After addressing the submission of wives to their husbands in 1 Peter 3:1-6 the Apostle turns his discussion toward husbands and the treatment of their wives in verse 7 when he states “Likewise, ye husbands”. He then caps the commands toward husbands with a warning to them of what will happen if they do not treat their wives as he has just stated when he says “that your prayers be not hindered”.
Before we discuss how the Apostle Peter, writing under the inspiration of God, tells husbands to treat their wives, we must first address whose prayers are being hindered.
Whose Prayers Will be Hindered?
Mathew Henry in his famous commentary stated the following about verse 7 of 1 Peter 3:
“The reasons are, Because she is the weaker vessel by nature and constitution, and so ought to be defended: but then the wife is, in other and higher respects, equal to her husband; they are heirs together of the grace of life, of all the blessings of this life and another, and therefore should live peaceably and quietly one with another, and, if they do not, their prayers one with another and one for another will be hindered, so that often “you will not pray at all, or, if you do, you will pray with a discomposed ruffled mind, and so without success.”
The key phrase in Matthew Henry’s statement above is “if they do not, their prayers one with another and one for another will be hindered”. The “they” and “their” he is referring to is both the husband and wife.
Matthew Henry was taking the position that this phrase “and as being heirs together of the grace of life” was addressing both the husband and wife and therefore the warning “that your prayers be not hindered” was addressed to both husbands and wives.
But this is where we must remind ourselves that no commentator, no matter how famous or respected, is inerrant in their interpretation or application of the Scriptures.
I have read writings of many of the great men of the reformation like Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox. I loved reading the commentaries of Spurgeon as a young man. But a realization I had to come to was, none of these men were more inerrant than any Christians before them or after them except for those men who spoke and wrote the very Word of God. Only the Old Testament Prophets, Jesus Christ and his Apostles after him were inerrant in their writings and understanding of God’s will.
This blog is in essence an online commentary, not unlike that of Matthew Henry or Charles Spurgeon. I could be wrong in my interpretation and applications of the Scriptures just as Matthew Henry or Charles Spurgeon could be wrong in theirs. Each of us must look at the Scriptures, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, use our knowledge of the original language of the Scriptures as well the historical and grammatical context in which various passages are written to come to what we believe is the correct interpretation and application of the Scriptures.
Some have argued that Matthew Henry’s interpretation is correct because of the Greek word “hymōn” or “Humon” (transliterated) that is in the phrase “that your [Humon] prayers be not hindered”. They argue that since humon is always used in a plural sense to speak to a group, that it is talking to both the husband and the wife.
While it true that humon is always speaking to a group, we must look to the context to know what group it is speaking to. In the same passage we are discussing, the apostle Peter begins his conversation on marriage by first speaking to wives in 1 Peter 3:1-2:
“Likewise, ye wives [gynaikes], 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; 2 While they behold your [humon] chaste conversation coupled with fear.”
The English word “wives”, is a translation of the Greek word used to address women in the plural sense which is “gynaikes”. From the passage above, whose “chaste conversation couple with fear” is the Apostle addressing? It is clear from the context that it is that of the wives.
Peter uses the Greek word which refers to men in the plural sense “andres” to refer to husbands, when he writes the passage we are looking at:
“Likewise, ye husbands [andres], dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your [humon] prayers be not hindered.”
There is nothing in the language of 1 Peter 3:7 which would indicate the prayers being hindered are anyone other than that of a husband’s prayers in the same way that the chaste and fearful behavior of verse 2 is referring strictly to wives in reference to their husbands.
Therefore, we can rightly conclude that 1 Peter 3:7 in its entirety is speaking to husbands and not both husbands and wives.
So, Peter is saying that if husbands don’t do the things, he commanded them toward their wives, their prayers will be hindered. Now let’s look at how husbands are commanded to treat their wives.
