- Prologue: Getting Married
- Spouses (I): General
- Spouses (II): Romantic Love
- Parents’ Duties to Children (I): Love and Care
- Parents’ Duties to Children (II): Godly Training
- Children’s Duties to Parents
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.
- Issues in deciding whether to stay single or marry: General; . . .
- . . . Forsaking marriage for God and Jesus Christ
- Do not marry outside of God’s people – particularly as it can result in being led astray
- A person should have only one spouse
- Remarriage and adultery
- Note: Finding a good wife is a great blessing – a gift from God . . .
- . . . but a quarrelsome or ungodly wife is troublesome
1Cor 7:1-2, 8-9 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. ▤ … 8To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. ▤
In v. 2 Paul apparently is referring to extensive sexual sin that was prevalent in Corinth at the time. He raises this 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. In v. 8, Paul may have in mind staying single so as to be devoted to God’s kingdom (cf. v. 7 ⇓; vv. 32-35 ⇓) and/or for one’s own sake (cf. vv. 26-28 ↓; 39-40 ↓). Regarding Paul’s advice in v. 9, obviously people should marry someone whom they are also compatible with, rather than simply someone for whom they “burn with passion”.
1Cor 7:25-28 Now concerninga the betrothed,b I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26I think that in view of the presentc distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed womand marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. ▤
a The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians’ letter; see 7:1
b Greek virgins
c Or impending
d Greek virgin; also verse 34
The “present distress” (v. 26) may have been a time of harsh persecution or a general social upheaval – both of which could bring “troubles” (v. 28) to couples in particular. The subsequent verses (vv. 27-28) may then contain Paul’s advice and comments regarding such a time, rather than teaching that is as pertinent to all situations. Alternatively, the “present distress” has been taken to refer to the continual antagonism of the world against Christians and even to allude to the end of the age (cf. vv. 29-31).
1Cor 7:36-38 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed,e if hisf passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. ▤
e Greek virgin; also verses 37, 38
f Or her
In v. 36, “not behaving properly toward his betrothed” possibly refers to a situation where “she is getting along in years” and it may well seem unfair to not marry her. Alternatively it may be speaking of a man having trouble controlling his passions (cf. v. 9 ↑), which may well be in view with the expression “having his desire under control” (v. 37).
1Cor 7:39-40 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God. ▤
1Tim 5:11-14 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. ▤
The phrase “their former faith” (v. 12) may well refer to a pledge (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV), most likely some pledge of dedication to Christ apparently taken by widows on being enrolled on a list (v. 11) of widows cared for by the church. To marry afterwards would render them guilty of breaking such a pledge (v. 12). Considering their sensual passions (v. 11) and the idleness that was often the lot of young widows in Paul’s day (v. 13), Paul thought it best for younger widows to remarry.
Matt 19:3-12 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”g 10The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” ▤
g Some manuscripts add and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery; other manuscripts except for sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery
In v. 11 “this saying” refers either to Jesus’ teaching in vv. 6-9 or to the disciples’ statement in v. 10 (the position a good number of commentators take). If the former view is correct, then v. 11 and the final statement in v. 12 are most likely referring to accepting the teaching about marrying with the firm intention to stay as one and not to divorce (vv. 6-9). If the latter view is correct, then these statements are probably referring to accepting the teaching about not marrying (vv. 10, 12) – primarily that those who are able to forgo marriage for the sake of being wholly committed to God’s kingdom should do so.
Paul appears to be meaning that he wishes that all believers were unmarried like him (cf. v. 8 ⇑) – for the sake of being devoted to God – with the gift to contentedly remain so. In saying this he acknowledges that believers have different gifts. Such a gift to contentedly remain unmarried is often referred to as “the gift of celibacy”.
1Cor 7:32-35 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. ▤
2Cor 6:14-15 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15What accord has Christ with Belial?h Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? ▤
h Greek Beliar
Although very applicable to marriage (as per their inclusion here), bear in mind that the context shows that these verses are not actually referring specifically to marriage. Note that “Belial” is a term for Satan.
The phrase “only in the Lord” indicates that she should only marry a Christian (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NIV).
Deut 7:3-4 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. ▤
Such warnings to Israel regarding intermarriage with pagan nations 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.
Ex 34:13-16 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. ▤
Verse 16 suggests that inevitability intermarriage would lead to the Israelites worshiping the gods of such peoples, as some of the following references illustrate.
1Ki 11:1-6 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. ▤
Ezra 9:1-2 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy racei has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” ▤
i Hebrew offspring
Ezra 10:2, 11 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. ▤ … 11Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” ▤
Such was the need to keep the holy people (cf. Ezra 9:2 ↑) pure from corruptive foreign influences, Ezra told those who had intermarried with foreigners to separate themselves from their foreigners wives. In the light of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, such a command would appear to be not necessarily applicable to believers who have married unbelievers – at least not where the believer married prior to coming to faith.
Neh 13:26-27 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women? ▤
- Rom 7:2-3 ⇓
- A husband and wife should be as one, which involves sexual union
- Spouses and their love belong exclusively to each other
One can deduce from this that each man and woman should have only one spouse.
