. In other words, we start with multiple one-to-one relationships by default and build an echad one-to-two-plus over time (in a local congregation, around one-to-a-hundred).
Oral Torah (Melchizedek) Torah Definition
The Torah or Law was oral or passed by word-of-mouth before it was written down by Moses. This was the Torah of the Patriarchal Period which the New Testament says was practically identical to the New Covenant Torah, since according to the Book of Hebrews, both are after the Order of Melchizedek. We know what the elements were because of some pretty detailed stories. Two of them are noteworthy. We begin with Adam and Eve.
A. Adam and Eve
Note that this couple were made for each other. There was no wooing or courtship before they were married (see 'Wooing and Courtship' below). Yahweh made them married. Yahweh made Eve for Adam and gave her to him as the Father-of-the-bride even before Adam had set eyes on her, or she on him. What Yahweh establishes as marriage makes the marriage because He is the matchmaker. The relationship between the first couple flowed out of the divine legal giving and binding. This, and the Patriarchal Era that followed (before the Law of Moses was given) was the "beginning" that Yah'shua referred to when He stated that "in the beginning" there was no divorce (see 'Divorce' below) (Mt.19:8). This way of life existed for some 2,500 years before Moses wrote down the Torah.
B. Isaac and Rebekah
The ideal model is given in the story of Isaac and Rebekah. This is how things had been done for over 2,000 years. This account tells us Yahweh's Order and how marriage should be ideally contracted. We will look at these elements as they are given to us in Genesis 24.
- 1. Eliezer, chief servant of Abraham, is commissioned by Abraham to find a wife for his son Isaac. He is not to find one amongst the heathen Canaanites but from amongst his own people. This is mirrored by Paul's instructions to believers not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers (2 Cor.6:14). We are to marry from our own 'tribe', as it were. Elezier was told to be led in his choice by Yahweh, as Yahweh is the matchmaker. Yahweh decides who is to marry who because He knows best (vv.1-11);
- 2. Eliezier prays for a sign and it is granted. When he gets the clear evidence of Yahweh's will, he presents Rebekah with marriage jewellery, and praises Yahweh (vv.12-27). This giving of the mohar or bridal price constitutes the betrothal contract once it is accepted. Isaac was not even present for this event;
- 3. Next negotiations are conducted between the two families. Once Rebekah's father agrees to the marriage, he consults his daughter to ask if she agrees (if she does not, then she cannot be pressed into marriage - it has to be her free choice). When she agrees, the father releases his daughter (vv.28-58). Please note that Rebekah has never seen Isaac in her life and has no romantic feelings towards him. She is operating on the basis of pure revelation from Yahweh through the proper patriarchal authorities who have the responsibility to ensure things are done as Yahweh desires, and not as they desire. It's an entirely spiritual beginning.
- 4. Eliezer and Rebekah travel back to Abraham. Once they approach the camp and Isaac, Rebekah immediately veils herself so Isaac cannot see her. She remains veiled until she is married. Isaac has no idea what she looks like even though she can now see him (vv.58-66).
- 5. Rebekah is given her own tent (the late Sarah's tent) which is equivalent to her own 'room'. Isaac marries her. There was no formal ceremony in those days. The act of sexual intercourse makes them man and wife. Then the text says that "Isaac loved her (Rebekah)" (v.67).
The sequence of events here is important. Note that the romance did not begin until after the marriage. This is matchmaking and courtship 100% under Yahweh's control from beginning to end, which is why it is the ideal and the model for believers who walk with Yahweh. It's what true Bible-believing Christians should adhere to. Needless to say the 'Western Church' does everything backwards because the guiding star is the feelings of the parties and rarely Yahweh's will. Thus successful marriage is a hit-and-miss affair. It has proven itself to be an abysmal failure.
The foundation of biblical marriage is therefore:
- (a) Yahweh's will through revelation;
- (b) the parental and prospective spousal consent of the parties;
- (c) the formal contract/covenant; and
- (d) sexual intercourse to seal the marriage.
