Taking the place of sole Master of the home – by law

July 28, 2010 — 14 Comments

Taking the place of master by law on Women in Ministry blog by Cheryl Schatz

The Bible records a law that requires men to take the place of sole master in the home. We find this law in the book of Esther chapter 1 verse 22.

Let me first give a little background.  King Ahasuerus was a very wealthy and powerful king who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces.  In the third year of his reign he made a huge banquet for his nobles and officials as well as military leaders.  Then for 180 days he displayed his great riches and all that went with the majesty of his position.  At the end of all this show of the king’s splendor, he threw a seven day banquet for all the people who were present in his capital city, both the greatest of them to the least of them.  It was at that time, after seven days of partying, that the king became joyful from the wine that was served at the banquet, and in a hasty decision to show-case all that he owned that was magnificent beauty, he ordered that queen Vashti be called to appear before the king wearing her crown in order to parade her beauty before the crowd. Vashti refused to have her person put on display and this caused the king to feel great wrath and he called his wise men to find out what could be done by law to punish queen Vashti for refusing to obey his command.  In verses 16 to 19 Memucan one of the wise men said, 

Esther 1:16-19 Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.’  This day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s conduct will speak in the same way to all the king’s princes, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger. If it pleases the king, let a royal edict be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media so athat it cannot be repealed, that Vashti may no longer come into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she.

This is truly an amazing passage showing that a woman’s right to make her own decisions was something that was feared in that culture. It didn’t matter that one woman didn’t want to be treated as a piece of property that was being put on display, it was an act that threatened the perceived priority of the husband.  The thought was that if one woman received freedom to do as she pleased, then every woman would see that as setting a precedence and all the other wives will think they have the choice to act the same way. So a law was created to take care of the woman problem.  Memucan continued:

Esther 1:20 (NAS) “When the king’s edict which he will make is heard throughout all his kingdom, great as it is, then all women will give honor to their husbands, great and small.”

The Hebrew term in the passage used for honor means:

honor, respect, i.e., a state of high status in relation to another (Est 1:4, 20…)
Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains

Why is it that women would be taught to regard their husbands as having a higher status than themselves? It was because of the new law that the king would create.

Esther 1:21–22(NAS)

21 This word pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed.

22 So he sent letters to all the king’s provinces, to each province according to its script and to every people according to their language, that every man should be the master in his own house and the one who speaks in the language of his own people.

The law was created so that every man should be the master in his own house and this would accomplish a status difference between men and women in the home.

Some people today are under the impression that God created the law that made the husband the master in the home.  But nowhere in the Scriptures  is such a law attributed to God.  It was a pagan king who created this law because of the fear of what a woman’s freedom might do. The origin of the law that made the male the master of the home came into being  around 482 B.C during King Ahasuerus’ reign from 485 to 465 B.C.

The fear that concerned men that they would lose their priority if women were allowed to have freedom to make their own decisions has been a consistent fear that was even used against the gospel.  The issues of slaves and women were two things that caused a great deal of fear and attacks against the gospel.  Even though in the gospel all are free men, slaves were told to regard their own masters as worthy of honor so that the name of God and the doctrine (teaching, instruction) would not be given a foothold for those looking for a way to slander the gospel.

1 Timothy 6:1 (NAS) All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.

In the same way wives were to deflect criticism of the gospel by subjecting themselves to their husbands. In this way the word of God would not be slandered.

Titus 2:5 (NAS) to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

The Greek term for dishonor is blasphemetai which means:

‘to demean through speech’, an esp. sensitive matter in an honor-shame oriented society. to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (pg 178).

The world’s system is based on shame-honor and fear of anyone or anything that will come against their traditions.  How is a Christian to act in this worldly system?  Peter answers that for us:

1 Peter 3:16 (NAS) and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

The author of Hebrews also affirms that acting in an honorable way in this world system is the right thing to do.

Hebrews 13:18 (NAS) Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.

Peter indicates that the world is looking to peg us as evildoers, but we are to live in such a way that our lifestyle will silence the ignorance of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:12–16 (NAS)

12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,

14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

In this last verse Peter affirms once again that all of us are free men. But our freedom is there to live our lives in service to God.

How was a Christian woman to live in her marriage since she is as fellow heir with her husband?  She was to live in freedom to serve God and freedom as a “son” of God.  However in order to be careful not to give any reason for the world to slander the gospel, she was to submit to her husband and give him honor. Submitting to serve one another and submitting to receive God’s gifts from one another is the Christian way, but a special submission was given in honor to one’s husband in order that the gospel would not be slandered in that shame based culture.

It is also good for husbands to realize that they are not sole masters in the home.  God has placed right beside them their own wives in a position of honor and also as a joint heir of God and a joint master of the home.

