God established marriage in the Garden of Eden. We read that the first marriage was instituted by God when He declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). So God fashioned woman from man’s own rib and brought her to him.
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (Gen. 2:21-23).
We can understand from Genesis 2:24 that God is the One who ordained this as a law for all men. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5). Thus marriage was begun and ordained by God and Jesus re-established this fact under the New Testament.
WHAT THEN IS MARRIAGE?
In the book of Malachi it is stated that God views marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman and that unfaithfulness to the marriage is unfaithfulness to the covenant and therefore condemned.
“Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant” (Mal. 2:14).
Under the Mosaic Law, if a man found a woman he wanted to marry, but for some reason could not, or chose not to marry her at the time, he was betrothed to her. It might be noted that Joseph was espoused (same as betrothed but a stronger word than the modern day engagement) to Mary, a virgin according to Luke 1:27, and knew her not until after Jesus was born (Matt. 1:25). Yet the angel who appeared to Joseph called her his wife (Matt. 1:20, 24).
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS (Matt. 1:24-25).
By these examples, it should be easy to understand that marriage is the covenant that a man and a woman make with each other and that the bond of marriage is made by God because of their covenant. When the vows are made, a lifetime commitment is sealed.
As noted earlier, more than four thousand years after the marriage of Adam and Eve, Jesus reaffirmed the original laws concerning marriage. Notice who Jesus’ audience was; note also who had asked the question.
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:3-6).
God makes the husband and wife one flesh as long as they both live, and it is God himself who joins man and woman in marriage. From these passages we can see that the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife became the foundation for the home and family and the union was to be permanent. The institution of marriage and the laws concerning marriage were established with every nation from Adam to Moses to Christ. It was for every race, nation and culture found on the earth. The marriage covenant was what bound all men and women in marriage from the beginning.
As people multiplied and covered the earth, we also find that God’s desire for His chosen people was that they marry within the body of believers. The Law of Moses given to the Israelites clearly stated that an Israelite was never to marry a Canaanite because the Israelite would be tempted to worship the false gods of the Canaanites (Exod. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:3-4). In the same way, the apostle Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) commanded the members of the church at Corinth, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?
- When did God begin to join men and women in marriage?
- In every nation, who joins a man and woman in the bond of marriage?
- To whom does the bride belong (Gen. 2:23)?
- Does God bind more than one woman to any one man?
- If God does not break the marriage bond, does that bond still continue?
- How long does the marriage contract last (Rom. 7:1-3)?
- Name one restriction placed on the Israelite marriages (Exod. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:3-4)? Tell why this restriction was imposed?
- In the New Testament, what was one restriction placed on Christian marriages (2 Cor. 6:14)? Also give the stated reason for this commandment?
- Did the laws for marriage in the Old Testament conflict with the laws for marriage under the New Testament?
- Some couples have failed to register their marriages in a timely manner with the nation’s civil courts. Does that mean they are not married for a period of time? Consider whether the civil courts seal the marriage bond or whether God is the one who does that.