Biblical Headship

Part 1: Laying Down The Basis

For man and woman, son or daughter

Brian Kuehmichel
November 12, 2012

God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:26-27) In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. (Genesis 5:1b-2)

Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein. (Isaiah 42:5)

Thus said the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. (Isaiah 45:11-12)

For thus said the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:18)

The Source

The quotes above show us that man comes under God's authority by virtue of being God's creation. These joined with Genesis 1:26 where "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." and in 2:15 "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." establish man as a steward. Man, therefore, is under the authority of his creator/life-giver. God also holds man accountable as shown in Genesis 3:17-19 when God spoke to Adam saying, "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen 3:6-24). Woman and man both disobeyed and, as a result of their actions, both were given the penalty of death along with concomitant difficulties to bear in life's journey. Their rebellion does not remove the obligations of stewardship, but it may well make it much harder.

This delegated authority under God, or stewardship principle, is the platform upon which Biblical headship is derived. God is head over man, woman is made from man, together in marriage man and woman conceive children. (Genesis 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-12; Ephesians 5:20-33) These offspring mature and join in marriage and extend this to another generation and on to more generations. When we get to nine generations, for example, does God's authority stop? Does Adam and Eve's authority under God stop, too? We can plainly read that Lamech was born in Genesis 5:25 as the 9th generation and Adam died when Lamech was 56. Over each of these generations of their family Adam and Eve (while alive) remained under God's authority and under the original mandate of stewardship and procreation. By extension so were all of their offspring — namely us (Joshua 7:14; 2 Samuel 2:3; Acts 17:26-29). Moreover each generation was underneath their parents as procreator/life-givers who in turn carried out God's directive to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and to have dominion over it. Until human death, the original mandate of stewardship never ceases, neither does the directive to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, neither does the resultant position of procreator/life-giver nor its duties and obligations end. [For fuller treatment see: God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, Chapter 2 LEAVING AND CLEAVING: MARRIAGE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT by Andreas J. Kšstenberger at]

From this we can understand the simple basis of God's commandments to Israel in Exodus 20:1-17. These summarize mankind's duty toward God and toward man. Included in this was duty toward our parents as our source of delegated authority who themselves were also our procreator/life-givers under God's original mandate.

And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

The Details

Let's examine these concepts through this outline.

I.     God gave distinct value to mankind above all other kinds of earth's creatures.

A. Mankind was made in God's image and likeness. (1:26-27)

1.  Male reflects some of God's image.

2.  Female reflects some of God's image.

3.  Mankind shared in God's ability to bring forth life. (1:28)

4.  Mankind shared in God's ability to direct, guide, instruct, lead, teach, disciple their offspring. (2:28)

B. Mankind was given an amazing physical body. (1:26-28)

C. Mankind was given an amazing mental capacity for the body. (1:26-28; 2:19-20, 23; 3:12)

D. Mankind was given a duty to perform, constraints on encroachment and warning of consequences for disobedient actions. (1:26-28; 2:15-17)

II.    God prepared mankind for communication and marriage.

A. God spoke to man to give information, instruction, duty and boundaries. (chpt 1-3)

B. God told man that he also needed companionship of specific design above that of animals. (2:18)

1.  God showed His own unselfishness by not keeping man just to Himself. (2:18)

2.  God showed man his need for others. (2:18-23)

C. God took Adam and from him made woman. (2:18, 21-22)

1.  Woman was formed from man so that they would be of one distinct creation separate from animals. (1:27)

2.  Woman was formed from man so that they would be male and female. (1:27)

D. God directed man to be joined to woman in marriage. (2:22b-25)

1.  Woman was formed for five purposes.

a.  To reflect God's image. (1:26)

b.  To be man's helper. (2:18)

c.  To be man's companion. (2:18)

(1) For communication.

(2) For relationship.

d.  To help man bring forth more life in God's image. (1:28)

e.  To subdue the earth with man. (1:26, 28)

2.  Man was to be the leader/head over woman because she was formed from him to help him. (2:20)

E. God visited mankind. (3:8)

1.  To show His personal interest in them.

2.  To reveal His deep love for them.

3.  To help them meet all of their needs.

F. God intended for mankind to develop and maintain communication with Him. (3:8)

1.  To give every man or woman meaning and purpose by His direction.

2.  To assist mankind in understanding, subduing and having dominion over the earth.

a.  To reveal to mankind the depths of his creativity.

b.  To help them use the resources provided to them.