When two people say they are married or speak of 'my wife' or 'my husband', this is what is meant by 'married' scripturally. This is the vessel in which the romantic and spiritual are supposed to grow from, and mature in, the safety of covenants which are understood to be lifelong commitments that the community of believers will enforce. Hence the universally accepted definition of marriage which is "the state in which men and women can live together in sexual relationship with the approval of the society in which they live". (The 'society' for a believer is Messianic Israel which is defined by Yahweh in Torah). In other words, living under the same roof and having a physical relationship. When people do this, they are 'married' for life. This is the primal 'action' of marriage, which is very physical. What is the spiritual foundation? The covenant, ratified in the way Torah demands. Everything else flows from these two. Only then can we speak of a 'marriage of hearts' and the deeper realities. These are the goal - the wine, if you like - which has to be matured over time. But that wine must rest in the covenant and in the physical location of home and marriage bed. Summarising, then, marriage is:
- 1. Covenant followed by consummation;
- 2. Living under same roof and in same bed; and
- 3. Growing in heart-love in Yahweh's emet (truth)
#3 cannot possibly 'happen' without #1 or #2 and especially if #1 is dismissed because #3 isn't 'happening' as expected or demanded.
The Disorderly Western Model, Romance and 'Hebrance'
The chaotic marriage of Jacob to Leah and Rachel, arranged without the safeguards of Isaac and Rebekah's marriage, in which romance blinds the heart to duty, responsibility and Yahweh's will, forcing Yahweh's will to come about through a devious father-in-law, allowing passion for Rachel and non-covenant expectation to distort everything, is more or less what the West has imitated. It is romance rather than Yahweh's will that is Jacob's focus that leads to multiple trouble. Romance - which is a word meaning 'the Roman way' - is not Yahweh's Way, and though it was regulated up until the mid 20th century with elements of Yahweh's Way (e.g. seeking parental permission, chaparoning, the goving of a dowry, etc.), these elements were progressively eroded by the end of that century. Passionate love in Yahweh is supposed to spring out of the revelation of, and covenant in, Yahweh, and not come before it, which was why Rebekah remained veiled until her wedding night. Isaac didn't need to see what she looked like because Yahweh, who knows everything, made the right choice. They married by faith, not by sight nor by emotional yearning. These things came afterwards as they grew on and in each other. This does not mean that Isaac and Rebekah did not have marriage difficulties, but it does mean that their foundation was solid and built on Yahweh's true Order, and was blessed accordingly. They did not have the chaos in their relationship that Jacob did. The only true romance (perhaps we should call it 'hebrance', from the word 'Hebrew') is build upon this secure foundation of emet-truth in Yahweh. Other approaches are often hit-and-miss, subjective, unstable and carry the seeds of potential unhappiness, and even when they are successfuly, frequently supplant love for Yahweh as the dominant love in their relationship. That is why the world is able to present it as 'ideal' simply because this passion doesn't need Yahweh...until it hits rocky terrain!
Written (Aaronic/Mosaic Old Testament) Torah Definition
Historically both before Torah was written (i.e. during the times of the Patriarchs) and after it was written (Moses and afterwards), Yahweh indicated the 'order of business', as it were (meaning His Order) by first defining legalities. He decided back then, and still affirms today, what marriage is and what it is not. We've seen how it was in Eden and in the Patriarchal period, which were the ideal. The Aaronic/Mosaic, whilst a backwards step in some respects, also gave more revelation and clarity and was a major advance towards the fullness of the New Covenant. Most of it was simply a committing to paper of the oral law of the Patriarchs (you'll find most of the written Torah hinted at or implied in Genesis). What Yah'shua did not complete or fill-up still remains valid and applicable in that Code and is an addendum, as it were, to the Melchizedek Order to which it has become subtended and which we live. We'll look at Yah'shua's New Covenant additions later once the Torah foundation is firmly established in our minds.
The Bible is always gender-specific when it talks about marriage. It never talks about 'spouses' in general. This means that the rights and duties of men and women are different. Men have some rights that women don't have, and women have some rights which men don't have.
