What is Marriage? One Man and One Woman

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 10, 2014 13 comments

In last week’s post, we discussed how the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church is what an ideal marriage relationship should look like, even though we all fall short of that ideal. This week, we will look more at the definition of who is part of a marriage: one man and one woman.

This definition of marriage is being challenged in many ways in our society today, especially with the issue of homosexual marriage, whether it be two men or two women. Another way that some claim to redefine marriage is through plural marriage, such as one man with multiple wives. Many people today insist that marriage needs to be redefined in these ways for our modern times, and that the ways of the Bible are too old­-fashioned.

So first, let’s look at what the Bible actually says about this. Last week we examined parts of the passage of Ephesians 5:21­-33. Verse 31 in that passage is actually a quotation of an Old Testament passage, Genesis 2:24, which says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Notice that this verse starts with “That is why...” which should beg the question in your mind of what’s the actual reason for this?

The context of this passage in Genesis 2 is that God has just created the first people, Adam and Eve. God created Adam first, but He knew that it was not good for Adam to be alone (v18). When a suitable companion for Adam could not be found among all the animals that were created, God made the woman, Eve, from one of Adam’s ribs (v21­-22). When Adam saw Eve, he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (v23). That is what leads into verse 24, which I quoted above.

Notice the important nouns there in Genesis 2:24: “a man” and “his wife.” Both of those are singular nouns in the Hebrew, which rules out plural marriage of one man with multiple wives. The first noun is ish in the Hebrew, which is a masculine noun. The second noun is isha, which is a feminine noun. This rules out the option for a marriage of two men, or two women.

But, does all of this still apply today? Back in January, I wrote about why Jesus matters. In that post I explained how earlier in Genesis 2:15­-17, God set the rules for mankind. Because God created the entire world, God has the authority to set the rules for it. In Genesis 2:24, God set the rules for marriage: one man and one woman. But why can’t that be redefined for today’s modern society, thousands of years later? Stay tuned and find out in next week’s post.


Anonymous said...

How many wives did King David have?

Katie said...

King David had many wives, but that does not mean that polygamy is what God desires for marriage. To my knowledge, the Bible never commands people to have multiple spouses, even though polygamy is recorded in the Old Testament. The Bible does, however, clearly command a marriage of one man and one woman.

Logan said...

I agree with Katie and would further state that King David may have been blessed as the anointed king and a man after God's own heart, but he was NOT blessed in his sins. In fact, he and his family suffered greatly for his sins. All you have to do in order to see that is read 2 Samuel 12-24. There is some serious family dysfunction there and a lot of it stems from David's choices. You can also find many places where David writes about the suffering and consequences of his sin in the Psalms. King David choosing polygamy was just one example of God's chosen people buying into bits and pieces of the worldly culture that they desired. This is not unlike many in the Church today. They want the favor of being God's people, but also look at the world and want some of what it has to offer. When we go against the command and creation of our God, strife, stress, and heartache are sure to follow. And that is exactly what King David and his family experienced before he finally repented and accepted God's grace, love, and plan for him.

Anonymous said...

If King David's marriages were not as God ordained, why does the bible refer to them as "wives"? Clearly the bible thinks King David was married.

Logan Ames said...

I'm not sure what your question or point there is. We didn't say King David was married. Yes, he was married to multiple people. I know of at least two for sure, Michal and Bathsheba. I'd have to look it up to see who else he was married to. Again, I'm confused by your recent comment because the term "wife" is not limited, in the eyes of the world, to that which God ordains. The world does not function according to obedience to God and David was a sinner like anyone else. Polygamists today claim God has given them many wives and homosexuals might also claim "husband" and "wife" in their partners. None of this is ordained by God, yet people have made themselves the authority in this area. It's sad, but true, and only destruction will follow.

Anonymous said...

God seems to recognize King David's marriage as being one man, many wives. That's my point. If God wrote the bible, he didn't have to call them "wives" unless he saw them as such.

Katie said...

Anonymous, just because David had many wives, it doesn't mean that it's right in God's eyes. David was also an adulterer and a murderer, and we know that those are not right in God's eyes.

