1 Peter 2:18
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
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(18) Servants—Second division of the second prudential rule: subordination social. This word is not the same as is used by St. Paul—e.g., Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22—but is used only besides in Luke 16:13; Acts 10:7; Romans 14:4. It brings forward the family or household relation of servant or slave to master, and not (as does the common word used in 1Peter 2:16) the mere fact of ownership. We need not be surprised at directions for household servants, or slaves, in a letter addressed to Jewish Christians, for there were large numbers of Hebrews in this position both now and later; St. Clement, for example, was probably both.

Be subject.—Rather, being subject, or submitting yourselves. The participle joins this clause loosely to the “submit yourselves” of 1Peter 2:13, where the word is the same. (Comp. 1Peter 3:1.)

With all fear.—“All” implies everything which goes to make up true fear, every kind of fear; and the “fear” (as when we speak of the fear of God) is not intended to mean any unmanly cowardice, dread of punishment, or such terror as is involved in having secrets which one dreads to have divulged. One commentator well defines it as “the shrinking from transgressing the master’s will, based on the consciousness of one’s own inferiority.”

Masters.—This is the word which properly corresponds to the word by which the “servants” are described, not merely “owners,” as in Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22.

The froward.—Literally, the crooked. Its meaning is made clear by the contrasted adjectives, “good,” i.e., kindly, considerate; and “gentle,” or, rather, reasonable, not disposed to take too stern a view of matters. A “froward” master, then, is one with a warped nature, who is unreasonably exacting, capricious, and cross-grained; in fact, one who will deal with his servants in the manner spoken of in the following verses.

1 Peter 2:18-20. Servants Οι οικεται, household servants, be subject to your masters — Though heathen, in all things lawful; with all fear — Of offending them or God; not only to the good — The tender, kind; and gentle — Mild, easy, forgiving; but also to the froward — The ill-natured and severe. “In this verse,” as Macknight justly observes, “the apostle establishes one of the noblest and most important principles of morality, namely, that our obligation to relative duties does not depend either on the character of the persons to whom they should be performed, or on their performing the duties they owe to us, but on the unalterable relations of things established by God.” For this is thankworthy — An acceptable thing to God. Greek, τουτο γαρ χαρις; literally, this is grace; that is, a grand proof of true grace; if a man for conscience toward God — From a pure desire of pleasing him; endure grief — Severe treatment; suffering wrongfully — The apostle here refers to those punishments which, according to the customs of that age, tyrannical masters were allowed to inflict on their servants, however contrary to justice and mercy such punishments might be. For what glory — Or praise; is it if, when ye be buffeted — Corrected or beaten; for your faults — For acts of manifest disobedience; ye shall take it patiently — Since the punishment being just, it ought in reason to be borne. But if when ye do well — Do your duty conscientiously; and suffer for it — As if you had neglected it; ye take it patiently — Receive it in a meek and quiet spirit; this is acceptable, or this is grace, with God — His eye, which always observes every individual of his people, and all their actions, is pleased with such a disposition and behaviour, though exhibited in the lowest ranks of human life.

