I will start this blog entry with a complete list of every instance in the Bible where God, or anyone speaking for him, say men should be the heads of their households. Every single time that God instructs men – not a particular man, but Christian men in general - to lead their households, will be on my list. Then I will make a second list: Every instance where God tells men to lead their wives. (Before clicking on “read more” for my complete list, you can try making your own list.)
List 1: All the verses where God instructs Christian men to lead their households:
List 2: All the verses where God instructs Christian men to lead their wives:
My lists are empty. There is not one verse in the whole Bible where God tells men to lead their wives or their households. Surprised? You may have several candidates in mind for texts where this happen. But all these texts fail to meet these simple tests:
The instruction test:
Instructions have an “ought” to them. “He is a mechanic” or “he is head of his house” are not instructions. “He should repair my car, because I paid him to do it” or “I advise you to take charge at home” means that someone got instructions to do something.
The Bible mentions heads of households several times, but never says men “ought” to be the head. It never even teaches men, in general, are heads of households. It twice mentions men as heads of their wives, but it does not say, either time, that he is supposed to act in any way to make it true.*
The God test:
There is actually one perfect candidate in the Bible for words which tell men to be heads of their households.
… every man should bear rule in his own house – Est 1:22 …
But this instruction was given by King Xerxes (Ahasuerus). King Xerxes was a heathen, and the Bible never implies he was speaking for God. It fails the God test.
I think if God ever said, in Bible times, that men ought to be heads of households, it would have radically altered the whole fabric of society wherever people took those words to heart. Instead of protecting the patriarchy of the era, it would have undermined it. You see, households were usually not restricted to one adult male and one adult female. A man often shared a household with his parents or in-laws, with his or his spouse’s siblings, and with male and female slaves. Out of the many men in a household, only one could be the “head of the household”. If God actually instructed men to be heads of households, God would have said something like:
Male slaves, run away from your owners and start your own households. Sons, do not share a household with your parents or brothers in adulthood, as I want each man to lead a household. – Moses 13:713
But God never said that. God never instructed men to be heads of households.
Ps: If you think I left out a text that instructs men to lead their wives/ households, you are welcome to add it in the comments.
* “Head” in “head of household” and “head of wife” seems to be the same word in English, but in Greek the term “head of the household” means being in charge, and does not contain the word for the literal head above the neck, while the expression “head of the wife” uses the Greek word for the literal head above the neck, a word that may not imply leadership.