Wednesday, July 18, 2012“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 19:5 and in Mark 10:6-8 (adding, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”), and Paul cites it in Ephesians 5:31 and alludes to it in 1 Corinthians 6:16. This is the only statement about marriage in the Bible with such broad use.
IDEA: Marriages with real leaving, real cleaving, and real bonding are less likely to come apart at the seams, necessitating divorce.
PURPOSE: To help listeners think about the essentials of marriage from God’s perspective.
Jessica from Austintown, Ohio, asked us to discuss several questions around the subject of marriage: When does marriage actually start? Does it start before the ceremony? If so, what indicates the beginning of a marriage? How did the wedding ceremony come into practice?
Jessica did not ask for a biblical context for our answers to her questions, but as Discover the Word always works with the biblical texts, we will treat her questions accordingly.
I. When does marriage actually start?
Historically there are two traditions about the beginning of marriage, both of which have some theological or biblical support.
The conventional Christian view is that a marriage begins with a wedding.
An earlier Christian view was that marriage begins with betrothal, followed later by a wedding ceremony, a process involving stages; sexual intercourse often began after the betrothal and before the wedding.
When we turn to the Bible, we find several accepted models of marriage, most of which take us by surprise:
Polygynous marriage was the most common form in the Bible in which a man has more than one wife (cf. Lamech with 2 wives, Genesis 4:19; Esau has 3 wives, Genesis 26:34, 28:9; Jacob had 4 wives, Genesis 29:28, 30:4-9; Gideon had many wives, Judges 8:30; Abijah had 14 wives, 2 Chronicles 13:21, etc.).
Levirate marriage in which the brothers-in-law of a widowed woman without a son were obliged to marry her and impregnate her; if the resulting child was a son, he would be the heir of her late husband (cf. Genesis 38:6-10; Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
Marriage to the slave belonging to a man’s wife (cf. Abraham in Genesis 16:1-6; Jacob in Genesis 30:4-5)
Wives acquired by force: a male soldier could take a wife as booty (Deuteronomy 21:11-14); the victim of a male rapist had to marry her assailant (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), etc.
Monogamous heterosexual marriage in which arranged marriages were standard, and interfaith and cross-ethnic marriage were forbidden in much biblical history.
II. While the Bible doesn’t give a direct answers to all of Jessica’s questions, God gives us three components of a marriage in Genesis 2:24, later cited by both Jesus and the apostle Paul.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 19:5 and in Mark 10:6-8 (adding, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”).
The apostle Paul cites it in Ephesians 5:31 and alludes to it in 1 Corinthians 6:16. This is the only statement about marriage in the Bible with such broad use.
Note the three essential components of a marriage:
The man must “leave” his father and mother. Contrary to practices in biblical times and in much of the world today in which a wife becomes part of her husband’s family, the man must intentionally begin a new family with his wife.
Much tension in marriages today comes from husbands or wives not fully “leaving” (emotionally as well as physically) their families of origin. A first step in the formation of any marriage is the intent to “leave home” and begin a new family.
The husband is to “cleave” to his wife. The translation “be joined to” is weak; the Hebrew sense is much stronger: it is the kind of love the apostle Paul instructed husbands to have for their wives in Ephesians 5. “Cleaving” has the sense of being “glued” together in love.
This new bond is to be firmly fixed in place both sexually (in which endorphins released in sexual climax serve as a strong physical/emotional bond) and as the two become one in goals and aspirations.
Marriages with real leaving, real cleaving, and real bonding are less likely to come apart at the seams, necessitating divorce.
While marriage customs varied in the Bible and in the world today, God has given us the essentials on which to build strong marriages.