A young woman wrote me one day sincerely concerned for her marriage. She had 'tried everything', but her and her husband were just growing too far apart and she feared he would soon leave. She found TheWordOut.Net website and began reading many of the articles in the FAQ section. She found the articles she read to be interesting and informative; however, what she didn't find was anything about what the Bible says about how to have a good marriage. She then wrote me and asked if I would share with her some Biblical principles on marriage. I wrote her back and told her that I would. Then after many hours of prayer, research, conviction and writing, what follows is my response. I hope that you might find something in here that helps strengthen your marriage and make it a powerful testimony of GOD's unlimited power to transform lives and marriages.
A Biblical Foundation for Marriage
Due to the deceptive simplicity of your query, and knowing now that you sincerely seek to grow and strengthen your current marriage, it is my privilege to ask you to consider the following. But I must assume that since you’ve emailed me through my website, thewordout.net, that you have some idea as to what I believe about marriage and why. Hence, this response is biased. It is written based on the only Truth that exists, the only foundation upon which some as integral, precious and delicate as marriage can stand. I truly hope that this helps provide you with a better understanding of what I believe to be the basic principles of a marriage as established by our Lord and Creator in Scripture. And I am happy to share with you what knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained over my life, for everything I learned about marriage I learned from my parents: earthly parents, biblical parents and my Father in Heaven.
According to Scripture marriage is ordained by God as an intimate and permanent partnership between a man and a woman in which the two become one in the whole of life. The ideal is an active lifelong monogamous heterosexual relationship. Sexual, emotional, physical and spiritual fulfillment are important goals of a marriage relationship that places God at its center. It is my belief that a Biblically foundational marriage is also the ideal foundation for the birth and raising of children.
I have heard marriage described something like this:
Marriage is the sacred and lifelong union of a man and a woman giving themselves to each other in love and trust. It signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and His bride, the Church. Marriage is a gift from our heavenly Father given so that husband and wife may enrich and encourage each other in every area of their life together. Marriage is given so that with delight and tenderness they may know each other in love, and through their physical union they may celebrate oneness and strengthen the union of their lives while glorifying God as a living testimony. Marriage is given that children may be born and brought up in security and love, that home and family life may be strengthened, and that society may continue to multiply and stand upon firm foundations. Marriage is a covenant between you and God and as such cannot be broken. It is meant to be forever, “until death us do part.” Marriage is a way of life which should be kept pure and a spiritual amalgamation which the community is called upon to uphold and honor (Heb. 13:4); it is not to be entered into lightly or selfishly, but responsibly and in the love of God. I believe outside of one’s choice to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, to marry or not to marry (and/or spousal selection) is the single most important decision you’ll make in your life.
And since I believe the institution of marriage was created by our Creator, I believe the answers to most of our questions concerning marriage can be found by looking in His Good book, the Bible. The Bible has a lot to say about marriage. In fact, the very institution of marriage originates from the Bible. Our parents and basic Biblical instruction about marriage are our primary sources of reference for marriage. And when we search for guiding principles regarding marriage in the Bible, we must consider the teaching we’ve been given concerning marriage in the Bible? Let me explain a bit more. I have been blessed with parents and in-laws that have both celebrated over 50 years of marriage together. What an incredible witness they have been to the commitment it takes, not only to survive, but to grow and thrive. And, since our parents are our primary earthly examples of marriage, logic dictates that we must consider what our parents in the Bible teach us about marriage as well? Which parents am I referring to? Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and his wives, Leah and Rachel, have a lot to teach us about marriage! If you want a better understanding of a Biblically foundational marriage, then by all means, please continue reading, prayerfully.
The following Scriptures provide a brief overview of some of the Bible passages that deal explicitly with the marriage relationship and then we’ll look at some examples of some of our biblical parents’ marriages . These passages and parent examples are in no way exhaustive nor is this in any way the only way of looking for basic tenets of marriage. However, I encourage you to read these things carefully and prayerfully as I believe that is how they are intended to be received. God instituted marriage solely and purposefully for us. Therefore, no one better understands its design and purpose than its Creator.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Genesis 1:26-28)
Man was made last of all the creatures, that it might not be suspected that he had been, any way, a helper to God in the creation of the world. Yet it was both an honor and a favor to him that he was made last. An honor, for the method of the creation was to advance from that which was less perfect to that which was more so; and a favor, for it was not fit he should be lodged in the palace designed for him till it was completely fitted up and furnished for his reception. Man, as soon as he was made, had the whole visible creation before him, both to contemplate and to take the comfort of. Man was made the same day that the beasts were, because his body was made of the same earth with theirs; and, while he is in the body, he inhabits the same earth with them. Yet God forbid that by indulging the body and the desires of it we should make ourselves like the beasts that perish!
