“Jehovah God said: ‘It is not good for the man to continue to be alone. I am going to make a helper for him.’”—GENESIS 2:18.
1, 2. (a) How did marriage begin? (b) What could the first man and woman have realized about marriage? (See opening picture.)
IT IS normal for people to get married. But how did marriage begin, and what is its purpose? Knowing that will help us to have the right view of marriage and its blessings. God created the first man, Adam, and asked him to name the animals. Adam saw that all the animals had a mate, “but for man there was no helper as a complement of him.” So God made Adam fall into a deep sleep, and he took a rib from him and made a woman. Jehovah brought the woman to Adam, and she became his wife. (Read Genesis 2:20-24.) As we can see, marriage is a gift from Jehovah.
2 Many years later, Jesus repeated what Jehovah had said in the garden of Eden: “A man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4, 5) Because God took a rib from Adam to create the first woman, the couple must have realized that they belonged together. Jehovah never wanted a husband and wife to divorce or to have more than one mate at the same time.
MARRIAGE IS PART OF JEHOVAH’S PURPOSE
3. What was an important purpose of marriage?
3 Adam was delighted with his wife, whom he later named Eve. She was his complement and helper. Together, Adam and Eve would be happy as husband and wife. (Genesis 2:18) An important purpose of marriage was to populate the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Sons and daughters would love their parents but would eventually leave to get married and start their own families. Humans would fill the earth and make the whole globe a paradise.
4. What happened to the first marriage?
4 The first marriage was ruined when Adam and Eve disobeyed Jehovah. “The original serpent,” Satan the Devil, deceived Eve and told her that eating fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” would give her special knowledge. Satan claimed that if she ate from the tree, it would allow her to decide what was good and what was bad. Eve did not show respect for Adam as the head of the family when she decided to eat the fruit without talking to him about it first. And Adam disobeyed God when he accepted the fruit from his wife.—Revelation 12:9; Genesis 2:9, 16, 17; 3:1-6.
For marriage to succeed, husbands and wives need to obey Jehovah and take responsibility for their own actions
5. What can we learn from Adam’s and Eve’s responses to Jehovah?
5 When Jehovah questioned them, Adam blamed his wife. He said: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate.” Eve, in turn, blamed the serpent for deceiving her. (Genesis 3:12, 13) Adam and Eve gave weak excuses for their disobedience, and Jehovah judged those rebels. Indeed, their example is a warning for us! For marriage to succeed, husbands and wives need to obey Jehovah and take responsibility for their own actions.
6. How would you explain Genesis 3:15?
6 Despite what Satan did in Eden, Jehovah made sure that mankind had a hope for the future. This hope is found in the first Bible prophecy. (Read Genesis 3:15.) That prophecy revealed that Satan would be crushed by the “offspring” of “the woman.” The many righteous spirit creatures serving in heaven have a close relationship with God. They are like a wife to Jehovah. He would send someone from that group of spirit creatures to “crush” the Devil. The offspring would make it possible for obedient humans to enjoy what the first human couple lost. Obedient mankind would have the opportunity to live forever on the earth, just as Jehovah had purposed.—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 Adam and Eve’s rebellion badly affected their marriage and all marriages after that. For example, Eve and all her female descendants would have severe pain during childbirth. Women would have a deep desire for their husbands, but husbands would dominate their wives, sometimes even abusing them as we see today. (Genesis 3:16) Jehovah expects husbands to be loving family heads, and he expects wives to be submissive to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:33) When Christian mates work together, many problems can be eliminated.
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 Adam and Eve died, they had sons and daughters. (Genesis 5:4) Their first son, Cain, later married a female relative. Cain’s descendant Lamech was the first man mentioned in the Bible as having two wives. (Genesis 4:17, 19) From the time of Adam to the time of Noah, only a few people worshipped Jehovah. Some of those faithful ones were Abel, Enoch, and Noah and his family. In Noah’s time, “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.” But this was unnatural, and those angels and women had sons who were violent giants called Nephilim. During that time, “man’s wickedness was great on the earth” and “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.”—Genesis 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 said that he would bring a great flood to the earth to destroy all the wicked people. “Noah, a preacher of righteousness,” told those people about the coming Flood. (2 Peter 2:5) But they did not listen to Noah because they were too busy with their daily lives, including getting married. Jesus compared Noah’s time to our time. (Read Matthew 24:37-39.) Today, most people do not listen to our message about the good news of God’s Kingdom. We are preaching this message before this wicked world is destroyed. What lesson can we learn from the time of the Flood? We should not let things such as marriage and having children become so important to us that we forget that Jehovah’s day is close.
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 Noah and his three sons each had only one wife. However, after the Flood, many men had more than one wife. In many cultures, sexual immorality was common and was even a part of religious customs. When Abraham and Sarah moved to Canaan, they were surrounded by immoral people who showed no respect for marriage. Jehovah destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because the people there were very immoral. Abraham was different from those people. He was a good family head, and Sarah set a good example as a submissive wife. (Read 1 Peter 3:3-6.) Abraham made sure that his son Isaac married a woman who worshipped Jehovah. And Isaac did the same for his son Jacob, whose sons became the ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel.
