Finding security and rest in an 'asymmetrical' marriage

2015 Books Issue | An excerpt from WORLD’s Book of the Year in Accessible Theology
by Sam A. Andreades
Posted 6/13/15, 09:34 am

WORLD’s Book of the Year in the Accessible Theology category is enGendered: God’s Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship (Weaver, 2015). In it, Pastor Sam A. Andreades makes a bold move in an age of equality by praising asymmetry: In a good marriage, husbands make wives secure and wives give husbands rest.

Journalists who don’t understand this think it’s nutty for nine of 10 evangelicals to believe both that “marriage should be an equal partnership [and that] the husband should be head of the family.” Understand asymmetry and it all makes sense: security and rest. Andreades’ experience while pastoring a Presbyterian Church in America congregation in New York’s Greenwich Village allowed him to see how insufficient asymmetry is an inherent problem in intimate same-sex relationships.

Our category title is Accessible Theology because we looked for books that avoided both academese and pop oversimplification. Here’s Chapter 8 of enGendered, published with the permission of Weaver Book Company. —Marvin Olasky

The Asymmetry of Origin: The Man of the Solid Ground and the Woman of the Resting Rib

“Which of us gives up the rock band first?”

I used to live in an SRO on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. That stands for “Single Room Occupancy,” which means a roach- and rat-infested excuse for an apartment building where the landlord got whatever he could from people who had very little to give. As we were hard up financially, in order to survive, we sunk to occupations of the gutter, the world’s most disreputable jobs, like prostitution and telemarketing. I chose the latter. It was where life was basic and I learned a lot there about basic life.

Like when Millie’s “husband” had to have a word with me. I doubt that they were actually married, but it was close enough for our building. I forget his name, but I will never forget his definite tone, informing me that I could not wear just a towel to the bath. The floor had to share a bathroom, with one toilet with crevasses running through its seat, one sink with a shard of mirror perched on a shelf above, and one rusted shower. I used to walk to it in my flip-flops and towel, to avoid spending any more time in there than I needed to, such as dressing and undressing. Millie, from across the hall, got very upset at this and enlisted her husband to come tell me I had to wear clothes when I was in the hallway. I found this ridiculous—considering the other things that went on in that hallway, the place did not exactly cry out for modest manners. Besides, there was no clean place to put clean clothes. Even though I was put out by it, I came to see how, in a situation with little security, Millie’s guy was creating a space for his woman to feel secure. He was doing what he could. I saw there a movement between them that I am sure accounted for why they stayed together when, in the statistics of a place like that, the odds were against it. He was securing her.

As with each of the asymmetries, Adam and Eve’s securing and giving rest can be traced through the Bible’s other genres, beginning with the law of Moses. The book of Deuteronomy, giving direction to the second generation of Israelites out of Egypt on how to live in the land they are entering, prescribes a one-year leave from military service or any public service for that matter, for all new husbands, that they would use their newlywed time to “bring happiness [vesimmach [1]] to” their new wives (Deut. 24:5 NIV). Here the commandment codifies the masculine securing specialty of Genesis 2:23. The words used for man and woman here are ’ish and ’ishshah, creating a poetic beauty. The man stays home to root his wife in his love. The Mosaic laws go on to unilaterally forbid prostitution (Lev. 19:29; Deut. 23:17; 23:18), quite unusual for an ancient Near East where using women in this manner so was routinely legal. Such gender statutes practically preserved the community’s women. They kept the home a refuge by forbidding women from selling the gift of sex outside of it. And they kept the men securing their wives and daughters by disallowing a society where men could bed women without commitment. A land without the possibility of prostitution is a land where women sense safety.

