The Old Testament is sexist in a way that is inconsistent with my belief in fairness, without regard to gender. There are too many cases to cite; you can randomly open the Book to any page to find examples. Deuteronomy, as well as other books, contains various laws pertaining to sexual purity and rape. Of course, the laws regarding sexual purity apply only to women, and not to men.
Sexual Purity of Women
Deuteronomy 22 considers the situation where a young man no longer wants a woman he has married, and claims that she was not a virgin at the time of the wedding:
20 “But if the charge is true and there is no proof that she was a virgin, 21 then they are to take her out to the entrance of her father's house, where the men of her city are to stone her to death. She has done a shameful thing among our people by having intercourse before she was married, while she was still living in her father's house. In this way you will get rid of this evil.
Rape and Ownership of Women
There are also laws concerning rape in Deuteronomy 22. The penalties for rape vary according to the status of a woman. If a woman is engaged to another man, the penalty is much more severe – death. Presumably, the harsher penalty is not because the woman was violated, but rather because her fiancé was violated by the attack. If a woman who is not engaged is raped, the penalty is fifty pieces of silver, to be paid to the father of the woman. The woman is given to her rapist to be his wife.
25 Suppose a man out in the countryside rapes a young woman who is engaged to someone else. Then only the man is to be put to death; 26 nothing is to be done to the woman, because she has not committed a sin worthy of death.…27 The man raped the engaged woman in the countryside, and although she cried for help, there was no one to help her.
28 Suppose a man is caught raping a young woman who is not engaged. 29 He is to pay her father the bride price of fifty pieces of silver, and she is to become his wife, because he forced her to have intercourse with him. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
The sense of these passages is that a woman is chattel, property with no more rights than a slave or an animal. If she is violated by rape, the only concern of the Bible is how her owner – her father, her fiancé or husband – has suffered by the damage to his possession.
Women Captives by War
10 “When you go to attack a city, first give its people a chance to surrender. 11 If they open the gates and surrender, they are all to become your slaves and do forced labor for you. 12 But if the people of that city will not surrender, but choose to fight, surround it with your army. 13 Then, when the Lord your God lets you capture the city, kill every man in it. 14 You may, however, take for yourselves the women, the children, the livestock, and everything else in the city. You may use everything that belongs to your enemies. The Lord has given it to you. 15 That is how you are to deal with those cities that are far away from the land you will settle in.
The treatment of women who are captured in war is different than the treatment of men. Men are to be enslaved, if the city submits, or killed. Women, are to be taken, and used, like everything else that belonged to the enemy. This underscores the idea that in biblical tradition, women are possessions of men.
10 “When the Lord your God gives you victory in battle and you take prisoners, 11 you may see among them a beautiful woman that you like and want to marry. 12 Take her to your home, where she will shave her head, cut her fingernails, 13 and change her clothes. She is to stay in your home and mourn for her parents for a month; after that, you may marry her. 14 Later, if you no longer want her, you are to let her go free. Since you forced her to have intercourse with you, you cannot treat her as a slave and sell her.
A woman captive may be required to marry one of her captors. The same tradition exists today in extreme Islam, in ISIS or Boko Haram. The woman’s rights are still minimal, but a woman granted status as a wife cannot later be treated as a slave. If the husband no longer wants the captive wife, she is to be freed.
Ritual Poisoning of Women Suspected of Infidelity
In Numbers 5:1-30, if a husband believes his wife is unfaithful but has no proof, or has feelings of jealousy about his wife, she is to be ritually poisoned.
Numbers 5: 12 - 28
It may happen that a man becomes suspicious that his wife is unfaithful to him and has defiled herself by having intercourse with another man. But the husband may not be certain, for his wife may have kept it secret—there was no witness, and she was not caught in the act. Or it may happen that a husband becomes suspicious of his wife, even though she has not been unfaithful. 15 In either case the man shall take his wife to the priest. He shall also take the required offering of two pounds of barley flour, but he shall not pour any olive oil on it or put any incense on it, because it is an offering from a suspicious husband, made to bring the truth to light.
16 The priest shall bring the woman forward and have her stand in front of the altar. 17 He shall pour some holy water into a clay bowl and take some of the earth that is on the floor of the Tent of the Lord's presence and put it in the water to make it bitter. 18 Then he shall loosen the woman's hair and put the offering of flour in her hands. In his hands the priest shall hold the bowl containing the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall make the woman agree to this oath spoken by the priest: “If you have not committed adultery, you will not be harmed by the curse that this water brings. 20 But if you have committed adultery, 21 may the Lord make your name a curse among your people. May he cause your genital organs to shrink and your stomach to swell up. 22 May this water enter your stomach and cause it to swell up and your genital organs to shrink.”
The woman shall respond, “I agree; may the Lord do so.”
23 Then the priest shall write this curse down and wash the writing off into the bowl of bitter water. 24 Before he makes the woman drink the water, which may then cause her bitter pain, 25 the priest shall take the offering of flour out of the woman's hands, hold it out in dedication to the Lord, and present it on the altar. 26 Then he shall take a handful of it as a token offering and burn it on the altar. Finally, he shall make the woman drink the water. 27 If she has committed adultery, the water will cause bitter pain; her stomach will swell up and her genital organs will shrink. Her name will become a curse among her people. 28 But if she is innocent, she will not be harmed and will be able to bear children.
29-30 This is the law in cases where a man is jealous and becomes suspicious that his wife has committed adultery. The woman shall be made to stand in front of the altar, and the priest shall perform this ritual. 31 The husband shall be free of guilt, but the woman, if guilty, must suffer the consequences.
The poison will cause great suffering, and leave her unable to bear children. If she has been faithful, God will protect her and she will be unaffected by the poison. Would any reader volunteer for this test, deliberately taking poison, and trusting to God’s timely intervention?
Of course, there is no parallel trial by poison for men suspected of infidelity by their wives. The entire picture of sexual roles in the Old Testament is one of male privilege, and of women as powerless chattel, subject of cruel treatment for the mere suspicion of illicit sexual behavior.