Teachings about How to Deal With Abuse
1 Samuel Chapters 16-26 has much to teach about dealing with abuse.
Saul showed many of the characteristics frequently seen among abusers, including: 1) blames his abuse on David; 2) has history of not taking responsibility for his actions, and using excuses; 3) prideful; 4) extreme jealousy; 5) controlling behavior; 6) rebellious; 7) lies; 8) repeatedly abuses, asks for forgiveness, then repeats the abuse; 9) becomes obsessive about David and stalks him; 10) he twists the intents and meanings of others, and sees evil in others’ motives; 11) lacks empathy; 12) is insecure; 13) uses his position or power as a license to abuse; 14) had difficulty loving his son; 15) unwilling to admit sin in his life or in others’ lives (see Judges 20); 16) at times seem “possessed” or “out of his mind.”
David: 1) tried to satisfy his abuser and was uneasy around him; 2) found that all his efforts to satisfy his abuser and avoid violence didn’t work; 3) grew up with abuse in his family of origin: his brothers were abusive to him, and father treated him as inferior; 4) found that some people were not willing to believe he was being abused; 5) was stalked after fleeing his abuser.
We see attempts by Saul to keep David under his control and to separate him from his family (1 Samuel 18:2). We see that Saul is insecure and becomes jealous of David, monitoring his every move (1 Samuel 18:8-9).
Saul asked for forgiveness and apologizes profusely (1 Samuel 19:1-10): 1) tears (1 Samuel 24:16); 2) apologies (1 Samuel 24:17); 3) promises (1 Samuel 26:21); 4) confessions (1 Samuel 26:21).
Wisely, David did not blindly trust Saul’s promises, confessions, and apologies. He cautiously kept a safe distance from Saul, waiting to see fruits of repentance (Luke 3:8; Matthew 7:15-16).
Over time, we see King Saul’s abuse of David escalates: 1) control through ( 1 Samuel 18:2); isolation; 2) paranoid jealousy or anger ( 1 Samuel 18:8-9); 3) attacking with weapon ( 1 Samuel 18:10-11); 4) secretly arranging David’s death ( 1 Samuel 18:25); 5) publicly announces death warrant (1 Samuel 19:1); 6) sending an army to stalk and kill David (1 Samuel 23:8).
David is bewildered and can’t understand what he could have done to cause Saul to want to harm him. We see that David did not do anything to provoke Saul. In fact, he repeatedly attempted to reason with Saul in order to stop the abuse. None of his efforts worked (1 Samuel 20:1 and 26:18).
King Saul repeatedly called David his “enemy” (1 Samuel 19:17 and 24:19), even though David promised not to harm him (1 Samuel 24:21-22) and spared his life twice (1 Samuel 24 and 26).
Jesus taught that we are to speak truth to those who sin against us in a relationship (Matthew 18:15-17), and even rebuke them (Luke 17:3).
King Saul’s abuse of David has escalated to the point that he stalked David, seeking to kill him. David confronts Saul: 1) He does it in a safe situation, keeping a safe distance; 2) He names the abuse and specific violations; 3) He sets a boundary–what he will and will not do (see verses 24:12 and 26:23); 4) He requests a specific change or tries to negotiate for a specific solution (verses 24:14-15, 21-22 and 26:19-20); 5) He tests the agreement and waits to see if Saul keeps his word. He doesn’t trust blindly, but waits to see if his abuser is trustworthy (1 Samuel 24:8-15 and 1 Samuel 26:13-20).
David always treated Saul with respect. He respected the person God put in authority, even if that person acted wickedly. However, he did not freely allow himself to be abused by this person. David never retaliated against Saul or laid a hand on him. David found that though Saul acknowledged his abusive actions and promised to stop, the abuse continued.
Whether or Not to Flee Abuse:
David faced the question in his relationship with King Saul whether or not to flee from an abusive situation.
After Saul becomes angry and jealous, an evil spirit comes over him, and he tries to kill David (1 Samuel 18:8-11).
