Here's What The Bible Says About Marriage

The Bible is one of the oldest books in the world. For centuries, it has served as a guide for the billions of people who have chosen to live by its sacred writings. From practicing faith and dietary advice to marriage, the religious book has a wealth of teachings for its followers.

Per Merriam-Webster, marriage is defined today as a lawful "consensual and contractual relationship" between spouses. Over the years, this definition has been updated to adapt to modern times where marriage — which used to be a union strictly between a man and a woman — now includes same-sex couples. Landmark LGBTQ court cases such as the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (via NPR) and Obergefell vs. Hodges (via Supreme Court) have helped redefine marriage — particularly in the United States. But while laws have changed, can change, and will continue to change in the future, the same can't be said for religious books like the Bible. 

For the most part, the Bible has only been translated into different languages and updated to adapt to modern speech — no changes to the content of the text. And throughout the Bible, marriage is discussed as a union between a man and a woman.

The meaning of marriage in the Bible

The Bible's Book of Genesis lays out several examples of what constitutes marriage. In chapter 1, verses 27-28, the work states that God created men and women for the purpose of them uniting to reproduce (via Bible Gateway): "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"

Genesis chapter 2, verse 24 says that when a man comes of age, he is expected to create his own family through unity with his wife (per Bible Gateway): "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh."

A bit earlier, Genesis chapter 2, verse 18 claims God does not want humanity alone and suggests that women were created for men (via Bible Gateway).

The Biblical rules of matrimony

Beyond the definition of marriage, the Bible also stipulates how husbands and wives should act. Per Bible Gateway, Colossians chapter 3, verses 18-19 argues that women and men each have a specific role to play in their partnership: "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

In Ephesians, this duty is further explained. Per Bible Gateway, chapter 5, verses 22-27 say that wives have the job of totally submitting to their husbands, and husbands have to love their wives as they do with God.

Of course, marriages have failed both in the past and present — divorce happens every day for various reasons. However, the Bible states there should only be one reason that a marriage should end: if adultery is committed. Matthew chapter 19, verse 9 says (via Bible Hub): "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

The Bible forbids adultery in marriage and has many verses discussing what is and isn't sexually immoral — adultery is one of them and is forbidden by the Ten Commandments. Elsewhere, Exodus chapter 20, verse 14 makes similar claims (per Bible Gateway): "You shall not commit adultery." And adultery is committed, it is the only reason the Bible allows as justification for a divorce.