Man was made both male and female, and blessed with the blessing of fruitfulness and increase. God said, Let us make man, and immediately it follows, So God created man; he performed what he resolved. With us saying and doing are two things; but they are not so with God. He created him male and female, Adam and Eve—Adam first, out of earth, and Eve out of his side. It should seem that of the rest of the creatures God made many couples, but of man did not he make one? (Mal 2:15), though he had the residue of the Spirit, whence Christ gathers an argument against divorce, Matt 19:4-5. Our first father, Adam, was confined to one wife; and, if he had put her away, there was no other for him to marry, which plainly intimated that the bond of marriage was not to be dissolved at pleasure. To dissolve such a relation would meant and end to all humanity almost before it had begun. Angels were not made male and female, for they were not to propagate their kind (Luke 20:34-36); but man was made so, that the nature might be propagated and the race continued.
God made but one male and one female, that all the nations of men might know themselves to be made of one blood, descendants from one common stock, and might thereby be induced to love one another. God, having made them capable of transmitting the nature they had received, said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Here he gave them, a great command and a large inheritance: Replenish the earth. It is this that is bestowed upon the children of men through the institution of marriage. They were made to dwell upon the face of all the earth, Acts 17:26. This is the place in which God has set man to be the servant of his providence in the government of the inferior creatures, and, as it were, the intelligence of this orb; to be the receiver of God's bounty, which other creatures live upon, but do not know it; to be likewise the collector of his praises in this lower world, and to pay them into the treasury above (Ps 145:10); and, lastly, to be a probationer for a better state. Fruitfulness and increase depend upon the blessing of God. It is owing to this blessing, which God commanded at first, that the race of mankind is still in being, and that as one generation passes away another comes along.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Ephesians 5:31)
Marriage is not a partnership or a contract; not just a 50/50 commitment or an agreement based upon deeply held emotions of love and adoration, it is considerably more than that. Marriage is a covenant. Partnerships and contracts are agreements of “consideration given for consideration received.” These kinds of agreements are formed by requests and promises and the binding factor of the contract is the consideration. Often times in contract law, consideration can be a single penny; hence, thereby giving validation to the contract. One party requests something and offers something in exchange. The other party trades one item of value for another item of value. A covenant is not made primarily to gain value nor to exchange one thing for another. It is not maintained by both parties meeting their obligations; it is a reality of giving one’s self regardless of the return value. A covenant is of undetermined length. It is forever or until it can no longer be done, “Until death do us part.” This covenant causes names to change. This covenant changes the place called “home.” This covenant transfers ownership of your body to that of your spouse. A marriage covenant establishes a preference in relationship greater than parent and child. A marriage covenant creates a new reality that the whole of creation accepts, including the Creator.
This is why a divorce is so much more than just the breaking of a contract. A divorce rips the very fabric of the soul when the marriage covenant is broken. A broken vow, an oath that is breached, or a pledge not fulfilled is an internal dilemma reaching deep into the person that no soothing balm can reach. A broken contract can be solved by paying for the damages, but the damage of a broken covenant continues long after. I’ve seen divorcee’s 20 years after a marriage harboring more anger against their spouse than the day they broke the covenant. And what breaks my heart is the children who become pawns in the emotional game of blackmail and ping pong that ensues seemingly forever.
Some men and women never quite leave their father and mother when they get married. Consequently, they have not chosen their spouse above all others. In truth of fact, they never made the proper marriage covenant from the beginning and results become inevitable. Many pre-marriage counselors will recommend that a new couple live separately and away from both sets of parents to guarantee that the proper bond (cleaving) is established in the marriage.
Becoming “one flesh” is the consummation of the verbal vows, but it is not a replacement for them. Becoming “one flesh” before the vows of marriage is fornication and distorts the entire pattern and purpose of intimacy in the marriage. So if contemplating marriage in the future, I would strongly advise that you wait. If you’ve already slipped up, take your heart to God and ask Him to forgive you and create in you a pure heart, a new start. We serve a loving and merciful God.
Do not allow relationships with parents to become too important. A common problem is to “complain” to a parent when we are not happy with a spouse. Some parents are always hearing negative things about their son-in-law or daughter-in-law. These kinds of things can accumulate in the hearts of parents and create resentment toward their child’s spouse. Other spouses go to their parents every time there is a problem to be solved. While it is true that parents can offer great wisdom, our first strategy should always be to pray things through and talk things over thoroughly with our spouse. Then, with his/her agreement, we may wish to discuss things with our parents. Obviously, we should do everything we can to strengthen the relationship between our parents and our spouse.