The call of men to securing continues through the Old Testament narrative. I opened part 2 of the book with the story of Achsah and Othniel (Judg. 1:11–15). It begins thus:

From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. (Judg. 1:11–13)

Readers often skip over this passage as incidental. But it actually introduces a main theme in the book of Judges: the view and place of women in the mission of God. The book, in its apologetic for a monarchy for ancient Israel, develops the theme of ineffective rulership of charismatic but uncommitted and covenantally unfaithful leaders. The author means to show how poorly things go when “there was no king in Israel” (Judg. 18:1; 19:1), when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25). The book develops its themes of leadership through a brilliant arrangement, what scholars call a “chiasm” (or “chiasmus”), which pairs matched events, and several levels of the chiasm feature women characters. Appendix 2 lays out this structure, showing how Judges’s chiastic design contrasts the beginning period of the era (chapter 1), when the situation was hopeful and the society good, to the end of the era (chapters 19–21), when luridly brutal atrocities exhibit an Israel that is worse than Canaan (lines B/B′ and C/C′ in appendix 2).

The biblical author thereby teaches how to gauge a society: measure it by how the women in it are treated. The opening chapters’ Achsah and Othniel story demonstrates that, in the beginning, while the leader Joshua lived, women are treasured, the secret resource for how and why things get done. Othniel secures the woman by taking the city for her. By the end, we witness the opposite of women secured: they are raped and ravaged and ultimately treated like disposable objects.

These are some examples of how the Bible preaches the asymmetry of origin. What does it mean for men today? To translate the message, consider that when Adam gave Eve her name, it helped her know that she had a place. She had a context for her identity to unfold. This wisdom of God gives us a broad directive, which can be fulfilled in both traditional and nontraditional ways. Securing may mean massacring marauding dragons or making calming coffee. It is going to vary with the woman. It will also change with the cultural context. Every husband needs to ask the question, “What makes my wife secure?” If, for her, amassing a gun collection or learning kickboxing would do it, then perfect your roundhouse kicks. If it is earning a steady income, then do that. It might be heroic or mundane. It might seem familiar to you or strange. But it is surely God’s call to you in this relationship. The main point is to answer the question, how can you make her secure? Have you asked her?

Pastoring in Greenwich Village, downtown New York City, I counseled many couples made up of young artists. Many talented young people come to New York City with a dream to succeed in dance, music, theatre, film, TV, painting, sculpture, opera, writing, illustration, or animation. But all of these are tough to break into and usually do not pay a lot unless you reach the very top of the profession. I usually advise a five-year plan, to test if God would bless their aspirations. But something often interferes before the five years are up—another artist. Artists attract one another with their countercultural attitudes. They look into each other’s eyes and feel understood. They fall in love. Then they try to begin a life together. Gender comes into play. What does being a man mean in that situation? Being a man often means that he gives up art as a vocation first to get a job that provides some income. Because one of them has to. Young guys would give up the rock band to secure their women.

On the other hand, a husband should not assume that making as much money as possible is what will make his wife secure. Often, attentiveness to her situation mixes much stronger cement for her foundation. Carl’s wife, Penny, was beside herself. Like many women with a young child, her life was frazzled. Her apartment was a mess. There was barely time to get some semblance of a meal on the table. She never got anything done, was constantly overwhelmed, and often felt like a failure when Carl walked through the door after work. What had transpired since when he had left in the morning? She couldn’t even remember. How come nobody told her how much work a little girl required? Or did someone tell her and she wasn’t listening? It didn’t matter, Penny thought, as nothing would make her less of a failure at this mothering thing.

This situation continued until Carl and Penny sat down and talked about what life was like. Carl listened and at last told her that all he really wanted, to feel at rest in their home, was to have the toys off the floor. That was it. The discussion helped Penny see that her life was feasible. She was not a failure because she did not need to be super-housewife. Carl’s sensitivity secured her like nothing else could. Or as Peter puts it, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way …” (1 Peter 3:7).