Three Things God Commands of Husbands Toward their Wives
“dwell [sunoikeo ] with them according to knowledge[Gnosis],”
Sunoikeo refers to domestic association, people living together but it also was commonly used as euphemism for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. And the Greek word gnosis means exactly what is translated as – knowledge. It is to know about something or to know someone intimately depending on the context. So, we can see the Apostle is saying “Husbands as you live together with your wives in this intimate and sexual relationship, do so according to knowledge”. So, the question is what knowledge is he talking about? Is it just a general knowledge of God and His Word? Is it also knowing your wife’s strengths and weaknesses and where she needs spiritual instruction? And could it also be knowing her fears, her concerns and her requests? I will give the answer after we finish looking at the last two parts of this verse.
Peter then moves on to tell men two ways in which they must give proper honor their wives. The first way is mentioned below:
“giving honour unto the wife [gune], as unto the weaker [Asthenes] vessel [Skeuos],”
The Greek word Asthenes means “weak, infirm or feeble” and Skeuos literally refers to vessels like household utensils including bowls or pitchers. Skeuos is a common euphemism for the human body in the New Testament and our souls are seen as indwelling our vessels.
What this means is that husbands are to give honor to their wives as is appropriate for their station as the weaker vessel. But why would we honor someone for being weaker?
The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
If we remember that God created men to image his attributes, including his strength, and woman to image mankind and our weakness and dependence upon God then this makes perfect sense. In the same way that we should glory in our weakness and need of God’s strength, so too women should glory in their weakness and dependence upon man’s strength. And thus, we as men should not demean women who demonstrate their need of our strength, but instead we honor women for doing this.
The honoring of the weaker vessel also means we honor women for fulfilling the complete role that God designed the weaker vessel to play. In Proverbs 31:28 after showing all the wonderful ways in which the virtuous wife serves her husband, his children and his home the Bible tells us the following:
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”
Now that we have covered the first way men are commanded to honor their wives, we can now move on to the second way men are commanded to honor their wives.
“and as being heirs together of the grace of life”
Wives are to be accorded the honor that is due to fellow believers and husbands should never forget that their wives are not only their wives, but sisters in Christ. In Romans 12:10 we read the following of how we are to treat our brethren in Christ:
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another”.
So, we see three things men are commanded to do toward their wives:
- Live with them in an intimate and sexual relationship according to knowledge.
- Honor them for the part in God’s master design that he has designed them to play as the weaker vessel.
- Honor them as fellow believers and sisters in Christ.
What knowledge do men need to have with their wives?
In 2 Peter 3:18 we read “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen”. There is no doubt that first and foremost the goal of every Christian should be to grow in the knowledge of Christ and then apply that knowledge to everything we do in this life including how we conduct our marriages.
But 1 Peter 3:7 does not say “dwell with them according to the knowledge of God” or “dwell with them according to the knowledge of Christ”. It simply says dwell with them according to knowledge. And since the treatment of wives by their husbands is the subject Peter is addressing it strongly suggests that knowledge is indeed a husband’s knowledge of his wife.
And this idea of a man needing to know his wife on a spiritual level is seen in Ephesians 5:25-27:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
How can a man wash his wife’s spiritual spots and wrinkles if he does not know his wife’s mind? Again, in Ephesians 5:28-29, we read the following of husbands toward their wives:
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”
How can a man know his wife’s needs without knowing her mind? Without talking to her?
And finally, our greatest indicator of what “knowledge” husbands are supposed to have as they live with their wives is found in the warning given to husbands:
“that your prayers be not hindered”
In 1 Peter 5:7 the Bible tells us “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you”. We are called to cast our cares, our concerns and our fears upon God because he cares for us. Is that not a huge part of our prayers to God?
So as husbands if we want God to hear our cares and concerns why would we think we can do so while turning a deaf ear to our wife’s cares and concerns?
God Sometimes Will Not Hear Our Prayers and so Too Husbands Will Not Hear Their Wives
Now the principles I have just laid out from the Scriptures about men needing to hear their wife’s concerns in the same way that they want God to hear their concerns could certainly be abused. In fact, it has been abused by the modern church today which has been infested with feminism.
