Sunday we continued on with our Authentic Bible Study series by taking another occasion to demonstrate why context is VITAL to understanding what is being written.  Again, the purpose of being ‘authentic’ to a Bible study is to allow the Bible to be authentic – meaning, we are not imposing our prejudices and biases upon what is written, nor are we using random verses to string together into a particular belief or position.  Context is absolutely important and the more sensitive we are and patient we are to give heed to the context, the closer we will be to allowing what is written to stand.
This Sunday, we looked at a quote from atheist Richard Dawkins, where he mocks the notion of Biblically established morality because, as he says, the Bible claims that a victim of a rape is forced to marry her rapist, according to Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

Deuteronomy 22:28  If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Deuteronomy 22:29  Then 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.

This is a real example of where folks are simply not paying any attention to context.  Sadly, this is not just common in the atheistic world, but likewise in the Christian world.  It is a very sobering thought to realize that an atheist and a Christian may have the same Bible study habits.  Sadly, many universities are stocked with professors who would readily echo Dawkin’s assessment and if you attend such a university – what would your answer be?
We first noted that Deuteronomy is the second giving of the law.  The name of the book is derived from “deuteros” and “nomos” (“second” + “law”) and therefore, we should take heed to the first giving of the law, as Moses may simply be drawing on a particular point and not necessarily reciting the entire thing verbatim.
We looked at Exodus 22:16-17 where if two were found in a consensual relationship, it was the duty of the man to marry the damsel (own up to his actions).  However, if the father utterly refused to allow the man to marry his daughter, the man would pay a dowry (as a fine) to the family for the shame he brought to them.

Exodus 22:16  And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
Exodus 22:17  If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

We noted that this should indicate, unlike our modern cultures obsession, that physical relationships are very serious and very important in the eyes of God – because of what it means.  Our culture wants this to be nothing more than another activity that one does – like going to the ball game or driving a car.  However, this is not to be treated as just another activity to fill one’s time – for in the eyes of God, the UNION of marriage happens in the act.
Marriage is not an award of the state nor the church, but is a solemn life-agreement between a man and a woman where the woman yields herself to her husband’s promise of life-long provision (love).  In this commitment, the two become one flesh, symbolized by the union of physical intimacy.  This is why it is so important – again, it isn’t just a weekend activity, but is an actual abuse of marriage if viewed and enacted upon improperly.
That’s why it is the man’s duty to live up to his actions – if you want to engage in the act of marriage, then you’ll be charged with providing for her in marriage.  However, the father may not allow it (and that is within his right), and if he expresses that right, the man then pays a dowry to the father.  A dowry is a gift or some sort of ‘down payment’ rendered to the bride’s family in order to demonstrate the seriousness of the intentions.  I said in class that when you buy a house, you typically will put in a deposit on your offer to buy as a show of good faith to the seller that you are serious about the offer.  We looked at Jacob’s offer to work for Laban in return for his daughter, Rachel, as an example.

Genesis 29:16  And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
Genesis 29:17  Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. 
Genesis 29:18  And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter
Genesis 29:19  And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.
Genesis 29:20  And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

So, this man, if the father refuses, must pay the same dowry as if he were allowed to marry her, but isn’t.  This is a certainly a “fine” from the man’s point of view, but again, it demonstrates why this act shouldn’t be taken flippantly.
Exodus 22:16-17 is what Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is all about – CONSENSUAL relations; not rape at all.  We did, however, expand our context in Deuteronomy 22 and stepped back to verse 22.

Deuteronomy 22:22  If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. 
Deuteronomy 22:23  If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 
Deuteronomy 22:24  Then 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 evil from among you. 
Deuteronomy 22:25  But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
Deuteronomy 22:26  But 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: 
Deuteronomy 22:27  For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
Deuteronomy 22:28  If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Deuteronomy 22:29  Then 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. 

In Summary:

1.  Man consents with engaged (betrothed) woman = both put to death (and, remember, the betrothal in scripture is different than what we understand ‘engagements’ to be in modern culture)
2.  Man FORCES an engaged woman = MAN put to Death – here is your rape case, and we noted that there is NO SIN in the woman for being a victim of a rape
3.  Man consents with non-engaged woman = forced to live up to his actions or pay a fine, at the father’s discretion.
Hopefully by now, you can see that the scriptures do NOT teach what Richard Dawkins claims them to teach.  But, without taking careful heed to the CONTEXT, one might be led astray with comments like his.
Next week, we’ll finish up with some other odds and ends regarding Bible study and Bible understanding.