How the Bible Defines Marriage

We know marriage is very important to God. So much so that He uses marriage to describe His relationship with Himself and His church. (1). So we want to make sure that we understand marriage the way God intended it to be and treat it with the utmost respect.

Marriage is a Covenant

Throughout the Bible God made covenants or agreements with His people. He did this as means of showing His love to His people. In God’s covenants, God agrees to give a specific blessing, with a specific person(s) with specific terms and duration. (2) These are called God’s covenants because not only are the covenants made with Him they are also made by Him. (3). This is important because if God makes the covenant agreement, then God alone defines the details in that agreement; we choose whether to accept them.

Marriage is one God’s covenants of blessing. (4) The phrase so often used at weddings, “What God has joined together let no man separate” comes from the bible. “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6. Jesus not only confirms in this passage that marriage is God’s covenant ‘God has joined together”, but He also tells us God, not man, sets the conditions of that covenant, “let not man separate”. Since God says marriage is a covenant made by Him, it cannot be secular union and therefore cannot be redefined by man.

Details of the Marriage Covenant

The marriage covenant contains two especially important components: terms and duration. The terms are the specific details of the agreement including who the covenant is with. The duration would be how long does this covenant last. It’s important to know these components because through the covenant agreement God and mankind enter into a covenant relationship and have a binding commitment to honor and fulfill their respective roles. (5). In this section we will look at the details of the marriage covenant. For information regarding the duration of the marriage covenant see “What Does The Bible Say About Divorce”.

Terms of the Marriage Covenant

Between One Man and One Woman

God defines who His covenant of marriage agreement is with by showing us the first marriage relationship, Adam and Eve, in the book of Genesis. Genesis is called the book of beginnings and it’s in the very beginning that God describes His marriage covenant as between one man and one woman.

Jesus reaffirms this definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 by quoting the Genesis passage. ” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Jesus makes it clear from this passage that marriage is not only a heterosexual relationship “’made them male female ; man… united to his wife”; but a monogamous relationship “two will become one flesh; no longer two, but one” . He states it’s been this way from the beginning of time “that at the beginning” and also reaffirms marriage is a covenant that God created not man “what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Not only from the very beginning of time is marriage defined as between one man and one woman but we see it throughout the Bible. (7)

We see it when God tells us that any additional sexual relationship outside of the one flesh union is called adultery. (8) We see it when God condemns homosexuality.(9) Polygamy, while it may have been frequent in the Old Testament, was never God’s will for marriage. Wherever polygamy was involved; it was regarded by God as disobedience and with dire consequences. (10) For example Sarah, Abraham’s wife admitted Abraham’s decision to be with Hagar was wrong and worthy of punishment (11). King David was told the sword (violence) will never depart from his house due to his affair with Bathsheba. (12)

King Solomon’s downfall of his kingdom was attributed to violating God’s law of forbidding multiple wives. (13) The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor 10:11 that “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us…” . We would be wise to heed those warnings and understand marriage the way God intended it to be and treat His covenant with the utmost respect.

Summary

We can see from the very beginning of time, monogamy and heterosexuality has been God’s design for marriage. Therefore, God could never condone same sex marriages or polygamy for to do so would violate His own laws. Marriage is a gracious covenant of blessing through which God desires to show us His love (Also see: What Is God’s Purpose for Marriage).

God clearly gives us the definition of marriage as covenant union designed by God, between one man and one woman. Since marriage is God’s covenant, and not a secular institution, man cannot change or alter the parameters of that relationship to define what they want marriage to be. They can call those relationships something else but they cannot call it marriage.

FOOTNOTES:

  • (1) Eph 5:25
  • (2) Genesis 9:11 ; Exo 34:27 ; Jer 31:31 ; Heb 9:15
  • (3) Prov 2:17; Jer 22:9; 1 Sam 20:8; 1 Sam 23:18
  • (4) Malachi 2:14; Prov 18:22
  • (5) Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28-30.
  • (6) Genesis 2:24; Mat 19:5-6
  • (7) Genesis 2:24; Mat 19:5-6; Eph 5:31; 1 Cor 7:2).
  • (8) Exo 20:14; Mat 5:27-28
  • (9) Lev 18:22; Rom 1:26-27.
  • (10) Deu 17:17; Neh 13:26-27
  • (11) Gen 16:5
  • (12) 2 Sam 12:10
  • (13) (1 Ki 11:4; 1 Ki 11:6-11).
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Joy Basham

Joy Basham has an extensive background in Christian studies and teaching. After attending Florida Christian College for 2 years, over the next 30 years she taught ladies Bible studies for 9 years, taught college girls for almost 2 years, and lead her church’s ladies ministry for a year. She was actively involved in her husband’s teaching of married couples for 20 years. She has also taught workshops, been the lead speaker at a conference on raising children, and taught MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) for 2 years. Over the years she has, with her husband of 33 years, counseled many couples on marital conflicts, and given premarital counseling to couples preparing for marriage. She has enjoyed raising 3 children, now grown, and the oldest has been married for 7 years.