1Tim 3:2, 12 Therefore an overseerj must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,k sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, ▤ … 12Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. ▤
j Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1
k Or a man of one woman; also verse 12
It can be inferred from these direct prohibitions against polygamy for leaders (cf. Titus 1:6 ↓), that it is wrong for all believers. The verses are from passages specifying what is required of leaders, which basically contain things that are relevant to all believers, things in which leaders are to be exemplary.
l Or a man of one woman
- The prohibition against kings taking many wives:
This probably has primarily in view the problem of kings marrying foreign princesses, usually for political reasons, who would introduce their idols and false gods – tending to lead the king astray (as seen in the previous subsection).
The following verses teach that remarriage after divorce is adulterous, apart from where marital unfaithfulness is concerned (though some would debate this) and presumably also where a former spouse has died. (1 Corinthians 7:15 may indicate a further exception; see the comment on it below.) Such teaching applies to both one who divorces their spouse and one who is divorced by their spouse – and also for one who marries a divorced person (cf. Matt 5:32 ↓). Mark 10:11-12 indicates that the teaching applies to both male and females. Note that there is some debate as to what the term “sexual immorality” (Matt 5:32 ↓; Matt 19:9 ↓) precisely refers in this context. It quite likely includes adultery and may encompass some other sexual sins.
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.
m Some manuscripts add and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery; other manuscripts except for sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery
Rom 7:2-3 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.n 3Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. ▤
n Greek law concerning the husband
1Cor 7:10-13, 15 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. ▤ … 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called youo to peace. ▤
o Some manuscripts us
The phrase “not enslaved” (v. 15) may only mean that the believing spouse is not under any obligation to continue living with their unbelieving spouse. Some commentators go further saying that it means they are no longer bound to the marriage covenant, and so are free to marry again. As such, to do so would not be adultery. See also the comment on 1Cor 7:10-15 in Avoid divorce – it is contrary to God’s purposes.
- The OT law on remarrying a former spouse who had been remarried in the meantime:
Deut 24:1-4 When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. ▤
This law may have had in view that remarrying a former spouse, who had since been remarried, would technically be adultery. It also underlined the seriousness of divorce. Note that Jesus’ teaching above in Matthew 19:9 has in view a question relating to the term “some indecency” (v. 1), quite possibly correlating it with “marital unfaithfulness” (although in OT times presumably this did not include adultery, for which the consequence was death). Jesus indicates that Moses was not permitting people to freely divorce and remarry; divorce was only permissible under certain circumstances. See comments on Matthew 19:3-8 in Avoid divorce – it is contrary to God’s purposes.
Prov 31:10-21, 25-31 p An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. 16She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17She dresses herselfq with strength and makes her arms strong. 18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. 21She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.r ▤ … 25Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. ▤
p Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet
q Hebrew She girds her loins
r Or in double thickness
Note that vv. 28-31 indicate that a husband (and children) of a noble wife should praise her – one aspect of the reward she richly deserves (v. 31a).
A good or noble wife is in view here. Such a wife is a “treasure” (CEV, NLT), and indicative of the Lord’s “favor” – which implies that a good wife is “a gift from the Lord” (CEV).
The contrast of a prudent wife with houses and wealth – as being from God in comparison to simply being inherited from parents – implies that such a wife is a great blessing like houses and wealth, but much more so.
Gen 2:18-22 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit fors him.” 19Now out of the ground the Lord God had formedt every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adamu there was not found a helper fit for him. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he madev into a woman and brought her to the man. ▤
s Or corresponding to; also verse 20
t Or And out of the ground the Lord God formed
u Or the man
v Hebrew built
Woman is a “helper fit for him” (vv. 18, 20) – and vice versa. This phrase is indicative of why a good spouse is a great blessing. The passage of course tells unequivocally of the first wife being from God.
w Hebrew to meet with
The phrase “her own hands” refers to the hands of “folly”. In view of the first half of the verse, the second half alludes to a foolish woman bringing disaster on her household (cf. AMP, CEV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV).
- Urged on by his wife, Ahab committed great evil – and was punished accordingly:
1Ki 21:20-21, 25-26 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. ▤ … 25(There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.) ▤
Ahab’s ungodly wife Jezebel had encouraged him in committing evil (v. 25). Ahab’s evil acts brought God’s judgment on him (vv. 20-21) and on Jezebel (cf. v. 23) for her part in it.
- A husband and wife should be as one, which involves sexual union
- Husbands should love their wives
- Wives should submit to their husbands
- Do not commit adultery – which brings God’s judgment . . .
- . . . Warnings against being enticed by an adulteress – which leads to ruin
- Avoid divorce – it is contrary to God’s purposes
Gen 2:22-24 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he madex into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”y 24Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. ▤
x Hebrew built
y The Hebrew words for woman (ishshah) and man (ish) sound alike
Just as originally the man and the woman were of the one flesh (vv. 22-23), so a husband and wife will be united as “one flesh” (v. 24). The term “one flesh” 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.
Matt 19:4-6 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” ▤
Jesus uses the two quotations (vv. 4-5) – from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 – to show that God created male and female to be “one” (v. 6). This oneness is seen in that the man should “hold fast to his wife” (v. 5) and by them being “one flesh” (v. 5) and “joined together” (v. 6).
