What Makes a Marriage Covenant

A common myth is that sex equals marriage. While sex consummates or completes an existing covenant, sex alone does not create a marriage. We see throughout the scripture that a covenant of marriage is what makes a couple husband and wife. Joseph and Mary in Matthew 1:18-24 are called husband and wife before they ever have sex. The Torah uses the same type of terminology in Deuteronomy 20:7 and 22:23-24 calling unconsummated, but covenanted, couples husband and wife. One of the clearest passages showing that sex does not create a marriage is in Exodus 22:16-17 which allows a woman's father to refuse to give her in marriage even after consensual sex has taken place. Even Yeshua's quote of Genesis in Matthew 19:5, "and they twain shall be one flesh" is in context of "he shall cleave to his wife" showing that something before the sex/one flesh relationship is what originally made them husband and wife. As we see in Malachi 2:14 that "something" is a covenant that Yahweh, even if no one else, witnessed.
Outside of a valid, mutual marriage agreement (covenant), sex is either fornication or adultery; not the honorable bed of marriage, see Hebrews 13:4.

So what is it that makes a marriage covenant or, more specifically, what is the symbol or seal of a marriage covenant? Is it, as many assert, the act of intercourse that makes the covenant between husband and wife? “Blood is required to make a covenant,” people say and maintain that therefore the virgin’s bleeding when her hymen is broken is the marital covenant. We find this teaching not only faulty but disturbing. Yes, in His covenant with us Yeshua paid for His bride with His own blood. HIS blood, not his bride’s. In the Bible, virgin blood is used to prove virginity, not marriage. Women who entered marriage as non-virgins (Rahab, Ruth, Abigail) were no less married. A man can convince a virgin to have intercourse, but that is called fornication, not marriage. Only when something has previously taken place, and the woman is his lawful wife, is physical joining marriage and not a sin. That "something" was the marriage covenant.

So what does make a marriage covenant? Like God's covenants being made when He speaks, we believe it is formed when the couple speaks. A simple declaration that they are husband and wife, even with no further ceremony or tokens will do. A bride price is definitely part of the betrothal process, but what a bride price indicates is the agreement between the bridegroom and the woman’s father. It confirms that her father gives her in marriage instead of refusing the match. When it comes to covenants between humans in general, we find a variety of seals and symbols being used in the Bible, but the most predominant one is sharing of food.* In Yeshua’s covenant ceremony, the sign of the covenant is eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). Even in other covenants made with God, the offering is sprinkled with salt and God “consumes” it as food (Leviticus 3:11,16). From the examples in scripture we find that a covenant consists of the promise or promises made and was often sealed by eating the other party's food. A betrothal/marital covenant, is no different.

*Genesis 26: 28-31, Genesis 31:44-46, Joshua 9:11-20, Obediah 1:7

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About the Author

JoshuaAndLeila's picture

Joshua and Leila got betrothed and married in 2012. They love being married and raising their six children.  In their spare time, they enjoy advising and encouraging singles and their families.