A husband’s securing work changes with his phase of life. As a marriage progresses into the family stage, probably one of the biggest things a husband can do to give his wife security is to raise her children. His attendance to them does something for her that nothing else does. Thus the Bible consistently instructs fathers to take a leading part in child-rearing. Its pages call men away from leaving the kids’ spiritual formation to their wives, which husbands tend to do. From the beginning, when God says that the forefather Abraham will secure the covenant community by how he directs his children (Gen. 18:18–19), to the New Testament’s gender-specific direction to fathers to bring up their children “in … the Lord” (Eph. 6:4; cf. Col. 3:21), the call upon men in this phase of life is to shepherd their wives’ kids.

“What do you want me to do, stay home and bake cookies?”

And women? How do they lean into this asymmetry? Judges’s chiastic design also contrasts Achsah, the godly wife of the first and best judge, Othniel (Judg. 3:7–11, along with 1:11–15), with Delilah, the ungodly “wife” of the last and worst judge, Samson (Judges 16) (Lines E/E′ in appendix 2). The contrast highlights the importance of women in accomplishing God’s purposes in the land. Delilah is the epitome of how much damage a woman can do to God’s purposes for a man. Achsah is the model of the best, an example of how powerful and influential a woman can be.

Giving rest can find both conventional and nonconventional expression, but the simplest way for a wife to give rest to a husband is by making a physical home for him.

When she [Achsah] came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. (Judg. 1:14–15)

Achsah and Othniel, the future great judge, are making their home in the Negev. When you hear “Negev,” you should think dry. Very dry. Desert dry. The word Negev (or Negeb) in Hebrew means both “south” and “dry.” Barely sufficient rainfall to support agriculture. Uninhabitable unless there is a water supply nearby. Water is what Achsah sets out to get, land that would give her and her husband water. Achsah first approaches Othniel to solve their need. She is asking him to secure her. Achsah then attempts to provide for her covenant family-to-be with the request to her father. Caleb gives them “the upper springs and the lower springs,” a merism meaning he is granting them full rights to all the water in the area.[2] By rolling up her sleeves and pioneering a viable residence for her husband and future children, she is being womanly. She is making a home for him.

In contrast, Delilah from the lowlands (Judges 16) does everything to take rest away from foolish Samson. She finds her security in the bounty price on his head. He has no refuge in her house—he is constantly attacked there. His sleep is often interrupted—by people she invites in to capture him! And, as their relationship of suspicion unravels, he gets tired “to death” (v. 16), the opposite of Adam’s rest. In the end, the only home she leaves him is a dungeon (v. 21).

The womanly quest to give rest may find expression outside of conventional homemaking, but we must allow homemaking as one form of it. Let us first speak of that way. Evangelical women are employed at rates similar to that of the general population, and their median household income mirrors that of other Americans.[3] Yet there persists especially among them a conviction that the wife should focus on the home. Their wives’ practice in this area was the second most talked about category of distinction among the DSM study group. Why? Because they find it in the Scriptures as a way to give rest to their husbands.

In the Bible’s poetic or “writings” genre, we find perhaps the most famous passage about wives, Proverbs 31:10–31. An acrostic poem lauds the industrious woman for making a place of rest and base of operations, that is, a home. Though her businesses—she has several!—bring her outside the home, her goal, achieved through her raiment making (vv. 13, 19, 22, 24), her bed covering (v. 22), her food work (vv. 14–15), her home help management (v. 15), her agriculture (v. 16), her sales (vv. 18, 24), her teaching (v. 26), her charity (v. 20), and even her real estate deals (v. 16), solidifies a fruitful dwelling for her husband and family (vv. 11–12, 21, 27–28). As the text concludes, “she looks well to the ways of her household” (v. 27). Her husband secures her value with superlative praise, both privately (vv. 28–29) and publicly (v. 23, 31), cherishing her, à la Ephesians 5:29, so that she knows the value of what she does (v. 18). This passage of exalted poetry came up more than once in the DSM interviews. Fred’s wife Denise would quote Proverbs 31 to him to explain her to-do list. Or, as Edwin stated bluntly of Sandra, “She’s very Proverbs 31.” Denise and Sandra pressed into this passage, resulting in husbands of profound peace.

