Applied Theology

by WordExplain

Bringing the Truths of the Bible to Bear on Specific Topics.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

The Bible and Marriage
  • The Old Testament and Marriage

    • In Genesis 1 God Lays the Foundation for Marriage. 
      • God made man in his own likeness and image (Genesis 1:26-27).

        • Genesis 1:26 - 27  26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  

        •  That likeness included maleness and femaleness.  That is not to say that one member of the Godhead is male and another female.  It is worth noting, however, that God the Father appears to be the Initiator.  He sent God the Son to this earth to redeem and rule man.  When God the Son left this earth, He promised He would send the Holy Spirit.  Ever since, the Holy Spirit has been indwelling the Church.  Clearly the leading and the following, and the triune cooperation of the Godhead is embodied in the male / female nature of the marriage relationship as God designed it.  To denigrate maleness and femaleness in marriage is to denigrate the image of God in man.  In that God made man as male and female, in His own likeness, it is implied that man as male and female in the marriage relationship are to reflect the image and likeness of God.

        • Men and women who jointly make it their goal to reflect the image and likeness of God will have the most satisfying and fulfilling marriages, even in the sin-marred world in which we live today.

      • God's first stated purpose for man as male and female was to reproduce.  

        • Genesis 1:28  God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 
        • It is to be understood that a primary purpose of marriage, then, is reproduction.  That is easily understood from the manner in which God designed the human anatomy.  He designed and wired the husband to be the initiator and impregnator.  He designed and wired the wife to be the receptor, the responder, the bearer, and the nurturer.  And He designed the whole process to be a joint venture of the highest magnitude of unity, intimacy, pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment.
        • It stands to reason that, in today's sin-marred world, it is safe to assume that married couples who together dedicate their lives to reflect that image of God in man will tend to have the most fulfilling and rewarding physical intimacy in marriage.  Statistics bear this out.

      • God's second stated purpose for man as male and female was a joint venture in filling and subduing the earth.  

        • God made man and woman King and Queen of the earth.  God commanded Man and Woman to rule over the entire animal kingdom (Gen. 1:28), including all the animals of the three domains of air, sea, and earth.  

        • God furthermore gave Man and Woman complete authority over the plant kingdom.  The plants were to serve as a food source, not only for man, but also for the animal kingdom (Gen. 1:29).

        • Since God is a benevolent God with high moral and ethical standards, it is to be assumed that He expected man to subdue the earth and rule over all the animals in a benevolent manner with high moral and ethical standards.

        • We conclude that the man and woman who bond together jointly to manage their portion of God's earth for the honor and glory of God will tend to have the most rewarding marriage.  Farm families, for example, where both husband and wife contribute to a common family goal, historically have had the most fulfilled and long-lived marriages.  Conversely, those men and women who pursue separate careers are less likely to settle into a marriage of fulfillment and longevity.  A significant number of Hollywood marriages, for example, illustrate that reality.

When God instituted marriage, there was no death.  The Wedding Band symbolizes marriage as God designed it - one man and one woman joined together without end.
    • In Genesis 2 God Inaugurated Marriage.

      •    God stated two fundamental purposes for His creation of woman (Genesis 2:18).

        • Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 

        • In Genesis 1:4, God saw the light was good; in Gen. 1:10 He saw the separation of earth from seas was good; in Gen. 1:12 He saw that all manner of vegetation was good; in Gen. 1:18 He saw that the lights He had placed in the heavens was good; in Gen. 1:21 He saw that His creation of sea creatures and birds was good; in Gen. 1:25 He saw that His creation of land animals was good; in Gen. 1:31 He saw that every thing He had made in six days was very good.

        • For the first time, something is stated to be "not good!"  in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for the man to be alone."  God is by nature a gregarious being.  He Himself exists in three persons.  He has created innumerable angels (messengers) with whom He is able to converse.  God had created a seemingly limitless number of animals of all sorts, sizes, and shape.  Lastly He had created Man in His own image and likeness.   But man's loneliness was not God.

