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The Submissive Wife
The Modern Woman

by Carole Bedwell © 2000, 2004 Carole Bedwell Revised October 2004

No limitation is placed upon reproduction of this document except that it must be reproduced in its entirety without modification or deletions. The publisher's name and address, copyright notice and this message must be included. It may be freely distributed but must be distributed without charge to the recipient.


This booklet is being provided in the spirit of Titus 2:1-4 (NKJV):

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: {2} that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; {3} the older [women] likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; {4} that they admonish the young [women] to love their husbands, to love their children,

This is an attempt to speak to women on issues that are relevant to maintaining a healthy and happy marriage. It is hoped that the presentation is thought provoking and will cause Christian women and men to rededicate themselves to the union which they have entered into. It may also serve to cause young women planning on entering marriage to get off on the right foot. Happy and successful marriages will not only be a blessing to those involved but will also serve as an example to our children and the rest of world.


In this day and age there are many things that can cause conflict in a Christian's life. Some of these are caused by outside influences and some come from within. This document is provided to try to shed light on one issue that can be a cause for distress which comes from within.

Usually when you see a title such as this it is meant to convey a message that there is a conflict, battle or at the very least two opposing positions. Is that necessarily true in this case? Recently I had the opportunity to review some of the Scriptures relative to the biblical description for a marriage relationship. The Scriptures that are of particular relevance to this review are those which address themselves to the relationship and roles of the husband and wife in marriage.

No matter how good a marriage is, at one time or another, there probably has been or will be a time when these Scriptures could have a direct impact on the success or failure of that relationship. It may not mean that the marriage will collapse, but it may mean that the overall tenor of the marriage could be changed for the foreseeable future.

Our marriages are a vital part of our lives and serve as an example to our children and the world. We need to also remember that it is representative of the fundamental relationship that we have with Christ, as members of the church. In the marriage relationship, we are called upon to perform certain roles and tasks that demonstrate the basic principles of Christian living.

As with many things in life we do some things well and some things not so well, but we need to keep our eye on the standard that has been set forth for us.

While this document speaks most directly of the woman's role in a marriage, I think that men may find some of this material of interest also. Therefore I would encourage you to read this and give some thought to your current or future relationship with your wife.


"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
"Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. . . . " Genesis 1:27 and 31 (NKJV)
"He who finds a wife finds a good thing. And obtains favor from the Lord." Proverbs 18:22 (NKJV)

So the foundation was set for what has become one of the most lasting relationships known to man. The relationship of a man and woman, in marriage, was provided for by God almost from the beginning. We read in:

Genesis 2:18 and 24 (NKJV) And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." and then in verse {24} Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh;

God established marriage as a partnership (joined to become one flesh), but he created woman as a "helper." So what is a partnership? Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, (Prentice Hall, 1994) defines it as "the state of being a partner; participation. The relationship of partners; joint interest, association." Two key words are "participation" and "joint interest." The word "helper" is from the Hebrew "ezer" (Strong's H5828) meaning to aid or help.

From this you can see that God never intended for a person to be cut off from a fulfilling relationship. According to the Scriptures the essence of marriage is togetherness or being "yoked" together (Mat. 19:5-6), working in unison. It allows for a spouse to complement, not compete with or suppress, the other.

This mutually dependent relationship is exemplified in the phrase "one flesh."

Let's move on further into this relationship when God speaks to Eve:

Gen 3:16 (NKJV) To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire <shall be> for your husband, And he shall rule over you."

The word "rule" comes from the Hebrew word "mashal" (Strong's H4910) which means (have, make to have) dominion, governor, rule, have power.

We can see this hierarchy reiterated in the New Testament.

1 Cor 11:3-10 (NKJV) But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman <is> man, and the head of Christ <is> God.
Ephesians 5: {22} Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord, {23} For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Colossians 3: {18} Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. {19} Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, which has been theorized as originally intended to be a circular letter to the Asian churches, direction is given to both husbands and wives regarding their roles in this partnership.