Paul’s New Testament gendered advice to Titus for running the church on Crete runs along the same lines. The apostle directs older women, who have seen what goes into relationships, to teach younger women to focus on the home (Titus 2:3–5).[4] The uncommon Greek word he uses connotes not so much staying at home[5] but carrying out household responsibilities.[6] In other words, placing emphasis on the home is a way the wives of Crete could give husbands rest. Clement of Rome, the first-century Christian writer, in probably the earliest preserved noncanonical writing of a Christian community, repeats this advice of Paul to Titus, using the same word as a verb, in the first chapter of his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Clement 1): “They [wives] should manage their household affairs becomingly. …”[7]

Women measuring themselves by these Scriptures sometimes feel discouraged, but the real point of the passages is to create a vision for their work, a means to make decisions about their priorities. Practically, just as with men making their women secure, home-emphasis will change with a woman’s phase of life. A woman who is single or without a household with young children may not carry the same physical home focus to fulfill her gendered call as her motherly counterpart. But small children, when they come, usually demand specialization from one of the partners. The wife’s household in Proverbs 31 includes children (vv. 15, 27–28), but the vision there does not seem to be of the baby-bearing or small children phase. If it did, her husband would not yet likely be an elder (v. 23) or have the intimacy of complete trust that they share (v. 11). She would also have little time for all her cottage industries. The Old Testament author, then, is likely describing the blossoming of an older woman’s life in a mature household, or the whole of her life over time, through many seasons. In contrast, in Titus 2, the women being taught to home-make are definitively young, married, and with children (v. 4). Perhaps the Titus 2 wife matures into the Proverbs 31 matron.

If we are reading the Scriptures well, something counts in a wife’s work to create a home in some way. Because of its value in providing rest, we should not be too quick to dismiss feminine home-emphasis as merely retrograde or a vestige of bourgeois tradition. This might explain the division of household labor studies that have long puzzled researchers: Wives tend to perceive, as fair, chore arrangements that are not equitable.[8] Even when women bring home equal salaries, they will judge a chore division as fair when it really is not an equal split. Why might this complexity underlie the chores? The simplest answer is that her aspiration to make a place of rest may color her judgment on what is fair. Results from sociological studies on gendered housework division and marital quality are conflicting, but some studies do suggest the counterintuitive result that embracing gender distinction in housework improves marriages.[9]

DSM husband Fred’s wife, Denise, took “a step back from her business career for the family,” which deeply moved Fred in his experience of the marriage. The act of giving up immediate career advancement, of not doing what she could do, in order to make a home for him, carried the makings of intimacy. Denise’s service to Fred and his children made a place for him to “at last find his rib,” to use the language of Genesis 2. As Theo offered, “[Melanie sees it as] that she has a really powerful role to play in what kind of environment she creates for me to live in.”

***

All of this can be beautiful for some but hard to pursue for others. Many writers have observed how drastically the Industrial Revolution changed Western social structure of the home.[10] Writer-scholar Nancy Pearcey, for example, of the Francis Schaeffer Center for Worldview and Culture, helpfully analyzes how the late nineteenth-century fragmentation of the family into private and public spheres disrupted the household. Although both men and women lost under this fragmentation, women suffered more because of their confinement to the private sphere. The split removed women from economic production. The values they were supposed to embody were no longer considered as important as happenings in the business world. The women’s sphere was devalued and so were they.[11] It may be feared that associating women with the home in a unique way perpetuates this separate spheres doctrine that fragments the household and denies women meaningful work. Does this kind of teaching keep women down?