1 Timothy 5:14 (ASV) I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give no occasion to the adversary for reviling:

The tradition that the man is the sole master of the home is the world’s invention.  God’s way is husband and wives living as we were created – joint rulers and as Christians, joint heirs in Christ.  The amazing thing is that through Christians living lives for God and with God’s principles, the world has come to see that slavery is wrong.   The world has also been getting the message that male domination is wrong.  Yet the sad thing is that there are still some in the church who believe that God created the man as the master of the home and the master of his wife.  They are following a worldly tradition that they don’t even recognize is worldly.  Some of the church has heard for so long that God uses men and doesn’t use women that they have become indoctrinated into believing the lie.

It is easy to allow tradition to become a fact in our lives without even realizing that its foundation is based on a lie or on ignorance.  Let me give you one example from the book of Esther.  How was Mordecai in relation to Esther before he adopted her?  What do you think?

A. Her brother

B. Her uncle

C. No relation to Esther at all before adopting her

After you make your choice, then open the book of Esther to Esther 2:7, 15.  Read it carefully.  Now who was Mordecai in relation to Esther and tell me if the Bible contradicts a tradition that has been believed by many in the church?

Cheryl

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14 responses to Taking the place of sole Master of the home – by law

  1. Mordecai was either her cousin or uncle, I can’t remember which. What are you getting at? What tradition did the bible contradict?

  2. Well, he was her cousin, but it also says he adopted her. I was a bit confused, too, Cheryl, when I read this one.

  3. My Bible in the notes section says that he was her uncle and everyone in our church when asked this question said “uncle” including me. This is what I was taught and so was everyone else in our church including our pastor.

    As far as the adoption, he was her adopted father, not her original or real father.

  4. It goes to show that someone as careful as I am can be duped into believing what I was taught as tradition. I have read Esther many times and still didn’t read it the way it was written. I still read “uncle Mordecai”.

    If you weren’t taught this tradition, then you have one less tradition to unlearn 😉

  5. OK, now I see your point. I’m pretty sure I heard the “uncle” idea along the way, too! It’s too bad we can’t eliminate the “male rule” idea as simply as we can correct this mistake :-)

  6. Here is the real question though. How much say did Esther have in entering the King’s little beauty pagent? Was she just as much a victim of the “male rule” paradigm as Vashti?

  7. It sounds to me like Esther was collected along with other pretty girls. I don’t hear a choice in the account. Yet it is amazing that God can bring good out of bad kind of like what happened to Joseph being sold into slavery. God over saw the events so that even in the anger of Joseph’s brothers and even in the male system that could take over the bodies of beautiful females at will, God is still able to be in control of bringing His will through it all.

  8. I changed the answers to remove the real one on the Mordecai/Esther question. This way it will be more apparent whether people have been fooled by the tradition that says that Mordecai was Esther’s uncle.

    It reminds me how easy it is to believe the tradition that said that Eve lied before she ate the forbidden fruit. How many people have been deceived by a prejudice against women without even understanding that deception? I just praise God that so many men that I have shared the “Eve lied” tradition with and then showed how that tradition is faulty, have see the faulty tradition fall from testing it with the Scriptures. Tradition must be tested and what holds to Scripture can be kept. But faulty tradition should have its place in the spiritual garbage can where it belongs.

  9. It still is ironic that Vashti is thought of so poorly when in fact she was the one who bucked the “male rule” tradition, while Esther, whether or not she was “collected”, followed the tradition and is seemingly praised for it.

    But I’m not so sure. Why did Mordecai command that Esther hide that she was Jewish? Could it be that Jews were ineligible to be considered as Queen? Could it be that they were not collecting Jewish virgins and she was brought not by the collectors but by Mordecai himself and inserted into the “pool”? That’s how it reads to me. If that were the case, then Mordecai is no different than Ahasuerus, exercising “male rule” and abusing his adopted daughter’s beauty to “gain favor” and power. It sure worked out good for him in the end.

  10. gengwell, you are asking the questions I have asked for years.

    Another thing that always just slays me about this book is that some comp women do a talk on Esther about “beauty treatments’ like Esther’s and preparing yourself for your husband.

    Can you imagine promoting the requirements of a pagan king for his haram to Christian women as something godly? (shakes head)

  11. Lydia – “Can you imagine promoting the requirements of a pagan king for his haram to Christian women as something godly? (shakes head)”

    You hit the nail on the head Lydia. The obsession with physical beauty, especially within certain Christian circles, is very ungodly. I wrote a whole series on it on my blog some time back.

  12. “The fear that concerned men, that they would lose their priority if women were allowed to have freedom to make their own decisions, has been a consistent fear that was even used against the gospel.”

    I completely agree! Despite what the Complementarians piously assert in their arguments, I believe that at the heart of their concerns is a phobia and a mistrust of women’s abilities. They simply do not trust women to be in positions of power, and so they insistently forbid them to be leaders, or even co-leaders, in the home or in the church. :(

    [I have had the same qualms expressed in the other comments about appropriateness of some of the things Esther was urged to do by her adopted dad.]

  13. I actually read a piece somewhere by a Messianic Jewish pastor who taught that Mordecai was Esther’s “covering”, so that Esther could do the things she did (unbecoming for a women in God’s established order) without angering God.

  14. LOL Those comps do have a twisted sense of humor.

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