- huz'-band ('ish; aner): In the Hebrew household the husband and father was the chief personage of an institution which was regarded as more than a social organism, inasmuch as the family in primitive Semitic society had a distinctively religious character and significance. It was through it that the cult of the household and tribal deities was practiced and perpetuated. The house-father, by virtue of being the family head, was priest of the household, and as such, responsible for the religious life of the family and the maintenance of the family altar. As priest he offered sacrifices to the family gods, as at first, before the centralization of worship, he did to Yahweh as the tribal or national Deity. We see this reflected in the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and in the Book of Job. This goes far to explain such records as we have in Gen 31:53
, and the exceptional reverence that was paid the paternal sepulchers (1 Sam 20:6
). Abraham was regarded as being the father of a nation. It was customary, it would seem, to assign a "father" to every known tribe and nation (Gen 10
). So the family came to play an important and constructive part in Hebrew thought and life, forming the base upon which the social structure was built, merging gradually into the wider organism of the clan or tribe, and vitally affecting at last the political and religious life of the nation itself.
The husband from the first had supreme authority over his wife, or wives, and children. In his own domain his rule was well-nigh absolute. The wife, or wives, looked up to him as their lord (Gen 18:12). He was chief (compare Arabic sheik), and to dishonor him was a crime to be punished by death (Ex 21:15,17). He was permitted to divorce his wife with little reason, and divorces were all too common (Dt 22:13,19,28,29; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8; 5:8; Mal 2:16, etc.). The wife seems to have had no redress if wronged by him. Absolute faithfulness, though required of the wife, was apparently not expected or exacted of the husband, so long as he did not violate the rights of another husband. In general among Eastern people women were lightly esteemed, as in the Japhetic nations they came to be. Plato counted a state "disorganized" "where slaves are disobedient to their masters, and wives are on equality with their husbands." "Is there a human being," asks Socrates, "with whom you talk less than with your wife?" But from the first, among the Hebrews the ideal husband trained his household in the way they should go religiously, as well as instructed them in the traditions of the family, the tribe, and the nation (Gen 18:19; Ex 12:26; 13:8; Dt 6:7, etc.). It was due to this, in part at least, that, in spite of the discords and evils incident to polygamy, the Hebrew household was nursery of virtue and piety to an unusual degree, and became a genuine anticipation of the ideal realized later in the Christian home (1 Cor 7:2 ff; Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 3:7).
Used figuratively of the relation (1) between Yahweh and His people (Isa 54:5; Jer 3:14; Hos 2:19 f); (2) between Christ and His church (Mt 9:15; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25; Rev 19:7; 21:2).
George B. Eager