        • In remedying man's loneliness God reveals His rationale in creating woman.  Not only was she to cooperate with man in reproduction; not only was she to partner with him in filling and subduing the earth; not only was she to partner with him in reigning over the animal kingdom; her noble purpose was to fill the void of loneliness and provide companionship for the man!  It follows then, that a major purpose in marriage is for the woman to provide companionship for her man.  If the marriage is to prosper as God designed it, the wife will see one of her primary purposes is to provide companionship for her husband.  Talking together, doing things together, dreaming together, planning together, subduing the earth together -- companionship is of paramount importance.

        • It stands to reason, then, that a successful marriage will be one in which the wife tailors her activities, interests, and pursuits to be available as a companion to her husband.  An arrangement, for example, in which the husband works one shift and his wife another, defeats the purpose of marriage.  Companionship ought to be a primary emphasis in marriage.

        • In Genesis 2:18 God unearths another fundamental purpose in the marriage relationship.  In order to alleviate the void of loneliness, which God flatly states is not good, He determines to rectify man's loneliness by providing him a suitable helper, or, as the margin states, literally, God said, "I will make him a helper corresponding to him." 

        • The need for a suitable helper is underscored in Genesis 2:19-20.  Out of the ground God had formed every land animal and every bird.  God brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.  Whatever Adam named an animal, that name God accepted.  Adam was exercising his mastery over the animals, both in a rulership sense and in a cognitive sense.  But there was an additional benefit in the naming process.  Adam could see clearly that there were male and female of each kind of animal.  But for Adam there was found no suitable (or corresponding) helper.  As intelligent and affectionate as these pre-sin, pre-curse, pre-Flood animals were, there was an enormous gap between himself and them.  Adam could see the difference and he could sense it deep within himself.

        • So God created out of Adam's rib a suitable helper.  She must have been lovely, without a single blemish.  Her intellect and demeanor and bearing had been created by God not only for reproduction, but to fill for Adam the void in companionship, and to assist him in his mission of subduing the earth and ruling over the animal kingdom.  What a joyous, rewarding, and fulfilling journey lay ahead of them.

        • It stands to reason, then, that, in addition to helping man reproduce and fill the earth, woman's fundamental roles in marriage consist of being, first of all, a companion to her husband, and second in being an assistant to help him accomplish his work.

        • It follows then, that a marriage in which a wife understands her two primary roles are to serve as a companion to her husband and as an assistant in helping him accomplish his work will be a marriage that fulfills God's design, purpose and intention.  To deviate from that pattern is to participate in a marriage that will be fraught with strife, contention, and ill will.  A marriage will work best when it functions in the manner in which God designed it.

    • How Can We Summarize What God Has Revealed About Marriage in Genesis 1-2?

      • It is A UNION.  Genesis 2:24   For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

      • It is AN UNCONDITIONAL UNION. Gen. 2:24

      • It is A DIVINELY-BONDED UNION.  Gen. 2:18-22, 24

        • God  planned it.  Gen. 2:18-20

        • God brought it into existence.  Gen. 2:21-22

        • God actually joins two people together into one flesh. Gen. 2:24; Matthew 19:6b   6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

      • It is A UNION OF MALE AND FEMALE.  Gen. 1:26-27

        • Two men can never make a marriage.

        • Two women can never make a marriage.

      • It is a UNION OF ONE MALE AND ONE FEMALE. Gen. 2:22-24

        • Against fornication.

        • Against adultery.

        • Against polygamy.

        • Against promiscuity.

      • It is a LIFE-LONG UNION. Gen. 2:18-25

        • God's plan did not include a Trial Marriage.

        • God's plan did not include Divorce.

        • God's plan did not include Death. 

      • It is a UNION INITIATED BY THE MALE.  Gen. 2:24.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

      • It is an INDEPENDENT UNION.  Genesis 2:24


    • How Did Sin Affect the Marriage Relationship?  Genesis 3

      • There is no question that sin adversely affected the relationship of man and woman in marriage.  Some preliminary observations are in order first.

        • Though Eve was the first to sin, God held Adam responsible.  "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world..."  (Romans 5:12a).

        • Through Adam's sin, death entered the world.  "...and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—" (Romans 5:12b).  That means that Adam and Eve's marriage, and any marriage thereafter, would be adversely affected by death.

