Wifely Submission In Biblical Context -- By: Catherine Clark Kroeger

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:4 (Fall 1998)
Article: Wifely Submission In Biblical Context
Author: Catherine Clark Kroeger

Wifely Submission In Biblical Context

Catherine Clark Kroeger

Catherine Clark Kroeger is CBE President Emerita and adjunct professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. She is author of I Suffer Not a Woman (available through the CBE Book Service).

All too often people fail to grasp the balanced biblical teaching on a subject because they fail to study the material in its immediate context; nor do they try to understand how the material relates to the totality of Scripture. Few areas have suffered more from these omissions than the subject of wifely submission.

There is indeed a dictate in the Bible “that every man should be ruler over his own household.” But this decree (Esther 1:22) was formulated by the tyrannical pagan King Ahasuerus and his injudicious advisors. Ahasuerus is later villainously persuaded to add a second decree, that all Jews in his empire should be exterminated. The book of Esther is the story of how a courageous and faith-filled woman negotiates a reversal of those decrees. She risks her life to enter into the king’s presence uninvited, an act of civil and marital disobedience. With the prayerful support of her people, she uses her wits, skill and charm to win deliverance for the Jews. Then Esther “wrote with full authority” (Est 9:29) to establish the celebration of Purim. “Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records” [of the Persian Empire] (Est 9:32). Both of the king’s decrees have been overthrown, and Esther stands as a woman and a Jew who has gained the respect and support of her husband.

She is not the only woman in the Bible to follow the leading of God rather than that of her husband. Abigail, a wise and beautiful woman, realizes that the behavior of her churlish spouse has endangered the lives of all the males in their household. In defiance of her husband’s insulting action toward David, she rushes to undo the damage. As she is bearing gifts to effect a reconciliation, she meets David at the head of a war party, intent upon annihilating her family. Her wisdom and good sense cause David to exclaim, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgement and for keeping me from bloodshed” (1 Sam 25:32-33). Though Abigail’s stupid husband dies in a fit of rage, the rest of the family has been saved by her intervention. Indeed, the early church considered her a prophet because of her understanding and proclamation of God’s purposes for David (see 1 Sam 25:28-31).

Other godly women made decisions that were honored by their ...

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