Marriage, What is it?

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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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, I 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.

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.

There are a couple of 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.

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.

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.

Jesus made reference to this same verse when discussing marriage in Mathew 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.

Jesus made it 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.

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.

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.

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?

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 OK. However, the Bible tells us that we should have only one spouse. Society teaches that marriage takes place during a public ceremony. The Bible teaches us that marriage takes place during a very special and intimate moment.


A very well written article and I totally agree with the definition of marriage. Never any doubt in my mind about what constituted a marriage.
Herman Lockeby 23 Jun 2013, 17:41
I can understand some the reasons you mention two become one but i have a problem in some of the case of rape etc...and the fact that Mary was carrying Jesus and never bed down with Joseph...9 months so was she married to him?..yes soi understand but there is more to it..wouldnt you think
Tammy 09 Jul 2013, 10:48
Hi Tammy, Those are both really good points. We know that Joseph and Mary were espoused (engaged) from Mat 1:18 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” That verse also makes it very clear that they had not “come together” yet.

We are told that after the angel of the Lord visited Joseph in his dream that Joseph went ahead with his plans to mary her in Mat 1:24 “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:”. That verse does not say when the marriage took place, but the next verse tells us that they didn’t copulate until after the birth of Jesus.
“Mat 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. “ We can then look to Luke 2:5 – 6 to get some more information on when they were actually married.
“Luk 2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
Luk 2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. “ These verses tell us that Joseph and Mary were still espoused (engaged) when it was time for Jesus to be born. This aligns perfectly with the Biblical definition of marriage. Your other point may be a bitter pill to swallow. Rape is a horrible crime and is certainly not part of God’s plan. However, the victim and the rapist are joined in a way that cannot be undone. I’m not suggesting that a woman should spend a single minute in the same room with her rapist, unless it is to testify against him in a court of law. I’m simply saying that they are joined physically. The victim is exposed to whatever disease the rapist may be carrying. The act is done and cannot be undone. Even after the rapist is caught and punished, there is no man made court that can undo what has been done to the victim. They are one flesh. Certainly there is more to a successful marriage than the act of joining. This doesn’t change the definition of what constitutes marriage though.
Robby 09 Jul 2013, 18:15
It's better to die than to be raped. Marriage is not just two bodies, but two whole persons--body, soul, spirit--being joined. Men are always blaming women for the abortion horror, but they fail to realize that setting up a sexually-charged society with pornography, prostitution, child molestation, domestic violence, is largely responsible for the existence of abortion mills. If men protested against the visual sexuality, as well as the sexual innuendo in music and all of the arts, including the electronic media, there would be no abortion. If men did not encourage women to dress in revealing (or nude) fashions, the social sexuality which produces rape and abortion would not exist. Please don't use the Bible to justify your lust and greed. Men rape women because they want power and money that doesn't belong to them. That's the REAL reason for RAPE! A RAPE WILL NEVER BE A TRUE MARRIAGE, BECAUSE IT ONLY INVOLVES THE FLESH, NOT THE SPIRIT! Deuteronomy 22:25-27. Note specifically verses 26 and 27.
Ursula Painter 06 Jan 2015, 17:13
As a girl I got mixed up with a man that was a drunkard. We came together and I bore two children. We married and I begged God to relieve me of this marriage. Because I feared for my life. Found out later I was with child once more. So now I'm a single mother of 3 sons. I did leave and have been gone for 13 years. BTW I was 19 and was 29 when we met. And it been going on 17 yrs in November. Thank you
Marie 09 Mar 2015, 01:55

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