Sound doctrine from the word.

Finding a Wife

This is a survey of scripture passages that relate to finding a wife. I assembled the verses by going through all of the passages that use the terms wife, husband, marriage, bride, etc. After sifting through the verses, the following are the ones that stood out on the subject of seeking and finding a wife.

In the Beginning

Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

This is a key verse, which is quoted repeatedly. Since it begins with “therefore”, we have to go back to the previous verse to see what brought Adam to this conclusion.

Genesis 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Adam is basing his conclusion on the fact that Eve was literally a part of him, which God had taken and made into another person. To be whole, he had to cleave to her, because she was a part of his own bone and flesh.

Adam must have then also considered the fact that his descendants which resulted from this union would also be flesh and blood with their father and mother. But yet that would not fulfill his sons. They could only be made complete by a wife. And therefore they would leave their father and mother, and cleave to their wife, becoming one flesh, and thus complete, with her.

Side note: since the woman was taken out of his side and bosom, that is where she should be: by his side and in his bosom.

Adam is speaking of a physical need, a need of his body, of his bone and his flesh, to be united with this woman. The man’s physical need for a wife extends beyond his need for sex. Adam already had a sexual drive before God removed one of his ribs. There is no linkage of cause and effect between the two. But Adam still linked this with the need his sons would have for wives.

The fact of the matter is, you can live without a rib. God didn’t take a vital part of Adam to make the woman from. He chose something that you can live without, and that in fact will grow back. Yet because she was taken from him, man would always be physically in need of a wife. He speaks of her as an external organ, without which his entire body is lacking.

Every other time the word rib is used in the Bible it is speaking of someone being slain by being smitten under the rib. Ribs protect our vital organs. A missing rib would put our vital organs, like the heart and stomach, at greater risk.

God’s purpose in making the woman was to make a help for Adam. His choice of a rib is based on this. A rib does not have its own active role to play within the body, like the eye or mouth or stomach. Rather, its office is to be a help to the other organs. Without it, the body would lack structure, and be vulnerable. The rib saves it from this. It takes no part in directing the body, it just comes along wherever the body goes. Nor does it make the body function, like the heart or lungs. Yet it fills a need that the rest of the body has. It protects the heart and lungs, so that without it the body would be unable to do as much, for fear of damaging them. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts—and as witness of that, Eve was much more than just a rib.

But to return to the verse at hand, Adam is saying that men would always have the physical need for a wife. This certainly includes sex, but that is not all. Many men have their sexual needs tended to apart from a wife. Again, Adam didn’t say that man would cleave to his wife because of his sex drive. God created Adam with that. But it was because the woman was taken out of him, and was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. A man’s flesh and bones have need of a wife. God created a help that was meet for this, so that a man would indeed leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they would indeed become one flesh.

This is something that the man does because of this need. He is to initiate it. He is the one that leaves his parents, and cleaves to his wife. That the wife leaves her parents goes without saying; she is his wife.

Lamech #

Genesis 4:19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

This is the first time after Adam that the taking of a wife is mentioned. (Cain’s wife is mentioned two verses before, but already as his wife.) And this is recorded only because of the unusual novelty of Lamech having taken two wives. It is clear that its purpose is not to give us an example of how one should go about taking a wife. Apparently, that has already been sufficiently dealt with in the account of Adam.

Here, we see only that a foolish man and a murderer has taken wives unto him as he pleased, but contrary to the pattern set forth by God.

Sons of God

Genesis 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

Even the sons of God are subject to taking a wife contrary to God’s will.

Abraham #

Genesis 11:29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.

The Bible repeatedly speaks of a man “taking” a wife. One takes something that was not his and it becomes his own. God took Adam’s rib and made the woman, so that now men must take a wife back to themselves.

Ishmael

Genesis 21:21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

Sometimes another takes a wife for a man, such as here, when Ishmael’s mother Hagar takes him a wife out of Egypt. This is contrary to Adam’s words however, which were that a man would leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. It is intended that the man be the prime mover in the matter, leaving his parents to go and take a wife and start a new family.

