A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Do not add an extra clause to the marriage covenant after it has been ratified

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. (Gal 3:15)

A man-made covenant is a formal agreement made between two parties. The parties can be individuals, corporations, cities, nation states, or rulers and their subjects,  Once the promises and terms of the covenant are set out, agreed upon and ratified by both parties, the covenant is sealed. No one adds to the terms once it has been ratified. The terms of the covenant cannot be changed without a new covenant being drawn up and ratified by both parties.

The marriage covenant involves promises. The exact wording of wedding vows may differ slightly from one wedding ceremony to another, but generally  both parties promise to love, cherish, support, protect, respect, and honour each other, and keep fidelity to the exclusion of all others.

But when a person finds that their spouse is exercising a pattern of coercive control, has a mentality of entitlement, and is resisting taking responsibility for their abusive ways, and the oppressed spouse starts to consider separation or divorce, what happens? The hue and cry breaks out: “You mustn’t abandon your marriage! You can’t break the marriage covenant!”

“Everyone knows,” says Paul,  “that you can’t modify a covenant once it’s been ratified.” Covenants don’t work that way. Crooks and shysters break covenants and cheat underhandedly, but people of integrity do not. Once the terms of a covenant are ratified it gives security and assurance to both parties and it cannot be altered at whim. 

When an abuse victim says “I’m leaving this marriage because my spouse is an anti-spouse, a monster in wedlock,” and folk say, “You can’t abandon your marriage covenant!” — they are adding to the covenant once it has been ratified. They are doing exactly what Paul says ought not to be done. And they are not even the parties to the covenant!

This is what they are really saying, even if they don’t realise it. They are saying:

The marriage covenant states that you cannot divorce your spouse even if they are breaking the promises they made about loving, cherishing, protecting, honouring and being honest and faithful. Even if your spouse has effectively annulled the covenant by breaking their vows, you are not free to divorce. You just can’t do it. Didn’t you know that when you signed up to the marriage covenant there was a no-escape clause for victims of abuse in the fine print? What? You say that clause wasn’t in the covenant when you signed it?  Well, we’ve got news for you! There is a new term in the marriage covenant, it says: If your spouse does the opposite of what he vowed to do — if he abuses and oppresses you — there’s no way you can leave. You’ve got to put up with ill treatment no matter what. And if your abuser fakes repentance you’ve got to believe he is truly repentant.   

You better accept this  If you don’t, the wrath of God will descend on you, the leaders will discipline you, and the congregation will slander and shun you.

But if you try to tell these people that they have actually added to the covenant once it was ratified, they skirt your logic and put on their nice-guy masks, making out that they are not being unfair because temporary separation is okay.

with understanding that the two of you will get back together
[and that better be sooner rather than later]

57 Comments

  1. Brenda R

    I have heard of churches that put a limit on the number of days you can be separated, like 4. Four days wouldn’t have even got X out of one of his moods. He’d have still been spittin’ and sputterin’ when I got back. No, I no longer care what other people think the Bible says. I care what God thinks and seeing He inspired it, His is the only opinion that counts. X broke the promises and the vows. He may as well have burned the contract, because that was what it was worth. You are correct, Barb, these folks that shove don’t worry about how bad your spouse is, you just do what you know God would want you to do if your marriage were good have no idea what they are saying. They are adding to the vows you make. You promise until death do you part with specific guidelines. Love, honor, cherish, in sickness and in health. I received none of that. I have been told that I should not think about what I didn’t get, but only think what you can give to the marriage. I’m sorry, I am just selfish enough to think that it is suppose to go both ways. Marriage is 2 not 1. We are not amoebas.

    • BeginHealing

      Four days!! Oh my goodness!!! That is insane, very unfair, and I would think dangerous in some cases. I think we need to have a little grace for the people that don’t understand where we are coming from and what we are dealing with. I have learned to just smile and thank them for their perspective and leave it at that. They don’t mean harm most of the time they just really don’t get it. I am happy for them that they have not suffered what I have to earn this horrible perspective and understanding. But, that being said I usually do not continue to confide in that person or allow myself to be engaged in conversation about my marriage with them. It only leads to more confusion for me and I can only handle so much of that right now. That is why communities like this one are so important. We are having to live in a very different reality. I felt very confused and isolated before I found this site because I was surrounded by people that just did not get it.

      • Brenda R

        This has been a God sent for me too. He truly gives us what we need. I try to avoid talking about X to other people who don’t know the history at all. I just really don’t like rehashing it over and over again to people who don’t really need to know.

