“God created man in His own image...male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth’ ” (Genesis 1:27, 28, NKJV).
Marriage is a basic social institution that has been around for as far back as we have historical records—either in secular sources or in the Bible—although it has taken different forms at different times and in different cultures.
The Bible goes on to say that after God created Eve “He brought her to the man. And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24).
This account of the very first marriage highlights the fundamental characteristic of a godly marriage—a husband and wife become “one flesh.” Obviously, they remain two individuals, but in God’s ideal for marriage the two become one—in purpose.
They share the same values, the same goals, the same outlook. They work together to build a strong, godly family and raise their children to be good, godly people.
It’s important to note that God initiated this very first marriage in Eden. Marriage comes from God. And His union of Adam and Eve illustrates God’s ideal for marriage—one man and one woman joined together in a life-long commitment to each other, working together to form strong, godly families. Obviously, human beings haven’t always followed that ideal, but God’s way is still the best way.
The Bible has a lot to say about marriage, so let’s make a “Top Ten List” of the most important Bible texts about marriage—and then look at each one more closely.
1) Mark 10:6-9 = God instituted marriage and gives it His blessing. (See also Genesis 1:27, 28; Hebrews 13:4)
2) Genesis 2:18 = God created humans with an innate need and desire for the close bond that marriage provides. (See also Proverbs 18:22)
3) Genesis 2:23, 24 = Husband and wife become “one” in the marriage bond. (See also Matthew 19:5, 6)
4) Ecclesiastes 9:9 = Marriage is a lifelong commitment. (See also Proverbs 5:18)
5) Ephesians 5:28, 33 = Husbands and wives are to love and respect each other.
6) II Corinthians 6:14 = Husbands and wives should be bonded together with a similarity of beliefs, goals, and objectives. (See also Deuteronomy 7:3, 4; Genesis 24:3, 4)
7) Exodus 20:17 = Husbands and wives are to be sexually faithful to each other in the marriage relationship. (See also Leviticus 18:20)
8) Matthew 5:32 = Adultery is the only biblically acceptable reason for divorce.
9) Isaiah 62:5 = An ideal marriage relationship mirrors God’s loving relationship with His people. (See also Isaiah 54:5; Ephesians 5:25)
10) Proverbs 31:10 = A strong marriage relationship is a precious thing.
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). We have already seen that God performed the very first wedding at the end of Creation week and blessed the new couple (Genesis 1:27, 28). Marriage is something that God Himself instituted and blessed. This is important, because it tells us that marriage is a good thing. It is one of the blessings that God has given us from the very beginning.
The Bible puts it like this: “From the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, . . . Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9).
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper comparable to him’ ” (Genesis 2:18). After each of the six days of Creation week, God reviewed what He had made and saw that it was “good.” But there was one thing in Eden that very first week that was not good! All the animals God had created, came in pairs—a male and a female. But there was no female for Adam! That is when God created Eve and performed the very first marriage (Genesis 2:21-24).
God made men and women to complement each other—physically, mentally, and socially. He built into our being a desire for the companionship of a husband or wife. That’s why the Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
“He [God] brought her [Eve] to the man. And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23, 24).
Have you ever noticed how couples who have been happily married for many years often seem to blend together on so many levels? They know what the other person is thinking and how their spouse will react to a given situation. They can finish each other’s sentences. They have so much history together that they almost feel like the other is an extension of themselves. That’s what the Bible is talking about when it says a husband and wife “become one flesh.”
“Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your . . . life” (Ecclesiastes 9:9). There is a reason the traditional marriage vow includes the phrase “till death do you part.” Marriage, as God intended it, is a commitment for life—during good times and bad.
“Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. . . . Let each one of you . . . so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:28, 33). Without mutual love and respect on the part of husbands and wives, a marriage cannot last. Keep up the early attentions. Look for the positive qualities in your spouse, and nurture that respect and love that first drew you together.
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Marriage is a blending of two lives into “one flesh.” This doesn’t mean that husbands and wives must think and feel exactly alike in everything. Marriage doesn’t extinguish individuality.
But if there is a broad divide in religious beliefs or other important issues, it will be much more difficult to achieve the oneness that God envisions for an ideal marriage. Forging a strong marriage is not easy at best, and becomes even more challenging when couples must try to bridge major differences.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). “You shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, to defile yourself with her” (Leviticus 18:20). One of the important objectives of marriage is to direct the human sexual drive into appropriate channels. There is a great lack of sexual restraint in society today, but it would be infinitely greater without the divine mandates restricting sexual activity to marriage and the social constraints that try to do the same. Sexual infidelity is devastating to a marriage—even for those who have little or no religious beliefs.
Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32). This grows out of the principle stated above—that sexual faithfulness in marriage is vital. Jesus’ statement is a difficult one. It is a clear biblical teaching. Jesus doesn’t offer any exceptions or alternatives. But it is not easy to know how to apply it in the dysfunctional world we live in today. Perhaps the best we can do is to know that Jesus understands just what it is to be human, and He sympathizes with us in our weaknesses (see Hebrews 4:15).
“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). Throughout the Bible, God presents Himself as the husband of His people. His church is His bride whom He loves and cherishes (Ephesians 5:25-27). Marriage is the closest, most intimate relationship we can experience here on earth, and God uses it to illustrate the intimate relationship He wants to have with you and me!
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts in her” (Proverbs 31:10).
Proverbs 31 has been called a description of “The Ideal Wife.” And it’s true that the chapter, as written, focuses on the wife. But in reality the ideal qualities given in this chapter apply equally to a husband as well as to a wife.
So how does the Bible define a good wife (or husband)? Here is a list of characteristics based on Proverbs 31. Look up the verses and see for yourself how they are described. Can you find other qualities in this chapter that are not listed here?
One of the ways the Bible teaches us is by stories and examples (1 Corinthians 10:11). And in the area of marriage, the Bible gives us examples of good marriages and bad ones.
For an example of a good marriage, read the story of Ruth and Boaz. You’ll find it in the short, Old Testament book of Ruth. It’s only four chapters. As you read the story of their marriage—how they met and came together—look for the elements that made their marriage a success and a union that God could bless. Ruth and Boaz lived in a very different time and culture than we do today, so some of the details may seem strange to you. But the principles of a good marriage are timeless.
For an example of a bad marriage—a really bad marriage—read the story of Samson and Delilah. It’s told in chapters 14, 15, and 16 of the book of Judges. Look for the reasons this marriage was doomed from the beginning. What made it such a dysfunctional relationship? Notice particularly the tragic ending. We can learn a lot from the examples of others—good and bad.
What does the Bible say about marriage? It says that marriage is a blessing given to us by God to make our lives richer and more fulfilling. It says that a good marriage not only draws us closer to our spouse, it can draw us closer to God. “He who finds a wife [or she who finds a husband] finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).