Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Itching Ears, part 8 (House vs. House)

Prepare to be surprised. Itching Ears crowd: get used to hearing the opposite of what you want to hear. In part 7, I suggested the Bible is speaking of a joint husband/wife rulership over the family. But that may be incorrect. Since the verses telling husbands to rule their houses, are usually interpreted to mean rule the wives, too, I decided to see what “house” means in the directive to each gender. Comparing the I Timothy “rule the house commands” to husband and wife, the wife is specifically told to be the head of, ruler of, the family, while the husband is specifically told to rule the dwelling, and the rule of the family is only figurative or implied. That suggests a much stronger rule from the wife than from the husband with regard to the PEOPLE in the household, and a much stronger rule from the husband than from the wife in the care of the structural DWELLING. This is in reference to the words “manage or rule the house.” In addition the husband is specifically told to rule the children and keep them in subjection, but this is not the phrase that has been traditionally focused on. The itching ears crowd has stretched the direction to the husband to rule the house to ridiculous lengths to get it to say what they want to hear--that he should rule the wife. The direction to the wife does not have to be stretched quite that far to make it say the wife is to rule the husband. After all, she is to be the head of or ruler of the house or family.

The phrase “guide the house” in I Tim. 5:14 that is directed to wives, is all one word meaning “to be the head or ruler of the house or family.” #3616. It is the only time that word is used in the New Testament as the meaning for house. It comes from the word that means “master or goodman of the house.” One would expect the husband to be told to be the Goodman of the house #3617, but he is not. Instead, he is told to rule his children and his own dwelling. #2624 “a dwelling (more or less extensive, lit. or fig) ; by impl. a family (more or less related, lit. or fig.):--home, house (-hold), temple.” He is only told to rule the wife by implication and then it's figurative on top of that. Paul is usually more direct.

This was not what I expected. Why would traditional teaching use I Tim.3:4 to put such emphasis on husbands ruling the wife when the meaning for such is so incredibly weak? And when you hold it side by side with the rulership assigned to the wives, the only way a person can conclude the husband is to rule the wife, is if you also conclude the wife is to rule the husband.

This agrees with the teaching to husbands in Ephesians 5. Husbands love your wives so much that you sacrifice your own preferences for their sake, even as Christ loved the church. In this context, to be her “head,” is to be her loving servant-provider. In other words, the husband is to protect her by keeping the roof over her head from leaking and falling in, provide resources of food, clothing and household goods for her, nurture her so she can grow to use fully the spiritual gifts God gave her, use gracious words of encouragement to build her up to perfection. (This is a type of “washing with water by the word.” Because wives grow best in response to loving, upbuilding, and encouraging words, and they get stressed and ill in response to reprimands and demeaning comments, etc.) And the wife is to submit to her husband’s loving self-sacrificial behavior.

Thought to ponder: If traditional teaching has the roles so reversed, is house cleaning included in the role reversal? If a husband who is worthy of being a bishop or deacon is to rule or maintain the dwelling (if you recall, maintain was one of the meanings of “rule” for the husband. “to stand before, i.e. (in rank), to preside, or (by implication) to practice:—maintain, be over, rule.”), does that stop at the structure, or does it include indoor maintenance? When did vacuuming, sweeping, mopping and gardening become “women’s work?” When husbands refused to do them?

A roofer told me he went with his wife to clean houses for her clients, and it completely wore him out. He said cleaning is much more physically demanding than roofing. He would rather put on roofs any day. Yet cleaning is what many men refuse to do. Instead, they leave the maintenance, the “ruling” of both cleaning and childcare to their wives. Where are the men who are so quick to call women who don’t submit “Jezebel?” Aren’t these husbands rebelling against God--like Jezebel?

I find this whole twisting of scripture so sad. Does each man who continues with the husband-leader or husband-authority hierarchical rule despise women in general and his wife in particular that much? Or is that all he knows? If that is all he knows, are we to conclude the men of today are the deceived daughters of Eve? Are any of them without excuse?

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel," a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit www.wanetadawn.com


  1. God said to man, “The earth will bring forth thistles.” Man replied, “I’ll weed them out. I’ll develop weed killers and make my garden a paradise.” God said to man, “You will work by the sweat of your brow.” Man replied, “I’ll invent tools that will make my work easier: the plow, the hoe, the tiller and the John Deere tractor.” God said to woman, “You will have pain in childbirth.” Man responded, “Yea, so be it, let her suffer so my quiver can be full. It is God’s will. My work was made hard because of her.” God said to woman, “Your husband will rule over you.” Man responded, “Of course that’s the way it should be. I am to be her master. I was created first.” And woman bowed her head and said, “I am indeed under a curse.”

    I have been following this series with great interest Waneta. Letting go of tradition is difficult, even for those of us who have suffered from the false teaching and misuse of scripture directed towards men and women within the professing Christian church. Wives are loathe to challenge the status quo, and husbands don't want to give it up. But the truth is, Jesus changed the landscape when he came. He lifted the curse. The ground is level at the cross, for female as well as for male. We are Adam.


  2. Waneta: If traditional teaching has the roles so reversed, is house cleaning included in the role reversal?

    "teach the young women to be... keepers at home" Titus 2:4-5 (KJV)

    A word study of Titus 2:5 and related words reveals that “keepers at home” translated "housekeeper" in some versions really has very little (maybe nothing) to do with domestic duties. It is an assignment to be a protector: a mother should protect her children, a wife should protect her husband (insofar as he submits to her protection)

    The Greek word translated “keepers at home”(KJV) "homemaker" (NKJV) or "housekeeper" is oikouros. This is a compound word from oikos- house, household, family; and ouros- a guard, be "ware", guardian, a watcher, a warden. The word carries the meaning of watchman. This is not JUST an assignment of “domestic servitude” !!!

    She is charged with guarding the home
    from enemy onslaught!!!

    It reminds me of the charge to Adam in the garden of Eden where the word “shamar” translated “keep” also carries the meaning of watchman, indicating that he was not JUST a “gardener”

    Gen 2:15¶
    And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden
    to dress it and to keep it.

    The term “housekeeper” does not do justice to the high and holy calling of a wife any more than the term “grounds-keeper” or “gardener” does justice to adam's calling!

    Significantly, the term "KEEPER" is not only used of adam/man and woman, but also of God and of Jesus in the Garden!:

    of God:
    1 Peter 1:5 - kept/guarded/protected
    5432 phroureo {froo-reh'-o} AV - keep
    from a compound of 4253 and 3708 horao {hor-ah'-o}

    the scripture says Mary Magdalene thinks Jesus is:
    John 20:15- "keeper of the garden"
    2780 kepouros {kay-poo-ros'}
    from 2779 and ouros (a warden);; n m

    Jesus as "keeper". Is any tiny detail of God's Word trivial? In another garden in the beginning of time, the first Adam and the first woman and another instance where God assigns the responsibility of "keeper"...