Do Men Sometimes Submit to their Wives like God Told Abraham to?

Frequent commenter, Richard P, has given a lot of strange biblical interpretations over the past few months at a site made for women who are trying to learn truth.  From claiming that menopausal women can’t control themselves due to their hormones (which leads them to divorce), to claiming older women shouldn’t be teaching younger women Scripture (going directly against Titus 2), to now finally claiming that sometimes husbands should submit to their wives… like Abraham did.

Here’s his actual quote, “Sometimes the guy submits. Like Abraham, when God told him to do what Sarah said.

It’s hard for me to see something like this and not try to at least point out how it’s being taken out of context.  At a casual glance, Richard P is right in a way, God did tell Abraham to listen to his wife and to do whatever she tells him to.  But it was only in a very specific moment when God knew Sarah’s advice lined up with His plan and that it would still prevail, and certainly not applicable to the topic of biblical submission when applied to the span of their marriage.  There were a few times where Sarah told Abraham to do something wrong that ended up in sin and complicating God’s plan.

RP is using a very specific example from Scripture when Abraham was incredibly emotional and distraught about needing to send Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, away because together they had each 1) disrespected and mistreated Sarah and 2) were caught mocking Isaac at a celebration for him, the son God promised His blessings would come through.  I’ve heard many pastors claim they were probably sent away for Isaac’s own safety and preservation, as they both had already shown treacherous attitudes toward Sarah and Isaac at different points in time.  It may have been like a “last straw,” moment for Sarah as Isaac’s mother, having to watch their malicious attitude and actions toward him.

Here is Matthew Henry’s Commentary on that verse for more insight:

“Ishmael’s conduct was persecution, being done in profane contempt of the covenant and promise, and with malice against Isaac. God takes notice of what children say and do in their play; and will reckon with them, if they say or do amiss, though their parents do not.

Mocking is a great sin, and very provoking to God. And the children of promise must expect to be mocked. Abraham was grieved that Ishmael should misbehave, and Sarah demand so severe a punishment.

But God showed him that Isaac must be the father of the promised Seed; therefore, send Ishmael away, lest he corrupt the manners, or try to take the rights of Isaac.

The covenant seed of Abraham must be a people by themselves, not mingled with those who were out of covenant: Sarah little thought of this; but God turned aright what she said.”

In any case, God reminded Abraham of the plan of the covenant coming through Isaac, and assured Abraham that it would be “ok,” to send them away, and also that He would take care of them.  Richard P, however, applies this one very peculiar example to all men in any amount of circumstances, saying matter of fact that, well, “sometimes the guy submits.”

Richard P then argued with me for calling it out as blaspheme, which in this case would be adding to God’s Word by saying God told Abraham to submit to Sarah –

@Stephanie: The verse gets kind of lost in the multiple verses that Larry G posted, so here it is by itself. And it is this verse to which I was referring.

“Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” Genesis 21:12 (English Standard Version)

Your response to me is why I throw this verse out there every once in a while. Folks know that Sarah called Abraham “Lord” – and use that as part of their submission meme. Unfortunately, your response to me is not all that uncommon. Many folks only know those parts of the Bible that support their meme – and either don’t know, or ignore, the other parts that might suggest that things are a bit more complicated than their favored meme might suggest.

And, for that reason, I find it useful to ask from time to time: What did God actually say? It is troubling how many people are taught their favorite meme’s and then go to the Bible to find those verses that support what they’ve been taught. The reality is that it should be the opposite. The Bible admonishes believers to take in the whole counsel of God – and then from that whole counsel can meme’s be derived. Unfortunately – too often the memes are derived first, and then supported by part of the counsel of God, but not the whole counsel of God.

I don’t want to hijack this thread, so I will stop after making this one more comment.

Another issue that exists alongside what I’ve discussed in the previous paragraphs is the meme that women are not to teach men. That is spoken in support of a favorite meme – but only by folks who have no idea of how learning actually takes place. Women teach men all of the time – because men watch what women do and say and learn from it all the time (yeah, the bad parts discussed in the manosphere – but also the good parts and the neutral parts). That is how learning occurs – for boys and girls and men and women. We all watch each other and listen to each other and learn. To say nothing of the fact that part of her being to him the help that God made her to be is teaching him things that she knows and he doesn’t. So – when Paul said he didn’t permit … the meaning is much more targeted and precise than is generally presented by those who think women shouldn’t teach men.

