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marriage in the Bible
Marriage was instituted in the Paradise of the Garden of Eden, when man was in innocence (Genesis 2:18-24). Here we have its original charter, which was confirmed by our Lord, as the basis on which all regulations are to be framed (Matthew 19:4-5).
Monogamy vs. polygamy
It is evident that monogamy was the original law of marriage (Matthew 19:5; 1 Corinthians 6:16). This law was violated in after times, when corrupt usages began to be introduced (Genesis 4:19; 6:2). We meet with the prevalence of polygamy and concubinage in the patriarchal age (Genesis 16:1-4; 22:21-24; 28:8,9; 29:23-30, etc.). Polygamy was acknowledged in the Mosaic law and made the basis of legislation, and continued to be practiced all down through the period of Jewish history to the Captivity, after which there is no instance of it on record.
It seems to have been the practice from the beginning for fathers to select wives for their sons (Genesis 24:3; 38:6). Sometimes also proposals were initiated by the father of the maiden (Exodus 2:21). The brothers of the maiden were also sometimes consulted (Genesis 24:51; 34:11), but her own consent was not required. The young man was bound to give a price to the father of the maiden (31:15; 34:12; Exodus 22:16-17; 1 Samuel 18:23,25; Ruth 4:10; Hos. 3:2) On these patriarchal customs the Mosaic law made no change.
In the pre-Mosaic times, when the proposals were accepted and the marriage price given, the bridegroom could come at once and take away his bride to his own house (Genesis 24:63-67). But, in general, the marriage was celebrated by a feast in the house of the bride’s parents, to which all friends were invited (29:22, 27); and on the day of the marriage the bride, concealed under a thick veil, was conducted to her future husband’s home.
Our Lord corrected many false notions then existing on the subject of marriage (Matthew 22:23-30), and placed it as a divine institution on the highest grounds. The apostles state clearly and enforce the nuptial duties of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33; Col. 3:18,19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Marriage is said to be “honorable” (Hebrews 13:4), and the prohibition of it is noted as one of the marks of degenerate times (1 Timothy 4:3).
The marriage relation is used to represent the union between God and his people (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:1-14; Hos. 2:9, 20). In the New Testament the same figure is employed in representing the love of Christ to his saints (Ephesians 5:25-27). The Church of the redeemed is the “bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 19:7-9).
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