Eph 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. ▤
Particularly given the context (cf. vv. 25, 28-30, 33 ⇓), one can infer from vv. 31-32 that the oneness of the union of a husband and wife should reflect the exemplary oneness of the union of Christ and his church.
Mal 2:15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?z And what was the one Goda seeking?b Godly offspring. So guard yourselvesc in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. ▤
z Hebrew in it
a Hebrew the one
b Or And not one has done this who has a portion of the Spirit. And what was that one seeking?
c Or So take care; also verse 16
As reflected by the text notes, this verse is difficult to translate. Spouses from amongst God’s people are primarily in view here. The first part of the verse may imply that God has made such a couple one both in flesh and spirit (cf. NCV, GNT). As one with his wife, the final statement concludes that a husband should remain faithful to her. Note that although “Godly offspring” is usually understood to be referring to children produced by such a union of husband and wife, it may in fact refer to the union itself as being an “offspring” of God (cf. text note), he having produced this union.
1Cor 7:3-5 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. ▤
That each spouse has authority over their spouse’s body rather than their own (v. 4) engenders oneness in the marital union. Note that the expression “come together” (v. 5b) may well allude to the oneness that sexual intercourse brings.
Note that Titus 2:4 in the following subsection points out that women are likewise to love their husbands.
Eph 5:25, 28-30, 33 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, ▤ … 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. ▤ … 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. ▤
The directive for husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up 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. The corresponding directive for husbands to love their wives “as their own bodies” (v. 28) is reflective of them having become one, with the wife being in a sense part of her husband’s body (and vice versa) – just as the church is part of Christ’s body, and so is cared for by him (v. 29).
Eccl 9:9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. ▤
Note the instruction to enjoy life with one’s wife.
Hos 3:1 And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” ▤
During Hosea’s ministry, God uses Hosea’s relationship with his unfaithful wife to illustrate aspects of his own relationship with Israel, his unfaithful people. It is in this context that he directs Hosea to show love to his unfaithful wife again; the command is not mandatory for all such situations. However the stipulation to love his wife “even as the Lord loves the children of Israel” (cf. Eph 5:25 ↑) does give an exemplary standard for all husbands to aspire to.
d Syriac; the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. Septuagint And, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the Lord had closed her womb
- Husbands should be understanding and show honor to their wives:
1Pet 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you
e of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ▤
e Some manuscripts since you are joint heirs
Similarly Ephesians 5:33b above says, “let the wife see that she respects her husband”.
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. ▤
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.
Titus 2:4-5 … and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ▤
1Pet 3:1-2, 5-6 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. ▤ … 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. ▤
In v. 2 “respectful” may refer to respect for God (cf. CEV, NCV, NIrV), rather than for husbands, though the latter alternative is not unsupported (cf. AMP). In v. 6 the final sentence may well be referring to wives submitting to their husbands, which would then be what is primarily in view with the phrase “do good”. As such the last clause would probably refer to wives not fearing their husbands (cf. NLT), turning from any fear that might deter them from doing good. Regarding “this is how” (v. 5a), see the comment on 1Pet 3:3-5 under Do not dress lavishly for outward appearances.
f Or against
This verse contains the consequences of the original sin for the woman. Thus her husband’s rule or authority over her is the consequence of sin – and so presumably is also her corresponding required submission. The clause, “he shall rule over you,” possibly entails a degree of anguish under the husband’s rule – which is consistent with it being a consequence of sin. Note that, “Your desire shall be for your husband,” likely refers to the woman’s attraction or devotion to her husband, but some interpret it to mean a desire to usurp or breakout of the husband’s leadership (cf. NLT text note).
- The authority of the man, accompanied by mutual dependence:
1Cor 11:3, 7-12 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife
g is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. ▤ … 7For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. h 11Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. ▤
g Greek gunē. This term may refer to a woman or a wife, depending on the context
h Or messengers, that is, people sent to observe and report
The phrase “woman is the glory of man” (v. 7) is interpreted in a variety of ways. In the light of the subsequent two verses, it may well be referring to woman originally coming “from man” (v. 8), and being created “for man” (v. 9). The “symbol of authority on her head” (v. 10) refers to a head covering worn in public worship (cf. vv. 4-7); it was to signify a woman being “under her husband’s authority” (GNT). Note that there are varying interpretations regarding the reference to “the angels” (v. 10). It may be speaking of their presence and witness to our actions as further reason to ensure that our actions are proper.
Note that the instructions in this and the following subsection are also relevant to the unmarried, who should not commit adultery by having sexual relations with a married person.
i Hebrew repeats if a man commits adultery with the wife of
Jer 5:7-9 How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of whores. 8They were well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbor’s wife. 9Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord; and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this? ▤
Jer 29:21, 23 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. ▤ … 23because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’ ▤
Mal 3:5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. ▤
1Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteousj will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,k … ▤
j Or wrongdoers
k The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts
The following references do not speak a lot about exactly how being enticed by an adulteress leads to one’s ruin. Such reasons would include: a husband’s revenge (cf. Prov 6:34-35 ↓), blackmail, shame (cf. Job 31:11 ↓; Prov 6:33 ↓), loss of reputation, the breakdown of one’s own marriage and family relationships, and particularly punishment from God (cf. Job 31:11-12 ↓). Any of these could directly cause or contribute to the ruin and associated unsavory results spoken of below.
