Marriage—Its Origin and Purpose
“Jehovah God said: ‘It is not good for the man to continue to be alone. I am going to make a helper for him.’”—GEN. 2:18.
1, 2. (a) How did marriage begin? (b) What could the first man and woman have realized about marriage? (See opening picture.)
MARRIAGE is very much a part of life. A review of its origin and purpose can help us to have a proper view of this relationship and enjoy its intended blessings more fully. After God created the first man, Adam, the animals were brought to him so that he could name them. But “for man there was no helper as a complement of him.” God therefore caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, took a rib from him, built it into a woman, and brought her to the man. (Read Genesis 2:20-24.) Thus, marriage is of divine origin.
2 Jesus confirmed that it was Jehovah who stated: “A man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.” (Matt. 19:4, 5) God’s use of a rib from Adam in creating the first woman could have impressed on the first human couple the closeness of their union. There was no arrangement for divorce or for having more than one mate at the same time.
HOW MARRIAGE SERVES JEHOVAH’S PURPOSE
3. What was an important purpose of marriage?
3 Adam was delighted with his lovely wife, whom he later named Eve. Being “a complement” of him, she would be “a helper for him” as they daily brought happiness to each other by fulfilling their roles as husband and wife. (Gen. 2:18) An important purpose of marriage was to populate the earth. (Gen. 1:28) Though they loved their parents, sons and daughters would leave them to get married and form new households. Humans would fill the earth to a comfortable degree and would extend their home until the entire globe was a paradise.
4. What happened to the first marriage?
4 The first marriage was struck with calamity because both Adam and Eve chose to misuse their free will by disobeying Jehovah. “The original serpent,” Satan the Devil, deceived Eve by leading her to believe that eating fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” imparted special knowledge that would enable her to decide what was good and what was bad. She did not show respect for her husband’s headship by asking him about the matter. And instead of obeying God, Adam accepted the fruit Eve held out to him.—Rev. 12:9; Gen. 2:9, 16, 17; 3:1-6.
5. What can we learn from Adam’s and Eve’s responses to Jehovah?
5 When brought to account by God, Adam blamed his wife, saying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate.” Eve blamed the serpent for deceiving her. (Gen. 3:12, 13) Lame excuses but no justification! Because the first human pair had disobeyed Jehovah, they stood before him as condemned rebels. What a warning for us! For success in marriage, each mate must accept personal responsibility and obey Jehovah.
6. How would you explain Genesis 3:15?
6 Despite what Satan did in Eden, Jehovah held out hope for mankind in the first Bible prophecy. (Read Genesis 3:15.) The original rebellious spirit creature would be crushed by the “offspring” of “the woman.” Jehovah thus gave humans a glimpse of the special relationship that exists between him and the vast throngs of righteous spirit creatures serving him in heaven. The Scriptures later revealed that from his wifelike organization, God would send one who would “crush” the Devil and provide the means for obedient mankind to enjoy the prospect that the first human pair lost—that of living forever on the earth in keeping with Jehovah’s original purpose.—John 3:16.
7. (a) What has happened to marriage since the rebellion of Adam and Eve? (b) What does the Bible require of husbands and wives?
7 The rebellion of Adam and Eve had an impact on their marriage and on all marriages thereafter. For example, Eve and her female descendants would experience much pain during pregnancy and childbirth. Women would have a longing for their husbands, but men would dominate their wives, even abusively, as we see in many marriages today. (Gen. 3:16) The Bible requires that husbands exercise headship in a loving way. In turn, wives are to submit to the headship of their husbands. (Eph. 5:33) Because of cooperation between God-fearing mates, situations that cause friction are kept to a minimum or eliminated entirely.
