What the Bible Teaches about God's Purpose for our
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2018 F. Wayne Mac Leod
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Title Page
1 - The Creation of Man, Woman and Marriage
2 - Marriage, Sexuality
and the Fall
3 - One Flesh
4 - Old Testament Uncleanness and Sexual Relations
5 - Levirate Marriages
and Polygamy
6 - Concubines and
Surrogate Relationships
7 - Adultery
8 - Prostitution
9 - Premarital Sex
10 - Non-Consensual Sex
11 - Incest
12 - Homosexuality
13 - Transgenderism
14 - Pornography, Lust and Modesty
15 - Celibacy
16 - Sexual Desire in Marriage
17 - Temptations and Forgiveness
About The Author
t is never easy to write about such a private matter as human sexuality.
I must admit that when the Lord put this on my heart, I struggled to
commit to the topic. I have written this study, however, not only under
the leading of the Lord, but because, as I watched what is happening around
me, I felt it was time for the church to be reminded of God’s purpose for our
I recognize that what the Bible says on this topic is not popular. In fact, I
could find myself in trouble by teaching what the Bible has to say about
some of the issues covered in this study. It is my conviction, however, that
the Bible is our standard for life and practice. Those who claim the name of
Christ are called to live by the standards presented in this Word.
This is a survey of what the Bible teaches about human sexuality. My
purpose is to lay out, in a compassionate way, what the Bible has to say
about this important part of life. My prayer is that this effort will be a means
of healing for some and a warning for others. I trust it will be a means by
which God will speak to the lives and hearts of those who have been
influenced by what our society is telling us. More than anything, however, I
trust it will be a means by which the Spirit of God will reveal the purpose of
God for a healthy and godly sexuality so that we again may know the
fullness of His presence and blessing on our lives and society.
- F. Wayne Mac Leod
s we engage in this delicate topic, let’s begin in Genesis with the
story of creation.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and
over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on
the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the
image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1)
It is important to examine the Hebrew words used in Genesis 1. Notice in
verse 26 that God determined to make “man” in His own image. The word
used for “man” is the Hebrew word adam from which we get the name of
the first man. The word adam in the Hebrew language can refer to a man
but it is often used to speak of humans in general whether they be male or
female. In other words, Genesis 1:26 tells us that God decided to create
human beings in His likeness.
Notice also in verse 27 that two kinds of humans were created. God created
males and females. The word used for male in this verse is the Hebrew
word zakar which clearly indicates a masculine gender. Unlike the word
adam which may refer to male or female, zakar refers only to a male human
or animal. The word used for female in Genesis 1:27 is also very exclusive.
The word neqebah refers only to a female gender, whether human or
Notice also in Genesis 1:28 that God not only created both male and
female, but it was His intention that they be fruitful and multiply on the
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful
and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have
dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the
heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
To fulfil this purpose, both a male and female sex was required. God could
have caused the earth to be populated in any number of ways, but this was
His choice. The sexual union between a man and woman would be God’s
chosen method.
Genesis 1:31 tells us that when God examined the man and the woman he
had made and His plan for the population of the earth, He proclaimed that
everything was “very good.”
31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it
was very good. And there was evening and there was morning,
the sixth day. (Genesis 1)
In other words, it was exactly as He intended. Man, woman and the sexual
union between them was holy and acceptable to Him –it was very good and
would serve to accomplish His purpose for the population of the earth.
The creation of man and woman was so significant that Genesis 2 takes the
time to go into further detail. Before the creation of woman, Adam, the first
man, walked in the presence of God in the Garden of Eden. There in that
garden, God placed animals of all kinds. In Genesis 2:18, however, we read:
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should
be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2)
Commenting on this, Jamieson, Faussett and Brown state:
It was not good for the man to be alone –in the midst of plenty
and delights, he was conscious of feelings he could not gratify.
(Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R.; Brown, David; Commentary
Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible: Laridian, 1871.
Comments on Genesis 2:18)
What is significant is that Adam, although he lived in the presence of God,
still felt an emptiness in his heart. He was created with the need for a
human helper and companion. God created him with this need. God also
knew exactly what man needed to fill that need.