(Emphasis mine)

I pointed out to him that I was actually taking into account the other verses from all over the Bible – from the Old to the New Testament – that have to do with direct commands or examples of wives submitting to their husbands (or rebelling and suffering the consequences), and that his verse (in light of the rest of the Bible) was still clearly taken out of context (and does not even include the word “submit” like he was claiming).

In fact, the biblical verses on wives submitting to their husbands are recorded as commands several times in the New Testament in regard to how we are supposed to be living today.

Let’s look at where it says this command in the New Testament, specifically – 

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18


“(older women should teach younger women) to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”  Titus 2:5


“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”1Peter 3:1-6


“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:22

I’m not even including the myriad of examples where, through the context of the story or the biblical passage, it is clear that wives submitting to their husbands’ leadership brings about what God desired and intended for marriage.  Even the way the Proverb’s 31 woman’s relationship with her husband is shown – how his heart safely trusts in her, and that because of her, he will have no lack of gain, and how it says she will bring him good and not harm, all the days of her life – we can be sure he is the confident leader in his home, and doesn’t feel emasculated by his wife’s desire to control him or rebel against his leadership.

It’s ironic that what Richard P was accusing me of doing – using “one verse” to support my “meme” of submission (which I never did), was actually what he was doing using his literal quoting of only one verse (Genesis 21:12) and applying it to husbands in general (while ignoring all the other verses and examples in the Bible that prove otherwise God’s design for marriage).  Perhaps it was projection?  I’ll let the reader decide.


This topic of submission has been a “hot controversial topic” for close to 200 years now.  It’s never been really popular to use the good examples from Scripture, and try to apply them to our modern day lives – in fact, it’s usually opposed.  And women (and I suppose some men like RP, like to find “loopholes”).

When I wrote on the subject of the Proverbs 31 woman, I saw how even Christian women tried to say I was being a Pharisee for pointing out how beautiful verse (15) is when it says she rises early to provide food for her family and servants!  Isn’t it amazing how even Christian women regularly rebel against the simplest of biblical points – like the Proverbs 31 woman waking up early to make breakfast!  And this was Elspeth we’re talking about, not someone openly in rebellion like Joyce Meyers.  Covert rebellion or snide mocking and attacking fellow believers as “Pharisees” for simply writing out the verses of Proverbs 31 as the ideal a woman should try to eventually attain, is just as bad as Joyce Meyers being a female Pastor, because it’s still promotes an ugly attitude of rebellion against God’s Word and toward Christian women who truly are trying to honor and follow it.


I’m curious to see what other people think about how Richard applied this one verse in general to men submitting to their wives? Keep in mind that Richard P stuck the word “submit,” in there, when it isn’t actually in the verse itself.  Is this representative of the other verses in the Bible regarding marriage, or is it something that only happened at a certain point in time and under circumstances where God decided His plan would prevail?



  1. God also commanded Hosea to take a whore for a wife, does this mean we Christian men should start seeking to intentionally marry whores, despite the wisdom of not doing so in the Bible? It seemed more to me that God knew what Sarah intended to do and told Abraham to go along with it because he knew Abraham wasn’t keen on the idea. He had feelings for the two and would probably have not agreed with Sarah’s recommendation, but it was right in the Lord’s eyes, and with the backing off his God, Abraham would sumbit, not to his wife, but to God.

    The concept of men being in authority and wives being in submission is so foreign in our society people will send over backwards and ignore plain, written scripture to fight against it. Look where it has gotten us.

  2. Wow, good point Snapper about Hosea and Gomer! It happened ONE time in the entire Bible, and yet there are many other verses that warn young men not to go near promiscuous women, prostitutes, or adulteresses. It’s definitely a good idea to look at the whole Bible, instead of pick a verse out of context or add a word in that isn’t there.

