Seems like a good one to touch on.

I'm sure there could have been room in there somewhere if he wanted it. Why not?

  • 8
    The punishment for adultery was death. You think he should have been stricter on rape? Sep 13, 2011 at 13:31
  • 2
    "Love your neighbor as thyself" - sounds like it covers it to me! As does "thou shalt not commit adultery"
    – warren
    Sep 13, 2011 at 17:23
  • 3
    Perhaps for the same reason that taking drugs and hacking into a bank is not in the commandments. With a little common sense it's supposed to flow out of the basic ones. Jul 6, 2012 at 6:54

6 Answers 6


Note: This answer comes from the perspective of the Old Testament alone, since the question was in regard to the Ten Commandments and gives no indication that it's seeking a "Christian" perspective, but does give indication that it's seeking a historical perspective (since it references the Ten Commandments).

History of the ten Commandments

Why is rape not included among the these commandments? Because there are many things (including homosexuality, having sex with your fathers wife, not wearing clothes made of both wool and cotton, etc.) that are not in them.

The Ten Commandments were originally written on stone tablets after Moses ascended Mount Sinai. Their purpose was to provide a set of basic, simple laws that would hold the nation of Israel over until they got the full Levitical law.

The Levitical law was not given until the book of Leviticus, after the Ten Commandments had been given. These commandments were not meant to be all-encompassing, but simply meant to give them the top-ten basic laws that God wanted the Israelites to obey until they could get the complete Law.

Rape defined

It is important to note that "rape" during those days was not a crime against a woman, but rather a crime against the head of the household (History of Rape).

To understand how rape plays out in the Old Testament, it is important to understand adultery. Adultery was a sin that had the death-penalty associated with it.

Deuteronomy 22:22 (NIV)
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.

However, if the man were to rape another man's wife, only the man would die, since he is the one that committed the act of adultery.

Deuteronomy 22:25
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.

Note that in Old Testament times, betrothal came after the marriage price had been paid. The groom and the bride at that point were effectively married, although there was a waiting period before they could live together.

Now, if a man rapes a woman who is not pledged to be married, then he has not committed adultery and did not deserve death. Instead, he was forced to pay the marriage price, taking the girl/woman as his wife.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (NIV)
If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 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

What these laws are showing is that rape is not "non-consensual" sex as we think of it today. It's actually a crime against the man who "owns" the woman (for lack of a better term). The crime committed in the case of a betrothed or married girl is the crime of adultery. The crime committed in the case of a non-betrothed, unwed girl is the crime of not paying for something that you've taken.

The punishment for rape back then was the same as the punishment for either adultery or stealing, based on the marital status of the girl.

This also means... there is nothing in the Old Testament saying that non-consensual sex with your wife is wrong.

Rape as Adultery/Theft

With the definition above, we see that rape carried the punishment of either adultery or theft, based on the marital status of the girl/woman. With that in mind, the laws of adultery and stealing were in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:14-15
14 You shall not commit adultery.

15 You shall not steal.

If we compare these laws established in the Ten Commandments with the rules established in Deuteronomy, we see that rape was considered either stealing or adultery.

Because of this, the root law that is being violated is actually covered in the these commands.


Rape, from the Old Testament perspective, is either considered adultery or thievery (based on the marital status of the woman). Those two root laws are specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Therefore, the two laws that might be broken from a given rape are actually written there.

  • 3
    So in ancient bible, the consent of the girl means absolutely nothing. All that matter is her marital status (adultery or theft).
    – user4234
    Nov 20, 2013 at 1:36
  • 1
    Absolutely correct. That's also why I noted that non-consensual sex with your wife is not mentioned. Women were considered property.
    – Richard
    Jul 17, 2014 at 18:48
  • Ancient monarch need supports from males. Womens' interest is of no concern because women lack military and political powers anyway. Ancient religions tend to support interests of ancient monarch.
    – user4234
    Jul 20, 2014 at 12:43
  • Another take: God was trying to lift a group of people out of a vile and brutal cultural milieu, and gave the commandments that would best expedite this process. You would have picked different commandments, and so would I; that doesn't prove that God goofed or is not real.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 21, 2020 at 15:49

Not every sinful act is spelled out in the ten commandments, but every possible sinful act does fall under one or more of the umbrellas. Rape is adultery as well as theft and envy and does not honor the Lord. That's at least four "counts". How much does one need to know that it's wrong?

In the NT we find the ten commandments expounded to include thoughts about the action and heart attitudes as well as the spelled out actions. In short, not having the act of rape spelled out in a commandment is not an oversight, the topic is well covered. I have never heard it alleged that Christianity allowed rape based on it not being the 11th commandment.

