Understanding the Biblical Concept of Marriage as a Remedy for the Rampant Break-Down of Christian Marriage in Contemporary Nigerian Society

Master's Thesis, 2013

57 Pages, Grade: B+



Statement of Problem.
The Purpose and Significance of the Study
Methodology and Procedure

Marriage in Israelite’s Context
Marriage in Nigerian Context
Customary Form of Marriage in Nigeria
Christian Marriage
Islamic Marriage

The Context of Genesis 2
The Concept of Marriage in Genesis 2:21-24
The Creation of Woman, vv. 21-22
The Response of Man vs. 23
The Ordinance of Marriage, v. 24

The Causes of Rampant Break-down of Marriages Today
Misunderstanding of the Divine Intention of Marriage
Cultural Perspectives of Marriage
Societal Perspectives of Marriage
Social Change
The Implications of the Rampant Break-down of Marriages Today
Parental Irresponsibility
Promotion of Other Forms of Marriage
High Rate of Sexual Immorality and Permissiveness
The Remedy for the Rampant Break-down of Marriages Today
Promotion of the Biblical View of Marriage by the Church
Proffering Ways of Resolving Marital Problems and Crisis
Teaching the Biblical Prohibition of Divorce





Marriage is a universally accepted practice. Its understanding varies in every context based on the social and religious practices of the society. Marriage historically is God’s idea and an institution ordained by Him. Danfulani Kore quotes Howard Hendricks as saying, “Marriage is not the product of a human pervert. It is the product of a divine plan. God has specifications for the marriage relationship. To attempt to build a marriage without following that plan is to invite failure.”[1] However, man today is interfering with God’s intention and purpose for marriage in so many ways.[2] Until marriage is understood, especially by believers from the biblical perspective, many marriages will not fulfill God’s purpose and intention and will eventually experience break-down. If the factors responsible for the rapid and high rate of break-down of marriages and its effects on the society are understood by couples, many marriages will be saved. It appears that most people, especially in Nigeria, see marriage as an emergency measure to curtail loneliness, sexual feelings/pressure, societal, cultural, economic and political pressures, etc. Thus, they see marriage as an avenue for enjoyment and meeting some personal expectations. So, most people rush into marriage but are unaware or unprepared to face the challenges of wedlock. Marriages contracted on these faulty grounds mostly result in series of break-down at the glimpse of challenges.

Marriage is a mystical and intimate union instituted and ordained by God with the purpose of companionship and oneness. It is a sacred and permanent union that only death can dissolve. This is because as the man and woman freely, willingly and lovingly decide to spend the rest of their lives on earth together, the covenant of marriage glues and unites their hearts and lives together. Irrespective of filial duty, marriage is the merging of two personalities, that is, a man and a woman into an indissoluble union through a covenant.[3] As an ordained institution by God, marriage is the “deepest corporeal and spiritual unity of man and woman.”[4]

God created woman to meet man’s need of companionship and loneliness. The creation of woman from man’s rib “supplies [man with] what was missing for his perfect happiness.”[5] So, in marriage, as a man enters into a covenant with a woman, he is considered to have gotten a suitable companion and helper. The man also considers the woman to be taken out of his ribs. As such, he sees the woman as his flesh and bone, and his soul as hers are stuck and bound together into one signifying the permanence of the covenant of marriage into which they have agreed to enter.[6]

The covenant of marriage drives the man and woman so powerfully and strongly to each other and unifies them so strongly in heart, affection, flesh and bones that their first obligation and filial duty to their parents is shifted to each other, making it a primary priority. Therefore, it requires leaving and cleaving. Keil and Delitzsch are of the view that the rule applies to both the man and the woman. This implies that, “the conjugal union is shown to be a spiritual oneness, a vital communion of heart as well as of body, in which it finds its consummation … [and] a holy appointment of God.”[7] As such, love in the marriage bond is alive so far as the couples are alive.[8] The unity of heart, affection, flesh, bones and families of a man and woman in marriage suggests an “absolute prohibition of polygamy.”[9]

Marriage in its Jewish and African contexts unites not only the couples together but also their families into a kinship relationship. The man becomes a brother to the woman’s siblings and a son to the parents of the woman. Likewise, the woman becomes a sister to the siblings and a daughter to the parents of the man respectively. This kinship relationship is never terminated by time, circumstance or disaster. It is a lifelong relationship, even if one of the couple dies and the other remarries. This is because as a man and a woman get married, their families become united in an existing relationship. This strong relationship suggests the permanence of the bond of the marriage union and family ties.