      • BH, I agree that we need to have a little grace for the people that don’t understand where we are coming from and what we are dealing with. I try to do that myself. And I like your description of how you handle such people; you respond with graciousness. So thanks for sharing that; it is a good reminder.

        I elected to use a tone of firmness and indignation in this post because I think it helps to voice the frustration many of us feel for when these non-understanding people try to tell us what to do. We need a safe, non-judgemental place to voice that frustration, because it is usually pretty unwise to voice it to the non-understanders themselves. So you are right to suggest that the tone of this post is not necessarily tone to use when we verbally respond to the non-understanders. 🙂

        bless you!

      • BeginHealing

        Barbara. I was not intending to address your tone. I completely understand the nature of what you are saying. COMPLETELY 🙂 I was just addressing how I am learning to deal with it. I understand the indignation. I have felt the frustration, a lot. But I am learning that it is impossible to bring everybody up my learning curve. I have to agree with Brenda that I am just so tired of having to tell my story to everyone to get them to understand the depth of my suffering. I am exhausted from rehashing it. I opened up to enough people and God has blessed me with a few wonderful and understanding friends. They get it. Unfortunately, they get it because they too have shared the same burden.

        Your tone was absolutely spot on, totally appropriate, and needed by this audience.

        I am trying to think of a good phrase or go to statement that I can give people when they overstep and assume that they have a great piece of advice for me that is unintentionally confusing and hurtful. The other day the lead Pastor’s wife said to me “Do you blame him for wanting to save his family.” This was after I expressed that he was still manipulating and pressuring me. I was struck dumb and my mind reeled. Yea, that little nugget has stuck with me, unfortunately.

      • Begin, I didn’t feel you were addressing my tone in the post 🙂 I only wanted to show how much I appreciated your comment for how it extended the discussion 🙂

        I thing many of us have wanted a ‘go-to’ phrase with which to respond to the non-understanders.
        Maybe you’ve seen it already but I have an article called Unhelpful Comments and How to Respond to Them on my other site. But I agree, it would be nice to think up a one-size-fits-all (or -most) kind of phrase that we could remember easily when we are flummoxed at such moments.

        [The link to Unhelpful Comments and How to Respond to Them was corrected to reflect the new URL. Editors.]

        I think those little nuggets (actually they are more like kidney stones than nuggets, because they cause us recurrent pain) are the kind of thing we might mull over for ages, and eventually come up with some wonderful way of responding that gently corrects the non-understander and graciously nudges them to reevaluate their presuppositions.

      • Brenda R

        Manipulating and pressuring was trying to save his family? I guess if I thought quick enough, which doesn’t happen often, I would have to ask if her husband regularly manipulates and pressures her to save his. It probably wouldn’t help though. She is oblivious to what you and your children have been through. It never ceases to amaze me why while many are willing to throw me under the bus, how could they throw the children as well. Yet if they saw a child on the news being abused they would want the perp in prison.

      • Leslie

        BeginHealing
        I am impressed with the balance of having grace, yet protecting yourself with firm boundaries. A great model and encouragement!!!

      • BeginHealing

        Thank you Barbra. My overly conscientious self felt like I may have over stepped and offended you 🙂 I am heading over to check out that link.

        Kidney stones is a more appropriate analogy. I do wish I was faster on my feet for that one. I was dumbfounded that someone could assign altruistic motives to his bad behavior. Very superficial. On the surface that is what people want to see but the depth of the true problem is not being addressed. It is putting a band aid on a fatal flesh wound. It makes the other people feel better about the situation but the festering wound is not being healed.

        Jeremiah 6:14 “They have healed the wounds of my people slightly saying Peace, Peace, when there is no Peace”

      • Joe Pote

        BH – I almost never think of snappy come-backs quick enough to use them. However, for that woman who asked “Do you blame him for trying to save his family?” I would like to have instantly replied, “I blame him for destroying his family and for destroying my trust!”

    • Laurie

      Woohoo!!! YES,,,let GOD interpret what He wrote! We have no need for a teacher since all are taught of the Holy Spirit! Only One is our Master, our Father, and that is God ALONE! Such a strong faith and statement, such solid ground.

      You are not being selfish, or if you are then so is God. Think of the relationship of the vine to the branches, the vine cannot bear fruit of itself, it needs branches. The branches cannot bear fruit of themselves, they need what the vine supplies…it goes both ways.

