THE MARRIAGE COVENANT—A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

COVENANT IS CENTRAL to Biblical theology, and marriage is probably the best-known covenant of modern times. By definition, a covenant is a formal contract, governed by law, with public implications, and involves the exchange of promises. As a major Biblical theme, it refers to the idea that the relationship between God and the Hebrew people is also a contract—a suzerainty contract, to use the specific term. It follows, then, that the Bible is likely to contain ideas that support the marriage covenant. And indeed it does. The Bible shows us how vital this commitment really is in life.

Yet one must first de-romanticize the institution of marriage to discuss it in the context of Biblical culture. Anciently, marriage was more a matter of economics than romantic love. People married to preserve the family name and property, which would be passed along to the next generation. That doesn't mean there were no "hearts and flowers." The ardent love of Jacob for Rachel is a good example. Any man who'd work 14 years to earn his true love's hand had to have had the soul of a romantic (see Gen., chap. 29). But at that time, marriage was generally less about emotional longing than about the practicalities of who would get the family flocks and farmland.

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