Job 31:9-12 If my heart has been enticed toward a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door, 10then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her. 11For that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges; 12for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my increase. ▤
Particularly in view of the subsequent clause, “woman” (v. 9a) probably refers to an adulteress – the wife of a neighbor (v. 9b). “Abaddon” (v. 12) may have God’s judgment and a final destruction in view.
Prov 2:16-19 So [by wisdom] you will be delivered from the forbiddenl woman, from the adulteressm with her smooth words, 17who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; 18for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed;n 19none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. ▤
l Hebrew strange
m Hebrew foreign woman
n Hebrew to the Rephaim
Prov 5:3-11 For the lips of a forbiddeno woman drip honey, and her speechp is smoother than oil, 4but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path toq Sheol; 6she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. 7And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, 9lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, 10lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, 11and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, … ▤
o Hebrew strange; also verse 20
p Hebrew palate
q Hebrew lay hold of
Verse 5 may be referring to the consequences for anyone who commits adultery with the adulteress (cf. CEV, NLT), but it could also be describing her own fate (cf. NCV); it is applicable to both. Note that “death” and “Sheol” (v. 5) may well be metaphors for a ruined life or spiritual death – as is the case elsewhere in this subsection. Verse 6 shows the ignorance of an adulteress to the depravity of her ways, a concept apparent in 30:20 – ‘This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”’ In view of v. 10, v. 9 may be speaking of giving to others the best of what one’s strength and years have produced. Alternatively it may refer to being subject to another, such as a vengeful husband or a blackmailer.
Prov 5:20-21 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?r 21For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponderss all his paths. ▤
r Hebrew a foreign woman
s Or makes level
Prov 6:25-29, 32-35 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,t but a married womanu hunts down a precious life. 27Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? 28Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? 29So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. ▤ … 32He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. 34For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. 35He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts. ▤
t Or (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate) for a prostitute leaves a man with nothing but a loaf of bread
u Hebrew a man’s wife
Prov 7:21-23, 25-27 With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. 22All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fastv 23till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. ▤ … 25Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, 26for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. 27Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. ▤
v Probable reading (compare Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac); Hebrew as an anklet for the discipline of a fool
Verses 21-23 speak of an adulteress seducing “a young man lacking sense” (v. 7).
w Hebrew strange
This verse suggests either: that the seductive words of an adulteress along with the horrid results of adultery can be used by God as punishment for ungodly persons; or that one who is under God’s wrath is left vulnerable to such consequences (cf. Eccl 7:26 ↓), with possibly an adulterer being primarily in view.
Prov 23:26-28 My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observex my ways. 27For a prostitute is a deep pit; an adulteressy is a narrow well. 28She lies in wait like a robber and increases the traitors among mankind. ▤
x Or delight in
y Hebrew a foreign woman
This does not refer specifically to an adulteress, but an adulteress may well be primarily in view. What the verse says is certainly very much applicable to one.
- Lust is a form of adultery:
Matt 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ▤
Mal 2:13-16 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?z And what was the one Goda seeking?b Godly offspring. So guard yourselvesc in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,d says the Lord, the God of Israel, coverse his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” ▤
z Hebrew in it
a Hebrew the one
b Or And not one has done this who has a portion of the Spirit. And what was that one seeking?
c Or So take care; also verse 16
d Hebrew who hates and divorces
e Probable meaning (compare Septuagint and Deuteronomy 24:1-4); or “The Lord, the God of Israel, says that he hates divorce, and him who covers
The expression “covers his garment with violence” (v. 16) appears to figuratively emphasize the wrongfulness of divorce, equating it with defiling oneself with violence. Note that v. 14 refers the “covenant” of marriage; it may also be referred to as a covenant in Proverbs 2:17 and Ezekiel 16:8. (See also the comment on v. 15 above in A husband and wife should be as one, which involves sexual union.)
Matt 19:3-8 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. ▤
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 (cf. CEV, NLT), and as such falls well short of what is ideal.
1Cor 7:10-15 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called youf to peace. ▤
f Some manuscripts us
In v.10, “not I, but the Lord” indicates an instruction given by Jesus Christ; whereas “I, not the Lord” (v. 12) introduces an instruction of Paul’s own – which is still authoritative. In v. 11, “but if she does” indicates that separation – and perhaps divorce – is permissible, although against God’s higher purposes (vv. 10, 11b). Regarding v. 14, most commentators think it does not mean that the unbelieving spouse is purified or saved through the believing spouse – although the GNT does say that such a spouse “is made acceptable to God”. It may be teaching that because the unbeliever is one in body with a spouse who is in Christ, they are sanctified in a “positional” sense, in a union that is set apart for God. Children of such a union are likewise holy. Note that this verse should not be taken as condoning marrying non-believers; the context suggests that Paul primarily has in view the situation where the believing spouse has become a believer after having already been married.
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.