These passages point out the extremely important Biblical principle that a married couple are not really "two," they are "one." When we see ourselves as a unit instead of two individuals, we will be able to experience the joy and excitement that God means marriage to be. Conflicts in marriage are inevitable, for after all we live in a fallen world. We are all still battling "the flesh, and the devil." But when conflicts arise they should serve to remind us that, for the moment, we have ceased to realize we are one! When we realize that we are one, we will put everything we have into pleasing each other, encouraging each other, helping each other, standing by each other, and, in general, simply loving each other. We have one purpose. We have one goal. We have one life together. We are one.
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.” – Genesis 2: 18
Man needs a Wife. Lord only knows where I’d be had I been trying to go this world alone without my God-given helpmate.
It has clearly been proven that men live longer and are healthier as a result of marriage. Companionship is a key component to marriage. To have the same companion from youth to old age is true friendship and love. The word “helper” is really “help meet.” A “help meet” is much more than a mere helper. “Help meet” means companion; it means s/he is there until the job is finished. Help meet also has a strong spiritual tone. A wife helps the man to meet the Lord. A wife will either multiply your ministry in the Lord, or take you right out of it. Don't even think about going into the ministry full time if your wife is not right there with you serving the Lord. There is not a spiritual man alive today, when he is about to be marooned on a deserted island for many years, and must make a choice between having his Bible or his wife with him... he'll trust his memory for the Scripture, but he wants his wife with him. He needs his wife with him.
10: Who can find a virtuous woman? for her worth is far above rubies.
11: The heart of her husband does safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12: She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. -- Proverbs 31
Consider this for moment, how frequently do you see real rubies, diamonds, emeralds or pearls. The Bible says that an excellent wife is more rare than jewels. Husbands, or really men in general, may not be experts about precious gems, but they can discern a good wife is more rare than jewels. He knows what trusting in her means and how he will be safe with her the rest of his life. He knows that her great value is not about gain or investment. He knows that she is priceless and can never be replaced.
To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. -- Genesis 3: 16
The Husband is the head of the house and responsible for the marriage.
This verse is probably hated by more women than any other verse in the Bible. I’ve studied the book of Genesis on two different occasions and both times I’ve been so thankful that I’ve done so in a men’s study. The spirit of rebellion will not sit idly by in the heart of a woman when she hears the words, “he shall rule over you.” To a woman, these words confront her unbelief and mistrust in her husband. From a counselor's point of view, it is evidence of not loving her husband. Love believes all things.
True mature leaders know that the authority to rule comes after full responsibility has been accepted. True authority is given by those who are under the rule. Demanding authority over another or exercising that authority to prove its existence is a leader on the path to failure. A wife's desire for her husband will naturally result in her giving him authority over her, because she believes he has taken full responsibility for her.
During the courtship phase of a marriage relationship, the man pursues his prospective wife. It's a little like a game. Actually, he chases her until he gets caught!
What was done in courtship should not end at the wedding. But for many men it does. The marriage should continue with the man initiating and the woman completing. Should correction be needed or should something need to be started it is the husband's responsibility and duty to start the actions.
Does this mean that the man is to blame when something goes wrong? Is it the husband's fault if the marriage fails? No. Taking responsibility is not concerned with or interested in finding fault and placing blame. Taking responsibility is focused on improvement and correction – doing it better. Blame and fault are subjects of immaturity.
The husband lets his wife know that she can make a mistake and not be blamed or made to be guilty. Her desire is for her husband to have rule over her and to bring about solutions.
“Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship does darkness have with light or righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Both husband and wife must be Believer. This verse, I believe, strongly discourages even dating between believers and unbelievers. For what harmony is there between Christ and Satan, darkness and light. Once the dating process has started, it is too easy for our emotions to overwhelm our wisdom and strength and lead us to a bad decision. I remember my high school dating years and I proved scripture right in that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41). If a man or woman is unwilling to trust Christ before getting into a serious emotional relationship with a Believer, he or she will be unlikely to trust Christ after the relationship has gotten serious. Most young people have a difficult time understanding how difficult it is to have a strong marriage or how difficult it is to agree on what’s best for children later on in the marriage when one of the spouses is a non-believer.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. -- Genesis 2: 25
Marriage is a sexually intimate and passionate relationship.
Before we address this Biblical truth about marriage, some spouses avoid this topic altogether and do not discuss intimacy and passion with anyone (including their spouses). With all due respect to you and your sensitivities, please skip to the next section if this topic offends you. You need not be embarrassed as even in the days of the Old Testament, the Song of Solomon was not taught until one reached the age of 40. Then again, many folks lived to be well over 100 as well!
Please continue reading to understand what the Bible has to say about passion, which is different from lust.
