TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  Family Relationships

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Chapter 34  Part I

Family Relationships

The Bible contains discerning insights and directions regarding relationships with those who are closest to us. As such these teachings are among the ones which are the most often applicable to our lives.

Prologue: Getting Married

Issues in deciding whether to stay single or to marry: General; . . .

1Cor 7:1-2  [Paul, to the Corinthian believers:] Now, to deal with the matters you wrote about. A man does well not to marry. 2But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband.  GNT

In v. 1, Paul may have in mind staying single so as to be devoted to God’s kingdom (cf. vv. 7; 32-35 ⇓) and/or for one’s own sake (cf. vv. 26-28, 40). Alternatively, he may simply be quoting a statement the Corinthians had written. In v. 2 Paul apparently is referring to extensive sexual immorality that was prevalent in Corinth at the time. He raises the immorality as a reason to have one’s own spouse, to satisfy one’s sexual desires (cf. vv. 3-5) and so to help avoid the immorality.

. . . Forsaking marriage for Jesus Christ

1Cor 7:32-35  [Paul, to believers:] I would like you to be free from worry. An unmarried man concerns himself with the Lord’s work, because he is trying to please the Lord. 33But a married man concerns himself with worldly matters, because he wants to please his wife; 34and so he is pulled in two directions. An unmarried woman or a virgin concerns herself with the Lord’s work, because she wants to be dedicated both in body and spirit; but a married woman concerns herself with worldly matters, because she wants to please her husband. 35I am saying this because I want to help you. I am not trying to put restrictions on you. Instead, I want you to do what is right and proper, and to give yourselves completely to the Lord’s service without any reservation.  GNT

Paul effectively is urging those who are single to remain as such, so as to be completely devoted to the Lord.

Do not marry outside of God’s people – particularly as it can result in being led astray

2Cor 6:14-15  [Paul, to believers:] Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?  NET

Deut 7:3-4  [Moses, warning the Israelites about intermarriage with pagan nations:] You must not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4for they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will erupt against you and he will quickly destroy you.  NET

Such warnings to Israel are at least to some extent applicable to believers marrying outside of God’s people, i.e. marrying a non-believer. For in doing so one runs the risk of compromising one’s devotion to God.

A person should have only one spouse

Titus 1:6  An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who cannot be charged with dissipation or rebellion.  NET

Remarriage and adultery

Matt 19:9  [Jesus:] And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.  ESV

Matt 5:32  [Jesus:] But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  ESV

The assertion that a man who divorces his wife actually “makes her commit adultery”, may have in view the need and inevitability of remarriage for a woman in ancient times in order to have a means of provision.

 Questions for Section A

Spouses (I): General

A husband and wife should be as one, which involves sexual union

Gen 2:22-24  The Lord God used the rib from the man [Adam] to make a woman [Eve], and then he brought the woman to the man. 23And the man said, “Now, this is someone whose bones came from my bones, whose body came from my body. I will call her ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.” 24So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.  NCV™

Just as originally the man and the woman were of the one body (vv. 22-23), so a husband and wife will be united as “one body” (v. 24). The term “one body” appears to encompass a oneness in spirit, and is signified and expressed through sexual bonding. The use of the term also implies a lifelong, monogamous relationship.

Husbands should love their wives

Eph 5:25, 33  Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her33Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.  NET

The directive for husbands to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (v. 25) is both daunting and inspirational. It calls for a love that is ever persistent and is all surpassing, even to the point of sacrificing one’s life.

Wives should submit to their husbands

Eph 5:22-24  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  ESV

Such submission should be voluntary and willing. The corresponding authority of the husband is not about control and should only be practiced in a Christ-like manner and in love, which should characterize all he does in relating to his wife.