MARRIAGE FROM THE TIME OF ADAM TO THE FLOOD
8. What is the history of marriage from the time of Adam to the Flood?
8 Before sin and imperfection brought about the death of Adam and Eve, the couple produced sons and daughters. (Gen. 5:4) Their first son, Cain, married one of his female relatives. Cain’s descendant Lamech is the first man reported as having two wives. (Gen. 4:17, 19) In the generations from Adam to the Flood of Noah’s day, only a few individuals are identified as worshippers of Jehovah. Among them were Abel, Enoch, and Noah and his family. In Noah’s day, “the sons of the true God began to notice that the daughters of men were beautiful,” says the Bible. “So they began taking as wives all whom they chose.” This unnatural union of materialized angels and women produced violent hybrids known as Nephilim. Moreover, “man’s wickedness was great on the earth” and “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.”—Gen. 6:1-5.
9. What did Jehovah do to the wicked in Noah’s day, and what lesson should we learn from what happened at that time?
9 Jehovah brought about the Flood of Noah’s day in order to destroy the wicked. At that time, people were so occupied with the daily affairs of life, including marriage, that they did not take seriously what “Noah, a preacher of righteousness,” said about the impending destruction. (2 Pet. 2:5) Jesus compared conditions then with what we would see in our day. (Read Matthew 24:37-39.) Today, most people refuse to listen to the good news of God’s Kingdom that is being preached throughout the earth for a witness to all the nations before this wicked system is brought to its end. Let us take to heart the lesson that even family-matters, such as marriage and the raising of children, should not be allowed to crowd out our sense of urgency as to Jehovah’s day.
MARRIAGE FROM THE FLOOD TO JESUS’ DAY
10. (a) In many cultures, what sexual practices became a way of life? (b) How did Abraham and Sarah set a good example in their marriage?
10 Although Noah and his three sons each had only one wife, polygamy was practiced in patriarchal times. In many cultures, sexual immorality became a way of life, even being incorporated into religious rites. When Abram (Abraham) and his wife, Sarai (Sarah), obeyed God and moved to Canaan, that land was filled with practices that made a mockery of marriage. Jehovah therefore decreed that Sodom and Gomorrah be destroyed because inhabitants of those cities practiced or condoned gross sexual immorality. Abraham took the proper lead in his family, and Sarah set a fine example by submitting to her husband’s headship. (Read 1 Peter 3:3-6.) Abraham made sure that his son Isaac married a worshipper of Jehovah. Similar concern for true worship guided Isaac’s son Jacob, whose sons became the forefathers of the 12 tribes of Israel.
11. How did the Mosaic Law protect the Israelites?
11 Later, Jehovah brought the descendants of Jacob (Israel) into a covenant relationship with Him. The basic marriage practices of patriarchal times, including polygamy, were regulated by the Mosaic Law. It helped to protect the Israelites spiritually by prohibiting marriage to false worshippers. (Read Deuteronomy 7:3, 4.) When serious problems arose in marriage, help was often provided by the elders. Unfaithfulness, jealousy, and suspicions were dealt with appropriately. Divorce was allowed, but it too was regulated. A man could divorce his wife for “something indecent.” (Deut. 24:1) What was “indecent” is not defined, but it is reasonable to assume that it did not include petty issues.—Lev. 19:18.
NEVER DEAL TREACHEROUSLY WITH YOUR MATE
12, 13. (a) How were some men treating their wives in Malachi’s day? (b) Today, if a baptized person ran off with someone else’s mate, what would the consequences be?
12 In the days of the prophet Malachi, many Jewish husbands dealt treacherously with their wives by divorcing them, using all kinds of excuses. Such men thus rid themselves of the wives of their youth, perhaps to marry younger women or even pagan women. Jewish men were still treacherously divorcing their wives “on every sort of grounds” when Jesus was on earth. (Matt. 19:3) Jehovah God hated such divorcing.—Read Malachi 2:13-16.
