Home > Brandenburg, Marriage, The Family > The Bible Way to Obtain Your Spouse part four

The Bible Way to Obtain Your Spouse part four

July 3, 2008

Does Genesis 24 present a unique pattern for obtaining a life’s partner?  Or is it just one of many examples that together indicate there is no particular way of finding a wife?  One argument is that we’ve got other illustrations, such as the one of Jacob in Genesis 28, that offer another legitimate and parallel method.  It seems that Jacob is the only one referenced as an alternative.   It seems like only a bad alternative.   I quote John Calvin as a basis for what men thought of Genesis 24 as a pattern, and he writes this on the first few verses of Genesis 24, available many places online:  “Abraham here fulfils the common duty of parents, in laboring for and being solicitous about the choice of a wife for his son . . . Now this example should be taken by us as a common rule, to show that it is not lawful for the children of a family to contract marriage, except with the consent of parents; and certainly natural equity dictates that, in a matter of such importance, children should depend upon the will of their parents.”  But what about Jacob?

In Genesis, Moses placed Jacob’s deception of Isaac within the larger context of marriage. The last two verses of chapter 26 inform us that Esau was 40 years old when he had married two Hittite women, causing Isaac and Rebekah great grief.  Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah (25:20).   Wifeless Jacob is also 40.   The covenant blessings of Abraham will pass through Jacob and his descendants. Genesis 24 is a very detailed description of how Abraham obtained a wife for Isaac from among his own relatives, rather than from among the Canaanites.   There Abraham strongly emphasized that under no circumstances was Isaac to return to Padan-aram.

After Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother’s blessing, Esau planned to kill Jacob and he waited for his father’s death.  Rebekah heard of Esau’s intentions so set out to save Jacob’s life.  She said nothing to Jacob about marriage (Gen 27:42-45).  She warned only of Esau’s plan to kill him and then urged him to flee to her brother Laban in Padan-aram to stay for “a few days” until Esau’s anger diminished.

Marriage was mainly a pretext for sending Jacob away to spare his life.  When Rebekah spoke to Isaac, she said nothing of Esau’s plan to kill Jacob.  Instead, she pointed out that Esau had married the daughters of Heth and that she couldn’t live if this were to happen to Jacob.  Isaac responded by sending Jacob to Padan-aram to acquire a wife from the daughters of Laban. Isaac did not seek to keep Jacob from going to Padan-aram, as Abraham kept Isaac from going there. He does not warn him not to stay there. He simply sent him on his way.

Here’s the point.  Neither Isaac nor Rebekah took this marriage matter very seriously.  It was more of an excuse than a reason. Granted, Isaac and Rebekah hated Esau’s marriage to two Hittite women, but they hadn’t given Jacob any instruction, leaving him to figure it out on his own (Gen 28:6-9).  Esau was married, Jacob wasn’t, but his parents still did nothing to secure a wife for him.  Only after Rebekah learned that Esau planned to kill Jacob did she and Isaac send Jacob away.

Jacob’s deceit of Isaac and theft of the blessing was the reason why he went to Padan-aram. Jacob didn’t acquire a wife in a godly manner. His circumstances forced him into a situation in which he providentially obtained his wives from his mother’s family.  This contrasted drastically with chapter 24, where Abraham so purposefully sought to obtain a wife for his son. It was circumstances, not faith, nor obedience, which caused Jacob to obtain his wife in Padan-aram.  If God had not compelled Jacob to return to Canaan, he would have stayed on in Padan-aram indefinitely, away from the land of blessing.

Principles from the Pattern in Genesis 24 Continued

Principle Three—The Agency (Genesis 24:9-11)

The trusted servant acted on behalf of Abraham.  When a father is unable or there is no father, a surrogate of the same belief and practice may and should step in for the dad.  This isn’t to remove a father’s God-ordained responsibility.  It does say that a family can attain aid from others and that there is room for stand-in authority.

Principle Four—The Asking (Genesis 24:12-14)

Like the servant here, we should pray for the life’s partner.  To pray, we should know what we’re praying for, based upon Scripture.  When we obey God’s Word, we can pray in faith, so that in the end, God gets the credit for providing.  I hope most parents are praying for the future life’s mate for their children.  A prayer of faith starkly contrasts with the machinations of two young people working it out in concert with their lust.

