Does the Bible command that men rule over women?

The other day, the excellent editor I’m working with on the book I’m compiling, The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church, asked me a question on the manuscript.

I’d written “God nowhere in Scripture commands men to rule over women.”

Her comment was, “This is a big statement. Do we know it is true?”

There was only one verse in Scripture that I was aware of that might say this. In Genesis 3,  God says to Eve that one of the consequences of the Fall was that her desire would be for her husband, and he would rule over her. I’m persuaded this is descriptive (ie God is telling what will happen) rather than prescriptive (this is the way God wants it to happen. If it is prescriptive, and knowing that God is always consistent with himself, how do you explain Deborah, Esther, Priscilla, Phoebe, let alone a host of other women God has used in positions of leadership down through the pages of history.)

I couldn’t think of any other verses. But was I totally sure without any shadow of a doubt?

So I posted the question on Facebook and had a slew of fascinating responses. I’m very thankful for all of them. Most were very thoughtful and one produced some verses I’d never thought of in this context. Nearly everyone agreed with my statement, and I was very grateful for the person who contacted some theologians on my behalf, who also agreed with me!

Assuming, then, that the statement is true, what difference does it make in our churches?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • concern

    I just came across this and thought I would add my two cents… 1 Tim. 3 states , a man should Rule Well his own house, as a prerequisite for church leadership. “Rule” is qualify to be “Well”, not abusive. A house comprises of women and children. In Gen. 1 v28 God gave both men and women dominion (from Strong Lexicon =rule, reign , realm , headship…) over the animals and every creeping thing. In Gen. 2 v 19-20, Adam excercised that dominion, headship, rule over the animals by naming it, and God approved it and it was so. The woman was not involve. In v 23 , Adam [man, male] excercised the same Headship,dominion, Rule over the Woman [Eve] by naming her and God saw it was good, He approved it and so it was and is today. I am not sure if you need exact wording = in their Plural form…? But the idea of a man having Headship, Rule over a woman is written in the Bible. A woman is commanded to Submit to her Own Husband, and not visa versa. No scripture verse is ever written for a man to submit to his own wife. Eph. 5 v 21 is correctly interpreted to mean “humility as a kingdom walk ideal” for both wives , husbands and ALL of us. Humillity will help them do was is specifically asked of them,( wife Submit, and Husband Love v22 and v25). Gen. 3 v16 is a “cause and effect” clause and not a command . The woman is not to desire( =a bad thing) to controll or rule her husband and he will not Rule (= a bad thing) over her.This is the effect of a faulty deceptive desire Eve[women] have brought into. God desires a man to rule his wife and children but he must do so well. His wife is to help him do so and be good at Ruling Well… for the Glory of God.

    • Marie

      A husband is never commanded to rule his wife. He is commanded to love, honor, cherish, and nurture her but he is never commanded to rule her.
      1 Tim. 3
      ” He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive”. Notice this is talking about having a well ran house it is not talking about ruling his wife. It does state that his children should be subject or submissive. It does not state anything about his wife…
      Their are verses following stating the behavior of the wife but it is not grouped in the requirement to manage house well.
      Consider the following:
      Mark 10:42-44
      42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all.

      We can not throw the rest of the new testament teachings to try to make it say what we want it to.
      If a husband was commanded to rule he would then have to make(force) her to obey. This would not be submission(yielding) this would be coercion and it is not the standard that God asked for. Christ never made the Church(his bride) follow him. He encouraged, he persuaded, he wooed he did not force.

      • felicitydale

        When I originally posted this on facebook, a couple of theologians got involved in the discussion. Both were quite clear that there were no verses that say that men should rule over women. I was very encouraged by their response.

      • concern

        I have quoted for you from the KJV of the bible… where a man is to RULE WELL his own house. A wife is part of the house hold. Do you denied that the KJV of the bible say that.? These are not my words.
        The context is in the home and in the church, so RULE is qualify to be WELL. What’s wrong with that ? If you say this is not a command, I may agree, but it did say so;– is it a suggestion? is it an instruction?
        but not a command!
        I disagree that RULE mean he will force her. RULE is qualify to be WELL, this mean it pleases the Lord.If it is forced it does not please God.
        Submission is never forced, that I agree with.
        Jesus is RULER over all the earth. A man is to emulate Christ and RULE over his small earth call the HOME. Big Jesus RULE over all the earth, little Jesus RULE over his little earth call home. This is biblically correct to me.
        Mark 10. is not speaking about home and marriage. Context is very important.

        • felicitydale

          concern, would you be open to reading a book by a theologian on this topic? I’d love to send you one if you would read it. It’s about 500 pages, delving into the Greek, but very readable, and I think it might help you to see these verses differently.

          • concern

            Yes I would read it. Are you open to reading Dr. Jack Cottrell book , “Gender Roles and the Bible , A critique of the Feminist interpretation of the bible”, or how about Dr. Wayne Grudem’s book “Evangelical Feminism and biblical truth” ? I believe copies are available for free reading. You can google them. Be warned ,these require an open objective mind. Thanks for the reply and the suggestion.

          • felicitydale

            If you send me your street address (email it to I’ll get Philip B. Payne’s “Man and Woman: One in Christ sent to you from Amazon.

            I’ll check out the books you recommend. Be warned though, I’ve been studying this topic for decades now, and have probably come across all the arguments they are likely to put forward. It’s not that I don’t have an open mind, just that I’ve been through all the arguments before. I used to believe and live by them too, until I understood that the Scriptures can be interpreted, with equal integrity, to mean something totally different. And the results are very freeing for women.

          • concern

            Felecitydale:> Thank you so much for your reply; our perspective is what we have to deal with. You may have been studying the issue for a long time, that’s commendable but so have many complimentarian scholars who disagree with Payne’s work . And many scholars are equally confident that they view is consistent with the bible and what God wants for His creatures. I have review the book and review many critiques from distinguish peers of Dr. Payne and my own personal opinion and view base on what I have read from the book review and other reviews[ from CBMW] is that Payne is making a trajectory argument to justify his views. When Dr. Cottrell critique scholars who will take unclear verses to overturn very clear verses base on any kind of reasoning is to nullify the word of God. I happen to agree with that and also believe that the egalitarians and the LGBT proponents are guilty of that error.
            Do you still think I should read it in it’s entirity? If you do then I will send you my email.
            However, since you are not sure if you have come across these books., then you should review thoses recommened so that at lease the next time some one suggest them you can say I have read them, even if you disagree with those professors.

            BTW, you are wrong about deborah….

  • someone famous

    Ephesians 5:22. you all clearly know nothing about Israel/ Christian society.

    • felicitydale

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one!