Do not commit adultery – which brings God’s judgment

Ex 20:14  You shall not commit adultery.  NET

Heb 13:4  Let marriage be kept honorable in every way, and the marriage bed undefiled. For God will judge those who commit sexual sins, especially those who commit adultery.  ISV

Avoid divorce – it is contrary to God’s purposes

Matt 19:3-8  Then some Pharisees came to him [Jesus] in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” 4He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” 8Jesus said to them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts, but from the beginning it was not this way.  NET

The implication of the two OT quotations (vv. 4-5), as made clear in v. 6, is that God has purposed that husband and wife be one – which divorce is contrary to. Moses permitted divorce because of people’s “hard-hearted wickedness” (NLT), with their innate unwillingness or incapacity to embrace his teaching (cf. GNT, NCV). But the permitting of divorce was not part of God’s original purpose (v. 8; cf. CEV, NLT), and as such falls well short of what is ideal.

 Questions for Section B

Spouses (II): Romantic Love

The vast majority of verses in this section are taken from Song of Songs, which traditionally was considered an allegory for the relationship of Christ and his bride, the Church – or of God and Israel. Modern commentators more often interpret it as simply portraying the relationship between two lovers – possibly King Solomon and one of his wives (cf. 1:1) – which is the interpretation applied here. A number of commentators view sections of the book as encompassing: the courtship (1:2-3:5); the wedding (3:6-5:1); and the marriage (5:2-8:4). The exact meanings of many of its verses are disputed.

The marvel of love

Prov 30:18-19  [Agur:] There are three things that are too hard for me, really four I don’t understand: 19the way an eagle flies in the sky, the way a snake slides over a rock, the way a ship sails on the sea, and the way a man and a woman fall in love.  NCV™

Song 8:6b-7  For love is as strong as death, passion is as unrelenting as Sheol. Its flames burst forth, it is a blazing flame. 7Surging waters cannot quench love; floodwaters cannot overflow it. If someone were to offer all his possessions to buy love, the offer would be utterly despised.  NET

The Hebrew translated here as “a blazing flame” (v. 6b) has been interpreted by some to allude to God as being the source of love (cf. AMP, ESV, ISV, NASB). Verse 7b indicates that love cannot be bought. It points to love’s incalculable worth and shows that it is beyond the realm of riches.

Spouses and their love belong exclusively to each other

Song 2:16  [The woman:] My lover is mine and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.  NET

Prov 5:15-19  Drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well. 16Should your springs flow outside, or streams of water in the street? 17They should be for you alone and not for strangers with you. 18Let your fountain be blessed and enjoy the wife of your youth. 19Like a loving deer and a beautiful doe, let her breasts satisfy you all the time. Be constantly intoxicated by her love.  ISV

There are different interpretations of the imagery in verses 16-17, but it is clear that their basic thrust is that one should enjoy sexual relationships exclusively with one’s spouse. This also appears to be the main thought behind the rest of the passage.

Further insights on love

Song 2:7  [The woman:] I adjure you, O maidens of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and by the young does of the open fields: Do not awaken or arouse love until it pleases!  NET

One should not try to stimulate or forcibly ignite love; such love is at best superficial and not true love. Love is spontaneous and instinctive; it comes when “it pleases” – when “it is ready” (CEV, NCV, NRSV).

Song 5:16b  [The woman:] Yes, daughters of Jerusalem, this is my lover and my friend.  NCV™

This reflects the fact that friendship is an important aspect of romantic love.

Examples and declarations of love

Gen 29:20  So Jacob worked for Laban seven years so he could marry Rachel. But they seemed like just a few days to him because he loved Rachel very much.  NCV™

Song 2:5  [The woman:] Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.  NET

Song 4:9  [The man:] You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride! You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.  NET

Desire for and enjoyment of sexual intimacy with one’s lover

Song 4:6  [The man:] Until the dawn arrives and the shadows flee, I will go up to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.  NET

Song 5:1a  [The man:] I have entered my garden, O my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my balsam spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk!  NET

As illustrated in the above verses, Song of Songs contains beautiful but also sensual poetry, but is never crude. The sensual parts are often comprised of imagery, notably imagery involving sensuous aspects of nature. This is exemplified in the above verses by the use of metaphors for the woman/wife with her pleasures.