The biblical concept of marriage as explained above is facing a lot of challenges. Many marriages today have either collapsed or are on the verge of collapse. Christian marriage which is an indissoluble union has many factors militating against it, the most prominent of which is divorce. Everett L. Worthington, Jr. in his book, Marriage Counseling: A Christian Approach to Counseling Couples opined that: marriages are in trouble today… marriage as a long-term relationship is in trouble… the institution of marriage is not as endangered as some people claim; however, the permanence of individual marriages is in peril. …although professing Christians have markedly lower rates of divorce than those not professing Christianity, Christians are not immune to this crisis in commitment to marriage sweeping through contemporary society. Even committed Christians end up in divorce courts.[10]

The alarming increase of broken marriages all over the world is threatening the basic biblical concept or understanding of marriage. Worthington notes that many young Christians cohabit prior to marriage, claiming they want to test the stability of their relationship and their compatibility. He asserts that, “many who cohabit say they are investigating the stability of a relationship before making a commitment to marriage. Yet even when the incompatible couples who cohabit and decide not to marry are removed from consideration, couples who cohabit prior to marriage have equal or higher divorce rates than couples who do not.”[11] We observe in the Nigerian experience that some Christians also avoid going to the altar to take the oath to cleave to their partner for life. Many prefer to impregnate a lady and have the lady brought to them to marry. Likewise, some ladies too prefer to be impregnated and then marry. Others prefer to stay together for as long as they can tolerate each other either with or without their parents’ consent. Many young Christians seem to prefer this form of marriage because it is easier for them to opt out if they feel they are not satisfied with the relationship.

Customary marriage in almost all the ethnic groups and cultures in Nigeria permits polygamy. This takes care of marital problems such as barrenness which may result in divorce in a monogamous marriage. Kore did a survey of 34 ethnic groups in Nigeria. He sought from members of the 34 ethnic groups information regarding “the role of the family in the culture in which they were raised.”[12] Kore found out childlessness to be the greatest single factor responsible for polygamy. This also is responsible for a quick divorce in a monogamous marriage. He concluded that:

A husband will divorce his wife or marry additional wives in order to have children. A childless wife, due to inability to conceive, abortion, or miscarriage is looked down upon with shame and abuse. She may be accused of ‘eating her children in the womb.’ No matter how good a wife she may be, a husband will not be satisfied with her if she cannot bear children. In addition, a wife can be divorced in some cultures if she fails to give birth to at least one male child. It appears that having children is of higher importance than even the marriage union itself.[13]

Most Christians in the southern part of Nigeria respect and uphold customary marriage more than church marriage. Christians who seek church marriage would usually conduct customary marriage first before the church marriage. The church marriage is considered as the blessing of the marriage.[14]

Marriage is the foundation of human society because it is the first institution that was created by God. The stability of the human society depends on the stability of the marriage institution. An unstable marriage is capable of affecting every strata of life of an individual and his/her society. Wilbur O’Donovan posits that: Marriage was established by God before all other human institutions. This shows us that marriage is the foundation of human society…. In God’s plan, marriage is the basis for a morally and socially stable society. This is part of the reason why God hates adultery (Ex. 20:14), sexual immorality (1 Thes. 4:3-6), incest (Lev. 18:6ff), and homosexuality (Rom. 1:24-28). These things disrupt and twist God’s plan for a stable human society…. Part of the reason why many societies today are morally and socially unstable is because people have determined to live without regard for God’s laws. Unfortunately, there are several consequences for sexual sins. The great increase in divorce and broken homes, and the worldwide epidemic of AIDS are just two of these consequences.[15]

The sustaining factor of the Christian marriage covenant is faithfulness by both parties. The absence of faithfulness in the Christian marriage covenant makes divorce inevitable. The concept of the marriage covenant is likened to God’s relationship with Israel which is based on faithfulness. Divorce totally violates God’s intention of instituting marriage. Christians should hold unto and practice the biblical concept of the marriage covenant and dictate to the world how marriage should be done instead of being influenced by the world.