Wooing and Courtship
When Yahweh woos and courts Israel and Judah in Scripture, His two allegorical 'wives', it is always within the context of the pre-existent marriage covenant, consummated in Torah-obedience (because of Shavu'ot), and especially when they start wandering away and become estranged from Him by breaking the commandments and pursuing other gods. He does not woo or court them to enter the marriage covenant because it is He who established the covenant. Absolutely everything proceeds out of covenant in Scripture. Nothing is left to blind chance or the vagaries of the heart. The heart must operate within the context of the legal vessel where it was designed to flourish. In many ways it is the male 'thing' to qualify and apply the legal aspect which is why the husband is the ruler and judge in the marriage relationship (Gen.3:16) in the same way that both are to rule over the created order and creatures under male headship (Gen.1:26,28). The female, as a rule, is more interested in the content that follows the legal. The action of Yahweh and the Ruach (Spirit) reflect these differences, priorities and concerns, which are complimentary.
A man commits adultery if he has sex with another man's betrothed or fully married wife. A woman commits adultery if she sleeps with another woman's husband or with a single man. This means it is impossible for a single woman to commit adultery. You will find no law and no example in the Bible of a single woman ever being found guilty of this sin, because it is impossible.
Adultery in the Heart
Yah'shua also spoke about committing adultery in the heart (Mt.5:27-28). This passage in Scripture is usually misunderstood by Western Christians because they don't know Torah. They instead read their cultural expectations into it. They don't even understand the word "lust" which is only negative in a negative context. To lust is a morally neutral word and simply means to 'eagerly desire'. If I eagerly desire a new car, I lust after it. Thus a man may lawfully lust (eagerly desire) a single woman but not lust (eagerly desire) a married woman. The Hebrew makes the text even clearer because the word used properly translates "covet", i.e. to desire that which is unlawful (see Dt.5:21). Likewise, they translate the Greek word gune as 'woman' when it can only here mean 'wife' (it can be translated either way grammatically), and specifically, another man's wife, since coveting a woman does not always constitute adultery. Adultery in the heart occurs when a man (single or married) eagerly desires a married woman (wife), or a married woman eagerly desires a single or another married man. The passage should therefore be properly translated:
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a wife (married woman) to covet/eagerly desire her in an unlawful, sinful manner, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (adapted from KJV).
All Yah'shua is doing is upholding the 10th and 7th commandments by showing their spiritual foundation and the sequence of events that leads to adultery:
- 1. Looking at another man's wife (not sinful);
- 2. Coveting (eagerly desiring/lusting after) another man's wife (sinful); and
- 3. Taking another man's wife (an abomination)
He wants His listeners to nip the potential evil in the bud before it leads to a capital offence, for adultery, like murder, carries the death penalty in Torah. They are related crimes and a stench in Yahweh's nostrils.
If a single or married man eagerly desires to marry a single woman, he has not committed the sin of adultery in his heart. If a single or married man has consentual sex with an unmarried woman and does not marry her, he commits the sin of fornication or harlotry. If he sexually fantasises about her then he is committing fornication/harlotry in his heart because he has no intention of marrying her. If he has intercourse with her then he is then compelled by Torah to marry her and is never allowed to divorce her under the Old Covenant (Dt.22:29). Yah'shua did not negate this statute which still holds true in the New Covenant.
Torah permits a man to divorce his wife only on certain grounds stipulated by Torah by presenting her with a written bill of divorcement. This permitted her to remarry (Dt.24:1-2). Yah'shua changed this statute back to its original high and demanding standard (see below).
A woman is not permitted by Torah to divorce her husband. If a husband falsely accuses a wife of adultery and is found guilty, he is never allowed to divorce her under the Mosaic code (Dt.22:19). Yah'shua did not change these statutes.
