Monday, July 22, 2013

Did God Really Command Women to Submit?

I grew up in a Christian home.  I was brought up in a protestant church.  I was taught the Bible and believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is true.  As a teen I never really thought about the purpose of the Bible but knew that it was both a history book about the nation of Israel as well as telling the story about God and His interaction with people since creation.  As to creation, I grew up believing that God created the universe as we know it in six days.  Then I went to college.  

 In college I took a Bible class.  My professor talked about different views of the Genesis account, one of which was a ‘young earth’ view that the world is 6000ish years old. Other views talked of the world being millions of years old.  I still held to my belief in a young earth.  Then one Sunday I was on a ball field playing catch with a friend.  I was 18.  This old man walked up to us and started talking.  He was old, had a long flowing white beard and had a sparkle to his bright blue eyes.  We chatted for over two hours.  I learned this man was a physicist that worked on the Manhattan Project, you know, the one where they developed the atomic bomb.  He was like wicked smart but so cool.  We got on the topic of creation and it was there that he talked about the earth being old. He talked about God; he talked about what he knew as a scientist of our world’s geology. He talked about the accuracy of dating fossils.  He believed that there was an answer to the question of creation but realized that the Bible was not a science book. Rather it was a book about God, man, sin and redemption.  But he did say that he believed that God wasn’t out to trick us.  For example. If we can see the light from galaxies 4 million light years away, then isn’t that galaxy at least 4 million years old?  If fossils can be dated to be millions of years old, then aren’t they really quite a bit older than 6000 years?

We talked – actually he talked and I listened.  He told me too about the Hebrew language. He told me they didn’t use articles – you know, a’s, an’s the’s etc, the way we do. So when you read Genesis 1 it says, In "THE" beginning….. He pointed out that it could just as well be read, In "A" beginning….. And if you look on the bottom footnote of Genesis 1:1 you will see a footnote in the NIV translation that the brains that put that translation together acknowledged that indeed it could be read that way.  This guy told me that the footnote was HIS contribution to the NIV translation.  Like I said, he was a smart man.  I mention that to you because he believed in the Gap theory of creation. He believed God did create the world (In a beginning God created the heaven and the earth). Period.  And then he believed that millions of years later, the earth was destroyed somehow. And Genesis states this: "And the earth was without form and was void, and darkness covered the face of the earth."  And it is here that this guy told me that he believed there was a recreation. He believes this because he can make sense of fossils that are dated millions of years old, and make sense of finding animals in Siberia that were frozen and eating vegetation, and make sense of galaxies that we see that are millions of light years away.   OK, so where am I going with this?

Well, back to my childhood. I grew up being taught that women were to submit to men. That they were not to hold leadership positions in the church. That they were to wear head-coverings (we didn’t take that part literally, maybe because it was inconvenient). We also didn’t have issues with women teaching Sunday school because no man wanted to teach, and we didn’t have any problem with women leading a church in some distant part of the world because a man didn’t want to go there and talk about Jesus to those people.  I saw discrepancies.  If women were to submit then shouldn’t it be all the time? If women were to not be in leadership positions, then what why could they lead some remote island but not in the States?  Well, last week I stumbled upon Genesis 2:18 which states: The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” I read more about the word helper. I learned that helper in Hebrew was the word ‘ezer’.  The definition of ezer in Hebrew means to rescue, to save and to be strong. I never knew that growing up in my church, nor in my protestant college.  I did a Google search and typed in ‘genesis 2:18 Ezer’. You should do the same.  Here is but one of many excerpts you can find o the topic:

“The traditional teaching for the woman as help (meet) is that of assistant or helper subservient to the one being helped. This definition would appear to line up with Strong's definition of the word. However, if you look at the context of every other use of the word ezer in the scripture, you will see that ezer refers to either God or military allies. In all other cases the one giving the help is superior to the one receiving the help. Adding kenegdo (meet) modifies the meaning to that of equal rather than superior status. Scripture is so awesome. God says just what He means.” Source of quote is here.

