Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

A Classic Abuser From the Old Testament

This passage of scripture is longer than I usually quote in a post, but it all hangs together as you will see as you read it. Here are these wicked enemies, the head honcho bearing the title of Rabshakeh, coming to Jerusalem to attack it. Godly King Hezekiah reigns in Judah and these evil ones want to turn the people against him and surrender. Hezekiah had effected far-reaching reform in Judah, destroying idolatry and purging wickedness from the nation.

As you read, you will recognize a number of classic abuser/revilier tactics that are probably quite familiar to most of you. I will just make a few comments below, and then leave it to you to comment on this wickedness yourself. Actually, I think I will just boldface the statements that jumped out at me and I will look forward to hearing your observations. The Rabshakeh, as you will see, talks just like every abuser does:

2Ki 18:17-37 And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rab-saris, and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Washer’s Field. (18) And when they called for the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder.

(19) And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? (20) Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me? (21) Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him.

(22) But if you say to me, “We trust in the LORD our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?

(23) Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. (24) How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?

(25) Moreover, is it without the LORD that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, “Go up against this land and destroy it.”’

(26) Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah, said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.”

(27) But the Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?” (28) Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! (29) Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. (30) Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

(31) Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, (32) until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.”

(33) Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? (34) Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? (35) Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

(36) But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.” (37) Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

How convoluted and wicked. How twisted and evil. Can you describe the lies the Rabshakeh is speaking? What is it that he is trying to accomplish?


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  1. Lynn

    V 20 thoughts – Rabshakeh’s words are a blasphemy against the God of Israel. Assyria’s king is placing himself as equal to or above God much like modern day abusers do. He’s assuming because he has had past victories with other nations that it is because of his own might, power and prowess, not that God has used him as a tool to punish other nations. Like “how dare Israel rebel against Assyria’s demands? Don’t they know who they are messing with?” The arrogance and selfish idolatry displayed by the Assyrian king and all of Assyria’s ambassadors is laid plain in this passage of scripture.
    V22 – They mock Israel’s and King Hezakiah’s stance of trusting in the Lord in the same way abusers mock their victims, especially those who cling to the saving faith in Christ.
    V23 – Rabshakeh makes a wager with Hezakiah about being willing to “give” him 2000 horses if he has the men to ride them. This is a trick by the Assyrians to see how strong Israel’s military is. If they give in and less than 2000 men show up, Assyria will steamroll over the city. Abusers use similar tactics. They “offer” you something that may seem harmless, but its intend is to assess how strong you are in order to determine what the next step in their plan of attack is. As long as they get what they want, nothing else matters.
    V25 – Rabshakeh claims that it is God’s will that Assyria conquer Israel. It is a lie. Abusers use a similar strategy and tactics to get their own way and to continue their coercive control over their victims. You’ll hear things like God demands you always honor me because I am your father/mother/husband/wife/pastor etc… or that you must remain in relationship with me otherwise you are walking in sin and rebellion.
    My dad told me my unwillingness to blindly be obedient to him and my mother, as a 23 year old woman, was because I was demon possessed. While the accusation was supremely painful at the time, I’ve come to realize when these kinds of untrue accusations happen, it is a reflection of their own heart not mine. They are the ones controlled by satan and his minions. They are the ones who seek to inflict harm on others to ease their own insecurities. They are the ones living in deception who try to give an appearance of godliness yet produce rotten, poisonous fruit.
    V27 – Rabshakeh paints the grim picture of what he believes will happen if Israel doesn’t bow to Assyria’s demands. Abusers do they same thing. They tell you how horrible you are, how worthless you are, how you’ll never make it without them. It is a lie. With God all things are possible. God promises to take care of his people, even in times of great trial and tribulation.
    V29-32 – Rabshakeh switches tactics to try and get the people to turn on their king and their God in favor of not having to suffer. He promises peace, prosperity, and health to those that abandon Hezakiah and the Lord. We see this in many of the false teachers, false prophets and other wolves in sheep’s clothing happening today. It is a lie, a false hope, and a false gospel to believe the words coming from known enemies of God. If their words AND their actions aren’t in line with what scripture teaches about what Christian behavior is to look like run far away as quickly as you can, lest you remain permanently ensnared by their deceptive teachings.
    V33 – Rabshakeh starts yammering about how the other nation’s gods didn’t stop Assyria so why should Israel be any different? Abusers love this type of logic. If it hasn’t happened before, then it will not happen in the present. They will use this as a tactic to keep you ensnared to them so that you will not get free from their evil clutches. Our God can break the bonds the enemy is sure will never be destroyed and does so, even if the abuser can’t see it, each and every day. He does it every time a heart of stone is turned into a heart of flesh. He does it when the victims eyes are opened and they realize they no longer have to take the abuse they’ve endured for decades.
    V36 – We see the wisdom of Hezakiah and the obedience of the people by keeping silent and to not respond to Rabshakeh’s attacks. This is what we too when we are in the presence of abusive people should be practicing.
    Don’t try to defend, engage, explain or personalize (D.E.E.P.) with abusive people. When you do so, you are arming them with more weapons to attack you with. It will only end badly for you. Cry out to God in prayer and express all the emotions coursing through you, but don’t do the same with abusers or anyone you don’t know well enough to feel safe with. When you can implement the acronym D.E.E.P. with the toxic people in your life, you give yourself the space to conserve your energy on the things that really matter to you. By doing so, you are choosing to trust that God will deal with the abuser with the absolutely perfect justice he or she deserves.

  2. Joy

    I totally needed this affirmation today! Dealing with my own abuser again after months of relative silence. God knows what we need when we need it!

    • Free

      Thank you Pastor Crippen and Lynn!!!! This was immensely helpful – I had encountered a verbally abusive person at work today, yet again, who uses the tactics that the abuser I had been married to used. In the Lord’s perfect timing, I felt the nudge to re-read your messages from yesterday. Bingo! It’s as if both of your messages wove together everything that happened just a few hours ago – and a stark reminder the tactics the abusers use today are those that they used years ago… thank you – this has been a much needed reminder and breakdown of such packed information in our scriptures.

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