Yah'shua, in filling up (or completing) Torah into New Covenant Torah, said that the divorce statute in the Old Testament Torah (Aaronic Code) was a temporary concession to human weakness (given because of hard-heartedness or stiff-neckedness - Mk.10:5), and therefore abolished it. He restored the original law from patriarchal times (Melchizedek Code) to its original high standard, prohibiting divorce altogether (Mk.10:2-9). There are no grounds for divorce in the New Covenant except when sexual intercourse takes place with a non-covenanted person during the Bethrothal period, i.e. if the betrothed woman sleeps with another man. Then the betrothal is annulled. This was what Joseph thought Mary had done when he discovered she was pregnant and why he sought to have her quietly 'put away'. They were betrothed, not fully married. So if a Christian demands to be divorced, what spiritual condition is he or she guilty of? Hard-heartedness, or as it is literally translated from the Greek, 'destitution of spiritual perception' (Strongs #4641). In other words, those who seek divorce demonstrate their lack of spirituality and condemn themselves (Lk.16:18). They are walking in darkness.
If a believing wife separates from a believing husband (physically leaving his household), she must remain single or return to him. If she 'marries' again or establishes a relationship with another man she commits adultery and is headed for destruction (Lk.16:18), along with the man whom she makes an adulterer too. The husband is obliged to receive her back if she chooses to return penitant. If she does leave, she is required to leave the children with him unless he gives her permission to take them with her. If an unbelieving husband (one who does not acknowledge Yahweh as Elohim and His Torah as his rule, and who does not confess Yah'shua as the Messiah) deserts a believing wife, she is free to remarry, according to the New Covenant statute given by Paul (1 Cor.7:12-16). The context of this was probably gentile families where only one spouse converted. A professed believer who throws out a believing or an unbelieving wife and refuses to let her return, proves by his action that he is an unbeliever, denying the faith.
The case of Hagar is often used to counter this. However, Hagar was Sarah's servant and under obedience to her mistress as well as being Abraham's pilegesh wife. Moreover, the Book of Jasher, referred to in the Bible (Josh.10:13; 2 Sam.1:18) indicates that a jealous Ishmael had murderous intent towards his younger brother Isaac, the promised Messianic seed. This incident neither gives a husband the right to throw out or 'divorce' a wife he doesn't like, nor a woman to 'divorce' her husband if she feels the relationship has broken down. A husband can send a wife away and provide for her but not divorce her if there are mitigating circumstances. Paul snuffs out the possibility of such Torah-twisting and confirms what has been revealed before when he says:
"...each one (husband or wife) should retain the place in life that Yahweh assigned to him and to which Elohim has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches (assemblies)" (1 Cor 7:17, NIV).
One excuse for divorce is the claim that when a relationship breaks down one is no longer 'married' because either the husband is not loving his wife as he has vowed to do or the wife is not submitting to her husband in "all things as to Yah'shua" as she likewise has vowed to do. A marriage, in its foundational sense, is not defined by how one feels or by a breakdown in the relationship. A marriage, as something that exists and is valid in heaven and on earth, is defined by the binding covenant, not by fickle feelings. The quality of it is defined by the rest, but that is not the 'marriage' per se. Why would Paul admonish 'husbands' to love their wives, and 'wives' to obey their husbands in everything if, in some cases, they were no longer 'husbands' and 'wives' because the relationship had broken down? The admonition is given precisely to 'husbands' and 'wives' because of a deficiency or breakdown in a relationship not because the marriage doesn't exist anymore! Marriage is the consummated covenant. Period. Everything else is the quality of that marriage, good or bad. If someone is a 'husband' or a 'wife' then by definition they are still 'married', whatever the condition of the marriage is heart-wise. The admonition is to married people to love and submit, respectively (Eph.5:22-28; Col.3:18-19).
If I own a house and allow it to fall into disrepair, does it cease being a house? No, the purchase contract still says it is my house even if it has fallen into a pile of bricks. No one can then march in and say, 'This is no longer your house, you have irresponsibly let it collapse, I'm taking it over!' The land and the pile of bricks still belong to the original owner. He will be judged a bad owner but it is still his. We have to extirpate this subjective, existentialist view of marriage that has infected the world and dessicrated the marriage covenant. We have to say, 'No! I am still married no matter what sort of mess the marriage is in!' Because that is how Yahweh views it.
