The Bible Way to Obtain Your Spouse part three
All of Genesis 24, the longest chapter in Genesis, the book of beginnings, tells the story of Abraham obtaining the life’s partner for his son. To review that first line, what is Genesis 24 about? It is all about a man acquiring a wife. We should regulate our lives by Scriptural example. It’s not as easy as plain statements, but we’re supposed to gather some doctrine and practice from Old Testament narratives. Genesis 24 isn’t for nothing. It has some purpose.
Some have used Genesis 24 as merely a picture of Christ and the church. They usually do the same thing with Song of Solomon. I believe those efforts represent something closer to an allegorical hermeneutic. I take the position that types should be stated. If there isn’t some strong connection of the dots, I don’t see a type or a figure. I can say that the ark is a picture of salvation because of other statements in Scripture about Noah and the flood.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Genesis 24 is about the man leaving father and mother and cleaving to his wife. A pattern is provided. We should judge that pattern by propositional statements found elsewhere in the Bible. We should look at other examples. Everything combined should form the doctrine and practice. I’ve already looked through Scripture at other examples. Principles flesh themselves out that we see modeled here in Genesis 24. Let’s see what they are.
PRINCIPLES IN A PATTERN FOR THE OBTAINING OF ONE’S SPOUSE (Genesis 24)
Principle One—The Authority (Genesis 24:1-2, 49-51)
The chapter starts with Abraham even as he is the patriarch, the one in charge. As the chief executive of his household, he exerts authority over the man who oversees the entire home business, a house manager, something like we see referenced in the some of the parables of Jesus in the NT (Matthew 24:45, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?”). The servant was the ruler over Abraham’s household, but in the chapter the servant repeatedly and subserviently refers to Abraham as his “master,” which is the word for “lord” (adone). The man is doing Abraham’s bidding all along the way, doing his lord’s will.
Later in the chapter Rebekah’s father Bethuel and her brother Laban stand in the way between the servant and Rebekah. They must decide if she we will go. In v. 49 the nameless servant makes it clear that they are dealing with Abraham in this circumstance. They decide in v. 51 that Isaac can have Rebekah as wife.
The Scriptural way depends upon authority for the obtaining of a life’s partner on both the man’s and the woman’s side. Following authority is the basis for making the right choice. The objectivity of the parent keeps it from emotions or hormones, deceit and defeat. Permission must be granted from the woman’s authority. Also, in the example of the family of Abraham, there is no independent adulthood between the two families. We have two homes in Scripture. In the first home, a man and a woman are under parental authority. In the second home, the man leaves his father and mother, the woman marries him, he becoming her head and she is help meet. There is not an in between marriage time when men or women operate unilaterally to parental authority. When that does happen in Scripture, it occurs almost unanimously to great harm to those who separate from the authority of their father.
The history of dating, essentially an English and mainly American phenomenon, is one in which the process toward marriage steps out from under the authority of parents. The children take the task into their own hands. Today parents are instructed to do so and often gladly do. Those who don’t do it gladly are most often marked as a kind of bigots. This history coincides with a radical cultural change that paralleled with the industrial revolution. Dad’s employment sent him away from home. School went from something small and close to home to something big and further away. Students far outnumbered adults. Boys and girls had more freedom to spend time relatively alone. The parents were less involved with their children. Boys and girls began announcing what they had taken into their own hands. Parents must accept. Now parents endorse.
Without parents initiating, the process took on all sorts of new dimensions. Feelings were now love. Love became the means of choice, but it was actually lust. With the kids taking charge, new dating skills were developed akin to the strange woman in Proverbs. Both boys and girls learned how to seduce at an early age. Less time was spent on skill, intellect, and spirit building and more on mating rituals. The music and fashion industries marketed to this. The young people bought what they were selling. Where we stand today, this has a stranglehold even on Christian college campuses. It is true that much of it is no longer about marriage, but about gratifying short-term physical and emotional desire.