Prov 30:18-19 Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: 19the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin. ▤
The “way of a man with a virgin” (v. 19) is the climax of this list of amazing things that were beyond the writer’s comprehension. It appears to refer to courtship and “the way a man and a woman fall in love” (NCV™; cf. CEV, GNT).
Love is truly beautiful.
Song 8:6-7 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousyg is fierce as the grave.h Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. 7Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, hei would be utterly despised. ▤
g 8:6 Or ardor
h 8:6 Hebrew as Sheol
i 8:7 Or it
The metaphor “the very flame of the Lord” (v. 6b) indicates that the aforementioned love between spouses and jealousy for the relationship come from God. 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.
- A loving spouse can bring contentment:
j Or brings out
This speaks of the peace and contentment (cf. GNT, NIV, NLT) that a loving physical relationship can bring.
- Song 8:6 ⇑
- Do not commit adultery – which brings God’s judgment . . .
- . . . Warnings against being enticed by an adulteress – which leads to ruin
k 2:16 Or he pastures his flock
Prov 5:15-19 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. 18Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicatedl always in her love. ▤
l Hebrew be led astray; also verse 20
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.
One’s sensual delights should be sealed exclusively for one’s spouse.
m 2:7 That is, I put you on oath; so throughout the Song
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” (AMP, NKJV) – when “it is ready” (CEV, NCV, NRSV).
The designation “sister” (cf. v. 2; Song 4:12 ⇑; Song 4:9 ⇓) for one’s bride or lover apparently was not uncommon in such literature. It appears to be indicative of a close, binding relationship and to express a fondness that goes beyond sexual desire. These are key aspects of spouses’ love.
n 5:16 Hebrew palate
This reflects the fact that friendship is an important aspect of romantic love.
Song 5:2-6 I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.” 3I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them? 4My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me. 5I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt. 6I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. ▤
This may be showing how love can be thwarted by selfishness (v. 3) and perhaps hesitancy – with the lover having left (v. 6), apparently after his efforts to seek his beloved (vv. 2, 4a) had seemingly been to no avail.
o 2:4 Hebrew the house of wine
The clause “his banner over me was love” (v. 4b) is commonly understood to be referring to the man unequivocally showing his love for his beloved, even amongst others (v. 4a). Possibly it may simply be emphasizing the prominence of love in his relationship with and attitude to her. The “raisins” and “apples” (v. 5) may well be references by the beloved to the delights of her lover’s love. Note that the final phrase of v. 5 is echoed in 5:8 – “tell him I am sick with love.”
As shown in a number of the passages in this and the following subsections in particular, 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.
The man speaks in v. 2 and the woman in v. 3. Each speaks of their lover standing out amongst the other young women and young men (cf. Song 5:10 ↓).
Song 4:13-15 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, 14nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices— 15a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon. ▤
Here the husband or man poetically uses aspects of nature to describe his lover’s beauty and delights (as per the comment at the start of this subsection).
Song 5:10-16 My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. 11His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. 12His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool.p 13His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. 14His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory,q bedecked with sapphires.r 15His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. 16His mouths is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. ▤
p The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain
q The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
r Hebrew lapis lazuli
s Hebrew palate
Song 4:1-5, 7 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. 2Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young. 3Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. 4Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone;t on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. 5Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. ▤ … 7You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. ▤
t The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
Song 6:9 My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the only one of her mother, pure to her who bore her. The young women saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her. ▤
The man claims that the woman’s beauty is even praised by the other women.
Song 7:1-7 How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O noble daughter! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand. 2Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. 3Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. 4Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, which looks toward Damascus. 5Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses. 6How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights!u 7Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. ▤
u 7:6 Or among delights
Note that the verses in this subsection are all spoken by the woman, the wife.
v 2:17 Or mountains of Bether
Here the woman appears to call on her lover to turn to her and her delights until daybreak (though some commentators have a quite different interpretation).
Song 7:11-13 Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields and lodge in the villages;w 12let us go out early to the vineyards and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love. 13The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and beside our doors are all choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved. ▤
w 7:11 Or among the henna plants
Song 2:8-14 The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills. 9My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, looking through the lattice. 10My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, 11for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. 12The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singingx has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. 14O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. ▤
x 2:12 Or pruning
Verses 11-13a describe the coming of spring – an apt time for the expression of love.
Song 3:4 Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me. ▤
This is preceded by the woman speaking of searching for her lover (cf. vv. 1-3), apparently in a dream. The reference here to taking him back to her mother’s house before letting go of him, possibly to consummate their love, is probably reflecting her concern of not being able to find him again.
The phrases “mountain of myrrh” and “hill of incense” are quite likely metaphors for the wife with her pleasures (cf. Song 5:1a ↓).
y Or to pasture his flock; also verse 3
Song 7:8-9a I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, 9and your mouthz like the best wine. ▤
z 7:9 Hebrew palate
- Encouragement from friends for lovers to fully enjoy love:
a Or who loves him disciplines him early
It can be inferred from this that one ought to love one’s son.