          • On a spiritual and emotional level (for the spirit affects the emotions), Adam and Eve would tend to be more distant from one another than God had designed.  Adam and Eve died spiritually the moment they sinned.  This is evident from their embarrassment at their nakedness (Gen. 3:8) and particularly by their fruitless efforts to hide from God (Gen. 3:8).  Spiritual death is defined as man being separated from God, who is essentially Spirit (John 4:24).  Since man is created in the image of God, when man sinned, that spiritual likeness was marred.   Unable to relate to God as designed, by default man and woman would be unable to relate to one another on a spiritual level as designed.  With defective spiritual intimacy, they would suffer defective emotional intimacy.


Husband Wife
      • As illustrated in the diagram above, if God represents the apex of  the triangle, and the husband and wife represent the corners, the more distant the couple are from God, the more distant they are from one another.  Conversely, the closer the husband and wife draw to God, the closer they draw to one another.

      • Death is also physical.  Physical death is defined as the separation of the human spirit from the human body.  As a consequence of his sin, God told Adam in Gen. 3:19,

            By the sweat of your face

            You will eat bread,

            Till you return to the ground,

            Because from it you were taken;

            For you are dust,

            And to dust you shall return.”

A man and woman are in their physical prime in their twenties.  As age increases, so also does entropy and decay.  Physical death is a process with a final exclamation point, and to be quite blunt, it is an ugly process.  A woman who looks beautiful or at least attractive at 22 will, to a 25-year old man, look repugnant at age 80.  The same holds true for the appearance of a man.  Any marriage based merely upon the physical will have extreme difficulty in surviving, because, quite frankly, the eye appeal and the physical joys of marriage gradually decay.  God never intended for humans to decay, and the onset of physical death creates growing difficulty in a marriage until finally, the marriage dies when its participants cease breathing.
      • In addition to the adverse effects of sin upon the relation of couple to one another with the image of God in man marred, there were some other significant results.

        • Work would become toilsome, burdensome and fraught with obstacles.    The ground itself was cursed (Gen. 3:17-19).  Work, which God had designed to be a blessing in a marriage, would now become a grinding chore that would inevitably impinge on the quality of the home life.  Man was banished from Paradise to fight with thorns and thistles.

        • Whereas God's original purpose had apparently been for man and wife to subdue the earth and rule the animal kingdom almost as coequals (Gen. 1:26-28), now the woman's role in the home would grow problematic.  Pain would mar her child-bearing uniqueness;  now, her husband would rule over her (Gen. 3:16).

        • What About Polygamy in the Old Testament?
          • We should understand from God's design for marriage in Genesis 1-2 that He planned the union of one man and one woman in marriage for life.  Sadly, fallen man does not often burden himself with following God's design in marriage, or, for that matter, in anything.

          • It should not surprise us that fallen man would resort to polygamy.  It happened as early as Lamech and his two wives in Genesis 4:19.  Let us also be fair in saying that God does not reveal all his thoughts on a subject in a particular age.  Divine revelation was ongoing, but intermittent over a space of four thousand years.

          • On the other hand, the Old Testament is instructive.  In every instance in which the dynamics of the home with multiple wives are detailed, the home is fraught with strife.  There was conflict between Sarah and Hagar (Gen. 16:1-4; 21:9-14).  There was conflict between Rachel and Leah (Gen. 29:30-31; 30:1-2, et al).  There was bitter conflict between Hannah and Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:1-8).  The conflict between Sarah and Hagar did not end with their generation.  Jewish people are descendants of Sarah's son Isaac, while the Arabs are descendants of Hagar's son Ishmael.  Clearly polygamy is not in God's plan, nor does it prove to be beneficial in practice.  

          • The New Testament standard is given, for example, in the qualifications for church leadership.  An overseer (elder) and a deacon must be , literally, "an of one woman [kind of] man."  (See 1 Timothy 3:1, 12; Titus 1:6.)

WordExplain by James T. Bartsch

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.  Used by Permission.)

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Published November 3, 2010

Updated February 15, 2022