Earlier today I came across this horrifying story about girls being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery (or as they call it “mass marriage”) to militant Islamist soldiers. It is truly heartbreaking to imagine, and even worse when you read through these tweets from those being affected.
When discussing this tragic news at my weekly atheist luncheon today, someone brought up that there is a Biblical precedent in the Book of Judges for religious soldiers stealing brides en masse:
21:16 And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left?
21:17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.
21:18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’
21:19 But look, there is the annual festival of the LORD in Shiloh, to the north of Bethel, and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and to the south of Lebonah.”
21:20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards
21:21 and watch. When the girls of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, then rush from the vineyards and each of you seize a wife from the girls of Shiloh and go to the land of Benjamin.
21:22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us a kindness by helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war, and you are innocent, since you did not give your daughters to them.’ ”
21:23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the girls were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.
21:24 At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.
21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
The authors of the Torah had the chance to make an unambiguous moral statement here, firmly against the practice of kidnapping child brides and treating young women as property. Somehow, it feels to me like they very badly missed the boat.