Her husband told her to go. “Let Abimelech take you up in his harem, otherwise he may kill me.” Sarah did just that. (See Genesis 20)
In our modern mindset, that sound like the most radical wifely obedience in the whole of the 66 books that make up the Bible. But we think of this from cultures where a woman has many resources. There were no police in Gerar. There were no shelters for abused women. The culture was not just pre-Christian, but pre-Israelite.
In the barbaric world of the era, it seems to me she saw 2 possible futures:
1) Abimelech’s soldiers kill Abraham and take her.
2) Abraham negotiates terms for her to be taken into Abimelech’s harem.
In the first case, her husband is dead, and she gets taken in as a piece of war booty with nowhere to go. In the second case, Abraham is still alive and she gets taken into a harem as someone with some value, the relative of someone Abimelech made friends with.
Was there a possibility 3? Telling Abraham she won’t do that and they should flee back in the direction they came from instead? Well, Abraham got a message from God to go to a land God will show them, and probably would not have turned around. Should she have taken the first airplane back alone? Once again, in a barbaric desert world without grocery stores or police (or airplanes), that would most likely have ended one of two ways: She could have died of hunger, or someone could have taken her into his harem.
I don’t think Sarah was radically obedient here. She was only being practical, it seems to me. Are there any other events that show the Abraham’s orders, or the obedience of Sarah? Perhaps there is this one:
Gen 18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.
It doesn’t actually mention that she started baking, but I would assume she did. In the next verse, Abraham himself also got busy with food preparation for the event. This is the only other instance of Abraham telling his wife what to do. (If you can see some event of Abraham’s orders to her, or her obedience, that I missed, please correct me.)
In the light of the above, how should “as Sara obeyed Abraham” (1Pet.3:6) be interpreted?:
> Obey, as Sarah did, when you have no other options. (The Abimelech event) OR
> Obey, as Sarah probably did, in reasonably normal domestic situations like when your husband entertain a guest and want someone to help him prepare food? (Gen 18:6) OR
> Obey, even when you have choices, in extreme situations like when your husband want you to sleep with someone else? (The Abimelech event, interpreted differently)
The third option is extremely unlikely, and goes against almost everything taught on sexual immorality in both the Old and New Testament. Not even John Piper, who certainly believe in female submission, believe a wife have to sleep with someone else when her husband asks her to.*
Or do I understand wrong, and did Sarah have more options?
* In a much-maligned video clip, Piper says among others: “If this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly – group sex, or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin… She’s not going to go there. I’m saying no, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove [sic], even though the husband is asking her to do it.“