Marriage According to The Bible

When John and I were re-stationed in Hawaii, we attended the base chapel. I noticed something strange: all of the wives were incredibly happy, deliriously so, like they knew some wonderful secret. Finally, one day I asked what the secret was. They were attending classes called Renewing Love***(see note at very end of lesson) taught by a sweet Christian woman. The topic was Ephesians 5: 22 “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands.” As they related to me,  this meant they no longer had to make any decisions or have any responsibilities – their husbands were in charge and they simply had to obey him and God would richly bless them. The whole concept deeply disturbed me and I felt the Lord leading me to thoroughly research what submission was. The study turned into much more than that as you will see. I spent over six months studying commentaries, reading books, looking up words in concordances and lexicons, having our head chaplain thoroughly approve my writings and, most of all, praying. What I found gave me a deep understanding of why the Lord began the Bible with a wedding in Genesis 2; performed His first miracle at the wedding at Cana; and will end the Bible with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Marriage is a great deal more significant than we realize.




24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Genesis 2:24King James Version (KJV)

Marriage on this earth is not an end in itself; it has a heavenly purpose. The purpose of this earthly marriage is to train both the husband and the wife in servanthood so that they are both ready to assume their role as the bride of the Lamb of God. The original decree for marriage – Gen 2: 24  that the two become one flesh – was delivered by the Father before sin and  un-Biblical  “rule” entered the Garden. As we realize that both husband and wife are to be trained as servants – submitting themselves one to another (Ephesians 5:21):laying down their lives one for another –  it becomes obvious that neither is to be trained as a “ruler” with one dominating over another. It is so very simple: the ONLY true Head of an earthly marriage is to be Jesus. No person is to assume a higher place than another; only He is to be the model for each to follow.

Genesis I: Rule Given to Man and Woman

Ge 1:26 Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. Ge 1:27 So God created man in his own image,  in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Ge 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.(Emphasis mine)

Note that God not only gave them both their creation but that in v. 26-28 He gave them both the right to rule. They are given exactly the same things to rule over. There is not one domain for the man and another for the woman. They are both told to be fruitful and multiply, to fill and subdue it. But nowhere are they given the right to rule over each other.

In v. 26-27 we see that God made both man and woman in His image and likeness. The first allegiance of both the man and the woman is seen to be to God by the very fact of creation. He is the very source of their lives. Chapter Two enlarges on this.

Genesis II: Creation of   Man and Woman

Ge 2:7 Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being.       

 Ge 2:21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and while he slept, He took one of his ribs or a part of his side and closed up the [place with] flesh.

Ge 2:22 And the rib or part of his side which the Lord God had taken from the man He built up and made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

 What follows are Adam’s first recorded words and they are quite animated:

Ge 2:23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’(Ishah) for she was taken out of man (Ishi)”

Adam, when he sees the woman, acknowledges that this is his counterpart by giving her a name much like his own: he calls himself Ishi, her Ishah and in so doing he stresses their likeness.

This is the “help meet” spoken of in Gen 2:18 :

Ge 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a help meet suitable for him.

“Meet” means: one who answers to another, one who is like another.

It means his reflected image, one who could correspond to him in every way. It describes one who      could look the man in the face, fully helping him in every way. (Q.M. Adams :Neither Male nor Female)

Adam has denoted their union – their oneness – by saying that she is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. Yet there is another One present Who so totally approves of this union – God Himself. God speaks the following words:

Ge 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Jesus then refers back to them in Mt 19:4-5 (see also Mark 10:6-9):

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

Matthew 19:4-5New King James Version (NKJV)

The meaning of the words “leave” and “cleave” express more sharply the magnitude of this new union of the two made one flesh. The leaving is not a minor action; it is rather like the cutting of an umbilical cord. Of my two children, our son was married first. Through the wisdom of an older friend I became aware that I had to come to peace with the fact that he was now Angie’s husband, not “my” son anymore. There was a transformation that had to take place in my head and heart. Wonderfully, God made that possible. Always, if there is a choice of who he should go with on Mother’s Day, I tell him to take the boys and take his wife and their mother  out to dinner. He is their’s first, before he is mine. We have a very closely-knit family.

