Of Sex and Marriage


So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. (Matthew 22:10)

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. (John 2:1-2)

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

And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.  If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.  (Exodus 22:16-17)

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

The above scriptures provide a foundation for my conclusion and recommendation concerning the issue of marriage from a biblical perspective, not from a human government legal perspective as nothing in this document is intended to be legal advice.

First I observe that the Bible in all of the above scriptures explicitly or implicitly declare marriage and some form of wedding ceremony to formally and officially effect the marriage to be honorable and important to do.  Indeed, Jesus saw both the wedding and marriage as important societal institutions in his use of wedding in parables and his attendance at a marriage where he performed his first miracle.

Matthew 22:10 indicates the importance of witnesses to a marriage.

John 2:1-2 indicates the importance of family and friends participation in the wedding or marriage effecting event.

Exodus 22:16-17 shows that continually engaging in sexual intercourse without being married such as what is generally known as cohabitation as boyfriend and girlfriend rather than publicly as husband and wife is a violation of sound moral practices and is disorderly and undisciplined. Such individuals should at least biblically marry even if only at a ceremony attended by and witnessed by only one witness.  Some form of written record of the marriage event is recommended though not necessarily required; such a written record need not be one approved by church or human government officials.  Merely holding oneself out publicly as husband and wife may provide sufficient biblical witness.  Note once again, this is intended to be in regards to a biblical marriage not a legal government marriage so this is not legal advice.

As already indicated, I do conclude that there is no biblical requirement that a marriage be approved by or officiated by human government or church government. One example reason I say this is because there was a time when it was illegal for interracial couples to get married in the United States of America and perhaps even some churches did not allow it.  Yet, interracial couples still got married before God and I hold that God considers such marriages as holy and legitimate.

I do hold there are advantages/benefits to church recognized and human government recognized marriages to include spiritual testimony/appearance, social security upon death, health insurance, etc.  Therefore, couples should comply with church and human government requirements in the absence of compelling reasons not to do so.

Giving consideration to religious liberty I tend not to require of others that which God does not mandate even if I prefer it or recommend it.


This sets forth my understanding of sex and marriage.  Marriage is a complex subject especially since the Bible does not define it with certainty and descriptions of marital elements involve customs and cultures that existed in biblical times.  For example, no wedding ceremony is given concerning even Joseph and Mary, earthly parents of Jesus though they are presented as husband and wife even before they began to live together.

The complexity increases when one considers the issue of marriage license. For example, there was a time when blacks and whites in America were not legally allowed to marry and therefore not allowed to obtain a marriage license.  Does that mean that those whites and blacks who did marry outside government channels where not married in the eyes of God?

The complexity increases in these modern days given that different States in America have different laws concerning what constitutes a legal marriage, that is one recognized by the government. One should note that man and husband are the same Hebrew and Greek words and woman and wife are the same Hebrew and Greek words though they are different words in English.

A biblical marriage is not necessarily a legal marriage where legal marriage means a marriage recognized by human government whether a formal or informal recognition.  A historical example of this is an interracial marriage in those days where interracial marriages were not legal in America but was a biblical marriage. Thus, a person who enters a biblical marriage is not necessarily intending to enter such a legal marriage and may so state such non-intention.

A foundational understanding is that faithful lifelong marriage is important to God.  A foundational understanding is that if a man has sex with someone who is not married God expects that man to marry that woman.  It means there should be no sex before there is a commitment to living together as lifelong husband and wife (Deuteronomy 21:13), with or without a marriage license as a piece of paper is not sufficient to establish commitment.  The commitment should be mutual; yet, each person is only  responsible for the integrity of his/her commitment. It means that if sex occurs before marriage the commitment to immediate not far off marriage should arise and sex is not to continue in the absence of such a commitment.  It means the non-emancipated female requires her father or other guardian permission to marry.  Deuteronomy 22:28-29 provides additional insight into this father’s permission requirement for the non-emancipated female as well as what constitutes whoredom and the requirement to marry.  Deuteronomy 21:10-14 provides insight into the provisions concerning an emancipated (e.g., no father or designated guardian; adult) female.

