1 Peter 3:7 states:
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Is this passage saying that women are weaker when compared to men?
Is this passage saying that women are weaker in physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional well being, or is it saying something else entirely?
I think people take this passage to mean that God is calling the wife “weaker” than her husband (because of the words “weaker vessel”) and is therefore saying that the wife is “less significant” than the husband. Although men may abuse this passage for their own sinful gain, I don’t believe the word of God is bound by such behavior. Below I will explain: what I believe “weaker vessel” means in this context and what this passage says about the significance of a wife.
So, what does weaker vessel mean in this context?
The words “weaker vessel” in this passage, is used in the context of marriage roles. It is essentially saying that, in comparison to a wife, the husband’s role should be different. We see a very similar illustration in the marriage roles in Ephesians 5 where it says, “Husbands love your wife as Christ loved the church”. Here it is describing the role the man is to take in a marriage. His role is to be that of Christ, while his wife’s role is to be that of the church. He is to love his wife, while his wife is to respect him. When the husband is loving his wife in this manner, he will indeed be loving himself, because the husband and the wife are one flesh through marriage (Eph 5:28, Gen 2:23). Another way I have heard these roles explained is by looking to the relationship of the Trinity. Every Person in the Trinity is equally God but they have different roles. There are times when Jesus says that the Father is greater than Him, but Jesus is not saying that He is less God, but that He has a different role within the Trinity. So, all this to say, when this passage says “weaker vessel”, I believe it is defining a role in marriage and not a woman’s relative strength to a man spiritually, physically, or emotionally.
Are women less significant to men?
There are several reasons, in this very passage, to support that God is not saying women are less significant than men, or their husbands. As I stated above, this passage is talking about a husband and wife role in a marriage. However, let’s look at the significance God places on the wife and woman. First of all, the passage says that husbands are to live with their wife in an understanding way. Why live with a wife in this manner if she is less significant? Secondly, the husband is commanded to “show honor” to his wife. Again, if she is less significant than man, why show honor? Thirdly, God has this to say regarding the wife “since they are heirs with you of the grace of life”. They have the same inheritance of a husband so the woman’s value can’t be less. A wife is “one in flesh” with her husband, so her insignificance would mean his insignificance in the same manner that Christ’s insignificance would mean the Father’s insignificance. Finally, God takes this command so seriously that He says that a husband’s prayers will be affected if they don’t live in this way toward their wife. One cannot take all these factors into consideration and still think that God thinks a wife is less significant than their husband.
What are your thoughts?
Thank you for reading!