I have a tough question. I know that many (though not all) Rabbinic sources are opposed to all wife beating, including being against physical chastisement of wives that was common in the ancient and medieval world. However, if we were all transported back in time to Ancient Israel (pre-exile), how might we derive such a principle from written Torah only (no Talmud, no Midrashes, no anything, just written Torah)?
I ask this because I became aware that physical chastisement of wives (via beatings) was acceptable to Ancient Israel’s neighbors, and it disturbed me that there wasn’t anything explicit in written Torah to deter such behavior. Even later medieval Rabbis are all over the map on this. But, I want to believe that the Torah is good. As such, how might one go about putting together its principles to determine that wife beating of any kind is wrong? (I would hope at least that if the wife is so horrible, that divorce would be the proper release valve, not a beating to subjugate her, but what do I know?)
How much does Exodus 21 and the case of the slave wife being set free if she is denied food, clothing, and “marital rights” apply? Does “onah” (marital rights) imply kindness? Would an ancient Hebrew think that beating a wife for any reason impede the wife’s right to onah, thereby granting her the right to a get? Just thinking out loud. What else can you think of that would be a plausible understanding for ancient Israel?