Head of the House? | CBE International

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Head of the House?

On August 04, 2010

Many evangelicals believe that the Bible teaches that God has ordained that the husband is the "head of the house" and is the one through whom God speaks to the family.

Usually, this is based on a verse or two in the writings of Paul, such as Ephesians 5:22. (Such teachers fail to mention Ephesians 5:21—"submit to one another," or I Cor. 7—the only place where Paul talks exclusively about marriage and clearly gives exactly the same commands to husbands and wives.)

Apparently the God of the Old Testament didn’t understand this "headship" idea, either. Look, for example, at the story of the birth of Samson recorded in Judges 13. Manoah and his wife very much wanted a child. One day an angel appeared to Manoah’s wife and told her that she would bear a son who was to be raised as a Nazirite—hair never cut, never to drink wine, etc. He would begin to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines.

Like any good wife, she ran to tell her husband about the angel's appearance and message. Manoah prayed that the angel would come again and tell them how to bring up this child (Judg. 13:8).

God answered his prayer; the angel appeared again to the woman while she was out in the field. Again, like a good wife, she ran to tell her husband. He went to the field with her and asked the angel how they were to raise the child that God was going to give them. (Manoah obviously was a man of faith.) The angel replied, "Your wife must do all I have told her" (Judg. 13:13).

Manoah invited the angel to stay while he prepared a goat and grain as an offering to God. God sent a flame of fire to consume it, and the angel ascended in the flame.

"We are doomed to die!" Manoah said, "because we have seen God!" His wife apparently had a better understanding of God. "If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted our offerings or told us all these things" (Judg. 13:23).

This is only one of the many stories in the Bible that show how God reveals himself to women as well as to men, and holds them equally responsible to him. The "man as the head of house" concept is the result of "selective literalism"—not the result of careful study of the Bible.

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