Wife Beating and Divorce

A good friend sent the following question.

“If a husband is beating his wife, does she have permission to divorce him?  And if she does, what does the Bible say about her re-marrying?”

My answer:

1. Yes! A husband who “beats” his wife is violating the covenant to be a companion (Malachi 2:14) as well as numerous other commands regarding the “one flesh” relationship. Read Ephesians 5:23-32. When Paul was asked whether or not a Christian should divorce an “unbelieving mate,” he said, “And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.” The opposite of that is also true. If he is “not willing” to live with her then she can “divorce” him. In my judgment a husband who “beats” his wife is one who is “not willing” to live with her in peace and God has called us to “peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). Most everyone agrees that she could “separate” and “get out of danger,” and, if that is case, she could surely make the separation permanent (divorce) if she had no hope of him changing. We all believe that they need to go to counseling and do all they can to make the marriage work, but sometimes that is not possible. A wife in that predicament is in a marriage that is already “put asunder” according to the Bible definition (one flesh/one family unit) and all she would be actually doing by “formally divorcing him” would simply be recognizing that fact and making it legal. Sometimes people violate the marriage covenant by “cheating,” but others violate the covenant by “beating.” Either way, God never designed marriage for abusive “mistreating.”

In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus said a husband is to “be joined” to his wife…but that does not give him the right to physically abuse her. When a “marriage” turns into a continual “boxing match” or a “beat down” that marriage is over in most cases…regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. And for anyone to believe and/or teach that Jesus demands for a wife to stay in that kind of abusive situation is absurd!

And if she does, what does the Bible say about her re-marrying?”

1. I believe that she can remarry. In 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 the Bible clearly teaches than anyone who is “loosed from” (divorced from) a mate “does not sin” by getting married. As far as I know it is not a sin for a person who is “divorced” to marry. It is a sin to “divorce a faithful mate” in order to marry someone else, or cause one to divorce in order to marry — which is what Jesus was dealing with in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:1-9. But if a wife is “loosed from” (divorced) from a husband because he violated the marriage covenant by “beating her” then I believe she has every right to marry someone else. A woman like this, who has obviously already suffered enough physical abuse, does not need to suffer more by being told that she must live the rest of her life in celibacy simply because she made a mistake and married a wife beater.

As you can tell, I am not part of the pro-divorce group who says that the remarried must divorce again. Some are, and they have to live with that, but not me! God bless!

Hope this helps! Let me know…if you need more info.


Special note: Here a section on my book (Just As I Am..) from page 76 & 77 about marital abuse.

One of the first things we learn about marriage from the Law of Moses is that marriage is not a license to mistreat and abuse a marriage partner.We are partners, not prisoners. We are companions, not captives. Even slaves who married their owners were not to be abused or mistreated in the marriage relationship. This is one of the first things that Moses taught concerning marriage immediately after recording the Ten Commandments:

If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money (Ex. 21:10-11).

4.  Observe that the husband was not to diminish or withhold or deprive (NIV) his wife (even if he took another wife) of three things. He could not starve her or fail to provide clothing (necessities of life) for her or deny her “marriage rights.” Marriage rights would include sexual companionship. If he failed to provide these three things she could go out free without paying money to be free.

Just because a person is married does not mean that they must put up with abuse. The idea of having to stay with a mate no matter how they treat you is not taught in the Old Testament or the New. We understand that marriage is for life—but not if it endangers your life. Surely God does not expect us to remain in wedlock with a mate who keeps us in a headlock. I know that some fathers and mothers would say, “If he beats my daughter, I will kill him.” But the obvious implication from this statement is that God would rather us kill him than for her to divorce him, which is surely not true.

Marriage was designed for mutual habitation, not for brutal intimidation. For one to teach that God demands a wife/husband to remain in an abusive marriage relationship is itself abusive. It is an indisputable fact that marriage is not an indissoluble act and never has been. Moses did not say it and Jesus did not teach it. Sometimes the only sensible and scriptural recourse is a quick and permanent divorce from an abusive partner.

Wayne Dunaway


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