In Biblical Hebrew (which the Old Testament was originally written in), the word for woman is the exact same as the word for wife. There is no difference. The only way a translator knows whether to translate it to "woman" or "wife" is the context it's used in. The fact that "wives" is used instead of "women" is because the human person who translated it into English believed that "wives" fit the context better.

Anonymous said...

Then what suggests Eve was wife instead off woman, other than someone's interpretation? Katie seems to hinge the "one woman" interpretation on the importance of the noun, but that noun isn't necessarily "wife".

Katie said...

Whether the noun is "woman" or "wife," the Bible is still very clear that it is ONE woman/wife and ONE man/husband that makes up a marriage relationship. Not two men; not two women; not one man and multiple women; etc. That's the point I'm making this blog.

Anonymous said...

Except for King David. You're saying God defined marriage based on a noun that might mean wife when it might also have meant woman. Good never tells them they are married, but does use terms like " mother and father" which would be very foreign to Adam and Eve.

King David not only had many wives, ( or women) but also several concubine ... women who are definitely NOT wives. This distinction is made clear: there were wives and women-who-were-not-wives. With Adam, you just have "woman or just as easily wife"

It's true that, in most cases, a man will have a father and mother that he later will leave, though I have no idea how that applies to Adam. So it sounds to me like God was just saying, it takes both genders to make a man because both genders came from man.

My point is, it is inconsistent to claim that God defined marriage in this place because he used a word that might mean "wife" but certainly doesn't mean "wives" or " husband" but then ignore another place where God makes a clear distinction between women married to King David, and the women he was having sex with, but definitely WAS NOT married to.

Katie said...

I apologize if I wasn't clear in my comment. All throughout the Old Testament (including both Adam and King David, among others), the words "woman" and "wife" (or "women" and "wives" in the plural) are interchangeable. (The Hebrew word for "concubine" is completely distinct from the word for "woman"/"wife".) There are more places than just Genesis 2 where God defines marriage in the Bible; look at Logan's new post that should be going up today for more on that.

Let me give you an example. Say I decided today that this month is not actually called February, but it's actually called Blue. I could say today is the 13th of Blue and start using that in all of my communication. But just because I did it, does that make it right for everyone, everywhere? God could even say "She called this month blue," but that's an explanation of an event, not a command to follow.

That's how it works with King David's wives. Just because he had multiple wives and concubines doesn't make it right. We are ALL sinners, including me and King David. We all make mistakes, and just because a sinful person does something (even if it were to be recorded in the Bible) doesn't make it right. God did not command David to have multiple women/wives, but he did it anyway. God doesn't command anyone to sin, but we do it anyway because we're human and have free will.

The difference here is God commanding marriage to be one man and one woman, versus God using the Bible to explain historical events. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

I don't see the "commanding" part in Adam's story anymore than in David's. With Adam, it seems like God is telling him why it takes two people to make a baby (even though that hasn't happened) and why men and women have parts that fit together so wonderfully. I don't see him saying anything like : so this alone it's what I'll call s marriage.

And God doesn't say David said he had wives. God says David had wives. That's so very different than God saying, "In the month she called Blue..." as opposed to "in the month of Blue".

if David wives were not wives in the eyes of God, why does he call them wives and make a distinction between them and the concubines? Aren't they all just women he sleeps with, in the eyes of God who wrote the book?

Katie said...

I encourage you to read Logan's post from today for some additional information on this.

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman in Genesis 1-2, and He reaffirms it multiple other places in the Bible.

The distinction between a wife and a concubine was the legality of the relationship. The people of Israel had laws regarding marriage, and the man/husband had more responsibility for a wife than for a concubine.

Do you agree that humans have free will - that we are allowed to turn away from God's ways? If so, then see that David was exercising his free will in taking many wives. Just because he did it, and it's recorded in the Bible, doesn't mean God encourages or endorses it. Having more than one wife goes against what God instituted, and that makes it a sin. All sin has consequences, and you can read about all the negative consequences that David experienced in 2 Samuel.