b) 1 Pet 3:3–6: Peter’s admonition to develop “a gentle and quiet spirit” does not apply to women alone (Matt 5:5; Matt 11:28–30; 1 Pet 3:8, 15).

While Sarah did call Abraham her “lord” (adon) (Gen 18:12) and typically deferred to him (Gen 12:10–15; Gen 20:1–2), she ordered Abraham to send his son Ishmael away, making her husband “very displeased.”

According to Ancient Near Eastern cultural values, Abraham held the right to determine family policy. Yet, because Sarah’s demand corresponded with God’s plans, the Lord told Abraham to listen to his wife and do what she said (Gen 21:9–14).[1]

Note that the word translated as “listen to” (shema) also means “obey” in Hebrew.[2]

Thus, these words from Peter gave Christian women more freedom and power in their repressive world than their polytheistic friends enjoyed. Due to the differences between Greco-Roman culture and ours, people now tend to view these verses as more restrictive for believers than for non-Christian women.[3]

Going to Christian meetings and refusing to worship the family gods would have almost certainly upset the unbelieving husbands of Greco-Roman women.[4]

Such men likely would have employed various types of intimidation—physical, emotional, and social—to try to force Christian women to align themselves with their religious beliefs.[5]

Therefore, Peter called these wives to practice gentleness, inner tranquility, and subordination to their husbands in areas which did not negatively affect their Christian faith.[6]

However, he also exhorted them to stand firm by calmly refusing to give in to the threats and sanctions of their spouses.[7]

Given the cultural context, it is startling that no penalty for a wife’s failure to submit appears anywhere in Scripture.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read 1 Pet 3:3–6. How did Peter encourage wives to adorn themselves?  What made Sarah a great example of what Peter was seeking to teach these women? How can women married to unbelievers avoid giving in to fear in living out their faith?





Go to Living Together with Understanding (1 Pet 3:7–9)


[Related posts include A Minority Religion (1 Pet 3:1–2); Living Together with Understanding (1 Pet 3:7–9); Not Good! (Gen 2:18); A Parade of Animals (Gen 2:19–20); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); A Transfer of Loyalty (Gen 2:24); Marital Separation (1 Cor 7:10–11); Concerning Mixed Marriages (1 Cor 7:12–13); Contagious Holiness (1 Cor 7:14); Dissolution of Marriage (1 Cor 7:15–16); Three Heads (1 Cor 11:3); and Interdependence (1 Cor 11:11–12); Unity in the Spirit (Eph 5:18–21); Submissive to One Another (Eph 5:21–24); and Sacrificial Love (Eph 5:25–30)]


[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 8: Pain and Desire (Genesis 3:16, 20)]


[1] Wenham, Genesis 16–50, 83.

[2]Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “shema,  BDB, 1033–4, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/1032/mode/2up.

[3]Balch, “Early Christian Criticism of Patriarchal Authority 1 Peter 2:11–3:12,” 169.

[4]Balch, “Early Christian Criticism of Patriarchal Authority 1 Peter 2:11–3:12,” 166.

[5]Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 121.

[6]Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 153.

[7] Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, 121.