WIVES, MOTHERS, SISTERS, DAUGHTERS: Part 1, What is a Helpmeet and What Is A Wife To Do?


Originally, this study was going to be titled, “What Is A Wife To Do?” It started out as being a study for women to know better how to be a helpmeet, or for wives in a difficult or troubled marriage. But it has grown into a study for all females who wish to live a godly life, no matter what role you find yourself in, be it wife, mother, sister or daughter.

I will be using the New King James Version and Blueletterbible.org and Strongs Concordance for this study.

Of course, the entire Bible is written for all of us, male or female. But you may have noticed that there’s not an abundance of scripture written specifically to wives and women. Yet, we have all we need to know in the few passages that are written to and for us. We do have specific instructions, and will find all we need in what is written. We don’t have to look elsewhere for more. We will begin by looking at the famous Ephesians 5:22: “Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and He is Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Emphasis mine.)

First, let’s look at the word that makes us bristle: submission. And Ladies, please stay with me and let’s really see what the Lord says to us in the matter. We have been conditioned for years now, to rebel against this idea. It has been preached to us in every secular TV show, every movie, every book, every commercial, to go against this idea of submission to our husbands. So let’s let down our guard and really see what the Lord says to us. First, the tense is present, middle action: denotes that the subject is both an agent of action and somehow concerned with the action. It’s in the imperative, which expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of one commanding. Thus, Jesus’ phrase, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) is not at all an “invitation,” but an absolute command requiring full obedience on the part of hearers. It also is in the second person plural and indicates the subject of the verb—second person is the you perspective.

The Greek word for submit is hypotasso: from hypo - by, under, and tasso - to put in order, to station, to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint.

Strong’s: to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot: addict, appoint, determine, ordain, set.

Before you bristle, let’s look at the whole study and find out and know who we are. And I must warn you again, but you already know, this goes against everything we are bombarded with in our culture and society. Nevertheless, we want to be women of the Word.

God is a God of order. Order is a beautiful thing. When things work in the order of which they were designed to work, they work beautifully. Authority is part of order and is necessary for orders to be maintained. A breakdown in order and authority leads to chaos. Submission is in no way saying the one who submits is inferior or less than the person being submitted to. And I might point out, all through the New Testament, we are instructed to have an attitude of submission to each other in the Body of Christ. This is not something that needs to be feared or rebelled against. It’s an attitude that every believer should have.

Jesus, the Son, the Second person of the Trinity submitted to the Father, yet we know from Philippians 2:6 that He is equal with God. This submission is more like a military term used as a rank and file system. As Christ is the Head of the Church and the Church comes under His authority—and as a result, His protection—so do wives come under their husbands as the authority—and as a result, his protection. This is an important principle: protection under authority. We know that when we submit to the Lord and His authority, we have His protection. When we obey His Word, we are under His umbrella of protection and the enemy cannot harm us. If we step out from under that umbrella of protection in disobedience or rebellion, then the enemy has access to us. The same principle applies to husbands and wives, and our children. When wives submit to their husbands’ authority and they are under the umbrella of protection, even if and when the husband might be making decisions that are less than ideal, the submitted wife is protected.

Another important aspect about this is that when a wife has an attitude of submission, the Lord will instruct the husband. He will open the ears of the husband to hear his wife. This opens up the power of persuasion. But let’s be clear, this is not to be abused! We have to be careful not to manipulate our husbands. And we have to trust them to God, and to know that sometimes they can and do see things from a different perspective and yes, they might know more than we do.

Let’s look at the next section. Ephesians 5:30-33, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

The first thing to notice here, is that the wife isn’t instructed to love her husband, but to respect him. Now, of course, we are to love our husbands, and when we get to Titus, we will see that the older women are to teach the younger women to love their husbands. But the best way a woman can love her husband, is to give him the respect that he needs. Men need respect like women need love. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, my husband doesn’t deserve or earn any respect.” It doesn’t matter! It’s not a question of if he behaves in such a manner of earning our respect. It goes back to his position. He requires our respect because of the order that God has instituted. We have to get this right in our minds. God requires us to have an attitude of respect for our husbands, because of the order He has ordained, regardless if they evoke our respect or not. This might be hard for some to follow, but I promise if you get this right in your mind, it will make all the difference in the world in your marriage.

The word translated respect in the Greek is phobeo and means to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience.

Strong’s: to be alarmed; by analogy, to be in awe of, i.e. revere —be afraid, fear exceedingly, reverence.

