What Is The Biblical Definition Of Marriage?

Pastor Dennis Campbell   10/30/2012

Pastor Dennis Campbell, Ph.D. is the senior pastor at Granite City Baptist Church of St. Cloud, MN. 320-251-2801, Info @ GraniteCityBaptist.org

The Bible clarifies the definition of marriage – Gen. 2:22, 24, “And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man…  Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

The Random House College Dictionary defines marriage as the social institution under which a man and a woman establish commitments and religious ceremonies.

The Bible defines marriage as one woman and one man for life.

  • Roman 7:2, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.”
  • 1 Cor. 7:2-3, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.  Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”
  • 1 Cor. 7:27, “Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed.  Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.”
  • 1 Cor. 7:38, 39, “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.  The wife is bound by law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”

The Bible condemns polygamy and says that God hates divorce – Mal. 2:16, “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away (divorce): for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” 

As we study Scripture on the subject of marriage, we see that marriage was originated at the time of creation, and it was one man and one woman.  Gen. 2:23-24, “And Adam 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.  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” 

The unity of man and wife is implied in Eve being formed out of man.  The Mosaic law discouraged polygamy, restricted divorce, and aimed to enforce purity of life and family.  The ring was regarded among the Hebrews as a token of fidelity.  Gen. 41:42, “And Pharoah took off his ring from his hand, and out it upon Joseph’s hand….” 

Marriage involved the drawing up of and the acceptance of a legal contract.  Gen. 24:60, “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.” The bride was adorned like a queen. 

Rev. 21:2, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The bridegroom too was dressed in finery.  Isa. 61:10, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” 

There was singing and music along the way.  Jer. 16:9, “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease….the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.” 

The Biblical definition of marriage is one woman for one man for life.  In Scripture a betrothal was more binding than the engagement in contemporary society.  A man was betrothed to a woman before they were married. 

Deut. 20:7, “And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.”  The Biblical divorce was often during the betrothal period.  Matt. 1:19, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away (divorce her) privily.” 

Abraham sent a servant to find a bride for Isaac from his own people.  Gen. 24:3-4, “And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.” 

Jacob was later sent to the same place to find a wife.  Gen. 28:2, “Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.” Gen. 29:19, “And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.” The Lord has always instructed the true believers never to marry the heathen or unsaved. 

2 Cor. 6:14, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” 

On the subject of marriage, we see from the Bible that in New Testament times a man such as Joseph, husband of Mary, became formally betrothed when he gave a present (dowry) to the girl and said, “By this thou art set apart for me, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” Matt. 1:18-20, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away (divorce her) privily.  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” 

Mark 10:6-9, “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” 

According to the New Testament, the mutual relations of husband and wife are a subject of frequent exhortation.  Eph. 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Eph. 5:33, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  

Col. 3:18-19, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”  Tit. 2:4-5, “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” 

Even in the last book of the Bible, we see marriage used to describe our everlasting relationship with the Lord as the bride was veiled and her robes were white.  Rev. 19:8, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  The marriage garment is compared to the relationship we will have with Christ when we will be dressed in white raiment, which pictures the righteousness of Christ. 

Sometimes the bride’s robes were embroidered with gold thread – Ps. 45:13-14, “The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.  She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.”

Her robes were covered with perfumes – Ps. 45:8, “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.”  Robes were further decked in jewels.  Rev. 21:2, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  


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