Questions About the Bible and Marriage

bible When I read a comment posted earlier, I got to wondering because this business about “the Biblical definition of marriage” bewilders me. Rick Warren and his ilk throw it around like it was fairy dust, as do other opponents of same sex marriage. So the thought occurred to me that it merits some investigation.

There’s a funny thing about the Bible. It sometimes has a inconvenient habit of getting in the way of those who would use it as a weapon for debate. First, however, I want to be clear that none of what follows is intended to suggest the Bible is somehow wrong.

1 Kings 11 — referring to Solomon (wasn’t he the wise one?), verse 3 reads, “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”

2 Samuel 5:13 — For this one to make sense, there had to be at least one already. “And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.”

Genesis 26:34 — “And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:”

This is interesting. Three passages from the Bible and three different marriage configurations appearing to be three different definitions of marriage. But wait, there’s more!


Genesis 31:17 — “Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives on camels;”

Judges 8:30 — “And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.”

Genesis 16 — This is the same Abraham who is widely credited as being the father of three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. “[1.]Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. [2.] And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. [3.] And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.”

Moving slightly off the Bible, some opponents of same sex marriage quote from the following 1971 US Supreme Court decision in Baker v. Nelson, “The institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family is as old as the book of Genesis.” Well, now we’re getting somewhere. Oh, except for all that pesky Genesis stuff listed above and the fact that this is a secular, governmental institution speaking an opinion and not God’s or His spokesperson pronouncing a policy, rule or law.

In support of that Supreme Court decision, Pastor Steve King of Cherrydale Baptist Church says that Ephesians 5 validates that position. Clearly verse 31 does offer some backing to that position, but it is hardly explicit nor particularly specific. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” It would be illogical (not to mention more than a little difficult to accomplish) to say “a man…shall be joined unto his wives, and they 701 [as in the case of Solomon and his 700 wives] shall be one flesh.”

In the same document, the Cherrydale preacher says that the polygamists, including Abraham the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, “violated the Biblical definition and in every single case the ugly consequences of polygamy were always pointed out in Scripture.” Except that in an otherwise apparently well annotated document, he fails to cite any chapter or verse to support that assertion, rendering it less credible. Much of the rest of Ephesians 5 deals with how a husband and wife treat one another and is quite distant from any definition of marriage.

Mr. King goes on to say that the following from Genesis provides the definition of marriage, “21 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. 25 And the man and his wife were both
naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:21-25″

OK, I guess, but I don’t see the word “marriage” in those five verses from Genesis, though verse 24 does resemble Ephesians 5:31. Neither one indicates that any official sacred ceremony of union has occurred. Both lack specificity.

Granted, I haven’t spent a lifetime memorizing every word in the Bible. There are those who have. So I ask you experts because I’m curious to learn, where is there the verse in the Bible that contravenes the polygamy and eschews the keeping of concubines both so well-documented in the Bible? Please, quote me a verse that is the explicit, authoritative and unequivocal definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman to the exclusion of any other interpretation.

  6 comments for “Questions About the Bible and Marriage

  1. junior
    April 14, 2009 at 6:35 am

    I could care less what the Bible says about this issue.

    However, I did not see anything in the cited bible passages which indicates support for same sex marriage.

  2. jose s.
    April 14, 2009 at 8:20 am

    i have never seen anything in the bible that supports gay marriage but i know in leviticus 20:13 it talks about killing gays “without fail” something the religious nuts always say it’s a passage taken out of context. but it’s right there in black in white and it calls for the killing of gays. theres a lot of crazy stuff in leviticus. but it’s passages like that that just fuel the hatred.

    • April 14, 2009 at 11:02 am

      Leviticus also says that eating shellfish and pork are an abomination (the same word used to describe homosexual acts). I just wonder if Rick Warren likes those bacon-wrapped shrimp they serve as appetizers at the White House.

  3. junior
    April 14, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I like that bacon wrapped veggie thing.

  4. Misha Houser
    April 16, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Dan, don’t forget the relationship between Naomi & Ruth. The following passage in the book of Ruth has been used in countless marriage ceremonies for hundreds of years…so the church HAS sanctified the relationship between two women! Their stance on gay marrige is entirely hypocritical:

    “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17)

    The biblical text goes on to proclaim that a son was born to Naomi when Ruth gives birth via her husband, a complicated story about widows and brother-in-law marriage with Ruth and Naomi’s devotion to each other. Another passage proclaims that Ruth “clung” to Naomi. The Hebrew word used is the same one used to describe the relationship between Adam and Eve.

  5. mayes
    May 5, 2009 at 12:33 am

    thanks dear as you want to know that verse, so please
    God Bless You

    The Bible

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