The Bible and marriage?


IN my last article on marriage, I discussed what a customary marriage is and the basic steps involved in formally allowing young couples to meet and eventually marry.
In this article, I would look at some of the teachings and examples from the Bible. As was stated in the past, how we approach a marriage would depend on whether we are using a modern, customary or Christian model.
This article cannot justifiably cover all the aspects of marriage. But I will try to touch on the basics.
We will start by looking at an example from the Old Testament.

How Isaac got married  
Abraham, the Father of Faith in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, went out from Ur, in Mesopotamia, in modern-day Iraq. He travelled up north and settled in Canaan, which is modern-day Israel.
Late in his life, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, bore him a son, Isaac. In Genesis 24, Abraham asked the most senior of his servants to go back to Mesopotamia and look for a bride for Isaac.
The patriarch stated clearly that he did not want Isaac to marry a girl from Canaan. He wanted Isaac to marry someone from his place of origin.
(You can read the chapter yourself and see all the details in the servant’s quest. The distance from Canaan to Ur in Mesopotamia, in the south is about 5,500 kilometres. That is about six times the distance from Port Moresby to Manus.)
It happened that when the servant and his men appeared in Mesopotamia, they stopped beside a well to get water.
The servant then prayed to God and said the girl who comes with her pitcher to the well and gives him water to drink, as well as draws water for their camels, will be Isaac’s bride.
Weird as it were, Rebecca appeared and did exactly as asked by the servant in his prayer. She also happened to be the daughter of Bethuel and the sister of Laban. Bethuel was the son of Nahor, Abraham’s older brother.
When the servant asked Rebecca if they could go to her father’s house to spend the night, she said yes and led them there. Everything was falling into place.
The Bible describes Rebecca as a very beautiful young woman. She was also a virgin. (See verse 16.)
At Bethuel’s home, the servant told Bethuel and Laban about his prayer and how it was answered. He then asked if Rebecca could follow him and his company back to Canaan as Isaac’s bride.
The two relatives were happy and said Rebecca could go with him. The servant then gave jewels of silver, jewels of gold and clothes to Rebecca, and other gifts to Laban and her mother.
After a night’s rest, the two asked the servant if he and his men could tarry for a few days, maybe 10. The servant insisted that he and his men should leave.
Then Bethuel and Laban said they would ask Rebecca if she was ready to leave. When she said she was ready to go to Canaan as a bride, the two gave their blessing and she joined Abraham’s men with her servants and they headed for Canaan.
There is something important to note at the end of the chapter, in verse 67. It says Rebecca became Isaac’s wife and he loved her and he “was comforted after the death of his mother”.

Studying the way Isaac got married 
Let us now review the story above and take note of certain important aspects.
The marriage was customary as well as a spiritual one. It was cultural then for parents to take the initiative to look for a bride for their son.
They prayed about it. Abraham prayed about it and his senior servant too prayed about it.
And the family of Rebecca supported the proposal when they heard the servant and his testimony of praying to God and giving him a sign.
Abraham did not want his son to marry a girl from Canaan. Why is that so?
Possibly, because of security reasons. Isaac’s faith and that of his fathers would be preserved.
If you read the books of Kings in the Old Testament, you will notice that over time Israel’s kings married foreign women and forsook God for other gods. And that is what caused the downfall of the kingdom of Israel.
(Teachers in church often teach their young people too that it is advisable that one should marry one’s own kind, someone from the same faith. It helps in a lot of ways. You do not have a lot of differences.)
I think you notice too that Isaac was marrying a close relative of his. That is not unusual in those days.
In some tribes in Papua New Guinea, it was common traditionally for people to marry another who was related to them. They may be a child of a distant relative from another tribe or village.
Rebecca was described as a very beautiful girl and a virgin. Additionally, she was industrious and sociable.
(It is likely that her family often took in strangers into their home and got paid for accommodating them.
That is why Rebecca took the initiative to approach the strangers from Canaan and offered to help them. In today’s world, it is like wooing a group of visitors from the airport to a hotel run by your father. In that sense, Rebecca was business-minded.)
The other thing to note is when her father and brother asked Rebecca if she was ready to go, she said yes. She did not hesitate.
She knew it was God’s plan for her. She may have heard from her father about their relative Abraham leaving Ur many years ago to go to a foreign land and may have thought about what it was like there too.
In verse 65, as they were entering Negev, Rebecca saw a man in the distance and asked the senior servant who he was. When the servant said the man was Isaac, Rebecca, who was already off her camel, took her veil and covered herself.
The small act of covering herself is a sign of respect for her husband and shows something of the kind of woman she was.
Lastly but not the least, in verse 67, we learn that Rebecca became Isaacs’s wife and he loved her and “Isaac was comforted after the death of his mother”.
Often a woman provide a certain kind of assurance for a man in a way that can only come from their mother. Or, seeing it another way, sometimes the hurt in a life of a person can be assuaged by being in a relationship with a good friend or partner.

