God’s Laws Concerning Wife Abuse and Divorce

Before introducing you to one of the best ‘papers’ on abuse that I’ve ever read, I want to introduce to you what is going on here. In the bible world, scholars, theologians, linguists, and other people pool their knowledge into a paper. The content must always be bible based. No one accepts authorship for this ‘public domain’ content.

God’s Law is Unfailing

God’s Law is Unflawed

God’s Law is Eternal

This article is based ‘directly’ and unfailingly on God’s law. The laws in this paper are more than 2000 years old and, have guided the Jewish nation. Unlike Christian laws regarding divorce that have changed dramatically at least 3 times since Christ.

The church would like to convince everyone that there is a rendering in God’s house. That when Jesus came we must choose between following Jesus’s law, or God’s law. However, Jesus never came to say that God’s laws were not relevant anymore. Instead, he came to complete the law.  He did not come to end the law. He came to create a new covenant with his people.

[Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.]

Keep this in mind when you read the following. In Romans we study that the ‘law could not’ offer men salvation. For that, Jesus brought Grace and by grace we are saved.

However – if your pastor or your friends are forcing the law on you – then it is in your full right to abide by the word of the law as your defense. For Jesus is your lawyer. He stands before God, and his love  will set you free.

No man has the right to accept the Freedom that Jesus brought – while at the same time forcing others to live under the letter of the law.


Printed with permission from: http://www.angelfire.com/nj4/question12b/

_P.S. If you copy these pages to a server make sure you place your own e-mail address on the pages so people will know whom to write if they have any questions (you can also leave my e-mail address on them if you wish (i.e. StevenMRyan@cs.com), but as of now I don’t have the time to answer everyone’s questions so I think your e-mail address would be a better idea).


Slavery: Conditions for Release

A Slave

“… if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases…” 1 Corinthians 7:15

“You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.” Deuteronomy 32:15

Please Note: As you read on in the Unbelievers & Covenants section you will see that when I mention the word “Slavery” I am referring to the institution the Hebrews had in relation to the Gentiles (i.e. how they may have treated Gentile prisoners of war etc. within their own borders). The word “slavery” cannot be used in the sense of another institution and that is the institution of a “Bondservant or Hireling.” In other words how the Hebrews may have treated their own people (i.e. Hebrews) who voluntarily became a bondservant due to insolvency.

The bible is quite clear that the indebted service a countryman offers (i.e. “Bondservant or Hireling.”) is not the same kind of service as a Slave offers.

“And if a countryman (i.e. Jew) of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to slave service. He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner with you, until the year of jubilee. He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. For they are My servants whom I brought out from Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. (Leviticus 25:39-42)

In other words God’s people were not to be called (Or Treated) slaves, so – if you move the illustration of this type of relationship – to another type of relationship (i.e. marriage between believers vs. marriage between believers and unbelievers) you will find that the only relationship that the “slave clause” is applicable too is the relationship between an unbeliever married to a believer, since believers were to be treated like a bondservant or hireling, NOT a slave.

To put it another way… you cannot ever “slave clause” believers for they are never – according to Leviticus 25:39-42) – to be in that kind of relationship (with a brother) to begin with. You cannot say “Well, my believing spouse violated the foundation of our marriage covenant therefore I will divorce her” under the “slave clause” act that Paul uses, for the reason you cannot say that is that they were never slaves to begin with.


It’s true that they (i.e. Hebrew servants) could be released, but that was the nature of their relationship from the start. They were expected to be released after – at the most – 7 years service (Exodus 21:2). Also in the year of jubilee. They could also buy themselves out of the relationship. It was never a permantent relationship – such as marriage (as people may try to make the slave clause apply here) until the Hebrew servant made it that way, and that is through a covenant where they had their ear pierced with an awl to a door (Ex 21:7; Deut 15:16 ff ), THEN and only then did the Hebrew (i.e. read believer here) relationship became a permanent one (like a marriage between believers). It was a voluntarily entered into relationship that was based on love. That was it. The hireling became a permanent servant (like believers are to be in a marriage to each other), AND EVEN THEN the servant was never to be considered a slave (i.e. treated harshly). It was a love type of relationship.

but again, you cannot ever “slave clause” believers (like Paul does in 1 Corinthians 7 to unbelievers) for they are never – according to Leviticus 25:39-42) – to be in that kind of relationship (with a brother) to begin with.