2:18-25 Servants in those days generally were slaves, and had heathen masters, who often used them cruelly; yet the apostle directs them to be subject to the masters placed over them by Providence, with a fear to dishonour or offend God. And not only to those pleased with reasonable service, but to the severe, and those angry without cause. The sinful misconduct of one relation, does not justify sinful behaviour in the other; the servant is bound to do his duty, though the master may be sinfully froward and perverse. But masters should be meek and gentle to their servants and inferiors. What glory or distinction could it be, for professed Christians to be patient when corrected for their faults? But if when they behaved well they were ill treated by proud and passionate heathen masters, yet bore it without peevish complaints, or purposes of revenge, and persevered in their duty, this would be acceptable to God as a distinguishing effect of his grace, and would be rewarded by him. Christ's death was designed not only for an example of patience under sufferings, but he bore our sins; he bore the punishment of them, and thereby satisfied Divine justice. Hereby he takes them away from us. The fruits of Christ's sufferings are the death of sin, and a new holy life of righteousness; for both which we have an example, and powerful motives, and ability to perform also, from the death and resurrection of Christ. And our justification; Christ was bruised and crucified as a sacrifice for our sins, and by his stripes the diseases of our souls are cured. Here is man's sin; he goes astray; it is his own act. His misery; he goes astray from the pasture, from the Shepherd, and from the flock, and so exposes himself to dangers without number. Here is the recovery by conversion; they are now returned as the effect of Divine grace. This return is, from all their errors and wanderings, to Christ. Sinners, before their conversion, are always going astray; their life is a continued error.Servants, be subject to your masters - On the duty here enjoined, see the notes at Ephesians 6:5-9. The Greek word used here (οἰκέται oiketai) is not the same which is employed in Ephesians, (δοῦλοι douloi.) The word here means properly "domestics" - those employed about a house, or living in the same house - from οἶκος oikos, "house." These persons might have been slaves, or might not. The word would apply to them, whether they were hired, or whether they were owned as slaves. The word should not and cannot be employed to prove that slavery existed in the churches to which Peter wrote, and still less to prove that he approved of slavery, or regarded it as a good institution. The exhortation here would be, and still is, strictly applicable to any persons employed as domestics, though they had voluntarily hired themselves out to be such. It would be incumbent on them, while they remained in that condition, to perform with fidelity their duties as Christians, and to bear with Christian meekness all the wrongs which they might suffer from those in whose service they were.

Those who are hired, and who are under a necessity of "going out to service" for a living, are not always free from hard usage, for there are trials incident to that condition of life which cannot be always avoided. It might be better, in many cases, to bear much than to attempt a change of situation, even though they were entirely at liberty to do so. It must be admitted, however, that the exhortation here will have more force if it is supposed that the reference is to slaves, and there can be no doubt that many of this class were early converted to the Christian faith. The word here rendered "masters" (δεσπόταις despotais) is not the same which is used in Ephesians 6:5, (κυρίοις kuriois.) Neither of these words necessarily implies that those who were under them were slaves. The word used here is applicable to the head of a family, whatever may be the condition of those under him. It is frequently applied to God, and to Christ; and it cannot be maintained that those to whom God sustains the relation of δεσπότης despotēs, or "master," are "slaves." See Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Timothy 2:21; 2 Peter 2:1; Jde 1:4; Revelation 6:10. The word, indeed, is one that might be applied to those who were owners of slaves. If that be the meaning here, it is not said, however, that those to whom it is applied were Christians. It is rather implied that they were pursuing such a course as was inconsistent with real piety. Those who were under them are represented as suffering grievous wrongs.

With all fear - That is, with all proper reverence and respect. See the notes at Ephesians 6:5.

Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward - The word rendered "froward" (σκολιοῖς skoliois) means properly "crooked, bent;" then perverse, wicked, unjust, peevish. Anyone who is a servant or domestic is liable to be employed in the service of such a master; but while the relation continues, the servant should perform his duty with fidelity, whatever may be the character of the master. Slaves are certainly liable to this; and even those who voluntarily engage as servants to others, cannot always be sure that they will have kind employers. Though the terms used here do not necessarily imply that those to whom the apostle gave this direction were slaves, yet it may be presumed that they probably were, since slavery abounded throughout the Roman empire; but the directions will apply to all who are engaged in the service of others, and are therefore of permanent value. Slavery will, sooner or later, under the influence of the gospel, wholly cease in the world, and instructions addressed to masters and slaves will have no permanent value; but it will always be true that there will be those employed as domestics, and it is the duty of all who are thus engaged to evince true fidelity and a Christian spirit themselves, whatever may be the character of their employers.