Eph 5:23-24 (NKJV) For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. {24} Therefore, just as the Church is subject to Christ, so <let> the wives <be> to their own husbands in everything.

As in any organization, whether large or small, there is a need for a leader. In this case, that role has been clearly assigned to the husband.

To "rule over you" is not a license to operate like a dictatorship. In fact, this is clearly addressed in:

Eph 5:25-33 (NKJV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, {26} that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, {27} that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. {28} So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. {29} For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord <does> the church. {30} For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. {31} "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." {32} This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. {33} Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife <see> that she respects <her> husband.
1 Pet 3:7-12 (NKJV) {7} Husbands, likewise, dwell with <them> with understanding, giving 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. {8} Finally, all <of you be> of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, <be> tenderhearted, <be> courteous; {9} not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. {10} For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. {11} Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. {12} For the eyes of the LORD <are> on the righteous, And His ears <are open> to their prayers; But the face of the LORD <is> against those who do evil."

To the wives, this statement:

1 Pet 3:1-6 (NKJV) {1} Wives, likewise, <be> submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, {2} when they observe your chaste conduct <accompanied> by fear. {3} Do not let your adornment be <merely> outward; arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on <fine> apparel; {4} rather <let it be> the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible <beauty> of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. {5} For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, {6} as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

So what we have established so far is that (1) a marriage is a joining of two people as "one flesh" (partnership), (2) the husband being assigned the role as "head of the wife"(Eph 5:23), (3) the wife being directed to "submit" to her husband, and (4) both the husband and wife are directed to love one another, as Christ loves his church. Any problem so far? Sounds pretty clear.


This seems to be the place where some controversy enters. Submit? What does that mean? According to Webster's Dictionary to submit means "to present or refer to others for decision, consideration, etc. To yield to the action, control power, etc. of another or others, give in; also, to subject or allow to be subjected to treatment, analysis, etc. of some sort: often used reflexively. To be submissive is having or showing a tendency to submit without resistance; docile; yielding."

Does that mean that we wives are to sit in the corner and never say a word? That we can't make any major decisions in my marriage? That we had become a second-class citizen? That is not the way women of today are encouraged or taught, at home, school or in the workplace, to act. This is the day and age of Women's Rights. Women can do and make decisions as well as anyone else can. So why is it that in one of the most important areas of life, women have been directed to be submissive? And why do "modern women" and the secular world make such a fuss over the use of the word "submit?" The issue may or may not be life or death, but the importance of maintaining a healthy and happy marriage may be at stake.

Certainly we see many examples in the Bible of women that were influential with their husbands and others, such as Sarah, Rachel, Deborah, and Esther to name a few. As indicated in Jamieson, Faussset & Brown's, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Zondervan, 1961) in the Book of Proverbs, we are supplied with a proverbial wisdom commended by the seal of divine inspiration. God has condescended to become our teacher on the practical affairs belonging to all the relations of life. He has adapted His instruction to the plain and unlettered, and presented, in this striking and impressive method, the great principles of duty to Him and to our fellow men. To the prime motive of all right conduct and the fear of God, are added all lawful and subordinate incentives, such as honor, interest, love, fear, and natural affection. In Proverbs 31:10-31, we find a very clear description given of the "model woman." Let's look at that.

Prov 31 (NKJV) {10} Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth <is> far above rubies. {11} The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. {12} She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. {13} She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands. {14} She is like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar. {15} She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants. {16} She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard. {17} She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms. {18} She perceives that her merchandise <is> good, And her lamp does not go out by night. {19} She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle. {20} She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. {21} She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household <is> clothed with scarlet. {22} She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing <is> fine linen and purple. {23} Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. {24} She makes linen garments and sells <them>, And supplies sashes for the merchants. {25} Strength and honor <are> her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come. {26} She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue <is> the law of kindness. {27} She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. {28} Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband <also>, and he praises her: {29} "Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all." {30} Charm <is> deceitful and beauty <is> passing, But a woman <who> fears the LORD, she shall be praised. {31} Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.