3.  To help mankind love each other and develop a network of relationships.

4.  To guide mankind in rearing their families.

III.   God gave a specific boundary to man and to woman, formed from the man, with a penalty for violation of the boundary.

A. The freedom to eat fruit of all trees of the garden except one. (2:16)

B. The duty of restraint to not eat fruit of one tree. (2:17)

C. Mankind is to recognize from where he came. (3:8-10)

1.  Mankind is to acknowledge God's authority. (3:10)

a.  Mankind is to seek God's knowledge and wisdom.

b.  Mankind is to apply this knowledge and wisdom in accordance with God's directives.

2.  Mankind is to submit to God's directions (duties) and restrictions (constraints on encroachment). (3:17-19)

a.  Mankind is to convey these truths to offspring.

b.  Mankind is to use these truths in all decisions.

The Result

It is easy to discern from the preceding information that the first man (Adam) was given a very strategic and yet precarious position as federal head over mankind. When God formed Eve from Adam, took her and joined her to Adam God formed both the template of marriage and the hierarchy of marriage. Adam was given the life-giver position to Eve. And she held a position of duty under Adam while Adam was accountable to God as steward. Apostle Paul states the same in 1 Corinthians 11:3, "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." In verse 7 he elaborates further, "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man." (1 Corinthians 11:7-12; Ephesians 5:20-33)

Children are brought into existence by their parents who from the beginning were under God. And this principle of delegated authority and procreator/life-giver continues from generation to generation. Under no circumstances, then, can any man or woman, boy or girl leave his or her obligations to God or his or her multi-generational parents except by way of death. Nor can the parent leave his or her obligations toward their children and their succeeding generations. Of course rebellion muddies this — and many have practiced subtle to outright rebellion and modeled the same to succeeding generations.

The Real Models

The Scriptures record a lot of facets of fallen men, some examples are commended others are denounced. From both we can learn items of commission and of omission, i.e. what to do and what not to do. From Adam we learn that the counsel of another (Eve) is not always wise and that we need to know God's word well to test man's idea(s) against it. (Genesis 3:17) We learn, too, that the consequences of our actions take time to unfold. From Cain we learn that self-control is far more important than letting loose with anger. (Genesis 4:3-10; Psalm 119:101) From Noah's faith in and obedience to God, along with arduous toil, came life and a new journey for all succeeding generations. (Genesis ch 6-9) The elders at Babel teach us to believe and obey God above any self-interest lest something bigger comes upon us and undoes all of our work. (Genesis 11:1-10; Proverbs 3:5-6) Person by person through all of the scriptures, lessons are to be acquired, applied and in turn entrusted to others. (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11)

Biblical headship is built upon knowing and obeying God and teaching others to do the same that God's blessing will be upon them. This is what David in Psalm 9:1 said, "I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works" and again in Psalm 119:2 "Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart." But where do we start? Where do we find a model to build upon? (Psalm 119:105) There is one person about whom God said "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Genesis 18:19)

Abram, later named Abraham, was a gentle, civil and relational man. Genesis chapter 12 verse 16 and 13:7 tells of Abram's enclave of people gathered about him with many servants. Chapter 14 tells of his cooperative allegiance with Mamre, Eshcol and Aner and of three hundred eighteen trained servants, born into his household. These he armed to recover Lot's household and the others captured by four marauding kings. Here is a man who gets along with others and works cooperatively with them. These armed, trained servants would have no reason to return to Abram's group if he was not a good and wise leader, was not a respectable and honorable man, was not liked and admired. Further, his integrity was revealed through his affirmation in verses 21-24. In chapter 17 God made a strange request of Abram and Abram received a new name and quickly carried out the circumcision of all males from 8 days old and up who belonged to him. Abraham's generosity is shown in chapter 18 when he offers strangers a morsel of food and feeds them a feast. And his concern for others is revealed in chapter 18 where he pleads for mercy upon the people in the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. In chapter 20 verse 17 Abraham prays for the recovery of Abimelech, his wife and his maid-servants.

