Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (NKJV):

If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.

I have seem some interpretations that say seize refers to seduction/coercion and not rape. If that is the case then what is the punishment for rape of an unbetrothed woman? I have seen countless answers point to verse 25-26 but...

But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter.

The text indicates that this is in the case of a betrothed woman. So what is the punishment then for the rape of an unbetrothed woman?

4 Answers 4


Looking at the 65 other uses of תּפשׂ (tâphaś), rendered in KJV as "lay hold" it is unlikely that this represents any kind of consent on the woman's part (a couple examples):

And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. - 1 Kings 18:40

Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them. - Isaiah 36:1

There are a few examples where the law is handled or a harp is handled but it is important to note that these items have no will or consent of their own and so the usage is still mainly the same in that the 'taking' or 'handling' is entirely apart from consent.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is dealing with the occurrence of a man "taking" a virgin quite apart from her consent.


The verse is about rape and the punishment for Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is that the man should pay the father 50 silver shekels. This law is here so that men can’t just go around raping women but that they will have to pay a lot of money and marry the woman. Which means they’ll have to take care of her, honor her, love her, and more.

Conclusion: The punishment for raping an unbetrothed woman is 50 shekels of silver and a lifetime commitment to her. Also if the woman does not want to marry the man, the father can just make the man pay 50 silver shekels but not allow the man to marry her. (Exodus 22:17)

  • Exodus 22:17 is not about rape, it is about seduction. Exodus 22:16 says "if a man seduces a virgin" so this ruling doesn't deal with rape.
    – User2280
    Commented Jan 13 at 20:49

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 describes a scenario where a man has sexual relations with an unbetrothed virgin girl. The passage does not provide any information about whether the girl consented to the act. There is a controversial argument about whether the girl was raped. This description is quite in contrast to Deuteronomy 22:23-27. In that passage, the girl has been betrothed, and the man would be put to dead as his act had infringed on his neighbor, and the girl's punishment is depending on whether she made an effort to resist the sex harassment.

Since the girl in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is unbetrothed, there is no neighbor being infringed. Therefore, the girl's well-being needs to be protected. The man is allowed not to die, but to follow the ritual requirement to marry the girl as his wife.

It is important to note that this law was made 3500 years ago, and the social norms were very different from what we have today. While we may disagree with this arrangement in modern times, it is worth noting that even in ancient times when society was patriarchal, the Lord did not lose sight of girls and their protection.


I guess it can be classified as rape, but it says 'lay hold on her, and lie with her', verses 'force her, and lie with her' in verse 25. I would say verse 25 would apply in any case of force, and the girl would have to cry out, resist, as per verse 24.

In the Torah a man is allowed to have multiple wives so long as they all were virgins. In the case of just taking a girl and laying with her (not by force, just kind of take her, and, you know, she doesn't really resist) he must pay a price and the girl must become his wife, living with him and being provided for by him forever.

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