What Is Marriage?

The Creator God made humans male and female, and He made the institution of marriage. He tells us why He created it and what marriage is supposed to be.

There is only one original source on earth where you can find out how, when, where and why marriage began. More copies of this book—the Holy Bible—have been published than any other written work, yet it is little understood. But by going to it, you can find an understanding of the meaning of marriage.

The Bible explains how it all began.

First, He made a man

To discover the beginning of marriage, we start appropriately in Genesis, the book of beginnings. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

God created the first man, Adam, out of the dust of the ground. At first, he was the only human being. God immediately gave him responsibilities, instructing him in how to care for his environment, tending and keeping it (verse 15).

But the man was alone …

The world in which Adam lived was beautiful and perfect—with one notable exception. Adam was alone.

The world was full of animals of every kind, and God allowed Adam to name them all (verse 19). Through this process Adam learned how different he was from the animal kingdom. He was made in God’s “image,” with an intellect and with the capacity to reason and create. By the time he finished naming the animals, Adam was likely very aware of how alone he was. It seems that God intended this point to be made clear to Adam.

“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (verse 18). And so God took one of Adam’s ribs and fashioned someone who would be the perfect complement to Adam—a woman.

She was the ideal companion—someone with whom he could share his deepest thoughts and desires. And just as important, she was someone with whom he could begin to build and raise a family.

The first marriage

After God presented His newest creation to Adam, the Bible tells us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (verse 24). The first marriage began as Adam and Eve became man and wife.

Marriage was to be an inseparable union. The fact that God fashioned Eve from one of Adam’s ribs seems to reflect the permanent and intimate connection that was always to be between them. They shared some of the same substance, and they were to share their lives together from that point on. They formed a family unit in which they were to enjoy deep conversations, quiet moments, difficulties and stress, and the kind of intimate, physical relationship that God intended only be experienced by husband and wife.

God intended lifetime monogamy

The biblical narrative shows Adam and Eve living out their lives with each other and having children. For some generations it appears their children followed that example—marrying, raising children and watching their children grow up, marry and start their own families.

When the 10 Commandments were codified and given to Moses at Mount Sinai, the Seventh Commandment clearly stated, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). God did not want anything or anyone to interfere with the special relationship between a husband and wife.

But in time we find there were departures from this pattern established by the Creator. Lamech is the first man the Bible records as having two wives (Genesis 4:19). And as the biblical record continues, we read a sad history of concubines (women who didn’t have the same status or privileges as wives), polygamy and other relationships that were outside the pattern God had established.

The problems that were introduced to these families were severe. This is not what God intended!

God intended children

“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28, emphasis added throughout).

God did not design most of the animal world to procreate in a monogamous family unit. But, once again, we see a distinction between humanity and the animals. Marriage from the beginning was designed to be between one man and one woman, and the two of them could produce and raise children as God intended.

Through the words of Jesus Christ and the apostles, we can see that God’s perspective of marriage as a loving, monogamous relationship between one man and one woman has not changed.Centuries later the psalmist wrote, “Behold, children are a heritage [inheritance] from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

God reaffirms His plan for marriage in the New Testament

Through Jesus Christ and the apostles, God reaffirmed and clarified what the marriage relationship should be like. Jesus Christ said: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate’” (Matthew 19:4-6).

In describing the qualifications of a leader in the Church, Paul wrote that he must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2), reaffirming the way God designed marriage to be from the creation of Adam and Eve.

Then in Galatians 5:19 Paul reminded Christians that they are commanded by God to avoid both adultery and fornication—a reminder that the sexual union is something that is supposed to be exclusive to the marriage relationship.


It sounds so old fashioned these days, but marriage ceremonies used to have the words “till death do us part.” It meant the only thing that would put an end to a marriage was the death of either partner.

Today divorce is commonplace. More and more people are going through the heartache of marriage and divorce even multiple times. Clearly this is not what God intended! When asked about divorce, Jesus responded: “He said to them, ‘Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’” (Matthew 19:8).

For more information about what the Bible says about marriage and divorce, please see our article titled “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible.”

Summing up what the Bible teaches about marriage

  1. God designed marriage to be a lifelong, faithful relationship between one man and one woman.
  2. Adam was created first and was initially the lone human. From one of his ribs God lovingly formed a woman and presented her to Adam. They were “one flesh,” and she was the perfect complement to Adam. Together they formed a whole, and together they were able to build a family, having and raising children together.
  3. Because of sin, polygamy and divorce entered. Christ said divorce was only allowed in Israel because of their hardness of heart. While God does provide provisions for a marriage to dissolve under some circumstances, it is an extremely painful experience. God didn’t want His children to hurt one another in that manner.
  4. Through the words of Jesus Christ and the apostles, we can see that God’s perspective of marriage as a loving, monogamous relationship between one man and one woman has not changed. In the New Testament God reaffirms it and shows how very important fidelity within marriage is.

Men and women are different by design, intended to complement each other. And it is only through the marriage relationship that God intended children to be brought into the world—to be raised and taught under the loving, thoughtful care of their mother and father.

If you would like to read further about how to have a happy marriage, this “Marriage” section has many related articles for you to read. You will be glad you did!

About the Author

Graemme Marshall

Graemme Marshall was a church pastor for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, before his death in 2015.

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