August 22, 2008

More on slave wives and the question of divorce

One of my commentors has asked me to provide a verse explaining why a Christian wife may leave her husband for abuse. I provide the asked for background more for the sake of completeness than with the intention of changing anyone's mind. That said, the text is question is Ex 21:7-11.
7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her [1] for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

I'm sure that people quibble about this passage frequently, but the point that Jordan (and others) are making is that there are three things a husband must provide his wife -food, clothing, and love/intimacy. If he doesn't then a wife may request a divorce. Of course as with many Biblical teachings this is a case for discernment rather than hasty judgments. A husband who works hard to provide his wife with ground chuck and Craft Mac is a faithful husband. A husband who eats sirloin and Stilton while his wife eats ground chuck and Craft Mac seriously needs a visit from the church elders. Not being able to shop Sax 5th Ave isn't legitimate grounds for divorce. Shopping at thrift stores while your husband collects Lear jets....bring back the elders. I'm trying to make this clear because I don't want anyone to say that I support divorce because a wife is discontent with how her husband provides for her. I am saying that a selfish husband who makes his wife eat rotten leftovers to teach her not to waste his money that way and then turns around and buys a gallon of Bluebell for himself probably deserves whatever is coming. Another thing I want to point out is that the woman doesn't appear to be getting any alimony out of this. This presumably encourages several things in a Christian community namely A. the abuse is real and not merely discontentment, and B. the community approves her leaving and is willing to help her transition. If you back to Jordan's article you'll see he theorizes that this could hardly happen in the case of free women since they had a great deal of control over their own property and could (in essence) largely look out for themselves. One may also postulate that a woman of property likely also had family ties that would make physical abuse detrimental to the abuser. This would be the same as a wife today having a sizable bank account of her, possibly even her own house on the beach, and relatives/connections that would make life for an abusive husband very difficult.

I think the truth is that husbands (as well as wives) need accountability. They need to know that there's a point beyond which their wives don't have to put up with their shenanigans. Admittedly both need to understand just where that point is and how far from the reality of a loving (or even moderately exasperating) marriage it is, but they need to know it exists. I'll be very honest and say that one reason I trust Allen as a husband is because I trust his father and brothers. I know that Allen is a trustworthy, stalwart, and faithful husband. I also know that if I ever needed to I could go to Allen's family, and they would take care of us. Although I can't imagine ever needing to it's nice to know I could.

So. I hope that has helped settle any questions that may have come up from my previous post. If not I'm terribly sorry, and I hope you'll still pop back around occasionally.

1 comment:

dancinghobbit said...

Wow, thanks for that. I've never read that verse in connection with this topic--very interesting.

There is a lot that could be said about this (and a lot that I would have been tempted to say), but you kept it nice and succinct. So I won't add anything.

One of the examples you used rings a bell...hmm