Isaac #

Genesis 24:3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:

4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

Genesis 24:7 The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

Genesis 24:37 And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell:

38 But thou shalt go unto my father’s house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.

Genesis 24:40 And he said unto me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father’s house:

Genesis 24:51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken.

Even Abraham failed to follow this in his own relationship with his father Terah, and later in choosing a wife for Isaac. Yet God still directed the choice of Isaac’s wife in a clear way. This is the first marriage we see that, like Adam and Eve’s, was supernaturally arranged.

Esau #

Genesis 26:34 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

Genesis 27:46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?

Genesis 28:1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.

2 Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.

Genesis 28:6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;

Genesis 28:9 Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

Here we see another poor choice of wives. Esau not only didn’t seek or receive guidance from the LORD, he failed to follow the wisdom of the pattern set by his father, of not taking a wife from the daughters of Canaan. This dismissive attitude toward the promises of God is why he was rejected by God, and he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. He tried to correct his mistake, but it was already made.

Help is always singular in the Bible, except in two NT verses that aren’t talking about people being a help. One can only have one help. A help is sufficient by definition. If they aren’t, then they aren’t a true help. It is therefore impossible to have more than one help. If another was needed, neither would be your sufficiency.

Shechem #

Genesis 34:4 And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.

Genesis 34:8 And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.

Genesis 34:12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.

Here we see the folly of a man taking a woman before getting her as his wife. He is killed by her jealous brothers.

Levite Priests

Leviticus 21:7 They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.

Leviticus 21:13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity.

14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.
God had special instructions for his priests regarding the wives they would take. And indeed, we find certain other general prohibitions in the law. Yet nowhere do we find God giving specific command to a man as to how he should choose his wife, or who he must take. The only exception is this:

But even the priests are allowed to marry to whom they will, not having to go through some process to curry God’s favor on the match.

Zelophehad’s Daughters

Deuteronomy 25:5 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.

Numbers 36:3 And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance.

Numbers 36:6 This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.

Numbers 36:11 For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father’s brothers’ sons:

12 And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father.

This is the pattern we find: God may restrict the pool of possible candidates, but still leaves the man and woman their choice of whom they marry.

Israel Under the Judges

Judges 3:6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

People tend to follow the traditions of their childhood. God gave specific command to Israel not to marry into the peoples of Canaan because their sons would be led astray by strange wives. It is very important to be in agreement with your wife on the God you serve and how you serve him.

Samson #

Judges 14:2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.

3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.

Judges 14:20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

Judges 15:6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.

This caused Samson great problems, when he rejected the counsel of his parents. Yet we are told:

Judges 14:4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

So God was at work in this match, even though Samson wasn’t seeking him in it, and wasn’t ultimately benefited as he had hoped.

David and Bathsheba

2 Samuel 11:27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

2 Samuel 12:8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

David chose a wife that already belonged to another man, and his family was severely judged for it.

Hadad #

1 Kings 11:19 And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen.

Why They Chose

We find wives taken and given for many reasons: desire, station, politics, etc. But we do not find them chosen with being a meet help specifically in mind. There are no passages at all where we find a man thinking on this. Perhaps some of them did, but it is never mentioned. We can often see other things at play, but this is not to be found.

From this we could draw the conclusion that all or most of these men were choosing wives for the wrong reasons. And we do see some fools’ poor choices being rebuked, and causing them much sorrow. We must confess, however, that there is no pattern to indicate that God is highly concerned with which particular woman a man marries. We do not see him working in this way, even for the most important players in his plan. (Though of course it is possible he had a hand in things behind the scenes on many occasions.)

The general impression one gets must be that God expects men to choose whomever they desire and think best. Yet we also know that many marriages were made contrary to God’s will and the pattern set by him in the garden. Because of the hardness of their hearts he wrote them this precept. (Mark 10:5) That is, this is one area in which God has told us that he meddled less than he would, because men are hard-hearted. As such, we cannot look to the OT saints, or even the law of God, for our pattern to follow here. We must look to what God called very good—the first couple.

