COUNSELING THE ABUSED (CPY 550, PM 744)
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
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
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.
Click here for more on issues of spiritual addiction,
which can and often does lead directly to spiritual abuse.
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