I have been working through Titus 2, and recently I wrote a post about wives being obedient to their own husbands. A dear reader had a fair and legitimate comment, asking if the things in Paul’s letters were instructions only to the congregations he started, or if there was some kind of ruling in the Torah to give Paul a precedent for what he wrote.
It’s certainly fair to ask if maybe in Ephesus, for instance, the church people were having troubles between themselves, so Paul wrote some instructions to help them out. Or maybe it was in Corinth, where the women were especially unruly, so maybe Paul gave them instructions, unique to their situation, for the women to be silent in the assembly.
I have to ask myself if those first century churches were just a mess, because Peter wrote very similar things in his letters. And never mind that Paul wrote to Colossi as well. My word, what a mess?! Who has a culture like that? Did every single town in the Roman empire have church people who were out of line? I’m so glad that our world never has this problem today.
Yes, I’m speaking a little “tongue in cheek,” joking with you because I’ve been a part of fourteen congregations in my lifetime, plus visited literally hundreds more, and I notice that our congregations aren’t perfect either. I’ve seen a lot of bad marriages. I’ve seen a lot of disobedient children. I’ve seen a lot of rocky employer-employee relationships. I’ve seen a lot of disgruntled members of those congregations, who were chafing under the leadership of elders, both good and bad.
So I’m asking myself if Peter and Paul were basing their instructions on anything in the Torah. From the beginning of Genesis, did our Creator set up any kind of leadership structure for families, as well as businesses, towns, and nations?
The first reference in the Torah is in Genesis 3:16, where God says to Eve,
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
This was a curse placed on Eve because she encouraged Adam to sin and to eat of the tree that God commanded them not to eat of.
So here’s a question: Was this only a curse on Eve, or was it a curse upon all women?
Well, let’s look at how God cursed Adam:
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).
We know that this curse is still in effect. I promise you, our garden has had plenty of thorns and thistles this year, and my husband certainly sweats and works terribly hard, just to have groundhogs and rabbits eat of his labor before we get to it. And my father died a couple years back, and many other men have died recently. Men seem to be still under these curses.
But didn’t Yeshua redeem us from the curse of the law? Yes, He paid the price, but not all of our enemies (such as death) have been put under His feet yet. It’s coming, but it hasn’t all been completed.
Returning back to Peter and Paul, who were men appointed by Messiah Himself to teach everything that Yeshua had commanded, they clearly interpreted these verses in the Torah to say that husbands were to rule over their wives still. Yes, Yeshua had already died for our sins, but yet, the curse of sin was still reigning in the world. These godly men understood that we are to live in hope of the resurrection, but meanwhile, we had to live in a righteous way in this present world.
Right here in Titus 2, just a couple sentences after telling women to be obedient to their husbands, Paul writes:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
We are not to live in a “lawless” way. We are still to be zealous for the Torah, for being righteous and godly in the present age, known for our good works, a special people purified for Him.
So back to Genesis 3. If a husband was to rule over a wife, what does that mean?
I was fascinated to look at the Hebrew for the word rule, which is מָשַׁל or mashal. According to Benner’s Ancient Hebrew Lexicon, it means to rule over a dominion, but to compare things to a rule of measurement, or to regulate by bringing order, method, and uniformity to something.
I don’t see harsh leadership here, but rather, this sounds like a manager who knows what the standard should be and then works with the daily details to be sure everything is “up to snuff.” Clearly there is an ultimate authority over this manager. In this case, YHVH the Creator is over the man, setting up the standard (the Torah) for how things should be done and assigning the man the job of bringing everything up to that standard.
Adam should have reminded Eve what God’s standard was: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
He didn’t do that. He did not regulate or bring order to Eve’s ideas.
He was supposed to do that before their sin. He didn’t. So here, the Creator reminds Eve of how it is supposed to be, and how it must remain from here on out. Just as Adam was always supposed to have dominion over the garden and over the animals, he is now told that he must have dominion over his wife, not in a harsh way (any more than he would be harsh with the animals), but in a way that ensures her actions are up to the standard the Creator has set.
That’s his job.
And her job is to allow him to compare her actions to the standard of righteousness God has set.
I’m not saying she liked it. Of course she didn’t. I don’t like to be told my actions aren’t quite right. That makes me feel a little ticked off, and defensive, and argumentative, and frustrated.
It’s also not saying that she has no decision-making ability. She was given dominion by the Creator as well!
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).
Let them have dominion… Male and female He created them… God blessed them… God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiple; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion…”
It’s just that Adam was given the job of “regulating by bringing order, method, and uniformity” to his wife’s decisions and actions. He is accountable to the Creator for her actions, and it is his job to be accountable for what she does, and she is responsible to let him lead, govern, and check her actions.
From now on, as she takes dominion over the fish, birds, and every living thing that moves on the earth, she is being watched over by her husband. If he says, “Hey, Eve, that action you’re about to take is not going to make YHVH very happy with us,” then she needs to stop and listen to him. He is appointed by God to be the ruler over her.
Let’s see how the Hebrew word מָשַׁל or mashal is used elsewhere in the Torah:
- Genesis 1:18 – The sun and the moon rule over the day and night, or they regulate time and bring it into a standard.
- Genesis 4:7 – Cain was told to rule over sin, or when sin tempted him, to bring it into conformity with the law of God.
- Genesis 24:2 – Abraham speaks to the eldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had. Abraham is the ultimate authority, but this servant brings everything in the house into regulation with Abraham’s wishes.