There are those women which a godly man is exhorted, if not commanded, to avoid. But among those who are not excluded, God does allow us to choose whom we will. He likewise lets us freely choose what house we will live in, and what car we will drive. That doesn’t mean that these choices are unimportant to him—much less our choice of a wife—only that there is no inherent blessing or curse in the choice because we failed to choose exactly the one he supposedly wanted us to. A poor choice already carries its own problems, and a good choice its own fruits. In all of life’s choices such as these, God will lead and direct us, if we are actively seeking to be a part of his program and he knows what we choose will make a significant difference in that—and we seek his guidance. But it is not God’s responsibility to make these choices, it is ours. Nor is he under any obligation to give us specific direction. We find only one example of a man seeking it, and he did indeed find it (Abraham’s servant). God gives wisdom to them that ask. But not so that they can consume it upon their lusts. But so that as their faith is tried, patience can have its perfect work. (James 1:2-8)

God can bless any marriage between two people who are following him. People only choose the wrong person in the Bible when they choose someone who isn’t following him.

Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

Finding a wife obtains God’s favor. Finding one, not accepting the particular one he chose for you. Any wife, if not contrary to God’s word, will obtain his favor for her husband.

Proverbs 19:14 House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.

For in fact, all prudent wives come from the LORD. The woman was made for man. Therefore every prudent wife is from God. On the flip side, a wife who isn’t prudent isn’t a meet help, and therefore isn’t what God actually designed for a wife to be.

Israel and the Land

Isaiah 62:4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.

It is expected that a young man will marry a virgin whom he will delight and rejoice in.

Jeremiah #

Jeremiah 16:2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.

This is one of the only times that God gives specific direction on whom someone should or shouldn’t marry. It is in the context of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry.

Hosea #

Hosea 1:2 The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.

Another of those rare examples, this time as part of Hosea’s prophetic ministry. And he is still given choice, only told what the wife should be like.

Joseph #

Matthew 1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

They were only betrothed at this point, yet the scripture still calls him her husband. The Law treated the matter this way as well (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).

Matthew 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

Only the fifth example of God giving direction as to marriage, and in this case Joseph had already made his choice. God was simply telling him to go through with it, despite the unique and wonderful circumstances.

1 Corinthians 7

1 Corinthians 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

1 Corinthians 7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

1 Corinthians 7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

1 Corinthians 7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

So Paul directs that in the present distress it is good for the unmarried not to marry, even as he himself. They are under no obligation to marry. But they are by no means commanded not to, and in fact, he exhorts them that it is not always the best choice. Marriage is sometimes better. Both marrying and not marrying are good, and one may be better than the other for a particular person.

Paul #

1 Corinthians 9:5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

Even Paul, although he did not marry, had the power to do so. He was not forbidden. The only man in scripture forbidden to marry was Jeremiah, as a sign to Israel.

1 Timothy 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Anyone forbidding to marry in the NT, even for the purpose of ministry, is teaching a doctrine of devils.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Summary #

Times God specifically directed a man in regard to marriage:

  • Adam was given a wife by God.
  • Abraham’s servant had Rebekah revealed to him by God when he prayed for a wife for Isaac.
  • Samson sought a Philistine woman to be his wife, and this was of the LORD that he might find occasion against he Philistines.
  • Jeremiah is forbidden to take a wife.
  • Hosea is told to take a wife of whoredoms.
  • Joseph is told not to fear to take Mary to him.

There is in fact no passage where a man seeks and receives direction from God in regard to whom he should marry. Abraham’s servant sought God more earnestly than his master’s son in this regard, as far as we know. Samson chose as God wanted him to, but not to his credit or ultimate benefit. In the rest of the cases, direction was unsolicited, and in no case did God tell the man whom to choose. Only in the case of Adam does God make the “choice”, but since he created only one woman, that is a bit different.

Furthermore, we must conclude that it is a choice, with multiple viable options. There is not necessarily one single woman that is a superior choice to all others. It seems clear that God has not appointed just one person in the world whom we should marry. The only case in scripture anything like this, aside from Adam, is that of Isaac and Rebekah, and we truly cannot say whether she may have been the only eligible daughter of Abraham’s kindred anyway (in which case she wasn’t actually God’s choice from a larger pool of otherwise viable options).