      My take is this, the INSTITUTION of marriage is NOT of more value than the INDIVIDUALS that make it up. Just as the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, so was marriage made for the MUTUAL comfort of man and woman not man or woman for the marriage.

  2. BeginHealing

    Yep that is pretty much what my church elders are telling me. I have one Pastor that at least acknowledges that if my husband does not change I need to leave the marriage for my own sanity and mental health. BUT my narcissistic husband is putting on a very good show right now. He is behaving how he thinks he should to get what he wants. Not true Godly sorrow and repentance. I see the cracks but no one else seems to. He is moving out this week and I am already being pressured to eventually take him back. It has been 4 months since his latest escalation and heart shattering episode. I have not seen the significant deep changes only a superficial show. His endurance for that show is starting to wear thin and his true character is showing through. His sense of entitlement and need to control to get what he wants is still going strong. Just with a calmer voice and godly language (lower case g on purpose). The underlying motivation is still to pressure and guilt me back into his grip, submitted to being his narcissistic supply, caregiver, emotion buffer, meeter of his needs, and emotional dumping zone responsible for all of his negative emotions. This is not a life I want to reconcile to. Even if he truly changes. I am truly done. I hope for his sake that his “repentance” leads to true change, his life would be better, my children’s life would be better, my life would be better. However, if he is truly repentant that does not mean that I need to re-engage in this marriage. If his repentance was true he would be able to accept letting me go. This is not the case. His underlying motivation is still to repair the marriage because he wants that regardless of how I am feeling. As always it is about what he wants.

    As time goes on and I am getting stronger (much thanks to God, this site, and the books Pastor Jeff recommended) it is starting to matter less and less what my church elders think. What matters is that God has my heart and is protecting it while gently guiding my steps. The elders don’t have to live with my husband they don’t have the same level of investment in this situation. It is not their sanity that is suffering. They don’t understand the dynamic of emotional abuse and dealing with a narcissist. They don’t know my husbands heart but God does and God is not giving me a heart for reconciliation. I am trusting God on this one not my elders.

    • KarenR

      Thank goodness that you have at least one pastor in your circle that acknowledges your need to leave for your own sanity and mental health. I can totally relate to your statement of being done. Lundy Bancroft states in his book “Why Does He Do That” when a woman finally leaves and is able to get away from the craziness (I’m paraphrasing) and experience peace, her thoughts are often “Why would I go back to that?” You may love him from afar but never have a desire to reconcile even if he does change (which is highly unlikely). For some reason, people in the church are soooooo wedded to the idea of there being a miraculous reconciliation and a happily ever after, no matter what.
      By way of analogy, I compare leaving an abusive marriage to moving out of a dangerous neighborhood. There is shooting, arguing, bottle-throwing, etc. Occasionally a bullet hits your house, but only a few times a year. You were never struck, but the bullets were routinely flying around your house. You begged and pleaded for the drama to stop. For short periods of time, things were quiet. You were stressed out daily wondering if there would be shooting around your house, or if this would be the day you would finally be struck down. After a few years of managing all this, a little voice speaks to you and says, “You don’t have to live like this.” After several months of packing an unpacking, you finally leave. Then the people attempt to shame you for leaving. “That neighborhood isn’t that bad” they say. “You were never struck by a bullet, right?” or “It is not God’s will that you move.” “God hates moving” they scold and “Didn’t you shoot or throw bottles sometimes, too?” People living in this neighborhood attempt to encourage you by sharing that they have lived there for years and that if you just learn to sleep on the floor or otherwise manage the neighborhood, you’ll be alright.

      But once you move to a nicer neighborhood, you realize that perhaps you stayed in the old neighborhood far too long. You learn that having peace and quiet and the ability to walk the streets safely even at night are your birthright. I know this breaks down, but since I live outside of a major crime-ridden city, it is an analogy that comes to mind.

      I was married to a verbal and emotional abuser to over 20 years (still married, haven’t filed yet…mustering the courage to take that step) and left in August 2012. I dragged my estranged husband to counseling, went to church leadership and I attend(ed) counseling on my own. Things would quiet down for very brief periods only to escalate again. Near the end, the rages were almost daily. Almost anything would trigger a rage. Once I gathered the courage to leave, and I did, my thoughts were “Why would I go back to that?” “Why would I go back to that old neighborhood.” Even if the old neighborhood gets cleaned up, why would I move back there? I have some good memories, and I even raised my children there but I have come to realize that IT IS NOT GOD’S DESIRE/WILL THAT ANY SPOUSE BE ABUSED.