Statement of Problem.

We stated earlier that marriage was instituted and ordained by God to be a permanent union characterized by companionship, harmony and intimacy between a man and a woman, as affirmed by the creation of woman from the rib of the man (Gen 2:18). However, this divine intention for marriage is facing a lot of challenges today. The rate at which marriages break-down rampantly in our contemporary society has far reaching implications for the church and the society at large.

We live in a world where secularism and postmodernism are challenging old moral values and norms within and without the church. Secularism makes truth to be relative and many people are confused as to what to believe and accept as moral standard. Divorce and remarriage are some areas that reveal the challenge of secularism and postmodernism on marriage. So also is same sex marriage and that between members of a sex with more than one member of the opposite sex. The ideologies of secularism and postmodernism are some of the factors responsible for the break-down of some Christian marriages.

In our society today, marriage is no longer taken as sacred and divine institution meant for permanency. Instead, it is seen as a social contract between a man and a woman geared towards enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Once such convenience and goal of marriage is not realized, the two parties separate and seek for enjoyment with somebody else. The secular view of marriage above is being accepted by some Christians. The church, which is a unit of the society, is deeply affected and influenced by this concept of marriage thereby resulting in the rampant break-down of Christian marriage.

The researcher used three questions as a guide for the research, thus: What are the purposes and intentions of God for instituting and ordaining marriage? Here, the researcher explored from the book of Genesis the purposes and intentions behind the instituting of marriage by God. What are the factors responsible for the rapid break-down of Christian marriage in Nigeria today? What are the effects of such factors on Christian marriage and on the church of Christ in Nigeria?

The Purpose and Significance of the Study

The divine purpose of marriage is for a man and a woman to leave their parents and be completely united to each other for as long as they will live. The church has the responsibility of implementing and sustaining this divine purpose of marriage. But when the church fails to discharge its responsibility of enforcing the divine purpose of marriage and injecting the sanctity of marriage to the society, the society will practice marriage devoid of God’s plan and intention.

The purpose of this research is to explore the divine intention of marriage. It intends to identify the factors behind the break-down of marriages in the church and modern society at large. It also aims at proffering ways out of the factors identified.

The study will help Christians in Nigeria to have better understanding of the factors behind the rampant break-down of many Christian marriages today. It will equally help to identify reasons for the gradual acceptance of secular views of marriage and other forms of marriage hitherto alien to Nigerians. This will go a long way in helping Nigerian Christianity to fight these parasites responsible for the rampant break-down of marriages which has contributed immensely to the high rate of immorality in the Nigerian society.

Methodology and Procedure

In this research, the researcher explores the divine intention and purpose of marriage in the context of Gen 2:21-24. This is done by using the expositional and exegetical analysis of the marriage concept rooted in the text.

As its procedure, the researcher has adopted a five chapter thesis. Chapter one is the introductory chapter. Chapter two examines the perspectives on marriage from the Jewish as well as the Nigerian contexts. These perspectives range from the various forms of marriage practiced in the two contexts to how marriage is conducted. This comparism between the practices of marriage in both contexts is with the purpose of analyzing how the practice fulfills the divine intention of marriage, especially in the Nigerian context.

Chapter three presents an expositional analysis of the concept of marriage in the context of Gen 2. The researcher draws conclusions about the theological significance of the concept as a foundation for examining the contemporary experience of marriage.

The examination of the concept of marriage in Gen 2:21-24 led to the examination of the contemporary experience of marriage in chapter four. Here, the researcher dealt with the causes and implications of the rampant break-down of marriages. It also suggests some possible ways for the remedy of the research problem in the contemporary Nigerian society.

