The first and most important matter to be settled in life is that of the soul’s eternal salvation. For a believer, the next most important decision is the wise choice of a marriage partner. It is therefore somewhat reluctantly, and with a sense of inadequacy, that I have responded to the request of the editor to write about this subject. The Bible has much to say about marriage and it is not without significance that important teaching about it is found at the beginning and end of both the Old and New Testaments. To help us begin to gain a perspective of the true biblical concept we shall mainly look at the teaching from the Old Testament presentation.
The Creation-Based Institution of Marriage
Within the overall creation record of Genesis 1, there is a broad summary section of two verses, recording the creation of male and female in the image of God. The following chapter unfolds much interesting detail in four main sections on matters which cannot be detailed at this time.
- The Finished Work vv 1-4
- The Fertile Garden vv 5-7
- The Formation of Man vv 8-17 and then
- The First Marriage vv 18-24.
We soon learn here that marriage was divinely ordained to provide company and support for Adam. As the beneficent Creator looked upon Adam He knew it was not good for him to be alone. He knew there was no other being for him to commune with and to share fellow-feelings of appreciation in viewing the beauties of the creation with which God had surrounded him. But Adam’s lot was not only to enjoy the beauties of creation. He had been allocated responsibilities within the creation (ch1:26, 28) and so a further reason for a companion was in the mind of God; she was to be a help meet for Adam. The original intention included multiplication, replenishment, subjugation, and control to be exercised over the creation. It was to be a sphere of activity which would redound to the glory of God. In all of this there was to be the position of government and control for the man with his wife.
Our attention is drawn to the fact that not only in Genesis 1 is the false theory of evolution countered, but also here. No form of animal life, although within the pristine “unfallen” state, was found worthy to provide a rib for the making of a wife for Adam. It must be from the man himself. The deep sleep and the building of the woman from the rib was as completely the work of God, as was the creation recorded in chapter 1.
The reason for the title used for this section is found in Genesis 2:22-24. Here is the very first marriage ever to take place. Just as in our Western society the father of the bride brings her to the wedding ceremony, so we read “the LORD God … brought her unto the man. And Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman …” Here is the true biblical basis of marriage. It should be noted from the tense used that the “one flesh” relationship was a present fact when Adam was speaking; it was not dependent upon physical intimacy. It is clear that they became one flesh at the time when Jehovah brought, and Adam accepted, his wife from God. The following references will show this is consistent with the general tenor of scripture: (1) The fall and its associated events are all described in chapter 3 before we read “And Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived” (4:1). (2) The first marriage in the New Testament has the same arrangement. When Joseph was instructed to “take Mary unto him, we read he “took unto him … and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son …” (Matt 1:24-25). She was his wife many months before there was physical intimacy. (3) The “one flesh” referred to is not made in the marriage bed; it is made by God Himself. The Lord Jesus clearly said “What God hath joined let not man put asunder” (Matt 19:6; Mark 10:9).
The Covenantal Implication of Marriage
In Malachi 2 we find the closing reference to marriage in the Old Testament. The returned captives of Judah had been back in the land for approximately 80-100 years. Sadly, spiritual conditions were not good amongst them. They had lost the zeal of the actual return and were showing apathy and spiritual waywardness. In verses 11-12 we learn that some of them had contracted an unequal yoke in marriage to women of the Gentile nations who had occupied the land during the captivity; the Lord, through the prophet, charges them with profaning the holiness of the Lord and promises His judgment on them for it.
But in verses 13-16 there is a further charge brought. This is seen in the expression, “And this have ye done again,” or as some have rendered, “And this second thing have ye done.” Thus some had compounded the unequal yoke with a greater sin; they had divorced their own wives and then married again. This is not raised here to discuss the whole matter of divorce in an article which is dealing with marriage but rather to show the way God regards the importance of marriage. Jehovah also states that He himself had witnessed the original marriage to “the wife of thy youth” and it was God’s intention for that marriage to have been permanent; their actions were hateful to Him. But God also, through the prophet, speaks of “the wife of thy covenant.” Yes, when those marriage vows were made, God heard and ratified them. The next statement in verse 15 is perhaps the most important of all. “And did not He make one? Yet had He the residue (fullness) of the spirit. And wherefore one? … that He might seek a godly seed.” Here is the very truth already considered. To “make one” is to “join together.” Here at the end of Old Testament revelation we find that God’s first thoughts were His last thoughts. They had entered into the most sacred covenant of marriage, and in response God had made each couple one. Here is the remarkable truth and mystery of marriage. And it is found enunciated as clearly at the end of the Old Testament as at the beginning.