1 Peter 3:1
He proceeds now to another instance of subjection, and bids wives to be subject to their husbands. And as those seemed to have some pretense for shaking off the yoke, who were united to unbelieving men, he expressly reminds them of their duty, and brings forward a particular reason why they ought the more carefully to obey, even that they might by their probity allure their husbands to the faith. But if wives ought to obey ungodly husbands, with much more promptness ought they to obey, who have believing husbands.
But it may seem strange that Peter should say, that a husband might be gained to the Lord without the word; for why is it said, that “faith cometh by hearing?” Rom_10:17. To this I reply, that Peter’s words are not to be so understood as though a holy life alone could lead the unbelieving to Christ, but that it softens and pacifies their minds, so that they might have less dislike to religion; for as bad examples create offenses, so good ones afford no small help. Then Peter shews that wives by a holy and pious life could do so much as to prepare their husbands, without speaking to them on religion, to embrace the faith of Christ.
Cambridge Bible 1 Peter Plumptre
1 Pet 2:1 Likewise, ye wives] The sequence of thought is every way suggestive. The Apostle passes from the all but universal relation of the master and the slave as one element of social life, to the other, yet more universal, and involving from the Roman point of view almost as great a subordination, of husband and wife. Here also it was his object to impress on men and women, especially on the latter, the thought that the doctrine of Christ was no element of disorder. The stress which he lays on their duties may be fairly taken as indicating the prominence of women among the converts to the new faith. Of that prominence we have sufficient evidence in the narrative of the Acts (16:13, 17:4, 12). In what follows we have again a reproduction of the teaching of St Paul (Eph_5:22-24; Col_3:18; 1Ti_2:9). It is not without interest to recall the fact that Aristotle makes the two relations of which St Peter speaks, that of husband and wife, that of master and slave, the germ-cells, as it were, out of which all political society has been developed (Arist. Pol. i. 2).
be in subjection to your own husbands] The use of the Greek adjective for “own” is not intended, as some interpreters have thought, to emphasize a contrast between obedience rendered to their own husbands and that which they might be tempted to give to others, but rather to lay stress on the fact that their husbands, because they were such, had a right to expect the due measure of obedience in all things lawful. The words that follow indicate the frequency of the cases in which the wife only was a convert. The Greek text runs “that even if any obey not the word,” as though, in some cases at least, it might be expected that husband and wife would both have been converted together. In “the word” we have the familiar collective expression for the whole doctrine of the Gospel. The Greek verb for “obey not” implies, as in chap. 2:7, Act_14:2, Heb_3:18, Heb_3:11:31, a positive antagonism rather than the mere absence of belief and obedience.
may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives] The Greek for “word” has no article, and the probable meaning is not “without the open preaching of the word of Christ,” but rather, without speech, without a word
being uttered]. On “conversation,” see note on chap. 1:15. Here, where “conversation” is used as the direct antithesis to speech, the contrast between the new and the old meanings of the word is seen with a singular vividness. The silent preaching of conduct is what the Apostle relied on as a more effective instrument of conversion than any argument or debate. In the verb “be won,” literally, be gained over, we have the same word as that used by St Paul in 1Co_9:19, 1Co_9:20, and by our Lord, in teaching which must have made a special impression on St Peter’s mind, in Mat_18:15.
Likewise, ye wives. St. Peter has spoken of the duties of servants: why does he omit those of masters? There must have been Christian masters in Asia Minor, as is plain from Eph_6:9; Col_4:1. But we notice that St. Paul, though he has a few words for masters, addresses slaves at much greater length. Probably Christian masters were comparatively few, while large numbers of slaves had embraced the religion which could do so much to comfort and elevate the oppressed. Again, the immediate purpose of the apostle is to inculcate submission to authority; therefore, having enforced upon Christian servants the example of their Lord, he proceeds to speak of the duty of Christian wives. Christianity was in its infancy; it was to be the means of abolishing slavery, and of raising woman to her proper place in society; but as yet slaves were cruelly oppressed, and women were ill treated and despised. Aristotle tells us that among the barbarians (and a large proportion of the population in the greater part of Asia Minor was barbarian, i.e. non-Greek) the woman and the slave hold the same rank (‘Pol.,’ I. Col_2:4). In Greek communities the case was different; but even among the Greeks women occupied a very subordinate position. Christianity would introduce a great and sweeping change in the relations of the sexes, as well as in the relations of master and slave. But the change must be gradual, not violent; it must be brought about by the softening and purifying influences of religion, not by revolt against recognized customs and established authority. Indeed, Christianity would introduce an element of division—the Lord had said so (Luk_12:51-53); families would be divided. It could not be otherwise; Christians must not set even family ties above the love of Christ. But Christian wives must be peacemakers; they must, as far as possible, live at peace even with unbelieving husbands. They would often have much ill treatment to endure in those coarse, cruel days; they must bear it with the quiet strength of gentleness. Be in subjection to your own husbands; literally, submitting yourselves. The participle, as in 1Pe_2:18, seems to look back to the imperative, “submit yourselves,” in 1Pe_2:13. The present participle implies that this voluntary submission is to be habitual. The adjective “your own” (ἰδίοις) emphasizes the duty. That, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives. There is a well-supported reading, “Even if any.” Husband and wife would often be converted together; but if this should not be the case, and if the unbelieving husband should set himself in direct opposition to the Word of God (for the words “believe not” have more than a negative meaning, as in 1Pe_2:7), still Christian wives must submit themselves. They must do this for the glory of God, and with the hope of saving their husbands’ souls; that those unbelieving husbands may be won to Christ and to everlasting life by the silent eloquence of the quiet self-restraint and holy behavior of their wives, without argument or preaching on the wives’ part. A self-denying holy life will do more to win those with whom we live in close intercourse than even holy words, and much more than debate and controversy. This seems to be the meaning of ἄνευ λόγου rather than the other possible interpretation, “without the preaching of the Word.” Be won; literally, be gained. Each soul converted is a gain to Christ, to the kingdom of heaven, to itself, in this case also to the wife who is the happy instrument of saving her husband. The word rendered “conversation” here, as elsewhere, means “conduct, behavior.” (Compare, on the whole subject, the teaching of St. Paul, Eph_5:22-24; Col_3:18; 1Ti_2:9-11.)
1 Peter 3:2
2While they behold For minds, however alienated from the true faith, are subdued, when they see the good conduct of believers; for as they understood not the doctrine of Christ, they form an estimate of it by our life. It cannot, then, be but that they will commend Christianity, which teaches purity and fear.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:2. while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear] On the verb “behold” see note on chap. 2:12. The word “coupled” is not in the Greek, and the true meaning of the word is that the “chaste conduct” of the women who are addressed must have its ground and sphere of action in the reverential awe which is the right feeling of a wife towards her husband.
While they behold (see note on 1Pe_2:12, where the same verb occurs) your chaste conversation coupled with fear; literally, your chaste behavior, in fear. Bengel and others understand the fear of God. Certainly the holy fear of God is the sphere in which true Christians must always live. But the close connection with the word “chaste (τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν), and the parallel passage, Eph_5:33 (in the Greek), make it probable that the fear here inculcated is reverence for the husband—an anxious avoidance of anything that might even seem to interfere with his conjugal rights and authority.
1 Peter 3:2
While they behold your chaste conversation – Your pure conduct. The word chaste here (ἁγνὴν hagnēn) refer’s to purity of conduct in all respects, and not merely to chastity properly so called. It includes that, but it also embraces much more. The conduct of the wife is to be in all respects pure; and this is to be the grand instrumentality in the conversion of her husband. A wife may be strictly chaste, and yet there may be many other things in her conduct and temper which would mar the beauty of her piety, and prevent any happy influence on the mind of her husband,
Coupled with fear – The word fear, in this place, may refer either to the fear of God, or to a proper respect and reverence for their husbands, Eph_5:33. The trait of character which is referred to is that of proper respect and reverence in all the relations which she sustained, as opposed to a trifling and frivolous mind. Leighton suggests that the word fear here relates particularly to the other duty enjoined – that of chaste conversation – “fearing the least stain of chastity, or the very appearance of anything not suiting with it. It is a delicate, timorous grace, afraid of the least air, or shadow of anything that hath but a resemblance of wronging it, in carriage, or speech, or apparel.”
1 Peter 3:3
3Whose adorning The other part of the exhortation is, that wives are to adorn themselves sparingly and modestly: for we know that they are in this respect much more curious and ambitious than they ought to be. Then Peter does not without cause seek to correct in them this vanity. And though he reproves generally sumptuous or costly adorning, yet he points out some things in particular, — that they were not artificially to curl or wreath their hair, as it was usually done by crisping-pins, or otherwise to form it according to the fashion; nor were they to set gold around their head: for these are the things in which excesses especially appear.