Principle Five—The Answer (Genesis 24:15-27a, 50)

When you pray, then you can wait on God for the answer.  The servant did look.  Faith without works is dead.  However, he watched and waited, resting in the provision of God.  If that is the way that you operate, then at the end, you can give praise to God, which is what the servant did.  If you did it your way, then God doesn’t get the praise.  This is the “honor God” part of “sanctification and honor.”

Principle Six—The Attractiveness (Genesis 24:16)

Does physical beauty come in?  That gets mentioned in this task, meaning that it is a consideration.  It shouldn’t get left out of the equation.  A parent will probably know better what a match is.  However, God is a good God and He doesn’t do ugly.

Principle Seven—The Award (Genesis 24:22)

The servant brought an expression of the potential bride’s worthiness.  Gifts might be traditional, but they also communicate the value of the woman and this endeavor.  These tokens expressed a commitment to her as a candidate for marriage.  Doing this kind of thing makes it all more landmark.

Scripture accentuates the woman’s beauty above the man.  Rebekah didn’t bring fashion accessories for Isaac.  She was naturally good looking, but that didn’t mean that her prettiness couldn’t be accentuated by external means.  Adding physical embellishment and ornamentation from among God’s created products does not contradict faith in God’s design.

Principle Eight—The Axiom (Genesis 24:27)

“I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”  The Lord leads those who are already in the way.  We seek the Lord and we’ll collide with the one God has for us.  When we are out of the way, we can’t run into the one in God’s will.  One way we get out of the way is by taking a different process than Scripture examples.  The one we will marry is in God’s will with us.  So, we get in the path and then we look for someone in the same path we’re in.  If we already love God’s will, then He’ll lead us in His will.

Principle Nine—The Acclamation (Gen. 24:28-33a)

We can celebrate a marriage when we’ve acted in God-honoring fashion.  When we take things into our own hands, we can find trouble and vexation.

Principle Ten—The Accounting (Gen. 24:33b-49, 66)

When you do it right, there is a testimony to tell afterwards that will glorify God—you did it His way and He blessed.  You won’t be embarrassed by any of the details when you act in faith.  Your story can be a help and encouragement to others.  You won’t have to say, “Do what I say, not what I did,” when someone asks.

Principle Eleven—The Arrangements (Gen. 24:50-61)

We see two major principles in the arrangement.  They work through the daughter’s father and Rebekah is given veto power or consent.  The father or the brother gave her away, so men were involved in the protection of the daughter.  They gave her a choice not to go.  She wanted to, but she could have said no.  We don’t see a situation where the daughter is forced to marry anyone.  In the arrangements, respect is shown to both families.  There is agreement, coming to terms, resulting in good relations between the family.  No one has been defrauded.

Principle Twelve—The Alliance (Gen. 24:67a)

Isaac took; Rebekah became.  She took a new identity, wife of Isaac.  When the man and woman come together in marriage, they become a new family.  They aren’t a new family until then.  They shouldn’t be like they’re already husband and wife before they are.

Principle Thirteen—The Adoration (Gen. 24:67b)

Isaac loved her.  Love wasn’t dependent on his having seen her before.  A husband loves his wife because this is the role of the man.  God is love and they that abide in Him can and will love.

Principle Fourteen—The Afteraffect (Gen. 24:67c)

Isaac is fulfilled through completion and companionship, replacing what was previously there from his mother, Sarah, who had died.  The man should learn how to relate with women by his relationship with his mother.   When he cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh, his relationship with his mother changes to some degree.  The groom’s mother shouldn’t ever think that she has a position like she did before in her son’s life.  This is the way it should be.

These are most of the principles we can incorporate into our lives from this Scriptural pattern.  Every situation will look different, but the principles should be the same.  In following the model, we can honor God in obtaining our spouse.

How Does This Compare With Other Means?

Any form of dating is not the same as the Scriptural way of acquiring one’s spouse.  History tells the tale of a change of a reliance on a Scriptural manner to one invented by the world.  It wasn’t a group of Christians getting together or a church that originated the dating method or its spin-offs.  If we are going to change the Scriptural and historic manner, there should be some exegesis of Scripture that should initiate it.  That was not the case.

