Monday, October 31, 2005

Marriage Part 1

With the Minnesota Pastor's Conference coming up November 10th, I thought I'd post a few things on marriage. It's pretty relevant to my life as well, as I am getting married in 60!!! days. The following is taken from Logos Bible Software (I have the Scholar's Library). I found this background info to be quite interesting.


Marriage is the state in which men and women can live together in sexual relationship with the approval of their social group. Adultery and fornication are sexual relationships that society does not recognize as constituting marriage. This definition is necessary to show that in the OT polygamy is not sexually immoral, since it constitutes a recognized married state; though it is generally shown to be inexpedient.

The status of marriage
Marriage is regarded as normal, and there is no word for ‘bachelor’ in the OT. The record of the creation of Eve (Gn. 2:18–24) indicates the unique relationship of husband and wife, and serves as a picture of the relationship between God and his people (Je. 3; Ezk. 16; Ho. 1–3) and between Christ and his church (Eph. 5:22–33). Jeremiah’s call to remain unmarried (Je. 16:2) is a unique prophetic sign, but in the NT it is recognized that for specific purposes celibacy can be God’s call to Christians (Mt. 19:10–12; 1 Cor. 7:7–9), although marriage and family life are the normal calling (Jn. 2:1–11; Eph. 5:22–6:4; 1 Tim. 3:2; 4:3; 5:14).

Monogamy is implicit in the story of Adam and Eve, since God created only one wife for Adam. Yet polygamy is adopted from the time of Lamech (Gn. 4:19), and is not forbidden in Scripture. It would seem that God left it to man to discover by experience that his original institution of monogamy was the proper relationship. It is shown that polygamy brings trouble, and often results in sin, e.g. Abraham (Gn. 21); Gideon (Jdg. 8:29–9:57); David (2 Sa. 11; 13); Solomon (1 Ki. 11:1–8). In view of oriental customs Heb. kings are warned against it (Dt. 17:17). Family jealousies arise from it, as with Elkanah’s two wives, one of whom is an adversary to the other (1 Sa. 1:6; cf. Lv. 18:18). It is difficult to know how far polygamy was practised, but on economic grounds it is probable that it was found more among the well-to-do than among the ordinary people. Herod the Great had nine wives at one time (Jos., Ant. 17.19). Polygamy continues to the present day among Jews in Muslim countries.

When polygamy was practised the status and relationship of the wives can be gathered both from the narratives and the law. It was natural that the husband would be drawn to one rather than another. Thus Jacob, who was tricked into polygamy, loved Rachel more than Leah (Gn. 29). Elkanah preferred Hannah in spite of her childlessness (1 Sa. 1:1–8). In Dt. 21:15–17 it is admitted that the husband may love one wife and hate the other.

Since children were important to carry on the family name, a childless wife might allow her husband to have children by her slave. This was legal in civilized Mesopotamia (e.g. the Code of Hammurapi, §§ 144–147), and was practised by Sarah and Abraham (Gn. 16) and Rachel and Jacob (Gn. 30:1–8), though Jacob went farther and accepted Leah’s maid also, even though Leah had already borne him children (Gn. 30:9). In these cases the rights of the wife are safe-guarded; it is she who gives her maid to her husband for a specific occasion. It is difficult to give a name to the status of the maid in such a relationship; she is a secondary, rather than a second, wife, though, if the husband continued to have relations with her, she would have the position of concubine. This is perhaps why Bilhah is called Jacob’s concubine in Gn. 35:22, while Hagar is not classed with Abraham’s concubines in Gn. 25:6.

Wives would normally be chosen from among the Hebrews (e.g. Ne. 13:23–28). Betrothal and marriage would then follow a normal pattern (see below). Sometimes they were bought as Heb. slaves (Ex. 21:7–11; Ne. 5:5). It is commonly asserted that the master of a household had sexual rights over all his female slaves. No doubt there were flagrant examples of such promiscuity, but the Bible says nothing about them. It is noteworthy that Ex. 21:7–11 and Dt. 15:12 distinguish between an ordinary female slave, who is to be released after 7 years, and one who has been deliberately taken as a wife, or concubine, and who cannot claim her release automatically. Since her rights are here established by law, the head of the house or his son must have gone through some ceremony, however simple, of which the law can take cognizance. In speaking of her rights this passage does not make them depend upon her word against the word of the head of the house, nor even upon her having borne him or his son a child. It is difficult to say what her status was. No doubt it varied according to whether she was the first, second, or only ‘wife’ of the householder. Where she was given to the son of the house, she might well have full status as his wife. The fact is that this law, as the context shows, deals with her rights as a slave and not primarily as a wife.

Wives might also be taken from among captives after a war, provided that they were not Palestinians (Dt. 20:14–18). Some writers regard these captives as concubines, but the regulations of Dt. 21:10–14 regard them as normal wives.
There is no law dealing with concubines, and we do not know what rights they had. Obviously they had an inferior position to the wives, but their children could inherit at their father’s discretion (Gn. 25:6). Judges records the rise to power of Abimelech, the son of Gideon’s concubine (Jdg. 8:31–9:57), and also tells the tragic story of the Levite and his concubine (Jdg. 19). The impression given by 19:2–4 is that this concubine was free to leave her ‘husband’, and that the man relied on persuasion to bring her home. David and Solomon copied oriental monarchs in taking many wives and concubines (2 Sa. 5:13; 1 Ki. 11:3; Ct. 6:8–9). In the last two passages it seems that the concubines were drawn from a lower class of the population.
In normal marriages the wife came to the husband’s home. There is, however, another form of marriage in Jdg. 14–15. This is practised among the Philistines, and there is no record of it among the Israelites. Here Samson’s wife remains at her father’s home, and Samson visits her. It might be argued that Samson had intended to take her home after the wedding, but went off alone in a rage after the trick that she had played on him. Yet she is still at her father’s house in 15:1, even though in the meantime she has been married to a Philistine.

1 comment:

don said...

And may you be blessed with many more wives as was Gideon, David, Abraham, and the other humble men of the Bible.

Pastor Don Milton