The Bible answers this objection by showing us examples of women and men pursuing these goals when economic obstacles block the avenues of gender, or when cultural conditions are unkind to the truths of gender equality and asymmetry. Because the Bible’s gender principles are made to mesh with God’s creational and providential variety, they hold out a vision to pursue and principles to apply even amidst cultural contradiction. It is rest-making, not domesticity, that is always womanly in the Bible, so sometimes true femininity turns domesticity on its head, especially in a world where values are skewed. The book of Judges showcases this vision. It first shows some spectacular examples of masculinity—by counterexample! The men of Judges repeatedly fail to secure the women around them. Meanwhile, the women, while not stepping away from being women, act bravely in a gendered way. As providence plays ironically with domesticity, the women use the feminine asymmetry to forge ahead with God’s purposes.

In Judges 4:17–21, the housewife, Jael plays a critical part in God’s history. It is a time when a decisive war is being waged for the future of the kingdom of God on earth. While her husband, Heber, aligns himself with the Israelites’ enemy (vv. 11, 17), holding himself aloof from the covenant community and failing to secure her, Jael shines in her femininity nonetheless. She is the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, ready for anything. Jael bravely beckons the fleeing enemy general to her tent; she invites Sisera into her home. She ostensibly provides a place of rest for him, just as Eve did for Adam. She gives him milk, a symbol of motherhood. In fact, he is so taken in, he goes to sleep. But, actually, she is using her homemaking for God’s mission, to save Israel from Sisera’s clutches. We know from Bedouin practices that it was the woman’s job to set up and break down the tent. So the mallet and tent peg are her domestic tools and she would be handy with them.[12] Ironically, “while he was lying fast asleep from weariness” (v. 21), she uses these domestic tools to kill him.

The chiastic match of this story in Judges 9 (lines H/H′ in appendix 2) calls for action similar to Jael’s for the community. The usurper, Abimelech, is out of control and no one can stop him. No one, that is, except the brave woman stuck in the tower of Thebez, with whom we began this chapter. Abimelech has vengefully surrounded the tower, locking the town’s innocent inhabitants inside, showing us what awful leadership looks like: the opposite of securing. He draws near to burn it down. Once again in Judges, as the man fails, the woman shines. Similar to Jael, the Thebez woman uses a millstone, a domestic tool, to deadly use. She heaves her homemaking tool from the tower and cracks Abimelech’s skull. In so doing, she accomplishes God’s purpose, ending Abimelech’s awful siege on the people of God (Judg. 9:52–55). The text is hilarious in summing up the action. The attackers stand there, looking at the dead Abimelech, and then decide there is nothing else to do. So “they went home” (v. 55 NIV). In other words, the Thebez woman returned everybody to their homes.

These brave women, in creative ways, brought rest to their homes, as well as the covenant community. In the process, they teach us that the way in which we do gender is not limited to one narrow job. The biblical word is a far cry from saying, “A woman’s place is only in the home.” Its wise counsel can encourage the many women who are feeling guilty about working outside the home, as well as the many women who now feel guilty for staying at home. But both conventional and nonconventional means of homemaking can be valid ways to fulfill our femininity. On what does it depend? The men! Again, our genders are for the sake of the other in relationship. The way in which a woman provides rest can be as various as men are. For example, what is it but rest-giving that the apostle Peter gets at in directing wives to a quiet manner of behavior (1 Peter 3:1–4)? Be creative. While an essence of womanhood is to give rest in relationship, the way she does it will vary with the positions of providence, the people involved, and the purposes of God.

Likewise for men, God-made masculinity is not always providing for, but making secure. Familiar roles like bringing home the bacon may be part of the job, or may not, but they are not the job. In the book of Ruth, righteous Boaz goes outside of norms to make sure the women of his concern, Naomi and Ruth, are secure in their greatest needs. To keep her from being molested was the first matter of security (Ruth 2:9, 22). His discrete solution to their financial insecurity is to instruct his men to let Ruth glean among the sheaves and even to pull out some barley from the bundles to leave for her to find (2:15–16). But Boaz provided things for them far more important than money. After Ruth makes her pass at him, Boaz protects her reputation (3:14) and makes both daughter and mother-in-law secure as their kinsman-redeemer (3:9, 12–13).