(See Jerimiah’s gripe basically they were treating God’s people like gentile slaves. They – the Hebrews – were not to put them – other Hebrews – under a slave covenant. Jeremiah 34:8-22)

If you look at 1 Corinthians 7 you will see that believers relationship (1 Corinthians 7:10,11) are contrasted with unbelievers relationships (1 Corinthians 7:15) and the believers relationship – while they may separate – are never to join up with another partner in a relationship while their first partner is still alive. However the believer – if the unbelieving spouse leaves according to Paul the believing spouse can remarry because the desertion of the covenant by the unbeliever (read ‘slave’ here) who THEMSELVES broke the bounds. Read the below verse in Exodus to see where Paul most likely gets the idea that desertion / neglect (two slightly different things, yet similar in their effect) breaks the bonds of a relationship.

“If she (i.e. a slave) is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself (i.e. a concubine or marriage type of relationship), the he shall not let her be redeemed. He does not have the authority to sell her because of his unfairness to her. And if he designates her (i.e. not the same slave he married but the slave before he married her) for his son (i.e. also a concubine or marriage type of relationship) he (i.e. the father) shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters (i.e. she is his daughter-in- law). If he (the son) takes to himself another woman (i.e. the bigamy of the old testament) he may not reduce her food, her clothing or her conjugal rights. And if he will not do these three things, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money” (Exodus 21:8-11

Paul most likely gets his argument in 1 Corinthians 7:15 from these verses (i.e. he mentions the word “bondage” in 7:15 which applies to slavery – and thus indirectly brings in the topic of the slavery release clause of Exodus 21:8-11. See 1 Corinthians 7:15 in the Greek [Click Here and scroll down].

The slave (according to Exodus 21:8-11) has the right to leave and dissolve the relationship in certain cases (i.e. in the above case – desertion or neglect). Again this is MOST LIKELY where he’s coming from in 7:15. In other words…

if you are a believing woman married to an unbeliever your relationship is very much like the slave-believer relationship mentioned in the above verses. You are bound – like a slave (according to the Greek) – to a relationship that in essence is not foundationally legal (read Unbelievers and Covenants for a more full explanation [Click Here] ).

You are not in a Hebrew (believing) / Hebrew (believing) relationship which equals servant or hireling treatment, but you are in a Hebrew (believing) / Non- Hebrew (i.e. slave) relationship which is a “permanent” (see below) type of a thing. You are a slave.

Therefore if your unbelieving spouse does not provide for you the basic 3 necessities of a marriage covenant (food, clothing and sexual relations, i.e. he deserts / neglects you) then you are allowed to break your marriage covenant and leave the relationship permanently, for the nature of your relationship was – from the beginning – foundationally illegal (read Unbelievers and Covenants). Again you were in a “slave relationship” therefore the “slave clause exemption” in Exodus can be used here. This is where Paul is coming from. (See also the relationship between a Hebrew (believer) and a non-Hebrew / non-slave in Leviticus 25:47-55 where even that was to be treated like the non-permanent relationship (vs. 53) A family member could end that relationship through the payment of money, it was not to be considered a permanent type of relationship. It could be broken

What I am going to attempt to do here is explore the different reasons why believers can leave unbelievers (and remarry if they choose). Again this cannot be used for a believer / believer covenant. Paul would have a heart attack if Christian people came up to him and said they were getting married to a spouse that was divorced from their 1st Christian spouse. That person would be sending Paul to an early grave.

Biblical reasons

for the ending of an

Unbelieving / Believers Marriage

Again, a point of reminder… Slaves could “move up” and become spouses (Ex 21:9-11), and they would be a “permanent” slave (spouse) Leviticus 25:44-46


There was…


If – after taking a slave as a wife (a big “object lesson” of Ex 21:9-11) – One does not provide…

1) Food

2) Clothing (i.e.provisions)

3) Sexual relations

if a “bread-winning” spouse does not provide for all these three things together (not talking about not providing for just 1 or 2, but all 3). Then the slave (i.e. spouse) shall go free (Ex 21:11). This kind of treatment is tantamount to desertion [see below] (even the law of most lands recognizes the neglect of these things as legitimate grounds for divorce). Men must work, (but women have roles too),

Another different, yet related ground for divorce

Real Desertion

“… if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases…” 1 Corinthians 7:15