“Until the day comes that you are totally ravished with your wife, you have not fallen in love with her. Until the day comes that you cannot even imagine how another woman could satisfy you like your wife does, you have not yet obeyed the commandment to love your wife like the Lord loves us all.”
18: Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
19: Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. -- Proverbs 5: 18-19
There is a world of difference between lust and passion. Lust is sin and a loss of self-control; passion is a fire that forms the very metal of marriage.
Men are highly visual and imaginative creatures when it comes to sex. They perceive a direct link in their sexual energy with the very energy of life.
Wives like to have sex in marriage also, but not just like a man. Wives view marital sex differently. What wives really want in marital sex is romance and passion.
Notice that the Bible has its own dramatic way of illustrating marital romance and passion. First the man leads and the wife responds.
6: How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!
7: This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
8: I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;
9: And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goes down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.
10: I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. -- Song of Solomon 7:6-10
A Biblical marriage is a sexually intimate and passionate relationship. The satisfaction, fulfillment, joy and pleasure are part of God's plan for the marriage. You don't have to be an expert at the very beginning of the marriage. Many believe that the very learning experience of sexual intimacy is part of the lifetime of joy in marriage. Marital sexuality is a life-changing-experience and part of the changing-of-life-experience.
In today’s crumbling marriages, many husbands begin looking elsewhere due to a lack of frequent sex, while wives are looking for new excitement. She wants what she cannot have.
And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, and she took of its fruit and ate. -- GENESIS 3:6
And it was not Adam who was fooled by Satan, but Eve, and sin was the result. -- 1 TIMOTHY 2:14
The factor fueling this trend is that many if not most couples in this situation had intimate relationships prior to marriage with other partners during the unscriptural dating process, causing improper comparisons which detract from a husband and wife becoming one, and in particular this involves the wife. A part of one’s self is given away in these situations which brings an incompleteness to the marriage.
You cannot separate sex from love in a marriage. The argument by an adulterous spouse that it was just sex (lust), but “I really love you” is a totally flawed argument. It simply is not true. Sex and love in marriage are inseparable.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)
A marriage can only thrive when the wife defers to the husband. A selfish, self-centered, demanding wife can destroy a marriage. But notice that the husband is NOT given the responsibility to try to MAKE his wife submit! It is between her and the Lord. Ideally, the husband will be so loving and obviously dedicated to his wife’s well being that she will find it a joy to defer to him. Certainly, even if the husband has lots of spiritual growing to do, he is more likely to experience that growth when his wife maintains a submissive spirit. Normally, a husband and wife can come to agreement by graciously and honestly discussing their differences. In those rare times when an impasse is reached, the wife should make it her determination to defer to her husband. However, after a dozen years of marriage I can honestly say that I’ve yet to invoke this element inherent within the Godly marriage.
A wife who rejects this principle is in danger of destroying her marriage. An angry, selfish, demanding, rebellious wife can result in the death of a marriage even without legal divorce papers. Proverbs 19:13 tells us that “a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.” Sooner or later that drip will be eliminated and often times it’s not handled in a loving in merciful manner.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,” (Ephesians 5: 25-29)
A selfish, self-centered, demanding husband can also destroy a marriage. When a husband convinces his wife that he loves her with an unconditional, selfless kind of love, it makes it very easy for her to defer to his leadership. Jesus sacrificed Himself for His bride, the church. Husbands are to love their wives with that same kind of self-sacrificial love. This means more than just being willing to die for our wives. It means sacrificing things, day-by-day, that we might prefer to do but that would not be in the best interest of our wives. Of course, just because a husband loves his wife, doesn’t guarantee that his wife will always quickly reciprocate. Remember the analogy of Christ and the church. Jesus is always loving. But sometimes those whom He loves do not respond with a submissive deference to Him like we should. He just keeps on loving us.
Love in a marriage seems as natural as breathing for the wife. But for the husband, love in the marriage is a determined act of his will. Yes, love is an emotion; yet, for many men in the earlier years of the relationship, it is the “love of the chase.” This is why some men never grow up and keep chasing other women after being married. God's command for a man to love his wife is more than an emotion, a feeling, or a game. It is a determined act whereby he must direct his energies for the specific purpose to provide for, to protect, and to be passionate toward his wife.
Some men provide well and are willing to lay down their lives to protect. This is sacrificial love. However, they regard conjugal sex as one of the benefits for having done the first two. Little do they know that God commands them also to be a passionate, intimate husband. It is part of God's plan for the husband to “love” his wife. There is not a wife who doesn't want her husband to desire her for being a woman. This is where the game is carried on into the marriage. She wants to be pursued and desired before she catches him. The husband must learn to keep chasing his wife, even though he is caught.