A person/couple should pray to God and ask him by his Spirit to reveal to that person/couple as to what God means by such words/concepts as marriage, fornication, adultery, and divorce and how such words/concepts apply to that person’s/couple’s particular situation as every situation may be different.

A couple should pray and look to God to lead and guide them into a proper marriage relationship according to their particular family needs and desires.

One should realize that society including its dictionaries and local/regional organized churches and governments definitions of such words/concepts may not align with God’s definition and meaning of such words/concepts.

Given God’s seemingly intentional openness concerning such words, I recommend but do not judge conformance except where God explicitly addresses elements of such words/concepts, for example the sinfulness of same sex marriage.


The below is intended to provide some insight for consideration by the person/couple. It is the responsibility of each person/couple to determine which part, if any, applies to him/her/them. One should be mindful of the biblical principle that though a thing may be lawful it may not be expedient/beneficial (1 Cor 6:12).

For example, it is true that Abraham, Jacob, David and others had multiple wives and the Bible indicates it was lawful for them to do so and I know of no scripture where the Lord rebukes them for such practice. Indeed, the biblical record only shows God rebuking David for his adultery with another man’s wife not with David having multiple wives. Yet, these men had overwhelming power and wealth and it was seemingly a practice that both God, the women, and society accepted a man having multiple wives. Though society in general especially most women do not accept such multiplicity of wives now, that does not mean it is ungodly to do so.  Indeed, in these times, few have such overwhelming power and wealth, few women accept the practice, and society shuns the practice even by the powerful and wealthy and regarding legal marriages there are government laws against it. So even though a thing may be biblically lawful and regarding other matters even governmentally lawful, it may not be profitable to do such a thing as it may cause one more trouble, stress, and distraction than needful and wise.

For example, I saw this video of a young couple who were documenting the conversion of their van into a traveling tiny home. Clearly, they were not a couple with a lot of money. The young lady was disabled and needed a wheel chair to get around. I did not see where it said how long she had been that way or what the ailment was. They said they were not married but would like to do so. The problem they said that if they got legally married, in their state the young lady would lose her healthcare.  They said her medication and treatment bill costs were thousands of dollars a month. They simply could not afford to get legally married as he apparently was not able to provide the same level of healthcare for her.  I don’t know them personally.   I envision conditions such as that do occur around the nation and world.

God in the ten commandments nor Jesus  words as found in the Bible (KJV) directly speak of fornication in the sense of sexual intercourse between single persons.  Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and Matthew 19:9 seems to provide a framework for a basic definition of fornication:  fornication is having sex with someone in the absence of the intent to immediately marry or with someone whom the bible forbids one to marry.

The Mosaic Law indicates the expectation of marriage if sexual intercourse occurs between two single persons (Exodus 22:16-17; Deuteronomy 22:28-29); otherwise, whoredom exists (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).

Indeed Hebrews 13:4 says “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” And Paul in 1 Cor 7 speaks about each man having his own wife and each woman having her own husband to avoid fornication (1 Cor 7:1-2). So clearly the biblical exhortation is to only have sex with someone with whom one is biblically married.

It is clear that biblical marriage necessarily involves the mutual lifetime commitment to permanency as husband and wife; this is one thing God makes clear that applies to both the man and woman.

Yet, as indicated later the scripture does not indicate there is only one method for constituting marriage.

Therefore, for me the following provision applies: A male and female should engage in sexual intercourse only when living together as husband and wife such that there is a mutual commitment to so live for the rest of their lives. The act of so living together constitutes marriage in the eyes of God and sufficient public notice as to the existence of the marriage. This means that biblical doctrines concerning biblical marriage and biblical divorce apply. A marriage license is not biblically required but may provide legal advantages for most if not all couples.