Abraham carries out a very difficult directive in 21:12-14 when he entrusts his son, Ishmael, to God's care alone. This was a prelude to taking Isaac up to Mount Moriah and offering him to God as requested in chapter 22. Later Abraham seeks a suitable burying place for his beloved Sarah and buys at fair price a field and cave for a burial plot. In these dealings with the people of the land, Abraham shows himself to be respectful and honorable, although in Genesis 12:11-20 with Pharaoh and in Genesis 20:1-16 with Abimelech his words and actions were dishonorable and reproachable. With Isaac mature in age Abraham arranges for a bride to be sought, within God's approval, for Isaac. His servant is given great wealth to use as a dowry and to secure any provisions in the journey to get a bride for Isaac. This servant, if he harbored any desire to flee, would have had his golden opportunity, yet he seeks to quickly return to Abraham's service in chapter 24. So Abraham was used by God as an example for us that we might copy the pure, noble and good and depart from the evil. (Romans ch 4; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11)

A Brief Review

In these events various aspects of Biblical headship are revealed to us. These qualities and developed skills listed here and even more are needed to fulfill God's desire for us to lead a family unit with His blessing. It is necessary that each man:

  1. understands the need to know God's Word well, (Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 2:15)
  2. knows and obeys God and teaches others to do the same, (John 13:15; 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 5:2-4)
  3. recognizes that the consequences of our actions take time to unfold, (Matthew 7:16-20; 13:23; Romans 2:6-9; Galatians 6:7-8; 2 Corinthians 9:6)
  4. realizes that self-control is far more important than letting loose with anger, (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8, 21; 1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Peter 1:15; 2:12)
  5. knows that faith in and obedience to God, along with arduous toil, brings life and a new journey for succeeding generations, (Genesis ch 6; 26:4-5; 1 Peter 4:17)
  6. believes and obeys God above any self-interest, (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; 2 Timothy 4:5; James 5:11)
  7. gets along with others and works cooperatively with them, (Romans 12:10; 13:8; Ephesians 4:2; 21-25; 1 Peter 1:15; 2:12; 1 John 3:23)
  8. becomes a good and wise leader, a respectable and honorable man, (Acts 6:3, 10; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 13; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:9, 28; 3:16; 4:5)
  9. values integrity in fulfilling a promise or pledge, (Joshua 2:12-20 + 6:22-25; Luke 16:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:2)
  10. practices generosity, (Job 31:13-23; Matthew 5:42; 10:8, 42; Luke 6:38; Romans 12:8, 13; 2 Corinthians 9:7)
  11. moves with concern for others, (Zechariah 7:10; Matthew 18:33; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 12:28; Hebrews 10:34; 1 Peter 3:8, 17: Jude 1:22)
  12. prays for the recovery of others, (Matthew 5:44; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:28; Acts 9:40; 12:5; Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 9:14; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:11)
  13. entrusts his children to God's care, (1 Samuel 1:27-28; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 2:22; 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 4:19)
  14. buys goods and services at fair price, (Leviticus 19:13; Job 31:38-40; Proverbs 11:1; 20:23; 23:10; Jeremiah 7:5-7; Matthew 5:44; James 5:4)
  15. et cetera. (Psalm 15:1-6; Mark 12:30-31)

The Ideal Model

What then does ideal Biblical headship look like? It is any man earnestly looking toward God as modeled by Jesus Christ, seeking to do all God has directed, and laboring with God to complete his portion of the image-bearing, dominion and procreation mandate. It is a man "after God's own heart" who seeks Christ-likeness, acknowledges his own faults and weaknesses, models excellence in a myriad of ways and teaches others to do likewise. (Deuteronomy 4:29; 2 Chronicles 12:14; Ezra 7:10; Psalm 27:8; Romans 10:9; 1 John 4:15; James 5:16; Proverbs 28:13; Luke 12:8; Ephesians 4:14-15; Titus 2:6-8; 2 Timothy 2:15; etc.)

Biblical headship was initiated by God and passes from parents to children, from fathers to sons. It was not given so that children who grow older can claim their own immoral way. It was given to transfer the highest and grandest good to the most people. (Genesis 1:28) And God holds each accountable "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31) and again "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Timothy 5:24)

Useful tool: What the Bible says about Child Training by J. Richard Fugate, Holly Hall Pub, 1998.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." (2 Peter 1:5-9)

"But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Go to: Biblical Headship - Part II