So, the Rome to which Peter writes, much like the American South in the eighty years following Abolition, is a Rome in which new laws are on the books but practices remain much the same. Peter instructs wives on how to live carefully with an unbelieving husband who could cause them (or their children) physical harm for having converted to a new religion, and then he admonishes husbands of unbelieving wives not to deal harshly with them, even though the culture would allow it.

Fragile or Useful?

So the intent of “show honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” would not seem to be "tiptoe around your wife's emotions" as my study members had speculated. Nor would it seem to be “treat your wife like fine china”, as is often taught. Though it is well-intentioned, I wish we would stop teaching that. Fine china is fragile, rarely used, rarely useful, and largely decorative. I don’t believe that is the picture Scripture paints of godly women, here or Proverbs 31:17-25.  Even Peter’s use of the word “vessel” should point out that 2 Timothy 2:20-21 is inherent in defining not just womanhood but personhood. Peter uses the term “weaker vessel” to point to the general truth that women are comparatively physically weaker than men. Take, for example, the fight I witnessed at the concert: Because she was hitting him we had an awkward moment. If he had been hitting her we would have called security. Peter is reminding husbands of this relationship. He is warning them not to use physical strength to intimidate or harm their wives.

Peter in no way diminishes the worth or capability of wives by comparing their physical strength to that of their husbands with a simple word picture. He is, in fact, guarding them from being treated contemptibly. Wives, your emotions are not a sign of weakness – they are a gift from the Lord and can be a great strength. You and your husband share equal potential for strength or weakness in all things moral, intellectual and emotional - question any teaching that states or implies otherwise. Husbands and wives, may we treat each other at all times as 2 Timothy 2:20-21, as Romans 9:22-24, as co-heirs of grace ordained for high and holy service to our Lord.

Jen Wilkin is a wife, a mom to 4 great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of His Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas and her family calls The Village Church home. You can find her at

Publication date: September 24, 2012