It may be now asked, whether the Apostle wholly condemns the use of gold in adorning the body. Were any one to urge these words, it may be said, that he prohibits precious garments no less than gold; for he immediately adds, the putting on of apparel, or, of clothes. But it would be an immoderate strictness wholly to forbid neatness and elegance in clothing. If the material is said to be too sumptuous, the Lord has created it; and we know that skill in art has proceeded from him. Then Peter did not intend to condemn every sort of ornament, but the evil of vanity, to which women are subject. Two things are to be regarded in clothing, usefulness and decency; and what decency requires is moderation and modesty. Were, then, a woman to go forth with her hair wantonly curled and decked, and make an extravagant display, her vanity could not be excused. They who object and say, that to clothe one’s-self in this or that manner is an indifferent thing, in which all are free to do as they please, may be easily confuted; for excessive elegance and superfluous display, in short, all excesses, arise from a corrupted mind. Besides, ambition, pride, affectation of display, and all things of this kind, are not indifferent things. Therefore they whose minds are purified from all vanity, will duly order all things, so as not to exceed moderation.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:3. that outward adorning of plaiting the hair] So St Paul lays stress in 1Ti_2:9 on the “braided hair and gold and pearls” which were at the time conspicuous in the toilet of Greek and Roman women. The sculptures of the Empire at this period shew to what extent this “braiding” and “plaiting” was carried, sometimes rising to a height of some inches above the head, sometimes intertwined with twisted chains of gold or strings of pearls. The fineness and fashion of the garments of women had at this time reached an almost unparalleled extravagance. The filmy half-transparent tissue of the Coan loom, the dyed garments of Miletus and Sardis, were especially in demand. Christian women, St Peter teaches, were not to seek their adornment in such things as these, but in “a meek and quiet spirit.” The question may be asked, Are the Apostle’s words prohibitive as well as hortatory? Is it wrong for Christian women now to plait their hair, or to wear gold ornaments or pearls? The answer to that question must be left mainly to the individual conscience. “Let every one be fully persuaded in her own mind.” As some help to a decision, however, it may be noted
(1) that the language is not that of formal prohibition, but of a comparative estimate of the value of the two kinds of adornment;
(2) that in regard to the third form of ornamentation, seeing that some clothes must be worn, the words cannot have a merely prohibitive force; and
(3) that in the possible, if not common, case of the husband giving such ornaments and wishing his wife to wear them, the “meek and quiet spirit” which the Apostle recommends would naturally shew itself in complying with his requests rather than in an obstinate and froward refusal. On the whole then, as a rule bearing upon daily life, we may say that while the words do not condemn the use of jewellery, or attention to the colour and the form of dress, within the limits of simplicity and economy, they tend to minimise that form of personal adornment, and bid women trust not to them, but to moral qualities, as elements of attraction. It would be, perhaps, a safe rule that no woman should spend money for herself on such ornaments.
Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair. A common Hebraism, like our Lord’s injunction in Joh_6:27, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which cndureth unto everlasting life.” St. Peter does not forbid the moderate use of ornaments, but asserts their utter worthlessness compared with Christian graces. The ladies of the time seem often to have had their hair dressed in a very fantastic and extravagant manner. And of wearing of gold; rather, golden ornaments. Or of putting on of apparel. This verse shows that, although the mass of believers at this time belonged to the poorer classes, yet there must have been a proportion of persons of rank and wealth among the Christians of Asia Minor.
1 Peter 3:4
4But let it be the hidden, man of the heart The contrast here ought to be carefully observed. Cato said, that they who are anxiously engaged in adorning the body, neglect the adorning of the mind: so Peter, in order to restrain this desire in women, introduces a remedy, that they are to devote themselves to the cultivation of their minds. The word heart, no doubt means the whole soul. He at the same time shews in what consists the spiritual adorning of women, even in the incorruptness of a meek and quiet spirit “Incorruptness,” as I think, is set in opposition to things which fade and vanish away, things which serve to adorn the body. Therefore the version of Erasmus departs from the real meaning. In short, Peter means that the ornament of the soul is not like a fading flower, nor consists in vanishing splendor, but is incorruptible. By mentioning quiet and a tranquil spirit, he marks out what especially belongs to women; for nothing becomes them more than a placid and a sedate temper of mind. For we know how outrageous a being is an imperious and a self-willed woman. And further, nothing is more fitted to correct the vanity of which Peter speaks than a placid quietness of spirit.
What follows, that it is in the sight of God of great price, may be referred to the whole previous sentence as well as to the word spirit; the meaning indeed will remain the same. For why do women take so much care to adorn themselves, except that they may turn the eyes of men on themselves? But Peter, on the contrary, bids them to be more anxious for what is before God of a great price.
Cambridge Bible 1Pet
3:4. the hidden man of the heart] The phrase is identical in meaning with the “inward man” of Rom_7:22, 2Co_4:16, Eph_3:16. The word for “man” is one which takes within its range women as well as men. The “hidden humanity of the heart” would be somewhat too abstract in its form, and “the hidden human,” though the word has the sanction of one or two poets of mark, would sound too grotesque, but either would express the meaning of the word adequately. The “hidden man of the heart”—(the genitive expresses the fact that the life of the “hidden man” manifests itself in the sphere of the feelings and affections)—is the “new creature” (2Co_5:17, Gal_6:15), the “Christ formed in us” (Gal_4:19), on which St Paul loves to dwell. Men do not see it with the outward eye, but they can be made to recognise its presence.
in that which is not corruptible] The contrast rests on the same sense of the perishableness even of the gold and silver and gems which men looked on as most durable, that we have seen in chap. 1:18. These pass away, but the true ornament of the hidden man has its being in the region of the imperishable.
of a meek and quiet spirit] The New Testament usage of the second adjective is confined to this passage and to 1Ti_2:2. So far as we can distinguish, where it is almost impossible to separate, “meekness,” the absence of self-assertion, of any morbid self-consciousness, may be thought of as the cause, and “quietness,” the calm tranquillity which is not only not an element of disturbance, but checks the action of such elements in others, as the effect. In their union the Apostle, speaking, we may hope, from his own experience, rightly finds a charm, a kosmos, compared with which gold and jewels are as nothing.
of great price] The Greek word is the same as that used of the “very precious ointment” in Mar_14:3 and the “costly array” of 1Ti_2:9. The connexion of St Peter with St Mark’s Gospel (see Introduction) gives a special interest to the first of these references. He had learnt the lesson that God’s estimate of value differs altogether from man’s, and is not to be measured by the standard which the world commonly applies.
But let it be the hidden man of the heart. The “hidden” is here equivalent to the “inward man” of Rom_7:22; 2Co_4:16; Eph_3:16. It is that life which is “hid with Christ in God” (Col_3:2), the life of Christ (“the Second Man”) in the heart, fashioning that heart after the likeness of Christ, forming in it “the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col_3:10). This is hidden; it does not display itself like those conspicuous ornaments mentioned in the last verse. In that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; literally, in the incorruptibility of the meek and quiet spirit. This ornament is incorruptible; not like those corruptible things. The meek spirit does not flash into anger, does not answer again, takes harsh words gently and humbly. The quiet spirit is calm and tranquil; peaceful in itself, it spreads peace around. Which is in the sight of God of great price. The adjective πολυτελές is used in Mar_14:3 of the ointment with which Mary anointed our Lord, and in 1Ti_2:9 of the “array” which St. Paul discourages for Christian women. Those adornments are costly in the sight of the world; the meek and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of God.
1 Peter 3:4
But let it be the hidden man of the heart – This expression is substantially the same as that of Paul in Rom_7:22, “the inward man.” See the notes at that place. The word “hidden” here means that which is concealed; that which is not made apparent by the dress, or by ornament. It lies within, pertaining to the affections of the soul.
In that which is not corruptible – Properly, “in the incorruptible ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” This is said to be incorruptible in contradistinction to gold and apparel. They will decay; but the internal ornament is ever enduring. The sense is, that whatever pertains to outward decoration, however beautiful and costly, is fading; but that which pertains to the soul is enduring. As the soul is immortal, so all that tends to adorn that will be immortal too; as the body is mortal, so all with which it can be invested is decaying, and will soon be destroyed.
The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit – Of a calm temper; a contented mind; a heart free from passion, pride, envy, and irritability; a soul not subject to the agitations and vexations of those who live for fashion, and who seek to be distinguished for external adorning. The connection here shows that the apostle refers to this, not only as that which would be of great price in the sight of God, but as that which would tend to secure the affection of their husbands, and win them to embrace the true religion, (see 1Pe_3:1-2); and, in order to this, he recommends them, instead of seeking external ornaments, to seek those of the mind and of the heart, as more agreeable to their husbands; as better adapted to win their hearts to religion; as that which would be most permanently proved. In regard to this point we may observe:
(1) That there are, undoubtedly, some husbands who are pleased with excessive ornaments in their wives, and who take a pleasure in seeing them decorated with gold, and pearls, and costly array.
