Women abuse does not seem to be mentioned in Biblical Law - which is where God defines criminal behaviour among other things. Why is this? Some have falsely concluded that either Jesus does not care or else He has given husbands so much control over their wives that domestic abuses are not criminal offences. Actually, when Biblical principles are correctly understood, the Bible does criminalize women abuse.
Before we look at domestic abuse, let’s see how Jesus designed and intended the husband/wife relationship to work.
…But for Adam no suitable helper was found…Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man…That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Gen. 2:20-24, NIV [Jesus refers to this in Matt. 19:5 and Mark 10:7 and Paul makes the same reference in Eph. 5:31.]
While we are not going into detail on the role of a wife here, it is apparent that husband and wife are to be partners, each with different roles and responsibilities, but working together as a single unit.
One purpose of sex is to be a physical expression of a mental and spiritual unity in an exclusive covenant relationship.
One of the roles of the husband is to look after and protect his wife from all harm. We also see that the wife is to be the husband’s top relational priority. Even his father and mother have no right to come between them and should they try, he must stand with his wife.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. [1 Peter 3:7, NIV]
This is not a condescending or controlling action. Both husband and wife have different strengths and abilities. Peter condemns all domestic abuse by commanding husbands to be considerate and respectful realizing that, generally speaking, men are stronger physically than women.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… [Eph. 5:25, NIV]
Paul reveals God’s heavy responsibility on men by stating that they are to love their wives like Christ loved the Church even, if necessary, sacrificing their own lives to protect their wives. Women abuse is the perverse Satanic opposite of God’s design where the protector betrays his spouse and becomes an attacker.
A misunderstanding on the Biblical teaching on this subject has led to the husband’s authority being used as an excuse for women abuse or for keeping women in an abusive situation.
By examining the above verses it should be clear that the husband/wife relationship is an intimate partnership in life before God. Like the President and Vice-President of a nation are to work together for the good of the nation, a husband and wife are to work together for the good of their family. They discuss and reach decisions together. If after trying to work out a solution they are at an impasse, someone has to have the authority to make the final decision… and take the responsibility. God has decreed that that person is the husband. No matter how much she may disagree with the decision, the wife should feel that her husband is trying to make the best decision possible for her and their family, and not from selfish motives.
Note: This is written on the assumption that the women is the victim. In the cases of husband abuse, much of what is said is also true. Domestic abuse statistics are tragic and reveal the abandonment of true Christianity in our societies.
We know that women abuse, control and manipulation are not Jesus’ design or desire for marriage; but why is there no specific criminal laws given in Scripture to punish those who abuse women?
If you have read my articles on Biblical Law or taken the Master Life course, you are familiar with the concepts of Minimum Law and Case Law. God, in laying down His legal code and requirements, used these two methods so that everything we need could be found in the Bible [which can be held in one hand instead of humanistic law which requires volumes that would fill a room plus]. Minimum Law shows how far a law is applied and anything preceding that point is automatically included. Case Law gives us specific examples of how a law works and as we understand the principle of the example, we can then apply the law in different cases.
So how does this relate to women abuse cases?
If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. Debt. 22:13-19, NIV
This appears to be an out-dated law on a totally different subject - not physical women abuse…but look at it closer keeping in mind both Minimum Law and Case Law.
What do we see here? A husband has slandered - verbally assaulted - his wife and sought to harm her reputation. Assuming the wife was innocent, what was his penalty? 100 shekels of silver plus he [not her] lost the right to divorce.
A fine of one hundred shekels of silver would have financially destroyed most men. So the law gives the wife a strong protection against abuse. The money was paid to the wife’s father who was to look after it on her behalf. If it were paid directly to the wife, it is likely the husband could manipulate control over it. It was taken forever out of his grasp. In today’s society it might involve setting up a trust fund from which he could in no way benefit.
Now, since this is a Minimum Case Law, we know that for a husband to physically assault his wife would be a far greater crime with a far greater penalty. How much greater? The judges of the case would have to decide depending on the severity of the domestic abuses [Deut. 25:1]. It would certainly bankrupt the man and could go as far as capital punishment. Certainly, considering that repeat criminal offenders were to be executed [Deut. 21:15-21], a second offence would result in capital punishment.
As noted above, the husband - no matter what his wife might do in the future - lost all right of divorce. The wife still had the right of divorce if it was justified.
As I hope you can see, although the Bible does not specially mention women abuse, it provides a wife with strong legal protection against any abuse - verbal, emotional, physical - she might suffer from her husband.
By the way, Biblical Law has no provision for those who act violently under the influence of drugs, alcohol, etc. A person is at all times 100% responsible for their actions - the only possible exception would be if a person was forcibly or unknowingly drugged, in which case the responsibility would fall on those involved.
Knowing these Biblical principles should be an encouragement to abused women in that they realize that Jesus DOES care and He never intended them to be left hurt and helpless at the hands of violent men.
Since our societies today have abandoned - or never had - Biblical Law, what should abused women do now?
1. You should realize that Jesus loves and cares for you.
2. You should realize that, no matter what the abuser may say, you are not responsible for the abuse. That lies solely with the abuser.
3. In the vast majority of cases - Leave! Seek a women’s shelter or some other safe place and begin rebuilding your life [and the lives of your children if there are any]. Never look back. Never go back.
4. You have every Biblical right for a divorce, if you so desire.
5. Perhaps most difficult is learning to walk in forgiveness. Forgiveness helps your healing but it certainly does not mean going back or even have further contact with your husband if it is dangerous to do so.
6. If civil or criminal legal action is possible, get advice as to whether it is advisable in your specific situation.
For an interesting article on the relation of the family structure to the possibility of domestic violence click here.