Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
When God created humankind, he created it male and female, with an equality between the sexes. Men and women are equal in worth and status, having been created jointly in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:21-23; cf. Galatians 3:28). But physically and emotionally they are different, for God has made them to fulfil different roles. Although there may be cases where God’s will is that a person remain single (1 Corinthians 7:7-8; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35), in general his will is that people marry. In marriage two equal human beings, a man and a woman, have two different functions, those of husband and wife (Genesis 2:24-25).
The marriage partnership
The husband’s exclusively male characteristics mean that he starts the process that produces children in the family, and perhaps this is why he carries the ultimate responsibility for the family. The wife’s exclusively female characteristics enable her to bear children, and perhaps this is why she has a special responsibility for the children’s care (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:15). Both the husband and the wife have a responsibility to ‘rule’ or ‘manage’ the family (1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 5:14), and in their different ways they contribute to its stability and well-being. As in other areas of life, each is dependent on the other (1 Corinthians 11:11-12; see also HUSBAND).
The wife should submit to her husband in his role as head of the family (Ephesians 5:22-24; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5-6), but this is balanced by the requirement that the husband should submit to his wife (Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:7). The husband should exercise self-sacrificing love for his wife (Ephesians 5:25-29; Colossians 3:19), but this is balanced by the requirement that the wife should exercise self-sacrificing love for her husband (Ephesians 5:1-2). Each gives for the sake of the other. The relationship between them is patterned on the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:24-25; Ephesians 5:32; see also MARRIAGE).
Ideals and reality
In an Old Testament picture of the ideal wife, there is an equality of trust and understanding between her and her husband (Proverbs 31:10-12). She is both discerning and diligent, whether in helping the family income or in carrying out household tasks (Proverbs 31:13-19). Her generous service for others extends beyond her family to those who are less fortunate, with the result that all in the community respect both her and her household (Proverbs 31:20-26). In particular, she is loved and honoured by her husband and children (Proverbs 31:27-31).
There will be marital harmony where husband and wife recognize each other’s strengths and learn to depend on each other and support each other. A wife may find, for instance, that her husband is especially dependent on her in cases where he acknowledges her superior insight, judgment or decisiveness (Genesis 21:12; Judges 4:4; Judges 13:22-23; 1 Samuel 1:23; Proverbs 19:14; Acts 18:26; cf. 1 Samuel 25:1-42). In other circumstances a wife may gladly accept the judgment of her husband and realize that in the chosen course of action what he needs most is her support (Genesis 31:3-5; Genesis 31:14-17; Exodus 18:5-8; 1 Corinthians 9:5; cf. Job 2:9-10; Proverbs 19:13).
A wife must not allow loyalty to her husband to lead her into wrongdoing (cf. Acts 5:1-2; Acts 5:9). The husband’s headship in marriage does not mean he can command absolute obedience. The only person to whom a wife must give absolute obedience is God (cf. Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29).
Special difficulties may arise in the case where the wife becomes a Christian after marriage, but her husband remains a non-Christian. The wife should not try to divorce her husband, but neither should she be aggressive in trying to make him a Christian. She should live with him in such a way that he may see the worth of the Christian life and perhaps become a believer himself (1 Corinthians 7:12-16; 1 Peter 3:1-6; see also DIVORCE).
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Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Wife'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​bbd/​w/wife.html. 2004.