Deuteronomy 22:22 (CSB)
22 “If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
I’m not sure any one single verse is a “key” verse of this pericope, so I simply selected one that is a good representation of what is happening here. This pericope, it would seem, has a bit of a dual role: it is somewhat related to the “marriage” between God and his people, and it also, obviously, has practical, “real world” implications.
It is interesting that throughout this pericope, men and women are treated, generally, in an equal manner: neither has some sort of preferential treatment over the other. We don’t see men “getting off easy”, as one might expect considering the time period and patriarchal community. Instead we see a strong commitment by God, via his commands, to protect and provide for women. This is easily seen in passages like vv22-27. There might be some pushback on vv23-24, and the notion that just because something happened within the city versus in the country the punishment is extremely different. But we should note that v23 describes the act differently than the rape that is described later in the open country. It’s obvious that what is described and implied here is a consensual sexual act, else the woman would have been expected to alert someone if she was being raped in a populated area.
Where things get a little more muddy is in the first half of the pericope, and then vv28-29. We might wonder why such a despicable man would not be subject to the same death penalty as those committing the other acts. Especially the rapist in v28. But if we pause and think on this, we see that this is actually a protection of the woman, and her family. As a victim of rape, the woman, whether right or wrong, would have been defiled and her prospects of marriage would be essentially gone. But instead, God’s command ensures her care, and some sort of monetary gift that the father would normally receive as a “bride price”. What is not stated here, and we must assume, is that all of this would be at the woman’s consent to follow through with the marriage.
Additionally, we should recognize that all of these commands, as well as addressing when these acts took place, would also have served as a deterrent for those contemplating such sinful acts.
The final verse of the pericope does not outline a punishment. We might guess one based upon the content of v22 though, and then the assumption is that this particular act is exceptionally despicable due to the nature of the relationships between those involved.
In the end, the goal of these commands is not to withhold some sort of pleasure from us, but to lead us to the greatest pleasure, which would be found by following God’s design. We should be very careful about letting our modern culture and worldly “morality”, to define what should and should-not-be good and evil… it is God’s standard alone that defines that standard.
Lord, thank you for giving us guidance. For telling us, even though we might think something is okay, or we might want something to be good, that we are falling short. I am sorry for dishonoring your creation, and crashing through the guardrails you put in place for us, for me. I pray that we would put our fleshly desires behind us, and find true happiness in your design and ways. Amen.