Husbands, love your wives

Over a hundred years ago, way back in 1912, the great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, wrote the play Pygmalion. Eventually, it was re-written as the play, My Fair Lady. It centered on a professor of phonetics named Henry Higgins who is challenged to take a poor, Cockney-speaking flower girl named Eliza Doolittle (played by Julie Andrews), and train her to speak proper English and pass for an upper class woman. The play was re-written as a musical, with the Jewish lyricist Alan Jay Lerner coming up with the lyrics, and Frederick Loewe (another Jew) composing the music. It opened on Broadway in 1956, and when it finally closed in 1962, it was the longest running play in Broadway history (up until that time). In 1964, it was finally put into film, with Audrey Hepburn playing Eliza Doolittle.

One of the main subplots was the difference in the way that men and women think. However, Henry Higgins is exasperated by this difference, saying, “Why can’t a woman… be more like a man?” While I can occasionally share this exasperation, this is part of the grand design of our Creator. God designed two very different kinds of individuals to come together in matrimony. If they were both identical, then one of them would be unnecessary! I also believe that we men are incomplete without a woman. She really completes us! Men without women are often quite uncivilized. Even married men seldom speak with multi-syllable words when there are no women around. We burp more often, and are really quite primitive. However, with women around, we become civilized human beings again. (Please don’t tell the ladies what we are really like when they are not around.)

Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to observe all kinds of women. I had a mother, grandmothers, and female teachers. I had a sister, female neighbors, and lots of female relatives. As I got older, I had girl friends, and eventually married one of them while I was still in the army. She give me a daughter, who is now also a mother! I am now in a position to tell you what I know for certain about women: They are different from us men.

 A few decades ago, some radical feminists were trying to convey the idea that most of the psychological and social differences between men and women were the result of environment, and a male dominated society. They repudiated gender-related behavior between little boys and little girls, and tried to blur the personality differences between them. Little girls were encouraged to play with toy cars, and little boys were encouraged to play with dolls. It got really weird! This grand experiment fizzled. Boys continued to act like boys, and girls continued to act like girls. I am happy to note that women and girls now look and act more “feminine,” and men and boys now look and act more “masculine.” However, there are some who grew up with confused sexual identities as a result of the weirdness foisted upon them by their parents and by society.

 I used quotation marks around “masculine” and “feminine,” because there is a huge range of behavior and appearance that qualifies as masculine or feminine. “Rambo” does not define masculinity, and high fashion models do not define femininity.

Although I don’t understand all that there is to know about women, I do appreciate the difference. If I didn’t appreciate the difference, I would never have gotten married! Marriage means a certain loss of independence, but everything that is worthwhile “costs” something. There may also be some health benefits. According to a recent survey, married men live longer than single men. (Or perhaps it just ‘seems’ longer!)

 The first woman mentioned in the Bible is Chava (from the Hebrew word for ‘living,’ as she was the “mother of all living”).[1] She was created from one of Adam’s ribs. She wasn’t created from his feet to be trampled upon, or from his head to ‘lord’ it over him, but from near his heart, to be loved and cherished.

 You won’t find this story in the Bible: One day Adam came home late. Chava accused him of being with another woman. Adam denied it, saying, “I have not been with another woman. I can prove it. Count my ribs!”

Okay, I will get serious again. Very soon after the creation of woman, God said (Gen. 2:24), “A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become basar echad (“one flesh”). This meant that husband and wife should be bound together emotionally, spiritually, and sexually.

The next mitzvah (commandment) regarding marriage is found in Exodus 20:14, which is the seventh of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery.” In other words, “Don’t mess around with another man’s wife or husband.” The writer of Proverbs (6:27-29) wrote, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes into his neighbor’s wife. Whosoever touches her shall not go unpunished.” Also, “The one who commits adultery with a woman lacks sense. He who does it destroys his own soul.” [2] There are some who will insist that men in high positions (such as president or prime minister) should be judged by their performance in office, and not by their adulterous affairs or private lives. I disagree. Stable civilizations have stable families. Those in high positions can have a profound influence in breaking down the very foundation of stable societies.

Also, the ideal family unit is composed of a man, a woman, and the children. Children need role models, and both parents can be role models. However, a boy especially needs a male role model, and a girl especially needs a female role model. There are many single-parent families, and they can indeed do a remarkable job in raising the children, but it is very difficult. It can also be very difficult with an intact marriage, if one of the parents (usually the father) is not actively engaged with the children.

 The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 35% and among whites at 13%. The illegitimacy rate among blacks is 72%, and among whites it’s 30%.[3] The poverty rate among black married families has been in the single digits for 20 years, currently at 8%. For married white families, it’s 5%. Whose fault is it to have children without marriage and risk a life of dependency? Do people have free will, or are they governed by instincts? Having children out of wedlock is the leading cause of poverty in the USA. Giving your children two married parents – one man and one woman – provides the best possible environment in which to raise your children, and is one of the best ways to guarantee that they are not raised in poverty.