Fundamentally, the number one need of a wife in a marriage is love. The husband is commanded to meet this need. By loving his wife, he provides her a home, the resources to live, and a safe and secure place for her and the children. By loving her emotionally, he assures and comforts her, shielding her from fear and harm. By loving her physically, he proves that his attentions and focus are on her and she is secure in his desires.
The commandment to love his wife means that the husband is to commit his energy, resources, creativity, and attention, and to focus on his wife. It is more than just provision and protection. Loving a wife means preferring her above ALL others.
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)
Men are rarely persuaded to do anything with a good attitude when they feel “nagged” into it. Wives should be sensitive to those times when “discussion” begins to sound like “nagging” from the husband’s perspective. Most men will quickly “crumble” and desperately try to please his wife when she behaves in a gracious, submissive, and wise fashion!
Too often, Biblical teachers have equated “be subject” with “obey.” As a consequence, opposition has grown in the American culture to the extent that many women refuse to say “love, honor, and obey” in the traditional wedding vows. It is really a huge mistake. The word “obey” is not the proper emphasis for “being subject to” or “submission” as translated in the commandment.
Let me offer an entirely new perspective. Instead of the word “obey” amplifying the phrase “be subject to” or the word “submit,” let's use the word “respect.” Now let's restate the commandment. Wives, respect your husband, just as you respect the Lord. That changes something dramatically. Instead of the ultimatum to obey (like a lowly slave), respect opens the door to balance and understanding. Respect is something given in measure to being respectable. Respect is in parallel with love and honor. Obedience does not require love or honor; however, respect does require them.
The number one complaint of distraught wives is that they don't respect their husbands. It is very difficult for them to do so when the husband continues to do things not worthy of respect. A husband who does not provide, protect, or show passionate love for his wife is on thin ice for respectability. But oft times, the man does provide and protect, he is faithful and desires his wife. However, his wife treats him in a very disrespectful manner simply because he is a man. Wives who do this should think back to how their mother treated their father. You will discover that many times this is a pattern and it is learned behavior.
This is why God commands wives to respect their husbands. Wives must make a determined decision to accomplish this. It takes energy and a clear will to do so. Instead of holding your husband to an artificial standard of respect (he does everything I want him to do), a wife should come to know her husband for the true goodness that is in him.
Fundamentally, the number one need of a man in a marriage is respect. The wife is commanded to meet this need. The commandment to respect your husband means praising your husband, both to him and to others, and submitting to his leadership, guidance, and judgment. Even if he makes a mistake and is wrong. He will learn.
This is how men learn every day at their jobs. A wife who believes she needs to teach her husband by correcting him only succeeds in embarrassing him. When a wife disrespects her husband with critical words, treats him with disdain, and holds him in contempt, she destroys her primary source of provision and protection from God. She also breaks Gods commandment to respect him. When a wife learns how to respect (be subject to, submit, and obey) her husband, he'll treat her like a thoroughbred, instead of a nag.
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made him a woman, and brought her unto the man. -- Genesis 2: 22
The Husband and Wife are joint heirs to life.
To have children, it requires a man and woman joining together to procreate. A man cannot do it alone nor can a woman do it alone. They jointly form the product of each new child. Woman was not made from the dust of the earth like man; therefore, she should not be treated as dirt. Woman did not fly down from heaven; therefore, she should not be over anyone's head. She was taken from her husband's side; therefore, her rightful place is at his side nestled against his heart.
The woman's need for security can only be met fully by her husband. The husband's need for respect can only be met fully by his wife. When both needs are being met, the marriage is like the wedding ring. It is made of precious metal and valuable gems; it goes round and round, with no beginning and no end. Life is good and wonderful. When one of the needs (either security or respect) is not being met, the ring is broken. There is now a clear beginning and end to the ring. The ring has become a piece of twisted metal. The passion of love becomes the passion of anger and hate. It leads to treachery. The remaining metal of the ring becomes a bad memory and is pawned for a fraction of its cost. However, the treachery and hate can last long after the divorce. When both needs are met, the home is a pleasant place for all.
Your wife shall be contented in your home. And look at all those children! There they sit around the dinner table as vigorous and healthy as young olive trees. 4 That is God's reward to those who reverence and trust him. -- Ps 128:3-4
To be a joint heir means to share in the same heritage and inheritance. Husbands and wives come from different houses, but when they are joined together, they are part of the same house with the same Heavenly Father. When the woman was taken out of the man (the rib), it indicated that they were together when man was first created. Marriage is reuniting the man and woman together as they were in the beginning. This is marriage based on spiritual understandings.