God determined that He would make a “helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).
God decided to create a companion who was a perfect fit for Adam. She
would be the solution to his loneliness.
It is important we understand that while Genesis 1 speaks about male and
female being created with the purpose of multiplying and filling the earth,
Genesis 2 speaks to this matter of Adam being “alone” and needing a
companion or helper. The Hebrew word for helper used here is the word
ezer which speaks of aid or assistance “whether material or immaterial”
(Baker, Warren; Carpenter, Eugene, AMG Word Study Dictionary, “Ezer
h5828”, Cedar Rapids, Laridian).
The word “helper” therefore, does not just refer to the work that Adam had
to do in the garden. Adam’s needs were both “material” and “immaterial”.
In other words, he needed help in the practical matters of caring for the
garden but also to deal with his loneliness. His needs were both physical
and emotional in nature.
Genesis 2 goes on to tell us how God resolved Adam’s need.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man,
and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place
with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the
man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
(Genesis 2)
From Adam’s rib, God created a woman. What is significant is the Hebrew
word used in verse 22 for woman. The word issah can refer to a woman but
more specifically to a wife. Notice also from verse 22 that the Lord God
brought this woman (wife) to Adam. In other words, God presented Adam
with a wife, who would be a helper to him and companion to him in his
aloneness. This woman was God’s response to Adam’s need. She was
created from him and for him particularly.
Woman and man were created for each other. The fact that God presented
them to each other shows us that this was His purpose for their lives. They
would minister to each others needs (material and immaterial) and through
them the earth would be populated.
Notice the response of Adam when God presented him with a wife:
23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2)
Adam recognized that there was a very deep connection between himself
and the wife God had given him. She came from him. Unlike the animals
around him, the woman was part of him. She shared his nature. Through
physically different from him, she was a perfect partner. He called her
“woman” using the Hebrew term issah (wife) indicating the special
relationship he had with her.
Adam would go on in verse 24 to speak a prophetic word revealing the
purpose of God for marriage.
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and
hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Adam declares that a man would leave his parents and hold fast or be joined
to his wife. The word Adam uses for “man” here is the Hebrew word iys
which refers to a male but more specifically to a husband. The word is
exclusively used for males. Adam is declaring here that a male husband
would leave his father and mother and be joined together with his female
wife. This is the clear meaning of the verse and the words used in this verse.
Adam’s words are prophetic in the sense that they proclaim the intention
and purpose of God for marriage. Biblical marriage, as instituted by God in
Genesis, is the union of a man and a woman.
For Consideration:
Why did God create both males and females?
Was the creation of males and females only to populate the earth?
God recognized that it was not good for man to be alone. Have you ever felt
alone? What are some needs that being alone creates?
Why is Adam’s statement in Genesis 2:24 significant? What does it tell us
about the purpose of God for marriage?
If you are married, have you been the helper God intends you to be for your
For Prayer:
Take a moment to thank the Lord that He understands our needs and is
willing to minister to us in those needs.
If you are married ask the Lord to help you to be the partner He intended
you to be for your husband or wife.
Ask the Lord to help us as a society and as believers to be true to Him and
His purpose for marriage.
n the last chapter, we saw how God presented the first man with a
wife. As we move to Genesis 3, we read about the fall of this first
couple into sin. In the garden where they lived, was a tree with fruit
that God had forbidden them to eat. Also, in that garden was their great
enemy Satan. Disguising, himself as a serpent, Satan tempted Eve to eat
from that forbidden tree. She surrendered to his temptations and disobeyed
the command of God. She brought the fruit of the tree to her husband and
he also ate and disobeyed the direct command of God (see Genesis 3:1-6).
This sin against God would change everything for Adam and Eve. Their
relationship with the Creator and with each other would never again be the
same. From that point forward, every couple born into this world would
suffer the effects of sin in their personal lives and relationships. The perfect
relationship this first couple enjoyed in those early days would be no longer.
Like an ugly disease, sin would ravage their marriage. Let’s take a moment
to consider the effects of sin on the relationship this first couple enjoyed.
In Genesis 3:7 we read:
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they
were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made
themselves loincloths.
