Genesis 38:25: When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and the cords, and the staff.
Let’s face it; sex was wacky in the Old Testament! And there is strong distinction in the view of sex between the Old and the new testaments.
Let’s trace the problem.
When God made man he was at first without a companion. And God doesn’t want loneliness to “kill” Adam (my paraphrase) so he caused him to sleep and by the time woke up, ta ran ta ran…, there she was, the perfect companion for Adam (Genesis 2:18-25). And as far as the writer of the book of Genesis was concerned, the lesson to learn was that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.
This incident was referred to by Jesus when he was answering a question from the Pharisees if it is good to divorce for whatever reason (Matthew 19: 3-12) since Moses actually permitted the people to divorce as long as the man made a document to that effect (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
But Jesus directly contradicts Moses in his reply, saying that God does not want divorce at all. He then referred to the very first words used to describe marriage in the book of Genesis– one flesh, saying that marriage is the act of God joining the male and female together. He added that the hardness of the heart of the people was what resulted in Moses giving the allowance for divorce on demand.
The response of the disciples to the words of Jesus was that it is not good to marry. To which Jesus responded saying that they should not say that lightly, if they were not eunuchs. Jesus wanted them to realise that marriage was a form of “bondage,” a form of life-long imprisonment with another person. In that case, shouldn’t you be careful in choosing your “imprisonment partner” and get equipped with the imprisonment facility of the grace of God and practical and spiritual instruction?
To the wise, it would be a liberating bondage, but to the foolish it will be lasting regret.
The issue of sex in the Old Testament is divided into two. What is allowed for the children of Israel and the practice of other nations, against which God warned Israel.
Particular references were made to the practice of homosexuality, incest, bestiality, prostitution, rape, fornication, or any form of sex outside the one between a married male and female (Leviticus18).
But there was no specific law against polygamy. It was not commanded neither was it prohibited, but there was a very strict law against marrying anyone who is not of the tribe of Israel, and against marrying one’s relation either by marriage or by birth. There was even a strict law for the high priest that he must only marry a virgin and cannot marry a divorcee (Leviticus 21:12-15).
The general idea you get from the instruction of God to the nation of Israel, was that the women were supposed to be responsible for their sexuality. And as a young woman you are to remain a virgin until marriage (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) There was no negotiating that. You lose your virginity before marriage and you die.
There were all manner of regulations within the sexual context. The semen of the man and the menstrual flow of the woman were regarded as unclean. A woman remained unclean throughout the duration of the menstrual flow and whatever garment that the semen of the man touches was regarded as unclean (Leviticus 15:16-33).
The Old Testament was silent on the issue of polygamy, but the New Testament removed the layer covering that ancient truth established in the foundation of the earth (the start of marriage between Adam and Eve) of the sanctity of marriage and the essence of it. The essence of marriage is the establishment as one flesh, formed from the joining of a man and a woman for a lifetime.
The law of Moses to the nation of Israel sanctified sex as something between man and woman, cleaning the idea of sex up from the rubbish the other nations have entangled it in.
Now in the New Testament, the twin issues of divorce and polygamy were addressed.
Certain polygamous people who became Christians were not asked to do “restitution,” but they were automatically disqualified from being bishops, leaders in the church. And the bishops were to be examples in the church (1Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:5-7).
We see that God does not want to exclude anyone from coming to him due to polygamy. However the constant refrain is for the church to be peopled by the monogamous (in spirit and in truth).
However, beware of the serial monogamist who have made an art of marrying and divorcing in a series, in a most disgusting manner.
Sexual sanctity in marriage is encouraged under the New Testament; the book of Hebrews said that marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled (Hebrews 13:4), with special judgment of God reserved for fornicators and adulterers.
It means that out of respect for your future marriage bed, you desist from sexual exploration now, and when married you don’t bring in strange flesh into your marriage bed, having joined yourself to another who is not your spouse through adultery.
Remember that even under the Old Testament, to desire another person’s wife is prohibited (Exodus 20:17); adultery is frowned against and David paid dearly for it (2Samuel 12: 7-10). Job said that he does not even permit his eyes to lust after a maid (Job 31:1) (he is not going to be taken by anyone’s beauty except his wife’s even in his heart). The book of proverbs warned against falling prey to an adulterous person; saying there is inherent danger in it, it is destructive in a most fundamental way, and you need to be wise to avoid the trap (Proverbs 5-7).
What about all the patriarchs who married more than one wife, including David and Abraham, foremost men of God in the Old Testament? Is God double-minded, why would he put us under the new covenant to a different standard than the old?
Remember that when there was no law, there was no sin. And when God started sanitising his people, making them separate to himself, the Law threw away some practices of the people of other nations that were not compatible with God’s truth.
The reason why there was a delay in God exposing the full truth of marriage to the ancient people, under the Law of Moses was because God was waiting to have the ultimate truth revealed through the truth himself, Jesus. John said the law came through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 17).