As we have seen, there was no verbalisation of vows in the Patriarchal era because it was understood that the relationship, once agreed to and consummated, was permanent. Rebekah, in travelling to Isaac and sleeping with him after the parents had agreed, was married. There was no possibility of saying: 'You don't love me like your promised' or 'you don't obey me like your promised' and declaring that the covenant was null-and-void because no vows were exchanged! Vows (which are normal today, except in common-law 'marriage') may have been broken but unless there is adultery during betrothal, the marriage cannot be terminated under any pretext. Instead, the husband and wife (not 'ex-husband' and 'ex-wife'...there is no such thing) need to get on with the business of living together under the same roof in a conjugal relationship and building up the relationship again one day at a time, dealing with issues as they surface as best they can. If the relationship is so bad (involving violence, for example) then separation must take place.
'Alter', 'Split Personality' (MPD/DID) and 'Schizophrenic' Marriages
As we have seen from Torah, a marriage is defined by certain physical actions in the presence of witnesses. This includes the bloodstained honeymoon sheet as proof of virginity. Yahweh views each person as a whole entity otherwise husbands and wives could come up with the excuse that some 'part', 'aspect', or 'alternate personality' did not consent to the marriage, thereby rendering it null and void. Whatever parts/alters entered into the covenants of marriage and used the body to consummate it represent the whole. Double- or multiple-mindedness is never accepted scripturally as an excuse to flee from, or annul, a marriage. Double-mindedness, caused by doubting, is defined as instability in Scripture (Jas.1:8) and instability is never a justifiable excuse for divorce. In truth, most people are double-minded and unstable in one way or another, and are called to repent of it.
The Behavioural Excuse
People's behaviour changes, for good or bad, and is something we must work with, even in marriage. You don't stop being a citizen just because your government changes and enacts new laws you don't like. You're still a citizen under law. Likewise, people change, but that doesn't mean we can abandon a marriage. We adapt to new governments just as we do to new behaviour. That's part of the 'work' of building marriage. You don't abandon ship when the going gets rough - that's a Western fast-food, throw-it-away-when-it's-broken mentality that Yahweh hates.
Living According to the Word
We are commanded to live by the word (Mt.4:4), because every word of Yahweh is flawless (Prov.30:5), and not by our gut feelings or passions. You can't put the cart before the horse. Passions have their place in the following, not the leading, position. Yahweh's passion for us is rooted in His Word, in His Torah, in His Order. Passion without order leads to chaos and anarchy.
The Way Forward for Struggling Marriages
From the statistics I have seen, over half of marriages in the West lead to separation and 'divorce' (as the world views it, but not as Yahweh does). Of those who remain together, a large percentage do so for the sake of their children, so as not to hurt them by separating. And whilst this is a noble and good reason, Yahweh wants better things. Common-law marriages are even worse - they have a 95% failure rate, demonstrating the importance of vows. Very view seem to be genuinely happy.
A Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. It has to fall in the end. However, no marriage, however beset by problems, is ever hopeless if the parties are willing to submit to the Torah pattern. Where there are problems, we do have a scriptural model as to what to do and it may be viewed like the return of Judah back to their home in Jerusalem after an agonising exile in Babylon. The people had been in mourning for years, they felt (and were) unprotected against their captors, in an alien place, and desperate. They wept long and hard. Yahweh had sent them prophets but they had not listened or believed. So things got worse until finally Yahweh decreed that it was time to come home. Also recall that when the Babylonians took them into exile, it swept away the good and the evil, the right and the wrong. When they returned such distinctions were forgotten. Everyone was treated as being of equal worth. They were starting all over again. The slate was clean and they had a new chance at getting it right the next time round.
