Deuteronomy 21:10-14: The Beautiful Captive Woman
Elman, Pearl, Women in Judaism
The biblical text of Deuteronomy 21:10-14 deals with the treatment of sexually desirable non-Jewish women who are captured in war. It addresses the sexual privileges of the captors, as well as the legal rights and the process of the socialization into Israelite society of the captives. In light of recent events in Bosnia, the system of behaviours this section of Deuteronomy posits is particularly germane.
This paper will explore some of the attitudes and laws relating to the captive woman which developed in the post-biblical literature, tracing the way in which particular issues are addressed through the various levels of commentary--the Midrashei Halakhah (Sifrei Deuteronomy, Midrash Tannaim, Midrash Hagadol),  the Talmudim,  and various Targums, commentators and midrashic compilations such as Rashi, Leqah Tov, Toldot Adam, Rabbenu Hillel, Maimonides (Rambam), Nahmanides (Ramban), Yalqut Shimoni and Torah Tmimah.  The tapestry of commentaries is numerous, rich and varied; it is beyond the scope of this paper to consider more than a small number of them.
I shall examine in particular the following issues:
1. The nature of the sexual act contempated by Deut. 21: 10-14.
2. The type of war in which it is permissible to take captives.
3a. The possible reasons for and effect of biblical permission to marry a captive woman.
3b. The attitude of the post-biblical sages to this permission.
4. When intercourse may take place.
5. The biblical rituals, their later development by the sages, and the attitude of the sages to these rituals.
6. Was the conversion of the captive woman mandatory or optional, Noahide or Israelite?
7. The rules regulating the release of the captive woman.
8. Can Deuteronomy 21:10-14 be understood as anti-rape legislation?.
1. What is the Nature of the Sexual Act Contemplated in Deut. 21:10-14?
Deut. 21:10-14 provides as follows:
When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive, And you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her, and take her for a wife--Then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and do her nails, And she shall remove the garment of her captivity from her, and remain in your house and weep for her father and mother a for month, and after that you may approach her and have intercourse with her, and she shall be your wife. And if you do not want her, you shall send her out on her own; you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not treat her as a slave, because you "violated" her.
We shall focus on the expression "violated her," 'initah in Hebrew, from the root 'anah. It is in the translation of this word that an attitudinal difference between the Targumim becomes apparent. In 2 Samuel 13;11-14, the story of Amnon and Tamar, the root 'anah is used twice: "do not violate me," and then "he overpowered her, he violated her, and he lay with her." If we understand "and he lay with her" to mean "and he had intercourse with her," we may understand from the juxtaposition of the two concepts that 'anah can be considered sexual violence. That is, in this instance the use of 'anah together with "had intercourse" seems to imply actual rape.
This seems to be the case as well in Gen.34:2, the story of Dinah and Shechem. There the text says: "He [Shechem] took her, and he lay with [had intercourse] with her and he violated her [vaye'anehah]." 'Anah alone would not mean necessarily rape, but simply sexual violence of some sort. Rape is again implied here by the use of 'anah and "had intercourse" together.
The idea of rape may also be expressed with other terminology. In Deuteronomy 22:25, 28 we find the verb "had intercourse" used with the verbs "took hold of," "grabbed", to imply the idea of forced intercourse i. …