  • 3
    Could you explain how rape is covered by not honor the Lord? I don't quite understand how that relates to such action. Sep 13, 2011 at 13:11
  • 8
    @PaŭloEbermann: Sure. Think of it this way. If I lend you a screw driver and you wantonly use it as a crowbar, your disrespect of my property is an offense against me, not just the tool. Every woman is created in the image of God and belongs to him. Secondly, God's commandment to men is that they should lay down their lives in love, care and sacrifice for and in order to purify women. Rape is an offense against the Lord (not honoring to him) because it abuses his property AND because it disobeys his commands.
    – Caleb
    Sep 13, 2011 at 13:20
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    Huh. So in essence every act that can be somehow interpreted (by whom?) as doing something wrong is "not honoring the Lord"? This seems like a quite broad interpretation of this commandment. Sep 13, 2011 at 13:27
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    @PaŭloEbermann: Yes this is a broad interpretation, but I think it's warranted. In fact the first commandment is often considered to be the foundation and that it is impossible to violate any of the others without also violating the first. I'm not the first to hold this interpretation, many theologians have espoused this understanding. There is a famous quote from Martin Luther stating exactly this but he was not the first. Jesus himself both summed up the whole of the law and stated the most important commandment by saying "Love the Lord your God", and that everything else follows this.
    – Caleb
    Sep 13, 2011 at 13:38
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    I'm surprised that you didn't use the commandment "Do not covet" as the basis for your argument. Desiring (and really going beyond desiring) something that's not your seems to be the root of the sin being discussed here.
    – Andrew
    Sep 13, 2011 at 14:33

It is:

No. 7 Thou shalt no commit adultery

Rape is a form of adultery (unless you're married).

  • 7
    It's possible to have non-consensual sex within marriage. Sep 13, 2011 at 8:02
  • 6
    @Coomie, rape is a sin, no matter in what context, spousal rape is just as much a sin as any other form. What laws of God it violates is another matter, considering it violates the basic NT mandate of love your neighbor as yourself thats a good place to start.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 13, 2011 at 11:35
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    @Coomie, unfortunately spousal rape happens. Just because one's wife is "submitting" doesn't give one license to abuse her physically or sexually. This is the issue here, its a relationship where one party is abusive towards the other, not a healthy relationship with mutual respect and devotion.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 13, 2011 at 13:03
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    It's voluntary by the person committing the rape. They have committed adultery. It's involuntary by the person being raped, which means they haven't done anything wrong. Sep 13, 2011 at 13:27
  • 4
    Historically the idea of 'non-consensual sex within marriage' is very recent. As little as a hundred years ago marriage was assumed to imply consent for sex, and the concept of 'rape within marriage' was an oxymoron. I'm talking secular law here, but it's almost sure that three thousand years ago the idea of 'raping your wife' would have been a contradiction in terms. Sep 13, 2011 at 13:29

Jesus tells us how to interpret the commandment not to kill, namely that it is even a sin to call your brother stupid. I think it is fair to say that Jesus generalized that commandment to one that absolutely forbids violence against persons, be it physical or "only" verbal.

Of course, this would also cover rape.

  • 2
    It would be good to quote the scripture here in your answer. Also Jesus even raised the bar on what it meant to commit adultery the two combined would make a good argument.
    – Andrew
    Sep 13, 2011 at 15:00
  • Forgive me, I was too lazy to look it up. I am quite sure, however, as others have pointed out, "adultery" has nothing to do with it. It's all about violence.
    – Ingo
    Sep 13, 2011 at 15:17

I've heard that the 10 commandment is there for "category" of prohibition. Rape would go to don't steal I guess. By raping you are stealing "usage right" from the girl or the parent.

In a sense rape is indeed prohibited. In ancient hebrew, rape is actually punished by fine that can be quite high. That's how we define something as prohibited, namely that there is a punishment.

The difference is on what's the punishment and how do we measure damage.

In ancient time they don't have jail. Jail is a very expensive innovation. So the only punishment besides stoning possible are either fine or canning.

Jewish halakha actually prescribe that the rapists must pay for the pain and for the drop of the market value of the girl. The 50 shekel is only for the pleasure


Damages [are evaluated] according to [the girl's] beauty. We look at her as if she were a maid-servant being sold in the marketplace:

The judge would estimate how much the girls' market value is. Maybe the judges would auction of the girl and shill bid it to get the correct market value of the girl as sex slave. Maybe they just estimate. Got to ask the jews again.

So raping Selena Gomez is still off the chart. In ancient time people do not have bankruptcy laws. So if you can't pay you become slaves, which is like going to jail.


Some may think it's disgusting. However, we may have to consider:

  1. Inevitability of power. Even nowadays, women are not absolutely free to decide what they do with their body. Prostitution is illegal for example. So is group marriages. Hence we shouldn't judge a culture where parents control their daughter as disgusting given that in our modern culture the states have a right to control all women, most of which are not daughters of the president.
  2. Ancient jewish culture is more hierarchical. Western civilization follow the greek tradition that humans are equal. That's why raping an ugly girl is just as evil as raping a beautiful girl now. Ancient culture tend to actually be more objective on this. Raping a beautiful girl of course cause more harm than raping an ugly one just like destroying a Ferrari causes more harm than destroying a bike. Also stealing a Ferrari is more tempting than stealing a bike and hence need to be punished more. Contemporary court have this beauty blind attitude as if beauty shouldn't matter at all.
  3. Women at that time usually live at home. Think of muslim society. Ancient jews are like muslim. Not easy to rape a girl.
  4. Probability of getting pregnant is quite low if it's just from one intercourse. Losing virginity would drop the women's market value and that's the real damage of rape + pain damage.
  5. In polygamous society, which ancient judaism is, there is always a shortage of women. In fact, anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists claim that it's the real reason why we have laws against polygamy. So yea, the girl can still aim high because there will still be plenty of rich males for her, each want unlimited number of young girls. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200706/ten-politically-incorrect-truths-about-human-nature
  6. Rabam seems to think that harlots cover all sex outside marriage. However, the issue is fatherhood determination.