There is a fundamental difference between a secular and spiritual marriage. A secular marriage is a shared proposition. It's a mutually agreeable contract. Sometimes, these marriages stay together simply because they don't have any other choice. The spiritual point of view for marriage is one that embraces the author of marriage. It is one where both the husband and the wife are under the authority of God. But the bottom line is this: a spiritual marriage is where the husband and wife know they were destined for each other. They also share in the same problems and joys of life. They make their “choice” for each other believing it is God's will.
Whosoever finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor of the LORD. -- Proverbs 18: 22
And the man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. -- Genesis 3: 12
The Wife is the most powerful influence over her Husband.
Adam was more persuaded to seek the pleasure of his wife than to seek the pleasure of God. A Godly man must learn quickly how powerful his wife is over him with her charms and tears. A Godly wife must learn quickly not to misuse and harm her husband in trying to get what she wants.
Allow me to share a word picture that illustrates this point. A husband is like the captain of a sailing ship. He directs his resources and uses skill to raise and lower his sails, he sets a course for distant ports, and he determines what cargo he will carry or trade.
But his wife is the wind in his sails. Carry this picture out a little further. His wife can be unsupportive and very still. No matter how many sails he unfurls, nor how great his mast might be, no wind means he just sits and floats. If his wife is stormy and objectionable, the ship is in a storm with sails torn and masts broken. Many ships are lost at sea because of the hurricane that rose up. But a steady ship in a steady breeze can sail on a great adventure.
Simply said, a husband is the captain of his ship, but his wife is the wind in his sails. It doesn't take much of a breeze for the ship to move. I can assure you that if a wife just blows in her husband's ear, his sails will catch that breeze. More simply put, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Some wives think that the best way to “help” the captain is by grabbing the ships wheel and setting the course they want. This is really mutiny and results in the ship going in circles. My counsel is in line with my word picture. If the wife really wants to have the ship sail a particular way, then give him a favorable breeze in that direction. He'll sail that way and will look for breezes that ultimately lead him to his destination, too. The greatest joy that a captain can feel is to be one with the wind; in this instance his wife.
“A worthy wife is her husband's joy and crown; the other kind corrodes his strength and tears down everything he does.”-- Prov 12:4
The greatest harm that can be done to any man is done by his wife. Men can insult men over and over; it just makes them mad and they get “tougher.” When a wife shames her husband, she skewers his heart and vital organs. The barbeque is not pretty.
Most wives are not trying to shame or embarrass their husbands. They are trying to motivate and stimulate their husbands, who seem unresponsive to them. The mistake of embarrassment is really unintentional; it just happens. It happens because wives have twisted a major Biblical instruction. Wives (mothers) are to teach their children and serve their husbands. Too often, wives serve their children and attempt to teach their husbands.
A Wife is God’s grace to the Husband.
The favor mentioned here is unmerited favor or grace from God. That means that men don't deserve all the good they receive from their wives. This is simply a truth that wise men come to learn. Even more so, when a wife truly understands that she was presented by the Lord for her husband, she develops wisdom.
House and riches are the inheritance of fathers and a prudent wife is from the LORD. -- Proverbs 19: 14
The most important and vital things of life come from the Lord. When a man finally becomes smart enough to actually stop and smell the roses, he will do so after getting a dozen of them for his wife. The more times he stops to smell the roses, the smarter he will get.
“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:3-6)
Most husbands appreciate wives who take care of their appearance and look their best. Most also appreciate wives who dress modestly and not in ways that tend to “entice” other men. But, as this passage points out, the kind of woman his wife is in her heart—that “gentle and quiet spirit”—is far more “precious in the sight of God” as well as in the sight of her husband.
“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)
As husbands, we need to get all the knowledge and understanding we can of our wives. This would include studying carefully what others have learned about the natures and differences between men and women and how those differences affect our marriages. Husbands must realize that wives are more easily hurt—and make decisions in light of that understanding. When we do realize that we have said or done something that has hurt our wives, we must be humble enough to admit our wrong and ask for forgiveness. Husbands must learn to “honor” their wives. Each husband can discuss with his wife the kinds of things he might do to help her feel honored. It’s also interesting that God warns us here that He is so serious about our being wise husbands, that if we ignore Him at this point, it will definitely mess up our fellowship with Him! At that point, God is saying, in effect, “First, you go do everything in your power to get things right with your wife. Then you come and talk with Me!”
“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:4)
This verse implies that both spouses must discuss and agree with each other about sexual issues. She belongs to him. BUT he belongs to her! The husband and wife must see this as an opportunity to understand each other, learn to be giving and generous to each other, and learn to be patient with each other. If one spouse (either one!) behaves selfishly in this area, there will be massive problems in the marriage.
