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.
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?