Age Gap in Marriage
A Biblical Perspective
by Edmond Ng
Many people have reservation about marrying someone much older than the other.
The Bible provides several examples of marriage by people with a difference in age gap, and one of them is between Ruth and Boaz.
Ruth is one of the few people in the Bible with no recorded sin, and she goes down into history following the genealogical line of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
In Ruth 3:9-11, the Bible records Boaz's evaluation of Ruth and expressed Boaz's willingness to take Ruth in marriage:
From the verses mentioned above, it can be noted there is a gap in the difference between the age of Boaz and Ruth. Boaz calls Ruth "my daughter" and commended her for not "going after young men." The honour resulting from this marriage is to be recorded in history as part of the Saviour's family line.
"He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." Then he said, "May you be blessed of Yahweh, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. "Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence."
Matthew Henry (1706) in his Commentary on the Whole Bible states the following:
As can be seen from the commentary, Ruth chose “to please God” rather than self, and in so doing, pleases God. Marriage in the real world is not about age differences, it is about honoring God. There is no failed marriage if we do all things to honour God!
"Boaz knew it was not any sinful lust that brought her (Ruth) thither, and therefore bravely maintained both his own honour and hers. He did not put any ill construction upon what she did, did not reproach her as an impudent woman and unfit to make an honest man a wife. She having approved herself well in the fields, and all her conduct having been modest and decent, he would not, from this instance, entertain the least suspicion of her character nor seem to do so, perhaps blaming himself that he had not offered the service of a kinsman to these distressed widows, and saved her this trouble, and ready to say as Judah concerning his daughter-in-law, She is more righteous than I. But on the contrary, he commended her, spoke kindly to her, called her his daughter, and spoke honourably of her, as a woman of eminent virtue.
"She (Ruth) had shown in this instance more kindness to her mother-in-law, and to the family into which she had matched, than in any instance yet. It was very kind to leave her own country and come along with her mother to the land of Israel, to dwell with her, and help to maintain her. For this he had blessed her (Ruth 2:12); but now he says, "Thou hast shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning" (Ruth 3:10), in that she consulted not her own fancy, but her husband’s family, in marrying again. She received not the addresses of young men (much less did she seek them) whether poor or rich, but was willing to marry as the divine law directed, though it was to an old man, because it was for the honour and interest of the family into which she had matched, and for which she had an entire kindness. Young people must aim, in disposing of themselves, not so much to please their own eye as to please God and their parents. He promised her marriage (Ruth 3:11):
"Note, exemplary virtue ought to have its due praise (Philemon 4:8), and it will recommend both men and women to the esteem of "the wisest and best. Ruth was a poor woman, and poverty often obscures the lustre of virtue; yet Ruth’s virtues, even in a mean condition, were generally taken notice of and could not be hid; nay, her virtues took away the reproach of her poverty. If poor people be but good people, they shall have honour from God and man. Ruth had been remarkable for her humility, which paved the way to this honour. The less she proclaimed her own goodness the more did her neighbours take notice of it. In the choice of yoke-fellows, virtue should especially be regarded, known approved virtue."
"Fear not that I will slight thee, or expose thee; no, I will do all that thou requirest, for it is the same that the law requires, from the next of kin, and I have no reason to decline it, for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman."
Every age and culture reacts to age-gap marriages differently. The West's Christian values have, in large measure, been shaped by Victorian attitudes. Large age gaps tended to be rare because of the limited social interaction of different age groups in the school system, making it more likely for couples to find mates of approximately their own age. To this day large age gaps tend to be frowned upon in Western society not because such unions were not found or were not permitted in the Bible but because the social conventions and norms of the age regarded them as taboo.
Nevertheless age-gap marriages seem to be multiplying both in number and prominenance in Western society. The following are some celebrities with the number of years difference between them:
In addition to Ruth and Boaz, the ancestors of the Messiah, another good biblical example of an age-gap marriage is to be found in that of Joseph and Mary, the step-father and mother of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), respectively. According to the Western Church, Joseph was considerably older than his wife - 30 or more years according to Catholic and Greek Orthodox tradition, which would account for his early disappearance from the Gospels. Some ancient traditions have him even older, with as many as 70+ years between them. After the virgin birth of Yah'shua, Joseph sired several brothers and sisters for the Messiah, one of whom - James (Jacob) became a prominent leader of the early Messianic Community (Church), though Catholics, committed to the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary, insist that Joseph had been married before (to 'Salome', though other names are offered too) and that this first wife was the mother of Yah'shua's (Jesus') half-siblings. It is from this tradition that an even older age for Joseph's marriage to Mary is claimed.
- David Schwimmer & Zoe Buchman (19)
- Evan Rachel Wood & Marilyn Manson (19)
- Prince Albert of Monach & Charlene Wittstock (20)
- Nicholas Cage & Alice Kim (20)
- Warren Beatty & Annette Bening (21)
- Keven Costher & Christine Baumgeitner (22)
- Harrison Ford & Calista Flockhart (22)
- Bruce Willis & Emma Willis (23)
- Mick Jagger & L'Wren Scott (23)
- Sean Penn & Scarlett Johansson (24)
- Sam Taylor-Wood & Aaron Johnsen (24)
- Celine Dion & René Angélil (26)
- Rod Stewart & Penny Lancaster (27)
- Madonna & Jesus Luz (28)
- Woody Allen & Soon-Yi Previn (34)
- Hugh Heffner & Crystal Harris (60)
Age-gap marriages have both advantages and disadvantages. The chief disadvantage is, of course, that the older husband will die long before the younger one, leaving her a widow. And in the less common example of an older wife, there is less chance of having children. By far the more common of the two is the older husband and younger wife coupling. With what advantages do the respective parties view such an arrangement (aside from the carnal ones of more sex or more money, which common sense alone ought to warn the believer to avoid)? According to research, older men prefer younger women not necessarily because they are more sexually attractive but because they are more mouldable, and younger women preferred older men because they were more intellectually stimulating, more emotionally sympathetic and spiritually maturer.
According to a recent article by Kate Devlin on the physical and health aspects of marriage in the British newspaper, The Telegraph (May 19-25 2010, #982, p.8) entitled, The Cougar Effect: Marry Toy Boy, Die Young, citing a Danish sociologist, Sven Drefahl of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, who used statistics on two million Danish couples, an older woman settling down with a younger man has a 20% reduced life expectancy whereas men who marry younger women tend to live much longer.
From a biblical point-of-view, age is far less important than other issues like salvation, spiritual maturity and compatibility. For the believer, there is only one overriding criterion that should be sought and determined:
In biblical times, the convention was that men marry at around 30 and women when they reached puberty. Today, because of the secular culture, things are very different. On balance, men and women will tend to seek mates who are of around the same age, the convention usually being that the men are a little older than the women. However, there will always be exceptions that are not only honourable but blessed of heaven, as we see in the examples of Ruth and Boaz who were the ancestors of Joseph and Mary, and of a similar age difference, and who brought forth the Saviour of the World. And what Elohim (God) has brought together, let not man tear asunder in either attitude or in deed.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of Elohim (God), who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5, NKJV).
This page was created on 1 June 2010
Last updated on 3 August 2012
Copyright © 2005 Edmond Ng - Reproduced with Permission