One may still object that couples find it unfeasible these days to sustain a household on one income, so how can the wife focus on the home? Or how can the long hours of a husband’s job allow active engagement with the children? Both of these realities of modern industrialized life provide challenges. But again, the biblical gender goals are resilient enough to pursue even in contrary circumstances.

Roxanne, a woman in my church, needed to be the breadwinner in her marriage. Steve, her husband had much more limited work possibilities. They were without children, which allowed flexibility, and I encouraged them to think along the biblical categories we are discussing. Roxanne felt that these categories were too abstract to be useful, but I saw them played out in their love anyway. Because her position subjected her to severe criticism, Roxanne often found herself insecure about her worth and abilities. I watched her husband repeatedly value her, cheering her through a year that might have crushed her otherwise. The irreplaceable securing that Steve did for Roxanne illustrates the range of the job. It reminded me of the story of Hannah and Eli, in the account of the conception of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 1:9–20). Hannah was a woman in deep distress. Eli, the priest in the temple at Shiloh, at first mistook her anguish for drunkenness. But he made the effort to repent of his false first impression, to affirm her with a kind and promising word (v. 17). That simple affirmation put her on solid ground (v. 18). She was ready to worship (v. 19). Making secure, for men, may mean marrying (Ruth 4:13), moving heavy objects (Gen. 29:10; Exod. 2:16–17), or merely making love (2 Sam. 12:24; 1 Sam. 1:19). And, for a woman, in whatever way she can, gendered work is enacting Proverbs 14:1: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.”[13]

So there is no rigid dichotomy of spheres here. The Bible does not teach that women should never have careers or that men have nothing to do with home chores. Evolving economic storms periodically change what men and women do in society,[14] blanketing us with arrangements, sometimes hostile and sometimes favorable, to God’s holistic intentions for us. But the principles of rest-giving and secure-making are the roadway underneath the snow of cultural practices. The Triune God of closeness calls us to lean into these specialties, whatever the weather.

Certainly we should resist the culture where it crosses God’s purposes. We should welcome opportunities to bring income production back into the household when it allows a wifely focus on rest-making and a husbandly focus on child-rearing. We should roundly reject the devaluing of work in the home that generates no pay. Couples should also willingly limit material wealth to live a happier life in close relationships, and stand ready to refuse employer who demands heart and soul, inhibiting genderly practice. When we do, we find what God has for us in our relationships. When my children were toddlers, I earnestly begged God to help me fulfill the command He gave me as a father to raise my children by bringing my income production into the home. He did. Unusual for those times, I suddenly became able, as a computer programmer, to work from a home office. And I was able to continue for most of the next sixteen years, those crucial for the children. I no longer do, but it left me with a sense that God is serious about these things if we are. Not all work can be done from home so this cannot be everyone’s story, but God will back you up if you pursue His goals for your family.

Curiously, though Proverbs 31 is about the wife and her part in building God’s kingdom in the land, the passage cannot help but talk about the husband. Why? Because of her enormous effect on his status in life. It is no accident that the husband in Proverbs 31 comes to be a member of the esteemed elders in the gate: “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain … Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (vv. 11, 23). The woman was the source of his gain.

Similarly, the latter half of Ruth is supposed to be about the covenant faithfulness of Boaz and Ruth (providing the pedigree for their offspring David as king). But the narrative cannot help but show how Boaz’s securing work transformed Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi from bitter widow to famous woman thoroughly blessed (Ruth 4:14, 16, 17). The man was a “restorer of life” to her (v. 15).[15]

The Approaching Daughters and the Old Man

They were angry. These sisters were women with a mission, and no one—certainly no man, they were part of the problem—was going to stop them. When they reached the guards, men whose job it was to kill on sight anyone who approached improperly, a charge they took very, very seriously, the tension in the air was electric. The five young women slowed down a little, as caution cried out in their minds. The youngest glanced at her third older sister, who was not stopping, which gave her courage. No! They would keep going. For their cause was righteous, was it not? The women’s march took the guards by surprise. After an initial hesitant tussle, the Levites let the women pass without bloodshed.