(2) That all are pleased and gratified with a suitable attention to personal appearance on the part of their wives. It is as much the duty of a wife to be cleanly in her person, and neat in her habits, in the presence of her husband, as in the presence of strangers; and no wife can hope to secure the permanent affection of her husband who is not attentive to her personal appearance in her own family; especially if, while careless of her personal appearance in the presence of her husband, she makes it a point to appear gaily dressed before others. Yet.
(3) The decoration of the body is not all, nor is it the principal thing which husband desires. He desires primarily in his wife the more permanent adorning which pertains to the heart. Let it be remembered:
(a) that a large part of the ornaments on which females value themselves are lost to a great extent on the other sex. Many a man cannot tell the difference between diamonds and cut-glass, or paste in the form of diamonds; and few are such connoisseurs in the matter of female ornaments as to appreciate at all the difference in the quality or color of silks, and shawls, and laces, which might appear so important to a female eye. The fact is, that those personal ornaments which to females appear of so much value, are much less regarded and prized by people than they often suppose. It is a rare thing that a man is so thoroughly skilled in the knowledge of the distinctions that pertain to fashions, as to appreciate that on which the heart of a female often so much prides itself; and it is no great credit to him if he can do this. His time usually, unless he is a draper or a jeweler, might have been much better employed than in making those acquisitions which are needful to qualify him to appreciate and admire the specialties of frivilous female apparel.
(b) But a man has a real interest in what constitutes the ornaments of the heart. His happiness, in his contact with his wife, depends on these. He knows what is denoted by a kind temper; by gentle words; by a placid brow; by a modest and patient spirit; by a heart that is calm in trouble, and that is affectionate and pure; by freedom from irritability, fretfulness, and impatience; and he can fully appreciate the value of these things No professional skill is necessary to qualify him to see their worth; and no acquired tact in discrimination is requisite to enable him to estimate them according to their full value. A wife, therefore, if she would permanently please her husband, should seek the adorning of the soul rather than the body; the ornament of the heart rather than gold and jewels. The one can never be a substitute for the other; and whatever outward decorations she may have, unless she have a gentleness of spirit, a calmness of temper, a benevolence and purity of soul, and a cultivation of mind that her husband can love, she cannot calculate on his permanent affection.
Which is in the sight of God of great price – Of great value; that being of great value for which a large price is paid. He has shown his sense of its value:
(a) By commending it so often in his word:
(b) By making religion to consist so much in it, rather than in high intellectual endowments, learning, skill in the arts, and valor; and,
(c) By the character of his Son, the Lord Jesus, in whom this was so prominent a characteristic.
Sentiments not unlike what is here stated by the apostle, occur not unfrequently in pagan Classic writers. There are some remarkable passages in Plutarch, strongly resembling it: “An ornament, as Crates said, is that which adorns. The proper ornament of a woman is that which becomes her best. This is neither gold, nor pearls, nor scarlet, but those things which are an evident proof of gravity, regularity, and modesty” – Conjugalio Praecept., c. xxvi. The wife of Phocion, a celebrated Athenian general, receiving a visit from a lady who was elegantly adorned with gold and jewels, and her hair with pearls, took occasion to call the attention of her guest to the elegance and costliness of her dress. “My ornament,” said the wife of Phocion, “is my husband, now for the twentieth year general of the Athenians” – Plutarch’s Life of Phocion. “The Sicilian tyrant sent to the daughters of Lysander garments and tissues of great value, but Lysander refused them, saying, “These ornaments will rather put my daughters out of countenance than adorn them” – Plutarch. So in the fragments of Naumachius, as quoted by Benson, there is a precept much like this of Peter: “Be not too fond of gold, neither wear purple hyacinth about your neck, or the green jasper, of which foolish persons are proud. Do not covet such vain ornaments, neither view yourself too often in the glass, nor twist your hair into a multitude of curls,” etc.
1 Peter 3:5
He sets before them the example of pious women, who sought for spiritual adorning rather than outward meretricious ornaments. But he mentions Sarah above all others, who, having been the mother of all the faithful, is especially worthy of honor and imitation on the part of her sex. Moreover, he returns again to subjection, and confirms it by the example of Sarah, who, according to the words of Moses, called her husband Lord. (Gen_18:12.) God, indeed, does not regard such titles; and it may sometimes be, that one especially petulant and disobedient should use such a word with her tongue; but Peter means, that Sarah usually spoke thus, because she knew that a command had been given her by the Lord, to be subject to her husband. Peter adds, that they who imitated her fidelity would be her daughters, that is, reckoned among the faithful.
Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:5. For after this manner in the old time] It is obvious from the special instance given in the next verse that the Apostle has in his mind exclusively the saintly wives and mothers of the Old Testament. The names of Penelope, Andromache, Alcestis, which are familiar to us as patterns of wifely excellence, were not likely to have come within the horizon of his knowledge.
who trusted in God] More accurately, who hoped in God. It may be noted that the same inadequate rendering is found in the Authorized Version of Rom_15:12, and Philem. v. 22. The idea of “trust” is, of course, not far removed from that of “hope,” but the variation of rendering was a needless one, and ought therefore to have been avoided.
being in subjection unto their own husbands] The repetition of the same verb as that used in ver. 1 and ch. 2:13, should, be noticed as reproducing what might almost be called the key-note of the Epistle. It occurs again in ch. 3:22, 5:5.
1 Peter 3:6
6And are not afraid The weakness of the sex causes women to be suspicious and timid, and therefore morose; for they fear lest by their subjection, they should be more reproachfully treated. It was this that Peter seems to have had in view in forbidding them to be disturbed by any fear, as though he had said, “Willingly submit to the authority of your husbands, nor let fear prevent your obedience, as though your condition would be worse, were you to obey.” The words may be more general, “Let them not raise up commotions at home.” For as they are liable to be frightened, they often make much of a little thing, and thus disturb themselves and the family. Others think that the timidity of women, which is contrary to faith, is generally reproved, as though Peter exhorted them to perform the duties of their calling with a courageous and intrepid spirit. However, the first explanation is what I prefer, though the last does not differ much from it.
Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:6. even as Sara obeyed Abraham] The tense which St Peter uses would seem to imply a reference to some special instance of obedience, but, as the history of Genesis supplies no such instance in act, we are left to infer that he saw in her use of “my lord,” in speaking of her husband (Gen_18:12), a representative utterance that implied a sense of habitual subordination. It seems strange to refer to literature like that of the sixth satire of Juvenal in illustration of an Epistle of St Peter, but there can be no clearer evidence that the general corruption of the Empire had extended itself to the life of home, and that over and above the prevalence of adultery and divorce, the wives of Rome, and we may believe also, of the cities that followed in the wake of Rome, had well-nigh thrown aside all sense of the reverence which the Apostle looked on as essential to the holiness, and therefore the happiness, of married life.
whose daughters ye are] whose daughters ye became. If the words were addressed to women who were converts from heathenism, we might see in the words a suggestive parallel to those of St Paul, that Abraham was the father of “all them that believe though they be not circumcised” (Rom_4:11), that “they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal_3:7). Taking this view there would be a special interest in the fact that St Peter, the married Apostle, told the female converts from among the Gentiles that they were as truly daughters of Sarah as their husbands, if believing, were sons of Abraham. On the assumption which has been adopted throughout these notes, as on the whole the most probable, that the Epistle was really addressed, as it purports to be, to the Jews of the dispersion, the words have another significance. The daughters of Sarah according to the flesh are told that they only became truly her children when they reproduced her character. The words, on this view, present a striking parallelism to those in which St Paul speaks of Abraham as being “the father not of the circumcision only, as such, but of those who walk in the steps of Abraham’s faith” (Rom_4:12).
as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement] The construction of the Greek sentence is not quite clear, and admits of being taken either
(1) as in the English version, or
(2) treating the words “as Sara obeyed.… whose daughters ye became” as a parenthesis, we may refer the words “doing well” to the “holy women” of ver. 5.
On the whole (1) seems preferable. It may be questioned whether the words “so long as” rightly represent the force of the participle. If we adopt the rendering given above (“ye became”) that meaning is clearly inadmissible, and we have to see in the two participles the process by which Christian women became daughters by doing good and not being afraid. The word for “amazement” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but the cognate verb is found in Luk_21:9, Luk_24:37. The noun itself meets us in the LXX. of Pro_3:25. It implies the crouching, shuddering fear of one who is overwhelmed with terror. In warning the women to whom he writes against such a fear, St Peter seems to be guarding them against the unwisdom of rushing from one extreme to the other.
