Puritans

A Puritan Father and Son on the Proper Treatment of Wives

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Many are familiar with Matthew Henry’s (1662–1714) commentary on Genesis 2:21. Henry, whose exposition of the entire Bible is still in print today, found it instructive that God formed woman from the side of man.

That the woman was made out of the side of Adam, not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

Although this is oft-quoted, what is lesser known is that the original source for this exposition was from Henry’s father, Phillip (1631–1696), a Puritan preacher himself. As a twenty-year-old, the younger Henry had written out his father’s exposition of the text. It was discovered and published in 1829 as An Exposition with Practical Observations, upon the First Eleven Chapters of the Book of Genesis. From the words of Phillip you can ascertain the development of Matthew’s understanding on how a husband should treat his wife.

Adam lost a rib, but he got a better thing out of it, even a help meet for him. Thus God uses [is accustomed] to deal with his children: they lose sometimes some of their creature-comforts; but then perhaps they get more of the Creator’s comforts, and that’s a blessed exchange. This bone was taken out of Adam’s side, fitly noting the woman’s place; not out of his head, to be above him; not out of his feet, to be trampled on by him; nor from before him, as his better; nor from behind him, as his servant;—but out of his side, to be equal with him; near his heart, for he owes her love; under his arm, for he owes her protection. Surely they forget from whence the woman was taken, that carry themselves haughtily and abusively towards their wives. (Phillip Henry, An Exposition with Practical Observations, 56)

See Allan Harman, Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence (Christian Focus, 2012), 154–155.