Biblical marriage is a sufficiently mutual vow before God in the mind of God by a sufficiently age mature male and a sufficiently age mature female to live together as husband and wife before God until death does them part. This vow can be nullified by a biblical divorce for biblically sanctioned reasons.

The very act of asking and the saying of yes or acquiescing (e g., Deuteronomy 21:10-14) in the mind of God to live together as husband and wife until death does them part made by voice and/or action constitutes the vow and effects the marriage before God. Having witnesses such as church officials and/or community members is helpful but not biblically essential. Having the government witness the marriage as in the case of a marriage license may be helpful to obtain certain legal recognition for entitlement to certain resources but is not essential to effect a biblical marriage. A declaration to another that the couple has taken this vow will naturally follow.

Generally, the following roles and characteristics are present in a healthy sustained lasting marriage: The husband leads, provides financially-oriented resources, and protects the household. The wife makes sure the dwelling place inner condition is taken care of, all eat healthy, and children are taken care of. Husband and wife assist one another as needed but neither is to be slothful or neglectful in fulfilling his/her primary role. This is true even if wife works or volunteers outside the home or is otherwise engaged as in the case of the Proverbs 31 woman (Proverbs 31:10-31).

God makes it clear in his word that the male is to be the driver for the romantic relationship. This does not mean that the man has to initiate the romance but he is to ensure the romantic relationship proceeds meeting God’s standards and expectation (Ruth 2:1; 3:1-18; 4:1-13).

For God has assigned the male to be the head of the household/relationship. God requires the woman to submit to the husband’s loving care and righteous desires. All this is true despite what society or human wisdom or human psychology may say. 

Other characteristics of marriage do not necessarily apply to both man and woman in a marital situation due to such things as roles differences. Also, the Bible in scriptures such as Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 speaks of conditions where permanency is broken, both righteously and unrighteously.

The Bible does not define any one method for establishing a marriage. Indeed Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and the account of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 3:1-18 and Ruth 4:5-13) provide two different methods of establishing a marriage.

The question of dowry (e.g., Exodus 22:16-17) show that not all of the Mosaic Law can be precisely determined far into the future.  People of that day would have understood the amount dowry of virgins referred to.  Some say that it is 50 shekels of silver referring to Deuteronomy 22:28-29.  But even if that is the case what is 50 shekels of silver worth today in dollars as silver is not very valuable today?  Also, if Deuteronomy 22:28-29 refers to dowry of virgins then dowry was paid both if the marriage occurred (Deuteronomy 22:29) and if it did not occur (Exodus 22:17).  So then it seems that dowry was a payment as a punishment for violating the principle that a man should not have sex with an unemancipated female before he obtained the father’s permission; thus, a  man should not have sex with a female before the father okayed the marriage and the father would of course there not to be sex until there as a marriage.  Thus, the dowry was not a certificate or mechanism of marriage given Exodus 22:17. Yet, the biblical principle of a male obtaining permission from the father or other guardian in the absence of the father of unemancipated female to marry her as well as giving a gift of some form to the father or other guardian is a good thing to do as it tends to strengthen good relations with the female’s family.  The biblical dowry was probably intended to deter arbitrary or whorish or fornication sex.  One should also be mindful that dowry was also practiced by non-Israelites (Genesis 34:12).

It is intuitively obvious that marriage existed before the advent of a government issued marriage license.

Furthermore, there was a time when governments, e.g., USA, would not issue marriage licenses to interracial couples. Now some governments, e.g., USA, issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Therefore, Christians certainly must not rely on governments to define what constitutes a valid biblical/Christian marriage. Yet, there are clear legal advantages to obtaining a marriage license in most cases. This includes facilitating access to legal benefits and protection and distribution of assets/properties gained during the relationship; yet if one considers replaceability of assets/properties then such protection/distribution may not be a concern. Moreover, one’s Christian testimony may be enhanced by the presence of a marriage license in the absence of a compelling reason not to obtain one.