This same word is found in Matthew 1:20, “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”

In order to understand the concept better, if we look at the context in this Ephesian passage, we see there are actually two things being talked about here. Obviously one is marriage between a man and woman here on earth. But also, the mystery of the Church which is the Bride of Christ and Christ as our Bridegroom. The wife is to have the same kind of awe, respect, reverence and yes, fear, in the sense of understanding the depth of this mystical union which is the marital relationship. Chuck Missler used to say that God uses the institution of marriage to teach His most intimate truths. This passage in Ephesians is mysterious even in how it is written. Let’s not miss that. The mystery of Christ and the Church is a vital part of understanding our own marriages.

So, Ladies, you should have the same fearful reverence and respect for your husbands as you have for your Lord. That is not to be afraid of your husbands, but to fear that you might fall short and miss out on what God intends for you by being disobedient in this. If your husband receives respect and reverence from you, he will thrive and grow spiritually. But more than that, God will bless you, will bless your children and your family and home, and God will protect your heart.

Modeling this respect and reverence will, in turn, instill the same thing in your children. It’s the proverbial “kids are caught, not taught.” Of course, we need to teach our children to respect their parents, teachers, elders, and each other. But it is much more effective when they see it being modeled day after day.

Now let’s delve a little further into marriage, to get an even better understanding. Let’s look at the passage in Genesis that Paul quoted in the Ephesians passage. Genesis 2:18-25: “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

The first word to look at is from verse 18 and is the word helper, or in some translations helpmeet. It is the Hebrew word ezer and means help, succour, one who helps. It comes from the root azar which means to surround, i.e. protect or aid—help, succour. So, we as wives are to help, to succour, to aid and support our husbands. We are a team with our husband, with a specific role as his helper, his supporter. I heard someone say once that we need to be the soft place he lands.

We are going to look at Matthew Henry’s commentary for this part of the study, because his words so eloquently amplify this passage:

Verses 21-25 Here we have, I. The making of the woman, to be a help-meet for Adam. This was done upon the sixth day, as was also the placing of Adam in paradise, though it is here mentioned after an account of the seventh day’s rest; but what was said in general ch. 1:27), that God made man male and female, is more distinctly related here. Observe, 1. That Adam was first formed, then Eve (1 Tim. 2:13), and she was made of the man, and for the man (1 Co. 11:8, 1 Co. 11:9), all which are urged there as reasons for the humility, modesty, silence, and submissiveness, of that sex in general, and particularly the subjection and reverence which wives owe to their own husbands. Yet man being made last of the creatures, as the best and most excellent of all, Eve’s being made after Adam, and out of him, puts an honour upon that sex, as the glory of the man, 1 Co. 11:7. If man is the head, she is the crown, a crown to her husband, the crown of the visible creation. The man was dust refined, but the woman was dust double-refined, one remove further from the earth. 2. That Adam slept while his wife was in making, that no room might be left to imagine that he had herein directed the Spirit of the Lord, or been his counsellor, Isa. 40:13. He had been made sensible of his want of a meet help; but, God having undertaken to provide him one, he does not afflict himself with any care about it, but lies down and sleeps sweetly, as one that had cast all his care on God, with a cheerful resignation of himself and all his affairs to his Maker’s will and wisdom. Jehovah-jireh, let the Lord provide when and whom he pleases. If we graciously rest in God, God will graciously work for us and work all for good. 3. That God caused a sleep to fall on Adam, and made it a deep sleep, that so the opening of his side might be no grievance to him; while he knows no sin, God will take care he shall feel no pain. When God, by his providence, does that to his people which is grievous to flesh and blood, he not only consults their happiness in the issue, but by his grace he can so quiet and compose their spirits as to make them easy under the sharpest operations. 4. That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. Adam lost a rib, and without any diminution to his strength or comeliness (for, doubtless, the flesh was closed without a scar); but in lieu thereof he had a help meet for him, which abundantly made up his loss: what God takes away from his people he will, one way or other, restore with advantage. In this (as in many other things) Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself.1

I love the part where Matthew Henry says, “If man is the head, she is the crown, a crown to her husband, the crown of visible creation. The man was dust refined, but the woman was dust double-refined, one remove further from the earth.” In part two of this study we will look at how we were created to hold dignity and grace, and how far we, as females have fallen from God’s intent for us. The world has sold us a bill of goods that is the exact opposite of what God intended for us, but more of that in part 2.

Back to this Genesis passage. We know there was a problem, of course. We all know that Eve was deceived by the serpent and sinned, and Adam followed her in the sin, not being deceived. And God pronounced a curse as the result of sin. Genesis 3:16 “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.’”

