In this study we will show that a child, (the natural product of the physical union of a man and a woman) is the ultimate actualisation of the term "one flesh" as used in Scripture and not, as is usually implied, a mystical “joining” of two persons through some religious ritual or ceremony. For further light on this proposition we could undertake an examination of the importance of "seed" or offspring in the ancient biblical society, but sufficient for now to remain with the plain text of Scripture concerning our subject.
One of the difficulties we have in "rightly dividing" Scripture is to read the Word without preconceived ideas and therefore "reading into" the text what we think it should say. This is not a small matter as it is easy to demonstrate that learned scholars translating Scripture from the original languages, easily fall into this trap, transliterating words to support their doctrine rather than translating accurately. We are using the ESV (English Standard Version) in this study so for example see Jude 5, where the Greek word 'kurios' normally translated "Lord" appears as "Jesus". You may agree or disagree with the doctrine implied but it's still not a true translation. However, I believe that the particular passages we are concerned with here have been treated fairly by the ESV scholars.
So with that warning, let us commence. In Genesis 2:24 we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”.
This verse of commentary follows immediately the creation of the second human being, Eve, the “helpmeet” or “complement” to Adam. Notice that there are three events mentioned in the verse. 1. A man leaves father and mother. 2. He "holds fast to his wife" and ... 3. They "will" become one flesh. It does not appear unreasonable, from the grammar, to suggest that event 3 is not coincidental to event 2 but occurs subsequently to event 2.
Rather than the traditional mystical "union" attributed to marriage we find in the context of the above proposition the Biblical instruction to "multiply". We propose that the term "one flesh" refers to the production of children, in “the likeness and image” of their parents. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” Gen 5:3. You will have heard family members saying, “isn’t he/she like (this or that) parent/relative”. How many of us can sense our parent's speech or mannerisms in ourselves? Few would disagree that most of us are a physical composite of our parents with a virtually random “mix” of both paternal and maternal traits but creating a new person, a new individuality, “one flesh” from two.
In these days of contraception, and planned families it is easy to loose sight of the more obvious divine intention, the responsibilities and consequences of sexual union. According to Matthew, Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24, referenced above, virtually word for word, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Mat. 19:5, Mark renders the words slightly differently leaning toward the traditional view. However, Mark adds the once oft heard injunction 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. Mar.10:9. We will find later that Paul appears to agree with us. The Bible doesn't always go into detailed explanation, other than to offer that God says this is the way it should be. The importance of children having two parents is something we are understanding in the cruel consequences of modern liberal social engineering. God knew this was important when He created Adam and Eve.
Yeshua (Jesus) is speaking in support of the permanence of marriage without attempting to explain the technical reasons, while the Pharisees where seeking to justify divorce as allowed by Moses. Yeshua is taking opportunity to "underline" human sinfulness, especially to the Pharisees who considered themselves more righteous than their fellows. Something worth remembering is that God does not give commands because He likes to see us obey. God's instruction, His Torah, is given because He loves us and desires us to have a good life. There is always a practical reason behind every command.
In quoting Genesis 2:24 Yeshua clearly stated that "they are no longer two, but one". A "contract" has been made between two persons by an act ordained by the creator and the resulting “union” is intended to be permanent. However, it is also clear that the "union" can be terminated under certain conditions and with stipulated restrictions, even if not God's original intention. This emphasizes the "contractual" nature of the union rather than the "spiritual" or "mystical" one. It does not lessen the gravity of the act but helps us see marriage in the practical perspective intended by God. This does not belittle or lessen the importance of marriage. Covenants or contracts are "heavy stuff" with God. We need to know what they are about and the obligations involved. As is sometimes said in the marriage service - it/they "should not be entered into lightly".
This might be a new thought. Marriage in itself is really a protective device in a fallen environment. Some say that because Yeshua said “they neither marry or are given in marriage” (Matt.22:30; Mk.12:25; Lu.20:35) that our future form is neither male nor female but some sort of sexless being. Yeshua didn’t say that, he said they didn't marry. The words clearly suggest that male and female still exist but they don't "marry". Interestingly, there is no record of a "marriage ceremony" for Adam and Eve. Just try and imagine human relationships in a perfectly sinless state and you'll get the picture. Marriage is, in fact, an emergency measure, a restraint mechanism, to accommodate our fallen natures. Just as it was necessary, after the fall, to keep Adam and Eve out of Eden and away from the Tree of Life.
The whole of the "Law" was given because of the "hardness" of human hearts. Both the Pharisees and Jesus agreed that the commands to "Love.... God.... and.... neighbours as yourself" summed up the whole law. The rest was only given as "commentary" because of the "hardness" of our hearts. See Mat 22:36-40. 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [Deut. 6:5] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' [Lev. 19:18] 40. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
As so often, in matters of faith, tradition has “majored on the minors”. Weaving a pretty, mystical fabric around marriage, while neglecting the basic purpose and the resulting consequences of our neglect. A good example of this is the modern attitude of major “Christian” denominations towards homosexuality and bigamy. Many clergy make compromising statements on homosexuality while condemning bigamy although the Bible condemns homosexuality but accepts bigamy. It is interesting how most Christians get all fussed up about something the Bible does not condemn yet feel so tolerant and understanding towards that which God has called "an abomination". It is a measure of how much we have compromised God's commands with the "spirit of this world".