The Christian wives of unbelieving husbands, whether Jews or heathens, might often have much to bear from them, but if they were always shewing their terror, cowering as if they expected the curse or the blow, that very demeanour was certain to make matters worse. It was a tacit reproach, and therefore would but irritate and annoy. Wisely therefore does the Apostle urge on them a different line of action. “Be certain,” he seems to say, “that you are doing what is right and good, and then go about the daily tasks of your household life with a cheerful intrepidity.” Two interpretations may be noticed only to be rejected,
(1) that which takes the second clause as meaning “be not afraid of anything that causes terror,” and
2) that which renders it “doing good, even though you are not afraid,” as though stress were laid on their good conduct being spontaneous and not originating in fear.
Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. St. Peter singles out Sarah, as the mother of the chosen people. She obeyed her husband habitually (the imperfect ὑπήκουεν is the reading of some of the oldest manuscripts; the aorist, also well supported, would represent her obedience as a whole, the character of her life now past); she called him lord (comp. Gen_18:12, ὁ δὲ κύριος μου πρεσβύτερος.) Whose daughters ye are; literally, whose children ye became. This is another indication that the Epistle is addressed, not only to Jewish Christians, but also, and that in large measure, to Gentile converts. Gentile women became by faith the daughters of Sarah; just as we read in St. Paul’s Epistles that “they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal_3:7); anti that Abraham is “the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised” (Rom_4:11); comp. Gal_4:22-31, where St. Paul tells us that we, like Isaac, are the children of promise; children, “not of the bondwoman, but of the free.” As long as ye do well. This clause represents one Greek word ἀγαθοπιοῦσαι (“doing good”). Some commentators regard the words from “even as Sara” to “whose daughters ye are” as a parenthesis, and refer the participle to “the holy women” mentioned in Gal_4:5. This does not seem natural. It is better to regard the second half of this verse as a continuous sentence, and to understand the participle as meaning “if ye do well.” The doing well, etc., is a mark that Christian women have become children of Sarah by faith. And are not afraid with any amazement. The Greek word for “amazement” (πτόησις) does not occur in any other place of the New Testament, though we meet with the corresponding verb in Luk_21:9; Luk_24:1-53 :87. There seems to be a reference to Pro_3:25, “Be not afraid of sudden fear ‘ (καὶ οὐ φοβηθήσῃ πτόησιν ἐπελθοῦσαν), Πτσήσις is “dismay, scared terrified excitement,” very different from the calm thoughtful φόβος, the fear lest they should fail in proper respect for their husbands, and that out of the holy fear of God, which St. Peter inculcates upon wives (Pro_3:2). The Christian wife might often experience cruel treatment from an unbelieving husband, but she was not to live in a flutter of excited terror; she was to be calm and quiet, trusting in God. As to the construction, the accusative may be cognate, as the Authorized Version takes it; or the accusative of the object, as in Pro_3:25. The last view is, perhaps, the -most suitable: “And are not afraid of any sudden terror.”
1 Peter 3:6
Even as Sara obeyed Abraham – Sarah was one of the most distinguished of the wives of the patriarchs, and her case is referred to as furnishing one of the best illustrations of the duty to which the apostle refers. Nothing is said, in the brief records of her life, of any passion for outward adorning; much is said of her kindness to her husband, and her respect for him. Compare Gen_12:5; Gen_18:6.
Calling him Lord – See Gen_18:12. It was probably inferred from this instance, by the apostle, and not without reason, that Sarah habitually used this respectful appellation, acknowledging by it that he was her superior, and that he had a right to rule in his own house. The word lord has the elementary idea of ruling, and this is the sense here – that she acknowledged that he had a right to direct the affairs of his household, and that it was her duty to be in subjection to him as the head of the family. In what respects this is a duty, may be seen by consulting the notes at Eph_5:22. Among the Romans, it was quite common for wives to use the appellation lord, (dominus), when speaking of their husbands. The same custom also prevailed among the Greeks. See Grotius, in loc. This passage does not prove that the term lord should be the particular appellation by which Christian wives should address their husbands now, but it proves that there should be the same respect and deference which was implied by its use in patriarchal times. The welfare of society, and the happiness of individuals, are not diminished by showing proper respect for all classes of persons in the various relations of life.
Whose daughters ye are – That is, you will be worthy to be regarded as her daughters, if you manifest the same spirit that she did. The margin here, as the Greek, is children. The sense is that if they demeaned themselves correctly in the relation of wives, it would be proper to look upon her as their mother, and to feel that they were not unworthy to be regarded as her daughters.
As long as ye do well – In respect to the particular matter under consideration.
And are not afraid with any amazement – This passage has been variously understood, Some have supposed that this is suggested as an argument to persuade them to do well, from the consideration that by so doing they would be preserved from those alarms and terrors which a contest with superior power might bring with it, and which would prove as injurious to their peace as to their character. Rosenmuller explains it, “If ye do well, terrified by no threats of unbelieving husbands, if they should undertake to compel you to deny the Christian faith.” Doddridge supposes that it means that they were to preserve their peace and fortitude in any time of danger, so as not to act out of character, through amazement or danger. Calvin, Benson, and Bloomfield understand it of that firmness and intrepidity of character which would be necessary to support their religious independence, when united with pagan husbands; meaning that they were not to be deterred from doing their duty by any threats or terrors, either of their unbelieving husbands, or of their enemies and persecutors. Dr. Clarke supposes that it means that if they did well, they would live under no dread of being detected in improprieties of life, or being found out in their infidelities to their husbands, as those must always be who are unfaithful to their marriage vows. The word rendered “amazement” ptonsis – does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means terror, trepidation, fear; and the literal translation of the Greek is, “not fearing any fear.” It seems to me that the following may express the sense of the passage:
(1) There is undoubtedly an allusion to the character of Sarah, and the object of the apostle is to induce them to follow her example.
(2) The thing in Sarah which he would exhort them to imitate, was her pure and upright life, her faithful discharge of her duties as a woman fearing God. This she did constantly wherever she was, regardless of consequences. Among friends and strangers, at home and abroad, she was distinguished for doing well. Such was her character, such her fidelity to her husband and her God, such her firm integrity and benevolence, that she at all times lived to do good, and would have done it, unawed by terror, undeterred by threats, To whatever trial her piety was exposed, it bore the trial; and such was her strength of virtue, that it was certain her integrity would be firm by whatever consequences she might have been threatened for her adherence to her principles.
(3) They were to imitate her in this, and were thus to show that they were worthy to be regarded as her daughters. They were to do well; to be faithful to their husbands; to be firm in their principles; to adhere steadfastly to what was true and good, whatever trials they might pass through, however much they might be threatened with persecution, or however any might attempt to deter them from the performance of their duty. Thus, by a life of Christian fidelity, unawed by fear from any quarter, they would show that they were imbued with the same principles of unbending virtue which characterised the wife of the father of the faithful, and that they were not unworthy to be regarded as her daughters.
1 Peter 3:7
7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them. From husbands he requires prudence; for dominion over their wives is not given them, except on this condition, that they exercise authority prudently. Then let husbands remember that they need prudence to do rightly their duty. And doubtless many foolish things must be endured by them, many unpleasant things must be borne with; and they must at the same time beware lest their indulgence should foster folly. Hence the admonition of Peter is not in vain, that the husbands ought to cohabit with them as with a weaker vessel. Part of the prudence which he mentions, is, that the husbands honor their wives. For nothing destroys the friendship of life more than contempt; nor can we really love any but those whom we esteem; for love must be connected with respect.
Moreover, he employs a twofold argument, in order to persuade husbands to treat their wives honourably and kindly. The first is derived from the weakness of the sex; the other, from the honor with which God favors them. These things seem indeed to be in a manner contrary, — that honor ought to be given to wives, because they are weak, and because they excel; but these things well agree together where love exists. It is evident, that God is despised in his gifts, except we honor those on whom he has conferred any excellency. But when we consider that we are members of the same body, we learn to bear with one another, and mutually to cover our infirmities. This is what Paul means when he says that greater honor is given to the weaker members, (1Co_12:23;) even because we are more careful in protecting them from shame. Then Peter does not without reason command that women should be cared for, and that they should be honored with a kind treatment, because they are weak. And then as we more easily forgive children, when they offend through inexperience of age; so the weakness of the female sex ought to make us not to be too rigid and severe towards our wives.
The word vessel, as it is well known, means in Scripture any sort of instrument.
Being heirs together (or co-heirs) of the grace of life Some copies have “of manifold grace;” others, instead of “life,” have the word “living.” Some read “co-heirs” in the dative case, which makes no difference in the sense. A conjunction is put by others between manifold grace and life; which reading is the most suitable. For since the Lord is pleased to bestow in common on husbands and wives the same graces, he invites them to seek an equality in them; and we know that those graces are manifold in which wives are partakers with their husbands. For some belong to the present life, and some to God’s spiritual kingdom. He afterwards adds, that they are co-heirs also of life, which is the chief thing. And though some are strangers to the hope of salvation, yet as it is offered by the Lord to them no less than to their husbands, it is a sufficient honor to the sex.