The verb “leave” means to abandon, to forsake and is used predominantly of forsaking strange gods. The verb “cleave” conveys strong personal attachment as when Israel cleaves to their God.  (Paul Jewett “Man as Male and Female“)

Note that in Gen 2: 25 the two were naked and not ashamed: they were able to share in the giving of themselves to each other physically, emotionally, spiritually. They gave each other all of themselves. They were not ashamed to lay bare all the most intimate details of their feelings and opinions. They have no ties stronger than the ties for each other – except for their tie to God Who joined them. This was a relationship of  “each for the other and both for the Lord” as an old marriage motto puts it.

Genesis III: The Fall

Genesis 3 is the account of how Satan in the form of the serpent proceeds to tempt the woman and the man. Upon looking at Scripture, it is apparent that Adam was indeed there.

Ge 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Since the question of Adam being present with Eve as Satan tempted her has been a subject that has caused much discussion, I would like to simply defer to two commentators on the subject. First:

From the NIV Application Commentary:

Where was Adam through all of this? The text tells us, but for some reason we have been reluctant     to accept what the text says: Adam was there with Eve. What else can verse 6 mean besides that he        was present at the temptation? If Adam’s being with his wife only means that he is in the cosmos     with her or an occupant of the garden with her, it is a nonsensical and unnecessary statement.  In addition, the text cannot be construed to say simply that he joined her by partaking of the fruit. If     the text wanted to say that, the prepositional phrase “with her” would be in the clause with the verb           “eat” instead of  where it is, in the clause with the verb “gave.”

Finally, it should be noted that all the verbs in this section are plural. From verse 1 where the serpent addresses the woman but uses the plural “you” to the woman’s use of the inclusionary “we”(v.2) and the serpent’s description of the results for both of them, there is every grammatical indication that both are there. Why does the woman do the speaking then. Because she is addressed (v.1). Why does the serpent address the woman? The text does not say. Why does the man not correct the woman’s statement? Again, the text offers no explanation.

It is a sound Biblical principle in exegesis that when the Bible does not speak, neither should we. So let us continue.

The act of disobedience was a shared act. They both agreed in the action. Some feel that somehow Eve tempted Adam and therefore became more guilty. But the only tempter in this story is Satan who entered as a serpent. Adam and Eve were together in the choice and the guilt. The idea that Eve, being weak and vulnerable, should never have been out from her husband’s ‘covering’ is unfounded. They were together. Satan addresses his remarks to Eve and she answers for both of  them. Adam was right there with her. They both ate and then ‘the eyes of them were opened…they realized they were naked…they sewed fig leaves.’” (Rev. Jerry Cook: Choosing to Love)

They both sinned; they both received the same punishment; they both were separated from God and they both had to leave the Garden of Eden. In the end all that mattered was that they both were guilty of profound disobedience against a loving and gracious God.

Listening to the Serpent and not to God

Before we even proceed to quote God’s Word and the serpent’s distortion of that Word, let’s ask ourselves a very basic question: wouldn’t your suspicions be aroused if all of a sudden a beast of the field began to talk to you?! Shouldn’t this have been a tip-off right away to Adam and Eve that something evil was afoot, especially since the words coming out of that creature’s mouth were not the words of God? To be sure they weren’t the same words, let’s compare them:

Ge 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the  garden;  Ge 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Emphasis mine)

The verb “must” is the “strongest form of prohibition “ (Barnes: Commentary) and is just as emphatic as the word “surely” is. Yet, on the other hand, look at the magnitude of the love and gifts of God as He states that they are totally free to eat from any of the trees in the garden. It is said in the sense of giving a child billions of dollars and keeping back a dime.

Yet look at how the serpent not only launches an attack on the Word of God but, even more insidiously, upon God’s goodness to them and love for them.