By the 1950s and 1960s in the United States, social scientists, who studied American courtship, found it necessary to remind the American public that dating was a “recent American innovation and not a traditional or universal custom” (“Some Expert Opinions on Dating,” McCall’s, August 1961, p. 125.  Quoting Professor Ruth Shonle Cavan).   “Dating not only transformed the outward modes and conventions of American courtship, it also changed the distribution of control and power in courtship.  One change was generational:  the dating system lessened parental control and gave young men and women more freedom” (p. 20, From the Back Porch to Back Seat:  Courtship in Twentieth-Century America, by Beth L. Bailey.  Baltimore:  The John Hopkins University Press, 1988).  The sociologist Willard Waller, who studied campus life in the 1930s, concluded that dating “is not true courtship, since it is supposed not to eventuate in marriage; it is a sort of dalliance relationship” (p. 289, Hands and Hearts:  A History of Courtship in America, by Ellen K. Rothman.  New York:  Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1984).  In Puritan New England, the law had given parents “the care and power . . . for the disposing their children in marriage” (p. 26, Rothman).

What happened?   We were guided by a Scriptural and historical model for obtaining a spouse. First that changed in the world.  Then it began to change in churches.  The world’s method became the church’s method, except with some Christian garnish.  What was the change?   It was a change from Parental Control to Personal Choice under Peer Pressure, an alteration from Serious Marriage Intentions to Intended for Personal Pleasure and Fun, an amendment from Spiritual Maturity to Feelings/Desire/Hormones, a revision from Protection from Physical Involvement to Emotional and Physical Involvement, a switch from Respect for the Bible to Ignorance and Disregarding of the Bible, a modification from In the Home around the Family to Exclusively out of the Home, and a transition from The Qualification of Character to Physical/Emotional Attractiveness.

What’s Bad about the New Way? (“as the Gentiles which know not God”)

  • Sin or Impurity (Prov. 6:25; Mt. 5:27-30; Col. 3:5)—Emotionally and Physically, it is God’s will for men and women to save themselves wholly for their life’s partner, and when they do not, that is sin.  John Holzman in Dating with Integrity, in 1990, makes this excellent statement, “When we begin to develop intimacy with someone, there’s going to be a natural tendency toward a sexual expression…Any time you become emotionally involved with a person, you’re moving into the arena of sexual temptation.  You’re touching one of the springs from which our sexuality comes to surface.”  We would do well to look at the trek to fornication outlined in Colossians 3:5:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

You look at it in reverse order.  Covetousness is idolatry.  It starts with just wanting more without the regard of God.   We separate God from our pursuit of a thing, a relationship, or a feeling.  Evil concupisence describes that desire outside of the bounds of what is right.  An unmarried young man does not possess the young lady.  He can’t have her until he is married to her.  He cannot have a married desire until after marriage.  Until then, that desire is defiled, an evil desire, evil concupiscense.  Inordinate affection comes when the passions are stirred, some heat is involved.  Uncleanness turns it all into an unclean action still falling short of fornication.  Obviously fornication involves all of these that lead up to it, but someone can be unclean and yet not fornicate.

The means by which someone obtains a life’s partner should not violate Colossians 3:5.  If the means tends towards violation of this verse, it can’t be the Scriptural way.  I contend that any form of dating tends toward a violation of Colossians 3:5.  Dating stirs instincts intended for marriage.