It is striking that with the entrance of sin, one of the first things this first
couple noticed was that they were naked. This was not new. From what we
understand, they had been naked from the time of their creation and this
was never an issue for them. With the entrance of sin, however, their
nakedness became a problem. In fact, we read in Genesis 3:7 that their
response was to sew fig leaves to hide their private parts from each other.
Something changed the day sin entered the world. We are left to wonder
what it was that caused this change of perspective.
The answer to this question comes in Genesis 3:10. Adam and Eve heard
God walking in the garden. Genesis 3:8 tells us that their response was to
hide from Him. God called out to them in Genesis 3:9 and asked them were
they were. Listen to the response of Adam:
10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I
was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Notice what Adam told God. He hid because he was afraid. He was afraid
because he was naked. That day, Adam and Eve experienced something
they had never experienced before. They were afraid. Sin brought fear. Like
a flood, evil thoughts and attitudes filled their mind and heart. As the
presence of God approached, they were terrified to reveal themselves to
Him. Shame filled their hearts. This shame was because they had
disobeyed. It was also because they were no longer the same and their
relationship with God was affected. Now as they stood naked and exposed
before God, all they could experience was the distance that now separated
them. This brought deep shame and fear.
This fear was not just of God but also of each other. They covered
themselves and distanced themselves from each other. Innocence was gone.
They were ashamed of what they had become. They were ashamed of their
thoughts, attitudes and intentions. They did whatever they could to hide this
from God and from each other.
I suppose we have become so accustomed to our sinful thoughts and desires
that we have a hard time understanding true innocence and integrity. Only
in heaven will we understand the freedom from sin and its effect on our
relationships with each other. We can only imagine at present what it will be
like to serve and relate to God and to our brothers and sisters when sin no
longer stands between us. Suffice it to say that sin devastated the pure and
holy relationship between husband and wife.
Evidence of the effects of sin is seen not only in how they feared each other
and covered themselves but also in how they responded to each other. When
God asked them how they knew they were naked, Adam responded:
12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me,
she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Adam does not take personal responsibility for what happened that day. He
blames God for giving him this broken woman and he blames his wife for
deceiving him. Eve, on her part, blames Satan for deceiving her (see
Genesis 3:13). No one takes the blame. No one confesses their sin or
repents. Instead, they justify their actions and cast blame on each other. In
this we see how sin caused them to become self-centred and self-
preserving. There is no recognition of sin. There is no seeking forgiveness
from God or each other. There are only excuses and an attempt to deflect
Notice the punishment of God for this sin. God told Adam and Eve that
they would experience pain in their daily routines. The earth would no
longer produce its crops without painful toil on Adam’s part. Eve would
bear children in pain. The lives of these couple would become difficult and
they would have to make their living by hard work. Their relationship
would be strained not only because of sin in their lives but also because of
the curse of God on the land.
Of significance to us is what God told Eve in Genesis 3:16 about her
relationship with her husband:
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3)
Notice the phrase “your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he
shall rule over you.” This phrase is translated differently in the various
versions of the Bible:
The King James version of the Bible translates:
“And thy desire shall be to thy husband,
And he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16, KJV)
Notice that the words “shall be” are in italic to indicate that these words are
not in the original Hebrew but are required to make sense in the English
translation. The New King James and the New International Version
translates this in the same way with the words “shall be” in italics. This
means then that the original text reads “your desire to/for your husband”.
The New Living Translation reads as follows:
“And through your desire will be for your husband, he will be
your master” (Genesis 3:16)
This translation adds a note to the verse for an alternative reading:
“And though you may desire to control your husband, he will
be your master.” (Genesis 3:16, NLT)
What is Genesis 3:16 saying? The answer seems to lie in our understanding
of the word “desire” in this context. The Hebrew word for desire is
teshuqah”. It occurs only three times in the Old Testament. The AMG
Word Study Dictionary defines this word as follows:
A feminine noun meaning longing. It is used to describe strong
feelings of desire that one person had for another, but it was not
always healthy desire. (Baker, Warren; Carpenter, Eugene,
“8669 tesugah” AMG Word Study Dictionary, Cedar Rapids:
What is important for us to note here is that the desire that this word
describes is not always a healthy desire. This word only occurs two other
times in the Old Testament. In Song of Solomon 7:10 we read:
10 I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me. (Song of Solomon 7)
In this context the desire spoken of is of a positive nature. Her beloved
longed for her and desired to be with her expressing his tender affections
toward her.
