Biblically speaking, God is the one who designed marriage as is recorded in Genesis chapters one and two. Therefore, the earliest recorded instance of marriage is found in Genesis. Now, it might be possible that there are writings that mention marriage which predate the actual writing date of Genesis. But, Genesis purports to be a record of the earliest account of people since it describes the origin of our first ancient parents. Therefore, from that perspective, Genesis is the earliest recorded instance of marriage.
- Genesis 1:27-28, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
- Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
Generally speaking, Genesis 2:24 is the basis for marriage since it speaks of a man and a woman being joined together and becoming one flesh. Of course, different cultures have different means by which this joining is officiated. But, marriage is considered a socially acceptable union between a man and a woman who publicly covenant to remain committed to and faithful to each other to the exclusion of others.
What is marriage?
- "Union between man and woman, sanctified by God as a means of maintaining family life. The idea of marriage was ordained by God in his instruction to Adam that a man should leave his father and mother, and he and his wife should be as one flesh (Gn 2:24).1
- "Marriage may be defined as that lifelong and exclusive state in which a man and a woman are wholly committed to live with each other in sexual relationship under conditions normally approved and witnessed to by their social group or society. Although Christian opinion is divided on the necessity of coitus for validating marriage, Paul plainly taught that it is the specific act by which man and woman become one flesh..."2
- "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."3
Marriage is God's design
There are several reasons we could offer to explain why God designed marriage. Let's take a look at some of them.
- Sexual purity - marriage provides a morally proper context, before God, for sexual union.
- Provision of children - marriage is the best place in which to bring children into the world since the marriage bond implicates the husband and wife to a lifelong commitment not only to each other but also to their offspring.
- Protection of the spouse - marriage provides a protective union. In many ancient cultures women were abused by sexually predatorial males, but once married were protected by a husband.
- Protection of children - marriage provides a protective union for the raising of children. A covenantally bound couple who have produced children are more likely to seek the welfare of those children. If the marriage is dissolved or one spouse abandons the other, the children are more vulnerable to various corruptive pressures as modern statistics demonstrate.
- Limits sexual promiscuity with its dangers - sexual promiscuity has potential dangerous ill effects. Multiple sexual partners can spread sexual diseases. Multiple sexual partners lesson emotional commitments and if children are produced, lessens the commitment to them as well.
- Dominion mandate - God told Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). This cannot be done without offspring and marriage is the best place to raise offspring.
First mention of marriage
The first actual mention of the word marriage is found in Genesis 34:8, "But Hamor spoke with them, saying, 'The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage.'" However, the concept of marriage occurs earlier than that in the Bible.
You'll notice from the definitions above that they include a man and a woman or in the case of polygamy, men and women. Homosexual marriage is never recognized as being valid.
Marriage is first mentioned in Genesis 2:24 and biblically speaking is described as a union between a male and a female. Marriage is best understood as being monogamous and is a lifelong commitment. Finally, God is the one who invented marriage, and there are several potential reasons why he did this.
- 1. Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.
- 2. Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988.
- 3. Wood, D. R. W., and I. Howard Marshall. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.