Two things happened here, the woman will have sorrow in childbirth and she is put into a state of subjection with her husband. As much as I don’t like it, in studying this passage, most scholars agree that this indicates that the woman will always have a desire to rule over her husband. To paraphrase what Matthew Henry says, the original plan and order was that the husband would always have ruled with wisdom and love and that the wife would have obeyed with meekness and humility, and the dominion would have been no grievance, but our own sin and folly make our yoke heavy.

The word for desire here is teshuwqah and means desire, longing, craving.

Strong’s in the original sense of stretching out after; a longing:—desire.

The word for rule over you is mashal and means to exercise dominion.

I like how Gotquestions.com answers this:

Question: "How is a woman’s desire for her husband a curse (Genesis 3:16)?" 

Answer: As God pronounces judgment on Eve for her part of the transgression in Eden, He says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). This verse causes some puzzlement. It would seem that a woman desiring her husband would be a good thing, and not a curse. The Hebrew phrase in question does not include a verb and is literally translated “toward your husband your desire.” Since this judgment is predictive, the future tense verb “will be” is added for clarity: “Your desire will be for your husband.” The most basic and straightforward understanding of this verse is that woman and man would now have ongoing conflict. In contrast to the ideal conditions in the Garden of Eden and the harmony between Adam and Eve, their relationship, from that point on, would include a power struggle. The NLT translation makes it more evident: “You will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

God is saying that Eve would desire to rule over her husband, but her husband would instead rule over her. Replacing the mutually interdependent relationship the Lord had created was a desire for one spouse to lead the other. Sin had wrought discord. The battle of the sexes had begun. Both man and woman would now seek the upper hand in marriage. The man who was to lovingly care for and nurture his wife would now seek to rule her, and the wife would desire to wrest control from her husband.

It is important to note that this judgment only states what will take place. God says that man and woman will live in conflict and their relationship will become problematic. The statement “he shall rule over you” is not a biblical command for men to dominate women.

In the New Testament, God affirms His ideal relationship between man and woman in marriage. Christ-like qualities are emphasized. What the curse of sin created, believers in Christ are called to correct by living according to God’s Spirit. Ephesians 5 says that the wife should willingly submit to her husband’s authority in the home, in essence, refusing to scratch the curse-fueled itch to seize control (verses 22-24). Husbands are to love their wives unconditionally and sacrificially, just as Christ loves the Church (verses 25-30). The whole passage begins with an emphasis on mutual submission to one another: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (verse 21).

From the beginning, God’s focus has been love and respect between husband and wife. Though sin has tainted the original beauty of this relationship, God commands believers in Christ to pursue this ideal relationship between husband and wife, an ideal perfectly illustrated in Christ’s relationship with the Church.2

As we understand these scriptures better, we are more equipped to be godly wives. Back to the Ephesians passage. The bottom line is husbands need respect like women need love. You might think you’re doing your job by loving and love is important because of the Titus instructions for older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands, but the biggest and best way to love our husbands is to give them the respect they need.

In Colossians 3:18, we find the same command of submission: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

Another word to consider is idios which means pertaining to one’s self, one’s own. It’s important to say here, that women are not in subjection to men that aren’t their husbands, i.e. boyfriends, any men, in general, other than the way we are all under the authority of government or church elders. Even then, it has to be understood that we aren’t in subjection to any man just because we are female.

We will move on to look at another issue with wives. What if we have a husband that is not a believer, or perhaps is, but may be out of fellowship with the Lord? 1 Peter 3 addresses this:

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”

One of the rules in Bible study is when you see the words therefore or likewise, you have to go back to the verses these words are referring to. This takes us back to the previous chapter, 1 Peter 2:21-25.

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin,nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

What Peter is saying to wives is that we are to model to our husbands this picture of Christ who suffered for us and left an example that we should follow in His steps. He committed no sin, had no deceit in His mouth, when He was reviled, did not revile in return. When He suffered, He didn’t threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. Jesus bore our sins in His own body, that we, having died to sins, might live in righteousness.

There it is Ladies. There’s our example. This is the attitude we are to have with our husbands, and especially those of us whose husbands may not know the Lord, or may not be walking with the Lord. We don’t revile when we are reviled, We don’t make threats when we are hurt. We commit ourselves to Him and entrust Him with our hearts. We don’t have to say a word, and in fact, it’s better when we don’t. Let the Lord do the work. He does a much better job than we do, but it seems that if we insist upon doing the talking and trying to change our husband, (you know, helping the Holy Spirit out), then the Lord kind of steps back and says, “Ok, have it your way. See how that works for you.” As I said, we need to be the one to step back and let the Lord do the work. Then the opportunity might present itself when we can say a timely word and it will be received, because it was spoken with the right attitude and a pure heart.