That your prayers be not hindered For God cannot be rightly called upon, unless our minds be calm and peaceable. Among strifes and contentions there is no place for prayer. Peter indeed addresses the husband and the wife, when he bids them to be at peace one with another, so that they might with one mind pray to God. But we may hence gather a general doctrine — that no one ought to come to God except he is united to his brethren. Then as this reason ought to restrain all domestic quarrels and strifes, in order that each one of the family may pray to God; so in common life it ought to be as it were a bridle to check all contentions. For we are more than insane, if we knowingly and wilfully close up the way to God’s presence by prayer, since this is the only asylum of our salvation.
Some give this explanation, that an intercourse with the wife ought to be sparing and temperate, lest too much indulgence in this respect should prevent attention to prayer, according to that saying of Paul, “Defraud not one another, unless by consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.” (1Co_7:5.)
But the doctrine of Peter extends wider: and then Paul does not mean that prayers are interrupted by mutual cohabitation. Therefore the explanation which I have given ought to be retained.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:7. dwell with them according to knowledge] It is significant that while the Apostle dwells emphatically on the case of Christian women who have unbelieving husbands, his exhortations to men seem to take for granted that their wives were of one mind with them. In the then existing state of society this was, of course, natural enough. The wife might be converted without the husband, but hardly the husband without the wife. The word for “dwell together” (not found elsewhere) is clearly intended to cover all the relations of married life. In those relations men were to act “according to knowledge,” i.e. with a clear perception of all that marriage involved, and of the right relation in which each of the two parties to the contract stood to the other. The wife was not to be treated as a slave or a concubine, nor again as the ruler and mistress of the house, but as a helpmeet in the daily work of life, a sharer in its higher hopes and duties, the mother of children to be brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel] The word for “giving,” not found elsewhere in the New Testament, implies an equitable apportionment, that for “wife” is strictly an adjective agreeing with “vessel,” and would therefore be rightly rendered by female. In the term “vessel,” which finds a parallel in 1Th_4:4, we have the thought that all, men and women alike, are “instruments” which God has made for His service (comp. 2Ti_2:20, 2Ti_2:21). The husband is bound to think of himself in that light. He must recognise himself as the stronger vessel of the two, and therefore, because noblesse oblige, he must render due honour to the weaker, seeking to strengthen and purify and elevate it.
as being heirs together of the grace of life] The MSS. present various readings, some making the word “heirs” refer to the husbands and some to the wives. As, in either case, stress is laid on their being joint heirs, there is practically no difference. The “life” in which both are thus called to be sharers is, of course, none other than the eternal life which consists in knowing God. (Joh_17:3.)
that your prayers be not hindered] Some MSS. give a stronger form of the verb, “that your prayers be not cut off (or, stopped).” The more natural interpretation is that which refers the pronoun to both the husband and the wife. Where there was no reciprocated respect, each recognising the high vocation of the other, there could be no union of heart and soul in prayer. Where the husband thought of the wife only as ministering to his comfort or his pleasures, as one whom he might, as both Jewish and Roman law permitted, repudiate at will, there could be no recognition of the fact that she shared his highest hopes. The words clearly include, though they do not dwell on them, the special hindrances to prayer referred to in 1Co_7:3-5.
Likewise, ye husbands. As wives are exhorted to be in subjection to their own husbands, so husbands also must do their duty to their wives. The construction (participial as in 1Pe_3:1) seems, like 1Pe_3:1, to look back to 1Pe_2:13. The relation, indeed, is no longer directly one of subjection, and marriage is an ordinance of God; but Christian husbands must submit themselves to the duties arising out of the marriage tie; and marriage involves a civil contract, though to us Christians it is a holy estate instituted of God, and a parable of the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church. St. Peter, we observe, does not consider the case of a Christian husband with an unbelieving wife; probably that would be very uncommon. Dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel; literally, living together with the feminine as with the weaker vessel. This connection seems best suited to the balance of the sentence, and also to the sense. The apostle bids the husband, first, to give due consideration to his partner on the ground of her comparative weakness; and, secondly, to give her due honor as being an heir, like himself, of the grace of life. The disparity of the sexes was the cause of the degradation of woman among the heathen; Christianity makes it the ground of tender consideration. Christian love should abound in knowledge (Php_1:9); it should throw its softening light upon all the relations of life. Man and woman are alike vessels—vessels made by God for his service (comp. Isa_64:8; Jer_18:6, etc.; also 1Th_4:4, 1Th_4:5); the woman is the weaker, and must, for that very reason, be treated with gentleness.
For “according to knowledge,” comp. 2Pe_1:5. Christians must be thoughtful; they must consider what becomes them in all the relations of life; not act carelessly and at random. And as being heirs together of the grace of life; rather, rendering honor as to those who are also fellow-heirs, or, according to another well-supported reading, rendering honor (to them) as being also fellow-heirs (with them). The sense is not materially affected: husband and wife are joint-heirs of the grace of life, that is, of God’s gracious gift of everlasting life. That your prayers be not hindered; or, according to another reading, be not cut off. If husband and wife live together without mutual reverence and affection, there can be no sympathy in united prayer; the promise made by Christ in Mat_18:19 cannot be realized. Nor can either pray acceptably if they live at variance; jealousies and bickerings are opposed to the spirit of prayer; they hinder the free flow of prayer, and mar its earnestness and devotion.
1 Peter 3:7
Likewise, ye husbands – On the general duty of husbands, see the notes at Eph_5:25 ff.
Dwell with them – That is, “Let your manner of living with them be that which is immediately specified.”
According to knowledge – In accordance with an intelligent view of the nature of the relation; or, as becomes those who have been instructed in the duties of this relation according to the gospel. The meaning evidently is, that they should seek to obtain just views of what Christianity enjoins in regard to this relation, and that they should allow those intelligent views to control them in all their contact with their wives.
Giving honor unto the wife – It was an important advance made in society when the Christian religion gave such a direction as this, for everywhere among the pagan, and under all false systems of religion, woman has been regarded as worthy of little honor or respect. She has been considered as a slave, or as a mere instrument to gratify the passions of man. It is one of the elementary doctrines of Christianity, however, that woman is to be treated with respect; and one of the first and most marked effects of religion on society is to elevate the wife to a condition in which she will be worthy of esteem. The particular reasons for the honor which husbands are directed to show to their wives, here specified, are two: she is to be treated with special kindness as being more feeble than man, and as having a claim therefore to delicate attention; and she is to be honored as the equal heir of the grace of life. Doddridge, Clarke, and some others, suppose that the word honor here refers to maintenance or support; and that the command is, that the husband is to provide for his wife so that she may not want. But it seems to me that the word is to be understood here in its more usual signification, and that it inculcates a higher duty than that of merely providing for the temporal needs of the wife, and strikes at a deeper evil than a mere neglect of meeting her temporal necessities. The reasons assigned for doing this seem to imply it.
As unto the weaker vessel – It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to compare the body to a vessel, (Compare the notes at 1Th_4:4), and thence the comparison is extended to the whole person. This is done either because the body is frail and feeble, like an earthen vessel easily broken; or because it is that in which the soul is lodged; or because, in accordance with a frequent use of the word, (see below,) the body is the instrument by which the soul accomplishes its purposes, or is the helper of the soul. Compare Act_9:15; Rom_9:22-23; 2Co_4:7. In the later Hebrew usage it was common to apply the term vessel (Hebrew כלי keliy, Greek σκεύος skeuos) to a wife, as is done here. See Schoettgen, Hor. Heb. p. 827. Expressions similar to this, in regard to the comparative feebleness of woman, occur frequently in the classic writers. See Wetstein in loc. The reasons why the term vessel was given to a wife, are not very apparent.
A not unfrequent sense of the word used here (σκεύος skeuos) in the Greek classics was that of an instrument; a helper; one who was employed by another to accomplish anything, or to aid him (Passow), and it seems probable that this was the reason why the term was given to the wife. Compare Gen_2:18. The reason here assigned for the honor that was to be shown to the wife is, that she is “the weaker vessel.” By this it is not necessarily meant that she is of feebler capacity, or inferior mental endowments, but that she is more tender and delicate; more subject to infirmities and weaknesses; less capable of enduring fatigue and toil; less adapted to the rough and stormy scenes of life. As such, she should be regarded and treated with special kindness and attention. This is a reason, the force of which all can see and appreciate. So we feel toward a sister; so we feel toward a beloved child, if he is of feeble frame and delicate constitution; and so every man should feel in relation to his wife. She may have mental endowments equal to his own; she may have moral qualities in every way superior to his; but the God of nature has made her with a more delicate frame, a more fragile structure, and with a body subject to many infirmities to which the more hardy frame of man is a stranger.