This certainly doesn't sound like a woman who sat in the corner and said or did nothing. In fact, no matter what the time, this woman would be considered highly successful. The key here seems to be her ability to not only be an ideal wife and mother, but also a successful business woman. This would be a worthy example to anyone.

Let's look at this Scripture more closely. Who can find a "virtuous" wife? What is "virtuous?" According to Webster's Dictionary it is "having, or characterized by, moral virtue; righteous. Chaste, said of a woman." The Companion Bible, (Kregel, 1990) describes it as coming from the Hebrew word "hayil" which means strong in all moral qualities. The English use of this word limits it to one kind of excellence. The meaning of the Hebrew is wider. In these verses, we see a wife who is virtuous, industrious, domesticated, generous, strong, honorable, wise and godly. She displays all these qualities as she performs tasks associated with being a wife, mother, manager of her household and staff, seamstress, cook, landowner, farmer, merchant, and community leader. She not only gives attention to her own family and household staff but also provides for the poor. From her husband's perspective, she has strong moral qualities, is priceless, trustworthy, and an asset. In any time or circumstances this person would be considered an over-achiever.

Many women today are involved in the many of the same activities. All be it, times have changed and we have many modern conveniences and technology to assist in these activities. However, there is still a substantial commitment of time and effort required.

So how could it be that the biblical "model woman" looks so much like the modern woman? Maybe it's because a "modern" woman is a woman who reflects the times in which she lives. She is a person having ideas, beliefs and standards of her times. So while the model woman was modern for her time, in today's world this same woman would be considered modern in ideas with some very high beliefs and moral standards. Isn't it strange, that the model woman defined so many centuries ago is still a representative figure for today's world. So look at the scripture again and tell me if the moral qualities described are a bad thing. As a Christian they would seem to be right on target.


One must prepare for marriage by giving it serious forethought. Marriage should not be a spur-of-the-moment act. You need to ask yourself at least two things, (1) What can I give (contribute) and (2) Am I willing to commit myself fully to making this a successful relationship?

One of the problems today seems to lie in the fact that we have placed a negative connotation on the word "submissive." We associate the word with relationships that are dominant, dictatorial, servile, and many other negative terms. This then coupled with a woman's past training to be responsible and self-reliant begins to cause problems.

So a second key may then be in how we communicate and interact with each other. Do we have two people who feel that their "status or pride" is being threatened to assume the roles that they have been given? Is there a need on the part of either of both of the team to exercise some actions that firmly establish their role in this relationship? Does the husband feel a need to exercise control to demonstrate his position? Does the wife respond with acts of resistance or rebellion to assert an "equal" position in the partnership? Do we give more respect and consideration to those outside our marriage than we do to our own spouse? Are we making an effort to maintain the relationship that God described?

Any good leader or successful person knows that one of the key elements to success is communications. And communications has two aspects; one is speaking and the other is listening. Major companies today spend millions of dollars for advice of matters involving finance, law, technology and other matters. Why would a husband not want to take a marriage, that is worth much more than any major corporation, and "rule" without advice and counsel? By the same token, why would a wife not want to be a "helpmate" to achieve a successful partnership?

A successful leader also knows that you cannot operate without regard for your co-workers or followers. Leaders must delegate some of the tasks and responsibilities to achieve the objectives. When objectives are met then reward and/or praise are the order of the day. We all feel better when someone takes the time to recognize our efforts. That goes for our efforts relative to our marriages as well as those in other venues. Also with the giving of authority to perform tasks and responsibilities there is accountability. I for one worked for many years before I was married. I had a very responsible position in my field of work and had authority over several thousand employees and major financial matters. I also made all of my own decisions for many years as a single woman. But despite a successful career everyone is responsible to someone. There was always someone to whom I was accountable.