Ge 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Ge 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,

Ge 3:3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

Ge 3:4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. Ge 3:5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Let’s compare Gen 3: 1-4 with Gen 2:16 verse by verse to understand the craftiness of the enemy that we may be more aware of his stealthy ways.

In v.3:1 Satan states that God said that “you must not eat from any tree in the garden. But Gen 2:16 said that God told them they could eat from any tree in the garden.

In v.3:2 we see that Eve has let down her guard and is no longer quoting the exact Word of God. She says “we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden” but Gen 2:16 said that God told them they could eat from any tree in the garden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was no stinginess implied in His gift. They could freely eat of any fruit not just as Eve so miserly said “from the trees in the garden.” Eve subtracted from the Word of God.


In v.3:3 – Eve adds to God’s Word by inserting “you must not touch it.” That phrase makes God seem like a nit-picky, stingy potentate not at all in character with a His benevolent nature. Deut 4:2 warns that adding to or subtracting from God’s Word leads to deception.

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. 

Deuteronomy 4:2New King James Version (NKJV)

In v.3:4 – The serpent boldly states “you will not surely die” and thus calls God a liar. Gen 2: 16 states forcefully that God said if they disobeyed they would surely die.

Eve’s reply should have been an emphatic denial of the suspicion that God had been withholding good from man. Instead, by just partially denying the serpent’s statement, there is room allowed for the suspicion that perhaps God has not been as entirely good and gracious as previously thought. But as soon as one does not wholeheartedly trust God, mistrust gains ground and sin enters. (Barnes: Commentary)

v.3:5 – In this verse Satan implies that God knew all along that if they ate of the fruit their eyes would be opened and they would exist in the class of the higher beings – the gods. It makes God appear as if He is withholding this “good” from them!

Ge 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.(ibid)

Notice how Eve speaks not a word.

[She] is entirely engrossed in the contemplation of the things promised and in the hope of the greatness suggested. By a natural law of progression the sin develops to the point where the one divine restriction is definitely cast off and Eve stands forth in open defiance of her Maker. Sin always develops in this manner after one’s foot has once been set on the downward path. (Barnes: Commentary)

Adam’s consent to the same sin is reported with a  brevity that amazes us: “she gave to her husband who was with her and he ate it.”

Ge 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Ibid)

The first noticeable effect of their actions is shame. Both are equally guilty; both experience the same result. They make themselves man-made coverings – which are never adequate to cover sin, neither are they Biblical.

There are teachings that state that when a woman marries she “is transferred from the covering of her parents to that of her husband” (Sylvia Charles: Couples in the Bible). But how could this be so? There is only one covering the Bible speaks of – the blood covering of Jesus.

Because God is Holy, He had to provide a covering for sin. So, He brought into being a system of atonement whereby shed blood would cover sin. Heb 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

(Sylvia Charles: Couples in the Bible)

22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

 – Hebrews 9:22New King James Version (NKJV)

Reactions to the Sin

Ge 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Ge 3:9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Ge 3:10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”.

Before they sinned the man and woman had free and sweet communion with the Lord. Now, instead of running to Him, they run from Him. Communion with the Lord is no longer a delight to them. But God, in His infinite mercy, still seeks man out. And now we have the first words spoken by the man after he has sinned and look at how revealing they are: “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Fear, shame, a desire to hide from God – all these are consequences of that first sin.

The Consequences of Sin

Ge 3:11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? ” Ge 3:12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me— she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Ge 3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

God questions Adam and Eve separately. When God speaks to Adam, He does not speak through Eve; conversely, when He speaks to Eve, He does not speak through Adam. God  uses no intermediaries: He is true to Himself. Christ is the only mediator between God and man (1Ti 2: 5 – “There is only one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”).

God speaks to Adam first and Adam admits that he ate of the fruit. Notice, though, that Adam tries to shift the blame: he blames the woman and then, through this accusation, he also blames God (“The woman You put here with me”). The woman also shifts the blame: she blames the serpent. Notice that neither blames himself/herself.

