So, why no female priests (Numbers 8:5-6 NASB)? The priests in the pagan nations were largely female and the rites were sexual in nature. God sought to avoid such a temptation and to mark off Israel from its neighbors. Also, it is important to note ALL Israel was called to be priests (see Exodus 19:6) and that within the Kingdom there is no distinction (Galatians 3:28).
Furthermore, unlike the rest of the world at the time, the Old Testament forbade polygamy. If you look at Leviticus 18:18, “18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.” The term “wife’s sister” does not just apply to her immediate family but to any fellow female Israelite who they called “sisters.” Many figures in the Old Testament violated this law but it is never affirmed by God!
But did men buy wives in Israel (Exodus 22:16)? The “marriage gift” was an integral part of an agricultural society where every member of the family was to work to support the family. The marriage gift was to
compensate the family for their loss and to demonstrate the seriousness of the young man and his family. In other words, it was God’s way of protecting families from economic hardship.
But was rape allowed in the Old Testament? Look at Deuteronomy 22:23-29, which in the NIV, reads:
22 If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.
25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Paul Copan points out that Deuteronomy 22:23-24 deal with adultery, while verses 28-29 deal with fornication. Tapas or “rape” (v.28) in the NIV is a poor translation. “Seizes” in the ESV is slightly better but the scenario is one where the girl does not cry out, which was required to avoid false charges of rape. Only Deuteronomy 22:25-27 deals with rape and notice the consequences!
Does Deuteronomy 21:10-14 endorse taking women as loot in wars? The culture of the ANE approved of rape and murder when conquering a nation but the Old Testament forbids rape and demands a soldier must marry any foreign woman he finds attractive, must provide for her, allow her to mourn and, if he still wants to marry her, he must do so and may never divorce her. Israeli soldiers would have thought twice before approaching a female of a conquered nation. Again, this is God meeting the culture where it was at and challenging it to move forward.
What about the strange passage in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 dealing with a woman who gets involved in a fist fight between two dudes? We will turn to that and more tomorrow! Stay tuned.