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Greek Word Study - Obey

Araspas was a lady’s man. At least, that’s what Araspas thought. So it made perfect sense to Araspas that the beautiful Panthea would give up her husband and throw herself at Araspas’s feet.

Panthea, however, was a devoted wife. Like loyal wives in many wars, she waited eagerly and faithfully for the day when her husband would return. When Araspas began making passes at her, she was repulsed. When Araspas threatened to use force if she would not submit willingly, she was outraged. Secretly she sent her servant to King Cyrus, telling him the whole story.

Cyrus immediately sent word to Araspas and warned him not to lay violent hands on the woman. Cyrus did concede this much, however: if Araspas could “win her consent,” the King would have no objection. Araspas knew that without force he had no hope, so he apologized and gave up.

The Greek word for “win consent” in this story is peitho (PAY tho). When we read its everyday uses, we find people being “won over” or “persuaded” or “convinced.” As a consequence, these people then “comply with” or “obey” what is said by those who have won them over with persuasive arguments. (See, for instance, Acts 5:40; 14:19; 19:8; and 26:28.)

All of this sheds considerable light on Hebrews 13:17, where the readers are told to “obey” their leaders (NIV). It is significant that this is not the same Greek word as when slaves are told to “obey” (hypacouo) their masters or children are told to “obey” their parents. In those two examples, obedience is unquestioning. In the situation of Christians and their leaders, however, they do not blindly “obey” unquestioned authority. Instead, they are to be open to persuasion, to compelling instruction from Scripture (see Hebrews 13:7). They should be ready to be “won over” by good men with good arguments.