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Sunday, August 19, 2012


A Close Examination of the Big Picture Shows that I Peter 3 is About Mutual Respect

Those committed to male leadership in marriage love to quote I Peter 3:6, which reads, As Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. They fail, however, to look at the whole story of Sarah and Abraham; nor do they examine the entire message of I Peter 3:1-7. If they would do so they would find a beautiful picture of mutuality and partnership emerging.
Here are 3 reasons this verse cannot be used to teach male hierarchy in marriage.
 1)     The word used by Sarah that is here translated as “lord” was a term of respect and did not necessarily denote submission to a superior.
2)      When we read the complete story of Sarah and Abraham we find that not only did Sarah show respect for Abraham, but he (and God) showed an equal respect for Sarah.
3)      Peter balances out 3:1-6 with 3:7 where he tells husband to honor their wives, with “honor” being from a Greek word that refers to the respect that is shown to someone of a higher rank.
The Meaning of “lord” in this Passage
The New Testament translators have tried to alert us of the diminished authoritarian content of this word by translating it in all lower case letters, i.e., “lord.” Indeed, the word that was used by Sarah (Genesis 18:12) was the Hebrew adonai, a word that expressed respect, but did not necessarily denote submission to a superior. For example, Aaron called Moses adonai (Numbers 12:11); Jacob called Esau adonai (Genesis 32:40); David called Saul adonai (I Samuel 24:8); and Hazael, who became king of Syria, called Elisha adonai (II Kings 8:12). In each of these verses, adonai is translated in all lower case letters as "lord."
Adonai was also used by individuals in the Old Testament when addressing God or when referring to Him, where it is translated with the first letter capitalized, as in “Lord.” Yahweh, the personal and covenant name of God, is translated with all caps, i.e., “LORD.” It is obvious that adonai is not a name for God, but was a term or designation of honor and respect
As pointed out above, adonai was also used by individuals in addressing one another when they wanted to show honor and respect; but it did not indicate an inferior status for the one using the word, or the superior status of the one being addressed. It was merely a word of respect, which is why, in such cases, it is translated in all lower case letters as "lord." 
There is a similar situation in the New Testament. The Greek word used by Peter in this passage is kurion, which is from Kurios, a word that is used of Jesus Christ in the New Testament and is translated as "Lord." But in the larger Greco-Roman world, the word was used as a word of respect similar to “sir.” For example, the Philippian jailer used this word in addressing Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30. Overwhelmed by the sequence of events, including the earthquake, he fell down before Paul and Silas and cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” “Sirs” in this verse is a translation of the same root word that is translated “lord” in I Peter 3:6.
So Sarah showed respect to Abraham. Respect is, indeed, an attitude that should be present in all Christian marriages and amongst all believers. And when we look at the full story of Sarah and Abraham, we find that there was equal respect shown by Abraham toward Sarah.
God Required Abraham to Obey and Respect Sarah
In Genesis 21:9-12, Sarah confronted Abraham over his passive and tolerant attitude toward Ishmael’s destructive behavior toward Isaac. She insisted that he get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham was reluctant to do so and the Scriptures say that Sarah’s demand was very displeasing to him. Nonetheless, God took Sarah’s side and said to Abraham, Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. It was not a matter of who had authority over whom; it was a matter of what was right in that situation. Sarah happened to be right and God ordered Abraham to carry out her desire.
In her book, In the Spirit We’re Equal, Susan Hyatt points out that in Genesis 20:3 God referred to Sarah as Abraham’s baal, which is normally translated as “lord,” “master,” or “owner.” In a few places baal is translated as “husband,” as in Proverbs 12:4, which says that a virtuous or excellent wife is the crown of her husband, or baal. But Genesis 20:3 is the only place in the Old Testament that baal is ever translated as “wife.” Perhaps the translators cannot bring themselves to translate the word literally, for that would be saying that Sarah was Abraham’s “lord.”
It is true that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, but the question is why did God not say she was a man’s ishshah, the normal Hebrew word for wife? Why did He say she was a man’s baal, a word carrying obvious connotations of authority, honor, and respect. The answer is probably to be found in the context in which the word was used.
The setting of this verse is when Abraham, in fear for his own safety, told the people of Gerar that Sarah was his sister (she was his half-sister). He let Sarah down out of fear. As a result, the king of Gerar, Abimelech, took Sarah and made her a part of his harem. However, before he could go any further, God spoke a severe warning to him in a dream, saying, Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken for she is a man’s wife (baal).
As pointed out above, this is the only place that baal is translated as “wife.” So whatever meaning we may seek to derive from its use in this passage, the bottom line is that God used it to communicate to this pagan king that he was in big trouble for the woman he had taken was a woman deserving of great honor and respect, first of all from her husband and then from him. She was a man’s (Abraham’s) baal. God Himself defended Sarah and gave her the favor and status that she needed by calling her a baal.
Ladies, even when those closest to you let you down, you don’t have to have to fight in the flesh and toot your own horn. Trust in God, walk in obedience to Him, and He will be your shield and your defense. He will honor you and raise you up.
Peter Tells Husbands to Honor and Respect their Wives
Peter balances out his instructions to the wives in I Peter 3:1-6 with instructions to the husbands in 3:7. Peter tells husbands to give honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.  
The word “honor” in this verse is translated from the Greek word timen, which Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines as “to honor, revere, venerate,” and as “the honor of one who outranks others.” This is the attitude Peter instructs husbands to show toward their wives. They are to show their wives the kind of honor and respect they would show to a boss or superior. 
Peter, in this passage, refers to the wife as the “weaker vessel.” This cannot be a reference to a moral or intellectual weakness. It is likely a reference to the weaker status of the woman in the culture of that day where she was demeaned and treated as a second-class citizen, and often as a child. Peter is instructing husbands to treat their wives the very opposite of how the pagans treated their wives in that culture.
This is probably the source for the custom in Western societies of men opening doors for women, allowing them to go first, saying “Ladies and Gentlemen” rather than Gentlemen and Ladies.” Indeed, Peter is instructing the husbands to minister an opposite spirit of what they see in the world toward their wives. He goes on to tell the husbands that their wives are “co-heirs” with them of the grace of life. If they do not treat their wives in this manner, Peter warns, their prayers will be hindered. 
So, when all the verses of this passage are considered together, Peter is obviously not concerned with setting up a male-dominated hierarchy, but is calling for mutual respect in the marriage relationship. 