Chapter five is a concise conclusion of the research. Some of the issues raised are summarized here. Some recommendations for the remedy of the research problem for further research are stated.


The permissive attitude of people towards the rampant break-down of marriages is militating against the divine intention of ordaining and instituting marriage. To effectively and substantially reduce such mishap in the contemporary Nigerian society, Christian leaders and theologians need to propagate, enlighten and teach people the biblical concept of marriage as a sacred and permanent covenant between a man and a woman. This view will enable people to have a deep theological conviction about marriage and to reverence marriage as a sacred and an indissoluble covenantal union thereby reducing the possibility of the dissolution of marriages.



Marriage is practiced and celebrated in every society. Every nation has its various forms of marriage as well as various laws guiding the practice and celebration. Being a research addressing the rampant break-down of Christian marriage in Nigeria, the research has reviewed the forms of marriage practiced in Nigeria. The concept and practice of marriage in the Israelite context is also reviewed. This is because marital issues in the Bible were addressed from the Jewish context. The knowledge of marriage from the Jewish culture will establish the basis for understanding the concept of marriage from a Christian perspective.

In Christendom, values, norms and practices of the Christian faith are referred to as sacred, while values, norms and practices that are not prescribed by the holy Bible are referred to as secular. The sacred is existing among the secular for an evangelistic purpose, hence the warning “do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Rom 12:2a, NIV). But in our society today, reverse is the case. Secularism and postmodernism have posed so many challenges to the sacred values, norms and practices attached to marriage. So many Christians are abandoning the sacred norms and practices of marriage and are accepting secular ideologies and practices thereby leading to the rampant collapse of many marriages in contemporary society.

The researcher observed in the statement of problem that the ideologies of secularism and postmodernism are some of the factors responsible for the break-down of Christian marriages. Hence the need to examine the perspectives of marriage in both the sacred and secular circles. Therefore, this chapter is focused on unveiling the perspectives and practices of marriage in the Nigerian and Israelite contexts. The perspectives and practices of marriage in the Israelite context are explored with the purpose of identifying its foundational role to Christian marriage and its influence on Christians, and also the contemporary experience of Christian marriage in Nigeria.

Marriage in Israelite’s Context

In the Israelite context, the society, family and marriage are connected. R. K. Bower and G. L. Knapp observe that, “In Hebrew culture, society was built on the family, and the family in turn on the institution of marriage.”[16] The marriage process in Israel during the Old Testament and Talmudic times began with the betrothal (kiddushim), which leads to marriage (nissuim). After the marriage is contracted, a family is set up, and the family name and line is expected to be continued through many generations.

In Old Testament times, procreation was regarded as the primary purpose of marriage, not companionship.[17] Among the Hebrews, polygamy and polygyny was prevalent. The chief causes are mostly informed by social and political factors.[18] Jewish men could take in concubines[19] in order to get male children. These concubines, most times were either servants or handmaids of wives who could not bear male children or who wanted to acquire more properties from their husbands.

A secondary purpose and objective of marriage is the maintenance, increase and protection of family name and property. As a result, the males in every Jewish family were concerned about property and inheritance. As such, a male child was necessary to every Jewish family, as he was to succeed his father, continue the family line and manage his father’s estate. This gave rise to the practice of polygyny and levirate marriage.[20]

The levirate marriage[21] is concerned about the management and protection of a deceased brother’s name and property. In the case of lack of an issue or a male child, a senior or junior brother or a close relative of a deceased brother was expected to marry the deceased brother’s widow. This practice was to protect the widow and her husband’s property and thereby produce a male child who would continue the family line of the deceased brother.[22]

Preliminaries to a Jewish Marriage

Young people in Israel did not have the right and autonomy to make a decision as to who to get married to. It was entirely the responsibility of their parents. When it comes to marriage, love is considered after the marriage had already taken place. Parents were very sensitive to assessing the social and economic status of the bride and her family in selecting marriage partners for their children.[23] Hazel W. Perkin observes that:

Marriage was often a means of strengthening and promoting the fortunes of the family, quite aside from the prospect of producing children. A bride was more likely to be chosen because of the desirability of union with her family, or for her healthy physique and suitability for family life, rather than for other considerations. The father was responsible for finding a suitable bride for his son, and the wishes and the feelings of the young people were largely irrelevant to this decision. On some occasions the bride’s consent was asked for after the actual marriage arrangements had been made.[24]

Once the selection of the bride was done, the betrothal[25] (kiddushim) followed. The betrothal was binding on the couples and “… constituted a part of the permanent marriage relationship (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:27; 2:5).”[26]

After the betrothal is over, the intending groom pays a dowry to his father-in-law. The father-in-law receives the dowry but is not permitted to use or spend any part of it; he could use the interest from the dowry but not the dowry. This is because the dowry is “kept in trust for the wife in case she was ever widowed or divorced.”[27] The dowry could be in kind or cash, this is base on the economic and social level and power of the intending groom. In circumstances “Where such sums of money [the dowry] could not be paid because of the poverty of the suitor, other means were found instead, such as service (Genesis 29:18) or elimination of enemies (I Samuel 18:25).”[28] The value[29] of the bride influences the amount to be paid, either in cash or in kind.

Age and circumcision[30] are considered as a requirement for every Jew intending to get married. Cohn-Sherbok observes that: “to marry the bride and groom must be of marriageable age (13[31] and a day for boys; 12[and half] and a day for girls), and males are traditionally encouraged not to delay marriage beyond the age of 20.”[32]


The termination of the twelve months interval[33] of the betrothal ushers in the marriage rites (nissuim).[34] A wedding service is organized where the marriage document is read to the intending couples under the marriage canopy (huppah). Seven benedictions are recited; they include prayers for the joy and happiness of the newly wedded couple in the marriage institution, and the restoration of Israel and ‘religious nature of the marriage bond.’[35] The ceremony begins with a cup of wine and ends with the breaking of a glass, “probably symbolizing the destruction of Jerusalem.”[36] Though marriage is regarded as a sacred bond in the Jewish context, divorce is allowed in extreme form of unfaithfulness.[37]

Marriage with non-Jews, consanguineous and affinity relationships, are highly forbidden by the Jewish law. Consanguineous and affinity relationships[38] meant danger to the Hebrew community. Though majority of reform rabbis officiate weddings between Jews and non-Jews, they specify certain conditions to be met before the marriage can take place.[39]

Marriage in Nigerian Context

Customary Form of Marriage in Nigeria

Customary law marriage in Nigeria is a bilateral affair. It is the affair of a husband and his family with a wife and her family. Margret C. Onokah defines customary law marriage in Nigeria as “a bilateral contract between the husband and his family on the one hand, and the wife and her family on the other hand.”[40] The dissolution of the marriage contract as a remedy for a marital problem[41] is allowed. The dissolution of the contract is also done bilaterally.[42]


[1] Danfulani Kore, Culture and the Christian Home: Evaluating Cultural Marriage and Family in Light of Scripture (2nd ed.; Bukuru, Nigeria: ACTS, 2012), 20.

[2] God instituted monogamy but man instituted other forms of marriage such as polygamy, polygyny, endogamy, exogamy, bigamy, lesbianism, gay, etc. This misnomer is said to remedy the problems encountered in monogamy and to satisfy the cravings of the flesh. For instance, while God clearly states that “for I hate divorce” (Mal 2:16a, NIV), people often resort to divorce as a solution to a problem. God instituted sex to be enjoyed in the marriage union, but many couples are involved in extra marital affairs and other series of marital unfaithfulness. Some couple deny their spouses sex, while others prostitute to get their problems solved. Most marriages are guided by the cultures of the couples instead of the Bible.

[3] Samuele Bacchiocchi, “The Marriage Covenant: A Biblical Study on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage,” n.p. [Cited 23 March 2011] Online: http://www.Biblicalperspectives.com/books/marriage/1.html.

[4] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT: The Pentateuch (Vol 1; Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publication Company, 1980), 90.

[5] Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1-15 (Vol 1; Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), 69.

[6] Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, 69.

[7] Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT, 90-91.