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) “’For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord” (Malachi 2:15-16)
Some people argue that divorce is not real or possible. But it certainly is real and possible. Otherwise God would have not told us not to do it! He would have said, “Man CANNOT separate” instead of “let no man separate.” It takes TWO people, with the grace and help of God, to make a marriage succeed. It only takes ONE person to destroy it. Of course, many marriages end in divorce because one spouse (often both spouses) begins to behave with such intense selfishness and self-centeredness that he or she emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and perhaps even physically “leaves” his or her spouse, destroying the covenant. But God has built us in such as way that divorce is always far more painful than we can imagine. Two people who had once become one, are now being ripped apart. Of course, it is not just the obtaining of legal papers of divorce that rips them apart; it is the sin that has been tearing apart the marriage—sometimes for years—on the part of one, or perhaps both, of the spouses.
But the point is that since God hates divorce, and since divorce causes so much pain to so many people, a couple must commit to doing everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t happen. One person cannot do it alone. This is far more than just saying, “No matter what, we won’t get a divorce.” It means living in such a way and behaving in such a way with each other that divorce becomes unthinkable! Sadly, many couples experience “divorce” even though they remain legally married. And remember, it is not enough for one spouse to commit to make the marriage work. It takes two—with the Lord at the center. Preventing divorce is far more than a commitment not to do it. It is the result of a godly husband and a godly wife living with each other day in and day out according to the wisdom and commands of the Lord.
Lessons from our Biblical fathers and mothers…
What Abraham and Sarah Teach Us about Marriage
There is one incident in the marriage of Abraham and Sarah (then called Abram and Sarai) that the Bible mysteriously inserts. It concerns a trip to Egypt and an encounter with Pharaoh.
11: And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
12: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
13: Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
14: And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
15: The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
16: And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
17: And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.
18: And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
19: Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
20: And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had. -- Genesis 12
So, what is this story doing in the Bible? What is the purpose of this story?
Never, under any circumstances [even if you think you are in mortal danger], never treat your wife like she is your sister! She Is NOT Your Sister. SHE IS YOUR WIFE ! Do not do anything with your wife like she is your sister (even spiritually). Treat your sister nice; but, treat your wife like she is your wife!
What Isaac and Rebekah Teach Us about Marriage
To demonstrate how powerful our fathers and mothers are in teaching us behaviors as husbands and wives, Isaac made this exact mistake with Rebekah when they visited king Abimelek.
7: And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.
8: And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.
9: And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her. -- Genesis 26
You don't have to worry about Pharaoh or Abimelek giving you trouble. It is your wife who will have a problem with you.
Before we leave this Scripture let's make sure that we have a clear understanding about something. Isaac was more than “caressing” his wife. You can caress your sister, but “caressing” here is considerably more. The King James Version Bible uses the word “sporting.” Isaac wasn't playing tennis either. The actual Hebrew word means a combination of things: laughter, playing, entertaining with desire.
Actually, Isaac and Rebekah teach us something very powerful about marriage in how they first met and married. If you will recall, Eliezer, the servant of Abraham was dispatched to get Isaac a wife from the region where Abraham himself came. Eliezer found Rebekah with her brother Laban on that trip and brought Rebekah back. Then the Scripture says one of the most profound things that can be found on the subject of marriage.
Just as Eliezer and Rebekah returned, Rebekah put on a veil to meet Isaac (she was not wearing a veil earlier). The Scripture continues.
And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. -- Genesis 24: 67
Wait a minute. Look at the sequence again. He took her, he married her, he loved her, and he was comforted by her. That's backwards! Don't we first meet someone, feel comfortable with them, even friendly? Then we fall in love, get married, and the last thing we do is take her.
But the Scripture says Isaac did the opposite. What is this all about? And why did the Scripture state that Rebekah put on a veil just before this? What does the veil have to do with marriage?
The Scripture has actually shown us how men approach marriage and how women approach marriage, and how they are different.
Ladies, this is a truth. Let my words serve as confirmation. Men approach marriage from the idea of sex and physical attraction first. Men go through the courtship, the ceremony, and the tuxedo, so they can have sex with the woman. About six months after they get married, they wake up one morning, see their wife laying there and it hits them. “What have I done!?! I'm married!!??!” That's when they actually get married. Then... they make up their minds to truly love their wives some time after that. It could be several years before they really “get it” on that concept. Then, they understand that their wife is better and more important than their mother.
Wives on the other hand see marriage the other way. First, they are comforted, they fall in love, they put on a veil for marriage, get married, and then have sex last. Modesty and discretion are the hallmarks of her relationship. The veil is the symbol of her modesty at the wedding.
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion. -- Proverbs 11: 22
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman that fears the LORD is to be praised. -- Proverbs 31: 30
Let me illustrate how succinctly this process works in the mind of a man and differently in a woman. The subject is “fantasy.” When a man fantasizes about a woman, it is about sex and how he takes her. When a woman fantasizes about a man, it is about how safe she feels with him, how he holds her and makes her feel comfortable. It's about being friends and maybe him telling her how he loves her by presenting her with some flowers. Men and women think differently on this subject.