And as being heirs together of the grace of life – The grace that is connected with eternal life; that is, as fellow-Christians. They were equal heirs of the everlasting inheritance, called in the Scripture “life;” and the same “grace” connected with that inheritance had been conferred on both. This passage contains a very important truth in regard to the female sex. Under every other system of religion but the Christian system, woman has been regarded as in every way inferior to man. Christianity teaches that, in respect to her higher interests, the interests of religion, she is every way his equal. She is entitled to all the hopes and promises which religion imparts. She is redeemed as he is. She is addressed in the same language of tender invitation. She has the same privileges and comforts which religion imparts here, and she will be elevated to the same rank and privileges in heaven. This single truth would raise the female sex everywhere from degradation, and check at once half the social evils of the race. Make her the equal of man in the hope of heaven, and at once she rises to her appropriate place. Home is made what it should be, a place of intelligence and pure friendship; and a world of suffering and sadness smiles under the benefactions of Christian woman.
That your prayers be not hindered – It is fairly implied here:
(1) That it was supposed there would be united or family prayer. The apostle is speaking of “dwelling with the wife,” and of the right manner of treating her; and it is plainly supposed that united prayer would be one thing that would characterise their living together. He does not direct that there should be prayer. He seems to take it for granted that there would be; and it may be remarked, that where there is true religion in right exercise, there is prayer as a matter of course. The head of a family does not ask whether he must establish family worship; he does it as one of the spontaneous fruits of religion – as a thing concerning which no formal command is necessary. Prayer in the family, as everywhere else, is a privilege; and the true question to be asked on the subject is not whether a man must, but whether he may pray.
(2) It is implied that there might be such a way of living as effectually to hinder prayer; that is, to prevent its being offered aright, and to prevent any answer. This might occur in many ways. If the husband treated the wife unkindly; if he did not show her proper respect and affection; if there were bickerings, and jealousies, and contentions between them, there could be no hope that acceptable prayer would be offered. A spirit of strife; irritability and unevenness of temper; harsh looks and unkind words; a disposition easily to take offence, and an unwillingness to forgive, all these prevent a “return of prayers.” Acceptable prayer never can be offered in the tempest of passion, and there can be no doubt that such prayer is often “hindered” by the inequalities of temper, and the bickerings and strifes that exist in families. Yet how desirable is it that husband and wife should so live together that their prayers may not be hindered! How desirable for their own peace and happiness in that relation; how desirable for the welfare of children! In view of the exposition in this verse we may remark:
(a) that Christianity has done much to elevate the female sex. It has taught that woman is an heir of the grace of life as well as man; that, while she is inferior in physical vigor, she is his equal in the most important respect; that she is a fellow-traveler with him to a higher world; and that in every way she is entitled to all the blessings which redemption confers, as much as he is. This single truth has done more than all other things combined to elevate the female sex, and is all that is needful to raise her from her degradation all over the world.
(b) They, therefore, who desire the elevation of the female sex, who see woman ignorant and degraded in the dark parts of the earth, should be the friends of all well-directed efforts to send the gospel to pagan lands. Every husband who has a pure and intelligent wife, and every father who has an accomplished daughter, and every brother who has a virtuous sister, should seek to spread the gospel abroad. To that gospel only he owes it that he has such a wife, daughter, sister; and that gospel, which has given to him such an intelligent female friend, would elevate woman everywhere to the same condition. The obligation which he owes to religion in this respect can be discharged in no better way than by aiding in diffusing that gospel which would make the wife, the daughter, the sister, everywhere what she is in his own dwelling.
(c) Especially is this the duty of the Christian female. She owes her elevation in society to Christianity, and what Christianity has made her, it would make the sunken and debased of her own sex all over the earth; and how can she better show her gratitude than by aiding in any and every way in making that same gospel known in the dark parts of the world?
(d) Christianity makes a happy home. Let the principles reign in any family which are here enjoined by the apostle, and that family will be one of intelligence, contentment, and peace. There is a simple and easy way of being happy in the family relation. It is to allow the spirit of Christ and his gospel to reign there. That done, though there be poverty, and disappointment, and sickness, and cares, and losses, yet there will be peace within, for there will be mutual love, and the cheerful hope of a brighter world. Where that is missing, no outward splendor, no costly furniture or viands, no gilded equipage, no long train of servants, no wine, or music, or dances, can secure happiness in a dwelling. With all these things there may be the most corroding passions; in the mansion where these things are, pale disease, disappointment, and death may come, and there shall be nothing to console and support.
1 Peter 3:8
Now follow general precepts which indiscriminately belong to all. Moreover he summarily mentions some things which are especially necessary to foster friendship and love. The first is, Be ye all of one mind, or, think ye all the same thing. For though friends are at liberty to think differently, yet to do so is a cloud which obscures love; yea, from this seed easily arises hatred. Sympathy (συμπάθεια) extends to all our faculties, when concord exists between us; so that every one condoles with us in adversity as well as rejoices with us in prosperity, so that every one not only cares for himself, but also regards the benefit of others.
What next follows, Love as brethren, belongs peculiarly to the faithful; for where God is known as a Father, there only brotherhood really exists. Be pitiful, or merciful, which is added, means that we are not only to help our brethren and relieve their miseries, but also to bear with their infirmities. In what follows there are two readings in Greek; but what seems to me the most probable is the one I have put as the text; for we know that it is the chief bond to preserve friendship, when every one thinks modestly and humbly of himself; as there is nothing on the other hand which produces more discords than when we think too highly of ourselves. Wisely then does Peter bid us to be humble-minded (ταπεινόφρονες,) lest pride and haughtiness should lead us to despise our neighbors.
Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:8. Finally, be ye all of one mind] From the two special relations which were the groundwork of social life, the Apostle passes to wider and more general precepts. The adjective for “of one mind” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament) implies, like the corresponding verb in Rom_12:16, Rom_15:5, and elsewhere, unity of aim and purpose. That for “having compassion one of another” (this also used only by St Peter in the New Testament) exactly answers, as describing the temper that rejoices with those that rejoice and weeps with them that weep, to our word sympathizing.
love as brethren] Here also we have an adjective peculiar to St Peter. The corresponding substantive has met us in ch. 1:22. It may mean either what the English version gives, or “lovers of the brethren.” On the whole the latter meaning seems preferable.
pitiful] The history of the word, literally meaning “good-hearted,” affords an interesting illustration of the influence of Christian thought. It was used by Greek writers, especially Greek medical writers, such as Hippocrates (p. 89 c), to describe what we should call the sanguine or courageous temperament. By St Peter and St Paul (Eph_4:32), it is used, as the context in each case shews, for the emotional temper which shews itself in pity and affection.
be courteous] The MSS. present two readings, one of which, “courteous” or better, perhaps, friendly, is a fair rendering, and the other a word not found elsewhere, but meaning “lowly” or “humble,” and corresponding to the noun “humility” in Act_20:19; Php_2:3; 1Pe_5:5.
1 Peter 3:8
Finally – As the last direction, or as general counsel in reference to your conduct in all the relations of life. The apostle had specified most of the important relations which Christians sustain, 1Pe_2:13-25; 1Pe_3:1-7; and he now gives a general direction in regard to their conduct in all those relations.
Be ye all of one mind – See the notes at Rom_12:16. The word used here (ὁμόφρων homophrōn) does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means, of the same mind; like-minded; and the object is to secure harmony in their views and feelings.
Having compassion one of another – “Sympathizing,” (συμπαθεῖς sumpatheis;) entering into one another’s feelings, and evincing a regard for each other’s welfare. See the notes at Rom_12:15. Compare 1Co_12:26; Joh_11:35. The Greek word used here does occur not elsewhere in the New Testament. It describes that state of mind which exists when we enter into the feelings of others as if they were our own, as the different parts of the body are affected by that which affects one. See the notes at 1Co_12:26.
Love as brethren – Margin, “loving to the;” that is, the brethren. The Greek word (φιλάδελφος philadelphos) does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means loving one’s brethren; that is, loving each other as Christian brethren – Robinson, Lexicon. Thus, it enforces the duty so often enjoined in the New Testament, that of love to Christians as brethren of the same family. See the notes at Rom_12:10. Compare Heb_13:1; Joh_13:34.
Be pitiful – The word used here (εὔσπλαγχνος eusplangchnos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in Eph_4:32, where it is rendered “tender-hearted.” See the notes at that verse.
Be courteous – This word also φιλόφρων (philophrōn) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means “friendly-minded, kind, courteous.” Later editions of the New Testament, instead of this, read (ταπεινόφρονες tapeinophrones) of a lowly or humble mind. See Hahn. The sense is not materially varied. In the one word, the idea of “friendliness” is the one that prevails; in the other, that of “humility.” Christianity requires both of these virtues, and either word enforces an important injunction. The authority is in favor of the latter reading; and though Christianity requires that we should be courteous and gentlemanly in our treatment of others, this text can hardly be relied on as a prooftext of that point.