[8] Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, 69.

[9] Robert Jamieson, Fausset A. R. and David Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments: Genesis-Deuteronomy (Vol 1; Massachusetts, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 2002), 47.

[10] Everett L. Worthington Jr, Marriage Counseling: A Christian Approach to Counseling Couples (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsityPress, 1989), 17.

[11] Worthington, Marriage Counseling, 18.

[12] Kore, Culture and the Christian Home, 10.

[13] Kore, Culture and the Christian Home, 125-126.

[14] In a petition filed by Georgina Chinyere Maraizu against her husband Edward Chinemere Maraizu, seeking the custody and maintenance of their marriage in 1973 at the Enugu high court cited E/20D/73(1973) ECSNLR, 671, Georgina petitioned that she got married to her husband “during the Nigerian civil war and contemplated a marriage in accordance with the native law and custom prevailing in the petitioner’s hometown to be followed by a church blessing at a future date.” Jide Olakanmi & Co., Marriage Act & Matrimonial Causes ACT Rules (2ND ed.; Abuja, Lawlords Publications, 2010), 4 Cases. Again, Josephine Ajih filed a petition against her husband Matthew Ajih in 1975 at the Nsukka high court cited E/6D/746 ECSNLR (1975), praying for a judicial separation with her husband. She “claimed that she was lawfully married under the Marriage Act to the respondent in a licensed place of marriage. The respondent denied having contracted any marriage with the petitioner under the ACT but said the form of marriage which they went through was essentially a customary law marriage followed by a church blessing.” Olakanmi & Co., Marriage Act: Cases, 3.

[15] Wilbur O’Donovan, Biblical Christianity in African Perspective (U.K: Paternoster Press, 1996), 278.

[16] R. K. Bower and G. L. Knapp, “Marriage,” in The International Bible Encyclopedia; K-P (Vol three, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 262.

[17] V. H. Matthews opines that, “the primary purpose of a marriage in biblical times, aside from the possible monetary gain involved in marrying into a rich or influential family, was to produce an heir. Failure to produce an heir was a major calamity for a family in the Ancient Near East because it meant a disruption in the generational inheritance pattern that left no one to care for the couple in their old age.” V. H. Matthews, “Family Relationships,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (eds. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker; Leicester, England: IVP, 2003), 295.

[18] The desire for offspring, barrenness, diplomacy, and other customary practices are the chief causes of polygamy and polygyny. Geo B. Eager submits that, “Polygamy is likely to become prevalent only where conditions are abnormal, as where there are a disproportionate number of females, as in tribal life in a state of war. In settled conditions it is possible only to those able to provide ‘dowry’ and support for each and all of the wives.” Geo B. Eager, “Marriage,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Heresy-Peleg (Vol III, ed. James Orr; USA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2002), 1997-1998.

[19] For more information on concubinage, see Bower and Knapp, “Marriage,” in Bromiley, The International Bible Encyclopedia, 263.

[20] But despite the various practice of polygyny, concubinage, and levirate marriage and other forms of marriage or means of procreating male children that was practiced in Israel, the “most general and acceptable form of marriage was monogamy, which received the sanction of the Mosaic Law (cf. Exod 20:17; 21:5; Deut 5:21).” Hazel W. Perkin, “Marriage,” in New International Bible Dictionary (eds. J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1987), 625.

[21] J. S. Wright and J. A. Thompson opine that, “the levirate custom is found among other peoples besides the Hebrews” J. S. Wright and J. A. Thompson “Marriage,” in New Bible Dictionary (2nd ed., ed. J. D Douglas; Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1982), 745. The practice of the levirate custom is the same in Nigeria. Kore observes that the customary marriage, “is performed under the native law and customs…. is either polygynous or polygamous. In this system, with the knowledge and approval of the community, wives cannot inherit the husband’s property if he dies since the relatives of their late husbands can also inherit the widows themselves.” Kore, Culture and the Christian Home, 37.

[22] See Deut 25:5-10; Matt 22:24; Ruth 4:5; Gen 38:6.

