Biblical Marriage – Part 1

Posted by By at 2 August, at 09 : 24 AM Print

Whereas Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have proclaimed “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman,”

Whereas the Chick-fil-A company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit” and its president prays “God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

Whereas, the Pennsylvania legislature has unanimously proclaimed 2012 to be “The Year of the Bible,”

Whereas I began writing this series on the day my wife and I were celebrating 34 years of marriage,

Be it resolved: let’s take a look at biblical marriage.

Most Christians believe the first married couple was Adam and Eve. Using the typical Protestant method of quote-then-comment, Christian author Mary Fairchild makes the assertion on her for-profit webpage About.com Christianity.

Her quote:

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’…and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Her comment:

Here we see the first wedding. We can conclude from this account in Genesis that marriage is God’s idea, designed and instituted by the Creator. In these verses we also discover that at the heart of God’s design for marriage is companionship and intimacy.

My comment:

If you go to her web page, I’m sure you will notice the ad where you can get ordained for 99 bucks. What you are probably less likely to notice are three little dots in Ms. Fairchild’s quotation.  She quoted Genesis 2:18, 21-24. Verses 19 and 20 are missing. I’ve added them below.  Even though your $99 ordination degree is still in the mail, see if you think her omission changes the meaning.

So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.

Without verse 19 Ms. Fairchild imagines an almighty, omnipotent God, designer and master planner, presiding over at wedding in the Garden of Eden.

With verse 19, almighty and omnipotent God is a fumbling, bumbling match-maker who can’t get it right. Making one help-mate after another, Adam replies like a speed dater – “ No,” “Nope,” “No thank you,” “Pass,” “Ain’t gonna happen,” Na-unh,” “Not,”  “You’re kidding, right?,” and “OH GOD, NO!”

So why is such a strange verse included in the Bible? It’s there because all other creation stories in the Ancient Near East depict horribly violent creator gods who create the world out of the guts of slain foes and create man to be a slave to the gods. Tablet VI of the Enuma Elis is typical,

Blood I will mass and cause bones to be. I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name, verily, savage-man, I will create. He shall be charged with the service of the gods that they might be at ease.

Verse 19 counters the bloviating, macho warrior creator god, by deliberately and deftly depicting a sweet, charming, poignant, stumble-bum of a God who has conversation with His creation as equals and cares for them deeply. There is even humor here – the  juxtaposition of a macho creator god verses the hapless can’t-find-a-fit-helpmate God. There is also the laugh of recognition –  in an Adam who, in the biblical version of “whoomp there it is,” recognized a great set of ribs when he saw ‘em.

It’s a story about what Jews have always been concerned about – equality and human dignity.  It is not a story about marriage.

Ok, so maybe there wasn’t any marriage before the fall of humankind, what does the Bible say about marriage after the fall? East of Eden, there was marriage aplenty.

The first is Genesis 4:17-18, “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch … To Enoch was born Irad…”

From these verses we can infer three things, 1) Mr. Cain was married to Mrs. Cain, 2) Mr. Cain was monogamous, and 3) Mr. and Mrs. Cain had a son – Enoch. What we cannot infer, is where Mrs. Cain came from. Not even the brightest, shining-light Creation Scientist at Liberty University knows if Mrs. Cain had a belly button and  if she did, who were her parents, and where did they come from? Did Mrs. Cain’s parents have belly buttons, and if not, where did they come from? Were they married, and if they were married, was it monogamous?

Not even the newly minted pastor with that newly printed $99 ordination degree that just arrived in the mail can tell us where Mrs. Enoch came from. Ditto all of the above.

But rest assured, monogamously married folk, Mr. Cain was married to Mrs. Cain and the first recorded biblical marriage was monogamous. Of course, Mr. Cain was also the first murderer. Your call entirely.

Enoch was also monogamous, as was, Irad, Mehujael, and Methushael.

However.

As every 19th century Mormon knew, Lamech, Methushael’s kid, had two wives – Adah and Zillah. When Miles Parker Romney and Mitt’s other 40 or so relatives turned their backs on the United States of America and left for Mexico, they were going there for biblical reasons – polygamous marriage.

Genesis 4:23-24 records the first polygamous marriage.

Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech hearken to what I say; I have slain a man for wounding me; a young man for striking me.” (Genesis 4:23-24)

We can infer three things from the passage. One, Lamech’s deepest thoughts about marriage and what it meant to be a good hubby consisted of bragging to Adah and Zillah that he was a Duke-of-Earl, extreme-fighting-challenge, tough guy. Two, Lamech started the polygamous marriage ball rolling. Three, polygamous marriage is biblical.

As we shall see in the next three columns, not only is polygamous marriage biblical, it is the norm.

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The Rev. Timothy Dewald was Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Lebanon Valley College joining the faculty in 1989. He retired in May 2010. In 1993 he won the College's Evelyn J. Knisley award for Inspirational Teaching. In addition to teaching mathematics, Rev. Dewald served the College in 1992 as acting chaplain, taught courses in East Asian religions, a First-Year Seminar on Darwin and evolution, Einstein’s general relativity, and the New Testament, as well as a mathematics and statistics courses. He also served as a parish minister for 23 years. Rev. Dewald graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in political science and religion. He earned a master of divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1987, he received certification in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University. - Email Timothy Dewald

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