So approached the five sisters to the revered seat. The hoary head lifted, and one eyebrow of the sharpest eyes you might ever see rose in slight surprise. He knew Mahlah, and a glance at the others told him who they were. In fact, he made a good guess at why they were here. And he honestly didn’t know what he was going to do about it. But now the women froze before him, as if they had forgotten why they were angry. He motioned them forward. Eleazar came and stood behind him in attendance. The sisters shuffled into the great presence.

When no one said anything for what seemed like a long time, he spoke to reassure them, “The daughters of Zelophehad are welcome. What is your case?” Mahlah, who had been so brave up to this point, seemed to have lost her nerve. So Hoglah stepped forward. She tried not to look at him, but then his words reminded her of why they were here: Yes! Her father’s name! She raised her face and, now in confidence, her voice rang out.

Hoglah began, “Our father died in the wilderness …”

Moses nodded.

From enGendered: God’s Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship. © 2015 by Sam A. Andreades. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission of Weaver Book Company.

Endnotes

[1] The verb of Deuteronomy 24:5 is sometimes translated “rejoice with his wife,” based on a textual variant that puts the verb וְשִׂמַּח (vesimmach) in qal form (וְשָׂמַח, vesamach). But the direct object marker on the word for “wife” makes the Masoretic piel reading more likely to be original, meaning the husband is making his wife merry or happy, i.e., securing her.

[2] *Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 95n74. As Achsah traveled south, she realized that the area around Kiriath-sepher, if we are to identify it with Debir, was considerably drier than her home in Hebron. Caleb gave her the the upper and lower water sources (Josh. 15:19; Judg. 1:15). These springs lie some distance from the hill of Debir and are the only water source for the site.

[3] *Sally K. Gallagher, Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 5.

[4] Some may read Titus 2:5 as not gender specific, meaning that Paul could just as easily have instructed the young men to be “busy at home.” I must disagree, as Paul specifically divides up the genders in writing this passage. The yin-yang singsong pattern of addressing one and then the other is prominent, the men being addressed in verse 2 and verse 6. Note also how the woman’s home command is directly followed in verse 5 by the definitely gender specific “be … submissive to their own husbands.”

[5] There is a textual variant in our Greek manuscripts with this word, with later miniscules and church fathers reading οἰκουροὺς (oikourous) or “staying at home,” a much more common word. But the reading of the earlier manuscripts, along with Clement of Rome, οἰκουργοὺς (oikourgous) “working at the home,” is to be preferred, not only because of the external textual evidence but also because it is far more likely that a scribe would change the uncommon word to the common one than vice versa. Bruce Metzger and the Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament agrees: *Bruce M. Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament; a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (2nd Ed.) (London, New York,: United Bible Societies, 1994), 585. (A contrary scholarly opinion is given in *Frederick Field, Notes on the Translation of the New Testament (London: Cambridge University Press, 1899), 220–22.) Thus, Paul is not advising wives to stay at home so much as take on the emphasis of the home, to consider homemaking their duty.

[6] The significance lies in the related common words, associated with a sedentary life, words that Paul does not use. He avoids the common word that crops up as a variant in some texts, οἰκουρος (oikouros), which seems to be used by second-century physician Soranus (another textual variant in our text of his Gynecology), discussing the idea that menstruation is needed for women in their homebound and sedentary life, “VI. Whether Catharsis of the Menses Fulfills a Helpful Purpose,” in Gynecology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1956), 23. Paul also does not use οἰκουροκαθέδριος (oikourokathedrios), associated with a sedentary life as well. Nor does he use ἐνδημέω (endēmeō), “to stay at home.” He wants the women of Crete to be working at making the home.

[7] *The Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), ed. Allan Menzies, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, 10 vols. (Buffalo: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885–96), 9:229.