  • Rebellion Against Parents (Judges 14)—Young people pull themselves away from parental authority to satisfy on their own certain perceived emotional, psychological, and physical needs. Young people learn to be adults by being with adults as their model, not other young people (an argument against the common socialization thinking of parents—this is really about fitting in with immaturity).  It is obvious when people follow the wrong model of obtaining the life’s partner, they are rebelling against parental instruction (Proverbs 5-7).  It is often called “independence,” but independence is a positive word, and something some young people think they deserve, but it is truthfully rebellion.  Young people are out from under Godly wisdom when making the most important decision in life, and can ruin their life in a short period of time.  The role of the parents disappears or at least greatly lessens with the world’s way.
  • Defrauding (1 Thessalonians 4:6)—Emotional and Physical
  • Searing the Conscience (1 Timothy 1:19)—It lends itself to rationalization and excuses to cover up, and in truth, sear and suave the conscience, damaging it severely.
  • Seduction Skills Are Developed (Proverbs 5-7)—Physical and Emotional Attraction becomes a ‘skill’ that must be developed to obtain the life’s partner of a woman’s ‘desire;’ both men and women learn how to flirt.
  • Wasted Time (Ephesians 5:16)—Instead of getting prepared and developing character, knowledge, and skills, the ‘search is on’ in the ‘dating game.’
  • Wasted Abilities (Matthew 25:14-30)—There is a loss of intellectual, social, and spiritual development.–ministry skills not honed.
  • Breaking God’s Commandments (The Ten Commandments-Ex. 20)—Idolatry, dishonoring parents, stealing (defrauding), adultery, and covetousness.
  • Accompanying Attitude Problems—Jealousy, bitterness, anger, etc.
  • Later Marriage Problems—Marriage starts out selfishly.  The break-up pattern formed results in easy divorce pattern.  There is a built-in loss of trust that occurs when the spouse has had multiple dating partners or even more in the past.
  • Difficulty in Forgetting Old Relationships
  • Perversion of True Love—Love is fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23).  Love is abiding in God (I John 4:16).  In the dating system, love is a feeling or emotion; truly lust. In this system good is evil and evil is good.
  • Loss of True Friendships—Instead of making lasting friendships, people are busy with the “dating game.”
  • Loss of Discernment—Judgment not based on character, but on economics and ‘looks.’
  • Lost Honoring God and Obeying God’s Word, and Lost Testimony
  • Other Problems
    • The Tongue—Gossip, Slander, Lies, Flatter
    • Diseases–sexually transmitted
    • Crime–Rape, Abortion
    • Unwanted Children

What’s Good About the Scriptural Way?

  • Pleasing God (1 Thessalonians 4:1,2; Hebrews 11:6)
  • Honoring Parents (1 Cor. 7:37-39; Gen. 24:1-3)
  • God’s Will Accomplished (Proverbs 3:5,6)
  • Time Invested and Skills Developed in Preparation
  • Takes the Flesh Out of It to Preserve Purity
  • Young People Learn Adult Behaviour from Parents
  • Protects Conscience, Emotions, Family, Society, Testimony, True Friendships, True Love
  1. Soldier of War
    July 4, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Good point about Jacob. I had never noticed that connection.

    You have the “dating game” described very well.

  2. Don Heinz
    July 4, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    The scenario that bound Jacob to make a logical decision based on convenience is very well painted in this post. Isaac definitely demonstrates superior submission and wisdom. Jacob was simply cunning and deceptive. His choice was a cold hard political and self-serving move. This is proven by his insistence to obtain Rachael in spite of the fact that he was legally married to another woman already.

    Thanks for the great discussion here on this subject.

  3. July 5, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Principle #1 – Parental Authority
    #2 – Affiliations
    #3 – Agency, unnecessary if parental authority is present
    #4 – Asking
    #5 – Answer
    #6 – Attractiveness
    #7 – Award
    #8 – Axiom
    #9 – Acclamation
    #10 – Accounting
    #11 – Arrangements
    #12 – Alliance
    #13 – Adoration
    #14 – Afteraffect

    Everyone of these principles I agree with and practice.

  4. July 6, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Dr. Voegtlin, I can’t say you aren’t. I would assume you are. I’m not judging you anyway. I’m mainly involved with what occurs with the kids from our church. My concern is sanctification and honor, which is not as the Gentiles which know not God.

    I think those are most of the principles of Gn. 24. I think there are more principles elsewhere to add to those in Gen. 24, but it gives a model. Also it matters how each are explained. I don’t believe any form of dating fits a practice of #1-14. I don’t think the point of these principles should be to try to fit something into them, but to practice what they show, to follow their example. I say that, not really knowing how you are practicing them. I still haven’t listened to your sermon, but it is on my desktop and I will. I’ve had a guest with us since Thursday.

  5. July 8, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Before I wrote this post I made miscellaneous comments about the Jacob issue, really bullet points in which I explained why his was not a valid example to take for the acquiring of a wife. Some of those were addressed in the comments. For instance, other commenters said:
    1) Polygamy was completely acceptable then.
    2) Jacob was really nice to Leah by keeping her when he got ripped off in the Rachel matter.
    3) If examples are valid then all examples are valid to follow.