We ignore the fact that Jacob's twelve sons had four mothers between them and many of the Patriarchs had more than one wife. King David and King Solomon acquired numerous wives, not always in the approved manner and in Solomon's case he had spiritual problems, due, not to the number but the faith of his wives. It is told that during the time of Henry VIII when the King was having matrimonial problems and trying to convince the Pope to annul his current marriage, the Pope discretely suggested Henry just take a second wife, saying it was a far lesser sin than adultery. It seems in some things the Catholics are smarter than their "separated brethren" - (Note the next paragraph).
It is common to hear talk about “sex before marriage”. In Catholic tradition a marriage, has not actually taken place, in spite of all the rituals and ceremony, until "consummated" and can, with proper proof of non-consumation, be annulled. Bluntly, this suggests that the basic final unbreakable commitment between a male and female is actually made in bed. However, even among Catholics, the idea of "one flesh" still seems to pertain to the mystical rather than the practical. Most other Christian denominations have lost the connection altogether making marriage some sort of (more or less) mystical ritual that is consummated by a “celebrant” saying “I pronounce you man and wife”. Outside of the Church marriage is a secular contract heavily weighted towards materialism and a optional legal state to co-habitation.
To progress with our proposition consider this passage from Genesis and how it was clearly understood by Paul. “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh."" (Gen. 2:24) 1Cor 6:16 If, as is taught, Scripture interprets Scripture, what does this verse say? That they are now married, "joined together" (without ceremony) and are likely soon to be represented in the carefully kept genealogies of their people, by “one flesh”, a small composite, near reproduction of themselves. The greatest mystery and wonder lies in the biology, "we are fearfully and wonderfully made".
With this statement Paul gives a clear indication of how he understood Genesis 2:24 and if we realise how important “descendants”, “hereditary” and “inheritance” are in the scriptures we will see that there is a very practical meaning and purpose in the idea of “one flesh”. The idea of doubtful parentage would play havoc with the hereditary structure of the nation of families founded and rooted in the 12 Patriarchs, who, as we have already pointed out had four mothers between them. What is missed is that with one man and several wives, all the children know without doubt who their parents are, the genealogical line is safe. This is not so if a woman has more than one husband, therefore, that was forbidden no matter how unpopular the idea might be with modern feminists. God gave Moses laws of inheritance that depended on clear genealogical lines being established and respected. To make “one flesh” with someone for whom the proprieties had not been observed did not alter the biological consequences but greatly complicated the family tree.
The careful keeping of the "family tree" throughout the Old Testament was, for more than national pride. The importance of a true Adamic bloodline from Eden until "the Seed of the woman" came forth was vital. It is a point missed by most commentators, that the "Second Adam" must be directly related to the first Adam without alien mixtures. It was for this reason that God destroyed mankind at the time of Noah's flood. There had been an intermarrying with beings not of Adam's race. (Genesis 6:1-4) This is another study and a subject confused or avoided in many commentaries. I know this is beginning to sound like Science Fiction but See "Alien Invaders" and look at what the Scripture says, not what you may have been told, for example, about "descendants of Seth", an illogical red herring that has no intelligent solution and contradicts the Scriptures that say "all flesh" perished at the flood, except the eight of Noah's family on the Ark. (Gen.7:21; 1 Pe.3:20).
Staying for now with our "One Flesh". We are told in the Torah that: "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days." Deut. 22:28,29. The question never arises as to whether the man was already married and the same situation arises in the 'levirate' laws concerning taking one’s dead brother’s wife and raising children to him. In Deut. 25:5,6 "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. 6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel." It is interesting to note that the widow is taken "to wife" regardless of the brother's current marital state. Question: Was Boaz already married when he “redeemed” Ruth? Boaz was "a man of great wealth", Ruth 2:1 and 3:10 suggests Boaz was not a young man. Boaz acknowledges the 'levirate' law from Deuteronomy mentioned above. "Moreover Ruth . . . , the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, . . ." Ruth 4:10
It is fair to say that if the Church had properly understood and taught the Biblical implications of a man/woman relationship and not bought into the world's vocabulary, talking glibly about "sex before marriage" - an oxymoron, as we now see - our society may not have entered with such zeal upon this present "liberated" era of promiscuity and family failure. Neither would the Church itself be condoning, as it does, among it's own youth, relationship styles popular in the world.
There is another very important aspect to this matter that has only been mentioned in passing in this study - the importance of the purity of the Adamic genealogical "tree". If we rightly understand the early chapters of Genesis we will discover that the attention given to genealogy is of far greater importance than merely passing on the family silver or even the patriarchal blessing. This is another exciting subject we can examine later when we study Noah but just briefly, notice what was said about Noah in Genesis 6:9 "These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." KJV Most commentaries will not notice that this is not just praising Noah but speaks concerning his genealogy. The verse starts with the words, "These are the generations of Noah" and the next words usually translated "and perfect in his generations" are better rendered "and had integrity of his generations", notice the plural "generations. It is not saying he was a perfect person (he was not) in his generation (those alive at the time). It is simply saying that Noah had "generational integrity", an uncontaminated family tree. The first part of the verse is definitely not extolling Noah's moral uprightness, although commonly explained as doing so. (In fact this is another case of the ESV going with the common teaching rather than the original language - they drop the "s" off generations.)
And, that leads to another interesting subject. "Who might have attempted to contaminate the Adamic human blood line before Noah's day and to what purpose?" The Bible has a great deal to say but you will seldom hear it mentioned from the pulpit.
See the item "Alien Invaders".
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V. Keith Relf.
6-Mar-2001, 15-Feb-2004, 25-May-2005, 20-Sept-2006, 20-August-2007, 1-January 2009