The Bible is really a fascinating historical document. It has been the bestselling, most widely-translated book on the planet for hundreds of years. Statistically speaking, 31.5% of people on the planet attribute their sense of morality and ethics to this ancient book, making Christians the largest global religious group. It’s safe to say that the Bible is a pretty influential reference point for much of humanity.
Oh, and it’s also pretty clear on the matter of women being inferior to men.
Now, before you jump to angry conclusions about this feminist writer using the actual contents of the Bible to criticize the actual Bible, let me be clear: I know that the Bible isn’t meant to be taken literally in our modern day and age (unlike certain Biblical Literalists). But as a historical document whose influence has stretched into the present day, its relevance is undeniable. So I think we can all agree that a frank conversation about violent misogyny in the Bible is worthwhile.
This is why we have rounded up some passages from the Bible itself that advocate the killing of women for… reasons.
The Bible is a pretty bloody text in general. There are all kinds of reasons to kill anyone (being an atheist, following a different religion, hitting your dad, working on Sunday, etc.). Here we’ve focused only on the reasons why women in particular get singled out for murder in the Bible. We assume the fairer sex is also subject to all the other rules for justifiable murder as well.
We also omitted all the non-deadly punishments to keep this list to a manageable number (Which is why you won’t be seeing 1 Timothy 2:15, about how a woman who doesn’t bear children is probably going to hell).
- Adultery. “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death”. (Leviticus 20:10) So in other words: Women who commit adultery must die. But men who commit adultery with an unmarried woman are good to go.
- Having sex if your dad is a clergyman. “A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.” (Leviticus 21:9) Yes, burned to death. Because preachers’ daughters need to serve as an example to the rest of us dirty sluts… or something?
- Lying about your virginity. “But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.” (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) The real question is how the hell did ancient Israeli men determine if a girl was a virgin? Oh that’s right: by molesting her.
- Being a witch. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22:18) While the definition of “witch” in Biblical times is a bit murky, if the Salem Witch Trials are any indication, then this passage basically refers to any independent-minded woman who refuses to submit to a man.
- Being an enemy of Israel. “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16) There are tons of Bible passages that advocate mass genocide of the various enemies of Israel, and the women of those nations in particular. It was kind of hard to just pick one for this example.
- Having sex with your husband’s son. “If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:20) Since a man could marry multiple women at the same time, this is distinct from being put to death for having sex with your own son.
- Sharing a husband with your mother or daughter. “If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.” (Leviticus 20:14) Leviticus is oddly specific about all the different forms of incest and polygamy that will get you burned or stoned to death.
- Incest. “And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:12) Just to round out Leviticus’s obsession with various familial sexual intercourse.
- Bestiality. “And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:16) Because the animal clearly had a choice in the matter.
- Being psychic. “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:27) Whether or not you believe in psychics, I think we can all agree that fortunetellers and palm readers probably don’t deserve to die.
- Getting raped while engaged. “If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die.” (Deuteronomy 22:25) It’s cool though, because if you’re not engaged when you get raped, you just have to marry your rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28).
- Getting raped and not screaming loud enough. “If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 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 22:23-24) Get it? Because if you get raped in a city all you have to do is scream really loud and someone will come rescue you. If you don’t scream loud enough, that’s on you. If you’re raped in the country though, don’t worry: there’s no one around to hear you scream, so you can’t be blamed.
- Not being a virgin on your wedding night. “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her … and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate…. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:13-22)
- Having your husband hate you. Same passage (Deuteronomy 22:13-22). If your husband decides he doesn’t like you, all he has to do is claim you weren’t a virgin on your wedding night. Then you’re dead and he’s free to pick somebody new to darn his Bronze Age socks.
- Having sex while menstruating. “And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.” (Leviticus 20-18) Exile was basically a death sentence to the ancient Israelites, who depended on their cooperative desert communities for all aspects of food and shelter.
Did I miss any? Misinterpret a particular passage? Well shucks, nobody’s perfect (pretty sure that’s probably also against Biblical law). Tell us all about it in a comment below.