Three Ways Husbands Mistreat Their Wives

A common way husbands mistreat their wives is by responding insensitively when they’re hurting. Elkanah’s response to Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 is a good example showing three common mistakes husbands make.

Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing this or read the transcript below…

Elkanah had two wives—Hannah and Peninnah. This was part of the problem! Polygamy in the Old Testament is descriptive, not prescriptive, portraying the reality of the era but it’s not allowed for Christians today. This is why God never condoned polygamy, and whenever it took place in the Old Testament, it always caused problems. No biblical examples of polygamy are characterized by peace and harmony. Instead polygamy is always filled with turmoil and strife. Peninnah and Hannah’s marriage is a perfect example.

Peninnah could have children, but Hannah could not. Making Hannah’s situation even worse was Peninnah’s cruelty toward her. First Samuel 1:6–7 records:

[Hannah’s] rival (Peninnah) provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that [Peninnah] provoked her; therefore [Hannah] wept and did not eat.

Consider Elkanah’s response in 1 Samuel 1:8:

Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’” 

Elkanah’s response is terrible, revealing three common mistakes husbands make

1. Husbands mistreat their wives when they ask insensitive questions

Elkanah gave the impression that his wife’s hurt was not legitimate. He knew good and well why Hannah felt this way—because she was unable to have children.

2. Husbands mistreat their wives when they try to cheer them up

He tried to cheer Hannah up. Proverbs 25:20 says:

Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Husbands should respond sympathetically by listening well and then saying, “I am so sorry. What can I do for you? Would you like me to pray for you, or read the Word with you?”

3. Husbands mistreat their wives when they make prideful statements

Elkanah asked his wife: “Is not being married to me better than all the children you could have?” What does it look like today for husbands to be like this? “You are one lucky lady. Think of all I do for you! Aren’t you glad you get to be married to me?”

As husbands, when our wives are upset, they want us to respond sensitively. 1 Peter 3:7 commands husbands to live with our wives in an understanding way. This means responding to them gently and demonstrating compassion toward them when they’re upset.

Discussion questions and activities for husbands and wives:

Answer separately and then discuss together:

  • Husband: List three times you responded to your wife in pride, and explain how you should have responded.
  • Wife: List three times you feel your husband responded to you in pride, and explain how you wish he would have responded.
  • Husband: Are you more tempted to respond to your wife in pride or anger? What triggers your response of either anger or pride?
  • Wife:
    • Do you feel your husband is more tempted to respond to you in pride or anger? Why?
    • What can you do to help your husband avoid responding in pride or anger?

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19 thoughts on “Three Ways Husbands Mistreat Their Wives

  1. Hey Scott, I appreciated you unpacking this episode between Elkanah & Hannah. I’ve kind of glossed over it in the past, but you helped me slow down and process it in a fresh way. Nice job with the discussion questions, too.

    1. Hi Bryan,
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      I actually just finished reading your post (7 Signs Your Relationship Isn’t Marriage Material) and thought the same of your discussion questions.

      God bless; thanks for your ministry!

  2. I have always thought Elkanah misunderstand Hannah’s hurts but had never put it in the perspective. It’s very thought provoking and true.
    These are great discussion points for couples.

  3. This is an interesting perspective. Though it seems that Elkanah was simply trying to cheer Hannah up and help her to see some perspective, in truth, it was more like he was rubbing salt in a very open wound. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      From counseling couples I’ve seen that wives often want their husbands to listen…versus cheer them up (aka “fix things”). My wife has made this clear too :). Elkanah seems to have been guilty of this!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Good insights from Hannah’s story. Your three points from Elkanah’s answers are right on target!

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