Now the king (Solomon) sent and called for Shimei (a subject or servant if you will of Solomon) and said to him, “Build for yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, and do not go out from there to any place. For it will happen on the day you go out and cross over the brook Kidron, you will know for certain that you shall surely die, your blood shall be on your own head.” Shimei the said to the king, “The word is good. As my lord the king has said you SERVANT will do (i.e. a covenant).’ So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days. But it came about at the end of three years, that two of the SERVANTS of Shimei ran away… Then Shimei arose and saddled his donkey and went (outside Jerusalem BOARDERS)… to look for his SERVANTS (of all things)… and Shimei went and (got) his servants from Gath. (about 30 miles outside Jerusalem, compare this act with the verse “You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.” Deuteronomy 32:15) And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath (i.e. violated the covenant by leaving) AND had returned, So the king said and called for Shimei and said to him, “Did I not make you swear (i.e. a part of a covenant) by the Lord and solemnly warn you, saying, you shall ‘You will know for certain that on the day you depart and go anywhere, you shall surely die? And you said (i.e. agreed to the covenant) to me, ‘ The word which I heard is good.’ Why then have you not kept the oath of the Lord, and the command which I have laid on you…So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out and fell upon him so he died.”(1 Kings 2:36ff)

Shimei not only violated his personal covenant with the King, but also violated the Old Testament covenant concerning the return of escaped slaves. Therefore he died. This “doubled” story I feel is given to us to make a point, and that is that there are boundaries to certain kinds of relationships and when those boundaries are crossed (i.e. an unbeliever leaves), that’s it. There is no going after the “leavers” and there is no going back by the “leavers” either. Shimei probably really didn’t believe the covenant that he made with the King or he just didn’t care for otherwise he would not have crossed over the Kidron (unless he thought he could “get away” with something). Therefore – because of his actions – he is a typed as an unfaithful unbeliever in regards to violating the boundaries of a covenant. His word meant nothing.

A Rather Different ground for Divorce

Wife Abuse – Spousal Abuse – Child Abuse

The Physical Abuse Exemption

Not the Mental Abuse Exemption

“And if a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth” (Exodus 21:26,27)

I wonder about how far to take the reasons for “slave dismissal” here in relationship to ending a marriage covenant with an unbeliever. Paul never mentions physical abuse, (and the “physical abuse” I am talking about – that is mentioned in the old testament – is the kind that leads to permanent scaring (i.e. the destruction of the body), not just a shove or a scratch). Brethren, you can always leave a physically abusive relationship (in fact you can leave any relationship), and in reference to some you can remarry, but in regards to the believer / unbeliever marriage, for the believer their marriage – according to what Paul says – is binding as long as the unbeliever chooses to stay (that is the simple AND CORRECT way of taking 1 Corinthians 7. i.e. Binding if they stay, not binding if they leave).

In regard to the “physical abuse exemption” (i.e. since this is a multi-national site) let me say I am talking about maiming here (i.e. mutilating, disfiguring, marring, mangling, basically defacing a person), Not just “a hit” or a shove. I would say that…

1) according to what Paul actually says you cannot say that he says it’s OK to leave an abusive spouse (in the sense of remarriage)

2) but you can, according to his thinking (i.e. where Paul gets his “slave clause” thinking from) leave an unbeliever who is physically abusive and remarry, and be in alignment with his thoughts on the subject (even though the unbeliever has not left). Doing so IS in line with his thinking – as long as it meets the criteria of Exodus 21:26,27.

I do not feel the Spirit of God saying to me NO in these kind of cases, so pray, and if you feel from the Lord to leave an abusive unsaved spouse and remarry (see the above definition of abuse)… go right ahead, you’re on good scriptural grounds to do so.

If you have been disfigured by an unbeliever (again see above definition eg. ‘He punched me in the side of the face and broke my cheek bone / jaw’) you can, according to where Paul gets his thinking from, leave the unbeliever (since he has – defacto – left you, and may in fact be trying to kill you) and you can remarry – if you choose – and NOT be in a state of sin.

In other words if one (i.e. a slave of old) can leave for neglect (desertion) and physical abuse, and Paul taps into PART of this argument in relation to the believer/unbeliever marriage, then one should be able to extend his logic from not only allowing divorce on the account of desertion, but also abuse. It’s not a “far-fetched” exception at all, in fact it’s perfectly logical and in line with the Spirit who wrote the Old Testament.

