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What does it mean to be a husband? Our English world husband carries a remarkable connection to agriculture that reveals its meaning. Noah Webster defines the verb (transitive) of husband as,

To till; to cultivate with good management.

He defines the noun husbandry as,

The business of a farmer, comprehending agriculture or tillage of the ground, the raising, managing and fattening of cattle and other domestic animals, the management of the dairy and whatever the land produces.

Why would a man who had a wife be referred to in English by this same agricultural word, husband? It could be because of the words used to describe the husbands’ care for their wives.

For no one at any time hates his own flesh, but is nurturing and cherishing it, even as Christ also does the ecclesia (Ephesians 5:29).

Webster defines our English words “nurture” and “cherish” as,

Nurture: to feed; to nourish; to promote growth.

Cherish: to treat with tenderness and affection; to give warmth, ease or comfort to. To hold as dear; to embrace with affection; to foster, and encourage.

As powerfully telling as these English words are, the Greek words are even more so.

Nurture: κτρέφω (ektrephō)

To rear up to maturity (Strong).
To nourish up to maturity; to bring up (Thayer).
To nourish, rear, feed, to bring to maturity (Zodhiates).
To nourish out, i.e., in full, bring up to maturity (Bullinger).
out-nourish (Knoch).

Cherish: θάλπω (thalpō)

To brood, that is, to foster (Strong).
To heat, to soften by heat; to warm, make warm by incubation, hence to cherish, to nourish (Bullinger).
To warm, keep warm; to cherish with tender love, to foster with tender care (Thayer).
To soften by heat (Liddell/Scott; Vine).
Incubate-do (Knoch).

Of special note are husbandry words from these definitions: nourish, brood and incubate. What heartfelt, cultivating truths these words convey. Husbandry is not simply hanging around the farm helping oneself to whatever fruit may happen to grow. Husbandry is a laborious stewardship, and husbands are divine trustees of the women in their care.

C2Pilkington-4Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
(Excerpted from his upcoming book, Wife Loving)

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January 2015
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