      • Brenda R

        Karen, That is a wonderful analogy and makes total sense. The bullet may not have hit, but it was coming closer.

      • BeginHealing

        Great analogy Karen. I am finishing up Lundy’s book this weekend. It is hard to read but very helpful at the same time. It is easier to see through the abuse when you understand what it is and how it behaves. He has been a better father to the kids these past couple of months so his move is going to be hard on them but I am very relieved that I will be out from under his thumb soon.

        Good luck taking the next steps. I will pray that God will make the timing and way clear for you.

      • big applause for your analogy, Karen 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Love love that analogy!!

    • Leslie

      BeginHealing
      I am baffled sometimes by how similar a person’s story can be to mine…You just wrote my life. It’s mind boggling how these situations can be so seemingly scripted. It’s one of the benefits of this site…solidarity in the insanity of it all.
      Blessings to you, I’m so glad to hear you are learning to trust in God on this and not your elders…I’m getting there too.

      • BeginHealing

        Leslie. I am sorry that you are sharing my journey. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But I am at the same time very grateful to have people that understand. “Solidarity in the insanity”, well said 🙂

        One of the biggest blessings I have found from this site and it’s resources is seeing some of the patterns that my husband follows. There have been posts here that itemize ways that the abuser will try to coerce, pressure, or manipulate you back. Or ways of knowing if he is truly repentant or changed. Those have been a huge help. It makes it much easier to see the situation for what it is and not get sucked back into a horrible situation that really hasn’t changed. It is just dressed up with different words right now. At one point I had a private laugh at his expense because the things he said were almost identical to what I was being warned to look for. Without these resources I would be more likely to get sucked back in due to my own self doubt and pressure from outside sources.

        Blessings to you Leslie. We will get there.

      • It’s mind boggling how these situations can be so seemingly scripted.

        Lundy Bancroft said something in a talk once about abusers all graduating from the same abuser academy. He said there was a rash of throwing toasters that year and traced it to a movie. I guess they aren’t very creative or else think nothing of using other people’s stuff. “Ooo hey ya!!!! I’m gonna throw the toaster too!!!”

    • As time goes on and I am getting stronger (much thanks to God, this site, and the books Pastor Jeff recommended) it is starting to matter less and less what my church elders think. What matters is that God has my heart and is protecting it while gently guiding my steps. The elders don’t have to live with my husband they don’t have the same level of investment in this situation. It is not their sanity that is suffering. They don’t understand the dynamic of emotional abuse and dealing with a narcissist. They don’t know my husbands heart but God does and God is not giving me a heart for reconciliation. I am trusting God on this one not my elders.

      All good.

      The elders at your church are, perhaps, good men. But they are not God, do not know your abuser’s heart as God does, and do not have the wisdom or the authority God Himself has over you to direct you. Nor are they the Lord of the Sabbath. They don’t get to decide what God approves.

      • BeginHealing

        Thank you BIT. One thing that my supportive pastor said that threw me for a loop is that the heart can be deceptive. It made me doubt that if God wanted me to reconcile He would give me a heart for it. It made me think I was deceiving myself. But I am tying to let that one roll off my back, trying. I really do think that if God wanted me back with my husband I would feel it somehow. I feel peace, stability, sanity, and safety at the thought of being away from my husband. The thought of being back with him feels like emotional death. If God wanted me back with him I really don’t think the idea of that would bring me to so much despair.

        Not to mention the affirmations I am finding in my daily life that can only be of God that my path right now is the correct one. But that one statement that the heart can be deceptive has stuck in my brain. Self doubt is insidious.

      • One thing that my supportive pastor said that threw me for a loop is that the heart can be deceptive.

        BeginHealing, I think you are right in what you sense.

        I’m going to propose a different take on the verse in question. The context of that verse in Jeremiah 17 is in comparison to the person who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength vs. the person who trusts in God. It seems to me that going back to the man you know is unrepentant when God has not intervened with you to assure you this is His will would be to place unwarranted trust in man, and even to put God to the test. I think the Person making the thought of being back with that man feel like emotional death is most likely not your desperately wicked heart, but the faithful Holy Spirit. It certainly seems more like Him to me.

        It seems to me more like if you were to go back with him you would do so without the testimony of the Spirit that this is God’s will for you (as demonstrated by the anti-desire on your part), and would be instead to rely on human wisdom, etc. — to put your trust in man and make flesh your strength. If you see what I mean.