If we remember that man images God in the life of his wife then we must also remember that God sometimes will not hear our prayers because of our sin. In Isaiah 1:15, God says to his wife Israel, “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood”. Because Israel was in open sin against God, her husband, he hid himself from seeing her needs and he would not hear her requests. In the same way, when a wife is acting in unrepentant sin against her husband, she cannot expect that he will hear her requests.
In James 4:3 we read “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts”. So, when we ask God with wrong motives or ask with selfish ambition, he will not hear such requests and in the same way if a husband sees his wife asking for something with wrong motives or from a position of selfishness, he has every right to turn down such sinful requests.
Finally, in John 5:14 the Bible states “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us”. Just as husband should know his wife’s mind, so too a wife should know her husband’s mind. And a wife should never ask her husband for something she knows goes against his will on a matter just as we should never pray to God for something we know goes against his will especially as recorded in the Bible.
1 Peter 3:7 is written to husbands, not husbands and wives. The prayers that will be hindered are not the prayers of both the husband and wife, but of the husband alone. God tells men they must dwell with their wives according to knowledge, honor them in their station as the weaker vessel, and honor them as fellow believers and sisters in Christ. If a husband fails to do these three things, God will not hear his prayers.
When we look at God’s command of husbands in Ephesians 5:25-27 to wash their wife’s spiritual spots and wrinkles with the Word, we know that part of the knowledge Peter alludes to in 1 Peter 3:7 is of a man knowing his wife’s spiritual character. He cannot wash what he does not know.
When we look at God’s command of husbands in Ephesians 5:28-29 for them to love and care for the needs of their wife’s body and protect her as they would their own body then we also know that part of the knowledge Peter alludes to in 1 Peter 3:7 is a man knowing his wife’s requests for her physical needs.
In 1 Peter 3:5-6, which directly proceeds the passage we have been studying, the Apostle Peter writes “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: 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”. A woman, if she is following the example given to us by God of the women of old is to regard her husband as her lord.
The Greek word kurios translated as “lord” in 1 Peter 3:6 can also be translated as “master” as it is in Colossians 4:1 where the Bible states “Masters [Kurios], give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master [Kurios] in heaven”. In many ways 1 Peter 3:7 repeats this same concept of Colossians 4:1 with husbands toward their wives. We as husbands must remember that just as we are a master to our wives, we also have a master in heaven who watches how we treat her.
This does not mean that if a man’s wife is divorcing him or other bad things are happening that it automatically means he is not living with his wife according to knowledge or not honoring her as the weaker vessel and as a fellow sister in Christ. We must remember that wife’s can and do act in evil ways against their husbands just as Israel acted in evil ways against her husband who was God. In Isaiah 1:15 God hid his eyes from Israel and closed his ears to her prayers because she was in sinful rebellion against him.
No wife can expect to have her husband’s ear while she stands in rebellion against him.
Also, God makes it clear in John 5:14 that we don’t get everything we request from him, but only what is in accordance with his will. And this is no different with a husband and wife situation. A husband hearing his wife’s requests and granting them are two very different things. And once a woman knows her husband’s mind on something, she ought not to continue asking for that same thing knowing it goes against his will.
The Scriptures warn us in Proverbs 4:27 “Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil”. And on this matter of the treatment of wives, like most other moral subjects, there is a far left and a far right position that are both wrong and the Bible stands in the middle of the two.
On the one hand, a man knowing his wife’s spiritual mindset, her cares and her concerns is not the same as him having to run all family decisions through his wife first. Nothing in the Scriptures gives this requirement of men. Marriage is not a partnership, but rather a patriarchy. When the Scriptures refer to a man dwelling with his wife according to knowledge, it is in regard to him knowing her personal spiritual and physical needs, not him getting her vote on family decisions.
On the other hand, A man knowing his wife’s spiritual condition, knowing her mind, knowing what her physical needs are, hearing her cares and concerns, honoring her station as the weaker vessel and honoring her as a fellow sister is not him putting his wife on a pedestal. It is him obeying the Word of God. And if he does not obey the Word of God on these matters God will not hear his prayers. This is the express teaching of 1 Peter 3:7.