1 Peter 3:9
9Not rendering evil for evil In these words every kind of revenge is forbidden; for in order to preserve love, we must bear with many things. At the same time he does not speak here of mutual benevolence, but he would have us to endure wrongs, when provoked by ungodly men. And though it is commonly thought that it is an instance of a weak and abject mind, not to avenge injuries, yet it is counted before God as the highest magnanimity. Nor is it indeed enough to abstain from revenge; but Peter requires also that we should pray for those who reproach us; for to bless here means to pray, as it is set in opposition to the second clause. But Peter teaches us in general, that evils are to be overcome by acts of kindness. This is indeed very hard, but we ought to imitate in this case our heavenly Father, who makes his sun to rise on the unworthy. What the sophists imagine to be the meaning, is a futile evasion; for when Christ said, “Love your enemies,” he at the same time confirmed his own doctrine by saying, “That ye might be the children of God.”
Knowing that ye are thereunto called He means that this condition was required of the faithful when they were called by God, that they were not only to be so meek as not to retaliate injuries, but also to bless those who cursed them; and as this condition may seem almost unjust, he calls their attention to the reward; as though he had said, that there is no reason why the faithful should complain, because their wrongs would turn to their own benefit. In short, he shews how much would be the gain of patience; for if we submissively bear injuries, the Lord will bestow on us his blessing.
The verb, κληρονόμειν, to inherit, seems to express perpetuity, as though Peter had said, that the blessing would not be for a short time, but perpetual, if we be submissive in bearing injuries. But God blesses in a way different, from men; for we express our wishes to him, but he confers a blessing on us. And on the other hand, Peter intimates that they who seek to revenge injuries, attempt what will yield them no good, for they thus deprive themselves of God’s blessing.
Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:9. not rendering evil for evil] We may probably see in the words a verbal reproduction of the precept of Rom_12:17, 1Th_5:15, an echo of the spirit of the teaching of Mat_5:39. As this clause forbids retaliation in act, so that which follows forbids retaliation in words.
that ye are thereunto called] Better, were called, as referring definitely to the fact and time of their conversion.
that ye should inherit a blessing] It is not without significance that this is given as the reason for not retaliating. God blesses, therefore we should bless. He forgives us, and therefore we should forgive others. Vindictiveness, in any form, whether in word or act, is at variance with the conditions on which that inheritance is offered and involves therefore its certain forfeiture.
1 Peter 3:9
Not rendering evil for evil – See the Mat_5:39, Mat_5:44 notes; Rom_12:17 note.
Or railing for railing – See the notes at 1Ti_6:4. Compare Mar_15:29; Luk_23:39.
But contrariwise blessing – In a spirit contrary to this. See the notes at Mat_5:44.
Knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing – “Knowing that you were called to be Christians in order that you should obtain a blessing infinite and eternal in the heavens. Expecting such a blessing yourselves, you should be ready to scatter blessings on all others. You should be ready to bear all their reproaches, and even to wish them well. The hope of eternal life should make your minds calm; and the prospect that you are to be so exalted in heaven should fill your hearts with benignity and love.” There is nothing which is better suited to cause our hearts to overflow with benignity, to make us ready to forgive all others when they injure us, than the hope of salvation. Cherishing such a hope ourselves, we cannot but wish that all others may share it, and this will lead us to wish for them every blessing, A man who has a hope of heaven should abound in every virtue. and show that he is a sincere well-wisher of the race. Why should one who expects soon to be in heaven harbor malice in his bosom? Why should he wish to injure a fellow-worm? How can he?
1 Peter 3:10
10For he He confirms the last sentence by the testimony of David. The passage is taken from the thirty-fourth Psalm, [Psa_34:12,] where the Spirit testifies that it will be well with all who keep themselves from all evil-doing and wrong-doing. The common feeling indeed favors what is very different; for men think that they expose themselves to the insolence of enemies, if they do not boldly defend themselves. But the Spirit of God promises a happy life to none except to the meek, and those who endure evils; and we cannot be happy except God prospers our ways; and it is the good and the benevolent, and not the cruel and inhuman, that he will favor.
Peter has followed the Greek version, though the difference is but little. David’s words are literally these, — “He who loves life and desires to see good days,” etc. It is indeed a desirable thing, since God has placed us in this world, to pass our time in peace. Then, the way of obtaining this blessing is to conduct ourselves justly and harmlessly towards all.
The first thing he points out are the vices of the tongue; which are to be avoided, so that we may not be contumelious and insolent, nor speak deceitfully and with duplicity. Then he comes to deeds, that we are to injure none, or cause loss to none, but to endeavor to be kind to all, and to exercise the duties of humanity.
3:10-12. For he that will love life] The three verses are from the LXX. version of Psa_34:12-16. It is characteristic of St Peter that he thus quotes from the Old Testament without any formula of citation. (See 2Pe_2:22.) In this case, however, the quotation does not agree with the extant text of the LXX. which gives “What man is he that would fain have life, loving good days?” The English version of the first clause hardly expresses the force of the Greek, which gives literally, he that willeth to love life. The combination may have been chosen to express the strength of the yearning for life in its lower or higher forms which the words imply, or more probably that the object wished for is not mere life, as such, but a life that a man can love, instead of hating with the hatred that is engendered, on the one hand, by the satiety of the pleasure seeker, and on the other, by bitterness and wrath. It need hardly be said that the Apostle uses the words of the Psalmist in a higher meaning. “Life” with him is “life eternal,” and the “good days” are not those of outward prosperity, but of the peace that passeth understanding.
let him refrain his tongue from evil] The last words were probably those which determined the choice of the quotation. In itself it is, of course, inclusive of the “guile,” which follows in the second clause, but here it follows the laws of antithetical parallelism which prevail in Hebrew Poetry, and must be understood of open evil, such as the “railing” which the Apostle had just condemned.
1 Peter 3:10
For he that will love life – Greek, “He willing, (θέλων thelōn,) or that wills to love life.” It implies that there is some positive desire to live; some active wish that life should be prolonged. This whole passage 1Pe_3:10-12 is taken, with some slight variations, from Psa_34:12-16. In the Psalm this expression is, “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?” The sense is substantially the same. It is implied here that it is right to love life, and to desire many days. The desire of this is referred to by the psalmist and by the apostle, without any expression of disapprobation, and the way is shown by which length of days may be secured. Life is a blessing; a precious gift of God. We are taught so to regard it by the instinctive feelings of our nature; for we are so made as to love it, and to dread its extinction. Though we should be prepared to resign it when God commands, yet there are important reasons why we should desire to live.
Among them are the following:
(1) Because, as already intimated, life, as such, is to be regarded as a blessing. We instinctively shrink back from death, as one of the greatest evils; we shudder at the thought of annihilation. It is not wrong to love that, in proper degree, which, by our very nature, we are prompted to love; and we are but acting out one of the universal laws which our Creator has impressed on us, when, with proper submission to his will, we seek “to lengthen out our days as far as possible.
(2) That we may see the works of God, and survey the wonders of his hand on earth. The world is full of wonders, evincing the wisdom and goodness of the Deity; and the longest life, nay, many such lives as are allotted to us here, could be well employed in studying his works and ways.
(3) That we may make preparation for eternity. Man may, indeed, make preparation in a very brief period; but the longest life is not too much to examine and settle the question whether we have a well-founded hope of heaven. If man had nothing else to do, the longest life could be well employed in inquiries that grow out of the question whether we are suited for the world to come. In the possibility, too, of being deceived, and in view of the awful consequences that will result from deception, it is desirable that length of days should be given us that we may bring the subject to the severest test, and so determine it, that we may go sure to the changeless world.
(4) That we may do good to others. We may, indeed, do good in another world; but there are ways of doing good which are probably confined to this. What good we may do hereafter to the inhabitants of distant worlds, or what ministrations, in company with angels, or without them, we may exercise toward the friends of God on earth after we leave it, we do not know; but there are certain things which we are morally certain we shall not be permitted to do in the future world. We shall not:
(a) Personally labor for the salvation of sinners, by conversation and other direct efforts;
(b) We shall not illustrate the influence of religion by example in sustaining us in trials, subduing and controlling our passions, and making us dead to the world;
(c) We shall not be permitted to pray for our impenitent friends and kindred, as we may now;
(d) We shall not have the opportunity of contributing of our substance for the spread of the gospel, or of going personally to preach the gospel to the perishing;
(e) We shall not be employed in instructing the ignorant, in advocating the cause of the oppressed and the wronged, in seeking to remove the fetters from the slave, in dispensing mercy to the insane, or in visiting the prisoner in his lonely cell;
(f) We shall not have it in our power to address a kind word to an impenitent child, or seek to guide him in paths of truth, purity, and salvation.
