A Biblical Response To The Abused Wife

If a woman who honors God and wants to do what the bible says, finds herself in an abusive marriage where she is beaten by her husband; where in the bible does it allow for her to leave that marriage? 

When wives are abused, they eventually come to the point where they must decide whether to remain in their marriage or not.  Remaining in an abusive environment could put their lives at risk.  If there are children present, it could harm them for life.  A Christian woman is faced with those who tell her she is disobeying God by ending the marriage regardless of abuse.  Others say to get out of the marriage.  She is confused and does want to do what the Lord says.  Where does she start?  How does she find the conclusion of the matter?

God did not design marriage to be abusive.  Therefore, a marriage plagued with abuse can be considered a broken one.  Where the Scripture does not directly require an abused wife remain in an abusive marriage, it also does not require an abused wife to remain the victim of abuse.  Marriage was not designed to be broken by abuse. 

Abuse and violence[1] breaks the marriage covenant.  The Lord described the man’s companion as his wife by covenant and warned him not to deal treacherously with her.[2]  The Hebrew word bagad, translated as treacherously, denotes unfaithfulness.  In this case—The Marriage covenant. Conversely, when the man is faithful to the covenant, (Love, honor, cherish and protect. In sickness and in health…) he fulfills his covenant to his wife.  This includes provision the wife’s physical needs, protection of her reputation, and protection from abuse. 

Scripture condemns abuse and neglect in all of its forms.  God dislikes and condemns violent behavior, which is an evidence of sin that brings God’s judgment.  Because of violence, God destroyed the earth.[3]  The Lord’s soul hates “the one who loves violence”.[4]  Wickedness stirred up God’ anger;[5] in His pronouncement of punishment for wickedness, He declared that “violence has grown into a rod of wickedness”.[6]  Proverbs characterized the violent as wicked[7] and treacherous (the Hebrew word bagad, meaning unfaithful, as noted above).[8]

Abuse perverts the image of God.  Instead of nurturing, sustaining, and enhancing a wife’s God‑given craving for love and affection, physical abuse distorts God’s image of a good marriage.  Thus, a man who neglects to provide for the needs of his household (Including his wife) is described as one who has “denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel”.[9] 

God’s response to abuse is reflected in His strong statement in Malachi 2:16 that He hates “him who covers his garment with wrong.”  In conclusion, domestic violence is a prevalent and devastating reality that the body of Christ, in general, and Christian counselors, in particular, must address.  Scripture makes it clear that God’s original design for marriage was a permanent union between husband and wife.  Within the context of this covenantal relationship, a husband has the opportunity to lovingly provide for his wife’s physical needs, protect her reputation, and protect her from abuse.  When he fails to do that and instead neglects and abuses her, he breaks the marriage covenant.  Even though God hates divorce because of the pain it causes, He is compassionate toward victims of abuse and permits a certificate of divorce.  God’s compassion compels the body of Christ to also respond compassionately to the needs that are created as a consequence of abuse.  In doing so, broken victims of abuse are given the opportunity to heal and rebuild their lives.

Scripture confirms that God responds in compassion to the oppressed.  God is a rock, refuge, shield, horn of salvation, and savior who saved David from violence (2 Samuel 22:3).   God delivered David from his strong enemy and those who hated him and were too mighty for him and rescued him from the violent man (Psalm 18:17, 48).   Solomon declared that God crushes the oppressor, delivers the needy when they cry for help, and rescues their lives from oppression and violence (Psalm 72:4, 12-14).   God sets free those who are doomed to death (Psalm 102:20).  God executes justice for the oppressed and sets prisoners free (Psalm 146:7). God loosens the bonds of wickedness, undoes and breaks every yoke, and lets the oppressed go free (Isaiah 58:6).

If God is so compassionate toward the oppressed, why does He hate divorce (Malachi 2:16)?  In other words, why would He hate the very thing that would liberate an abused woman from her oppressor?  “He knows from personal experience how much pain results from it”.  God’s criticism is not against the legal process or a person who divorces; otherwise, He would have to criticize Himself for divorcing Israel.  God hates the treachery or faithlessness of breaking the marriage covenant. 

God did not quickly divorce His covenant partners.  In fact, it was only after God’s repeated, faithful attempts to call faithless Israel to repent that He gave “her a writ of divorce” (Jeremiah 3:8).[10]  God modeled a compassionate invitation to repentance:  “Return, faithless Israel…I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious…I will not be angry forever.  Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God” (Jeremiah 3:12-13).  God followed His invitation with the blessings that He was willing to provide:  “Shepherds after [His] own heart, who will feed [them] on knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15) and “a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of the nations!” (Jeremiah 3:19).

[1] Malachi 2:16…… 16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: For one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: Therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

[2] Malachi 2:14–15…… 14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, Against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: Yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

[3] Genesis 6:11–13…… 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

[4] Psalm 11:5…… 5 The Lord trieth the righteous: But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

[5] Ezekiel 7:3…… 3 Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations.

[6] Ezekiel 7:11…… 11 Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them.

[7] Proverbs 4:14–17…… 14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, And go not in the way of evil men. 15 Avoid it, pass not by it, Turn from it, and pass away. 16 For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; And their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness, And drink the wine of violence.

[8] Proverbs 13:2…… 2 A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: But the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.

[9] 1 Timothy 5:8…… 8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

[10] Jeremiah 3:8…… 8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

Leave a Reply