18. Servants—Greek, "household servants": not here the Greek for "slaves." Probably including freedmen still remaining in their master's house. Masters were not commonly Christians: he therefore mentions only the duties of the servants. These were then often persecuted by their unbelieving masters. Peter's special object seems to be to teach them submission, whatever the character of the masters might be. Paul not having this as his prominent design, includes masters in his monitions.

be subject—Greek, "being subject": the participle expresses a particular instance of the general exhortation to good conduct, 1Pe 2:11, 12, of which the first particular precept is given 1Pe 2:13, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." The general exhortation is taken up again in 1Pe 2:16; and so the participle 1Pe 2:18, "being subject," is joined to the hortatory imperatives going before, namely, "abstain," "submit yourselves." "honor all men."

with—Greek, "in."

all—all possible: under all circumstances, such as are presently detailed.

fear—the awe of one subject: God, however, is the ultimate object of the "fear": fear "for the Lord's sake" (1Pe 2:13), not merely slavish fear of masters.


gentle—indulgent towards errors: considerate: yielding, not exacting all which justice might demand.

froward—perverse: harsh. Those bound to obey must not make the disposition and behavior of the superior the measure of the fulfilment of their obligations.

Servants; the word is not the same which Paul useth, Colossians 3:22, but may well comprehend the servants he speaks of, as implying not only slaves, but those that were made free, yet continued still in the family; and so signifies servants of whatsoever condition.

Be subject to your masters with all fear; not only reverence of masters, and fear of offending them, is to be understood, but fear of God, as appears by the parallel place, Colossians 3:22: see Ephesians 6:5-7.

Not only to the good and gentle; by good he means not gracious or holy, but, as the next word explains it, gentle, just, equal.

But also to the froward; morose, crabbed, unjust, unmerciful.

Servants, be subject to your masters,.... This was another notion of the Jews, that because they were the seed of Abraham, they ought not to be the servants of any; and particularly such as were believers in Christ thought they ought not to serve unbelieving masters, nor indeed believing ones, because they were equally brethren in Christ with them; hence the Apostle Peter, here, as the Apostle Paul frequently elsewhere, inculcates this duty of servants to their masters; see 1 Corinthians 7:20 2 Timothy 2:9 the manner in which they are to be subject to them is,

with all fear; with reverence to their persons, strict regard to their commands, faithfulness in any trust reposed in them, diligence in the discharge of their duty, and carefulness of offending them: and all this,

not only to the good and gentle; those that are good natured, kind, beneficent, and merciful; that do not use them with rigour and severity; are moderate in their demands of service; require no more to be done than what is reasonable; allow them sufficient diet, give them good wages, and pay them duly:

but also to the froward; the ill natured, morose, and rigorous; who exact more labour than is requisite; give hard words, and harder blows; withhold sufficiency of food from them, and keep back the hire of their labours.

{21} Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

(21) He goes to the duty of servants towards their masters, which he describes with these bounds, that servants submit themselves willingly and not by force, not only to the good and courteous, but also to the perverse and severe matters.

1 Peter 2:18. An exhortation to the slaves, extending from this verse to the end of the chapter.

οἱ οἰκέται] οἰκέτης, properly speaking, “a domestic,” a milder expression for δοῦλος. It is improbable that Peter employed this term in order to include the freedmen who had remained in the master’s house (Steiger).

οἱ οἰκ. is vocative; nor is chap. 1 Peter 1:3 (as Steiger thinks) opposed to this.

ὑποτασσόμενοι] It is quite arbitrary to supply ἦτε (Oecumenius, etc.), or to assert that the participle is used here instead of the imperative. The participle rather shows that the exhortation is conceived of as dependent on a thought already expressed; not on 1 Peter 2:17 (de Wette), but on 1 Peter 2:13, which 1 Peter 2:11-12 serve to introduce; ὑποτάγητεκύριον, the institution of the household implied in the relation of servant to master, is comprehended in the general term πᾶσα ἀνθρωπ. κτίσις.