      • BeginHealing

        BIT I do see what you mean. I went back and read Jeremiah 17 and I can completely see your perspective. I just took what my pastor said and did not go any further with it. I really need to stop doing that. Reading the whole passage gives that quote a different meaning. A flesh loving heart is deceptive but a heart given over to the Lord is another thing entirely. Thank you again BIT ❤

      • You’re welcome. 🙂

  3. Forrest

    Reblogged this on Tùr Làidir and commented:
    Excellent short article from Barbara Roberts. Once one spouse abandons their marriage vows then there really is no longer a marriage left to abandon. So when the victim is finally freed from his or her bondage, why does the church insist that they take up their burden again and go back into bondage?

  4. fiftyandfree

    As time goes on and I am getting stronger (much thanks to God, this site, and the books Pastor Jeff recommended) it is starting to matter less and less what my church elders think.

    Praise God!!!! I remember when I was a cowering victim of abuse, further paralyzed by the fear of doing the wrong thing because of the guilt inducing, oppressive, and WRONG advice I was getting from the church. And I remember (fondly and with joy) when I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I could actually leave the abuse and not be risk the wrath of the living God!!!! The truth shall set you free!!! Thank God for the voices of truth (Barb, Jeff and others).

    • BeginHealing

      Barb, Jeff, and the many others that contribute to this site have been a saving grace. I sincerely do not know how I would have been able to start healing, growing in my faith, reducing the crazy thinking, and growing stronger without this wonderful community. I found this site moments after a desperate 2 am prayer to God to please settle my mind. God is so very good and faithful.

      Of course, today, I am having a strong day. Tomorrow may be another rock bottom can’t get up off the bathroom floor kind of day. But I am learning to take the days as they come. I am learning that the bad days don’t last. I have faith that it will get better and that God will see me through this.

      • Brenda R

        Ditto!! But it will get better!!

  5. thepersistentwidow

    This is my complaint with the John Piper permanency followers. If no behavior breaks the covenant, including abuse, then I think it only honest that this agreement be made clear in the public wedding vows. Actually, if this is the case, no vows are necessary at all and a concise, “Til death do you part”, is all that is required. Weddings would not be a time of celebration, but rather a time of somber concern as parents wonder if they are marrying their child off to life of bondage and slavery with no way out.

    If John Piper and his followers made permanency views clear during the marriage ceremony, (no divorce for abuse, no remarriage for adultery, guilt and persecution for anyone who divorces to protect themselves or children from abuse), few would agree to them.

    We have laws that simplify doublespeak when we sign a financial contract. When will John Piper offer such honesty in the ‘fine print’ of his marriage doctrine?

    • Brenda R

      Well said and good questions. “till death do you part” and nothing else is scary enough that no one would say “I do”. It would be a sobering effect. My mind would be thinking, “Oh wait a minute, what am I agreeing to. You mean this man could bind me in chains in the basement for months at a time or beat me senseless and there would be no recourse.” I don’t think so. Why would anyone agree to that. We both vowed to love honor and cherish–one of us didn’t follow through with those vows. I believe that is why God had different covenants with His people. He followed through–they didn’t. New Covenant.

    • Actually, if this is the case, no vows are necessary at all

      Good point. It makes you wonder what the point of the vows is. Is it only to entrap and enslave you to the other person no matter what they do? Then why do both parties say a vow? You are not supposed to take the other person’s vow seriously? And, I guess, they are not supposed to take yours seriously? So each is supposed to take his/her own vow seriously but not the other’s? And vice versa?

      My brain hurts. 😦

      It seems to me that either both parties’ vows must matter matter and matter in the same mutual way or neither actually matters at all and we might as well do away with them and just have the guy with the collar say “man and wife”.

      Or…then again…why even do that?

    • fiftyandfree

      “Actually, if this is the case, no vows are necessary at all and a concise, “Til death do you part”, is all that is required.” This is exactly the view the anti-husband had of our “so called” marriage. He was of the mindset that he could do anything he darn well pleased, and I had no recourse except death.

      • Oh my. That is even worse. In his world your vow matters to you and your vow matters to him. Period. Only his vows matter to no one!

      • Joe Pote

        I see this as the essence of abuse. Whether or not it is ever verbalized or admitted to, the abuser assumes the perspective that they are simply not bound by the covenant terms, but their spouse is.

