Sexual Assault and the Bible, Part 2

In Part 1, I attempted to provide a better understanding of who God is in relation to man and vice versa.

Part 2 will be less me typing out my thoughts and more sharing what others have to say on the topic. Most importantly, what does the Bible say about sexual assault and how is it treated in the mind of God?

The following is an article written by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb entitled, “What Does the Bible Say about Sexual Assault?” I quoted it briefly for the opening of Part 1.

Link to original article from the Resurgence.
Link to original article from the Resurgence.

What does the Bible say about Sexual Assault? by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb

“Far from being a peripheral issue in the Bible, sexual assault is:

  • clearly depicted as a sin against the victim and God
  • mentioned frequently throughout the Bible
  • referred to as a symbol of how badly sin has corrupted God’s good creation
  • understood as a severe distortion of God’s plan for sex 

SEXUAL ASSAULT IS SIN AGAINST PEOPLE

It is clear in the Bible that sexual assault is a sin against another person involving a physical, psychological, and emotionally violation. Marie Fortune describes sexual assault four different ways:

  1. It is a bodily sin. Sexual assault is a violation of bodily boundaries and distorts one’s sense of body image.
  2. It is a sin against relationship, violating the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
  3. It is a sin betraying trust and destroying relationships between victims and those who should have cared for them but instead caused them harm. The consequence of this sin is that it can create barriers of distrust between victims in their future relationships.
  4. It is a sin not only against the victims but the community surrounding that victim.

SEXUAL ASSAULT IS A SIN AGAINST GOD

Sexual assault is a sin against God because the blessing of sexuality is used to destroy instead of build intimacy and because it is an attack against his image in his image-bearers. The ability of sexual assault to obscure internal and external relationships makes it a cosmic affront to the Creator and the order of his creation (Genesis 6:1-3). Sexual assault is a sin against God because it violates his most sacred creation—human beings made in his image.

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

There are explicit passages calling sexual assault sin—a violation of God’s law. Deuteronomy 22:25-29 addresses non-consensual sexual acts and show concern for the welfare of the violated woman. The perpetrator is put to death by stoning, and it is stressed in the text the woman is innocent of any wrongdoing and no harm should come to her.

The victim’s experience of assault is not ignored by God, minimized by the Bible, or outside of the scope of healing and hope found in redemption.

There are also depictions of sexual acts that the Bible characterizes as sexual assault resulting in emotional trauma. Passages such as 2 Samuel 13, Hosea 2:1-13Jeremiah 13:20-27, and Ezekiel 16 and 23 demonstrate an understanding that such acts of sexual assault result not only in emotional trauma for the victim, but also in humiliation and a debilitating loss of sense of self. These passages depict sexual assault as deeply traumatizing and resulting in devastating emotional and psychological consequences for the victim.

SEXUAL ASSAULT IS A SYMBOL OF SIN

Sexual assault is a common and disturbing symbol of sin in the Bible. It is a complete distortion of relationship, a mockery of the original intent of being made for relationships with God and others. References to sexual violence is a way that God, through the biblical authors, communicates that sin and depravity have progressed so far that sex, an expression of union, peace, and love, is now used as a tool for violence.

GOD’S INTENT FOR SEX

God intended humankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), spreading divine image-bearers throughout his good world. This multiplying of offspring and exercising of dominion was to happen through the God-ordained sexual union between husband and wife (Genesis 2:24-25).

God meant for sexual feelings, thoughts, and activity to be pleasurable and intimacy-building in marriage. In the Bible, sexual intimacy is also a reflection of unity and peace between man and woman. It is a picture of two becoming one.

SEXUAL ASSAULT IS A DISTORTION

But sin inverts mutual love and harmony into domination of and violence against each other. Sex, the very expression of human union and peace, becomes a weapon of power and control against others after the Fall. Sexual assault is uniquely devastating precisely because it distorts the foundational realities of what it means to be human: sexual expression is perverted and used for violence, intra-personal trust is shattered, and disgrace and shame are heaped on the victim. Sexual assault creates in the victim’s mind a tragic and perverse linkage between sex, intimacy, and shame.

GOD HAS THE LAST WORD

By calling sexual assault sin, we know God is against it. He is also active in healing the effects victims experience.

The victim’s experience of assault is not ignored by God, minimized by the Bible, or outside of the scope of healing and hope found in redemption. God’s response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and re-creation. God’s response to the victim is to impart grace and brings peace.”

God created sex to be beautiful, intimate, and unifying. Sexual assault pollutes the true purpose and purity of sex. Therefore, God hates sexual assault.

The Holcombs mention a portion of Scripture from the book of II Samuel 13. It’s a story of rape and incest and it gives us a picture of what sexual assault does to the victim. (Interestingly enough, it’s also the inspiration for a very famous painting entitled, “The Rape of Tamar”.)

