The “Why” Behind God Telling Wives to Submit to their Husbands in Marriage

The Why Behind God Telling Wives to Submit to their Husbands in MarriageI’ve rarely met a Christian woman who didn’t wonder this.  Wives are told to submit to their husbands, but rarely given a good reason beyond “because God said so“.  Granted, that’s the best reason for doing anything, but it helps when you know why God said to do it.

We’ll talk about the “why” here.  Without further adieu, let’s dive in.

(Reasons are ordered from weakest to strongest)


Reason #1: Biology

Admittedly, this is the weakest reason.

In previous article in this marriage series (Gender Differences and the Biology of Leadership) we went through the biological differences that God hard-wired into men and women.  As it turns out, these differences that God wrote into our DNA make men far more effective leaders than women.

Full details and proof in the article.


Reason #2: When Women Have Equal Rights (no submission), Society Falls Apart

The first article in this series is entitled How Getting Marriage ‘Wrong’ Destroyed Every Great Civilization in World History.  In it, we saw how societies are destroyed by fatherless homes.  (a ~1% increase in fatherless homes leads to a ~3% increase in crime; details in article.)

Fatherless homes are caused by divorce and unwed mothers.  Divorce and unwed mothers always accompany equal rights for women; 100% of the time.  Equal rights of course means there’s no submission.

Therefore, the natural result of equal rights for women (no submission) is the destruction of any great civilization. Again, details and proof in the article.


Reason #3: Why did God create women?

You know the story; there wasn’t a suitable “helper” among the animals, so God made woman out of Adam’s rib.  But notice the “why”:

Genesis 2:18

18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”


The reason God gives for creating woman is because it was “not good for man to be alone”.  Think about that.  Really think about that.  According to this verse, God create woman in response to the needs of man.  Seriously. Read the verse (or the whole passage) again if you don’t believe me.

God created woman for man.

Lest you think I’m making this up, Paul makes this point crystal clear.

(Note: I have a whole article on this passage, specifically unpacking the enormous amount of context in this “head coverings” issue.  1 Corinthian 11:2-16 is the Bible most complete treatise on authority between the genders. I would highly recommend you read my article on Does 1 Corinthians 11 Require Women To Wear “Head Coverings”.  It will lend much context to this discussion.)

1 Corinthians 11:8-10

8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;

9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

10 Therefore the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels.


(Note: many translations add “a symbol of” in front of the word authority.  However, it has no basis in the Greek, and is added for – *ahem* – “clarity”.  The NASB indicates this by italicizing it.)


In Genesis, God provides a reason that He created woman: God created woman so man wouldn’t be alone. To be blunt, the reason women exist is for men; to help them and make sure they aren’t alone. That’s why God said He created them.

Men were created for God; women were created for God and man.

Again, Paul makes it crystal clear that this is the reason for authority in marriage:

1 Corinthians 11:8-9

8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;

9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

10 Therefore the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels.


The word “ought” that I’ve underlined is the Greek word “ὀφείλω” (opheiló).  “Ought” is a good translation, but doesn’t capture the full scope of the Greek.  I’ll copy/paste from the lexicon.  (emphasis added)

3784 opheílō (a primitive verb, NAS dictionary) – to owe, be indebted, i.e. obliged to rectify a debt (“ought”).

3784 /opheílō (“owe”) refers to being morally obligated (or legally required) to meet an obligation, i.e. to pay off a legitimate debt.

[3784 (opheílō) “originally belonged to the legal sphere; it expressed initially one’s legal and economic, and then later one’s moral, duties and responsibilities to the gods and to men, or to their sacrosanct regulations. . . . opheílō expresses human and ethical responsibility in the NT” (DNTT, 2, 662.663).]


As you can see, it refers to a legitimate debt that someone owes.  Let’s look at the verse again with that understanding.

1 Corinthians 11:9-10

9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

10 Therefore the woman is morally obligated to have authority on her head, because of the angels.


The Bible says women have a “moral obligation” to be under authority (to men) because women were created for man’s sake. God created women to help men and make sure they aren’t alone according to Genesis.

