Definition: The union of a man and a woman to live together as husband and wife according to the standard set out in the Holy Scriptures. Marriage is a divine institution. It provides for intimate relationship between husband and wife along with a feeling of security because there is a climate of love and because a personal commitment has been made by each mate. When establishing marriage, Jehovah did so not only to provide a close companion who would be a complement of man but also to make provision for producing more humans and doing so within a family arrangement. Legally registering a marriage relationship that is acceptable to the Christian congregation is required wherever possible.
Is it really important to get married in accord with legal requirements?
Titus 3:1: “Continue reminding them to be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers.” (When people heed these instructions, the name of each party to the union is kept above reproach, and any children are spared the reproach that falls on those whose parents are not married. Additionally, legal registration of the marriage safeguards the property rights of family members in the event of death of one of the mates.)
Heb. 13:4: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Getting legally married plays an important part in having a marriage that is accepted as being “honorable.” When defining “fornication” and “adultery,” we should keep in mind what is stated at Titus 3:1, quoted above.)
1 Pet. 2:12-15: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection. For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior or to governors as being sent by him to inflict punishment on evildoers but to praise doers of good. For so the will of God is, that by doing good you may muzzle the ignorant talk of the unreasonable men.”
Were there any “legal formalities” when Adam and Eve began to live together?
Gen. 2:22-24: “Jehovah God proceeded to build the rib that he had taken from the man [Adam] into a woman and to bring her to the man. Then the man said: ‘This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one will be called Woman, because from man this one was taken.’ That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Notice that it was Jehovah God himself, the Universal Sovereign, who brought Adam and Eve together. This was not a matter of a man and a woman deciding to live together without concerning themselves about legal authority. Observe, too, the emphasis that God placed on the permanence of the union.)
Gen. 1:28: “God blessed them [Adam and Eve] and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.’” (Here the blessing of the highest legal Authority was pronounced upon the union, they were authorized to have sex relations and were given an assignment that would fill their lives with meaning.)
May a person practice polygamy if local law allows for it?
1 Tim. 3:2, 12: “The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible, a husband of one wife . . . Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife.” (Not only were these men entrusted with responsibility but they were also examples to be imitated by others in the Christian congregation.)
1 Cor. 7:2: “Because of prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband.” (There is no allowance here for plurality of mates on either side.)
Why did God permit Abraham, Jacob, and Solomon each to have more than one wife?
Jehovah is not the originator of polygamy. He gave Adam just one wife. Later, Lamech, a descendant of Cain, took two wives for himself. (Gen. 4:19) In time others imitated his example, and some took slave girls as concubines. God tolerated the practice, and under the Mosaic Law he even instituted measures to assure proper treatment of women who had such a relationship. He did this until the Christian congregation was established, but then he required that his servants return to the standard that he himself had instituted in Eden.
As for Abraham, he took Sarai (Sarah) as his wife. When she was about 75 years of age and thought she would never bear a child, she requested her husband to have relations with her maidservant so that Sarai could have a legal child by means of her. Abraham did so, but it led to serious friction in his household. (Gen. 16:1-4) Jehovah fulfilled his promise to Abraham regarding a “seed” by later miraculously causing Sarah herself to become pregnant. (Gen. 18:9-14) It was not until after Sarah’s death that Abraham took another wife.—Gen. 23:2; 25:1.
Jacob became a polygamist because of deception on the part of his father-in-law. It was not what Jacob had in mind when he went to seek a wife in Padʹdan-aʹram. The Bible record tells in considerable detail about the unhappy rivalry between his wives.—Gen. 29:18–30:24.
It is well known that Solomon had many wives as well as concubines. But not everyone is aware that, in doing so, he was violating Jehovah’s clearly stated commandment that the king “should also not multiply wives for himself, that his heart may not turn aside.” (Deut. 17:17) It should also be noted that, because of the influence of his foreign wives, Solomon turned to the worship of false gods and “began to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah . . . And Jehovah came to be incensed at Solomon.”—1 Ki. 11:1-9.
If mates just cannot live together in peace, is separation permissible?
1 Cor. 7:10-16: “To the married people I give instructions, yet not I but the Lord, that a wife should not depart from her husband; but if she should actually depart, let her remain unmarried or else make up again with her husband; and a husband should not leave his wife. But to the others I say, yes, I, not the Lord [but, as verse 40 shows, Paul was directed by holy spirit]: If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not in servitude under such circumstances, but God has called you to peace. For, wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?” (Why would the believer put up with hardship and earnestly endeavor to hold the marriage together? Out of respect for the divine origin of marriage and in hope that the unbeliever may in time be helped to become a servant of the true God.)
What is the Bible’s view regarding divorce with a view to remarriage?
Mal. 2:15, 16: “‘You people must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and with the wife of your youth may no one deal treacherously. For he has hated a divorcing,’ Jehovah the God of Israel has said.”
Matt. 19:8, 9: “[Jesus] said to them: ‘Moses, out of regard for your hardheartedness, made the concession to you of divorcing your wives, but such has not been the case from the beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication [extramarital intercourse], and marries another commits adultery.’” (So the innocent mate is permitted, but not required, to divorce a mate who commits “fornication.”)
Rom. 7:2, 3: “A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law of her husband. So, then, while her husband is living, she would be styled an adulteress if she became another man’s. But if her husband dies, she is free from his law, so that she is not an adulteress if she becomes another man’s.”
1 Cor. 6:9-11: “Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” (This emphasizes the seriousness of the matter. Unrepentant adulterers will have no part in God’s Kingdom. Yet, people who formerly committed adultery, perhaps even improperly getting remarried, can gain God’s forgiveness and a clean standing with him if they are genuinely repentant and exercise faith in the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice.)
In the past why did God allow marriage between brother and sister?
The Bible record does indicate that Cain married one of his sisters (Gen. 4:17; 5:4) and that Abram married his half sister. (Gen. 20:12) But later, in the Law given through Moses, such marriage unions were specifically forbidden. (Lev. 18:9, 11) They are not permitted among Christians today. Marriage to a close relative results in a more-than-average probability that damaging hereditary factors will be passed on to their offspring.
Why was brother-and-sister marriage not inappropriate at the beginning of mankind’s history? God created Adam and Eve perfect and purposed that all humankind descend from them. (Gen. 1:28; 3:20) Obviously some marrying of close relatives, especially within the first few generations, would occur. Even after sin made its appearance, there was relatively little danger of marked deformities in the children during early generations, because the human race was much closer to the perfection that had been enjoyed by Adam and Eve. This is attested to by the longevity of people then. (See Genesis 5:3-8; 25:7.) But about 2,500 years after Adam became a sinner, God prohibited incestuous marriage. This served to safeguard the offspring and it elevated the sexual morality of Jehovah’s servants above that of people around them who were then engaging in all manner of depraved practices.—See Leviticus 18:2-18.
What can help to improve a marriage?
(2) Appreciating the principle of headship. This puts a heavy responsibility on the husband. (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:25-33; Col. 3:19) It also calls for earnest effort on the part of the wife.—Eph. 5:22-24, 33; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1-6.