The only other use of the word “teshugah” is found in Genesis 4:7:
7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do
well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you,
but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 7)
Here God is speaking to Cain who was experiencing tremendous jealousy
and anger over the fact that God had rejected his offering while accepting
the offering of his brother. God warned Cain that sin was at his door with its
desire was for him. The desire of this sin was to make him fall. In fact, Cain
gave into the desire of sin and killed his brother despite the warning of God.
In the context of Genesis 3 and the entrance of sin into the world, God tells
Eve that she would have a desire toward her husband. This desire would not
be a perfect desire. It would be stained by the sin that she was now
experiencing in her life.
God also told Eve that day that her husband would rule over her. Remember
again the context. In as much as Eve’s desire would be tarnished by sin so
would Adam’s rule over his wife. Desire and authority have been tarnished
by sin and now enters their relationship. They now compete for control. The
loss of innocence and the entrance of self-centredness and pride had a
devastating effect on the relationship of this couple. Their broken
relationship with God crushed the union they once had.
This sin would become the source of many problem and temptations for the
lives of this couple and all who would follow them. With the entrance of sin
into the world, Satan did his utmost to pervert God’s intention for the union
of this first couple. If we are to understand God’s intention for sexuality, we
must also understand that we are living in a world that has fallen into sin.
God’s purpose has been perverted by sin and Satan. If we are to experience
the unity that God intended, we must first deal with the sin that now stand
between us.
For Consideration:
What was the effect of sin on the mind and heart of Adam and Eve?
Why did Adam and Eve need to cover themselves when sin entered the
world? What does this tell us about the effect of sin on their lives and their
Consider the effect of sin on your relationship with your husband or wife.
How does sin keep you from experiencing what God has intended for you?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to ask the Lord to reveal any sin in your relationship that
makes you hid yourself or withdraw yourself from your partner.
Thank the Lord that while sin does come between us as husbands and
wives, there is victory in the Lord Jesus?
Ask the Lord to help you to deal with the sin that would keep you from God
and from experiencing what God intended with your partner in marriage.
hen sin entered the world, the relationship between God and
His creation was tarnished. Sin also had a profound affect on
the relationship between man and his wife. In this chapter I
would like to return to a statement made by Adam in Genesis 2:24 about
marriage and the intentions of God for a Biblical marriage:
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold
fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2)
These words were spoken by Adam when God presented him with his wife.
They are prophetic in nature and speak about the purpose of God for a
husband and wife. There are three details I want to examine in this passage.
Notice first, that Adam tells us that a man would leave his father and
mother. This leaving is more than moving out. The idea here is that he
would leave his parent’s home to establish his own. He would take on the
responsibility of providing for his own needs and those of a new family. He
would become the head of a new household with all the obligations that
came with this new position.
Second, this husband would take a wife and hold fast to her. The Hebrew
word used for “hold fast” carries with it the idea of joining or staying with
his wife. There is deep commitment in this word. He would join with his
wife for life. He would stick with her through the difficult times. He would
never leave her but remain with her as a provider and care giver.
Finally, it is in this context of leaving parents and holding fast to each other
that Adam tells us that this couple would become one flesh. The one flesh
relationship would thrive only under these conditions. Both partners would
have to leave their father and mother or any relationship that would come
between them. They would make it their commitment to remain faithful to
each other and hold fast to each other no matter what happened.
This union between a man and his wife is blessed by God. The prophet
Malachi tells us:
15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in
their union (Malachi 2)
What Malachi is telling us is that the blessing of God is on the couple who
leave all others and commit themselves to each other. For an agreement to
become binding, it often needs an official seal or signature. This is what is
happening here. God makes the agreement between the husband and the
wife official by blessing the union with a “portion of the Spirit.” The Spirit
given to this couple not only blesses the union but also empowers it to be all
that God has desired it to become. The Spirit of God gives wisdom and
strength for the couple to live together as husband and wife under the
blessing of God.