    I didn’t think those responses were convincing. The reader should decide.

    My comments did target the result of what Jacob did. My exegesis in this post looks at the whole story start to finish. It hasn’t been answered. I would be waiting for it to be completely undone by someoe who thought that it was an example to follow for acquiring a wife.

    Here is how I am seeing this whole argument go. I presented a view, homogenous with all of Scripture, bringing in passages from all over. It also has a historic basis. What I have received in return is the scorched earth method, tossing in grenades from all over to attempt to crash this view to some degree, mainly for the purpose of saying that it is only an example of one way to do it. We shouldn’t look at it as anything special. Stuff has been tossed in from all over and it didn’t even need to be legitimate. It just kept presenting more things for me to answer, even if it was completely bogus. Those arguments or grenades, once used and answered, remained out there unretracted. They still are. All of them combined do not present any kind of symmetrical way of obtaining a wife. They are a potpourri, a grab bag, that present no particular view. They aren’t even required to. The message seems to be this: Scripture doesn’t have a particular way to do this.

  6. July 8, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Sort of like Obama’s Dr. No message?

  7. July 8, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    I still haven’t listened to your sermon, but it is on my desktop and I will.

    Please remember my lesson (it really is not a sermon) was referred to to show that I try to give more than very general generic instructions to parents. I don’t expect you to agree with it in its entirety.

  8. July 8, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Here is how I am seeing this whole argument go. I presented a view, homogenous with all of Scripture, bringing in passages from all over.

    Then you got all the “grenades.” See now, I didn’t think they were all grenades. I thought they were Scripture that was from other all over and that they could be harmonized with a Scriptural “WAY” rather than dismissed because they are not the Genesis 24 “WAY.”

    The message seems to be this: Scripture doesn’t have a particular way to do this.

    See that’s the message you’re getting. The message I’m trying to give is that there are other Scriptures that should modify the Genesis 24 “WAY” to give us a truly Scriptural “WAY.”

    All this is written after I’ve just discovered that I might have believed in betrothal all the way along. It just depends on if my initiating father stays in the picture long enough.

    I believe the father of the son initiates also, but then I think he gets out of the way.

  9. July 8, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    I think it is fair to say that they haven’t all been grenades. I am happy to have some punches thrown at the presentation. If it doesn’t hold up, then I don’t think it would be the truth. You’ve said you agree with Genesis 24 and I’ve said that father initiation is the only difference I have read. I really have never read or heard the term betrothal given to this view. What I think is that others have called parental arranged marriages the betrothal view, they didn’t “work out,” and so they reject “betrothal.” That baggage could affect our discussion here. I think what I present should be able to stand on its own merits without the added baggage.

    I do think that other passages are necessary to give the whole picture, but Gen 24 provides an example, a pattern, or a model. What other passages have I neglected to come to the whole-Scripture approach? I reject Jacob’s example. I’ve explained why. I don’t see the 20 year old military thing as applying.

    Here’s what I have found by experience in practicing as the surrogate a few times. The dads of the daughters really liked and thanked me profusely. They were so glad to keep emotions out of it. They didn’t think the son was a wimp, but thought he showed biblical meekness.

  10. July 8, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I agree with you that all the most well-known terms have baggage. I even said that early in the discussion. Jason Hodge and I (and I think Dave also) have many horror stories associated with the “betrothal” crowd. What you describe is generally a form of a betrothal view.

    “Dates” would be involved in the process that I describe, albeit not as soon or in the manner of the world or even worldly Christians. But because I will still use this term to descibe an activity that is still governed and monitored by the parents, some act as if I practice the whole recreational dating system.

    The frustration of being misunderstood and misrepresented has caused some people I know to try to find a new term: something like courtolating, or dateothaling, or even betrourting. I suppose we could just call it finding, but that doesn’t have that special ring to it. After all, it’s one of the biggest things that will ever happen to someone. It needs a good, descriptive title.

  11. Soldier of War
    July 9, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Actually, our term is “the Bible way”. Whatever we believe should be Scriptural. So we really do not take any of the terms that have been taken in the discussion. We believe whatever the Bible teaches, and that’s it. We’ve never said that we were “betrothel”; we have been labeled as that by people.

