Have the reasons for marriage changed?

The reasons given in Genesis for marriage were: To govern God’s creation (1:28), be a team (2:18), and create a home and family (2:24).

Marriage, in other words, was God’s starting point for his creation. Marriage would create a powerful husband and (one) wife team that could look after his creation perfectly, and produce children like themselves who would spread out further and further into God’s creation fulfilling his plan. Marriage was the key to the plan’s success.

Cain’s descendant Lamech, however, broke the pattern by marrying two wives (Genesis 4:23). The families of the great patriarchs, like Abraham and Jacob, weren’t exactly great examples of marriage either (Genesis 16:3-4 and 29:16-30). Sticking to God’s original reasons for marriage, therefore, wasn’t top priority in the Old Testament, even for the likes of King David, who had many wives and serious marriage problems. God also gave what sound like very odd instructions on marriage to Israel (like Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and 25:5-10), and divorce was easy. It’s interesting to note, then, that God’s plan for creation was going nowhere at the same time that marriage was a mess. The two went hand-in-hand.

Centuries later, however, at the end of the Old Testament, God had clearly had enough of the loosey-goosey attitude to marriage: “The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth,” Malachi 2:14, “because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”

Oh, so the marriage covenant between a husband and his wife WAS important after all. But centuries of treating wives and marriage as an afterthought had shown why: There was a clear connection between how husbands treated their wives and the success of God’s plan for Israel (verse 13). A husband’s faithfulness to his marriage covenant was directly connected to God’s blessing on the nation. Or, put another way: If husbands had loved their wives like God had loved Israel, the nation’s success was guaranteed.

No wonder Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” because if husbands in the new Israel, the church, can love their wives like Christ loves the church, the new creation is guaranteed success too. That’s how important marriage is.

Have the reasons for marriage changed, then? Not at all, because as God shows in Genesis, the success of his plans for all creation were directly connected to Adam and Eve as a married couple working as a team. Their love for each other was the starting point, and the blueprint, for all marriages. And if Adam had really loved his wife, God’s plan would have turned out very differently.

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