Biblical Perspectives On Domestic Violence: An Overview

The Bible has much to say about domestic violence and Godís concern for victims of domestic violence.  Here are a few of the important insights and advice it offers:  

  1. When David became a part of King Saulís household, he became a victim of domestic violence.  The account of David and King Saul in 1 Samuel 18-26 is a textbook on the classic dynamics of domestic violence relationships.  It also discusses safety planning, and leaving an abusive relationship.
  1. Psalm 55 is written by David, a victim of domestic violence while in King Saulís household, and provides a clear expression of the emotions felt by victims.
  1. The account of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 praises the actions taken by a victim of domestic violence to protect her family from their abuser.
  1. The Bible says that domestic violence is sin and wickedness and must be stopped (Malachi 2:13-16; 1 Peter 3:7; Ephesians 4:31; Matthew 5:21-22; Luke 12:45-46; Leviticus 25:17; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:1-5)
  1. The Bible is clear about marriage as a relationship of mutual support and concern (1 Peter 3:7; Ephesians 5:21-33; Ephesians 4:32; Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26). Each time the New Testament directs wives to submit to their husbands, it simultaneously commands husbands to love, protect, and honor their wives, and to not treat them harshly. 
  2. Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands "as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18 ), and in doing so, to fearlessly do what is right (1 Peter 3:1,5-6).  Because it calls domestic violence sin and wickedness, the Bible does not support submission to domestic violence. Submission is often confused with obedience, but in the Bible they are two separate words with different meanings.  In the Old Testament, Abigail is praised for saving her family from the actions of her abusive husband, even though this required her to disobey his commands. 
  1. Victims are encouraged to seek safety (Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12; 1 Samuel 20; Luke 4:28-29; Acts 9:23-25; Matthew 18:15-17)
  1. Perpetrators are directed to stop abusing and to be held accountable for their actions (Matthew 5:21-22; Ephesians 4:31; Matthew 18:15-17; Luke 17:3). 
  1. The Bible calls the husband the head of the home (1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23 ); this headship should be like Christís leadership of the church (Ephesians 5:23 ).  Christ taught and demonstrated that leaders should be servants, and not lord it over others (Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 22:25-26; John 13:14-15; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:21).  
  1. Some victims feel that they cannot not leave a violent marriage, no matter how dangerous it is, because they took marriage vows before God.  Though the Bible teaches that vows to God are a serious matter, the Old Testament law allowed vows to be annulled if they brought harm or bondage (Leviticus 27:1-25).  The Bible says that domestic violence violates the marriage covenant (Malachi 2:13 -14,16). 
  1. Christ taught his followers to rebuke and correct those who transgress against them, and provided a series of safety procedures for doing so (Matthew 18:15 -17; Luke 17:3).  He taught that reconciliation may not be possible where the transgressor refuses to stop violating (Matthew 18:17).  Repentance must be accompanied by righteous actions (Luke 3:3,8-14).
Copyright 2005   Judy Kennedy