16-1-17 Marriage

Marriage is claimed by many to be an institution from God. Some say it has been installed in Gen. 2: 24, ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.


However, this is very unlikely. It is certainly an act of God, but it is not marriage as we know it or as we imagine it to have been in Ancient times. Nowhere in the Bible has a man left his father and his mother to join the household or tribe of a woman to live as her husband. It always was the woman who left her family and lived with her owner, the word husband does not exist in Hebrew. One of the words translated as such is baal and it refers to an owner of a woman just as much as the owner of an ox (Ex. 21: 28).

The word husband may not be such a bad translation in the old – English sense. Husbandry refers to the management and care of farm animals by humans, in which genetic qualities and behaviour, considered to be advantageous to humans, are further developed. When we speak of the husband of an ox, we think of an owner who can use, sell, or slaughter the animal, but it is also the person who has to care for it. This sense of the word, the caretaker or manager, called the husband is a fitting translation of the Hebrew word.

In Ancient Hebrew there are no words for marriage, wedding, husband or wife. A man used to be given a woman and he owned (Hebr.: baal) her. Whenever it says husband in the translations of the Old Testament or Tanakh, as Jews call their scripture, it says man or baal in the Hebrew original. Wherever it says wife, it says woman in Hebrew. In Ancient Greek there are words for husband and wife, but they do not occur in the New Testament. So also in the New Testament, wherever it says husband or wife, it says man or woman in the Ancient Greek original.

Today’s readings are the following: Isa 62: 1 to 5, 1. Cor. 12: 4 to 11, John 2: 1 to 11, and Psalm 2. They are all concerned with the Power of God. Our topic however shall be marriage, as it appears as a parable in these readings.

So let us start with

Isa 62: 1 to 5: [1] For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp [that] burneth. [2] And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. [3] Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. [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.

Hephzi-bah, in verse 4, means ‘in whom I delight’ which fits the context well, Beulah is the female passive participle of the verb associated with the word baal, which means owner or possessor. In other words, the land shall be called possessed or owned by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. At the end of verse 4 this same word occurs in the niphal form, being here translated as married. The niphal form does not exist in English. It can express passive, meaning the land shall be owned as was said earlier in the verse and is therefore unlikely, but it can have a reciprocal connotation, meaning so to say mutual ownership. Therefore the use of the English word married is not bad at all to express, that the land is owned and that the owners are working on it, as if they were its slaves. However this expression does not mean a one on one relationship between man and woman. It is similar to the relationship between Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba. When Fidel Castro once was asked in an interview, whether it bothers him that the Americans call him a dictator, he replied, ‘I am a dictator to myself and a slave to my people.’

Verse 5 begins, ‘For as a young man marrieth a virgin, …’. The word for virgin is bethulah and for its discussion I have to refer to the link on virginity. The word for marries is again baal, this time in the active imperfect form, meaning it is in the stage of perfection, maybe ‘taking possession of’’ would be a translation which would fit the spirit of the time more accurately.

The next section of the verse, ‘…thy sons marry thee …’ uses the same grammatical form again of the same verb baal. So the sons of Jerusalem or the land shall ‘marry’ the land. Again the expression means to take possession. After all there are many sons taking one city or one land. This parable does not use a one on one relationship and certainly not marriage. Think about the translation, ‘Thy sons shall marry thee!’ This could not possibly be meant!

Also what is interesting here is the parable of men being the sons of the city or in other words the city being the ‘mother’ of its people. The commandment, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother,’ may refer to the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Israel and Jerusalem as the mother. It may very well not refer to the direct parents, since the Bible is full of reproaches of men walking in all the sins of their fathers (e.g.: 1. Kings 15: 3). The importance of this interpretation of the commandment is discussed in the essay on Adultery.

In the second last phrase of the verse, ‘…the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride …’ the words for bridegroom and bride are chathan and kallah respectively. Most of the time the word chathan has been translated as father in law. The chathan was the person who traded girls with other tribes. There is a verb chathan usually translated as ‘making marriages’ (e.g.: Gen. 34: 9, And make ye marriages with us, [and] give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.’) In these cases the noun chathan has been translated as father in law, which is its most common translation. There are places in the Tanakh where a man has taken a woman for himself, e.g.: Moses and Zipporah (Ex. 4: 25) where the word has been translated as husband. In other places, and the above reading from Isaiah is one example of this, the word has been translated as bridegroom, but this represents a completely wrong impression of the society of the ‘Holy People’.

Some idea of the differences of meaning one can get from

Gen. 11: 31, And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law (kallah), his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

Today we would say, ‘Terah took Abram his son and his wife …’. In those days, however, the kallah belonged to the chathan, Terah, and he gave her to Abram to woman. She was not Abram’s wife in the modern sense, she was his Dad’s, the chathan’s, possession. Today there is a similar situation regarding motor cars. A father might give his son a car to use which is registered in the father’s name. The son might think and speak of it as ‘his car’ but the father can take it away and give it to another child or sell it.

The chathan traded girls, kallahs, with other chathans and gave them to young men in his tribe to woman, meaning to breed. Where the young people consulted? Usually not. Did the Ancients breed people? Read Speculations on the Birth of Isaac.

There is a discussion of the term of chathan in A Fail Grade To The Translators and there is a thorough discussion of the terms chathan and kallah in Greetings from Paradise in the so called chapter.

Why does the chathan rejoice over a kallah? Because the young woman now can bear children for his tribe and therefore add to its population and therefore its military strength and influence. Children were seen as a true blessing since they were useful to either bear more children or to help with labour and fighting. They were not seen as the financial burden of today.

Psalm 127: 3 to 5: Lo, children [are] an heritage of the LORD: [and] the fruit of the womb [is his] reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so [are] children of the youth. Happy [is] the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

So let us now look at another reading for this Sunday. It is the marriage in Cana in

John 2: 1 to 11: [1] And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: [2] And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. [3] And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. [4] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. [5] His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do [it]. [6] And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. [7]  Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare [it]. [9] When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, [10] And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: [but] thou hast kept the good wine until now. [11] This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

The word for marriage in verse 1 is gamos. According to the Liddell, Scott, Jones Lexicon of Ancient Greek the word can also mean prostitution and it also has been applied to the relationship of Paris and Helen during which Helen was the bed – fellow, the literal meaning of the Ancient Greek word usually translated as wife, of Menelaos. So it really stands for any sexual activity.

Now what was the setting in Cana? Verse 9 mentions a ruler of the feast. Who was he? What was the usual custom concerning him? Some Bibles translate head waiter instead of ruler of the feast. However, a head waiter might have gone to the bridegroom and complimented him on the wine being served late, but this person actually called the bridegroom and the bridegroom had to go to him! Could this be a trace of a custom similar to the Tanakh? Could this ruler of the feast have been someone like a chathan who oversaw the pairing of people within his circle of influence?

There are certainly traces of early Christian society not being organised with strict one to one pairing of men and women as explained in the essay Even the Apostles had Sex.

The word for bridegroom is nymphios. It expresses desire to have sex and the modern word nymphomaniac is derived from it.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.