[23] This does not mean that parents care more about family alliance at the expense of their children’s happiness. Marriage in the Jewish context is not a union between the intending couples alone; it is also a union with their families. So each parent take time to choose a bride for their son from a family or clan that is friendly, and not known for any abominable or taboo practices. This helps in preventing curses on their family. Ralph Gower posits that, “the practice of arranging marriages did not mean that parents did not consider the feelings of their children (Gen 24:58), or that love did not sometimes happen before marriage (Gen 29:10-20).” Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2005), 60.

[24] Perkin, “Marriage,” in Douglas and Tenney, New International Bible Dictionary, 624.

[25] Betrothal in the Jewish setting, just like but more binding than engagement or traditional wedding in the Nigerian context, is a formal contract or engagement of a man and a woman who are planning to get married. Gower posits that, “once the arrangement to marry was entered into, there was a betrothal that was more binding than the engagement in contemporary society.” Gower, The New Manners, 62.The betrothal is the major step preceding marriage. Through it, a wife can be acquired through money, written deed or cohabitation. The common and prevalent practice is through money. The money can be in cash or kind (through the giving of a gold ring to the future bride by the future groom). A feast accompanies the act of betrothal. During the feast, the future groom places a ring on the finger of the future bride and states: “behold thou art consecrated to me by this ring according to the Law of Moses and Israel.” Dan Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism and Christianity (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991), 96. During the feast also, probably after the presentation of the ring, two benedictions are recited. Dan Cohn-Sherbok notes that the benedictions alongside the marriage rites, “stress the religious nature of the marriage bond, thank God for the joys of the marriage state, and include prayers for the happiness of bride and groom and the restoration of Israel.” Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism, 96.The future groom accompanies his oaths of betrothal with a gift. This gift is called the mohar. R.K. Bower and G.L. Knapp observe that “the mohar or the ‘marriage present’ is one of the three types of gifts in betrothals. This gift is “given by the bridegroom to the bride’s family… the payment of the mohar was a form of compensation and constituted a betrothal because it sealed the covenant between the two families. The payment or gift may have been in the form of money, service (such as Jacob provided, Genesis 29), or other consideration (1 Samuel 18:25, cf. Joshua 15:16).” Bower and Knapp, “Marriage” in Bromiley, The International Bible Encyclopedia, 264. The other two types of gifts in betrothals are the dowry (the payment of cash or kind by the groom to the bride’s father; and the presentation of gifts to the bride by her father). From the time of betrothal, the betrothed are regarded as husband and wife, and the betrothed’s parents refer to them as son-in-law and daughter-in-law (Gen 19:14). Perkin observes that this custom “enhanced the concept of family solidarity”. Perkin, “Marriage,” in Douglas and Tenney, New International Bible Dictionary, 626. During this period, there will be no sexual relations between the betrothed and the intending bride continues to stay at her father’s residence until the marriage ceremony nissuim is performed. The groom is exempted from military service (Deut 24:5). Any form of unfaithfulness leads to divorce and death penalty (Deut 22:23-27), if the future bride is raped, she could not be the wife of the rapist, because she already belonged to her husband-to-be (Deut 22:28-29). Gower posits that “betrothal lasted for about 12 months, during which the home was to be prepared by the groom, and the wedding clothes would be prepared by the bride. The bride’s family would prepare for the wedding festivities.” Gower, The New Manners, 62.

[26] Perkin, “Marriage,” in Douglas and Tenney, New International Bible Dictionary, 626.

[27] Gower, The New Manners, 60-62.

[28] Gower, The New Manners, 60.

[29] The value of the bride here means the virginity, health, reputation and dignity (those with special vows to God) of the bride and her suitability for the marriage. The dowry for a virgin doubles that of a widow or a divorced woman. The social and economic position of her family is considered part of the bride’s value. That is why most parents arranging a bride for their sons considered the social position of the bride’s family as that determines the amount payable to the bride’s family.

[30] Circumcision is a very essential requirement before marriage. This was done as an initiation rite into the covenant nation of Israel. It occurs on the eight day after a male child is born (Lev 12:3). Any family who fails to circumcise their son(s) is considered removed from God’s covenantal blessings. Any male entering the Jewish community through marriage must be circumcised (Gen 34:14-19).