ἐν παντὶ φόβῳ] φόβος (vid. 1 Peter 1:17) is stronger than reverentia, it denotes the shrinking from transgressing the master’s will, based on the consciousness of subjection, cf. Ephesians 6:5.[147] Doubtless this shrinking is in the case of the Christian based on the fear of God, but the word ΦΌΒΟς does not directly mean such fear, as Weiss (p. 169) holds and seeks to prove, especially from the circumstance that Peter in chap. 1 Peter 3:6; 1 Peter 3:14 condemns the fear of man, forgetting, however, that this fear too may be of different kinds, cf. in loco.

παντί is intensive. Πᾶς ΦΌΒΟς is: every kind of fear; a fear wanting in nothing that goes to make up true fear.

τοῖς δεσπόταις] cf. 1 Timothy 6:1, Titus 2:9, equals ΤΟῖς ΚΥΡΊΟΙς, Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22.

Οὐ ΜΌΝΟΝ ΤΟῖς ἈΓΑΘΟῖς ΚΑῚ ἘΠΙΕΙΚΈΣΙΝ, ἈΛΛᾺ ΚΑῚ ΤΟῖς ΣΚΟΛΙΟῖς] The moral conduct of the servant, which consists in ὙΠΟΤΆΣΣΕΣΘΑΙ towards the master, must remain unchanged, whatever the character of the latter may be; the chief emphasis, however, rests here on ἈΛΛᾺ ΚΑῚ ΤΟῖς ΣΚ.

here is equal to “kind;” for ἐπιεικής, cf. 1 Timothy 3:3; it does not mean “yielding” (Fronmüller), but, properly speaking, one who “acts with propriety,” then “gentle.”

σκολιός, literally, “crooked,” “bent,” the opposite of straight, denotes metaphorically the perverse disposition; Php 2:15, synonymous with διεστραμμένος; in Proverbs 28:18, Ὁ ΣΚΟΛΙΑῖς ὉΔΟῖς ΠΟΡΕΥΌΜΕΝΟς forms the antithesis to Ὁ ΠΟΡΕΥΌΜΕΝΟς ΔΙΚΑΊΩς (cf. Luke 3:5). It has the same force in the classics (Athen. xv. p. 695; ΣΚΟΛΙᾺ ΦΡΟΝΕῖΝ, opp. to ΕὐΘΈΑ ΦΡΟΝΕῖΝ). It denotes, therefore, such masters as conduct themselves, not in a right, but in a perverse manner towards their servants—are hard and unjust to them; Luther’s “capricious” is inexact.[148]

[147] Thus, too, in substance Schott: “Fear in general, as it is determined by the circumstances here mentioned.”

[148] That Peter made special reference to heathen masters lies in the nature of the circumstances, but is not to be concluded from the adject. σκολιός (as opposed to Schott).

18. Servants, be subject to your masters] The counsels thus opening are carried on to the close of the chapter. The fulness with which slaves are thus addressed, here and in Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, indicates the large proportion of converts that belonged to that class. Nearly all the names in Romans 16 and many of those of other members of the Church are found in the Columbaria or Catacombs of Rome as belonging to slaves or freedmen. The term for “servants,” here and in Luke 16:13, Acts 10:7, Romans 14:4, differs from the more common word as pointing specially to household servants, the “domestics” of a family. It may have been chosen by St Peter as including the wide class of libertini or freedmen and freedwomen who, though no longer in the status of slavery, were still largely employed in the households of the upper classes, as scribes, musicians, teachers, physicians, needle-women and the like. It is obvious that the new thoughts of converts to the faith of Christ must have brought with them some peculiar dangers. They had learnt that all men were equal in the sight of God. Might they not be tempted to assert that equality in word or act? They felt themselves raised to a higher life than their heathen masters. Could they endure to serve loyally and humbly those whom they looked on as doomed to an inevitable perdition? Was it not their chief duty to escape by flight or purchase from the degradation and dangers of their position? The teaching of St Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:21-23, as well as in the passages above referred to, shews how strongly he felt the urgency of this danger. Cardinal Wiseman’s Fabiola may be mentioned as giving, with special vividness and insight, a picture of this aspect of the social life of the early Church.

with all fear] So St Paul urges obedience “with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5). There was, looking to the then existing relations of society, a comparative nobleness in a service into which the fear of offending their master, as distinct from the mere dread of the scourge or other punishment, entered as a motive into the obedience of slaves. And this was not to depend on the character of the master. He might be good and easy-going, or perverse and irritable. Their duty was in either case to submit, with thankfulness in the one case, with a cheerful patience in the other.