This brings me to one of the most important things about marriage that men and women need to know and understand. Gentlemen! Women do the opposite of what you think should be done many times. A man will count to 10 beginning with 1 and sequentially progress to 10. A woman will get to 10 but will do it a different way, sometimes different every time. For example, a woman will count to ten as follows: 3, 7, 5, 1, 2, 8, 9, 6, 4, and 10. Men get very confused with this process. It, however, makes perfect sense to a woman (and other women will agree with her).
I want to offer some real caution here to all husbands. Don't make a big deal out of the different way women count to 10. Remember we men are the ones who put sex in front of everything, right? And, we want it that way, right? We would be wise to just leave things the way they are. Actually, it really does work out for the best. Remember, how Isaac met Rebekah? He took her, he married her, he loved her, and he was comforted? Let the husband pursue the process from the take side and let the wife pursue it from the comfort side. As a result, they will both end up with the two middle ingredients together – love and marriage.
What Jacob and his Wives Teach Us about Marriage
The closest example you are going to find in the Bible of a man with multiple wives is Jacob and his wives Leah and Rachel. One thing can be concluded from the entire experience: if you want conflict, chaos and anxiety in your life, then take multiple spouses. If you want any chance of peace in your house, then stick with one spouse.
But there is something else that Jacob had in his marriage that comes out in Scripture in a unique way. Have you ever considered how Jacob fulfilled his duties as husband of multiple wives? In particular, did they live in one big happy tent, or was there a designated place where intimacy was done? This question is worthy of an answer because it has one of the most important points concerning a happy home and marriage.
The fact is that each wife had her own tent. Jacob would go into which ever tent he chose or was told to go to, but something else would go with him. Jacob had a couch. Actually, it was really his bed. It was where he performed his husbandly duties with his wife.
One of the most important lessons for a happy home that a husband can learn is that the house (the tent) belongs to the wife. Let her decorate it how she wants. Let her decide where the furniture goes, what pictures to hang, the color of the carpet, etc… It is her nest, her refuge, her domain. Let her get as comfortable as she wants there and make it her own. It is part of her security. Don't mess with the interior of the house; it's hers. But there is one thing in the house that is yours. It is your bed (It's Jacob's couch). However, mess things up and you’ll find yourself outside the camp in no time.
Ladies, this is a profound Biblical truth. When you get into your husband's bed, you are in your marriage bed. It is not meant for fearful children or as a comfy theatre chair for nightly viewing of the boob tube. He is not sleeping with his sister. You are his wife. Therefore, you should not be surprised that your husband's desire is for you. He, as your husband, is obeying the Lord directing all of his desire to you. Do not disrespect him nor discourage him in obeying the Lord by altering the bed’s purpose for existing.
The Bible is very clear using the word translated as “couch.” The Hebrew word for couch when broken down to its individual letters means: where the eye and hand are joined together in desire. This was the reason that Jacob was so angry with his son, Reuben, when he went in and lay with Leah's handmaid, Zilpah, the mother of Gad and Asher. Jacob openly expressed his anger at Reuben's blessing.
3 "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power.
4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father's bed, onto my couch and defiled it.
The couch (the marriage bed) of the husband is to be shared by the wife, and this is what is expressed again in the Song of Solomon.
16 And you, my dear lover — you're so handsome! And the bed we share is like a forest glen.
If a husband can learn to provide a home for his wife in which she feels secure and the wife can enter her husband's bed respecting him, then they will enjoy the full benefits of a loving marriage. They will produce children that are a joy and have a happy home.
The Bible has much to say about marriage and our parents are responsible for most of our teaching to be good husbands and wives. However, there is one last lesson about marriage that is taught by our Heavenly Father. It is the most profound of them all.
The best thing we can do to improve our marriages or to better prepare for marriage is to develop the ability to understand our spouse. We need to dwell with understanding.
4 Talk to Wisdom as to a sister. Treat Insight as your companion.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. -- Proverbs 9: 10
3 It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation;
Being wise and knowledgeable are good things but developing the ability to understand, especially to understand your spouse, is consistent with being intimate, knowing God, and having a well established house called a home.
I hope that this response to your question of what the Bible says about marriage is helpful. I pray that God opens your eyes and heart to see that according to Scripture marriage is ordained by God as an intimate and permanent partnership between a man and a woman in which the two become one in the whole of life. That marriage truly is an active lifelong commitment that places God at its center. It is my belief that a Biblically foundational marriage is also the ideal foundation for the family, community and the nation.