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” (Gen 21:9–14).
According to Ancient Near Eastern cultural morés, 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).
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.
Such husbands likely would have employed various types of intimidation—physical, emotional, and social—to try to force Christian women to align themselves with their spouse’s religious beliefs.
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.
However, he also exhorted them to stand firm by calmly refusing to give in to the threats and sanctions of their spouses.
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?
[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)]
 Wenham, Genesis 16–50, 83.
Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “shema, ” BDB, 1033–4, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/1032/mode/2up.
Balch, “Early Christian Criticism of Patriarchal Authority 1 Peter 2:11–3:12,” 169.
Balch, “Early Christian Criticism of Patriarchal Authority 1 Peter 2:11–3:12,” 166.
Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 121.
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 153.
 Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, 121.