2Sam 13:37-39 But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son day after day. 38So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. 39And the spirit of the kingb longed to go outc to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead. ▤
b Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Hebrew David
c Compare Vulgate ceased to go out
David’s love for his sons is reflected by his mourning of the death of Amnon (v. 37) and his longing to see Absalom. (Absalom had earlier killed Amnon in an act of vengeance.) David would later also mourn Absalom’s death – ‘And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”’ (18:33)
Mal 4:5-6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”d ▤
d The Hebrew term rendered decree of utter destruction refers to things devoted (or set apart) to the Lord (or by the Lord) for destruction
This is indicative of the fact that it is God’s will that parents and children should love each other. This prophecy was at least partially fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry (cf. Luke 1:17), prior to Jesus Christ’s first coming. Some think it will have a more complete fulfillment prior to Jesus Christ’s return – which will indeed be a “great and awesome day of the Lord”. The reconciliation or renewed love amongst families appears to be reflective of – and to occur in conjunction with – the reconciliation of the people with God in the ministry of such a prophet.
This implies that it is the normal and right thing for a mother to not forget her children and to have compassion on them.
1Ki 3:24-27 And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. 25And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” 26Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” 27Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” ▤
The phrase “heart yearned for” (v. 26a) is indicative of “compassion” (NIV®, NKJV, NRSV).
Note that the following two subsections elaborate on this theme.
The simile speaks of a father carrying a son in need of support.
e Some manuscripts infants
Note the reference to gentleness, which should characterize parental care.
The woman cared for her daughter by bringing her to Jesus to have him cure her.
Moses’ parents defied the king’s edict that all newborn Hebrew males must be killed, hiding Moses instead.
This speaks of a mother watching over the affairs of her household (cf. NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT), taking care of them (cf. CEV, GNT).
- Parents should exhort and encourage their children:
1Thes 2:11-12 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ▤
Prov 31:13-15, 21 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. ▤ … 21She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.f ▤
f Or in double thickness
Verses 13-14 may well be referring to – or at least be inclusive of – such an “excellent wife” (v. 10) providing clothing and food for her family, in accordance with vv. 15, 21. The reference to being “clothed in scarlet” (v. 21) appears to refer to quality, warm clothing (cf. text note, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT).
Matt 7:9-11 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ▤
This implies that parents are to “give good gifts” (v. 11a) such as food (vv. 9-10) to their children, providing for them.
2Cor 12:14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. ▤
1Chr 29:19 [David:] Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision. ▤
Similarly in 22:12 David blesses Solomon with what is effectively a prayer: “Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God.”
Mark 5:22-23 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” ▤
Here and in John 4:47, 49 below the parents make requests of Jesus on behalf of their children. As such they are effectively examples of parents praying for their children.
John 4:47, 49 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. ▤ … 49The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” ▤
- Job’s spiritual care of his children:
Job 1:4-5 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed
g God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. ▤
g The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9
Matt 18:5-6, 10 Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,h it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. ▤ … 10“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.i ▤
h Greek causes . . . to stumble; also verses 8, 9
i Some manuscripts add verse 11: For the Son of Man came to save the lost
A number of commentators consider that Jesus is speaking figuratively in using terms like “child” and “little ones”, referring to believers who should “become like children”, humbling themselves (vv. 3-4; cf. Mark 10:15 ↓). But even so, much of this teaching is still quite applicable to young children. For further comment on v. 5, see Note: What one does for another Christian, one does for Jesus Christ.
Mark 10:13-16 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. ▤
Jesus’ contrasting reaction sets an example of respect, care and acceptance of little children.
- Parents should raise their children to live as God wants
- Parents should discipline their children
- Parents should teach their children about God and his deeds, inspiring them to obey God’s laws . . .
- . . . Parents should promote faith in their children
- Note: Godly parents bring great blessing to their children
Gen 18:19 For I have chosenj him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. ▤
j Hebrew known
Deut 11:18-19 You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ▤
This begins a passage of godly teaching from the king’s mother to her son (cf. vv. 2-9). It exemplifies that parents should teach their children to live as God wants.
The children of the “excellent wife” (v. 10) are no doubt among the recipients of her instruction. The fact that she speaks with wisdom and gives “the teaching of kindness”, implies that the instruction is consistent with and inclusive of the ways of God.
Josh 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. ▤
Joshua’s determination that he and his household would serve God is indicative of him raising his children to live as God wanted – and exemplary.
- Eph 6:4 ⇑
- God disciplines his people as his children, who he loves
- Outcomes of ignoring reproof and discipline
k Or who loves him disciplines him early
Here “death” (cf. Prov 23:14 ↓) is probably either hyperbole for a ruined life or referring to premature death – both of which result from foolishness or wickedness, which are in turn often the products of a lack of discipline. Contrastingly, discipline gives hope for a child’s future.
Verse 13b means that “spanking won’t kill them.” (GNT)
Heb 12:7-9 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? ▤
1Tim 3:4, 12 He [a church overseer] must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, ▤ … 12Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. ▤
Children’s obedience and respect (v. 4), along with other aspects of managing one’s children (vv. 4, 12), require discipline.
- Parents must not provoke their children:
Fathers (and mothers) can provoke their children in a number of ways, but most likely Paul had in mind matters related to excessive or unfair discipline. (A similar point is made in Ephesians 6:4, in the previous subsection.)
