Marriage defined by the Bible

Picture of a man and a womans hand and the words and they shall be one flesh

Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.



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Marriage and Sex



What is Biblical Marriage?



The topic of Biblical marriage has been on my mind for some time now. Society teaches us that marriage takes place when the Pastor says "I now pronounce you husband and wife". Is this Biblical? The Bible tells us that God joins two people in marriage: "Mat 19:6 ... What therefore God hath joined together, ... ." With that in mind, one must question whether Biblical Marriage takes place at the point of ceremony or at some other point in time. Does God join two people in marriage just because a man or woman with a license declares them to be married? Does God submit to the commands of man, or does man submit to the rules of God? Does man decide what makes two people married or does God decide? It seems absurd to even ask such questions. Of course the One who created us decides what constitutes marriage.

We can be sure of this fact by simply reading our Bibles. Adam and Eve were married. The Bible tells us that Eve was the wife of Adam;

"Gen 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."
Source: King James Bible


At this point there were only two humans alive. Therefore, their marriage took place without the aid of another person. They were joined by God. But how? We can get the answer by reading Genesis 2:24.

"Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
Source: King James Bible


There are a few key words in that verse. They are "cleave", "one" and "flesh". We can look each of these up in the Strong's dictionary and we will see that:

Cleave - means to impinge (To encroach; trespass) or be joined.

One - means properly united or ordinal as in a well-ordered set.

Flesh - means body, person or euphemistically the pudenda (genital organ) of a man.

These definitions appear to be telling us that a man becomes married by cleaving unto his wife and becoming one flesh with her. In other words, a man and woman become married by being sexually intimate with each other. Many of us may be very uncomfortable with this definition of marriage because we have had more than one sexual partner. Does the remainder of the Bible support this definition of marriage?

There are other verses which do support this definition of marriage. For example 1 Corinthians 7:34 appears to tell us that there are only two possible statuses for a woman. Those two possibilities are to be either a virgin or a wife.

"1Co 7:34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband."
Source: King James Bible


Notice the verse goes on to use the term "unmarried" and "virgin" interchangeably. We can also look to 1 Corinthians 6:16 for another example of the Bible supporting this definition of marriage.

"1Co 6:16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh."
Source: King James Bible


This verse tells us that if we choose to be joined to a harlot, we are indeed joined. The verse makes a clear correlation back to the original mention of man and wife in the Bible when it references the phrase "shall be one flesh" from Genesis 2:24.

"Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
Source: King James Bible


Jesus made reference to this same verse when discussing marriage in Matthew chapter 19.

"Mat 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, Mat 19:5 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? Mat 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Source: King James Bible


Jesus made very clear in these verses that God alone joins a man and woman in marriage. The people who heard those words first hand may not have comprehended just how much two people are made to be "one flesh" during sexual intimacy. However, the people of today are much more aware of the mixing of bodily fluids and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Once two people are joined intimately, they are joined in a way that mankind has yet to fully comprehend. Mankind certainly has no way of undoing what is done during sexual intimacy.

This same idea is also put forth in Mark chapter 10.

"Mar 10:8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. Mar 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Source: King James Bible


Ephesians chapter 5 also tells us that a man's wife is part of his own flesh.

"Eph 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Eph 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."
Source: King James Bible


These verses beautifully portray how the wife of a man is part of the man's flesh, just as the church is part of the Lord. Again the verses make reference to the phrase "shall be one flesh" which is contained in the definition of marriage from Genesis 2:24.

An article on this topic would not be complete without looking at a very revealing conversation that took place between Jesus and a woman from Samaria at Jacob's well. The conversation is revealed in John Chapter 4.

"Joh 4:16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. Joh 4:17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: Joh 4:18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. Joh 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet."
Source: King James Bible


If marriage takes place during a man-made ceremony, then why would the woman perceive that Jesus was a prophet, simply because He knew that she had 5 husbands in the past? If this woman had five public marriages then many people would have known about it, and it should not have surprised her that someone would mention it. Jesus went further than that though. He also told her that the man that she was now with, was not her husband. If marriage takes place at a ceremony, this too would have been public knowledge. Again she should not have been surprised that someone knew she had not had a marriage ceremony with this man. However this woman was surprised by both statements. In fact, she was so surprised that she knew He was not a regular man. She called him a prophet. She seemed to believe that only a prophet could know these things. Therefore these were very private matters to her. She must have believed that the full scope of these matters where known only by her. Her actions verify this.

"Joh 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Joh 4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?"
Source: King James Bible


Jesus revealed knowledge of very intimate details in this woman's life. This is in perfect harmony with the remainder of the Bible. Society teaches that multiple sexual partners is acceptable. However, the Bible tells us that we should have only one sexual partner which is one spouse. Society teaches that marriage takes place during a public ceremony. However, God has not given man the authority to decide what constitutes marriage. God alone decides what constitutes marriage. During marriage ceremonies, the officiators even declare where their authority to perform the marriage comes from when they state "by the power vested in me by the state of ... ." The power they claim is from the state where they are licensed to perform marriages, not from God. The Bible teaches us that marriage takes place during a very special and intimate moment.