Concluding Remarks
So, on one occasion, Sarah showed respect to Abraham, calling him “lord.” On another occasion God showed the respect that was due Sarah by calling her Abraham’s baal, or “lord.” Mutual respect in marriage, or any relationship, is an absolute necessity in establishing a healthy, life-long relationship. And men, it will also help you obtain answers to your prayers. 

by Eddie L. Hyatt


  1. Very good insights.

    And every time Abraham called her Sarah, he called her "princess" for that is what the word means.

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    1. Hi, just wanted to say that I agree with Eddie’s remarks regarding 1 Peter 3:7. But I think we must go one step further and notice the Greek word for “giving” that Peter uses when he says that the husband is to be “giving" honor unto his wife. This is not the usual Greek word used for “give” but is "aponemo", and this is the sole use in the NT. According to Vines, it means to apo, “away”, nemo, “to distribute”; to assign; apportion.

      This can only mean that the husband is in possession of something that his wife presently doesn’t have and he is to be presently distributing it, sharing it together with her. This idea is confirmed by the following phrase that they are heirs “together”. It is the “honor” that he possesses as a man which he is to distribute to her, the weaker vessel. Obviously a woman does not have the physical strength of a man so in that sense she is weaker physically and temporarily subjected to unique infirmities because of her gender. But that is not the point being made here.

      The other word used here is vessel [G4632-skeuos], not body. The word vessel means an “implement” or “instrument”. Both the man and woman are VESSELS designed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and used BY GOD for HIS purposes. The husband is to see his wife this way because this is how God sees her. The husband is to humbly accept the fact that God has bestowed “honor” upon all Believer’s through Christ and he being the stronger vessel, is not to hoard it to himself.

      The saved husband is obligated to distribute honor to his wife by elevating her status to the same level as his own before the eyes of the world. He is also to cleave to her. Although she is physically weaker, her spiritual strength is oftentimes much greater than his.

      The elevation of the woman in marriage and the church to the same status as the man is only one of the many ways that the holy nation of God shows forth the light of God’s Kingdom to the unsaved world. Women on equal footing with men displays God's original and future design for the male and female who are both made in His image, even as in the coming kingdom, kings will not be solitary, Gen 2:18, but will have queens [H8282 – sarah], Isaiah 49:23.

      Due to the historical dominance of the man over the woman in general throughout society, and her inferior status, even in the church today, she really can’t “take” that honor for herself. He is to give it to her as a “co-heir” or fellow-heir of the FUTURE inheritance of the children of God, 1 Peter 1:4. There’s also no reason why women can’t speak up about their due “inheritance” just as the daughters of Zelophedad did in Numbers 27:1-7.