Jesus at a wedding
In the New Testament, in John 2.1-11, the Bible tells us that story of Jesus and his disciples at Cana of Galilee.
A wedding ceremony was staged and Jesus’ mother was there and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to go. That was where Jesus performed his first miracle.
There is something significant here. When the invitation came for him and his disciples, they accepted and went there.
It was there that they were told that the wine had run out and Jesus turned water into wine.
The fact that Jesus and his disciples had attended and helped out with the wine showed that the event was important in the eyes of God.

What is love?
Now, we turn to another aspect in a relationship and marriage.
You will often hear lines like: “Yeah, I loved him and married him. But now, I don’t have any feelings for him.”
Or: “She was the one I loved until we got into that argument. Now, I don’t want to talk to her.”
Can love be determined by feelings?
Can you love someone now and tomorrow you hate him or her?
Well, that depends on what you mean by love.
Back in the 1990s, there was a hit song with the title, “What is love?”
The song reached number one in 13 countries and number two in at least three other countries. It is a good question.
Many people are confused by the word love. Yet, it is a popular word in many songs.
The Bible offers some explanation about the word in the New Testament, particularly in 1 Corinthians 13.
We can call that the Love Chapter, or the Agape Chapter.
Greek, the original language which the Bible was written in, often uses three different words for “love” – “eros”, the sexual love, “phileo”, the love between brothers, sisters and friends, and “agape”, the love of God for mankind.
Agape is the deepest of all loves.
In the King James Version, the word for “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 is “charity” – it differentiates it from other types of “love”.
(Whenever I hear someone using “I love you”, I ask myself whether they are talking about eros or agape? It makes you wonder, if you know that love can mean different things.)
Here are some verses in the Agape Chapter (in NIV), from verses 3-8:
(3) If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
(4) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
(5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
(6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
(7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(8) Love never fails …
Can you see that those verses explain clearly what the deepest of love is?
If all couples lived this kind of love, there will be less conflicts, and almost no domestic violence, or divorce and separation?
Agape is the deeper love, and someone who exhibits this is showing God’s love, which is higher than other kinds of love.
One thought that I always had about Agape Love is the concept of “giving”.
Some people get married and ask themselves what their partner will give. If they know Agape Love, the question they should have in their minds is: What can I give to this beautiful soul that I have decided to live the rest of my life with?
How much can I give to make her or him become a better person in our relationship?
I know it sounds weird. But that is Agape Love. It is the highest love. It is forever. It is about giving.
In the Christian context, if you say you love someone it would mean forever.
In other languages or other contexts, it may mean a feeling or thought, and feelings and thoughts do change over time.

The husband must love the wife
In Ephesians 5.22-25, the Bible says:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord.
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
“Husband, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and give himself for it …”
I think all that is clear.
Decades ago, I heard a preacher say in a sermon in a radio programme almost the same thing from this passage: Wives must respect their husbands and husbands must love their wives. If those basic rules are followed, marriage problems will be minimised.
Paul makes the comparison of the wife-husband relationship to the church-Christ relationship.
In God’s judgement, the husband will be judged for having loved his wife or not and the wife will be judged for respecting and submitting to her husband or not.
And Christian’s should be aware of that.
Next item: Is same-sex marriage right?

  • Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.

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