Conservative Judaism/Rape...


Question concerning Deut. 22:23-29.

Deut. 22:23-29
23If there be a damsel that is a virgin betrothed unto a man, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
24then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die: the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife; so thou shalt put away the evil from the midst of thee.

I think 23 and 24 is referring to consensual sex and adultery is this true?
Is betrothed meaning, "engaged to be married", here in this form?
Why were they taken outside the city gate, why not punished within the city?
What was Jewish law back then to stone someone to death?
How did they do it?
Was the guilty party buried up to their shoulders and stoned?
Why were they buried, what is the purpose for that?
Why in 23 it reads she was betrothed but in 24 it reads she was an actual wife?
Are their any mistranslated words in these two verses?

Deut. 22:25-27
25But if the man find the damsel that is betrothed in the field, and the man take hold of her, and lie with her; then the man only that lay with her shall die.
26But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death; for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter.
27For he found her in the field; the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

I think Deut.25-27 is referring to rape, is this correct?
Is this betrothed the exact same word meaning of betrothed that is mentioned in verse 23?
In verse 25, what is the Hebrew word for, "take hold of", is this referring to forcefully taking somebody against their will?
In verse 26 what was the law for somebody who, "...a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter"?
Is betrothed in verse 27 the same as verses 25 and 23?

28If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, that is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
29then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her; he may not put her away all his days.

I'm confused here as to whether this is referring consensual sex or rape.
Is betrothed in verse 28 the same as betrothed in verses 23, 25, ad 27?
In verse 28, what does, "lay hold on", mean, is this meaning rape or consensual sex?
Why was, "...the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver...", to be paid to the father?
Does humble here in verse 29 mean, "to take her virginity"?
Why was he not allowed to divorce her in verse 29 if he wanted to later?

People claim these verses deal with rape and a raped woman is to marry her rapist.
I do not believe this but before I correct anybody I must be sure myself this is false.

Please be specific as this isn't a light matter concerning rape.

Dear Steve,

Thanks for writing.

Before we go any further, I commend to you the authoritative translation into English directly from Hebrew by reliable scholars in "The TaNaKH" published a few years ago by the Jewish Publication Society of America.

Then consult the JPS Deuteronomy volume in the series of the translation WITH a reliable commentary.

If it is not clear, then feel free to contact me again with a specific question.

Best wishes for the New Year

Rabbi Dov

13 A man marries a woman and cohabits with her. Then he takes an aversion to her 14 and makes up charges against her and defames her, saying, "I married this woman; but when I approached her, I found that she was not a virgin." 15 In such a case, the girl's father and mother shall produce the evidence of the girl's virginity before the elders of the town at the gate. 16 And the girl's father shall say to the elders, "I gave this man my daughter to wife, but he has taken an aversion to her; 17 so he has made up charges, saying, 'I did not find your daughter a virgin.' But here is the evidence of my daughter's virginity!" And they shall spread out the cloth before the elders of the town. 18 The elders of that town shall then take the man and flog him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred [shekels of] silver and give it to the girl's father; for the man has defamed a virgin in Israel. Moreover, she shall remain his wife; he shall never have the right to divorce her.

20 But if the charge proves true, the girl was found not to have been a virgin, 21 then the girl shall be brought out to the entrance of her father's house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death; for she did a shameful thing in Israel, committing fornication while under her father's authority. Thus you will sweep away evil from your midst.

22 If a man is found lying with another man's wife, both of them the man and the woman with whom he lay shall die. Thus you will sweep away evil from Israel.

23 In the case of a virgin who is engaged to a man if a man comes upon her in town and lies with her, 24 you shall take the two of them out to the gate of that town and stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry for help in the town, and the man because he violated another man's wife. Thus you will sweep away evil from your midst. 25 But if the man comes upon the engaged girl in the open country, and the man lies with her by force, only the man who lay with her shall die, 26 but you shall do nothing to the girl. The girl did not incur the death penalty, for this case is like that of a man attacking another and murdering him. 27 He came upon her in the open; though the engaged girl cried for help, there was no one to save her.

28 If a man comes upon a virgin who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, 29 the man who lay with her shall pay the girl's father fifty [shekels of] silver, and she shall be his wife. Because he has violated her, he can never have the right to divorce her.  

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Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner


Write to me with questions about Jewish customs and law, history, philosophy and tradition for answers from a Conservative perspective or conversion. I am a graduate of The Jewish Theological Seminary and a member of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Having served in congregational pulpits since 1970, I now am President of the Foundation For Family Education, Inc. a non-profit educational endeavor. I established it to create new formats of hands-on programs and provide free educational downloads at In addition to general informational questions I welcome your questions about programs for social action, outreach to dual-faith families, inter-faith clergy projects, healing services, education for conversion, adult education for the congregation and the community. If you have questions about Informal and Formal Education I am ready to share my extensive experience with Youth Activities, Camping and Religious School/Hebrew High School on a congregational, community and national/international level.


I have served on the National Youth Commission for more than 25 years and serve on the Boards of the Conservative Zionist movement MERCAZ and the World Council of Synagogues. I have always dual-families and taught candidates for conversion with a great sense of fulfillment. I am very proud of 25 years on the Jewish camping staff of Camps Ramah. My greatest source of pride is my family! Ask me about them, please!:-)

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