A married man is denoted by the Hebrew term ʼish (man) and the Greek term a·nerʹ (male person). (Ho 2:16, ftn; Ro 7:2, Int) Other Hebrew terms variously used with reference to a husband are ʼa·dhohnʹ (lord), baʹʽal (owner; master), and reʹaʽ (companion; friend). (Ge 18:12; 20:3; Jer 3:20) In Israel a man who was engaged, or betrothed, was also spoken of as “husband” and the girl as “wife.”—De 22:23, 24; Mt 1:18-20.
A man would betroth a woman or contract for future marriage by paying her father or guardians the bride-price, or purchase money. (Ex 22:16, 17) She then became his property. (Ex 20:17) The word baʹʽal, meaning “owner, master,” applied to him, and the woman was called beʽu·lahʹ, meaning “owned as a wife.” (Ge 20:3; De 22:22; Isa 62:4) To the ancient nation of Israel, Jehovah said: “I myself have become the husbandly owner [a form of baʹʽal] of you people.”—Jer 3:14; Isa 62:4, 5; see INHERITANCE (Period of the Law).
In patriarchal times the husband served as priest and judge in the family, and throughout the Scriptures the husband and father was almost invariably accorded deep respect.—Ge 31:31, 32; Job 1:5; 1Pe 3:5, 6; compare De 21:18-21; Es 1:10-21.
Headship. A man, upon marrying a woman, brings her under a new law, “the law of her husband,” according to which the husband can make rules and regulations for his family. (Ro 7:2, 3) He becomes her head to whom she should be subject. (Eph 5:21-24, 33) This is a relative headship, in view of the superior headships of God and Christ.—1Co 11:3.
The husband, while head of the house, is, nevertheless, required to render to his wife marriage dues, sex relations, for “the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.” (1Co 7:3-5) He is also responsible for the spiritual and material welfare of his family.—Eph 6:4; 1Ti 5:8.
The headship of the husband places on him a weighty responsibility. While he is the owner of the wife, he has to recognize that she is precious in the eyes of God, especially so when she is a Christian. He is to love her as he loves himself, for she is “one flesh” with him.—Ge 2:24; Mt 19:4-6; Eph 5:28, 33.
Husbands are to exercise for their wives the same loving care that Christ does for the congregation. (Eph 5:25, 28-30, 33) They are to recognize that the wife is “a weaker vessel,” assigning her honor, taking into consideration her physical and emotional makeup and vicissitudes. This is especially important if the couple are Christians, being fellow heirs of “the undeserved favor of life,” in order for the husband’s prayers not to be hindered. (1Pe 3:7) Even if the wife is not a believer, this gives the husband no excuse for divorce or separation. Rather, he should dwell with her if she is agreeable to it and realize that he may help her to become a believer and also work toward the salvation of the children.—1Co 7:12, 14, 16; see FAMILY; FATHER; MARRIAGE.
Divorce. Under the Mosaic Law a man could divorce his wife, but she could not divorce him. He was required to give her a written certificate of divorce. (De 24:1-4) Jesus Christ showed that such an arrangement for divorce in Israel was made as a concession out of regard for their hardheartedness. (Mt 19:8) If, however, a man had seduced a virgin girl who was not engaged, she was to become his wife (unless her father refused to give her to him), and he was not allowed to divorce her all his days.—De 22:28, 29.
Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures stress that the husband should limit his sex relations to his marriage mate (Pr 5:15-20) and that marriage must be kept honorable, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. (Heb 13:4) During patriarchal times and under the Law, polygamy and concubinage were practiced by allowance from Jehovah, but in the Christian arrangement a man may have but one living wife. (Ge 25:5, 6; 29:18-28; De 21:15-17; Mt 19:5; Ro 7:2, 3; 1Ti 3:2) The only Christian ground for divorce and remarriage is “fornication.”—Mt 19:9; see FORNICATION.
Illustrative Use. In view of the fact that the ancient nation of Israel was bound to Jehovah by means of the Law covenant, God was their “husbandly owner.” (Jer 3:14) The apostle Paul speaks of Jehovah as the Father of anointed Christians, his spiritual sons, and of “the Jerusalem above” as their mother, indicating that Jehovah considers himself a husband to this Jerusalem.—Ga 4:6, 7, 26; compare Isa 54:5.
Jesus Christ is viewed as the Husband of the Christian congregation. (Eph 5:22, 23; Re 19:7; 21:2) This analogy highlights both his headship and his loving care for the congregation. He laid down his own life on behalf of his bride, and he continues to feed and cherish it.