When they got back to Jerusalem they found the city in ruins and they mourned. The state of the temple was agonising for the priests to behold. Their first priority was to put the land back to use so that they could eat and survive. That also has to be the first priority of a failing marriage. The household must be made to function with routines and fair division of labour. What the parties don't want to do, though, is make the same mistake as those returnee exiles. They got so preoccupied in feeding themselves and rebuilding their homes that they neglected the temple - the spiritual life. And because they did, their efforts were not that fruitful. They barely had enough to survive on, much as many marriages hover on the edge of economic disaster. When the priests read the Torah to the people, they beat their chests and repented when they saw how far they had fallen away from emet (truth) and tavnith (the divine pattern of living). The result was that the temple was rebuilt and spiritual services resumed. In addition to getting the household to function, a struggling marriage must also have a spiritual foundation for all - adults and children. Regular daily worship and scripture study for one, under the headship of the husband, whose responsibility this is as the family's priest. He will, if they are not disjunctive with Torah or what Yahweh personally reveals to him, accommodate new ideas gladly. Making Yahweh the focus collectively is essential to any restoration. Without this, no marriage will work well ultimately.
For many who have had unstable marriages, there may be a need to start from scratch. In a church or assembly situation where a congregation is falling apart or splitting, each individual member must first of all focus in getting personally right with Yahweh through teshuvah or repentance. Congregational divisions cannot be solved until the one-to-one relationship between Yah'shua and each believer is first worked on. Yom haBikkurim comes before Shavu'ot - one-to-one baptismal covenants before one-to-many communal covenants. You have to do the simple, basic things first before you strart trying to fix the more complex ones.
For a marriage teetering at the edge of collapse, there has to be rebuilding in the first instance - an 'emergency plan', as it were, on common ground. These should be the three foundational principles of reconstruction that all are agreed upon:
- (b) a love for the commandments (Torah); and
- (c) committment that the marriage and family must stick together, no matter what.
Like survivors of a shipwreck marooned on a remote island, there must be practical cooperation whatever the differences. Common biblical sense must be allowed to prevail over feelings and personal, non-Torah agendas. Survival is the first order of business, like the Judahite returnees to Jerusalem from Babylon. The simple act of cooperation in mutually agreed areas is actually a great bridge-builder too. It is the beginning of unity, the beginning of echad. Simply acknowledging that a marriage or a family is divinely ordained (which, if it is under covenant, it is automatically) and that Yah'shua is the Head over the head (the husband) over the wife, is potent.
As to the inner suffering and needs of the parties, I have always found this thought by Longfellow both inspiring and helpful:
"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostilities".
The reality of why things have gone wrong, were we able to see them clearly as Yahweh does, is heart-breaking. I have made it a point in my life to try and see into the hearts of my enemies and why they are the way they are. They are usually desperately miserable and unhappy. And it is only possible to love them, as Yah'shua commanded, when we are able to see into their beings as He does, beyond the demonic oppressing and controlling them, and recognise the silent cry for help.
One thing that is easily forgotten when husband and wife have difficulties and want to blame one another is that humans are never the enemy - it's always the evemy within - the demonic principalities and powers 7 that want to wreck marriages and relationships. By making the devil our target and not one another, we can soon disarm the enemy and really get things fixed 8.
The vast majority of marriages have problems these days because the spiritual foundations have been abandoned. And those which have survived do so usually only on the basis of some compromise which, while keeping the marriage together, does not allow it to flourish and become what Yahweh intends it to be.
Our task is to restore the foundations by preaching emet (truth) and tavnith (divine pattern) by calling all parties to make teshivah - to repent of being self-centred instead of being Christ- and Torah-centred. We do this in this ministry without compromise and do not care how much the enemy rants and rages because of it. Why? Because we know it marks the end of the enemy's dominion, and that is what we want so that "Christ [may be] all and in all" (Col.3:11, NKJV). That is our heart. That is why we are here and that is what we shall continue to teach and preach until the end of our days 9. Amen.
See The Seven Wives of David in Shavu'ot 2008: The Wells of Salvation (Part 2)
See Holy Echad Marriage
See Moedim of Yahweh
See Yom haBikkurim
See Deliverance from Demonic Oppression
See Preserving the Sacred Tie: Introduction to the Marriage Repair Manual
See our Sex, Romance and Marriage website