- Genesis 37:8 – When Joseph has some dreams, his brothers ask if he is going to have dominion over them. They didn’t like that thought too much.
- Genesis 45:8 – Joseph was made like a father to Pharaoh, and master of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt, bringing everything (and everyone) in Egypt into line with what the Pharaoh wanted done.
- Genesis 45:26 – Joseph was governor over all the land of Egypt
- Deuteronomy 15:6 – Israel is told, “You shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you.”
I think these bring a lot of clarity to what kind of rulership a man is to have over his wife. He is not an ultimate ruler. He is a servant under the True Ultimate Ruler of the Universe, which is YHVH Himself, the Creator of all. A man is more like Abraham’s servant, or like Joseph under Pharaoh. He is responsible for carrying out YHVH’s wishes, being sure that his home is run in a righteous way, according to the Torah of God.
However, let’s look at it from the woman’s perspective.
- As Time obeys the sun and the moon, she brings herself into the regulation and standard set by her husband.
- As Cain was to rule over sin, she is to be brought into conformity with the law of God.
- As the servant ruled over all that Abraham had, she is to be the manager of her home (1 Timothy 5:14), ruling over everything her husband has, in a way that pleases him.
- As Joseph is accountable to Pharaoh, she is accountable to her husband, but note that she also has a lot of leadership over everything as well. She is truly second in command.
- As Israel reigns over the nations, her husband truly does rule over her. It’s just the facts. However, it’s more like a system of checks and balances. Israel rules over the nations in accordance with the Torah of YHVH, not according to its own whims and wishes.
In the New Testament, this same word is translated hēgeomai (Strong’s 2233). According to the Outline of Biblical Usage, it means “to lead, to go before, to command or have authority over, to be a prince, governor, or chief, leading as respects influence, controlling in counsel, overseeing.” I find it interesting that the word is sometimes translated to count or to think, as in, to count or give account (as an accountant reports to his manager on the business affairs of a company, showing careful records that everything balances).
It’s the same situation Adam, Abraham’s servant, and Joseph were in. The man gives account of his family to the Creator, just like a bookkeeper gives account to the Chief Financial Officer, who gives account to the CEO of a company. He’s the “Chief” under another Chief.
Let’s see how this verse is used in the New Testament:
- Matthew 2:6 – Out of Bethlehem shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel.
- Luke 22:26 – Yeshua says, “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.”
- Acts 7:10 – Joseph was made governor over Egypt.
- Acts 14:12 – Paul was the chief speaker.
- Acts 15:22 – Judas and Silas were chief men among brethren.
- Acts 26:2 – Paul says, “I think (count) myself happy.”
- 2 Corinthians 9:5 – Paul says, “I thought (count) it necessary…”
- Philippians 2:3 – In lowliness of mind, let each esteem (or count) others better than themselves.
- Philippians 2:6 – (Yeshua) who, being in the form of God, thought it not (or counted it not) robbery to be equal with God.
- Philippians 2:25 – Paul says, “I supposed (or counted) it necessary…”
- Philippians 3:7 – Paul says, “I count as loss for Christ…”
- Philippians 3:8 – Paul says, “I count all things but loss…”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:13 – Paul says to esteem (or count) the elders very highly in love for their work’s sake.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:15 – Paul tells someone to “count him not as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.”
- 1 Timothy 1:12 – Paul says, “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”
- 1 Timothy 6:1 – “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor.”
- Hebrew 10:29 – Certain wicked people had “counted the blood of the covenant… an unholy thing…”
- Hebrews 11:11 – Sarah “judged (or counted) him faithful who had promised.”
- Hebrews 11:26 – Esteeming (or counting) the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.
- Hebrews 13:7 – Remember them which have the rule over you.
- Hebrews 13:17 – Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves.
- Hebrews 13:24 – Salute them that have the rule over you.
- James 1:2 – Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.
- 2 Peter 1:13 – Peter says, “I think (or count) it is right…”
- 2 Peter 2:13 – Peter talks about men who “count it pleasure to riot in the day time.”
- 2 Peter 3:9 – “As some men count slackness…”
- 2 Peter 3:15 – “Account that…”
That’s a whole lot of counting going on!
So my conclusion is that Paul and Peter got their thoughts about a husband’s leadership from Genesis 3, which is firmly in the Torah. I also conclude that a man does not have ultimate authority over a woman — only YHVH has that — but that he is responsible for all those in his household, to be sure their actions are in accordance with the Torah.
And my conclusion, as it was in my last blog post, is that a woman’s responsibility is to come under the leadership of the husband God placed over her.
Let’s close by looking at how this looks in a home, according to Paul and Peter.
Note the kind words, the gentle manner, the thankful tone of voice, and the happy atmosphere. I can chafe under the authority placed over me, or I can watch to be sure my attitudes and tone are exactly how Yeshua would act.
Also note that there are many leadership styles, but in all cases, God says those under leadership are to submit. I can’t squirm out of this just because the leader over me isn’t acting quite right. It’s up to the CEO of the company (YHVH) to bring the Chief Financial Officer (the husband, the boss, the parent, etc.) into line. The bookkeeper remains responsible to act appropriately.
Okay, so read these passages slowly and carefully. Take your time. Maybe read them aloud.
Colossians 3:8-4:1 says,
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Ephesians 5:17-6:9 says,
Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
1 Peter 2:13-3:17 says,
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
“Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For
“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
If you struggle with all of this, may I recommend that you copy out these verses by hand? As you copy, prayerfully commit yourself to obeying your Creator.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.