Parents should teach their children about God and his deeds, inspiring them to obey God’s laws . . .
Ps 44:1-3 O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: 2you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; 3for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. ▤
Note that the expression “the light of your face” (v. 3b) speaks of God’s presence with and care for his people.
Ex 12:25-27 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. ▤
Observing the Passover service/ceremony would promote the teaching to Israelite children – and their remembrance – of the awesome things that God did in delivering the people from Egypt.
Deut 4:9-14 Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments,l and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. ▤
l Hebrew words
Presumably that which Moses wanted the Israelites to teach to their children and their children’s children (v. 9) included that which he spoke of in the following verses (vv. 10-14): God’s awesome revelation of himself, with his subsequent declaration of his commands for his people to obey. Probably one implication is that by parents teaching their children how awesome God is, the children would be moved to obey the commands of God taught to them (cf. Ps 78:2-7 ↓).
Ps 78:2-7 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; … ▤
This speaks of parents telling their children of God’s deeds and power (vv. 2-4) and subsequently of his commands (vv. 5-6). Verse 7 then concludes that in light of God’s wonderful deeds for them, the children would set their hope in God and obey his commands.
Deut 6:20-25 When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’ ▤
Moses’ words here are very much applicable to believers today. Christian parents should explain the significance of God’s commands (v. 20) and so why they should be kept. In doing so they should explain what God has done for his people in redeeming them through Jesus Christ, with the associated blessings – paralleling the Israelite’s deliverance from Egypt and the latter blessing of the promised land (vv. 21-23). In conjunction with this, parents should emphasize that having been redeemed and blessed as such by God, his people ought to do as he says (v. 24a), in part for their own good (v. 24b) and for their righteousness (v. 25). (In regard to their righteousness, Christians should obey to appropriate their righteousness rather than to try to earn it like the Israelites were to do.)
Note that the previous topic – regarding teaching children about God and what he has done – is obviously an important part of promoting faith in children, as is illustrated there in Psalms 78:2-7.
Timothy’s grandmother and mother – with their strong faith – undoubtedly played a role in the development of Timothy’s faith (cf. 2Tim 3:14-15 ↓).
2Tim 3:14-15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whomm you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ▤
m The Greek for whom is plural
Particularly in the light of the reference to Timothy having known the Scriptures “from childhood” (v. 15), those “from whom you learned it” (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 making them “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 15).
n Or a man of one woman
The role of the parent in the children coming to faith is implicit in this reference.
Prov 22:17-19 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, 18for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. 19That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you. ▤
This was not necessarily spoken by a parent, but obviously is quite applicable to the role of parents in teaching their children godly wisdom so that they may trust in God.
- Parents should teach their children to reverently fear God:
Most likely “children” refers to young listeners or the people generally, rather than David’s actual children – but as with Proverbs 22:19 above, the verse is very much applicable to teaching one’s own children.
Deut 12:28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God. ▤
Further to being blessed themselves, in being provided for (v. 25), children of godly parents themselves become a blessing (v. 26). However, note that the last clause has been translated to say that the children are blessed (cf. AMP, NIV, NKJV).
The second part of the verse may primarily be speaking of being established in a right relationship with God and/or being secure under his care (cf. GNT, NIrV) in this relationship.
Ps 103:17-18 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. ▤
Verse 17 speaks of God’s righteousness – including his “goodness” (GNT, NCV) – manifesting itself along with his love amongst future generations of those who fear and obey him.
Similarly 14:11 says, “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.” Children are encompassed in such promises.
This suggests that godly parents bring glory to their children – or at least that they give their children reason to glory, exulting in and taking pride in their parents.
- The sanctifying effects of a believer on their spouse and children:
1Cor 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. ▤
- Children are to honor and respect their parents . . .
- . . . Children should not dishonor or mistreat their parents
- Likewise, all older people should be treated with respect
- Children are to obey their parents
- Children should heed their parents’ teaching – which brings great benefits
- Children are to help their parents . . .
- . . . One should assist any relative in need
- Note: Children are a blessing to their parents from God . . .
- . . . and children can bring their parents much joy
1Ki 2:19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. ▤
Bathsheba was King Solomon’s mother.
The reference is to an “excellent wife” (v. 10). In this context “call her blessed” implies that her children praise her.
o Or dishonors; Septuagint reviles
The imagery refers to such a person’s life ending like a lamp going out in the dark.
p Hebrew There is a generation; also verses 12, 13, 14
The context (cf. 12-14) underlines that this is wicked behavior.
Verse 17 figuratively speaks of the harsh outcomes of mocking and disobeying one’s parents.
This verse appears to link showing honor and respect for old people, with reverence for God (cf. NLT).
Job 32:4, 6 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. ▤ … 6And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. ▤
- Lament of elders not being shown respect:
Job speaks of enduring such disrespect from younger men in Job 30:1a – ‘“But now they laugh at me, men who are younger than I …’
Children are to obey their parents “in the Lord”, in their life in Jesus Christ. For this is right, being the Lord’s will for children (cf. Col 3:20 ↓).
In the second part of the verse, Joseph promises his elderly father, Jacob, that he will adhere to his instructions.
