In the opening article in my new “Marriage Laws” series, I made the proposition that Yeshua clearly said that some things belong to YHVH only, and that marriage is one of those things that YHVH has reserved to Himself, and not given to Caesar (the government) to legislate. In forthcoming articles, I will explore how “Caesar” in America and other societies in the past has arrogated to himself the power to regulate marriage. In this second article, I am going to answer the question of what YHVH has said about marriage. It turns out that He has said a great deal, and nowhere has He said that Israel’s rulers have any legal jurisdiction on this topic. If they don’t, how much less jurisdiction do the nations have?
We will begin at the beginning during Creation Week in which we are going to analyze what He said and did through the aftermath of the Fall. Later, we will discuss what He put into the Sinai Covenant and the related statutes and judgments in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”Genesis 1:26-28
This passage is known as the Dominion Mandate. Man was made in His image, male and female. After blessing Man, YHVH gave them His first command: “Be fruitful and multiply”. He then put the man into his new home in the Garden of Eden, and then issued the command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”Genesis 2:18
Here is YHVH saying why He is about to do what He is going to do. He had all the newly created beasts of the field and birds of the sky come to the man to see what he would name them. They did and he named them, but none of them could be the helper that YHVH intended for the man. So then, YHVH puts the man to sleep and fashioned a woman for him from a rib he took out of the man’s side.
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.Genesis 2:21-24
YHVH said He would make a helper suitable for the man, and He did exactly what He said He would do. He made the woman, and brought her to the man. Then the man named her as he had previously named the beasts and the birds. Then the proclamation was made by either YHVH or the man: For this reason (“it is not good for man to be alone”), a man shall be joined to his woman and they shall become one flesh. This is the Creation ideal of marriage: a woman is joined to her husband, who has left his father and mother, to be his companion and helper.
After the Fall, YHVH had to mete out discipline.
To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; 19 by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”Genesis 3:16-19
Because the man had listened to his woman, instead of listening to YHVH, he lost his beautiful home in Gan Eden. The discipline that YHVH issued was both punitive and corrective; punitive in that both died spiritually and would die later physically, and corrective in restoring the patriarchal order of authority that, millennia later, Paul would describe in I Corinthians 11:3 as “YHVH (father) -> Yeshua (son) -> man -> woman (wife)”. In short, the man, now named Adam, would work for his living, and his wife, now named Eve, would help him. Adam is the master, and his wife is the helper, and in this we do not see any further decrees on marriage from YHVH beyond the patriarchal order to be followed.
Throughout Genesis, YHVH is silent on marital arrangements. He does not say anything about Abram lying with Hagar at Sarai’s suggestion, marrying a second woman after Sarah’s death or taking concubines and having children with them, or Isaac’s monogamy with Rebekah, or Jacob’s marriage to two sisters at the same time, and then lying with each wife’s handmaiden. The notable (and instructive) exception to YHVH’s silence was to protect Sarah when she was taken by Abimelech.
Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.” 4 Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”Genesis 20:2-7
YHVH warned that He would judge Abimelech because he took Sarah, a married woman. Abimelech had been deceived by Abraham, so he was innocent. YHVH knew this so He in His righteousness and mercy prevented Abimelech from lying with Sarah. Since He personally intervened in this matter, we can see how seriously He takes adultery, a capital crime. Since He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Malachi 3:6), we can take it for granted that He still hates adultery.
Speaking of adultery, YHVH strictly forbade adultery in the Ten Commandments. The below doesn’t get any plainer than that. YHVH had told Abimelech that his problem was that he had taken a married woman, which is what adultery is.
“You shall not commit adultery.Exodus 20:14
Related to the prohibition against the physical act of adultery is the prohibition of coveting one’s neighbor’s wife or one’s neighbor’s female servant, which is at the heart level. The two high-level prohibitions work together to protect the sanctity of marriage.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”Exodus 20:17
The Sinai Covenant starts in Exodus 20:1 and concludes in Exodus 24:8. After this are the regulations that explain and “put teeth” into the Covenant. But in Exodus 21, there’re two sections that further illuminate marriage is.
The first section is Exodus 21:2-6 which defines how a master can give a female “servant” to a single male servant as his wife. When the male’s term of service expires, he is free to leave, but the female servant still belongs to her master and she and her children cannot leave with the ex-slave. The freed man has to renounce his freedom forever to stay with his wife and children.
The second section is Exodus 21:7-11. This pertains to a man who has bought someone’s daughter either for his son or himself. The new master wasn’t buying ownership of the girl, but buying the right to be responsible for her. While the man can “[take] to himself another woman”, he may not reduce [his first wife’s or wives’] food, clothing, or conjugal rights. This section actually protects every woman who marries a man. As a man can have more than one servant, so a man can have one or more wives if and only if he can support the prior wife or wives at the same level they are accustomed to up to this point.
Leviticus chapter 18:6-18 defines who are not appropriate women for a man to take as a wife. A notable point is that “one’s mother” and “one’s father’s wife that is not one’s mother” show that plural marriage is accepted.
Leviticus 20:10-21 put teeth into the regulations of chapter 18. For instance, the below both defines adultery, and prescribes the death penalty for it.
‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.Leviticus 20:10
The above is repeated in Deuteronomy 22.
22 “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23 “If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them [n]to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.Deuteronomy 22:22-24
Finally, when Moses took a second wife, his siblings spoke out against him and made YHVH furious with them, not with Moses. The episode is recorded in Numbers 12.
In conclusion, has YHVH said anything about marriage? The above certainly shows He has had a lot to say, both about marriage and the violation of marriage which is adultery. I didn’t cite every single passage in the first five books of the Bible, nor have I discussed what the New Testament has said about marriage because those are men teaching or summarizing what has been recorded in the Torah. That material has been studied elsewhere in this site. The above Scriptures show that He has never given “Caesar” the freedom and authority to make marriage laws, except for making marriage laws that correspond to what He has said.