    Please give me your thoughts.

  12. July 9, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Here’s my thoughts:

    That’s a cop out and it’s not your term.

    And here’s the proof. David, let’s say that Pastor Brandenburg stood in for you and found you a life partner. Later, I see you and her together (as I saw Tom and his wife before they were married). What would I say? “Oh, there’s David and his Bible way!” Or if someone didn’t know they might ask, “Who is David’s Bible way?” Obviously, that doesn’t work.

    I would say, “Oh, there’s David and his fiancee.” But if you are not engaged yet that wouldn’t be the correct term either. So, I’d probably say, “Oh, there’s David and his girlfriend.” And then I’d get in trouble because she’s not a girlfriend in the way that the world uses the term. It would be entirely appropriate for me to say, “Oh, there’s David and his date.” But then someone might think you believe in the “dating game.” And we know that’s not true. None of us do.

    So I guess we can learn from this that while terms are important, the action that the term is trying to describe is much more important.

  13. July 9, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Dr. Voetglin writes:

    “Dates” would be involved in the process that I describe, albeit not as soon or in the manner of the world or even worldly Christians. But because I will still use this term to descibe an activity that is still governed and monitored by the parents, some act as if I practice the whole recreational dating system.

    What I teach parts from your way here as well. I recognize that you use the terms, your terms, made up by you to describe your way so as to differentiate it from something you don’t want to associate with, that is, it isn’t “recreational dating,” so what is the purpose of these “dates” then? Why are the two dating? If dating itself was invented by the world, originally practiced by the world, only the world’s way for many years, then how can there be a non-worldly kind of dating? If Christians took the world’s way, how can it not be “like the Gentiles which know not God?”

    I recognize that you can critique what you see our young people have done and are doing at your church, but they have done it only at your church. They don’t do it here at our church because it isn’t done here. Your church brought what you see them doing into our young people. It is forbidden here. We recommended and sent them there, so we are responsible, but young people are heavily influenced in that particular area by where they are at, and especially if there is an absence of parental guidance. And it is constant, regular influence. There is as much influence to date there as there is any aspect of life—not necessarily officially, but by the time spent talking about it everywhere. We have first generation parents in most cases who dated to get where they are at in marriage. What I am saying is that I would rather talk about this as beliefs, not as what you see our young people doing when they are at your church. When I am reminded of that, it is when I am grieved at what I see happening. Our young people struggle like other young people do and it is especially hard when their Christian leadership pushes them toward something they want to do but is forbidden by their church. I say this in response to the several responses now to your examination of what you see our young people do. I think it is a valid critique of our church that our young people don’t follow to the T what I teach. They go there telling me that they believe what I preach and then when they arrive, they are immersed in another way where a lot of influence is exerted, and they give in to some of it. It’s interesting. People work on them to behave differently than what I teach and then when they do, they critique them as not following what I teach.

    I don’t know what you are talking about regarding Tom, but I feel as though a point is being made there. Tom, however, once he was engaged, moved to Wisconsin and joined the church of the lady he was to marry. After he was there, he wasn’t under the kind of supervision that he would be under if he were here. I did know he was under the authority of her dad. Up until engagement, all contact was with me or the dad’s family. I haven’t said anything about how we practice after engagement. If you remember, Joseph and Mary went all the way to Bethlehem alone after they were engaged. In other words, the detail of engagement with Tom and his engaged bride-to-be is a necessary one for your parenthesis.

    I haven’t critiqued how your church does things except to talk about our young people in response to your own conversation. I don’t think it adds anything to the discussion. We’re not debating how well our young people have practiced what I preach. It adds zilch, the inside of a donut. What would it accomplish if I started talking about my own observations openly? Love beareth all things. Love covereth a multitude of sins.

    By the way, no one has answered why Genesis 24 ISN’T a pattern or a model. All that has been said is that “there are other passages.” All I’ve gotten is Jacob and what I’ve said about that no one, as of the full explanation in this post, has answered either.

    I can say for sure that I started with exegesis and got the way that I practice. I didn’t select a method and then look for Bible verses to back it up later. There is a huge danger of eisogesis when the order is (1) position taken and then (2) Bible exposition.

