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Verse 24

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother - There shall be, by the order of God, a more intimate connection formed between the man and woman, than can subsist even between parents and children.

And they shall be one flesh - These words may be understood in a twofold sense.

  1. These two shall be one flesh, shall be considered as one body, having no separate or independent rights, privileges, cares, concerns, etc., each being equally interested in all things that concern the marriage state.
  2. These two shall be for the production of one flesh; from their union a posterity shall spring, as exactly resembling themselves as they do each other.
Our Lord quotes these words, Matthew 19:5 , with some variation from this text: They Twain shall be one flesh. So in Mark 10:8 . St. Paul quotes in the same way, 1 Corinthians 6:16 , and in Ephesians 5:31 . The Vulgate Latin, the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Samaritan, all read the word Two. That this is the genuine reading I have no doubt. The word שניהם sheneyhem , they two or both of them, was, I suppose, omitted at first from the Hebrew text, by mistake, because it occurs three words after in the following verse, or more probably it originally occurred in Genesis 2:24 , and not in Genesis 2:25 ; and a copyist having found that he had written it twice, in correcting his copy, struck out the word in Genesis 2:24 ; instead of Genesis 2:25 . But of what consequence is it? In the controversy concerning polygamy, it has been made of very great consequence. Without the word, some have contended a man may have as many wives as he chooses, as the terms are indefinite, They shall be, etc., but with the word, marriage is restricted. A man can have in legal wedlock but One wife at the same time.

We have here the first institution of marriage, and we see in it several particulars worthy of our most serious regard.

  1. God pronounces the state of celibacy to be a bad state, or, if the reader please, not a good one; and the Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone. This is God's judgment. Councils, and fathers, and doctors, and synods, have given a different judgment; but on such a subject they are worthy of no attention. The word of God abideth for ever.
  2. God made the woman for the man, and thus he has shown us that every son of Adam should be united to a daughter of Eve to the end of the world. See on 1 Corinthians 7:3 ; (note). God made the woman out of the man, to intimate that the closest union, and the most affectionate attachment, should subsist in the matrimonial connection, so that the man should ever consider and treat the woman as a part of himself: and as no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and supports it, so should a man deal with his wife; and on the other hand the woman should consider that the man was not made for her, but that she was made for the man, and derived, under God, her being from him; therefore the wife should see that she reverence her husband, Ephesians 5:33 .
Genesis 2:23 , Genesis 2:24 ; contain the very words of the marriage ceremony: This is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone, therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. How happy must such a state be where God's institution is properly regarded, where the parties are married, as the apostle expresses it, in the Lord; where each, by acts of the tenderest kindness, lives only to prevent the wishes and contribute in every possible way to the comfort and happiness of the other! Marriage might still be what it was in its original institution, pure and suitable; and in its first exercise, affectionate and happy; but how few such marriages are there to be found! Passion, turbulent and irregular, not religion; custom, founded by these irregularities, not reason; worldly prospects, originating and ending in selfishness and earthly affections, not in spiritual ends, are the grand producing causes of the great majority of matrimonial alliances. How then can such turbid and bitter fountains send forth pure and sweet waters? See the ancient allegory of Cupid and Psyche, by which marriage is so happily illustrated, explained in the notes on Matthew 19:4-6 .

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