When the Battering Will Stop
HOW far back in history has wife abuse existed? One source cites what is thought to be the earliest written law, dated 2500 B.C.E., that permitted husbands to beat their wives.
In 1700 B.C.E., Hammurabi, the pagan king of Babylon, developed the famous Code of Hammurabi, which contained nearly 300 legal provisions whereby man was governed. The code officially decreed that a wife was to be in complete subjection to her husband, who had the legal right to inflict punishment on her for any transgression.
Coming forward to the time of the Roman Empire, the Roman Code of Paterfamilias held: “If you should take your wife in adultery, you may with impunity put her to death without a trial, but if you should commit adultery or indecency, she must not presume to lay a finger on you, nor does the law allow it.”
A marriage handbook written in the 15th century of our Common Era advised husbands who had seen their wives commit an offense “to first bully and terrify her,” then “take up a stick and beat her soundly.”
In England, 19th-century legislators tried to reduce the suffering of women by determining legally how large the stick could be. They devised what was known as the rule of thumb law, which allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick “no larger around than his thumb.”
Although in many countries today husbands are no longer protected by laws for wife beating, these historical traditions still persist in many parts of the earth. According to a CBS-TV news report, Brazil is a country where women are idolized by men. Paradoxically, however, they are also degraded, abused, beaten, and murdered without compunction. Such conduct is seen, the report continued, in all levels of society, including courts of law, where in “defending his honor,” a man can get away with murder, particularly if the victim is his wife. Said a reporter: “Many of the murderers are not backwoods primitives but professional, educated men.”
‘Defending one’s honor’ can be triggered by simply some minor infraction of the husband’s rule—not having the dinner prepared on time, going out alone, getting a job or a university degree, or failing to “agree with every kind of sexual intercourse that he is looking for.”
God’s Law and the Christian View
God’s law makes clear that husbands should “continue loving [their] wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation. . . . Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 29) This law supersedes all man’s laws, past and present.
Surely no Christian husband would argue that he still loves the wife he abuses. Would the wife abuser beat his own body—pull his hair and punch himself in the face and about his body because he truly loves himself? Does the wife beater freely tell others—outside family members, friends, other Christians—that from time to time he will beat his wife, inflict bodily harm on her, because he loves her so much? Or, rather, does he threaten his wife so that she will not tell anyone? Are the children sworn to secrecy by their father not to tell others about his abuse? Or are they ashamed to do so? Do not his actions belie his claim that he truly loves his wife? Love for each other is normal. Wife abuse is not.
Finally, if a Christian man batters his wife, does it not render all his other Christian works useless in God’s sight? Remember, “a smiter” does not qualify for privileges in the Christian congregation. (1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Ephesians 5:28) Reports indicate that husband beating by their wives is also prevalent in this system of things. Would not the same questions apply to such wives?
How vital it is for husbands and wives to manifest the fruitage of the spirit in their lives together now: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control”! (Galatians 5:22, 23) If we can produce these fruits now, the outlook is promising for our living in that Paradise earth where all will live together in peace and love without end.
[Picture on page 8]
Christian husbands ‘love their wives as their own bodies,’ which means “No Battering Allowed!”