What we can do personally and directly for the salvation of others is to be done in this world; and, considering how much there is to be done, and how useful life may be on the earth, it is an object which we should desire, that our days may be lengthened out, and should use all proper means that it may be done. While we should ever be ready and willing to depart when God calls us to go; while we should not wish to linger on these mortal shores beyond the time when we may be useful to others, yet, as long as he permits us to live, we should regard life as a blessing, and should pray that, if it be his will, we may not be cut down in the midst of our way.
“Love not thy life, nor hate; but what thou livest. Live well; how long, or short, permit to heaven.”
And see good days – In the Psalm Psa_34:12 this is, “and loveth many days, that he may see good.” The quotation by Peter throughout the passage is taken from the Septuagint, excepting that there is a change of the person from the second to the third: in the psalm, e. g., “refrain thy tongue from evil,” etc.; in the quotation, “let him refrain his tongue from evil,” etc. “Good days” are prosperous days; happy days; days of usefulness; days in which we may be respected and loved.
Let him refrain his tongue from evil – The general meaning of all that is said here is, “let him lead an upright and pious life; doing evil to no one, but seeking the good of all men.” To refrain the tongue from evil, is to avoid all slander, falsehood; “obscenity, and profaneness, and to abstain from uttering erroneous and false opinions. Compare Jam_1:26; Jam_3:2.
And his lips that they speak no guile – No deceit; nothing that will lead others astray. The words should be an exact representation of the truth. Rosenmuller quotes a passage from the Hebrew book Musar, which may be not an inappropriate illustration of this: “A certain Assyrian wandering through the city, cried and said, “Who will receive the elixir of life?” The daughter of Rabbi Jodus heard him, and went and told her father. “Call him in,” said he. When he came in, Rabbi Jannei said to him, “What is that elixir of life which thou art selling?” He said to him, “Is it not written, What man is he that desireth life, and loveth days that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile. Lo, this is the elixir of life which is in the mouth of a man!””
1 Peter 3:11
11Let him seek peace It is not enough to embrace it when offered to us, but it ought to be followed when it seems to flee from us. It also often happens, that when we seek it as much as we can, others will not grant it to us. On account of these difficulties and hindrances, he bids us to seek and pursue it.
1 Peter 3:11
Let him eschew evil – Let him avoid all evil. Compare Job_1:1.
And do good – In any and every way; by endeavoring to promote the happiness of all. Compare the notes at Gal_6:10.
Let him seek peace, and ensue it – Follow it; that is, practice it. See the Mat_5:9 note; Rom_12:18 note. The meaning is, that a peaceful spirit will contribute to length of days:
(1) A peaceful spirit – a calm, serene, and equal temper of mind – is favorable to health, avoiding those corroding and distracting passions which do so much to wear out the physical energies of the frame; and,
(2) Such a spirit will preserve us from those contentions and strifes to which so many owe their death. Let anyone reflect on the numbers that are killed in duels, in battles, and in brawls, and he will have no difficulty in seeing how a peace fill spirit will contribute to length of days.
1 Peter 3:12
12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, or, on the righteous. It ought to be a consolation to us, sufficient to mitigate all evils, that we are looked upon by the Lord, so that he will bring us help in due time. The meaning then is, that the prosperity which he has mentioned depends on the protection of God; for were not the Lord to care for his people, they would be like sheep exposed to wolves. And that we for little reason raise a clamor, that we suddenly kindle unto wrath, that we burn with the passion of revenge, all this, doubtless, happens, because we do not consider that God cares for us, and because we do not acquiesce in his aid. Thus in vain we shall be taught patience, except our minds are first imbued with this truth, that God exercises such care over us, that he will in due time succor us. When, on the contrary, we are fully persuaded that God defends the cause of the righteous, we shall first attend simply to innocence, and then, when molested and hated by the ungodly, we shall flee to the protection of God. And when he says, that the ears of the Lord are open to our prayers, he encourages us to pray.
But the face of the Lord By this clause he intimates that the Lord will be our avenger, because he will not always suffer the insolence of the ungodly to prevail; and at the same time he shews how it will be, if we seek to defend our life from injuries, even that God will be an adversary to us. But it may, on the other hand, be objected and said, that we experience it daily far otherwise, for the more righteous any one is, and the greater lover of peace he is, the more he is harassed by the wicked. To this I reply, that no one is so attentive to righteousness and peace, but that he sometimes sins in this respect. But it ought to be especially observed, that the promises as to this life do not extend further than as to what is expedient for us to be fulfilled. Hence, our peace with the world is often disturbed, that our flesh may be subdued, in order that we may serve God, and also for other reasons; so that nothing may be a loss to us.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous] It may be noted that the “for” is added by the Apostle to emphasize the sequence of thought. There is no conjunction either in the Hebrew or the LXX. The disciples of Christ were to find peace and calmness in the thought of the Omniscience of God. He knew all, and would requite all. Vengeance—so far as men dared desire vengeance—was to be left to Him (Rom_12:19). The two prepositions “over the righteous” and “against them that do evil” express, perhaps, the thought of the original, but as the Greek preposition is the same in both cases, they are open to the charge of being an interpolated refinement. The eyes of God are upon both the good and the evil. It lies in the nature of the case that the result is protective or punitive according to the character of each.
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers. The apostle adds the conjunction “for” (ὅτι, because) to mark the connection. God’s people must turn away from evil and do good, because the all-seeing eye is upon them; they will find strength to do so, because God heareth prayer. Perhaps when the apostle was writing these words he remembered how once “the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. The preposition in the two clauses is the same (ἐπί, over, or upon). The Lord’s eye is upon the good and the evil. The apostle omits the words that follow in the psalm, “to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth,” perhaps because he wishes us to regard the spiritual rather than the temporal consequences of our actions.
1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous – That is, he is their Protector. His eyes are indeed on all people, but the language here is that which describes continual guardianship and care.
And his ears are open unto their prayers – He hears their prayers. As he is a hearer of prayer, they are at liberty to go to him at all times, and to pour out their desires before him. This passage is taken from Psa_34:15, and it is designed to show the reason why a life of piety will contribute to length of days.
But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil – Margin, upon. The sense of the passage, however, is against. The Lord sets his face against them: an expression denoting disapprobation, and a determination to punish them. His face is not mild and benignant toward them, as it is toward the righteous. The general sentiment in these verses 1Pe_3:10-12 is, that while length of days is desirable, it is to be secured by virtue and religion, or that virtue and religion will contribute to it. This is not to be understood as affirming that all who are righteous will enjoy long life, for we know that the righteous are often cut down in the midst of their way; and that in fire, and flood, and war, and the pestilence, the righteous and the wicked often perish together. But still there is a sense in which it is true that a life of virtue and religion will contribute to length of days, and that the law is so general as to be a basis of calculation in reference to the future:
I. Religion and virtue contribute to those things which are favorable to length of days, which are conducive to health and to a vigorous constitution. Among those things are the following:
(a) A calm, peaceful, and contented mind – avoiding the wear and tear of the raging passions of lusts, avarice, and ambition;
(b) Temperance in eating and drinking – always favorable to length of days;
(c) Industry – one of the essential means, as a general rule, of promoting long life;
(d) Prudence and economy – avoiding the extravagancies by which many shorten their days; and,
(e) A conscientious and careful regard of life itself.
Religion makes men feel that life is a blessing, and that it should not be thrown away. Just in proportion as a man is under the influence of religion, does he regard life as of importance, and does he become careful in preserving it. Strange and paradoxical as it may seem, the lack of religion often makes people reckless of life, and ready to throw it away for any trifling cause. Religion shows a man what great issues depend on life, and makes him, therefore, desirous of living to secure his own salvation and the salvation of all others.
II. Multitudes lose their lives who would have preserved them if they had been under the influence of religion. To see this, we have only to reflect:
(a) On the millions who are cut off in war as the result of ambition, and the want of religion;
(b) On the countless hosts cut down in middle life, or in youth, by intemperance, who would have been saved by religion;
(c) On the numbers who are the victims of raging passions, and who are cut off by the diseases which gluttony and licentiousness engender;
(d) On the multitude who fall in duels, all of whom would have been saved by religion;
(e) On the numbers who, as the result of disappointment in business or in love, close their own lives, who would have been enabled to bear up under their troubles if they had had religion; and,
(f) On the numbers who are cut off from the earth as the punishment of their crimes, all of whom would have continued to live if they had had true religion.
III. God protects the righteous. He does it by saving them from those vices by which the lives of so many are shortened; and often, we have no reason to doubt, in answer to their prayers, when, but for those prayers, they would have fallen into crimes that would have consigned them to an early grave, or encountered dangers from which they would have had no means of escape. No one can doubt that in fact those who are truly religious are saved from the sins which consign millions to the tomb; nor is there any less reason to doubt that a protecting shield is often thrown before the children of God when in danger. Compare Ps. 91.