In every wedding that I have performed, at some point a verse from Genesis is included. Genesis 2:24 is the first word on marriage; It is the first word and the defining word also.
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
I have for over 30 years used the teaching of Walter Trobisch on this point. I love it because it is clear, memorable and biblical at the same time. The keys to remember are the verbs: Leave, Unite and Become.
We are born into families that, we hope, raise us to be healthy, disciplined, energetic and prepared for the world. We depend on our families for love. We depend on them for food and safety. They give us our first and usually our strongest sense of belonging.
But at marriage we leave. The man leaves his father and mother, but so does the wife. They leave behind the arrangement of their youth and start a new family unity. Many marriage issues happen when we do not leave what was before – be that running home to mom and dad, or being childishly dependent.
We Unite. The old word for this is “cleave.” It is to be joined together in love. A husband and a wife ought to be friends who love each other. They should delight in each other’s company. They should share their hearts and desires with total confidence that what they say will be received and honored. A Marriage is a unity of two persons with all our hearts, thoughts, feelings and dreams.
We become one physically. That which is of the most concern in our culture, sex, is the last in order in the Bible. Our culture starts with sex and ends with commitment, sometimes. The Bible sees marriage as a promise – literally a covenant – first and the rest comes after. The covenant promise of mutual lifelong love is that makes a marriage flourish through all the issues two people could face over years and decades.
There is some question of how the Biblical texts on redemption of property and levirate marriage fits the situation with Ruth – it is Naomi’s property to be restored and her family line to be perpetuated, but that goes through Ruth.
Here is a background quote that gives perspective.
“…one must recall the nature of biblical legal materials. Against popular impression, they do not offer a comprehensive instruction which covers every imaginable case. Rather, they constitute instructions about sample or crucial topics from which inferences about all other cases are to be drawn. Their goal s is more to inculcate Israel’s fundamental value system in its people than to provide handy legal references for judicial bodies. Thus, attempts to align the customs in Ruth precisely with the details of three frequently cited texts (Gen 38; Lev 25:25-34; Dt. 25:5-10) are unnecessary and ill-advised. On the contrary the value of such texts exceeds their simple, procedural details; rather, they are mirrors of Israel’s treasured values. With reference to Ruth, they reflect how strongly Israel valued the survival of families through descendants and family ownership of ancestral property.”
Robert L Hubbard, Jr, The Book of Ruth (NICOT), Eerdmans, 1988
I was recently part of a discussion on divorce and remarriage. A very strict legal reading of the NT texts might suggest prohibiting any remarriage and limiting divorce to only infidelity and abandonment. but are the NT “laws” to be read in that way, or are they case-law and expressions of values by which we should decide in particular cases what is to be done. In ministry one encounters many situations what require wisdom beyond a close reading of the rules.
A theme in Ruth is “hesed” a Hebrew word that means faith, often in the sense of faithfulness. God’s faithfulness to his people whom he has chosen. Boaz’s and Ruth’s faithfulness expressed in their actions and commitments.
I have observed over the years, since I was at University that the arguments have migrated regularly. Some of what I wrote is thus dated, but the Biblical portions remain my view of the texts in question.
Finally, Biblical passages that pertain to Sexuality.