    I’ll comment more on the “Son sent” post more later, but the Father did the selection—He sent the Son to claim the betrothed, but she was already selected BY THE FATHER. The whole picture in John 14 is that the bride is already selected and the Son is coming to take her to the Father’s house.

  14. July 9, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Here are my thoughts on what you say about the Jacob example.

    1. You said, “In Genesis, Moses placed Jacob’s deception of Isaac within the larger context of marriage.” You say this, no doubt, because the last two verses of chapter 26 serve as an introduction to chapter 27. And I agree.

    2. You say that marriage was “mainly a pretext for sending Jacob away to spare his life.” That may be. I don’t think that is necessarily the case. You are making an assumption here that Isaac had no idea of Esau’s intentions towards Jacob. But even if it was a pretext, and Rebekah was manipulating Isaac, it still does not undo the clear instructions and subsequent obedience of Jacob.

    3. You said, “Isaac did not seek to keep Jacob from going to Padan-aram, as Abraham kept Isaac from going there. He does not warn him not to stay there. He simply sent him on his way.” I too find that interesting. I think you are trying to paint Isaac as a careless father. And you might have a point on that. But I still come back to the fact that there is no rebuke of any kind to be found in Scripture. You are speculating that Isaac was abdicating, and I am speculating that there is a larger reason why Abraham insisted that Isaac not go to Padan-Aram, while Isaac sent Jacob there. I don’t think we can conclusively state that Isaac was in sin to send Jacob there.

    4. You said, “Here’s the point. Neither Isaac nor Rebekah took this marriage matter very seriously. It was more of an excuse than a reason.” I’m not sure what you mean by the “more of an excuse than a reason” statement. Nor am I persuaded that we can censure Isaac and Rebekah on this point. Again, it is somewhat of a conjecture to say that they didn’t take it seriously. It seems to be saying, “I would want Isaac and Rebekah to take marriage more seriously.” And that would be because, “I would want them to take it as seriously as Abraham did.” I think that you would say that Abraham’s example is set up in contrast with Isaac’s example. But again, that would be speculation. It is fine to speculate that way, but we can’t say so conclusively. We can’t say conclusively that Isaac and Rebekah did not take this seriously.

    5. You said, “Esau was married, Jacob wasn’t, but his parents still did nothing to secure a wife for him. Only after Rebekah learned that Esau planned to kill Jacob did she and Isaac send Jacob away.” This particular statement should be tell-tale to the reader. It is a telling part of your exegesis. It demonstrates that you are approaching this passage assuming that they have it all wrong. Several times in the course of this debate, you have implied that we approached Scripture with a particular bias on this issue. And I would say, “yes. We do.” But then again, this statement of yours says much the same thing. You say that his parents still did nothing to secure a wife for him. And that means that you think they were wrong because “they didn’t follow Abraham’s example.” In other words, they were supposed to. You decided that before you exegeted the passage. I am arguing that we can’t interpret this passage that way. We have to take it at face value, see what they did, and God’s response to it, and we have to then believe it.

    6. You further demonstrate this in the next paragraph, where you said, “Jacob’s deceit of Isaac and theft of the blessing was the reason why he went to Padan-aram. Jacob didn’t acquire a wife in a godly manner.” You say this because, before you exegeted the passage, you had already determined what “a godly manner” would be.

    7. That leaves us with two points (this and the next) that need to be made. First, is the fundamental disagreement that we have had from the start, and that is the authority to require that all pursuits of marriage must follow Abraham’s example. You say that we must follow Abraham’s example, and we disagree. I suppose that we could go back and forth on that issue for a long time. I don’t see that demand in Scripture.

    8. Second, is the fact that your exegesis of this passage completely ignores some very important statements. First, Isaac called Jacob, blessed him again, and charged him: (1) who not to take for a wife (Gen 28:1), and (2) who to take for a wife (Gen 28:2). Isaac was very specific in this, and obviously very concerned in it. And that also undoes your assertion that Isaac was not very concerned on this issue. Secondly, Genesis 28:6 says that Esau saw that Isaac had sent Jacob to take a wife from Padan-aram. This puts the story in a different light as well, for although Rebekah was concerned for Jacob’s life, Isaac’s main purpose in sending Jacob away, according to Genesis 28:1-6, was to take him a wife. Notice also that the emphasis here is on Isaac’s charge to Jacob. And thirdly, Genesis 28:7 tells us that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother… Which makes it difficult to accept the statement that “Jacob’s deceit of Isaac and theft of the blessing was the reason why he went to Padan-aram. Jacob didn’t acquire a wife in a godly manner. His circumstances forced him into a situation in which he providentially obtained his wives from his mother’s family.” Jacob actively obeyed his father’s instructions. Do we censure him for this?