[31] Every male Jew enters into manhood at age 13. This implies that a male at 13 is a man, so he can take care of himself, and probably, can carter for a wife. Gower observes that “the Jewish boy was recognized as entering manhood at thirteen years of age, but it is not certain when this practice began. By New Testament times a boy of thirteen became a ‘son of the law’. … it was the last time he would attend Passover as a child. Only after age thirteen did the child qualify to become one of the ten men who could constitute a synagogue.” Gower, The New Manners, 60.

[32] Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism, 96-98.

[33] During the patriarchal age, the interval between the rites of betrothal and the marriage rites was a few days. But later, it was increased to twelve months for virgins and a month for widows. The interval allows the future groom to prepare where he will keep his bride and the bride was to use the interval to prepare her wedding clothes and her family to prepare for the wedding feast. But no intercourse is permitted until after the marriage rites were taken. Gower, The New Manners, 62.

[34] Marriage rites in Hebrew tradition are done on days free of national and religious activities. Cohn-Sherbok observes that, “according to tradition, weddings are not allowed to take place on Sabbath, holy days, or during times associated with memories of national tragedies (such as the three weeks ending with 9 Av and the period of counting omer: the sheaf cut in the barley harvest).” Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism, 97.

[35] Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism, 96.

[36] Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism, 96.

[37] Jewish religious communities recognize civil marriages as valid marriages, but in regards to divorce, it does not accept a civil divorce as valid. Any person remarrying after divorce must be granted a religious divorce under the Jewish law. Whereas Reform Judaism accepts the grant of civil divorce as divorce without requiring any religious divorce. Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism, 97.

[38] For forbidden consanguineous and affinity relationships, see Bower and Knapp, “Marriage” in Bromiley, The International Bible Encyclopedia, 264, and Lev. 18:6-18, 20:10-21.

[39] Cohn-Sherbok observes some of the stipulated conditions “such as the couple joining the congregation, raising children as Jews, etc.” Cohn-Sherbok, A Dictionary of Judaism, 96.

[40] Margaret Chinyere Onokah, Family Law (Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum Books Ltd, 2007), 165.

[41] Onokah outlines the grounds or circumstances for the dissolution of a customary law marriage in Nigeria as adultery, cruelty, sterility of either spouse or impotence of the man; a husband’s failure to maintain wife and children, desertion, addiction to crime, and lack of respect. Onokah, Family Law, 171-173.

[42] Customary law marriage in Nigeria is dissolved in two modes: the extra-judicial mode and the judicial mode. The major essential for the dissolution of a customary law marriage in Nigeria through the extra-judicial mode is the dissolution of the marriage by the bilateral families after a failed reconciliation process and the refunding of the marriage symbol by the bride’s family. Onokah submits that, “the unilateral act of one party, and especially of the wife, cannot bring about a divorce. The families of the two spouses participate in divorce proceedings, as they did in contracting the marriage. The family of the wife can also initiate the termination of their daughter’s marriage. In such a situation, they would have obtained the consent of their daughter. They initiate the divorce by withdrawing her from her husband’s home, and refunding the marriage symbol. However, if she withholds her consent by refusing to leave her matrimonial home, their refund of the marriage symbol will have no effect whatever on the marriage. Members of the husband’s family lack the right to directly initiate their son’s divorce, but can indirectly induce their son to start divorce action against his wife.” Onokah, Family Law, 165. The judicial mode of the dissolution of customary law marriage is “effected in a single stage that is, by the courts pronouncing the marriage dissolved, irrespective of when the marriage symbol is refunded.” Onokah, Family Law, 171.

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Understanding the Biblical Concept of Marriage as a Remedy for the Rampant Break-Down of Christian Marriage in Contemporary Nigerian Society
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Longji Ayuba Dachal (Author), 2013, Understanding the Biblical Concept of Marriage as a Remedy for the Rampant Break-Down of Christian Marriage in Contemporary Nigerian Society, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/344357


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