Sexual Violence in History: A Bibliography

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First published: October 1, 2023 - Last updated: October 1, 2023


Speaker: Alphonso Groenewald

Title: What Is the Significance of the Rape of the Babylonian Women?

Subtitle: A Trauma and Resilience Reading of Isaiah 13:16

Conference: Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (November 18-21, 2023) - Online Program

Session: S19-340: The Book of Isaiah. Theme: Trauma, Resilience and the Book of Isaiah (Chair: Katie Heffelfinger)

Place: San Antonio, Texas, United States

Date: November 19, 2023

Language: English

Keywords: Ancient History: Babylonian History | Types: Rape; Representations: Religious Texts / Book of Isaiah


Link: -


Speaker: Alphonso Groenewald, Department of Old Testament Studies, University of Pretoria -

Abstract: »Isaiah 13:16 shocks the reader. This verse reads as follows: "And their babes shall be dashed to pieces in their sight, their homes shall be plundered, and their wives shall be raped." The oracle against Babylon begins in chapter 13 and continues in chapter 14. Isaiah 13 starts by describing how God collects a great army for the battle against Babylon and ends with a description of Babylon's utter desolation. After a brief section focusing on Israel's future, Isaiah 14 continues with a taunt song aimed at the fallen Babylonian king. When one reads Isaiah, one is reading some of the world's oldest surviving resistance literature. A trauma perspective helps the reader to look squarely at the violence that the Bible often advocates, though not comfortable, it becomes comprehensible as the reaction of a dominated people to their domination. Far more important than the violence in the text, was its intended effect, as it is "a restructuring of the world". The people were called upon to trust in themselves; and they sought to restructure worlds they viewed as fatally flawed so that they could again sustain life for their people. Since the people of the two Israelite kingdoms experienced other nations as threats to their existence, it is not surprising that they called upon their God to defend them from such threats. The rise of the neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian empires with their aggressive and expansionist policies that led to the end of firstly Israel and then Judah as national states. The oracles against the nations are an expression of ancient Israel's belief that God would never permit these nations to destroy Israel completely. While God has chosen to use these nations to bring judgment upon the Israelite kingdoms for their failure to maintain a just society, God will move against these nations for their failures as well. God's judgment of the nations will mean salvation for Israel. These texts express the hope of freedom and return to the land, but also the hope of a triumphant reversal of the role of oppressors and oppressed. Although the idea that captives may one day exercise control cause uneasiness, these words may have offered some comfort to those who suffered as it recognizes that fortunes can shift. Insights from Trauma Studies suggest that is these very features that transform this oracle into a work of resistance, recovery and resilience.« (Source: Online Program)

Wikipedia: Ancient history: Babylonia | Bible: Hebrew Bible / Book of Isaiah | Sex and the law: Rape / Rape in the Hebrew Bible