The Bible commands in Ephesians 5:33 that “the wife see that she reverence her husband”. But how does God want a wife to show reverence to her husband? In this article, we will show Christian wives five biblically based ways that they should show reverence for their husbands.
In my previous article, “A Biblical View of Respect and Reverence”, I showed that while respect and honor are synonymous in the Bible – that reverence is much more than just respect or honor.
As Christians we should value (respect and honor) the institutions God has created. God has instituted civil authority, church authority, parental authority and the authority of husbands over their wives. To respect these positions is to show that we value them by our words and actions toward these authorities.
1 Peter 2:17 shows that respect (which is the same as honor) is owed to all people. Why does God want us to show by our words and actions that we value all people? The answer is found in Genesis 9:6 where God commanded that “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man”. Mankind, both men and women, are made in God’s image. That makes human life special and more valuable than all other life on earth.
Anytime I say men and women are made in the image of God – I must always add this note for people who get confused on this issue. The Bible shows us in 1 Corinthians 11:7-8 that while woman was taken from man (and thus she is also made in God’s image because of that) that it is only the male who “is the image and glory of God”. This is why God has masculine like “Father”, “Son” and “King” and not “Mother”, “Daughter” and “Queen”. It is why Jesus chose 12 male apostles and no female apostles. It is why priests in the OId Testament had to be male and why pastors in the New Testament must be male. And it why God has commanded that families are to be led by men.
I also talked about respect for the person verses respect for the position. We can honor and respect the position of king or president without having respect for his actions in his personal life or his policy positions. The same goes for children with their parents.
But God calls wives to do much more than just respect, honor and value their husband’s position.
Wives are called to reverence their husbands.
In Ephesians 5:33 the Bible states:
““Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
And in 1 Peter 3:1-2 the Bible states
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”
The Greek words being translated as “reverence” and “fear” in Ephesians 5:33 and 1 Peter 3:1-2 are Phobeo and Phobos. These two Greek synonyms in their most literal sense mean “fear” or “to be afraid” and they can also mean “to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience”.
But while Ephesians 5 richly describes the relationship of the husband and wife as God designed it to be, it is not exhaustive in all aspects of how marriage should operate. And while Ephesians 5:33 commands wives to reverence their husbands – it does not really describe how that reverence should look.
This is where Psalm 45 comes in to help us learn how wives can show reverence toward their husbands.
Psalm 45 – A Picture of the Relationship of Christ to His Church
Psalm 45 is unmistakably a prophecy of Christ and his bride, the church. The Psalm is written from the perspective of one of the King’s subjects writing a song about his King’s upcoming wedding. He spends verses 1 to 5 talking about the noble character of his great King:
“1 My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
2 Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee. “
And then in verses 6 and 7 we see that this is clearly a reference to God the father appointing Christ as King:
“6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Then in Psalm 45:10-11 the songwriter changes his perspective from speaking to the King to now speaking to the bride who is about to marry the King:
“10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; 11 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.”
These two verses are filled with rich theology. While Ephesians 5:33 commands women to reverence their husbands – it is these two verses from Psalm 45:10-11 which help to show what the reverence of a wife toward her husband should look like.
But before we can apply what these verses are saying to the command for women to reverence their husbands, we need to address a translation issue.
Is Psalm 45:11 Saying that Wives Should Worship Their Husbands?
At the latter end of Psalm 45:11 the KJV renders the verse as “for he is thy Lord, worship thou him”. Since this passage is a prophecy of Christ and his church and Ephesians 5:23 tells us the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his church is God commanding that wives should worship their husbands?
The answer to that question is found in many passages of the Bible but Revelation 19:10 gives us an extremely clear answer where John fell at the feet of angel to worship him:
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
We worship God and God alone. So, we know that Psalm 45:11 is not teaching women to worship their husbands. So, does that mean we dismiss the latter part of Psalm 45:11 as not applying to human marriage at all? The answer to that is no as well.