So what does this have to do with my submission to Katie? After all that’s one of the purposes of this blog. It has a ton to do with it. One of the hang-ups I had was reconciling my submission because I didn’t want it to conflict with Scripture.  I had no problem submitting since the act of submitting practically demonstrates my love for her by every chore, deferral and act of affection I give her.  That is love. That is what we as men are commanded to do.  If you read Ephesians 5 it talks about Husbands loving their wives to the point of dying for them. That is submission in action.  Now it also speaks to wives obeying their husbands as well. Hmmmm. So there’s the rub.  But what about the 17 times that ezer is mentioned in the Bible? What’s going on here? God tells us that woman is ‘ezer’. She’s strong. She’s a rescuer. She was given to man to save him.  And then there are all these other uses of ezer throughout the Bible that further clarify the meaning of that word for us.  But somehow, in a male dominated society that was pretty barbaric – you have to admit that – where might made right – and women were relegated to servant and subservient roles, the very purpose of womanhood that God wanted for all women was lost. She wasn’t ezer. She wasn’t strong. She wasn’t a rescuer. She wasn’t one that saved man.  I found this website which helped me to understand the use of ezer. 

For me, this helps. For me this opens the door for Katie to serve as the strength of our relationship. This allows me to reconcile the fact that God stated that woman’s role was to save man and to rescue him.  And in light of the changing role of women in our society, can’t you see the good that has come by allowing them to take on such roles?  Now I’m not going to go so far as to say that they are superior, but I am going so far as to say that they are equals. God made woman the same as man – bone of bones. He also brought Eve into the world because he saw that 'it wasn't good for Adam to be alone.  He created Eve, one who was there to rescue him, save him and be his strength.  I like that, as it pertains to Katie.  We function as a team; a marriage partnership. Yet Katie has final say in all things. She is my strength. She respects and loves me yet she is my ezer - not one less than I but equal and more. For us that kind of partnership works perfectly.

I don’t know if you have a belief in God. My purpose is not to debate that.  But I do know that for so many individuals you too were probably brought up like me. You were taught that the world was 6000 years old. I’m sure you wondered how dinosaurs fit into that world view to though didn’t you? And like me, you were taught that women were to submit to men, weren’t you?  Well I’m glad that I met the physicist one Sunday afternoon and got to talk to a man that was incredibly intelligent and wise – and grew up in a VERY conservative Christian home as well.  I’m glad too to have read other viewpoints on the Genesis account.  I by no means am some genius on Hebrew. Actually I know but one word, ezer :)  But I know enough to know that my IQ is about 100 – just that of an average guy – just like your IQ – just that of an average guy or woman. I know that I have limits, but it sure seems clear to me that what is stated here in Genesis gives credence to woman as having a role equal if not superior to man.  Just some food for thought.  Have a great day.

I’m Hers

For further reading on the topic of submitting to a woman I invite you to read a previous post.


  1. Hi IH,

    I do believe that we are not the first civilization to inhabit this planet and suspect future discoveries will confirm this. Some have already. Also, I do believe the bible to be an accurate historical record, but may or may not be of our civilization, but possibly a past one. We recently watched a series called "Ancient Aliens" on TV and some of what they speculated made a lot of sense to me. Not to debate where they came from, but I do think we are very lucky someone gave human kind the 10 commandments. Not withstanding all the wars and death that have been fought over religion, without these commandments, civilization would not have survived this long. I do understand your need to rationalize your submission with your strong religious beliefs. The bottom line for me is that, submitting to my wife simply feels right in every sense. It seems to complete me as a person and our relationship gets better day by day. I see good things to come for both you and I.

  2. Thanks Wishful4, I really have not tried to "rationalize" my desire to submit. I submitted long before I ever read anything about what I posted. However, I did struggle with meshing my action and what the Bible said as I do have a belief in God. What struck me so much was the 'equality' (if not superior helper) feel I got after reading comment after comment as I studied this in preparation to write the post. My hunch is, people established order and because men are stronger and more physically dominant that they assumed headship and that became the norm. I am guessing of course but I found the verse interesting and helpful.

  3. Very good article, IH.

    I have wrestled with the same dilemma, reconciling my understanding of God's expectations of me as a husband with my desire to submit to my wife. She is a better decision-maker than me and has a gift of understanding and discernment in how the world works and how people function. I have gifts that she does not have and make a better First Mate to her as my Captain. I have become a better man and a much better father and husband when submitting to her authority.