        The abuser views the wedding vows, not as a sacred pledge to uphold, but rather as a law to enforce on their spouse. Rather than using the marriage covenant as an opportunity to love, honor and cherish their spouse, they use it, instead, as an opportunity to enslave and abuse.

        Here is a link to a post where I discussed this further: http://josephjpote.com/2013/10/covenant-abuse-2/

      • Thanks Joe.

      • Joe,

        Just so much yes to all you wrote.

        I read your article and loved it. I also was particularly impressed by your comment to JoAnne Potter. I am kind of curious about something, though, and wonder if you could elaborate on it.

        You said this to JoAnne:

        If this were not the case, He would not have brought about the divorce of Israel from Egypt, nor the divorce of His chosen from the kingdom of darkness.

        I guess I never really thought about Israel’s slavery in Egypt as a covenant they had with the Egyptians that God redeemed them out of because I always thought of it as more of something that just happened to them which God promised to use as part of His covenant with Abraham. What I’m asking is, how did the Israelites get into covenant, albeit a covenant of bondage, with the Egyptians, per se? Because I’m used to thinking of their deliverance from that certainly as redemption, as you point out, but the covenantal nature of it I always thought of as being between the Isrealites and God. If you see what I mean. In other words, I guess, the covenant would go with the redemption rather than the bondage.

        Though I do get your point about how a good covenant can go bad and become a covenant of bondage, like in an abusive marriage. But then I would think of it not so much as the covenant was bad to begin with, but rather good, and the perpetrator broke it.

      • joepote01

        BIT – Thank you, for the questions about covenant and redemption…favorite topics of mine! 🙂

        I give an explanation of the biblical term “covenant” here: http://josephjpote.com/what-is-covenant/

        I give an explanation of the biblical term “redemption” here: http://josephjpote.com/what-is-redemption/

        The “what is redemption” page also includes a discussion of Israel’s redemption from Egypt. However, I think I go into a bit more detail of that event in this post: http://josephjpote.com/2012/04/the-great-divorce/

        Blessings to you…love the discussion!

      • Joe, I guess you may not have had time and so just gave the links to your posts. I’m wondering if you might be able to answer the question that BIT was asking, which, as I understand it, is “How or where does the Bible say that the people of Israel had a covenant with the Egyptians?”

        As I recall, there is no mention of the Israelites having a covenant with the Egyptians. They were set free from their bondage in Egypt, and God brought them back to the land that He had covenantally promised to give to Abraham their father. So I think we would all agree that there was a covenant between God and the people of Israel, but I didn’t think there was a covenant between the Israelites and the Egyptians.

      • joepote01

        Barbara – Sure, I’d be glad to! …it may get lengthy…

        Genesis 41:39-45 gives a very clear decription of a covenant ceremony between Pharaoh and Joseph. Similar to the covenant ceremony between David and Jonathan, described in 1 Samuel 18:1-4, Pharaoh gave Joseph new clothes signifying a “putting on” of Pharaoh’s nature and authority. Similar to the covenant ceremony between Abraham and God, described in Genesis 17, Joseph was given a new name, signifying that he was now dead to his previous life and had begun a new life in close kinship to his covenant partner, Pharaoh. Additionally, Joseph was given Pharaoh’s signet ring, thereby granting Joseph full authority over all of Pharaoh’s realm. Whatever decree Joseph issued under Pharaoh’s seal carried the same authority as if Pharaoh himself had issued the decree. Whatever Joseph asked for, in Pharaoh’s name, was given to him. Joseph and Pharaoh entered into a blood covenant…they were blood brothers.

        Later, when Joseph’s father and brothers went up to Egypt, Pharaoh welcomed them, granted them land for their use in Goshen, and offered them the provision and protection of Egypt. They were welcomed into Egypt as Joseph’s family, because of Pharaoh’s covenant with Joseph. By accepting the provision and protection of Joseph’s covenant, they also accepted the obligations of Joseph’s covenant, to act on Pharaoh’s behalf, for the good of Pharaoh and the good of Egypt.

        Moreover, since covenant is an inheritance from father to son, all of Jacob’s descendants and all of Pharaoh’s descendants were in blood covenant with each other. They were family, blood-brothers.

        Joseph, in this story, is a foreshadow of Christ. Just as Joseph went ahead to Egypt to prepare a place for his family, Jesus has gone ahead to Heaven to prepare a place for us. Just as Joseph’s move from Canaan to Egypt was based on his brother’s treachery, Jesus’ move from Earth to Heaven was based on the treachery of His close kinsmen (and by extension ourselves). Just as Jacob and his sons were welcomed into Egypt under the protection of a covenant cut by the younger brother, Joseph, on their behalf, in the same way Adam and the OT patriarchs (as well as ourselves) are welcomed into Heaven under a covenant cut on our behalf by the younger brother, Jesus Christ.

