Cleave: 6000 Years of Marriage

Andy Nash
Cleave: 6000 Years of Marriage


Verb (1) To cling to (2) To separate

The first married couple loved each other—walking hand in hand in a holy garden.

When they sinned, they immediately began blaming each other. Then they moved away.

Eve gave birth to two boys who grew up and didn’t get along. When the first boy murdered the second, Eve—at age 130—gave birth to a third.

For a while, the line of Seth showed promise. Called the sons of God, these men bore God’s impress in their marriages and families. But by the tenth generation, even the sons of God turned evil, viewing women as objects, taking them by force. They “saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose” (Gen. 6:2).

God had seen enough. “‘My spirit,’ he said, ‘will not contend with man forever’” (Gen. 6:3). And He scrubbed the earth with water.

Following the flood, loving marriage appeared to make a comeback, as Abram and Sarai journeyed hand in hand from the land of Babel to the Land of Promise.

But when the couple’s faith in God wavered, so did their marriage. Focused too much on himself, Abram twice denied Sarai was his wife. Focused too much on children, Sarai minimized her own worth, pushing her husband toward another woman. The impulsive act triggered generations of family strife.

For the next five centuries, marriage was a mixed affair. Couples who cleaved to one another within the laws of God and Moses entered into great joy, peace, and abundance. But countless other couples spiraled, mimicking culture’s perversions and polygamy. By the era of the judges, even holy men were taking concubines.

In a stunning moment, the godly couple Ruth and Boaz stood strong against the winds of culture. Their pure and selfless marriage in the fields of Bethlehem caused people to rethink a mindset of everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.

But over time, the storms of sin and selfishness again overtook God’s people, and even Ruth’s great-grandson, the beloved David, was swept along. In his 50s the shepherd-king became a brute, taking the 20-year-old wife of a man he’d helped convert to the faith.

For a brief time, the son of David recaptured marriage as it was meant to be—Solomon’s tender love song pulsating from the very pages of Scripture:

“Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm . . .” (Song of Songs 8:6).

But just as the song of Solomon ended, so would his love—his eyes shifting from the vineyards of En Gedi to a thousand mirages in the desert.

For five more centuries, God’s people also lost sight of God’s holiness, and their sons and daughters paid the price. In the fiery valleys around Jerusalem, children were offered up to foreign gods, the beat of the drums drowning out the screams.

In furious response, God Himself delivered His people back to Babel. If they were going to act like Babylon, they might as well go live there.

But the darkness of Babylon would be pierced by streams of light. In the same region as Eden, a righteous man was back eating seed-food. A eunuch and single man, Daniel had no chance for family of his own, but through his faithfulness, his people would be given a new beginning.

“‘Build houses and settle down,” said the Lord. “Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. . . . For I know the plans I have for you . . .’” (Jer. 29:5-6, 11).

Refined and purified, the sons and daughters returned from exile determined to set things right. Led by Ezra and Nehemiah, revival and reformation rooted out prior idolatries and adulteries, freeing relationships to breathe again.

But as idolatry sauntered out, legalism rushed in. If a few reforms were good, then why not a few thousand more? With endless rules and regulations, a new generation of leadership placed heavy burdens on both faith and family—women most of all. Some Pharisees even wondered: If a wife made a meal that displeased her husband, could he divorce her?

Weighed down by never-ending minutiae, the daily life of the people became lifeless.

But then the light of life appeared: a new Son of David.

Jesus of Nazareth treated women like no man had ever treated them before, and they fell at His feet in gratitude.

Men also fell at His feet, called to be the husbands and fathers they were meant to be: loving their wives and children, casting off sin and secularism, fighting the good fight. With grace and truth—with holy love—Jesus called men and women to once more walk hand in hand, as ministers of His covenant. Once more, He would walk with them, in the evening breezes, as He did in the beginning.

Andy Nash

Andy Nash ([email protected]) is a pastor, professor, and author who leads study tours to Israel.