God designed women for that.

Please follow the logic:

  • Both men and women were created to glorify God.  Therefore, we have a “moral obligation” to glorify God because that’s the reason He created us.
  • Likewise, women were created to help man.  Therefore women have a “moral obligation” to help man, because that’s the reason He created women.  According to scripture, this “moral obligation” includes being under man’s authority.

And this was true in the first pre-sin marriage.

This is not the result of sin in the world.  God made Eve before there was sin.  He created her for Adam prior to the fall.  It wasn’t the snake’s deception, Eve’s gullibility, or Adam’s passivity that led to this.

This was God.

All God.

100% Him.

It was part of God’s sovereign plan and created order that women were created owing a “debt” to man.  God further ordained that this “debt”‘ would be paid by her willing submission and help because that’s what she was created for.

I’m sorry if you don’t like this, but that’s the way God setup the world.  You can yell at Him for it, but I don’t expect He’ll change His mind.

Isaiah 45:9

Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker— An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?‘ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands ‘?

Romans 9:20-21

20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

It’s crucial that you understand this, because without it the rest doesn’t make sense. This is (part of) the “why” for marital submission. Without the why, the rest seems rather strange. With the why, it makes sense.

So here’s the “why”:

Q: Why do wives have to submit to their husbands?

A: Because women were made for men.

It’s that simple.

To be clear, this does NOT give men the right to mistreat their wives.  God gets so upset at men who mistreat their wives, he doesn’t even listen to their prayers.

1 Peter 3:7

7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.


The Greek word there for hindered is “ἐγκόπτω” (egkoptó) it means “properly, cut into (like blocking off a road)“. God will ignore your prayers if you mistreat your wife.  So don’t.  EVER.


Women were made for men; that’s (part of) why God commanded wives to submit to their husbands.

Obeying God has always been the best option and we’ve already seen the devastating cultural consequences of ignoring His instruction.  But there’s actually more to it than just women being made for men.


Reason #3a Women weren’t only made for men, they were made from men.

This is basically an addendum to reason #3.

Genesis 2:21-22

21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.

22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.


Every man and woman ever born had input from both parents. (Even Jesus had a Holy Spirit conception, so there’s input from The Father.) However, the progenitors of the human race – Adam and Eve – were different. Adam had no part of his beginning in woman; instead God formed him entirely out of the dust/earth. Conversely, Eve had all of her beginning from man because she was made entirely from Adam’s rib.

Lest you think I’m wrong, here is Paul’s opinion:

1 Corinthians 11:8-9

8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;

9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.


God chose to make woman from man.

Think about that.

Really think about it.

God created women for men and from men. There’s a very real sense where part of the submission in marriage is because woman came from man. In the first (pre-sin) marriage, the woman was originally – and literally – a part of the man. She was once a part of him that’s now walking around.

Could that have something to do with submission in marriage?

I think so.

(notice, its only when women stray out from under the position of an “appendage to the male estate” that society destroys itself. Coincidence…?)

But there’s yet more.


Reason #4: It’s (Part of) How Women Bear the Image of God

To unpack this, we need to start by asking: Why was mankind created?

Let’s take a look:

Isaiah 43:6-7

6 “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth,

7 Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”


Men and women both were created for God’s glory.  That shouldn’t be ground breaking, but the question then is: “How do we glorify God?

Again, let’s look:

Genesis 1:26-27

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.


I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “imitation is the highest form of praise“.  To make a long story short, that’s how man glorifies God.  Just by existing, we bring God some glory.  However, God is most glorified when we imitate Him.  Man imitates the character of his creator, and through this imitation man brings glory and honor to God.

Jesus once said “therefore be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect”.  All throughout the Bible we are told to imitate God and follow His commandments.  By doing so, mankind brings glory to God.


If both men and women are made in the image of God, why is God always portrayed as masculine?

I recently published an article entitled : Is God Male, Female, or Neither/Both? (“What are God’s pronouns?“)  In it, I show that God always self-identifies as masculine 100% of the time.  Both men and women are made in the image of God, but God Himself always identifies as masculine, even in the original langues.

