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God's Design for Marriage | Instructed to Cleave

04.20.20 | Marriage | by Stephanie Teslaa


    The next step in God's design is to be united, or to cleave in other biblical translations. Let's take a look at what the means and why it's an important piece.

    After leaving, God commands Adam to be united to his wife. Let's unpack that next step in God's design for marriage.

    4. Instructed to Cleave

    That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

    “United” is the translation of the ancient Hebrew root word dabaq (pronounced da-vek). Here are the various English translations for the Hebrew: united (NIV), joined to (NASB, NLT, NKJV), hold fast (ESV), cleave (ASV, KJV), bond (HCSB), and cling (NRSV). This word has broad and deep meaning to the mysterious process of a man and a woman becoming one flesh. The most fitting picture is glue, and even the modern Hebrew word for glue today is devek. This is the covenant made at a wedding, the spoken promise before the Lord.

    A covenant is a promise made between two parties in the presence of God. The permanence of this promise is ultimately safeguarded by God himself. Marriage is a divine institution, not merely a human one. Thus there is a third part to the glue that bonds husband and wife. As promises are made in His presence, husband and wife are ultimately committing to God and inviting Him into the process of joining them and maintaining the union.

    The analogy of a triangle is often used when describing this union of three, but consider the analogy of a tuning fork and two musical instruments. Suppose two out-of-tune instruments need to be tuned for a concert. If the musicians tried to tune them to one another, they would end up with two instruments that sounded the same, yet both out of tune. To have two concert-ready instruments, the musicians would need to tune them both to a tuning fork. In the same way, if a couple tries to maintain their marriage by tuning to each other, they will be going through life out of tune, maybe even unaware of it. In a covenant marriage, the husband and wife need to be joined first and foremost to the Lord, who is the guarantor to keep their marriage on His path as one flesh. Only then can a marriage sing the beautiful music that God intended for them to sing in their families and in their world.

    Cleaving happens on multiple levels. Often people view cleaving as a sexual union, but it is deeper than that. Sticking together like glue requires consistent pursuit of closeness in all areas of marriage. Through this union, the husband and wife can build a bond that unearths the deepest mysteries in each other. This pursuit creates interdependence on one another and the ability to find strength and refuge in the other person. Falling in love is easy, but just as nothing of value in this world comes without effort, remaining in love takes intention and effort.

    Discussion questions:
    • How would you describe cleave in your own words?
    • Have you invited God into your covenant, into the makeup of your glue?
    • In what ways have you allowed God to be the tuning fork in your marriage?

    Last blog post: God's Design for Marriage | Commanded to Leave