To better understand how Psalm 45:11 applies not just to the spiritual marriage of Christ and his church, but also to human marriage we will look at this same passage in the English Standard Version of the Bible:
“Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.”
Notice the big difference? In the KJV it tells the woman to “worship” the king who will be her husband. In the ESV it tells her to “bow to him”. And if you were to see the wording of this you would also notice that the KJV capitalizes the word “Lord” while the ESV uses a lower case “lord”.
Why is the KJV translation of Psalm 45:11 different than the ESV translation?
The reason for the difference in translation has to do with the Hebrew word “Shachah”. The most literal meaning of Shachah is “to bow down”. But sometimes when someone bows down, they are not just showing reverence, but they are also engaging in worship.
In other words, all worship involves bowing of some sort, but not all bowing is worship. Sometimes bowing is just reverence.
The easiest way to illustrate this is when Moses did Shachah in two different occasions. In Exodus 18:7, Moses did Shachah toward his father-in-law so it simply translated as “obeisance” which a synonym for reverence. However, in Exodus 34:8, when Moses did Shachah toward God – it was more than just reverence – it was an act of worship and it was translated as such.
Psalm 45 presents a dilemma for translators when it comes to translating Shachah. In this story, we see a King being married to the royal daughter of another king. But the story here is a prophecy of Christ being wedded to his church.
So, while the KJV would not normally translate someone bowing to a king as “worship” they decided to translate it here as worship and to capitalize the “L” in Lord to indicate it is a prophecy of Christ.
The ESV translated it as “bow down” instead of “worship” because while they agreed that this is a prophecy of Christ and his church that it is using a human story of a King marrying a royal daughter and therefore her bowing down would not be an act of worship, but rather an act of reverence.
I can see reasons for both translations. But in the end if we remember that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church than any reference to Christ and his bride has application to human marriage as well.
So, when applying this to human marriage and not the spiritual marriage of Christ and the church – Shachah must be understood in its most literal sense of bowing down in reverence.
And now that we have shown how Psalm 45 presents a picture of the marriage between Christ and his church, we will now show four principles of reverence found in this passage that can help wives fulfill God’s command for them to reverence their husbands. And we will end with a 5th principle of reverence for wives found in Proverbs 12.
Principle #1 – A Reverent Wife Makes Her Husband Her Standard of Masculinity
Psalm 45:10 tells women “forget your people and your father’s house”.
For most young women (if they had a good relationship with him) their father is their standard of masculinity. For other women they may have other men in mind as to their standard of masculinity. But once a woman marries – her husband becomes her standard of masculinity and she should never compare him to any other man in her mind or in her words toward her husband.
One of the biggest destroyers of reverence that a woman might otherwise have for her husband is when she compares him to other men. Whether it be her father, her grandfather, her brothers or her sisters’ husbands.
The Bible shows us that there are two major variations of masculinity and your husband will most likely be more like one or the other. Those two variations could be classified as the “Warrior” and the “Wiseman”. In modern terms think of this as the “jock” and the “nerd”.
King David was a “warrior” type man while his son, King Solomon, was a “wiseman” type man. Another way to view the “wiseman” would be as a scholar. The wiseman is more cerebral in his activities and the warrior is more physical in his activities.
So maybe your father and brothers are avid hunters while you the man you married likes to read books and play strategy games. You cannot shame your husband because is he not like these other men you know. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe your husband is not the reader your father was, but he is an avid hunter and sportsman. Again, you must respect him for the man he is.
Principle #2 – A Reverent Wife Addresses Her Husband as Her Earthly lord
Psalm 45:11 says “Since he is your lord…”.
There are two Hebrew words in the Old Testament used to refer to a woman’s husband beside “ish” which means “man”. Those two words are “baal” and “adown”. When baal is used it emphasizes the ownership of the husband and when “adown” is used it emphasizes the husband being ruler over his wife.