13 Today, marital treachery cannot be tolerated among Jehovah’s people. But suppose a baptized married man or woman ran off with another person’s mate and married that one after obtaining a divorce. If he is unrepentant, the wrongdoer would be disfellowshipped in order to maintain the spiritual purity of the congregation. (1 Cor. 5:11-13) He or she would have to “produce fruits that befit repentance” before being accepted back into the congregation. (Luke 3:8; 2 Cor. 2:5-10) Though no set time must pass before that person’s reinstatement, such treachery, which seldom occurs among those associated with God’s people, cannot be ignored. It might take quite some time—a year or more—for the sinner to give proof of true repentance. Even if the person is reinstated, he or she must still render an account “before the judgment seat of God.”—Rom. 14:10-12; see The Watchtower, November 15, 1979, pp. 31-32.
MARRIAGE AMONG CHRISTIANS
14. What overall purpose did the Law serve?
14 The Mosaic Law governed Israel’s affairs for over 1,500 years. It helped God’s people to keep righteous principles in mind in handling family matters and other concerns while it served as a guardian leading to the Messiah. (Gal. 3:23, 24) With the cancellation of the Law at Jesus’ death, God began a new arrangement. (Heb. 8:6) Under it, some concessions in the Law were no longer allowed.
15. (a) In the Christian congregation, what would be the standard for marriage? (b) What factors should a Christian consider when contemplating divorce?
15 In response to a question posed by some Pharisees, Jesus said that the concession made by Moses to divorce one’s mate had “not been the case from the beginning.” (Matt. 19:6-8) Jesus thus indicated that the divine standard for marriage that was set in Eden would prevail in the Christian congregation. (1 Tim. 3:2, 12) Being “one flesh,” marriage mates were to stick together, allowing love for God and for each other to strengthen their bond. A legal divorce not based on sexual immorality would not free one to remarry. (Matt. 19:9) Of course, a person might choose to forgive an adulterous but repentant mate, even as the prophet Hosea apparently forgave his immoral wife, Gomer. Similarly, Jehovah extended mercy to repentant Israel after that nation’s spiritual adultery. (Hos. 3:1-5) It might be added that if a person knows that his or her mate committed adultery and chooses to resume sexual relations with the guilty mate, such an action constitutes forgiveness and removes a Scriptural basis for divorce.
16. What did Jesus say about singleness?
16 After indicating that among true Christians there is no basis for divorce except sexual immorality, Jesus spoke of “those who have the gift” of living a single life. He added: “Let the one who can make room for it make room for it.” (Matt. 19:10-12) Many have chosen to remain single in order to serve Jehovah with an undivided mind. For doing so, they are to be commended.
17. What can help a Christian to decide whether to get married?
17 Whether to stay single or to get married is a matter of determining in one’s heart if one is able to cultivate the gift of singleness. The apostle Paul recommended singleness; yet, he said: “Because of the prevalence of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband.” Paul added: “If they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.” Getting married can help a person to avoid letting passion lead him to such a practice as masturbation or to sexual immorality. In addition, age is a factor to consider, for the apostle stated: “If anyone thinks he is behaving improperly by remaining unmarried, and if he is past the bloom of youth, then this is what should take place: Let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” (1 Cor. 7:2, 9, 36; 1 Tim. 4:1-3) Nevertheless, a person should not be prompted to marry because of surges of passion that may come in youth. He may not be mature enough to take on the responsibilities of married life.
18, 19. (a) How should a Christian marriage begin? (b) What will the following article discuss?
18 Christian marriage should begin with a man and a woman who are dedicated to Jehovah and love him wholeheartedly. They should also have come to love each other so much that they want to unite their lives in the marital bond. Of course, they will be blessed for having followed the counsel to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) Once married, they will undoubtedly agree that the Bible gives the best advice for making their marriage a success.
19 The following article will discuss Scriptural points that can help married Christians face the challenges of living deep in “the last days” when so many men and women have traits that work against success in marriage. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) In his precious Word, Jehovah has given us what we need in order to have a successful and happy marriage as we keep on walking with his people on the road to everlasting life.—Matt. 7:13, 14.