The origins of marriage can be traced back to Eden, the Garden of God.
“The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Adam was in charge of tendering the garden and naming all living creatures, but he was alone. He had no “helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:20).
Thus, “The Lord caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:21-22).
When Adam awoke from his sleep, as he saw the helper God had made for him, undoubtedly amazed, he declared: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23).
On that day, in the Garden of Eden – before every living creatures the Lord God had made – took place the first wedding in the history of mankind.
While Adam was being united with his wife, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as officiants and prime witnesses solemnly proclaimed this statement: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Marriage is sacred
Marriage does not come from man, for it is not an invention of man. Marriage comes from God, who wants to give every man a helper so that he may not be alone.
Marriage is first about relationship. Eve was “bone and flesh” from Adam, a rib taken from him and turned into a companion for him; A companion God wanted Adam to be with and share everything: labor and leisure.
Marriage requires two persons – and genders: a man and a woman, for in the beginning God made them male and female (Genesis 1:27).
Marriage is a “good thing”, for “he who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
Marriage is for life. It does not have an expiration date, and most importantly, it cannot be annulled (Matthew 19:6).
Marriage is far more than the wedding day. It is not even about the dress, the tuxedo, the rehearsal, the bridesmaids, the cake, the party, or the honeymoon – for these things God never commended, they are institutionalized traditions. Marriage goes beyond the ceremony and festivities, it is a lifetime bound and commitment (Romans 7:2).
Just like Adam stated in the garden “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”, both man and woman declare before God and before men their desire to be united, to enter marriage bonds, and remain in them until the end (of the ages or death) comes. God as a witness records their statements and holds them both accountable for the confession they made.
The case of sexual immorality
It is never okay to separate what God has joined together, never. “For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence” (Malachi 2:16).
In Matthew 19:1-9, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason. The Lord answered by reminding them how God instituted marriage in the beginning and gave them this warning: “what God has joined together, let not man separate”. Again they asked Him why then Moses, the prophet commanded to give a certificate of divorce to their wives, before putting them away. Jesus answered them that it was not so from the beginning, but because of the hardness of their hearts, God through Moses permitted them to divorce their wives.
In saying this, Jesus reveals that God never instituted divorce nor did He allowed man to divorce his wife, for any reason at all. Also giving his spouse a certificate of divorce was never God’s idea, but man’s.
However, continuing responding to them, Jesus mentioned one exception, one only viable reason that can lead to the termination of the relationship between two spouses: sexual immorality (Matthew 19:9).
What is sexual immorality?
A list of sins referring to sexual immorality can be found in Deuteronomy 27:20-23, Leviticus 18, and Leviticus 20:10-21.
This include lying with his father’s wife, a sibling, a close relative, an in-law, a mother and her daughter, two sisters, an animal, a person of the same sex, someone else’s wife, a woman having her menstrual flow. The Lord calls them abominations and forbids His people to practice any of them (Leviticus 18:26).
Infidelity is a big deal, because the person who commits adultery betrays his spouse, breaks his/her marriage vows and defiles the marriage bed.
God wants us to keep ourselves from being adulterers, both physically (Romans 6:12-13) and spiritually (by avoiding getting into idols worship as described in Ezekiel 23). 1 Corinthians 6:18 states: “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body”.
Therefore let us understand that marriage as established by God, “should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).
Still planning sending him/her away? Think again.
In Genesis chapter three when God came in the cool of the day to meet with Adam and Eve after they sinned by eating from the (forbidden) tree of knowledge of good and evil, He did not urged Adam to separate from his wife, though it was her who enticed him into eating from the tree after she did.
The Bible also tells us about the many failures of Israel, God’s chosen people, to diligently obey the law of the Lord and follow all His commands.
In Jeremiah 3:20, God compares Israel unfaithfulness to that of a woman dealing treacherously with her husband and in Ezekiel 16:1-34, He declares that His people act like a brazen prostitute (verse 30), because of the idolatry that fills the land. Yet, though God was angry because of their unfaithfulness, He never broke the covenant He made with them at any time.
Laws concerning marriage and divorce as found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
The law of Moses had clear indications on dealing with sexual immorality. Most of them can be found in Deuteronomy 22:13-30. (1) Brides who were not found virgins after the wedding day were to be stoned to death, (2) Adulterers, both man and woman, were to be put to death. (3) A man who consensually lied with a virgin betrothed to a husband was to be stoned to death along with her. In the case of a rape, the man alone was to be stoned to death. (4) A man who raped a virgin not betrothed to a husband, was to pay fifty shekels of silver to the father of that woman, then marry her with not chance to divorce her all the days of his life.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 obviously does not refer to a case of sexual immortality, for sexual immorality was a capital offense in Israel, punishable with death not divorce.
The ‘uncleanness’ found by the husband here is visibly something not worthy of death, probably conciliable. May be referring to a non-Israelite woman (so, who should not have been taken for wife in the first place), or simply the man’s will to separate from her.
As Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19:8 this was the result of their hardness of hearts. That is certainly why the husband had to write her a certificate of divorce before sending her away.
Remarrying after a divorce
Today, marriage is more portrayed as a contract between two parties who express the desire to “live together” and “the marriage contract”, binding the parties, recorded and archived as a legal document.
Thus, after the wedding, when the marriage faces trouble, both parties do not see the binding nature of their vow and make the legal request to have “the contract” revoked and nullified so they can start their lives over again.
But is marriage really a contract like all others – a matter of men and not God?
The answer is NO. Marriage is NOT a contract, but a COVENANT – an agreement in which parties are bound to their vows as long as they live (read Genesis 15 – God’s covenant with Abram – and Exodus 19 and 20 – God’s covenant with Israel).
Getting married is a serious matter before God, men and the person one is pledging to marry. It is with no doubt the most important decision two persons make. For this reason it should not to be taken lightly, but carefully considered.
In Matthew 19:9 Jesus clearly states that “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” … “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).
This could not be more clear.
Husband and wife like the lamb and his bride
The Word of God compares the love of Jesus-Christ for His Church to that of a husband for his wife.
In Romans 7:4 Paul writes: “Therefore my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God”. Also in Revelation 19:7, the Church is called the bride of the Lamb; Jesus being the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the bridegroom (John 3:29).
A good marriage involves imitating Christ.
In the fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians, a call is made to husbands and wives, inviting them to be imitators of Christ, submitting to Him as the Church, and following His example as the good bridegroom.
Addressing women, it is written:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24).
Concerning husbands, the Word of God mentions that they have the duty to love and care for their wives just like Christ loves and “gave Himself” for His bride :
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:25-33).