Psalm 45:11’s command to women to regard their husbands as their earthy lords perfectly connects with 1 Peter 3:5-6 which tells women to do the same thing:
“5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
The most practical way a woman can verbally show her husband she regards him as her lord is by frequently say “Yes sir”. In our culture the word “sir” can take on many meanings. Sometimes it simply a polite way to address a man. Men will call each other sir all the time and women will call other men sir as well. But when a woman looks at her man and says “Yes sir” (and she does in a respectful way) he feels her reverence in that moment.
Some husbands might want their wives to use the word “lord” as it is in the Bible so their wives should say “Yes, my lord”, rather than “Yes sir”. But in either case – a woman should use what her husband deems shows him the most reverence in how she addresses him.
A husband and wife can work out the particulars of this and there is nothing wrong with a woman calling her husband “honey” or “my love” in various contexts just as the Song of Solomon shows. But especially when husbands and wives are having serious discussions and the husband has given his wife commands this is when “yes sir” or “yes, my lord” would absolutely be appropriate and a way wives can show reverence to their husbands.
Principle #3 – A Reverent Wife Kneels Before Her Husband
Psalm 45:11 says “Since he is your lord, bow to him”.
A minimalist view of bowing would look like the Japanese who routinely bow to one another out of respect. But I don’t think this is the kind of bowing that Psalm 45:11 has in mind for the wife with her husband when it calls her to bow to her husband as her earthly lord.
Instead, I believe the kind of Shachah, or bowing down, being pictured in Psalm 45:11 is closer to what Mephibosheth did in the presence of King David in 2 Samuel 9:6 where he “he fell on his face, and did reverence”. That is the kind of humility a wife should be having with her husband.
More evidence that God wants a woman to be comfortable being on her knees before her husband is found in Song of Solomon 2:3 where the wife states the following about her husband:
“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
A godly woman finds “great delight” in in sitting down in the shadow of her husband. And one of the most reverent acts a woman can do as she sits in her husband’s shadow is to perform oral sex to completion on him which is what is being pictured in Song of Solomon 2:3.
Don’t misunderstand me – I am not saying every time a woman sits down below her husband she needs to try and do oral sex on him. Should she sometimes? Yes. Should she always if he wants it? Yes. But also, there may be times when she just delights to sit his shadow and look up to him as they converse.
Principle #4 – A Reverent Wife Appreciates Her Husband’s Desire For Feminine Beauty
Psalm 45:11 says “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty”.
Why does the King desire her beauty? Because men are designed by God to be drawn to feminine beauty. A woman should never shame her husband for desiring to see her show off her beauty. How many conservative Christian women do this very thing to their husbands? This behavior is the very opposite of reverencing your husband.
Practically speaking, this means surprising your husband with some sexy lingerie is a form of reverence because you are affirming his desire for your beauty. It means if he so desires, wearing a sexy dress for date night with him. It could mean wearing a particular bathing suit he wants you to wear as you go to the beach. It means dressing the way he wants you to, and keeping your hair and makeup the way, he likes it. And it also means doing your best to keep your figure as it was when you first met.
And in a broader sense, when a woman shames her husband for noticing other beautiful women this is by definition an irreverent act on her part. Her actions shows that she despises her husband’s God given polygynous nature.
Principle #5 – A Reverent Wife Is Her Husband’s Greatest Fan
The final way that a wife should show her husband reverence does not come from this passage in Psalm 45 that we have been looking at – but rather it comes from Proverbs 12:4 which states the following:
“A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.”
A woman should always be her husband’s greatest fan and cheerleader, whether it is in private just with him and especially when others are around.
Women who argue with their husbands in private or in public are being irreverent toward them. Correcting him or contradicting him is being irreverent toward him.
A woman being critical of her husband is the very definition of an irreverent wife.
Listen to the Two-Hour Podcast Series Based on This Article to Learn More
I have produced a two-part podcast series, with each part being about an hour long, where I give more detail on these principles. In these podcasts I show other ways women can reverence their husbands and combat their own pride and insecurities as they do this.