[8] *Alfred DeMaris and Monica A. Longmore, “Ideology, Power, and Equity Testing Competing Explanations for the Perception of Fairness in Household Labor,” Social Forces 74, no. 3 (1996): 1043, 1064–67.

[9] Research comparing happiness in marriages that try to divide up chores equally with those where the wife focuses on the home is conflicted. Rhoadsconcurs that research is mixed (Taking Sex Differences Seriously, 260). *Sabino Kornrich, Julie Brines, and Katrina Leupp, “Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” American Sociological Review 78, no. 1 (2013): 27, cite research showing that couples with more equal division of home labor are less likely to divorce, but also acknowledge that research is mixed (47n1). A number of studies find that more gender-traditional women have happier marriages: Wilcox and Nock, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?,” 1323, 1339. In their particularly penetrating study of the social factors contributing to the decline of marriage, W. Bradford Wilcox and Jeffrey Dew find that community-supported, religious wives and husbands in Louisiana who embrace “gender role traditionalism,” as they call it, are much more likely to have high marital quality and are much less likely to get divorced than those who don’t: *W. Bradford Wilcox and Jeffrey Dew, “Is Love a Flimsy Foundation? Soulmate versus Institutional Models of Marriage,” Social Science Research 39, no. 5 (2010): 696–97. There are other variables involved in their data that could account for this result, and their definition creates strictures where the Bible does not, but it at least suggests that this gender distinction may not be the purveyor of misery for women. In fact, historian *James A. Sweet and sociologist Larry L. Bumpass, the latter also being a former board member of the National Academy of Science’s Board on Children and Families, using the several large National Surveys of Families and Households, show that couples embracing gender distinction in housework are less likely to divorce: *Larry L. Bumpass and James A. Sweet, Cohabitation, Marriage and Union Stability: Preliminary Findings from NSFH2 (Madison: University of Wisconsin, Center for Demography and Ecology, 1995), 18. According to Wilcox and Nock’s review of research in this area, “it appears that women in marriages characterized by more traditional gender beliefs and practices are happier” (Wilcox and Nock, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?,” 1339). As we’ve seen, the Bible does not argue for “traditional gender practices,” but giving a woman and a man distinction as rest-giver and securer.

[10] For example, Coontz traces the origin of the man–sole breadwinner / woman-homemaker model of marriage to the spread of wage labor in the late eighteenth century (Marriage, a History, 105, 146, 154–55). We can also note, in agreement, that later twentieth-century conditions in America that allowed a single income to sustain a rich lifestyle for an entire family were aberrant. *Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 325–48, cited in the text, also provides thoughtful analysis.

[11] Pearcey, Total Truth, 343.

[12] Brian Schulz, (lecture on Bedouin practice, Jerusalem University College, Jerusalem, Israel, June 30, 2014).

[13] Perhaps by contrast, the women of Proverbs 7:11 and 1 Timothy 5:13 are not focused on their home but flitting from it.

[14] According to Coontz, division of home sustenance jobs by gender has been a consistent practice in the general population throughout history, whether it was the hunter-gatherer wife concentrating on digging and foraging, while the husband focused on hunting large game; or it was the feudal couple both helping with the harvest, but the husband focusing on the outdoor agricultural labor (a “plowman”) and the wife on preparing flax, brewing beer and making cheese, and washing their clothes in the village stream; or it was the later urban husband working a trade with his wife as a partner keeping the books or acting as his agent (Marriage, a History, 38, 66, 110, 114–15). Sometimes these supported gender equality and specialties and sometimes they contradicted them.

[15] Similarly, the narrative of 1 Samuel 1–7 is chiefly about establishing Samuel, through his interactions with Eli, as the authority to provide the foundation of God’s kingdom on earth. But the passage cannot help but explain Eli’s securing effect on Hannah, so that “her countenance was no longer sad” (1 Sam. 1:18 RSV).

Sam A. Andreades

Sam is senior pastor of Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church in Quarryville, Pa., and writes about helping people with gender and sexuality issues at AffirmingGender.com.

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