“…every man learned in the sacred scriptures (i.e. remember they only had the Old testament when Jesus said this) who has accepted the precepts and instruction with reference to the kingdom of heaven (i.e. has accepted New Testament teachings) is like a man who is a master of a house, who is of such a character that he dispenses with hearty enjoyment out of his treasure-house, things new as to quality (i.e. both New Testament teachings) and also things mellowed with age by reason of use.” (i.e. applicable – still relevant – Old Testament teachings) Matthew 13:52 Wuest

This is where Paul – as a man who is learned in the sacred scriptures – is coming from with his New Testament “slave clause” exemption. He does – in fact – get that teaching from the Old Testament.

Brethren you have a right to live and bring eternal fruit before the Lord.

You also might want to take a look at 1 Peter 2:20 if reference to non-physically abusive, yet harsh treatment, (again since this is a multi-cultural site), and that verse probably should be factored into everything that does not fit into the physicality abusive definition above (in other words don’t provoke stuff. Read 1 Peter 2:18,19).

Also brethren remember, in the believer / non-believer relationship, the believer is often cast in the position of a servant (see 1 Peter 3 and many other scriptures e.g.. Paul becomes all things to all men etc.). Therefore in a marriage – if lets say the “submissive” spouse (read servant or slave here) if the submissive spouse of 1 Peter 3:1 is physically (not mentally) abused (in a major way) by the unsaved spouse of the same verse, because she is in the position of a servant (or “slave clause relationship” here according to Paul and other Old Teatament scriptures), she may leave him, get remarried and still be in alignment with Paul’s thinking on the subject (again see the reasoning behind Pauls “neglect exemption” above)

And remember, however far you want to take that illustration of Peter’s comparison between a suffering “servant” (i.e. slave ) in 1 Peter 2:18-24 (btw he does talk about wives in 1 Peter 3:1-7), but however far you want to take that illustration between Peter’s suffering “servant” and THE suffering servant (Jesus), remember with Jesus ‘not a bone of Him was broken’ (verse) therefore for someone to say that a person should stay in an abusive relationship that is so physical that bones are broken is to go beyond the verses in 1st Peter for to hold that particular view goes beyond the suffering of Jesus. There was a limit to what Jesus suffered. There was a limit to what God would allow (i.e. tolerate, stand for) that God would allow Him to suffer too. He lost no eye, and he had no broken bones (as in a loss of a tooth). [Read “slave clause exemption” here].

Therefore don’t tell someone to stay in such a relationship (where bones are broken) for if they leave they would not be following Jesus example. Jesus never suffered like that.

Therefore, according to this teaching as well as the slave clause exemption they have excellent grounds to leave and get remarried if they choose.

Again, however far you want to take that illustration between Peter’s suffering “servant” and THE suffering servant (Jesus), remember with Jesus ‘not a bone of Him was broken’ (verse i.e. no broken jaw etc.)

Again, the thing about applying this in a believer / believer kind of marriage really is not the same because of the duel binding oaths (neither one can be released i.e. according to Paul, Jesus’s words apply to the believer’s marriage. Compare 1 Corinthians 7:10,11, with the verses of Mark 10: 11, 12 and Luke 16:18). However an abused spouse in a believer / believer marriage can always leave that kind of relationship (1 Corinthians 7:11) as long as they don’t remarry. (and I might recomend that they do just that).

Again, the thing about believers marriages is that there is a presupposing that there is a God, who can help, and will help believers reconcile problems between other believers. And that can be done directly, or through the church. Believers are to be a light to the world, therefore, if a believer finds themselves in a physically abusive relationship – it is possible that the abusive believer is not saved, but it is more likely that he may be backslidden and in need of help. Again, (and I can’t point this out enough) the abused spouse can leave the believer / believer relationship (1 Cor 7:10,11) but they may not – because of the presupposing that there is a God who will help reconcile problems with His children – they may not remarry (1 Cor 7:10,11). (Also see the Willful Sin section of this site [CLICK HERE] on how to deal – in the sense of discipline – against those Christians who sin against a Christian. i.e. “The 5 Steps”).

Remember brethren we are all God’s creation (believers & unbelievers), but not all are His children. He treats His children differently (Hebrews 12:5-11) and does expect more of them. They are not to leave and divorce one another AND REMARRY like the heathen. They are lights to the world (lights of forgiveness and reconciliation). Therefore He holds them to a higher standard.

And Yes, some men get abused too.


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