        The covenant cut between Joseph and Pharaoh was a good thing. It made provision not only for Joseph’s family, but for all the land of Egypt. However, the book of Exodus begins with telling us how that covenant became a covenant of bondage.

        Exodus 1:8 says, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” The Hebrew word translated here as know (yada`) is used almost exclusively to denote either the intimate personal empathetic understanding of a covenant partner or special God-given perceptive understanding of a specific topic. This is the same word used, for example, in Genesis 4:1 (NKJV), “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” In this case, it is clearly a covenant reference, indicating that the new Pharaoh was not empathetically disposed toward the family of his covenant partner, Joseph.

        The new Pharaoh chose not to honor the covenant with Joseph (did not know Joseph). Rather than acting on behalf of his covenant partners, as was his obligation by sacred oath, he chose rather to enslave them. Because of the change of attitude on the part of the new Pharaoh, Israel was now in a covenant that had become bondage, or slavery.

        God told Moses, “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments’” (Exodus 6:6).

        Note that God listed deliver and redeem as two separate actions He would perform on behalf of His people, Israel. The words deliver and redeem are often paired in scripture as two separate but closely related actions or events (Job 6:23, Jeremiah 15:21).

        Deliverance speaks of God’s protection and provision as Israel was brought out of Egypt and journeyed to the promised land. Redemption speaks of Israel being justly released from their covenant obligations to Pharaoh.

        God’s plan for Israel, as revealed to Moses, was to redeem Israel from their blood covenant with Pharaoh. When Israel left Egypt, they were to leave with no covenant ties, no covenant obligations, no debts or allegiance owed to Pharaoh.

        The Exodus story, then, is about how God both redeemed and delivered Israel from Egypt.

        After they left Egypt, God cut a new covenant with the Nation of Israel. Note that, as descendants of Abraham and heirs of Abraham’s covenant with God, they were already in covenant with God. In fact, in Exodus 2:23-25, this covenant was the basis on which the Israelites called on God for help, and on which God responded to help them, “God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant” (contrast “God remembered His covenant” to Pharoah “did not know Joseph”).

        However, after redeeming Israel from their covenant of bondage to Egypt, God cut a new covenant with them. Again, this is a foreshadowing of Christ. As Adam’s heirs, we are all born into Adam’s covenants both with God and with the kingdom of darkness (the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). However, when Christ redeemed us from the kingdom of darkness, He also cut a new covenant with the Father, on our behalf.

        Ok…I hope I’ve answered the questions…and have certainly gone on rather long for a comment…

        In my book, I expose seven biblically unsubstantiated divorce myths commonly believed in Christian culture, while exploring God’s heart of redemption toward His children who have experienced divorce or who are enslaved in a covenant of abusive bondage. I use the Exodus story as an illustration of God’s handling of covenants and redemption. You can find more information about my book, here: http://www.amazon.com/You-Believer-been-through-Divorce-ebook/dp/B005IWZSLG/

        God bless!

      • Thanks awfully for writing all that out, Joe!

        I think I see what you’re saying now and it looks consistent to me.

        I shall mull…. 🙂

      • joepote01

        You’re so welcome, BIT!

        I’m glad it made sense to you.

        I view mulling as a very healthy activity…especially when the Holy Spirit is involved… 🙂

  6. Brenda R

    PS Every time I hear the name John Piper I now see his smug face from the interview questioning abuse in marriage and dismissing that getting “smacked” was not a problem.

  7. Carmen S.

    John Piper redefined verbal abuse as verbal “unkindness”. My abuser described his behavior as being “unkind”. Is this manipulation?

    • Brenda R

      At the very least it is minimizing the situation to its lowest form. JP has no idea what he is talking about.

    • fiftyandfree

      What next? “Physical unkindness?” “Sexual unkindness?”

    • Yes Carmen, it is manipulative to redefine verbal abuse as ‘verbal unkindness’. Why? Because that surreptitiously minimizes the gravity and damage of verbal abuse. This kind of re-labelling is one of the responsibility-resistance tactics that abusers and their allies use.