  3. In general, I believe men should at least listen to their wives and (sometimes) do what they say. There isn’t anything wrong with a compassionate husband. I’m sure your husband listens to you and sometimes does what you say or suggest. Maybe Richard P was trying to say that and choosing the wrong words.

    How odd though that a man is going to a woman’s site to talk about his interpretations of Bible verses. Which site is this?

  4. Yes, my husband does hear me out and even asks what I think about certain things lol . To me, that’s not him “submitting” to me though. And he teases me a lot and I respond in kind, so it’s a flirtatious chemistry. Nothing like what feminists try to portray submission as.

    And the site is Bloom’s site here and it’s not a religious site, just a site on general life truths and relationship dynamics between men and women, so I totally understand her not wanting a religious discussion there. Men are welcome there, too. I guess it just scared me how any wives reading along could be misled into thinking this was some kind of magical loophole when in reality, the verse doesn’t even say the word “submit.” I guess it just shows that husbands need to be aware of where their wives may be reading (hopefully a wife would communicate stuff like that to him). That way if someone like Richard is trying to convince them of false theology, she can run it by her husband and see what he thinks.

  5. A man could show much wisdom in hearing out his wife, but it’s his decision, there is no biblical impetus that requires it. A man should know when to hear his wife out and over what. If my wife gives me advice on programming controllers I would likely ignore it because she has no knowledge or skill for it. Now when it comes to cooking I would be more than happy to hear some advice from her because she is awesome at it. The problem lies in that some insist that there is a biblical commandment to listen to and heed your wife when there is not. Imagine an employee throwing a tantrum because the owner of the company doesn’t listen to thrm and do what they say! The owner is under no authority from his employee but vice versa! If the owner is great at designing a car but not a mechanical engineer then it would be smart to listen to a mechanical engineer over such Mayers, but even then he is under no order to do so!

  6. “The problem lies in that some insist that there is a biblical commandment to listen to and heed your wife when there is not.”

    ^Yes, definitely agree. I don’t know… to me it sounded really off.

    When you look into the Greek wording of those verses that command wives to “submit” to their husbands, it’s so clear what it’s meaning I can’t believe people miss it. I mean, it literally means “to arrange under, to subordinate, to subject, to put in subjection, to subject oneself, to obey, to submit to one’s control, to yield to one’s admonition or advice absolutely.” From here

  7. I enjoyed this post. 🙂 It made me think. I would say the whole verse is being taken out of context. Abraham didn’t submit to his wife. He submitted to God.

    I’ve always assumed that sending Ishmael and Hagar away also had something to do with God’s promise to make Ishmael into a great nation as well. How would that happen if he never made his own way? I believe Abraham’s submission to God in this case is another example of his faith… he had to believe that God would indeed take care of Ishmael and fulfill this promise.

    I think the commentary’s idea of not allowing Ishmael to be in Abraham’s camp from the standpoint of him being outside the covenant is interesting. Ishmael was brought into the covenant along with all of Abraham’s servants when he was circumcised. As for how he actually lived the rest of his life, we don’t know. Obviously his descendants are not following God.

    When we read God’s directions to the Israelites concerning the last plague, even before He fulfilled the plague, God made provision for foreigners to participate in the Passover with Israel… He provided specific instructions.

    Moses’s Midianite father in law (and presumably his whole household?) were part of the Israelite camp during their time in the wilderness, and he gave Moses very wise advice. Interestingly, the Midianites were also descendants of Abraham through his wife Keturah (after Sarah died). So we know that God used and blessed those outside of Israel… Israel’s purpose in being chosen was actually to be a blessing to the rest of the world, as the Savior came through their lineage.

    I totally agree with all your examples of scripture teaching women to submit to their husbands. And husbands are to love their wives. The New Testament picture of marriage is beautiful and rewarding!

    I’ve gone on long enough! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. As Linda stated, “Abraham didn’t submit to his wife. He submitted to God.” This is clearly seen in Gen. 21:12:

    ‘But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.”‘

    What seems to be missed is that this was a temporary alteration of the usual hierarchical structure, not a permanent change. It was specifically authorized by God for a specific time for a specific reason.

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