Know Your Wife

According to some polls, there is a certain percentage of men who cannot remember the date of their marriage. You would think the percentage would be zero, but it’s a range that is much larger than that. I can remember not only our anniversary (will be 29 years on May 29th! Is there such a thing as a Golden Anniversary—besides the 50th—like your Golden Birthday?) but I can also remember the date when I asked Laura to marry me. I’d prove it to you, but I also use it in some passwords, so you’ll just have to trust me. I know I’m congratulating myself on something that is possibly the lowest bar for fulfilling 1 Peter 3:7, but apparently some husbands cannot meet even that low standard.

What’s in 1 Peter? A Christian husband probably knows in the Apostle Paul’s writings that he is commanded to love his wife in the Apostle Paul’s writings, but tucked in 1 Peter 3:7 is another command that is ignored to his marriage’s harm.

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way….

This phrase has a variety of translations.

(NKJV) Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding….
(NIV84), Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives….
(NASB95) You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way….
(NRSV), Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together….
(HCSB), Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature….

You can see that some translations think it means to be considerate of your wife, and others—most—think it means live with her with knowledge. Some Bible scholars take it to mean be considerate, or use your authority considerately.[1]Edmund Clowney and Peter Davids

However, I agree with most that it means live knowledgeably with your wife. It is translated as a command because of 1 Peter’s specific grammatical rules [2]It’s a participle, but in 1 Peter participles are often considered imperatives.

So what does it mean to live with your wife according to knowledge? Peter doesn’t say what kind of knowledge is needed. A bit surprising I think, but several commentators believe it has special reference to the marital sexual relationship. The word was certainly used that way in the LXX—the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The word is sunoikeo [συνοικέω], and it’s used in each of these passages.

Deuteronomy 22:13 (NKJV) “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her,
Deuteronomy 24:1a (NKJV) “When a man takes a wife and marries her….
Deuteronomy 25:5 (NKJV) “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.

So this word in 1 Peter 3:7 at least means don’t be a brute in your sexual relationship. Be considerate. It’s more than just maintaining an intimate relationship with your wife as the Apostle Paul commands in 1 Cor 7. It’s more than fulfilling your sexual duty to your wife. It means to do so with understanding. Husband, are you a selfish lover? Are you only interested in your pleasure, or do you make sure your wife enjoys this part of your relationship? Do you know what she likes? What gives her pleasure? Whatever dwelling with your wife according to knowledge means, it includes the sexual relationship.

But it’s also more general knowledge too. It means to have knowledge in all areas of your wife’s life.

You need to have a curious mind about your wife. What are you supposed to know? The cynic says, “Who can figure out women?” Well, there is one that you better figure out—your wife. You need to be a student of your wife. You can’t throw up your hands and say, “I’ll never figure her out.” You need to be proactive in trying to know her. What intrigues her? What discourages her? What are her dreams? What are her strengths, weaknesses? What are her goals? What does she enjoy? What does she dislike? How can you encourage her? What does she want to change in your marriage? What does she struggle with? What sins continually tempt her? How can you help her grow?

When we were engaged, I use to kid my wife about “Laura Logic.” These were humorous statements that made sense to Laura, but not necessarily to me. But rather than laughing, I should be working toward a doctorate in Laura Logic. I need to understand her.

The purpose of this knowledge isn’t to win some contest—like a Christian version of the old show, The Newlywed Game. It should be insight that leads to loving and considerate care. You cannot cherish someone that you don’t know. So to cherish your wife, as every Christian husband must, you need learn about her.

This command requires effort. This isn’t knowledge that just comes by living with a person. We wouldn’t need to be commanded to do it if that were the case. That would come over time, naturally.

And notice nowhere in Scripture are we told to dwell with our kids or parents according to knowledge. That might be wise, but it’s not commanded. No, it’s specifically your wife. It wouldn’t be unusual in counseling for me to find a husband that lived with his wife for years and didn’t really know her. He never put in the effort.

A couple of decades ago a friend of mine was getting married. He and his fiancé were getting discouraged because a few older couples in the church were telling him that marriage is great at the beginning, but eventually you develop different interests and you become roommates, not best friends. That’s sad, and not at all what God intended.

Husband, you should enjoy obeying this command to know your wife. Put some effort into knowing her, and you will also be cherishing her. A cherished wife is a blessed wife.

References

References
1 Edmund Clowney and Peter Davids
2 It’s a participle, but in 1 Peter participles are often considered imperatives.
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