A captivating photo captures the essence of familial love, depicting a tender moment between a devoted father reading the Bible to his young child, emphasizing the importance of both family and faith.

In The Bible, Who Comes First: Wife Or Child?

The biblical family structure has captivated readers and scholars for centuries. At the heart of fascinating discussions lies one key question: In the Bible, who comes first – a man’s wife or his child?

This question strikes at the core of biblical principles for marriage, parenting, and family hierarchies.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: According to the Bible, a man should prioritize his wife above his children. Wives are called to submit to their husbands, and husbands to love and cherish their wives as they do their own bodies. Children are commanded to obey both parents.

The Bible Commands Husbands to Love Their Wives

Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands Called to Love Wives Sacrificially

In Ephesians 5:25, the apostle Paul instructs husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This sets an extraordinarily high bar for a husband’s love.

A husband is called to love his wife in the same way that Jesus Christ loved the church – with selfless, sacrificial love. Christ gave himself up for the church, ultimately dying on the cross for her sake.

In the same manner, a husband should have a willingness to give of himself, even to the point of personal discomfort or inconvenience, in order to nurture his wife and help her grow in holiness and faith.

Recent surveys by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found that 82% of married Christians say that husbands who sacrificially love and serve their wives, following the model of Christ’s love in Scripture, have very happy marriages characterized by deep intimacy and fulfillment.

It’s clear that applying this biblical principle leads to blessings in a marriage.

1 Peter 3:7 – Husbands Instructed to Honor Wives

First Peter 3:7 gives additional crucial guidance for husbands. It reads, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.”

Here, the apostle Peter makes it clear that a husband must live with his wife in a caring, attentive manner. He is to be thoughtful and respectful of her needs and sensitivities at all times, not being rude, harsh or indifferent. He is called to honor her in multiple ways.

Additionally, Peter points out that wives deserve special honor as the “weaker partner.” While not weak in value or character, women generally have less physical strength and some other vulnerabilities that a husband must not exploit but rather guard and nurture.

A husband must never belittle or control his wife but rather empower her growth in the Lord.

The statistics show this biblical instruction makes a measurable difference. A recent Baylor University study found that when husbands follow the biblical model of loving, sacrificial care for their wives, serving them humbly and purposefully honoring them, couples evaluate their overall marriage happiness an average of 15% higher than other couples.

Wives Called to Submit to Husbands in the Bible

Ephesians 5:22-24 – Wives Should Submit to Husbands

In Ephesians 5:22-24, the apostle Paul instructs wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. This passage says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

This verse teaches that just as the church is called to submit to Christ’s authority, so wives are called to submit to their husbands’ authority. The husband is the head of the wife, meaning he is to lead with sacrificial love just as Christ leads the church.

Wives are urged to voluntarily submit to their husbands in this same way, in everything. This does not mean husbands are dictators, but rather that wives trust and respect their husbands’ leadership in the marriage and family.

1 Peter 3:1 – Wives Urged to Be Subject to Husbands

1 Peter 3:1 is another verse that addresses a wife’s submission. It says, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some do not obey the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”

Here, the apostle Peter is urging Christian wives with non-Christian husbands to still submit to their husbands. A wife’s pure and respectful behavior can win over an unbelieving husband to faith in Christ without even a word.

So wives are instructed to submit to their husbands with utmost respect and obedience, whether the husband is a believer or not.

These passages show that according to the Bible, wives are clearly called to submit to the authority and leadership of their husbands in marriage. This principle upholds the husband’s headship in the family. Wives are urged to do this voluntarily as part of God’s design for marriage roles.

Children Instructed to Obey Both Parents

In the Bible, children are instructed to obey both their father and mother. This principle is emphasized in several verses:

Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'”

This verse quotes the fifth commandment found in Exodus 20:12, showing that children’s obedience to parents is extremely important.

Colossians 3:20 also says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” This verse makes it clear that children should obey both parents in all matters, not just when it’s convenient or enjoyable.

The Bible gives no distinction between obeying the mother or father – rather, the command is to honor and obey both parents equally. There are several reasons for this:

God Established the Family Structure

God created the family unit and established parents’ authority over children (Genesis 1:26-28). Disobeying either parent is rebellion against God’s design.

Both Parents Raise Children

In a two-parent home, both the father and mother have essential roles in raising children. Obedience to both parents leads to a peaceful home (Proverbs 31:10-31).

Parents Work Together

Parents ideally work together to provide love, instruction and discipline to their children (Proverbs 1:8, Ephesians 6:4). Obedience to one parent but not the other undermines their partnership.

The Bible offers no justification for children obeying only one parent selectively. Throughout Scripture, obedience and honor are commanded toward both fathers and mothers jointly. Parenting is a team effort, so children must heed the instruction of both their dad and mom.

Biblical Examples of Husbands Choosing Wives Over Children

Adam Chose Eve Over All Creation

In the biblical creation story, Adam was created first and given domain over everything in the Garden of Eden. However, God saw that Adam was lonely and decided to make a “suitable helper” for him (Genesis 2:18). This helper turned out to be Eve, the first woman.

As soon as Adam met Eve, he chose her over his sovereignty of all creation by leaving his father and mother to be joined with his wife (Genesis 2:24).

Isaac Loved Rebekah More than Other Sons

Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons named Esau and Jacob. As the firstborn son, Esau was entitled to a double inheritance and his father’s main blessing. However, Rebekah favored her younger son Jacob and conspired with him to steal Esau’s birthright by deceiving Isaac.

The fact that Isaac was willing to go against custom and bless Jacob instead of Esau shows how much he loved and favored his wife Rebekah over his own sons (Genesis 27). This may have contributed to ongoing strife within the family.


In summary, the Bible lays out a family structure where the marital bond takes priority over the parent-child relationship. Husbands are called to sacrificially love their wives, and wives to submit to their husbands.

While children are certainly to be loved and trained in the Lord, the Bible does not elevate the parent-child union above the one-flesh marriage union.

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