Even States have different rules regarding marriage. For example Arkansas does not recognize marriage without a marriage license. Yet, Texas does have a provision for an informal marriage  without a marriage license. But note that this Texas informal marriage provision requires the couple to live together as husband and wife not in the sense of boyfriend and girlfriend not committed to permanency as husband and wife. Thus, any time lived together as boyfriend and girlfriend not committed to permanency as husband and wife does not count as part of any marriage time, biblically or otherwise.

The Bible clearly does not speak against a male and female living together non-romantically without planned or unplanned sexual relations. However, due to fleshly temptations it is dangerous for unrelated males and females to so live together as one or both of them may intentionally or carelessly parade their sexuality and/or sexual assets before the other’s eyes or otherwise suggest/entice the other to eventually engage in sexual activity. Of course, this could also happen when one is simply visiting someone of the opposite sex. The scriptural principle that all things are lawful but not all things are expedient applies. So unrelated persons of the opposite sex should be extremely prayerful and careful about such living arrangements even though they are not scripturally prohibited. It can be done but is difficult to do especially for the non-elderly.

Yet, Deuteronomy 21:10-14 speak of a situation where a man lived in his house with a woman brought from war for 30 days after which the determination was made to go into her as his wife. Note that he brought her with the intent of her being his wife not to deceive her or simply play around with her. Was this a trial romance? Is other limited number of days righteous? Say 31 days or 60 or 90 or 1 year? Clearly, they are being mindful that the spirit of Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is for the time period to be rather short yet sufficient to give time to properly decide on the relationship.

Be ever mindful the scripture does speak against a male and female having sexual relations outside the marital context. Several New Testament verses dis-favor sex between persons who are not married to each other, for example 1 Cor 6:12-14, 15-18, 19-20 and 1 Cor 7:1-2.

Genesis 38, Exodus 22:16-17, Leviticus 21:9, and many verses in Deuteronomy chapter 22 provide much guidance concerning sexual immorality to include fornication.

Exodus 22:16-17 clearly favors sex between persons who are married. It says if a man has sex with an unmarried virgin he shall marry her if her father approves. If her father does not approve then he shall pay the father the dowry of virgins. However, the law does not say he is stoned to death. The law also does not say what happens if she later has sex with another man since she is no longer a virgin although many laws deal with abuse of virgin status. But then perhaps such a woman would be seen as a harlot or whore if she later engaged in unmarried sex.

So then is harlotry (prostitution, whoredom) forbidden in scripture? Consider  that Judah, son of Jacob, intentionally went in to a woman he thought was a harlot (Gen 38:15). He later found out his widowed daughter-n-law Tamar was pregnant with no husband so he said she should be burnt  (Gen 38:24). But when she showed him she had played the harlot he found out he was the father and changed his mind about the burning. Matthew 1:3 shows Jesus is the grandchild of one of the twins (Phares) conceived during that sexual act between Judah and Tamar. So it seems Judah had a personal law against harlotry when the woman was in his household but there was no binding community law. Yet, later under Moses, a national/community law against male and female harlotry was established (Deuteronomy 23:17). But note no penalty is given in this verse.

In Deuteronomy 22:13-21, a woman is accused of whoredom and stoned to death. But in light of Exodus 22:16-17 perhaps this stoning was more about her not being trustworthy to her father (or any man) than about whoredom since she went through the marriage process pretending she was a virgin. So perhaps the stoning was a provision of Deuteronomy 21:18-21 having to do with severely  dishonoring her family.

So then what constitutes harlotry. Clearly it is reasonable to conclude that a person who engages in sexual intercourse with multiple persons and/or with the same person outside the marital context is engaged in harlotry.

Yet, is it a single act of sex between unmarried persons necessarily harlotry?