God calls this type of sexual violence an “outrageous thing”, “an abomination”.

He had already forbidden brother-sister sexual relationships earlier in the Bible. He had also forbidden rape, repeatedly. In fact, sexual assault could be punished by death. There are many horrifying accounts of rape in the Bible; not because God condones it but because man disobeyed His command not to rape.

blog-tamar1

Here’s the story in II Samuel 13:

There is a man, Amnon, who has an insatiable lust for his half-sister, Tamar. In fact, he craved her so badly that it made him physically sick. So he and his cousin devise a way to get her into Amnon’s house. Amnon pretends to be sick and asks Tamar to make him a meal. Then, he made everyone else in the house leave, forced her into his bed, and raped her.

There are four people who respond to this act of violence in the story: Amnon and Tamar as well as their father, King David, and Tamar’s full brother, Absalom.

Amnon, after he has assaulted Tamar, is overcome with hate and has her thrown out of the house because he cannot stand the sight of her. He won’t even speak her name. This is essentially Amnon blaming Tamar for his wrongdoing (victim blaming has been around for centuries).

Tamar begged Amnon to let her go before he had even begun his act of violence. Now that she has been violated, she begs him to comply to the cultural standards of the ancient Near East which would have meant that Amnon was now responsible for her just like a husband. When she is thrown out of the house, she is overcome with grief and humiliation. In fact, for two years she mourned over her rape and “lived a desolate woman” in her brother, Absalom’s, house. God is using this story to show how sexual violence destroys lives.  God had made provisions for the protection of women, particularly those vulnerable to abuse, years before Tamar was born. The action of Amnon against Tamar is direct disobedience to God.

Absalom’s initial response seems cold; he tells his sister not to think too much on what just happened. Meanwhile, Absalom hatches a plan and eventually has Amnon murdered. Wrong response but a good illustration of how so many secondary victims feel. It would be dishonest to say I have never wanted to cause serious harm to the abusers of the victims I encounter in the emergency room. It is a natural response to desire justice. Unfortunately, Absalom took justice into his own hands and caused more harm than good in the long run.

Finally, King David, when he heard about what had happened, was extremely angry. However, he did nothing about it. God will eventually punish him for not acting on behalf of his daughter, showing that God was not condoning the rape and incest. In fact, David’s entire family suffers, partly for Amnon’s sin and also for a rape which David had committed. God does not take sexual sin lightly.

Before I close this post, let me add one more thing. God uses battered people. Maybe you’ve heard of the prostitute Rahab; her story is in the book of Joshua. She rescued two of Israel’s spies from her city, Jericho. She was the great-great-great grandmother of King David, the father of Tamar. There’s another Tamar in the Bible and her story is in the book of Genesis. She was repeatedly abused by men but one of her twin sons was also an ancestor of King David. Finally, as I mentioned, King David had committed rape. He saw Bathsheba and he desired her sexually. She was married but David abused his power as king and forced her to sleep with him. God gave her a son named King Solomon. Not only that, David’s life and writings have become a powerful example of God’s grace, mercy, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness. David failed many times as a man and as a leader but God used him mightily in spite of those sins. God promised David that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be born from one of his descendants. David experienced brokenness but, in God, he was made whole.

All of these sinful and sinned against people were used by God to fulfill the promise He had made when Adam and Eve sinned at the very beginning. He said He would provide a Savior. The Savior, Jesus Christ, was a descendant of Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba because he was born through the line of David.

These women suffered sexual abuse thousands of years ago and today we still tell their stories as a sign that God was faithful in His promise. He brought something very good out of something very terrible.

I look at those women in the Bible and I know that God was grieved by their pain. But their descendant, Jesus Christ, is the reason I have hope and healing from my abuse. God allowed them, and has allowed me, to experience abuse so that other people can find hope and healing. God’s ultimate solution to their suffering, my suffering (and your suffering) is Jesus. Only Jesus can give new life to a soul. Only Jesus can take away the weight of the sorrow from my abuse and exchange it for joy.

There are certainly lots of people who believe that God condoned all sorts of wicked things that men and women did during Biblical times. While God is in complete control, He also holds man responsible for those wicked things because it is man who chooses to commit sin. There are many times in the Bible where someone plans to do something terrible and God stops it from happening. And there are other times, like in the story of Tamar, where God allows the sin to take place because He is going to use it to create something beautiful later on.

If you’ve wondered about the logic behind God allowing sin, I highly recommend you read Paul Copan’s book, Is God a Moral Monster? He has several chapters devoted to the issues of women’s rights and trafficking. Also, read Timothy Keller’s Generous Justice. He combats the idea that the Bible opposes true justice and explains that the Bible is, in fact, the fundamental source for how justice and compassion should be displayed. Whether you believe the Bible is true or not, his book will definitely challenge your thinking and give you an opportunity to at least understand the arguments against an immoral God.

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