 All of creation is amazing. Every plant and ever creature is incredibly well-designed. Most of us enjoy seeing pictures and videos of animals, and enjoy interacting with them. However, we humans are the pinnacle of Creation. We read in Genesis 1:26-28: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the flow of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God (Elohim) created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth…” When God said to “be fruitful and multiply,” He wasn’t telling Adam to invent mathematics; He was talking about procreation. Also, when He said to “replenish” the earth, it was the hint of an earlier creation.

 A good husband praises his wife. An example of this is Proverbs 31:10-31. Many Jewish men read this (or portions of it) to their wives just before enjoying the Erev Shabbat [4] meal together. Women need to know that they are appreciated and loved. One woman complained that her husband never tells her that he loves her. He replied that he told her that he loved her at the wedding ceremony. “And if I ever change my mind, I will let you know.” Well, this isn’t enough. Wives need to hear, “I love you,” and often. In return, husbands get a happier wife, and a happier marriage that can only benefit both of them.

“Date” your wife. Take her to a romantic restaurant. Go on a vacation together. Give her some non-sexual touching. Listen to her. That last one isn’t always easy. Women are great at relating all the details that you really don’t care about. But do be sympathetic to her cares, concerns, and fears. If she is hurting physically or emotionally, comfort her.

Some of the guys reading this might not be married, but someday, you may finally tie the knot. If you are insensitive to women, that knot you tie may choke you. 73% of the bachelors have already stopped reading this article. But if you are among the wise, keep reading, and learn how to have a happy relationship with a woman who may someday be your wife. By the way, love and romance should not depart when the wedding ring goes on the finger.

Rav Sha’ul (Paul) also had some words of advice for the ladies: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Messiah is the head of the Congregation. But as the Congregation is subject to Messiah, so also the wives out to be in everything.” [5] He also said, “I want you to understand that Messiah is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Messiah.” [6] At first glance, this all sounds very sexist. Some of the ladies were real enthusiastic about this article until I “blew it” just now. Please, give me a chance! These verses have indeed been used (actually, misused) by some genuine “male chauvinist pigs” to keep women under their thumbs while they pranced around like little dictators. This is not the intent, as Rav Sha’ul explains in the verses immediately following.

Women have brains, and should be allowed to use them. It would be a tremendous hardship on me if my wife demanded that I make all the decisions. Even in our marriage and household, I let her make many, maybe most, of the decisions.

However, in areas that I feel very strongly about, I make the decision, which may occasionally be at odds with my wife’s opinion. However, since I let her make so many decisions, she is supportive of me when I make a decision that she disagrees with. Also, in placing wives under the headship of the husbands, Rav Sha’ul was not stating that women should be submissive in areas contrary to the Word of God. There are limits!

 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the Congregation, and gave Himself up for her, that he might cleanse her by the washing of water with the Word,[7] that He might present her to Himself as a glorious Congregation, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So also men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife, loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Messiah also does the Congregation.” [8] 

As I read this, I do believe that the ladies got the better part of this deal. Yeshua the Messiah loved the Congregation, even to submitting to torture and to the Cross, the most horrific method of execution ever devised. We men are commanded to love our wives in the same fashion. If any man still has a “dictator complex” after reading these verses, he needs some help that I may not be able to give. He is missing a real blessing, because these instructions give the “secret” to a happy marriage. When the wife is happy, the marriage is happy. When the marriage is happy, the husband is also happy. “Husbands, love your wives.”

 It is beyond the scope of this article to get into all the details. However, the marriage of a man and a woman is also symbolic of the eternal love that God has for Israel (as in the Book of Hosea), as well as Messiah’s love for the Congregation (as in Revelation 19:7-10). Because of its spiritual implications, the relationship between husbands and wives is very important to our Heavenly Father.

Scripture does permit divorce (Deut. 24:1; Mat. 5:17-19; 1 Cor. 7:27-28). However, this is His permissive will, not his perfect will. When divorce occurs, it diminishes the symbolism of the eternal love that God has for Israel or the eternal love that Messiah has for the Congregation. We do recognize that there are times where divorce may be necessary. However, divorce should be the exception, and not the rule. Divorce often creates more problems than it solves. And many of the same problems that occurred in the first marriage are often brought into the next marriage.

Successful marriages don’t just “happen.” Successful marriages demand work. We also recommend that husbands and wives read the Bible together and pray together. The family that prays together, stays together!

[1] In most translations, Chava is called Eve or Eva, which is unfortunate, as Eve is the name of a pagan goddess.

[2] Proverbs 6:32

[3] The black illegitimacy rate only 14% in 1940, and illegitimacy among whites was also very low at that time.

[4] Friday evening.

[5] Ephesians 5:22-24.

[6] 1 Cor. 11:3. (See also John 14:28.)

[7] This also means that we need to get the Word into us. Read the Bible regularly!

[8] Ephesians 5:25-29


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