    9. Jacob’s vision at Beth-el is set in the larger context of his leaving of Isaac’s home and going to Padan-aram . In that vision (Genesis 28:12-15), God promises to be with Jacob, to bless him and his seed, and to make his seed a blessing (v. 14), and to bring him back again into the Promised Land (which goes against what you said — “If God had not compelled Jacob to return to Canaan, he would have stayed on in Padan-aram indefinitely, away from the land of blessing.” It is mere speculation to say that Jacob might have stayed. He didn’t, and before he left, God had promised to bring him back. I certainly is not an indication that he wasn’t supposed to go there in the first place.

    10. All this to say that what happened once Jacob arrived in Padan-aram really has no bearing on the right or wrong of Isaac sending Jacob to find a wife on his own. The fact that the result was less than desirable (and I’ve been arguing this all along) does not tell us that the approach was sinful, or that Isaac was in sin, or that Jacob was disobedient.

    So, once again, we see that if you start out with the assumption that Abraham’s example is the only Scriptural way to find a wife, then of course Jacob’s example is wrong because it doesn’t follow that pattern.

    But, if you simply look at all of Scripture and harmonize it, you see that either way is allowable.

  15. July 10, 2008 at 1:51 am

    I’m pretty sure I’m done discussing this. You believe the son chooses and initiates. Some dating is OK. Romanticism should be a part of it. Isaac and Jacob are a legitimate pattern to follow for obtaining a spouse, actually elevated above Genesis 24 as an example. Anyone should see that the example of Jacob is the place to find out. Nothing specific should be gleaned from the Father choosing the bride for His Son. Jane Austen proves how Christians have believed and practiced. When the son initiates, he becomes more of a man. Because men in Israel served in the military starting at age 20, it means that they’re free to leave home and choose their own wives.

    Just for information, I didn’t start with Genesis 24, decide it was the model and then fit all the passages into that. I don’t even look at Genesis 24 as an example without the accompanying Father choosing the bride for His Son. I looked at the Bible and harmonized it, and in doing so saw Genesis 24 as the premier location to get the whole package. There are plenty of other places in the Bible that also harmonize with that way. I believe that it is the purpose of that chapter. I don’t reject Genesis 28 as an example of how to do it because I am reading it through a Genesis 24 lense. I read it through an entirety of Scripture lense. The Gen 24-lense accusation is only that, an accusation. Anyone watching knows I didn’t start with Genesis 24 but 1 Thessalonians 4. I also still believe that Christians practiced this way until relatively recently.

    I asked a question and I think it is important and, that is, what is your hermeneutic to determine what Old Testament examples teach us what to do and what not to do? When there are clear contrasts and contradictions between stories, both can’t be right. It seems we have the good examples and bad ones and that the bad ones should be rejected. I can’t figure out your hermeneutic. It would seem that we certainly are not to look at every example of marriage in Scripture and view each as providing a positive description of how to obtain a spouse—Samson, for instance—but how do you determine which ones harmonize and which ones don’t? Do sometimes the results mean something, i.e., the Egyptians when Pharoah took Sarah, but sometimes consequences don’t matter, Jacob’s four wives? The example of Abraham is a custom and societal arrangement; the example of Isaac and Jacob isn’t? You’ve got a way of knowing that is a mystery to me.

    You don’t have to answer the hermeneutic question. It’s a long answer and I don’t have to hear it. I’m fine with terminating the discussion.

  16. blessedforever
    August 8, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    What about I Cor. 7:27-29, “…seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned…” “But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.” I Cor. 7:36

  17. Mel Pope
    July 4, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Very interesting and informative! In nutshell, dating is not bilblical – right?

  18. July 6, 2009 at 11:21 am


    Dating isn’t in the Bible, and the Bible does have a way. Dating is a novel approach that arose in 20th century America.

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