Paul actually took the truth of sex in the New Testament further; saying that marriage is actually an expression of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). He took it to a new level altogether. Therefore, without the advent of Christ, it may not be fully sensible or communicable to advocate for the full essence of marriage designed by God.
The husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church, while the wife should submit to the husband.
The coming of Christ gave the ultimate meaning to marriage, in its ultimate context, after its ultimate example, which is the relationship of Christ with the church.
The example of Adam and Eve was a failed one, opening the door for sin to dominate the earth but with Christ and the church there is a better example. And until the latter was revealed, the real truth about marriage could not be revealed and marriages could not represent the true divine prototype.
Peter said that husbands should live with their wives with understanding (1Peter 3:7). Marriage in the Old Testament really sees the woman as a lesser part of the union, while in the New Testament there is full restoration of womanhood.
Peter argued for understanding between the husband and the wife and the two are called co heirs of the riches of Christ.
The modality of getting married should occur within the context of a threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12). There is the social side, the spiritual side and the legal side.
Social: with the community as witnesses
Spiritual: with God pleased
Legal: obtaining government’s document
We need to bind our marriages with those three cords, which makes it a serious undertaking. This does not include the idea of cohabitation or trial marriage. Christ did not go to trial marriage with the church, he gave himself to her and that is the new order of relationship of marriage in the New Testament.
Christ the liberator, liberated marriage and took the women folks into a new level of expression.
The woman is no longer a sex object but a love object.
Sex is to find its only expression in the context of marriage. But sex is beyond the actual coital experience, it starts with the thought. That reality is only revealed by Jesus Christ as a divine demand.
(To look at a woman with lustful intention is prohibited by Jesus, being a major difference between the Old and the New Testament.)
He declared that it is sinful to entertain lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:27-28), meaning that your inward reality is as real, if not more real, than the actual practice of the sinful acts. You need to “look at” how you are looking at the “opposite sex.” Repent of all lustful looks.
In the New Testament the thoughts processes are to be sanitized, sanctified (Philippians 4:8). We are meant to be full of the word of God (Colossians 3:1-16), so that our life expression will be that of sexual purity (1Corinthians 6:18, 2Timothy 2:23).
Fornication and adultery are no ordinary pass times because of ones weakness; they are blatant sins that need to be turned away from. It is actually classified different from other sins (it is in a class of its own), with Paul saying that whatever sins that is committed is outside the body except sexual sin that is committed with the body (1Corinthians 3:15-17). He warned that it is wrong to take your body as a Christian now joined to the Lord and attached it to another (1Corinthians 6:9-20).
You need to accurately discern that now we are in a new covenant with a redefinition not only of the sexual act but also marriage.
Divorce under the New Testament has more huddles, to be crossed before it can be carried out, than the Old Testament. Under the Old Testament one can divorce for any reason but under the new you can only divorce because of the infidelity of your spouse.
In a twisted sense, someone may decide to divorce the spouse because you don’t want to commit adultery. So you divorce one woman/man because of the claim of loss of sexual attraction, to marry another.
And because after sometimes, you realise that your new wife/husband does not really understand you, you also opt out of the second marriage, etc.
At least you claim that you have not committing adultery, maybe because of the social implication of it. You are the serial monogamist I mentioned earlier.
There can be no reason for divorce whatsoever. That is another difference in sex in the old and the new. In the new you are only permitted to have sex only with a woman and ditto for a woman only a man, whom you are duly marriage to.
You can only marry the person who belongs to the same kingdom of God as you (2Corinthians 6:14).
Marriage fulfills social, legal and spiritual necessity of the coming together of two people. The spiritual necessity involves marrying the one you believe is God’s choice for you and conducting your courtship without sexual intercourse. The law of a country would mostly not ask if you have had sex before marriage, before you are joined. Even now the society is exceedingly permissive of sex before marriage, but it is a spiritual requirement of your walk with God, that you flee fornication.
What of the case of battery, shouldn’t that be a ground for divorce?
I submit that for battery the two parties can stay apart because of the risk of injury or harm to the other as they work things out (God does not want you to be a marriage martyr). But perish the thought of divorce.
You said you have been growing apart. Then do something about it but stop this craze in the church where the divorce rate in some places, between Christians and unbelievers, are the same. Take the responsibility for your marriage, own it, and see it as your sole responsibility that it succeeds.
Go learn more, go for counseling, and give it everything it takes.
What if the other person wants to initiate a divorce? Then you are free (1Corinthians 7:1-16); but you should not be the one initiating it (except for fornication).
And as Christ struck with the church regardless of our mess, you are to stick with your spouse no matter what. At worst carry it as your cross.
- The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity: Marriage in the Scripture (politicaljesus.com)
- Biblical marriage- but not as we know it… (thisfragiletent.com)
- The Holy Scriptures (ptl2010.com)
- Is Singleness A Workaround? (dianerivers.me)
- Leviticus 22. The Holiness of the offerings (bummyla.wordpress.com)