We all know that ultimately we are accountable to God. But think about your life today, inside or outside the home, and you will find more times than not that you are answerable to someone for many of the things that you do. If we are accountable to strangers, why then is it a problem to be answerable to your "partner?" This is the person that you have proclaimed to love and trust. If we have time to take counsel from others in the workplace and outside the home, why not then from our spouses?

Here then is another key issue, what is "trust." You will note in Proverbs 31:11, that "the heart of her husband safely trusts her." What is trust? According to Webster's Dictionary , trust is "a firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing; faith; reliance." The Hebrew word is butach (Strong's H982). Meaning to trust, to confide, to place hope and confidence in any one. There is much in a marriage that involves trust. Think about it. The husband in Proverbs who safely trusted "will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." In response, "her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." To trust means that you have yielded to someone. But who better and more worthy than your husband? And husbands, a little praise now and again would not hurt.

When we married, we entered into a "contract." That contract was an agreement between two people detailing the obligations and terms of the union. While all the specific terms of that contract are not written on a sheet of paper, it is legal and binding, both in the eyes of the civil law and God's law. Most of us stood before our family and friends and promised that we would act in a certain manner and treat the other person in a certain manner. Among many of the things that were promised, most of us promised to "honor and cherish." Do we understand what that means?

To "cherish" means to hold dear, feel or show love for, to take good care of, protect. Sounds like the direction in Colossians 3:19, for husbands to love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Also Ephesians 5:25-33, husbands are admonished to "love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" and " husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies, he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church."

Likewise, to "honor" means "high regard or great respect, given, received or enjoyed. High rank or position, distinction, dignity." Is this not what is called for in the Scriptures that indicate that "the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church"(Eph 5:23), that "wives submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Col 3:18), and "just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Eph 5:24)?

Maybe it is time to get back to the answers we have to the two questions that we needed to consider before we entered into marriage. If we were truthful in our answers, we have committed ourselves to making this union work. We made a covenant and to that end we must be a person of our word. In this modern age, it is easy to get out of many commitments simply by saying, "I've changed my mind," or "I just don't feel that way about you any more." Words are often cheap.

Would you like Christ to "change His mind" or "just not feel that way about you any more?"


It seems that we have come full circle. We have walked through God's creation of the husband and wife relationship and his designation of the hierarchy of that union. We have touched upon the possible hurdle that must be cleared by the "modern woman" in clearly understanding what the submissive role of the wife entails. We have looked at the stigmatism associated with the designation of the wife's role as submissive. We have looked at the description of the "model woman" given in Proverbs 31 and concluded that it closely is aligned to the attributes that most "modern woman" of today would subscribe to. We have looked at a couple of key elements to achieving success in any endeavor. And we have looked at two promises that were a part of the verbal marriage contract that we entered into on the day we were married that could help us in being comfortable and satisfied in the submissive wife role.

So what can we conclude? First, is that there probably isn't any opposing positions between a submissive wife and a modern woman. That the fuss raised by the secular world is more flap than substance. Second, that the proverbial wisdom, provided through the inspiration of God, relative to the "model woman" is as applicable today as it was at the time it was written. That the joint effort of both the husband and the wife to operate a successful partnership has many subordinate incentives.

And finally, it is very easy when we enter marriage to see only a smooth road and the bright side of every thing. There is nothing wrong with that. But we need to enter marriage with a commitment that we are going to put all our efforts into making the union what God intended it to be. We must put our trust in each other and give this partnership the required effort; remembering that this relationship was modeled after Christ's relationship with the Church.

For in the end we must be prepared to stand in front of God and be held accountable for our efforts toward conducting our marriages in the manner HE prescribed.

No limitation is placed upon reproduction of this document except that it must be reproduced in its entirety without modification or deletions. The publisher's name and address, copyright notice and this message must be included. It may be freely distributed but must be distributed without charge to the recipient.