      The church must show forth the praises of God to an unbelieving, corrupt world system, right now, in this world, 1 Peter 2:9. That includes showing the world that God honors both male and female who are both made in His image. Did you ever notice how pagan deities seem to be designated as either male or female? (Deut 4:16) So the husband is not to use his stronger position in this world to elevate himself above his wife, but to lift up her status to his own level.

      The husband who does not follow the instructions in v 7 will be penalized by God. If he will not allow her voice to be heard, God will not hear his. This principle applies not only to Christian marriage, but also to the church. Elevating the woman to equal status in the eyes of a wicked and unbelieving world sets an important and protective example and shows forth the light of the one true God.

      The word “hindered” [1581 – ekkpoto] means to cut or strike out; to cut off or cut down, as a tree. The idea here is that God will cut off the prayers of the husband, the “stronger” vessel who cuts off his wife, the “weaker” vessel, from the honor that is due her, that is, the same honor that he has.

      Peter is calling the saved husband and by extension, the male leadership in the church, to come out from the wrong thinking of the world and align themselves with the knowledge of God regarding women.


  3. It is refreshing to see the hierarchical underpinnings of marriage being called into question from a religious view point. If a marriage is to be a partnership it makes sense that the participants must be equal in some ways, or at least co-participants. The increasingly common same gender marriages are reinforcing this point as well - roles, duties, statuses can all be shared instead of being doled out according to tradition and differential power.

  4. Hi,

    Someone mentioned this page in a Facebook discussion a while back and I thought I would check it out. I think the article makes a mistake saying that Sarah was Abraham's 'baal.' I found a couple of sources to confirm this including the Orthodox Jewish Bible, which is a more raw literal type translation.

    Genesis 20:3
    3 But Elohim came to Avimelech in a chalom halailah, and said to him, See, thou art met (dead), for the isha which thou hast taken; for she is be’ulat ba’al (married of a husband).

    "Ba'al" means husband or lord. It doesn't mean wife. Here, Sarah is married of a husband. Abraham is her "ba'al".

    Young's literal translation translates "ba'al" here 'husband'.

    3 And God cometh in unto Abimelech in a dream of the night, and saith to him, `Lo, thou [art] a dead man, because of the woman whom thou hast taken -- and she married to a husband.'

    Is there any commentary that the author of the article can refer to, or any student of Hebrew who could read the passage that the author of the book could cite to support her assertions about the passage?

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  7. Its clear the Bloggers misunderstanding /misrepresention of scripture to attempt to change Gods divine order of man- woman interaction, check and balance. . First is how The woman told abraham to get rid of hagar and his son and was attempted to be portrayed as " Authority Figure Foundation " for the entire article blog due to such. God stated that sarahs words should be heeded, and it does happen that a woman can speak in alignment with Gods plan , and it wasnt meant to show anything else as this blogger portrays the woman sarah to be a ype of authority figure rep . . . Abraham wisely checked his wifes comment surely to The Lord in this matter as This was trouble because of Love in abraham for son /wife , and any man would question His other wifes mercy saying such strangenesses .

    Not only does baal mean husband as another has stated ( and could be looked at as the " higher up" figure to the the woman s perspective -- EXACTLY OPPOSITE of what this blogger states-- and confirms Gods Divine order of mans Authority over woman so to speak ) . it is clear that peter states the woman as a weaker vessel to show the need for a head over her for authority all matters and checks of balances . It doesnt say mans the weaker vessel . Just as a man has christ Jesus as His authority over him ephesians 5:22-24 , In "everything" things the bible says is a woman to submit also .

    Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    This clearly shows Hierarchy and Divine order which never can be changed from divine order.

    The article by misinformation of Dividing Gods Holy truth to reverse this by all the misinformed statements==....a tries to build something like woman is the one the man submits to . This Cant work and isnt designed this way nor was ever --. It was a nice try , but facts show time and time again to prove God saying something otherwise isnt going to happen unfortunately.

    ephesians 5:25 states to Love the wife so men are clear to Treat any situation with Fear of the Lord and not merciless Tyrants , But being Correct so the woman KNOWS its Gods Fear the Man has and is Grounded in and she follows his Hierarchy Godly Order .

    The pattern is set in stone . The divine hierarchy has worked for 1000 and 1000;s of years and cant be changed even now. so please just listen to The HolySpirit in Fear of the Lord proverbs 31:30 as a Good woman should .

    1 Peter 3
    King James Version (KJV)
    3 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;( as a check system to mans conscience)

    6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

    7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

    be Blessed and stay Blessed in the Fear of The Lord !

  8. The strong''s Hebrew 1166 and 1167 are used in Gen 20:3. Both words are baal.

    Sarah is baal (master) to a baal (master)