Marriage in the Bible
One of the remarkable features of the Bible is that it relates history as a narrative of what actually happened, whether or not these happenings are according to God’s Law. For example, King David was described as “a man after God’s own heart.”
And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ (Acts 13:22)
This same David broke marriage vows repeatedly by polygamous behavior and even committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed. This man was a sinner, who was not behaving in matrimony in the way God wanted, but the Bible does not ignore this fact, even in the character of one of the Bible’s heroes. It is generally assumed that the writer of history edits out the events which cast his own side in a poor light. Yet the Bible paints pictures, as Cromwell asked of his portrait painter, “warts and all.”
Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage
The institution of marriage for same-sex couples — homosexual marriage — was championed by Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, last fall; though it was notable that the project had been quietly dropped from this year’s Queen’s Speech.1 Now the baton has been taken up by both U.S. Vice-President Biden and President Obama. So, there are strong pressures from many quarters to legalize so-called “gay marriage.”
Sexual Sin in the Bible
In the Bible’s pursuit of honesty about human flaws, we read a remarkable and sad incident in Judges 19. In this chapter, a Levite is traveling with his concubine through the hill country of Benjamin, and the couple stops to spend the night in Gibeah. A man and his family take in these strangers, warning them not to spend the night in the town square — presumably because he knew what sort of danger they were in. During the night, the house is surrounded by men of the city.
As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” (Judges 19:22)
To protect the Levite, the householder offers the men his own daughter or the Levite’s concubine. They take the concubine and rape her, leaving her for dead. In the morning, the Levite cuts his concubine up, though we are not told whether or not she was still alive at the beginning of this process. The whole event led to war between Benjamin and the rest of Israel, and this almost led to the extinction of the Tribe of Benjamin.
The Bible, in telling this harrowing story as it is, maintains that there are no knights in shining armor here. It must not be assumed that the Bible is teaching that the Levite is the good guy and the citizens of Gibeah were the villains. Here is a list of the villains.
The Levite. Yes, the Levite himself is a villain. Why was he traveling? He was supposed to minister in Jerusalem. More to the point, why did he have a concubine? Concubines were not allowed. God did not permit this sort of sexual looseness. In modern parlance, she was a long-term mistress. It is not impossible to suppose that the Levite had a wife at home. His attitude to marriage was sinful.
The Concubine. Her sin was, perhaps, less than the others, and her death was reprehensible and without excuse. But her moral standards had slipped below those of God if she thought it was all right to accompany the Levite on his travels. Her attitude to marriage was sinful.
The householder. It is true that he was anxious to save the Levite’s life, and deserves commendation for this. However, he did not treat the concubine as a fellow human being. And his callous, unthinking attitude to his own daughter and to the Levite’s concubine is sickening. His attitude to family life was sinful.
Finally — and we cannot and should not escape this — the attitude of the citizens, in wanting to have homosexual sex with the Levite, was sinful. As the apostle Paul said:
Men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:27-28)
There are those who argue that it was merely the homosexual rape aspect of the citizens’ request that was sinful, but the quote from Romans shows that relationships between men and women are natural relations, whereas those between men and men, or women and women are not. Just a few verses further, Paul says:
Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)
God’s Design for Marriage
What are we to say of Prime Ministers and Presidents who approve of practices that God condemns? At the very least, we must say that they are wrong. They should not assume that, in the words of the comic “pastor” in The Simpsons, “once the Government has approved of something, it’s no longer immoral.”
But what are we also to say of the traveling Levite and his lover? Neither does the Bible approve of them.
Jesus pointed out that God’s ideal for marriage is what He instituted at the beginning.
[Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
God has made it that marriage is for one man and one woman. Governments can and do legislate to approve of alternative moralities. But if anyone declares that a sin is now morally acceptable, we should remember that the Bible, which is God’s word, has not changed, nor has God changed His opinion. Sin with a certificate is still sin.
- The Queen’s Speech, although delivered by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament is written by the Prime Minister, and outlines the Parliamentary business that the U.K. Government hopes to pursue through Parliament in the next 12 months. ↩
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