After Saul tries to spear him again, David understands that this is a pattern that will repeat itself. He confides in the prophet Samuel and in Saul’s son Jonathan, people he trusted (1 Samuel 19:10).
At first, not even David’s close friend Jonathan believed David, but David persisted and enlisted Jonathan’s assistance (1 Samuel 20:2). Jonathan eventually helps David to develop a safety plan before David tests Saul (1 Samuel 20:18-22).
When David sees that he is definitely in danger from Saul, he leaves Saul’s presence (1 Samuel 20:30-35).
Jesus and Paul also escaped rather than allowing themselves to be abused by people who were out to harm them (Luke 4:28-30 and 9:23-25; Acts 9:23-25 and 14:5-6). In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus taught that we should stay away from those who persist in abusing, after we have made an effort to resolve the situation.
Characteristic of an Abuser:
He forbids or criticizes your outside activities and interests.
___ He gets angry when you disagree with him.
___ When there is a problem in the relationship, he blames you.
___ He accuses you of flirting with other men when you are not.
___ He follows you to check up on you.
___ You know or suspect that he has been involved with other women.
___ He is late or stands you up for appointments or dates.
___ He sometimes drinks too much and becomes physically or verbally abusive.
___ He embarrasses you in front of other people.
___ He is critical of the way you look or dress.
___ He insists on driving the car when you go out.
___ He has hit, shoved, or threatened you.
___ He does or says things you never thought you could tolerate.
___ He stops talking to you or withdraws his affection when he wants to win an
argument or make a point.
___ He says he needs his freedom or “space.”
___ He has used physical force to make you bend to his will.
___ He doesn’t allow you to have a checking account and gives you an allowance
to pay the bills.
___ He withholds information about household finances.
___ He uses sex to quiet your doubts about the relationship.
___ He is not interested in your day.
___ He gives you extra money or buys you presents when you have been “good.”
___ He calls you a nag or accuses you of stirring up trouble if you want to talk about
the problems in the relationship.
___ He calls you by a demeaning or derogatory nickname instead of using your real
___ He doesn’t phone when he is going to be late.
___ He wants you around when he is there.
___ He has been arrested at least once.
___ He feels uncomfortable or gets angry with you when you get attention (for instance,
because of some aspect of your job or a special accomplishment).
___ He puts down your accomplishments and abilities.
___ He discounts, trivializes, or makes fun of your feelings.
___ He often says you’re too critical.
___ He flirts with women in front of you.
___ He makes you feel sorry for him.
___ He does things that frighten you.
___ He finds fault with your friends and the people you are close to.
___ He often contradicts you.
___ He says you are crazy, stupid, or incompetent.
Physical Abuse (in order of increasing severity and danger)
Holding down, blocking, pinning
Pushing or shoving
Shaking or jerking
Slapping and bruising
Black eyes, cuts, chipped teeth
Burning with hot drinks, cigarettes, etc.
Causing serious falls
Hitting with objects
Back injuries, paralysis
Use of weapons
Psychological Abuse (in order of increasing severity and danger)
“Jokes” or put-downs that demean the victim
Acting like the victim’s feelings, needs, and ideas don’t matter
Enforcing rigid roles and rules for women
Controlling through jealousy
Isolating the victim
Insults and name-calling
Yelling and raging
Humiliation, throwing food
Fist through wall
Threats and intimidation
Destruction of her property
Hurting or killing pets
Displaying guns, sleeping with guns
Depriving the victim of sleep
Abuser threatens suicide
Tries to get the victim to commit suicide
Threatens to kill her and/or the children
Sexual Abuse (in order of increasing severity and danger)
Anger at women
Sexual jokes and put-downs
Treat woman as a sexual object; sex expected as a duty
Withholding sex to punish
Touching victim in ways that feel “uncomfortable” Promiscuity and sexual “affairs”
Sex after or together with violence or abuse
Forced by violence or threats into sexual acts the victim doesn’t want to do
Incest with children
Death of victim