But rather than diminishing the importance of our choice, the fact that there isn’t necessarily just one person out there means that we have some decisions to make. It is our responsibility. We need wisdom from God, as in other decisions in life, to choose wisely. We may also seek guidance, so that we can make a choice that will be meet for us in the future in things we can’t even foresee at present.

Nobody is ever rebuked for not seeking God in this matter, or for their choice of a wife, as if they had chosen the wrong woman (as long as they chose someone scripturally acceptable). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek him in this, as in all things. But it does give us some perspective. There may be many poor choices out there, but not a wrong choice in God’s sight as long as we follow his word.

A Note to the Visionary/Steady Man

Us visionary/steady types have a personality combo that can mess up our thinking on this. As a visionary we may be very spiritually-minded, always pursuing some perfect ideal, often out of proportion. Then our steady side makes us uncomfortable actively seeking a wife. We would rather God just bring one along, and though we can offer many spiritual reasons for this, our reasons are also selfish. We just don’t want to go out of our comfort zone and take the responsibility ourselves. Aside from Adam, God never drops a wife into anybody’s lap in the Bible, but this is what we tend to want. It appeals both to our vision of getting the perfect one and our social lethargy. It is very hard for us to admit that the ideal we are trying to follow is not actually biblical. It seems so good and spiritual. We don’t care to consider that marriage is actually a temporal feature of this life that is first about the flesh, not the spirit. Ouch, it hurts to say it.

So, what to do? First off, we don’t want to overcompensate. None of this means we should stop seeking God’s will in regard to whom we marry and just go and choose the first person that suits our fancy. There is nothing wrong with that, actually, but it may result in a poor choice. We need to understand that while God is not in the habit of choosing wives for people, he is in the habit of giving wisdom to all men liberally, and that every prudent wife is from the LORD. Find a prudent wife and you will have found a wife from God.

God is also in the habit of giving guidance to those who seek him when things are important to his plan and work. And he works all things out together for good to them that love him.

When we love God, follow him faithfully, seek his wisdom, and ask for guidance, and then seek for a wife from the pool sanctioned by his word, we cannot make a choice wrong in his eyes. We will find a prudent wife who is from God.

The problem is that as visionaries we may not just want a good wife. We may want the best one that we could possibly choose on this earth. The one who is of all others most meet to be our help. Who will best help us fulfill God’s will and calling for us, to his glory.

And guess what? There is nothing wrong with that desire.

But on the other hand, who do we think we are? Look at all of the great men in the Bible, and never once a story of God giving a one of them the most meet wife. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t. But there isn’t a biblical pattern that we need to feel must be followed in that regard. As hard as it is to say, and as important as the choice is, God just doesn’t show himself to be that concerned with it, in general. He doesn’t place the same level of importance on choosing just the right one as we do. We are not being circumspect, and need to temper our (holy) fantasies with a good dose of reality.

Let’s face it: if you are going to get a good wife from the LORD anyway, is the difference between good and best really going to be that significant? Is it so important that you pass up good ones until you are 35, because God hasn’t chosen the best one for you?

By all means, we should seek God’s will. But as in all things in life, that starts with following God’s general will revealed in his word, and then seeking any specific direction he might give us. God’s general will is that a man should marry a prudent wife in his youth that is the rejoicing of his heart. When we pursue that, in God’s wisdom, we are following his will, and will obtain his favor by it. Only if he redirects us as we seek his will should we take a more refined direction than his word and the wisdom he gives us leads us in.

What is Meet for You?

Flipping things around for a moment, you may want to consider whether you really want the wife most meet for you. Are you really even worthy of a good one? Maybe you are going to make a poor husband, and a second rate wife is meet for you. Yikes.

If you really want the best, the meetest, then you need to be worthy of the best. The best and most meet wife for you also deserves the best and most meet husband for her, don’t you think? That is what being meet is all about.

So if you are going to ask God to give you the best and most meet wife, then you really ought to focus some attention on preparing to be a husband worthy of her. Otherwise asking for the best is presumption, and asking for the most meet may get you what you hadn’t bargained for.

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