What I see when I look at this is not a list of exceptions. It’s a pattern. It’s a pattern of valiant women, strong women who put themselves in danger to protect others, who stand up to people when God tells them to regardless of whether that person is their husband, king, or enemy general. It’s a pattern of cooperation when possible and resistance when cooperation is impossible. It’s a pattern of God’s protection and provision. It’s a pattern of women of courage and faithfulness. This is our legacy and our inheritance. We are mighty women of God, holy women of old. This is who we are.
I’m tired. After reading yet another round of blog posts about wives submitting, submitting more, and oh yeah, are you really submitting enough, I’ve just had it, particularly when the hypothetical situation presented in the post has all the hallmarks of being an abusive one. I’m not going to link to the particular post because it’s irrelevant. It’s not an anomalous post. It’s the same post I’ve seen over and over for years with different fictitious names attached to the made-up characters.
Is your husband throwing things and screaming obscenities at you and the toddlers? Submit more, be extra sweet to him, and tell everyone how great he is. That’ll soften his heart and fix him right up. See? I Peter 3 says so, particularly verses 5 and 6 (substitute Eph. 5:22-23 or Colossians 3:18 if you need some other passages to cherry-pick from. I’ve written on Eph. 5 here). If it’s an Abigail situation, you can leave, but right up until he tries to kill you or asks you to do something illegal, the Bible says you have to obey him and win him by your quiet demeanor. Out of the entire compendium of Scripture, I can’t imagine why these verses are the ones that get shoved at heartbroken, terrified women, but that’s a topic for another post (which I am working on).
Anyway, this particular post went with the I Peter passage for its proof text, and verses 5 & 6 caught my eye:
So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.
A couple years ago I did a fair amount of research on Sarah, which I’ll go over in Part 2 (the cross-reference here is hilarious), but this time around I got to wondering about the “holy women who hoped in God.” Hmmm, what holy women are we talking about? If the Biblical ideal is a gentle, quiet, submissive woman who cheerfully obeys her husband’s every word (or father’s or whatever authority is around) even if she disagrees with it, and if Peter is pointing his readers to their examples here, then there should be examples to follow of women like this all over the Bible, right? Shouldn’t be too hard to find. Let’s take a look at most of the prominent and some of the obscure women of the Old Testament who that are either generally thought of today as good examples or who are referred to in complimentary terms elsewhere in the Bible. Let’s find all the submissive women!
No. Rebekah goes directly against Isaac’s wishes to give Esau the inheritance after the Lord specifically speaks to her while the twins are in the womb and tells her that the elder with serve the younger. God tells her that Jacob is the one, but Isaac wasn’t going with the program. After Rebekah tricks Isaac into giving Jacob the inheritance and gets Jacob out of the county before Esau kills him, not only is she not censured for any of this deception, but she is one of only three people in the Bible mentioned as willing to “take the curse” on themselves for the sake of God’s chosen people. The other two are no less than Paul and Jesus himself (fascinating article about this point here, beginning about halfway down after the Bonhoeffer part). (Genesis 27:1-28:2)
No. Jacob consults her and Leah both on whether to move or not even after God tells him he has to go. Jacob makes no commands, demands, or even requests for them to go with them. He explains the situation, and then his wives mull it over and respond that this is acceptable and coincides with their own reasons for going. The conversation ends with Rachel and Leah telling Jacob, “So do whatever God has told you,” which sounds very much like permission and assent that they will go as well. It’s an excellent example of mutual cooperation, and this is in a situation where God clearly commanded him to go! (Genesis 31:1-16)
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