    "For [ultimately], a father will marry his daughter and a brother his sister, [for in a sexually permissive society] a [girl] may become pregnant and give birth without knowing who the child's father is."

    • I forget the URL. It's really there. So perhaps the commandment to get married is there to ensure that should the girl get pregnant somebody will support the child. However, the parent could and most likely would still reject the boy if the boy is poor anyway. If the boy is rich, then he wouldn't need to rape right? Not like there is a strong intensive to rape either case.

I will have to ask the jews again now that we can decide fatherhood by DNA tests, what would Rabam says about sex outside marriage and rape.

Jews do not think sex outside marriage as a big deal. It never get death penalty. Only on some circumstances it can get pretty serious.

You can read here: https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/11021/what-does-adultery-mean-in-the-7th-commandment/11032#11032

Which explains why prostitution is legal in Israel I guess.

  • If you're going to downvote my answer with tons of references, would you at least tell why? I mean rape is bad, but ancient jews do not think it's that big of a deal as much as it is now. After all, women prefer the rich and that's what matters far more for most women and their parents.
    – user4951
    Nov 15, 2011 at 10:21
  • "I've heard that the 10 commandment is there for "category" of prohibition." Who said that? "Maybe they just estimate. Got to ask the jews again." This sounds like speculation. "Which explains why prostitution is legal in Israel I guess." This again sounds like speculation. "Jews do not think sex outside marriage as a big deal. It never get death penalty. Only on some circumstances it can get pretty serious." This contradicts old testament law and doesn't answer the question.
    – Richard
    Nov 21, 2011 at 19:23
  • You do make some interesting points, but this just sounds like speculation and guesses. If you don't know for a fact, it's better not to answer.
    – Richard
    Nov 21, 2011 at 19:24
  • Well, it's quite close actually. I actually asked this in jewish forum about sex outside marriage thingy. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/11021/… as for how ten commandment is a category, I think I read that somewhere. Let me look that up.
    – user4951
    Nov 22, 2011 at 1:40
  • That link you gave me: 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. It punish the male for mating with someone already married. Pledged to be married count as marriage. Yap, another fine point. We're dealing with lawyer race here. If she is not pledged to be married to anyone, it won't go to death penalty. Now here is a guess, I think God made Torah to train jews to be good lawyers. Okay a joke. With this kind of law one don't need criminals.
    – user4951
    Nov 22, 2011 at 1:42

Because the 10 Commandments have little to do with ethics and everything to do with (a) creating an orderly society and (b) distinguising the Jewish community from its neightbours. Women were generally regarded as property by the culture of the time, which wrote the commandments.

  • I think you might be on to something here, but we can't confuse ethics with morals. Ethics govern a society and the 10 commandments are a set of ethics. Morals are things more along the lines of right-vs-wrong. See this comments attached to this answer for more info.. Having said all of this, I would actually agree that the 10 commandments are not about morals, but they are the pure definition of ethics. +1
    – Richard
    Sep 13, 2011 at 12:49
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    Many of the commands given through Moses were for an orderly society, but the ten commandments were definitely a code that has everything to do with ethics. They are far more reaching than just setting a particular community apart, they are a code that ALL people are to use to determine was is right and wrong in the eyes of God. Lastly, the culture of the time did not write the commandments, God did and the culture having a particular issue would actually be more reason to include a specific commandment, not less.
    – Caleb
    Sep 13, 2011 at 12:56
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    Down voted as it does not reflect any Christian teachings I am aware of. As far as I know Christians take the 10 Commandments as an ethical mandate. Also rape is forbidden in other places in the OT so its not as if it was permitted.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 13, 2011 at 12:59
  • 3
    @waxeagle. Rape was permitted. Just pay off her father. Rape was a crime against property. Also, since the question is about the 10 Commandments, we need to temporarily put aside Christian teachings, and evaluate the question purely from an OT perspective. The question (and answer) would be equally valid on Judaism. Nov 10, 2011 at 17:18
  • 2
    Having to pay dad means it's prohibited. Yes the penalty is not jail because jail is not invented yet. Having a penalty means it's prohibited. Not because it doesn't carry death penalty means it's okay. It's like you can't cross red light. It is prohibited. So, just pay the fine? Well the fine for raping hot babes can be huge and you can be slave because of it. I am not sure how huge the fine is though.
    – user4951
    Nov 22, 2011 at 3:34

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