."

He created all things, and breathed life into each one of us (Job 33:4). He provides the very air that we breathe each and every moment, without which we would die. And, some dare question His judgment?

Job 34:21-22,

"21 For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings. 22 There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves."

The grasshopper eats of the grass he did not plant, and drinks of the dew he did not gather, and then has the audacity to look up to heaven and say, "Prove to me that you exist." The created does not have that right.

Job 38:2-4,

"2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding." (KJV)

The Lord was laying down ground rules in Deuteronomy for the tribes of Israel to take over the lands of Canaan. The land had been promised to Abraham's descendants, and was filled with wicked people. The gift to the Israelites was a simultaneous judgment against the idolatrous people who were sacrificing their babies on the burning arms of their idol Moloch. They were guilty of many atrocities because of their idolatrous societies. He listed these nations that were to be completely annihilated.

Deu. 20:16-18,

"`Only, of the cities of these peoples which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee [for] an inheritance, thou dost not keep alive any breathing;

17 for thou dost certainly devote the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, as Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee,

18 so that they teach you not to do according to all their abominations which they have done to their gods, and ye have sinned against Jehovah your God." (YLT)

Whereas, God allowed different methods for the people of other cities and areas farther away, to first sue for peace.

Deu. 20:10-15,

"When thou drawest near unto a city to fight against it, then thou hast called unto it for Peace,

11 and it hath been, if Peace it answer thee, and hath opened to thee, then it hath come to pass -- all the people who are found in it are to thee for tributaries, and have served thee.

12 `And if it doth not make peace with thee, and hath made with thee war, then thou hast laid siege against it,

13 and Jehovah thy God hath given it into thy hand, and thou hast smitten every male of it by the mouth of the sword.

14 Only, the women, and the infants, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, thou dost seize for thyself, and thou hast eaten the spoil of thine enemies which Jehovah thy God hath given to thee.

15 So thou dost do to all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations." (YLT)

God recognized that captives of war could be ill treated, and was laying down rules for the women that would be taken into the house of the soldier.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary on The Treatment of a Captive Taken to Wife:

"10-14. When thou goest to war … and seest among the captives a beautiful woman … that thou wouldest have her to thy wife—According to the war customs of all ancient nations, a female captive became the slave of the victor, who had the sole and unchallengeable control of right to her person. Moses improved this existing usage by special regulations on the subject. He enacted that, in the event that her master was captivated by her beauty and contemplated a marriage with her, a month should be allowed to elapse, during which her perturbed feelings might be calmed, her mind reconciled to her altered condition, and she might bewail the loss of her parents, now to her the same as dead. A month was the usual period of mourning with the Jews, and the circumstances mentioned here were the signs of grief—the shaving of the head, the allowing the nails to grow uncut, the putting off her gorgeous dress in which ladies, on the eve of being captured, arrayed themselves to be the more attractive to their captors. The delay was full of humanity and kindness to the female slave, as well as a prudential measure to try the strength of her master's affections. If his love should afterwards cool and he become indifferent to her person, he was not to lord it over her, neither to sell her in the slave market, nor retain her in a subordinate condition in his house; but she was to be free to go where her inclinations led her." Source: here

It was not that God allowed women to be raped, or that He condoned it. He was setting conditions to mitigate man's blood lust of war.

Nor does the fact that God recorded the sins of man mean that He condones those sins. The Bible is the record of God's words and judgments, as well as the words and actions of men, and of Satan. We are to know which is which. We are expected to be sensible enough to know that a man's actions are not infallible, and a man's words are not inerrant. It is mankind that is guilty of sin, not God.

Excerpt from God Did Not Condone Rape, by Kyle Butt -

"It is important to understand that God has never condoned any type of sexual activity outside of a lawful marriage. The only way that an Israelite would be morally justified in having sexual intercourse with a female captive was if he made her his wife, granting to her the rights and privileges due to a wife. Notice that the Israelite male could not “go in to her” (a euphemism for sexual intercourse) until she had observed a period of mourning and cleansing, and he could only “go in to her” with the intent of being her husband." Source: here

Look carefully at the colon between verses 13 and 14 of Deu. c. 21,

"and hast seen in the captivity a woman of fair form, and hast delighted in her, and hast taken to thee for a wife,

12 then thou hast brought her in unto the midst of thy household, and she hath shaved her head, and prepared her nails,

13 and turned aside the raiment of her captivity from off her, and hath dwelt in thy house, and bewailed her father and her mother a month of days, and afterwards thou dost go in unto her and hast married her, and she hath been to thee for a wife:

14 `And it hath been -- if thou hast not delighted in her, that thou hast sent her away at her desire, and thou dost not at all sell her for money; thou dost not tyrannize over her, because that thou hast humbled her." (YLT)

Do not make the assumption that verse 14 occurs after the man went in to her in verse 13... the phrase which means having had intercourse with her. The colon separates the two, and creates an either / or situation.

If, after the woman had time to mourn, and to learn of the laws of God, and then desired to be sent away, then God gave instructions on what the man was to do, because she had been kept in his house for that month, and that would humble her before other's conjecture.

It does not mean that the Israeli soldier raped her, for he was under God's law. That would have been very hypocritical when he was attempting to teach her of God's law.

The act of humbling a woman by pagan societies was rape (Gen 34:2), and was recognized as sinful behavior deserving of the death penalty even for the Israelites (Deu. 22:24).

The very act of bringing an idolatrous woman into his house as a possible wife was against the previous commands, as committing idolatry was a death sentence. (See Deu. 13:6-11, Deu. 17:2-5.) The man who considered taking a captive to wife would have known that if he had intercourse with her, he would be considered under God's law to have married her, as sexual intercourse outside of marriage was adultery and fornication, which was condemned in Ex. chap 20 by the seventh commandment. Taking that step would have made him her husband, and he would have then been responsible for her.

Excerpt from Benson Commentary on Deu. 21:14,

"“The wisdom and humanity of Moses,” says Philo, “are very remarkable in this law, whereby the soldiers are forbidden to indulge a hasty and brutal passion, are kept a whole month in abstinence, and thereby have an opportunity given them of knowing the temper and disposition of the woman, for whose misfortune in captivity a compassionate provision is made, by allowing her so long a time of separation and mourning.” Source: here

The tribes of Israel were under the commandments of God, and were to be an example to all the other nations (Ex. 19:6). God did not spare them when they fell into idolatry, but brought other nations against them and removed them into captivity (Deu. 28:36-37; Jer. 22:6-9; Ezek. chap. 22, etc.).

On the issue of slavery, I recommend reading The Bible and Slavery, by Kyle Butt at ApologeticsPress.com here

Psa. 14:1,

"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God...."

Cherry picking the Bible to find fault with God is a dangerous occupation. Anyone who wishes to spend their time arguing with God, had better be prepared to lose when they stand before Him.

All bold emphasis is mine.

  • Gina, I answer you in the discussion section Jun 23, 2017 at 21:20
  • @BarryJones This is not a discussion forum. You don't "answer" answers.
    – Caleb
    Jun 24, 2017 at 2:37

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