1 Peter 2:18. Οἱ οἰκέται, servants) He prescribes duties to these, and not to masters, the greater part of whom were heathens.—ὑποτασσόμενοι, subject) The participle, for the imperative, depending upon ὑ̔ποτάγητε, 1 Peter 2:13; from which the form of the imperative ought to be repeated by Zeugma. So also ch. 1 Peter 3:1.—οὐ μόνον, not only) Gentleness obtains obedience more easily than harshness.—ἀγαθοῖς, to the good) who inflict no injury.—ἐπιεικέσιν, the gentle or indulgent) who readily pardon errors.—σκολιοῖς, the froward) who without cause have recourse to severity, blows, and reproaches.

Verse 18. - Servants. The word is not δοῦλοι, slaves,but οἰκέται, household servants, domestics. St. Peter may have used it as a less harsh term, in Christian kindliness and courtesy; or he may have chosen it purposely to include the large class of freedmen and other dependents who were to be found in the houses of the great. The frequent mention of slaves in the Epistles shows that many of the first Christians must have been in a condition of servitude (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1, 2, etc.). It was only natural that men should feel uneasy and irritable under the yoke of slavery as they came to learn the equality of all men in the sight of God, and to understand the blessed privileges and the high hopes of Christians. The apostles counseled submission and resignation to the will of God. Slavery was an unnatural institution; it must in time disappear under the softening influences of the gospel. But Christian slaves were to wait in faith and patience. The sacred writers use language of studied moderation, carefully avoiding any expressions which might be regarded as exciting to violence or revolutionary outbreaks. Be subject to your masters with all fear. The participle ὑποτασσόμενοι seems to look back to the imperative ὑποτάγητε in ver. 13; the relation of slaves to their lords being one of the ordinances of man alluded to there (comp. Ephesians 6:5, where St. Paul bids slaves to be obedient to their masters "with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ"). The holy fear of God, by whose providence they were set in that lowly station, would involve the fear of failing in their duty to their masters. All fear; not only fear of punishment, but also fear of neglecting duty. Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. Servants must not make the character of their masters an excuse for disobedience; if their masters are froward (σκολιοί, literally, "crooked, perverse"), still they must be submissive to the wilt of God. 1 Peter 2:18Servants (οἰκέται)

Household servants. So Rev., in margin. Not a common term in the New Testament, occurring only in three other passages: Luke 16:13; Acts 10:7; Romans 14:4. Some suppose that Peter intended to cover by it freedmen and other dependants in the household, or that he uses it with a conciliatory purpose, as presenting the slave in closer relation with the family.

Gentle (ἐπιεικέσιν)

A common derivation of this word is from εἴκω, to yield. Hence the meaning, mind, yielding, indulgent. But the true derivation is from εἰκός, reasonable; and the word implies rather the not being unduly rigorous: "Wherein not strictness of legal right, but consideration for one another, is the rule of practice" (Alford). Compare Philippians 4:5, where, for moderation (τὸ ἐπιεικὲς), Rev. gives forbearance, with gentleness in margin. According to Aristotle, the word stands in contrast with ἀκριβοδίκαιος, one who is exactingly just, as one who is satired with less than his due.

Froward (σκολιοῖς)

Lit., crooked. See Luke 3:5. Peter uses the word in Acts 2:40 (untoward); and Paul, in Philippians 2:15 (crooked). The word froward is Anglo-Saxon fream-ward or from-ward, the opposite of to-ward. (See untoward, above.) Thus Ben Jonson:

"Those that are froward to an appetite;"

i.e., averse. Compare the phrases to-God-ward (2 Corinthians 3:4); to-us-ward.

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