bā‘al, lāqach, yāḇam, ‘’iššāh
Several Hebrew words are translated “married,” “marry,” or “marriage,” each of which provides insight into what this relationship should be biblically. One is bā‘al (H1166), which means “to marry, have dominion, or to rule over.” It is used, for example, to demonstrate political dominion (1Ch_4:22) as well as God’s dominion over His people (Isa_26:13), which in turn is pictured as a marriage (Jer_3:14). This does not mean a husband rules like a little Napoleon over his wife, rather that he leads in a godly way and cherishes her as his own body (Eph_5:25-29). It is used also in the contexts of both virginity (Isa_62:5) and adultery (Deu_22:22), the latter of which was punishable by death. These demonstrate that purity should be part of both the foundation and continuing structure of marriage.
Another word is lāqach (H3947), which is used more than one thousand times in a variety of ways. With the basic meaning “to take, to grasp, to take hold of,” it is used for Noah taking hold of the dove to bring it back into the ark (Gen_8:9), taking vengeance (Isa_47:3), or even figuratively for “taking on” commands, a metaphor for obedience (Pro_10:8). It is, therefore, easy to see the significance of taking a wife (Gen_25:1), as this word also includes the idea of keeping what one takes (Gen_14:21).
Another word is yāḇam (H2992), which specifically addresses the custom in the Mosaic Law called “levirate marriage” (Latin levir, “brother-in-law”), which required that upon his brother’s death, if there was not already a male heir, a man was to marry his brother’s wife so the family name could be passed on (Deu_25:5-10). Obviously, we have no such custom today, but it does at least illustrate the importance of having children.
One other word is ’iššāh (woman or “wife,” H802, February 5). It underscores that the woman is part of the man. God has instituted marriage to make two people into one person (Gen_2:24; Mar_10:6-8; Eph_5:31; 1Co_6:16) so they can function to the fullest. While God leads and empowers some Christians never to marry so they can more fully devote themselves to the Lord’s work (Mat_19:11-12; 1Co_7:7-9), the general rule is marriage. Let us each cherish the one-person relationship God has given us.
Scriptures for Study: There was much Scripture mentioned in today’s study. Read those verses that particularly interest you, and consider the critical importance of marriage.