In just over a week my daughter is getting married. In the Christian world there is some controversy about dating, courtship, things of the sort, all basing their preferences on the Bible. And while the Bible has many principles that can apply to the choosing of a spouse, the actual examples don’t always translate well into our society. In fact, some of the biblical models make me chuckle, and I’m rather glad my daughter tossed out a few biblical traditions when choosing her husband.
Of course, for Adam the choice of a partner was a no-brainer. God puts him to sleep, takes a rib, and says “Here, I made this for you.” I doubt anyone has ever had an easier time finding a spouse. Doesn’t hurt that she was the only woman in existence. She never, ever had to worry that he would compare her to the other women he’d dated, either, so it was pretty good for her, too.
Abraham’s choice, on the other hand, married his half sister, which isn’t only out of tradition now, it’s also generally illegal. So we’ll just move right along from that one.
Isaac. I must say, the method used to choose Isaac’s spouse has a little appeal. Because I’m currently giving a daughter in marriage, the idea of a man coming to my door with a small treasure doesn’t hurt. But to send my daughter away to marry a man none of us has ever met is scary. Her family had a lot of faith in Abraham and his family to send him their daughter. I don’t know if I could trust anyone quite that much.
And Jacob. Imagine a man requiring a suitor to work seven years for his daughter. Then imagine him switching brides. I kind of think this model isn’t ideal. It resulted in the sons who would later become the tribal heads of God’s chosen people, but I still don’t think it’s how I want my sons to obtain their wives, although fourteen years of job security is rather appealing. So, maybe, without the switching brides part, this one isn’t so bad, especially in the current economy.
Ruth and Boaz are a beautiful story. I’m not sure about my daughter curling up in a barn at a strange man’s feet, but if the man was as humble and kind as Boaz, I might sanction it. Of all the Bible courtships, I think I like this one the best. Both were humble and selfless, and it’s no surprise God chose to let them be ancestors of his beloved son.
David, of course, won Saul’s daughter by bringing the foreskins of a thousand of Saul’s enemies. Do I even need to touch that one? If a man came to the door bearing body parts, would you let him marry your daughter? Strangely, I’ve never read a book suggesting we emulate this particular custom in our children’s marital choices.
Solomon may have married for love, if the Song of Songs is any indication, but he also married for political reasons. Over and over and over. God didn’t like it then, and he doesn’t sanction multiple marriage partners now. Even great wisdom doesn’t always assure good choices for marriage.
Hosea the prophet was told to marry a woman who would become a prostitute, and he did it. I admit, if my son told me God had commanded him to marry a girl who would later become a prostitute, I would work very hard to stop it. I would have to have great faith in my son to trust he’d gotten God’s message right. Right now my grown children have spent less time as adults than children, and I still think of them as children sometimes, forgetting God is now dealing with them as adults, sometimes even requiring them to walk paths that don’t always make sense to me.
God clearly desires purity in the marital choice, and he clearly desires longevity of the partnership, but it seems there’s a little variety permitted in the choosing and marrying process. And that’s probably a good thing, because there’s also a little variety in the people getting married.
My daughter and future son-in-law don’t have a bizarre story about their meeting and courtship, and that’s okay. And even though my future son-in-law didn’t come to my door with a small treasure to offer us, he also didn’t come with a bagful of body parts, so I think it’s all good.