(And no, the Holy Spirit isn’t feminine in the Old Testament. The people who propagate that myth simply don’t understand the Hebrew language.  Details/explanation in the article.)

However, I won’t tackle the why God always portrays Himself as masculine here because that’s an entire article unto itself. (Maybe in the future.)


If God is always portrayed as masculine, how do women bear the image of God?

We mustn’t forget two crucial facts:

  1. Women were created for men
  2. Women model a very different part of God’s image than men do.

One man put how men (males) model God’s character this way, and I like it:

Man was designed by God to display his nature and his attributes. God is strong, so he made man strong. God is aggressive, jealous and competitive. So, he made man aggressive, jealous and competitive. God is a worker, a builder and a conqueror. So, he made man to be a worker, a builder and a conqueror. God wants to lead, provide for and protect his people. So, he created man to desire to be a leader, provider and protector for his wife and children. God wants to leave his mark on this world and so to he designed man to want to leave his mark on it as well.


That’s what men model, but what do women model?  There are many ways women model the character of God, but I don’t have space to recount all of them (And I couldn’t find a clever quote either; sorry 🙁 ).  The topic of this series is marriage; not reflecting God’s glory.  Therefore I’ll only discuss the relevant one, even though there are many others I won’t list here.


Women (are supposed to) reflect Jesus’ submission to the Father

Scripture links a wife’s submission to her husband with Christ’ submission to The Father.

1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

Do you know what that means?

If you devalue women submitting in marriage, you devalue Christ submitting to the Father and men submitting to Christ.

Yup, it’s that serious.

Read the passage again and you’ll see that all three are linked together.  Women submit to men, men submit to Christ, Christ submits to The Father.  There’s a clear order established in that passage, and other passages add children submitting to their parents.

Notice the pattern God established:

  • Children submit to parents (men and women)
  • Women submit to men
  • Men submit to Christ
  • Christ submits to The Father

However, here’s what egalitarian Christianity says:

  • Children submit to parents (men and women)
  • Women submit are exactly equal to men
  • Men submit to Christ
  • Christ submits to The Father

One of these things in not like the othersHmm, “one of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong“…

As we’ve already seen (in the first article of this series), society literally falls apart when you ignore the hierarchy that God decreed.  Ignoring God’s commands doesn’t work; it never has, it never will.

Again, if you devalue women submitting to men, you also devalue Jesus submitting to The Father.

(Note: notice I said women submitting to men, not wives submitting to husbands.  The reason is because the Bible – especially the Old Testament – is fairly clear about virgins [i.e. “never married” women] submitting to their fathers.  we’ll talk more about this in a future article in this series.)

Robbing women of submission is robbing them of a chance to reflect the glory of God and bear His image.

(I will concede that few Christian women see it this way though.)


Reason #5: Because God Said So

I haven’t proved this fact Biblically yet (that’s the next article in the series).  However assuming it’s true – which I will prove – then this should be all the reason anyone needs.



Here are the “whys” of submission:

  1. Men are biologically better suited to leading and making leadership decisions. (Proof in this article)
  2. Society falls apart when women don’t submit to their husbands. (Proof in this article)
  3. Women were created for men.
    • Women were created from men.
  4. Women reflect the image of God by submitting to men (initially their father, then later their husband) in the same way that Christ submits to the Father.
  5. Because God said so.

Next, we’ll look at the New Testament verses that teach authority and submission in marriage.  In the article after that, we’ll look at the Old Testament.


Marriage Series Index:

  1. How Getting Marriage 'Wrong' Destroyed Every Great Civilization in World History
  2. Gender Differences and the Biology of leadership
  3. The “Why” Behind God Telling Wives to Submit to their Husbands in Marriage
    1. Does 1 Corinthians 11 Require Women To Wear "Head Coverings"
  4. The Bible on Authority & Submission in Marriage
  5. Does God View Women as the (Social/Political) Equals of Men?
  6. Biblically, What’s the Role of Women in Society and Marriage?
  7. Gender and Attraction: What Men vs Women REALLY Want
  8. Follow up articles coming...

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