When we see in Scripture this pattern followed of the children taking the authority in the choice of life’s partner, it is often embraced by rebels or godless pagans. Samson ordered his parents around and it lead to his downfall. Jacob, perhaps because he himself didn’t follow his parents instruction, didn’t restrain his own children enough, and this resulted in the sorry incident with Dinah and the Shechemites and then Judah’s corrupt dalliance with Tamar. A lot of problems in the Old Testament revolve around doing this the wrong way.
Dating today just imitates the worst examples in the Bible regarding authority. The whole history of dating contradicts the biblical, historical, and then really traditional way of getting a wife or husband. The point of dating has been for children to initiate the process. Even if the parents are closely involved, the young people are checking each other out and dressing and acting in a way to get that done. The kids then report back to their parents what they like and want. They take the Samson route or the foolish bread boy of Proverbs 7. The temperature goes up, the IQ goes down, and the relationship with the parents drastically changes. If the parents intervene, the kids resent it and the culture backs them up.
In the story of Isaac, the two marriage candidates aren’t involved with each other at all. They must fully trust authority in their lives. This is pictured as the ideal. It is the way of faith, even as we will see later in the chapter. It is the way of answered prayer. The parents are the ones doing everything, including doing the checking out. Of course, to those who don’t like this way, that means the parents pick out someone ugly for their child. After all, they don’t care about the physical as much as character and other matters, so they ignore looks. This isn’t true. Parents want a good match for their children too, but they don’t have to be affected by the looks in the same way that their children will be, where lust is involved. It also allows the looks and character issues to be balanced off.
Part of the attack on God’s way is also an attack on parental authority and ultimately the role of the Dad. Part of the conspiracy of Satan is to destroy the home and a great way to do that is to obliterate the role of the man in the home. He is succeeding at that and this is one of the ways. Dads don’t choose and then they don’t protect their daughters any more. They are a mere figurehead. They might get to choose what television channel the family will watch. Moms are often taking charge in the dating scene, feeling the emotions of their daughters along with them, role-playing, doing dress up, perhaps nostalgic of some of the best feelings they ever had in their life, when they were dating. So much emphasis is placed on dating and the wedding that the marriage is a several decade afterthought, if it lasts that long.
God is a good God, so His way is better, but it is His way. It’s understandable why kids want to be the ones involved all along, but that isn’t the pattern in Scripture. We are to be regulated by the pattern that God has given us for His honor and glory. Without faith it is impossible to please Him.
Principle Two—The Affiliations (Genesis 24:3-4)
Abraham is concerned first about what family she comes from. This relates to what she believes. The Canaanites were polytheists. Abraham’s family believed in the same God as Abraham. False religion was an immediate deal breaker. Abraham limited the possibilities to only the ones who would fit into his family’s belief system. Beliefs are the chief issue in a marriage. We don’t even approach people that don’t believe like we do.
Abraham utilized his servant. The servant was his networker. He went to look on behalf of Abraham, having the same thoughts about things. He went a long ways to get it done. We might need to go away from our own church and network with another church. The beliefs of the church and then the family are the first topics that should be considered in this search to find the wife. Since the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), that makes the most sense today as an application of getting to the location where the qualified possibilities are. I believe the church is a far better perimeter than the institution of the college. Colleges often bring together varied belief systems that will clash in areas not important to college, but very important to a life’s partner candidate.
In the realm of affiliations, there are other passages that apply to this. An obvious one is 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. The candidate should be a believer. In the case of Abraham, it was a family of monotheists, what we would see in principle as limiting ourselves to believers today. Amos 3:3 says it with “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” One reason people get divorced is “irreconcilable differences.” Different beliefs can be that kind of difference. Peace in Scripture relates to belief and practice more than anything. A friend of the world could not be classified as a potential life’s partner (James 4:4). An “enemy of God” would be the wrong person to marry. Other qualities will enter in, but this relates to affiliations, and we look to where we will have the most peace, that is, our own church or a church of like faith and practice.
—more coming in part four