Now let’s look at the rest of the passage. Here it is in the Amplified Version:

“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate, not as inferior, but out of respect for the responsibilities entrusted to husbands and their accountability to God, and so partnering with them] so that even if some do not obey the word [of God], they may be won over [to Christ] without discussion by the godly lives of their wives, when they see your modest and respectful behavior [together with your devotion and appreciation—love your husband, encourage him, and enjoy him as a blessing from God]. Your adornment must not be merely external—with interweaving and elaborate knotting of the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or [being superficially preoccupied with] dressing in expensive clothes; but let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God.”

If you want to know what a helpmeet looks like, here it is. If you want to know what a godly wife looks like, here it is.

We’re going to come back to this passage a little later, when we study the sisters and daughters part. For now we will move onto the issue of what if we are married to a foolish man. We have a study on Thinking Girls about Abigail titled, MARRIED TO A FOOL: Abigail and David that I would refer you to. I do want to add something here that isn’t included in that study. I was reading the passage in 1 Samuel 25 in the Amplified Bible about Abigail and Naboth, the fool she was married to, and a footnote caught my eye. The footnote is referring to verse 31 where Abigail is talking to David after she has intervened to try to save the situation Naboth had created. Verses 30-31: “And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that He has promised concerning you and has made you ruler over Israel, this shall be no staggering grief to you or cause for pangs of conscience to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause or that my lord has avenged himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then (earnestly) remember you maidservant.”

The Amplified Bible footnote to this reads: “Whenever God’s inspired Word says ‘(earnestly) remember,’ one is certain to miss something if he does not stop, look, and really listen to what the Holy Spirit is wanting to tell him—or her. ‘(Earnestly) remember’ Abigail, the woman whom God has specifically held up as a pattern of right behavior in an unfortunate marriage. Here a dozen vital questions are answered through Abigail’s example. She could not have known that thousands of years later people in similar circumstances would become ‘more than conquerors’ because of her, but God knew. Study her until you know her God-given secrets of success, then pass them on to the people who are letting an unfortunate marriage wreck them rather than sanctify them for service. F. B. Meyer (Through the Bible Day by Day) said, ‘Never let the evil disposition of one mate hinder the devotion and grace of the other. Never let the difficulties of your home lead you to abdicate your throne. Do not step down to the level of your circumstances, but lift them to your own high calling in Christ. “Be not conformed...but be ye transformed” (Romans 12:1,2 KJV).’”

I believe the secret of Abigail’s success was that she knew the Lord and she knew His promises and she believed and stood on them. She was aware and watchful and had made preparations for what she knew had been promised. Then when the time came, she gave her gifts to the men that were David’s (the King’s) followers, and she furthered his kingdom by her actions and examples. We can further the kingdom and be an example to others by following Abigail’s example. This is the key to those wives who are Abigails. Those who want to see their marriage through. They must have the eternal perspective in mind, that their goal is to further the kingdom of God by their actions and the fruit of their labors. And as we always point out, key to all of this is to recognize who the enemy is. Our husbands might be used by the enemy, but they are not the enemy. Satan is our enemy. Once we understand that, we understand who we are at war with.

I will suggest that as we purpose in our hearts to do the hard thing, to persevere, to endure, which is totally contrary to what our culture tells us these days, that God lays a foundation in our lives of beautiful precious stones. We are told that being in love is the most important thing in our marriage. Thus, if we fall out of love, that gives us a reason to divorce. We do not find this in the Bible. Love is a choice we make. We might feel affection or we might not, but we can always choose to love. To love is to see the other person as Jesus sees them, and to treat that person as Jesus would. And while I’m at it, let me add that our culture tells us that a husband is what fulfills us, he is what completes us, that marriage is our ultimate goal. No! Jesus is Who completes us. Jesus, the Living Water is who fulfills us. And marriage is a gift that, those of us who have that gift, are able to learn in a specific way, what the relationship of Christ to His Bride is. So wives, let me encourage you to forget everything this world tells you about being a woman and a wife, and see what His Word tells you. Let Him lay that foundation of precious stones in your life. Then when you stand before Him, you will be so happy that you get to hear, “Well done, My faithful servant.”

1 Matthew Henry Commentary found on Blueletterbible.org.

2 Gotquestions.org How Is A Woman's Desire For Her Husband A Curse (Genesis 3:16)?

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