Mordecai was actually Esther’s cousin; he had been her guardian who brought her up. As such it was appropriate for her to obey him as if he was her father.
This speaks of Jesus being obedient to his parents.
Just as parents should seek to keep their children submissive, children should be submissive and so obedient.
Deut 21:18-21 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. ▤
The NT does not advocate the death penalty, but this reference highlights the gravity of such disobedience.
Rom 1:29-30 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, … ▤
The inclusion of disobedience to parents amongst such lists of wicked deeds or characteristics (cf. 2Tim 3:2 ↓), underscores the sinfulness of it.
A “garland” (v. 9) is a wreath worn on one’s head. Verse 9 is speaking figuratively of blessings of following a parent’s teaching – appearing to point to such things as a more agreeable character (cf. GNT) and honor (cf. NLT).
Prov 4:1-5, 10-11, 20-22 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gainq insight, 2for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. 3When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, 4he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. 5Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. ▤ … 10Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. 11I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. ▤ … 20My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. 22For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all theirr flesh. ▤
q Hebrew know
r Hebrew his
The last clause in v. 22 speaks of good health.
Prov 6:20-23 My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. 21Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. 22When you walk, theys will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. 23For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, … ▤
s Hebrew it; three times in this verse
In v. 22, “they will watch over you” speaks of the security or protection (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT) that living by such teaching provides.
Here “do not despise your mother” encompasses heeding what she says, in keeping with the preceding instruction.
t Or delight in
In saying “give me your heart”, the father calls on the son to listen closely and receptively to his teachings and to wholeheartedly keep to his ways.
- Heed a parent’s reproof:
Note that 6:23 above refers to “the reproofs of discipline” leading to life, with the context suggesting that parental discipline is primarily in view.
1Tim 5:3-4 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. ▤
John 19:25-27 … but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. ▤
Even amidst his own great agony, Jesus ensured his mother would be cared for.
Gen 45:9-11 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ ▤
Gen 47:11-12 Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents. ▤
1Sam 22:3-4 And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stayu with you, till I know what God will do for me.” 4And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. ▤
u Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew go out
David secured refuge for his parents with the King of Moab, until he was in a position to look after them himself.
Josh 2:12-14 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” ▤
Mark 7:9-13 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)v— 12then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” ▤
v Or an offering
The action spoken of in v. 11 avoided – in part at least – one’s responsibility to help one’s parents. As such it violated the spirit of the laws stated in v. 10 – and so was condemned outright by Jesus.
Gen 14:12, 14-16 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way. ▤ … 14When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. ▤
Gen 44:32-33 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. ▤
Judah was prepared to sacrifice his own freedom to secure that of his younger brother Benjamin.
After his father Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers were afraid he would take revenge on them for selling him as a slave (cf. vv. 15-20). But instead Joseph promised to provide for his brothers and their families.
A “redeemer” (cf. Ruth 4:13-15 ↓) was a close relative. They had a responsibility to care for any needy amongst their extended family. Note that here “brother” refers to a fellow Israelite, not an actual brother.
Josh 1:14-15 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, 15until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise. ▤
We have a responsibility to care for all people, but verses such as this arguably illustrate that we have a particular responsibility to: relatives; “brothers” and sisters amongst God’s people; and even compatriots.
Ruth 2:11-12 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” ▤
Ruth’s decision to leave her own father and mother to help her destitute mother-in-law Naomi, may have been because Naomi was in greater need and/or possibly in the culture of the day it was understood that she had married into Naomi’s family and as such her loyalties primarily lay there.
Ruth 4:13-15 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” ▤
The redeemer referred to here is the newly born boy (v. 13) who was related closely to Naomi through Ruth.
Absalom took in his sister Tamar after she had been devastatingly violated and dishonored (cf. vv. 1-22).
Est 2:7 He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. ▤
Ps 127:3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the childrenw of one’s youth. 5Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.x ▤
w Or sons
x Or They shall not be put to shame when they speak with their enemies in the gate
In the last statement “the gate” most likely refers to the city gate, the place where court cases were held (cf. GNT, NIrV, NLT). Having many sons would help ensure that one would not be treated unjustly.
The verse speaks of those who fear the Lord (cf. v. 1), in effect saying that they will be blessed with sons who are “vigorous and healthy” (NLT). The “olive shoots” simile probably alludes to the productivity and blessing that such sons bring to parents.
Grandchildren are their grandparent’s “crowning glory” (NLT).
Having many children was seen as prestigious.
God had blessed Obed-Edom with eight sons (cf. vv. 2-4).
Prov 23:15-16, 24-25 My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. 16My inmost beingy will exult when your lips speak what is right. ▤ … 24The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. 25Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice. ▤
y Hebrew My kidneys
The reasoning behind this may be that a child who is wise reflects very well on his or her parents, notably their own wisdom, making clear that any “reproach” shown towards them is quite inappropriate.
Prov 29:3, 17 He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth. ▤ … 17Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. ▤
Luke 1:13-15, 57-58 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. ▤ … 57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. ▤
John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. ▤
- A foolish son brings sorrow to his parents:
In the same vein, Proverbs 19:13 says, “A foolish son is his father’s ruin…”