    Understanding that 'ezer cegnedo' does not mean helpmate but one who provides power and strength, a person with authority who is face-to-face with man. Add to that the noble, loving and wise qualities of an ideal wife described in Proverbs 31 to the command that husbands should 'love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" makes it quite clear to me. I am to abide in Christ and to give my self, my life, to my wife so that she may be upheld. I am devoted to her, a beautiful creature created by God in His image.


  4. As always a good subject here.My grandfather was a preacher so religion was something I grew up with.My wife and I never really discussed the the subject of submission in our relationship until we discovered FLR. I have always known and been told by people in my family and close friends that my wife is a natural leader so a FLR was an easy choice for us.It does say "Husband's love your wives,just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. I have no problem serving my wife or submitting to her as now it feels normal in our marriage . We are a team with her being being the team leader. We love our church life and and feel that have grown even closer after we started our FLR. Thanks for all the great information by everyone who has posted on this subject.. RR...

  5. Scott and RR, Thanks for sharing a bit of your backgrounds. I enjoy that there are other men like yourselves that have similar world views that place a value on a higher power - eg. God. Isn't that passage and, in particular the wording interesting of ezer such a freeing concept as a submissive? I am sure that countries and governments have put oppressive laws on those viewed by civilizations as 'less' and that those limititations become the norm over time. Just look at how women in general have been, and still are oppressed in many, if not most places in our world. Yet I don't believe God had that same intention at all. He realized that Adam was 'stuck' living alone and needed help. And what a gift he gave him. A 'babe' with knowledge, wisdom and counsel that Adam desperately needed.

  6. Wow, wonderful to read this.

    I'm a submissive man through and through, but I am also a Christian, as is my wife. When I began to do some serious study as to whether God could approve of a wife led marriage, I discovered Christian Egalitarianism, and the Gods Word to Women blog that you've already referenced.

    For me, the thing that changes everything is the fact that male dominance over women didn't begin until Genesis 3:16- as a result of the fall. Clearly- male leadership on the basis of gender alone is a product of fallen humanity, and should not be perpetuated by the church.

    Leadership is one of the motivational gifts mentioned in Romans 12, and so also is service. That being said, it follows that leading and serving should be based on our gifts, not our gender.

    For me, my gift is clearly service, and it is clear to me that my wife's gift is leadership. We are moving more and more in that direction as she realizes, as I have that a FLR can be fully in accord with the Bible and Christian teaching, and that the Lord can actually bless such an arrangement.

    Who would have thought?

  7. I am a servant leader and my wife must submit to my service. God commands her to. My wife longs to please God so she is going to CONTROL me because I asked her to.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. A few years ago I think I would have unquestionably felt as you did - that 'God commanded a woman to submit to a wife." But like everything else in Scripture, there needs to be conistency and that Gen 2:18 passage has aways haunted me. Not so much because it says that God gave Adam a helper but because of EVERY other use of the Hebrew word for helper. In every case it referred to a greater power coming to the aid of a lesser. I don't know the answer. I wonder if God couln't care less as long as the end result was a man or woman or couple continuing to follow Him and put Him before all else. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Hi Unknown,

    That's certainly one way to look at it. For those wives that can't let go of the deeply ingrained Complementarian theology that tells them the man simply must be in charge, I think that to turn it around and say, "OK, I'm the leader, and I've decided as leader that our marriage will be an FLR, with you as the boss and me submitting to you."

    It's somewhat ludicrous, but so is Complementarian theology, which says that men are leaders because God created them first, and that God gifted them to lead, and he gifted women to follow, thus they have "complementary gifts". But in many cases we see that doesn't work out- that men have the gift of serving (Rom 12:7) and women the gift of leadership (Rom 12:8) In such case- well... the man should still lead because he is the man and was created first.

    That's about what their theology amounts to, and even though they pad it with the "servant leader" term, at the end of the day they are saying that the men have a "boss card" they can play which gives them supreme authority. There is nothing complementary about that and I reject that as just more of the patriarchal paradigm which is incompatible with the Kingdom of God.

    At the end of the day, of course, you'd be "topping from the bottom"- forcing her to dominate you, and probably even setting up parameters for HOW she is to dominate you. "Here are my rules, and here are my punishments, and you need to do me the way I want it."

    That is definitely leading. But it's not submission to her. There is nothing in it for her. And she might comply with your orders to dominate her, but she will never embrace it.