COUNSELING THE ABUSED (CPY 550, PM 744)
Paul Heimbach
For: Tammy Schultz
February 1, 1996


. . . an example of unredressed abuse in the OT, compared with two examples of redressed abuse. . . . Consequences personally, spiritually, and socially. . .

I take as my example of unredressed abuse Genesis chapter 34.
A short summary of the plot line runs as follows.

Jacob had just settled down in Canaan, in the
city of Shechem. His daughter, Dinah, went out on what seems to have been a social call, and found herself being raped by the son of the "goyim" king of the land, Hamor. Jacob found out about it, but saw that since his sons were out in the fields, were history tells us that they would likely be for some time, he was relatively powerless. He waited instead until they came home. When everybody finally got together, including Hamor, they appeared to reach a "good" bargain: Jacob's side got "converts" from Shechem, along with a lot of goods. Shechem got Dinah. There was only one problem, succinctly expressed in Gen 34:13: "But Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father with deceit, and spoke to them, because he had defiled their sister. " Ultimately, the Hivites agreed to the bargain, and got circumcised. However, at the height of their pain, (v. 25) ". . . Simeon and Levi, . . . each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. " Hamor and his son Shechem were among the dead.

I note a number of interesting results here. First, I am interested by the fact that Dinah seems to have almost no say in the matter. Largely due to this, I think, the attempt at redress operated in very male ways: it was dominated by harsh anger, and the traps which were laid were baited with greed one one side and lust on the other. When the dust had settled, many innocent men died, and Jacob and his family had to leave the land, for fear of reprisals from a vastly superior army. Even though the text never tells us what happened to Dinah, or whether Simeon and Levi gave Shechem's wealth back, it could not truly have assuaged Dinah's feelings, and it certainly wasn't worth all of those lives, or the discord we get whiff of when Jacob got the news of the slaughter.

Redressed abuse is a bit harder to find, although I believe Joseph is our first example of redressed abuse. The story is all too familiar, so I'll only mention what I feel are the salient points. I consider two actions here to be abusive: one verbal/emotional, (they could not speak to him on friendly terms) the other, the familiar throwing in the pit, (Gen37:23,24) to be physical. I believe the redresser in this case to be G-d (Gen 39:2), and His method to have been the process He provided for Joseph to work through the attempts. This story illustrates well for me the abuse which can occur even in the home of a supposedly righteous father: I find it interesting that "the boys" were back in Shechem for a while pasturing the flocks. In a way, without being able to go into great detail, I can even see the continuing effects of Dinah: they were still an angry bunch, and Jacob was still unable to control a now completely wild band of sons. But I also can see the abuse potential latent in one who attempts to bring righteousness, however cryptic, into such a family.

I suspect that another part of G-d's healing process was the time Joseph spent in jail, both because he had lots of time to think, and because he seems to have "counseled" some of his inmates. Even to the time that his brothers came down, Joseph considered Egypt to be his "land of affliction", and his "father's household to have been "trouble", as witnessed in his naming of his first- and second-born sons. I am interested to see that Joseph still exercises a bit of the anger from the past in the "games" he plays with his brothers, although that may be seen as part of the redressing/healing process as well. I find the imprisonment of the 10 brothers an interesting parallel to his own imprisonment in the well. It is also important to note that they did realize, while in prison, that what they had done was wrong.

In the final analysis, Joseph still had to command his brothers not to quarrel on the way home to get their father. Yet the abuse created a tough "management side" for Joseph, which coupled with his other abilities, created a form of salvation for his entire family. This really shows us a good possible direction for counseling: seek to be aware of the individual's abilities, and what the needs of the abusers were/are. Then seek, with G-d's help, the match the abilities and the needs.

Judges 19-21 provides the other story of redressed abuse. The story of the Levite's concubine in Gibeah, belonging to the tribe of Bethlehem, this vignette isn't exactly a kind, merciful response either. This war, unlike the dishonesty and vengeance of Levi and Simeon, however, seems to have been from the Lord. Not quite what I would call gracious, but the OT isn't really very big on mercy, rather the focus in on justice and purity. Basically, the tribe which committed the abuse was obliterated.

It appears that a Levite had
taken a concubine, but the concubine hadn't exactly taken him, deciding rather to "play the harlot against him" (19:2). Even so, the Levite went to win her back, and stayed for a time in her father's house. On the journey home, after turning down the chance to stay in Jerusalem, because it was full of foreigners, he stayed with those he thought he could trust, in Gibeah. While staying there, however, some of the men of the city decided they wanted to "have relations with him". This, apparently, was a greater act of folly than raping and abusing a virgin daughter and a concubine, so eventually the man seized his guest's concubine and the crowd raped and abused her until dawn. She died, so no immediate redress for her was possible, but the Lord took redress upon the house of Benjamin.

In this case, as I noted above, redress meant the wiping out of an entire town, which contained most of the men of the tribe of Benjamin, who apparently were to be held accountable for the sins of the few. (This isn't the first time we've seen this. ) In this case, however, the whole had to perish because they themselves would not repent of the minority in their midst, which teaches an interesting lesson for families: if there is one abuser in your midst, and there is no repentance from the rest of the family who knows of the abuse, then there will be devastating consequences for the whole family. Apparently there were a few who did repent, and they were taken care of by the rest of the assembly, but at great cost.

It appears that there are several over-arching themes related to abuse in the Old Testament. First, it seems to me that only men seem to get redress. Second, if a woman is abused, she never seems to be involved in any kind of redress, rather, men related to her seem to take revenge, instead of seeking redress. Third, it seems that only if the Lord is involved that any kind of reaction, be it true growth and redress (Joseph), or a cleansing of the "house" (the Levite concubine), is successful and relatively free of backlash. Whenever revenge is taken, or any kind of action without G-d, there is usually some kind of immediate backlash, and continuing negative results.



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