11. How did the Mosaic Law protect the Israelites?
11 Later, Jehovah made a covenant, or an agreement, with the nation of Israel. He gave them the Mosaic Law, which helped to protect husbands and wives in their worship of Jehovah. For example, there were laws regarding marriage customs, including polygamy, and the Israelites were not allowed to marry false worshippers. (Read Deuteronomy 7:3, 4.) When serious problems arose in a marriage, the elders would provide help. There were also laws against being unfaithful, jealous, and suspicious. Divorce was allowed, but rules were in place to protect each mate. For example, a man could divorce his wife for “something indecent.” (Deuteronomy 24:1) The Bible does not explain what was “indecent,” but a husband was not supposed to use small mistakes as a reason to divorce his wife.—Leviticus 19:18.
NEVER BE DISLOYAL TO 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 used all kinds of excuses to divorce their wives. Those men divorced their wives so that they could marry younger women or women who did not serve Jehovah. During Jesus’ time, Jewish men still divorced their wives “on every sort of grounds.” (Matthew 19:3) Jehovah God hated those unlawful divorces.—Read Malachi 2:13-16.
13 Today, disloyalty in marriage is unacceptable among Jehovah’s people, and it rarely happens. But suppose a baptized married person committed adultery and got a divorce in order to marry someone else. If that person was unrepentant, then he or she would be disfellowshipped to keep the congregation clean and pure. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) The person would have to “produce fruits that befit repentance” before being accepted back into the congregation. (Luke 3:8; 2 Corinthians 2:5-10) There is no specific time period that must pass before that person can be reinstated. In fact, it may take a year or more for a sinner to prove that he or she is truly repentant and to be accepted back into the congregation. And even then, the person will still have to “stand before the judgment seat of God.”—Romans 14:10-12; see The Watchtower, November 15, 1979, pages 31-32.
MARRIAGE AMONG CHRISTIANS
14. What overall purpose did the Law serve?
14 Israel was under the Mosaic Law for more than 1,500 years. The Law helped God’s people in many ways. For example, it gave the people principles to help them solve family problems, and it guided them to the Messiah. (Galatians 3:23, 24) When Jesus died, the Law ended and God made a new arrangement. (Hebrews 8:6) However, some things that had been allowed under the Mosaic Law were no longer allowed for Christians.
15. (a) In the Christian congregation, what would be the standard for marriage? (b) What factors should a Christian consider when thinking about divorce?
15 One day the Pharisees asked Jesus a question about marriage. Jesus replied that God had allowed the Israelites to get divorced under the Mosaic Law even though this was not what He wanted from the beginning. (Matthew 19:6-8) Jesus’ answer showed that God’s original standard for marriage would now be the standard for Christians. (1 Timothy 3:2, 12) As “one flesh,” marriage mates were meant to stay together. Their love for God and their love for each other would keep them united. Marriage mates who divorce when there is no sexual immorality are not free to remarry. (Matthew 19:9) A person may choose to forgive an immoral but repentant mate. This was the case when the prophet Hosea forgave his immoral wife, Gomer, and when Jehovah forgave repentant Israel. (Hosea 3:1-5) In addition, if a person knows that his or her mate was immoral and chooses to resume sexual relations with the guilty mate, this means that he or she has forgiven the mate. There is no longer a Scriptural reason for divorce.
16. What did Jesus say about singleness?
16 Jesus said that for true Christians, sexual immorality is the only reason for divorce. Then he mentioned “those who have the gift” of living a single life. Jesus said: “Let the one who can make room for it make room for it.” (Matthew 19:10-12) Many choose to remain unmarried because they want to serve Jehovah without distraction, and they should be commended for their decision!
17. What can help a Christian to decide whether to get married?
17 What can help a person to decide whether to stay single or get married? A person needs to decide if he or she can cultivate the gift of singleness. The apostle Paul recommended singleness. But he also 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.” So a person may decide to get married in order to avoid letting strong sexual desires lead him or her to a practice of masturbation or sexual immorality. However, single ones need to consider whether they are really old enough to get married. Paul said: “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 Corinthians 7:2, 9, 36; 1 Timothy 4:1-3) A person should not be encouraged to get married just because he or she has the strong sexual desires that many experience during their youth. That person may not be mature enough for the responsibilities of marriage.
18, 19. (a) How should a Christian marriage begin? (b) What will the following article discuss?
18 A Christian marriage should begin with a baptized man and a baptized woman who love Jehovah with their whole heart. They should also love each other so much that they want to spend their lives together. Jehovah will bless them because they obeyed the counsel to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) And their marriage will be successful if they continue to obey the Bible’s counsel.
19 Today, we are living in “the last days,” and many people do not have the qualities needed for a successful marriage. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) In the next article, we will consider precious Bible principles that can help Christians to have successful and happy marriages despite the challenges that surround them. This will help them to continue walking on the road to everlasting life.—Matthew 7:13, 14.