Home Features Women, Are They ‘Weaker Vessels?’ By Babatunde Olugboji

Women, Are They ‘Weaker Vessels?’ By Babatunde Olugboji

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Women, Are They ‘Weaker Vessels?’ By Babatunde Olugboji

In I Peter 3:1-6, Peter told Christian wives to submit to their own husbands. That instruction for wives follows commands to all believers: that we should submit freely to every human authority for the Lord’s sake. But before moving on, Peter instructed husbands about how to live with their wives.

The context of 1 Peter 3:7 was Peter’s instructions concerning living as godly believers towards one another beginning in the home. (1 Peter 3:1-12) The wife was addressed first and then the husband. This was the same order Paul used in Ephesians 5: 22 – 33. Husbands were instructed to “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.” (ESV) Other translations of 1 Peter 3:7 rendered the phrase “weaker partner” (NIV, CSB), “someone weaker” (NASB), or “weaker than you are.” (NLT)

The heart of the verse was that men should honor and respect their wives. Note that this would have been a radical idea in Peter’s era. Particularly compared to today’s society, women of this period were oppressed, discounted, and often treated badly. Various versions of women submitting to their husbands would have been commonplace. Christianity’s emphasis on “submission” to God ahead of the husband would have been unique by itself. However, the teaching that men should honor their wives, as equal, co-heirs of God’s grace through faith in Christ, was revolutionary.

Driving the seriousness of this point home, Peter pointed to a consequence. Christian husbands who refused to honor their wives would see their prayers hindered. Either God would not receive those prayers in full or the husband would find it difficult to pray. An abusive husband would be defying the will of God, no more no less. He must repent and change his behavior before that line of communication with God would be fully reopened.

Specifically, men were instructed to honor their wives “as the weaker vessel.” Notice that this did not say wives were actually weaker in any specific way. Rather, husbands must honor their wives as they would honor or care for something more fragile than themselves. The point is purely about how husbands are to treat their wives: as protectors. 

1 Peter 3:7 is not about identifying weaknesses in wives. Rather, it is about how husbands are to treat their wives.

Finally, Paul commanded husbands to live with their wives “with knowledge.” This may mean with a growing understanding of who their wives are. Or, it may mean with the knowledge that God has given them a responsibility to honor their wives. In either case, the responsibility of the husband is very much the same.

While it is interesting to study what precisely Peter might have meant by “weaker vessel,” ultimately, that is not a very important point. Whatever “weaker vessel” means, the application is that husbands are to understand, honor, and value their wives. In context, “weaker vessel” likely could mean “worth protecting” and “something to cherish” far more than it was intended to identify specific weaknesses or in any way diminish the strength and value of wives.

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