      It is manipulative because it implies the victim is the one with the problem because he or she is ‘oversensitive’ or ‘exaggerating things’ or ‘making things up’ or ‘didn’t remember it right’ or is ‘taking things too personally’ or ‘not being long-suffering enough’ or ‘not sharing the burdens of the other in Christian kindness’. Etcetera. All those implications do not have to be spelled out to devout believers. Christians who know the ropes do not have to be told all that stuff about how they ‘should’ be, since they’ve heard it from pulpits so often already… Sigh. So the abuser and his allies can exert a massive amount of manipulative force in a few words by re-defining verbal abuse as ‘verbal unkindness’.

      By calling it verbal unkindness, they are demonstrating that they really do not understand abuse. Our definition of abuse is that it is a pattern of power and control which comes from a mentality of entitlement. Thus, verbal abuse is the use of words (choice of words, tone of voice, volume, pace and intonation) to exercise a pattern of power and control over the other. It is quite different from mere verbal unkindness. Any one of us might sometimes be verbally unkind to another person, by saying something that the other person finds hurtful, but those of us who are not abusers do not do this as a regular pattern of behaviour to exert power and control over others. That’s the difference; and it makes all the difference in the world.

      John Piper and his kind need to enrol in Identifying Domestic Abuse 101.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        It makes one wonder why someone would dumb down abuse. Abuse is evil incarnate and if someone who claims to be Christian, dumbs down evil, then that someone needs to not only enroll in identifying Domestic Abuse 101, but I would suggest they also enroll in a Bible course on evil and how to identify it and deal with it.

  8. Carmen S.

    U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
    “Men who abuse often use Eph.5:22 out of context, to justify their behavior, but the passage ( v. 21-33) refers to the mutual submission of husband and wife out of love for Christ. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies, as Christ loves the Church.”

    In “Responding to Domestic Abuse”, a report issued by the Church of England in 2006, they suggest that patriarchy should be replaced rather than reinterpreted. “Following the pattern of Christ means that patterns of domination and submission are being transformed in the mutuality of love, faithful care and sharing of burdens. “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ ( Eph. 5:21). Although strong patriarchal tendencies have persisted in Christianity, the example of Christ carries the seeds of their displacement by a more symmetrical model of male-female relations”.

    • We trust that our readers understand that we, the team at ACFJ, are not in harmony with a lot of Roman Catholic teaching and we do not necessarily agree with all that the Church of England teaches, but we appreciate Carmen’s sharing the statements from these two denominations.

  9. Carmen S.

    I also disagree with the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England on many things. I mentioned their statements because the main objection I keep hearing that wives must submit because mutual submission is unbiblical. Only feminists could think that way. It’s embarrassing and upsetting to see that non-Reformed denominations can say what Calvinists will not say.

    If a husband is not in submission to God, does he have the authority to even claim his wife must submit to him?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Carmen. Might I make a suggestion? The problem is not Calvinists. I am not only a Calvinist, but I belong to an association of Calvinists – a fellowship of Reformed Baptist churches. What I have found among Reformed Baptists in our association is a much greater acceptance of abuse as a grounds for divorce than I have found in other camps. And what we have also found is that the “fix” for abuse in Christian marriages is not as easy as just rejecting one theological camp for another. In fact, what we find is that abuse is everywhere. It is in Calvinist churches (reformed theology), Arminian churches, liberal and conservative churches. It is really just like we find in society at large. Abusers can be doctors, pastors, lawyers, psychologists, professors, and on and on it goes. I think we have seen a bit of a troubling trend at some other anti-abuse websites where Calvinists are made out to be the demons. It isn’t that simple.

      • Yes, it’s everywhere because abuse is a heart issue not a doctrinal issue, per se. Some doctrines are easier to hijack, but abuse being what it is, it will take anything and find a way to use it for its own purposes.

      • The problem is not Calvinists.. . . the “fix” for abuse in Christian marriages is not as easy as just rejecting one theological camp for another. In fact, what we find is that abuse is everywhere. It is in Calvinist churches (reformed theology), Arminian churches, liberal and conservative churches. It is really just like we find in society at large. Abusers can be doctors, pastors, lawyers, psychologists, professors, and on and on it goes. I think we have seen a bit of a troubling trend at some other anti-abuse websites where Calvinists are made out to be the demons. It isn’t that simple.

        I agree.

  10. Finding Answers

    (Airbrushing….)

    I know a work place where the “covenant” idea was circumvented by including the phrase “other duties as assigned”. Needless to say, the workplace was very abusive….

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