Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
In Israel the relation between husband and wife was exemplary. Exemplary in so extraordinary a way, that now, after two thousand years, the type of Jewish wedlock still operates among the scattered children of Jacob, yea, is sometimes still so beautiful and attractive, in the high esteem of robust and paternal authority, in the honor of wife and mother, and in the affectionate union of “husband and wife and children” almost to the perfection of an articulated whole.
What we still see of this in our own surrounding is a fruit of what God’s Word wrought in Israel.
Yet from of old the example of heathen women has worked evil in the life of Jewish women.
This was strongly evident, when, after the fall of Jerusalem, a number of Jewish families went into Egypt and took Jeremiah with them.
For then Jeremiah discovered that many Jewish women, on the quiet, wandered off to the luxuriously appointed temples of the heathen and, with the strange women, offered offerings to the idol, which they called the Queen of heaven.
For this Jeremiah rebuked them and called them to repentance.
But the unholy association with those worldly women had already in a short time bewildered the spirit of these Jewish women in such wise that, boldly and recklessly, they said to Jeremiah: “We will not hearken unto thee, but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, and burn incense unto the Queen of heaven” (Jer. 44:16, 17).
This was provoking enough by itself, but there was evidence of still greater apostasy when, as though to taunt Jeremiah, they added: “Would you think, that we offered incense to the Queen of heaven, without our husbands being in on the secret?” (v. 19).
For this showed that, though the women committed this sin alone by themselves, yet their husbands, though they took no part in this, and held themselves as though they knew nothing of it, had truly been persuaded by their wives to contribute money toward it. For, of course, such outings to the heathen temples were expensive, both by reason of the costly garments they had to wear, to be in style with others, and the liberal offerings they had to bring.
Thus the women sinned grievously, but their husbands shared their guilt, for, says Jeremiah in verse 15, they were “men who knew of it,” knew that their wives despised God and bent their knee to the Queen of heaven.
By itself there was nothing strange in this.
From our sinful nature it springs, and in many ways we all practice this principle of reserve, “to cover one’s eyes with his hand,” to be blind to much that takes place in one’s own house, to hold oneself “as though he knows nothing of it,” and to act “as though it has not come to his notice.”
To some extent, it may be said, there is some good in this.
The “be not overrighteous” has a relative right. He who puts a restraint upon everything tires people and weakens the mainspring of admonition. He who always inhibits, in the end is no more heard. A clock that always ticks, strikes at last the hour and the half hour without anyone noticing it.
And the outcome shows that, in the end, family affairs are best managed when, as a rule, the reign is somewhat loose, and is tightened only when a matter is worth while, and then if needs be with the assistance of the lash.
But what is here told of the men and women in Tahpanhes is something altogether different.
What here took place was a creeping in stealthily among the women of an altogether sinful practice, but in such a way that their husbands were in on the secret, and, though they held themselves aloof, knew all about it.
Here was an evil which the man, as soon as he knew of it, should immediately and inexorably have stopped, and which he suffered to go on, yea, contributed money toward it, to prevent disagreement at home, and not to come to a footing of war with his wife.
Here the wife bore rule, and the husband, who by God’s appointment as responsible, did as though he knew nothing of it, and, in opposition to God’s law, allowed himself to be subjected to the sinful law of heathen practice by his wife.
This is a subversion of the order which God has appointed for family life.
The man is the head and so must remain.
He is responsible to God for the spirit in which his family lives at home and reveals itself outside.
He is not to rule in the sense that in his own house he is to set up some sort of a little kingdom for himself, but he should so rule his family that in his house all resistance against the Kingship of God is broken.
A family does not come of itself, God is the Author of it and created husband and wife and children for it. Therefore He has the right to declare what is best for the family and to appoint His ordinances with respect to it. In God’s name and in God’s stead the husband and father has been appointed watchman, to see to it that these ordinances of God come to their own.
In that appointment roots his authority; therein alone; and by reason of this he must resist every violation of his authority, neither should he neglect the use of this authority, but must apply it to this one great end.
All other rule of his family lacks higher consecration.
Only so does it take hold of the conscience.
And he who does not do this renders himself guilty before God, while he makes a mockery of his responsibility to the Knower of hearts.
Whether his word is heeded is another question. This they did not do in Israel, according to Jeremiah’s word. The brutality of wife and children can sometimes go so far that, even as those women to Jeremiah, they say to husband and father in response to his admonition: “We will not hearken unto thee, but do our own pleasure.”
Provided the man takes care not to throw away his authority, his conscience is clear, and the doubly guilty wife, with her tempted children, will bear double guilt before God.
Money here is of serious significance.
These Jewish women of Tahpanhes confessed this themselves, when they asked Jeremiah: “Do you think that we could allow ourselves this luxury, without our men?” (v. 19).
Not in Israel, but with us a wife can have money, and in the marriage contract have claims inserted to assure her independence, and in that case the husband is responsible, whether he did well to marry on this condition, but, once married, what his wife spends in such a way is beyond his province of authority.
As a rule this is not so.
As a rule the wife has no other money than what her husband hands out to her, and therefore he remains responsible for what his wife expends.
The urge after worldliness, the tendency to vanity, the trait to do what women do who do not fear the Lord, can almost in no case be gratified except by money.
So it was at Tahpanhes, so it is still with us.
Therefore the man who says: “I give my wife money, and what she does with it is her lookout,” must once give account to God for this light-hearted play.
Truly, to the wife, as she should be, and for so far as she walks in the fear of God, largest confidence and greatest liberty of action must be accorded.
But when the husband learns that things go wrong, and he knows that money is spent in sinful ways, he may not act as though he knows nothing of it.
For then, as regards his wife, the blood of her soul shall once be demanded at his hands.
This holds true also where no money comes into play, and it concerns evil practices, either in the training of children, or in dealing with servants, or in association with outsiders, or in expenditure of strength, of time and of life.
There is nothing in the home-life regarding which there is no will of God.
God created nothing and called nothing into being without giving an ordinance concerning it. An ordinance for the use of every power, for the spending of each day, for maintaining the purity of every relation. And certainly not the least power of the Christian life of our fathers consisted in this, that they recognized the obligation of the husband to see to it that in all this the Lord our God was duly honored.
Surely he must be priest in his own house, to lead in prayer, and to invoke the reconciliation of his God with respect to the affairs of his home.
But this cannot be all. It is also written: “The lips of the priest should keep knowledge” (Mal. 2:7), which here definitely refers to the knowledge of God’s law. As it reads elsewhere: “The law shall not perish from the priest” (Jer. 18:18), or as is said to Israel: “Ask now the priests concerning the law” (Hag. 2:11).
So to stand in his house belongs to the priesthood of the husband and father in his family.
A living preaching of the Law of the Lord must he be in the Christian family. If you will, the public conscience of all who in his family are committed to his care.
And therefore it is a choking, a strangling, a searing of the conscience, when the husband makes common cause with his wife in evil, and well knows of it, but acts as though he sees nothing.
This is moral cowardice.
This is to throw away his honor as man, and his priesthood before God. A sinning against his own soul, and against the soul of his wife.
Of course, this also applies the other way. A wife also must watch over the soul of her husband.
But yet this relation is altogether different.
Even a child is not free from the soul of his parents; and he who as child in a spiritual sense can be something to father and mother, and is not, is guilty. But this does not undo the fact that the responsibility of a father for his child bears an altogether different character from that of a child for his father.
That of the father for his child is official.
And so is the responsibility of the husband for the wife.
Here is a special duty, a duty of a particular sort and order, imposed of God upon the husband.