 Questions for Section C

Parents’ Duties to Children (I): Love and Care

Parents should love their children

Titus 2:4  [Paul, speaking of women in the church:] In this way they [older women] will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, …  NET

Prov 13:24  The one who spares his rod hates his child, but the one who loves his child is diligent in disciplining him.  NET

This implies that one ought to love one’s child.

Parents should have compassion on their children

Ps 103:13  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers.  NET

Isa 49:15a  Can a woman forget her baby who nurses at her breast? Can she withhold compassion from the child she has borne?  NET

Parents should care for their children

1Thes 2:7  [Paul, to the Thessalonian believers:] But we were gentle when we were with you, like a mother taking care of her children.  GNT

Deut 1:31b  [Moses, speaking to the Israelites of God’s care:] You saw how he brought you safely all the way to this place, just as a father would carry his son.  GNT

Parents should provide for their children

Prov 31:15, 21  She [a wife of noble character] also gets up while it is still night, and provides food for her household and a portion to her female servants. … 21She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all of her household are clothed with scarlet.  NET

The reference to being “clothed with scarlet” (v. 21) appears to refer to quality, warm clothing (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT).

Parents should pray for their children

1Chr 29:19  [David, to God:] Make my son Solomon willing to obey your commands, rules, and regulations, and to complete building the palace for which I have made preparations.  NET

Mark 5:22-23  Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came up, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23He asked him urgently, “My little daughter is near death. Come and lay your hands on her so that she may be healed and live.”  NET

The father’s request of Jesus on behalf of his daughter is effectively an example of a parent’s prayer for their child.

 Questions for Section D

Parents’ Duties to Children (II): Godly Training

Parents should raise their children to live as God wants

Eph 6:4  Fathers, do not make your children angry, but raise them with the training and teaching of the Lord.  NCV™

Deut 32:46b  [Moses, to the Israelites:] Keep in mind all the words I am solemnly proclaiming to you today; you must command your children to observe carefully all the words of this law.  NET

Parents should discipline their children

Prov 19:18  Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don’t, you are helping them to destroy themselves.  GNT

Heb 12:9a  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.  ESV

Parents should teach their children about God and his deeds, inspiring them to obey God . . .

Ps 78:4b-7  We will tell the next generation about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, about his strength and the amazing things he has done. 5He established a rule in Jacob; he set up a law in Israel. He commanded our ancestors to make his deeds known to their descendants, 6so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them. 7Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey his commands.  NET

This speaks of parents telling their children of God’s deeds and power. Verse 7 then concludes that in light of God’s wonderful deeds for them, the children would trust God and obey his commands.

. . . Parents should promote faith in their children

2Tim 3:14-15  [Paul, to Timothy:] You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you 15and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  NET

Particularly in the light of the reference to Timothy having known the Scriptures “from infancy” (v. 15), “who taught you” (v. 14) would be inclusive of – and probably primarily speaking of – Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (cf. 2Tim 1:5). By likewise teaching children the Scriptures, parents work towards giving them “wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 15).

 Questions for Section E

Children’s Duties to Parents

Children are to honor and respect their parents

Eph 6:2-3  “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely, 3“that it may go well with you and that you will live a long time on the earth.”  NET

Lev 19:3  [God:] Each of you must respect his mother and his father, and you must keep my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.  NET

Children are to obey their parents

Col 3:20  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  ESV

Children should heed their parents’ teaching – which brings great benefits

Prov 6:20-23  [A wise father, to his son:] My son, keep your father’s commands, and don’t forget your mother’s teaching. 21Keep their words in mind forever as though you had them tied around your neck. 22They will guide you when you walk. They will guard you when you sleep. They will speak to you when you are awake. 23These commands are like a lamp; this teaching is like a light. And the correction that comes from them will help you have life.  NCV™

“They will guard you when you sleep” (v. 22) speaks of the security or protection that living by such teaching provides.

Children are to help their parents

1Tim 5:4  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn to fulfill their duty toward their own household and so repay their parents what is owed them. For this is what pleases God.  NET

Note: One should assist any relative in need

1Tim 5:8  [Paul, to Timothy:] If anyone does not take care of his own relatives, especially his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  ISV

 Questions for Section F

Pray for persecuted Christians