Considering Exodus 22:16-17, the answer seems to be No since that would mean the father would render his daughter a harlot if he refused to approve of the marriage.  Yet in this situation there is a presumptive intention of imminent at once marriage by both the man and the daughter. This imminent at once principle is also indicated in Deuteronomy 21:20-14.

So it seems if sex ceases or marriage occurs no harlotry exists. So then harlotry is (1) one  instances of sex by an unmarried person in which there is the absence of the intention of imminent at once marriage and (2) multiple instances of sex by an unmarried person such that multiplicity indicates the absence of the intention of imminent at once marriage.

Deuteronomy 22 clearly favors sex between persons who are married to each other. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says if a man has sex with a virgin woman who is not his wife and who does not belong to another man “she shall be his wife” for life.

Deuteronomy 22 above mentions virgin. However, this does not mean a man cannot marry a non-virgin, e.g., a woman like Ruth who was once married and whose husband had died. Also, regarding the woman of Deuteronomy 21:10-14 there is no mention that she was a virgin. So she may have had a husband before. The point is non-virgins may be taken as wives especially under the New Covenant. Therefore, generally speaking a man may take a woman for a wife if she is not tied marriage wise to another man.

Also, note that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 speaks of consensual/convinced (Hebrew word taphas, Strong’s #H8610) sex; this is in contrast to forced/rape (Hebrew word chazaq, Strong’s #H2388) sex that occurs in Deuteronomy 22:25 which the Bible clearly condemns. However, Deuteronomy 22:25 regarding forced/rape specifically addresses a betrothed woman.  Therefore, it is unclear as to what happens if an un-betrothed (fully single) woman is forced/raped; one would think she would not have been considered a whole yet she may have been considered defiled. Deuteronomy 22:21 and related verses show that harlotry/whoredom is not restricted to sex for money. Therefore, despite the claims of some, fornication is not restricted to sex for money or temple prostitution idolatry.

As a side note let me briefly address arrange marriages.

Normally the marital vow takes place solely between the male and the female couple. Yet, there is the biblically sanctioned concept of arranged marriages between a sufficiently age mature male and female.

In arranged marriages, the marital vow may be declared by one’s guardian as in the case of Adam and Eve (Gen 2:22), Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 24:1-4), and the case of the man and virgin woman who had sex before marriage (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

Note that Deuteronomy 22:28-29 reference to Philippians implies the woman was yet in her father house (Deuteronomy 22:13-21) and subject to the arrangement. However, it implies that a non-virgin would have already left her father house and therefore not be subject to arrangement.

Sexual romance between people of the same sex is biblically evil regardless of the name given to such romantic encounters. Legalization does not remove its wickedness; therefore, it should not be legalized. God’s love for all sinners does not remove the wickedness of same sex romance.

Grace gives us opportunity to heed the words of Jesus when he says repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).

For more information on same sex marriage see  Same Sex Romantic Partnership

To God be the Glory!

Note:  Today is May 28, 2021.  On this day I interject a special note that since I initially wrote this article I have observed and consider noteworthy the testimony of three people ( 1 male and 2 females) who was in a homosexual life but who either by voice, writing, or action has said they know homosexuality is wrong for a human being to do and have indicated repentance. One of them I heard in church so testify and have observed him in a heterosexual relationship.  One of them I saw a Facebook post of her marrying a male.  The other one I saw a Facebook post pointing to a scripture and saying she did not know before that it is against God’s will but she does now know.  I do not claim any credit for their repentance even if I played any role (1 Cor 3:6) . My purpose for this note is to say I am encouraged that my basic conclusion that homosexuality is wrong and that God calls those who are so engaged to repentance is the right conclusion.  I hope you are also encouraged by this observation.  Furthermore, I am even more convinced that preaching of Jesus Christ (the Word of God made flesh) and him crucified which includes the Word of God (including God’s Word against same sex marriage and all homosexuality) is the right and honorable thing to do. Praise God.  For His Glory!

Marriage and Divorce Basic Christian Doctrine

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