The only deceiver in the garden is the serpent. All teachings that state that Eve deceived Adam are not supported by Scripture. 2Co 11:3 “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning…” Eve was the one deceived not the one who did any deceiving.

Punishment for Sin

Ge 3:16 To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow in pregnancy and the pangs of  childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children. Yet your desire and craving will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

Ge 3:17 And to Adam He said, Because you have given heed to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life.

Let’s look more closely at the punishment given by God to Adam and Eve. The same “sorrow” is given to BOTH Adam and Eve as their punishment. “I will multiply your sorrow and your conception  and “…in sorrow shall you eat” referring to Adam. The word used in both instances is “itssabon” and it means sorrow not pain.

They both committed the same sin of disobedience and they both were judged the same for it: they both lost communion with God; they both had to flee the Garden of Eden; and both would know sorrow instead of joy in their lives.

God’s Solution for their sin: The Blood Covering

In Gen 3:7 we have the man and woman depicted as they “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves apron-like girdles” and in v.21 we see God “making them long coats of skins and clothing them.” The man and woman made themselves coverings, but God knew the only covering that is ever right and acceptable to Him is the shedding of blood. In Gen 3: 21 He killed an animal for them – the precursor of the shed blood of Jesus. God did not accept the idea that Adam or any man could be a “covering” for Eve or any woman; only the blood covering sufficed. Today, the shed blood of the Lamb of God covers us.

 Heb 9:14 How much more surely shall the blood of Christ, Who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit  has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the [ever] living God?

Conclusion of Genesis I – III

In the account of the fall, there is only One who is good and that is God. Neither the man nor the woman can take pride in their sex in this account – neither can they blame the other in any way. They were there together, listened to the serpent together, sinned together. Yet, in all this, God remains with His Grace. He gives the promise to Eve of the Man yet to come:

15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

Genesis 3:15New King James Version (NKJV)

And in His Grace, He sheds the first blood as a forerunner of that eventual shedding of blood that would set all men and women free of the sin in the garden and able once more to enter into sweet fellowship with the Lord.

Ro 5:18 Well then, as one man’s trespass [one man’s false step and falling away led] to condemnation for all men, so one Man’s act of righteousness [leads] to acquittal and right standing with God and life for all men.

We – and marriage – have been redeemed

Jesus’ atonement for our sins has allowed us to return to the time of grace before the Fall. He has made husband and wife “joint heirs of the grace of life” (1Pe 3: 7) through their mutual “submission of one unto the other “(Eph 5:21). He has brought the Christian husband and wife into a deeper union than the world would think possible.

Incredibly, He has referred to the verse in Gen 2:24 “the two shall become one flesh” – the verse that speaks of the man and woman’s marriage – as the basis for the relationship between Himself and His body, the church (Eph 5: 30-31). The richness found in these passages delights the spirit!

Life Application:

Read through Genesis chapters 1-3 and see if you understand all of the “tricky” verses and words here. There have been many “distortions” taught through the years. See if there are any minor adjustments you may have to make to your thinking…and think about making those adjustments🙂.

Please click here to submit your responses to our Life Application discussion question and select “Marriage According To The Bible” from the drop down list of menu choices.

***At the end, the course Renewing Love was discovered by my best friend who lived in Virginia to be a Mormon course called Fascinating Womanhood. It was “converted” into a “Christian” course by “mingling” Bible verses with it. The instructor on our base had no idea of this and informed all her students and immediately returned all materials. Wonderfully, as only God can do, she not only thanked me for all this information but she and I became very dear to each other.


For General questions or comments, please click here


I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published:  Hannah Hall, Michelle Arrington, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, J.P.Wilhelm, and Tracy Yoder. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.

Works Cited

Adams, Q.A. Neither male nor female : a study of the Scriptures  Ilfracombe : Stockwell, 1973.

Charles, Sylvia Couples in the Bible Hensley Publishing, 1988

Cook, Jerry Choosing to Love, Regal Books 1982.

Jewett, Paul K. Man as Male and Female. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.