Obedience in the Bible
Traditionally, wedding vows for women included the command to “love, honor, and obey.” Many believe that the Bible provides this patriarchal stipulation that women are inferior to men, and therefore must be obedient. Some fundamentalist sects continue to preach obedience, and it is therefore worth investigating what it actually says about obedience in the Bible.
To start, there are literally hundreds of Bible verses that use some form of the word obedience. Isaiah 1:19, for example, reads, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” However, most of these instances of obedience in the Bible have little to do with women being subservient to their husbands. Rather, the overwhelming theme of obedience in the Bible is that of man’s obedience to God.
Philippians 2:8, for example, notes that Jesus was obedient to God through His death on the cross. Obedience is submission to the commands of one in authority, which, for Christians, generally means that human beings should be willing to submit to the authority of God in obeying his laws and submitting to his commands. In the Old Testament, for example, Abraham was obedient to God to the point where he was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. In the New Testament, the idea is raised that one need not be obedient to the letter of the law, but the spirit of love. Obedience in the Bible is therefore not a means of suppressing women in marriage, but rather of submitting to a higher power.