From this blessing onward, God recognizes the union of this couple. Mark
10:8 tells us:
8 and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two
but one flesh (Mark 10)
In God’s eyes, this couple has been joined to work and function as one.
Every decision one partner made will affect the other. They will work
together in the raising of a family. They will compliment each other and
minister to each others needs.
The apostle Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Corinthians 7:
4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but
the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have
authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians
In an age of rebellion against authority, this statement is hard to accept.
What we need to understand, however, is that marriage is a surrender of
husband and wife to each other. While the immediate context of 1
Corinthians 7 is that of a sexual relationship, the application of this
principle goes much deeper than this. The apostle Paul went on to say:
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is
anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33
But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to
please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the
unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of
the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married
woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her
husband. (1 Corinthians 7)
Consider what Paul told the Corinthians in verse 33. The married man is
anxious about how to please his wife. This means that he is aware that his
wife has the right to expect that his efforts and concerns be for her. She has
the right to expect that when she is in need, he will reach out to her in that
need. His strength is at her disposal. His concern is for her. He will devote
time to her. He will use his resources to provide for her. What is true for the
husband is also true for the wife. She gives herself body, mind and heart to
care for him in his need. God expected that when the man left his family
and held fast to his wife, he would care for her with selfless devotion. Both
would see the needs of their partner as being as important as their own
needs. Writing to the Philippians the apostle Paul would say:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility
count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you
look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of
others. (Philippians 2)
If this is Paul’s expectation for believers in the church, how much more
should this be true for those whom God has declared to be one flesh? The
enemy to a one flesh relationship is self-centredness and independent pride.
All too many marriages have failed at this point. Instead of giving ourselves
to the needs of our partners, we expect them to serve our needs. The starting
point should never be my rights and needs but my partners. If your body is
not your own, then you have an obligation to use is for the good and well-
being of your partner.
Paul would explain this further in Ephesians 5 when is said:
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their
own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one
ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as
Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold
fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
(Ephesians 5)
Paul told the Ephesians that the husband should love the wife as his own
body. Because they are one flesh before God, they need to live as such. If a
husband loves his wife, he loves himself because she is part of him. How do
we love ourselves? When we are hungry we find food to eat. When we are
tired we lay down to rest. We care for our bodies and do whatever we can to
meet their needs. The apostle is challenging men to care for their wives as
they would care for their own bodies.
God intends that the husband and wife be one flesh. If we understand this
truly we will not see ourselves as separate from our partner but as one with
him or her. We will reach out to minister to their needs and care for them as
we would care for ourselves.
There is a world of difference between selfishness and being one flesh. The
selfish person is concerned only for themselves. In fact, he or she may use
their relationship to advance their own cause or meet their personal needs
and have no concern for their partner. Being one flesh, on the other hand,
recognizes the need of my partner and actively seeks his or her well-being.
Being one flesh means valuing one’s partner. It understands that when my
partner suffers, I suffer also. When my partner thrives, I am most happy.
When my partner is in pain I am in pain and will do all I can to minister to
that pain. Being one flesh means protecting and nurturing my partner for in
doing so I am caring for myself as well.
Adam’s prophetic words in Genesis 2:24 are the basis for human sexuality.
It is in this content of oneness, mutual concern and commitment that this
relationship is to flourish. It is an exclusive relationship between a husband
and a wife who care for each other and commit themselves to minister to
each not only in the context of a sexual relationship but also in every aspect
of their lives together.
For Consideration:
What does Genesis 2:24 teach us about the purpose of God for marriage
between a man and a woman.
Malachi 2:15 tells us that God placed a portion of His Spirit on the one-
flesh relationship between a husband and wife. What does this teach us
about God’s view of this relationship?
What does Paul mean when he says that in a one-flesh relationship the
partners do not have exclusive rights to their own bodies? What is the
implication of this in the relationship of a married couple?
What is the difference between being one-flesh and being selfish and self-
centred? How is selfishness an enemy to a one-flesh relationship?
How does a Biblical one-flesh relationship provide a safe environment for a
sexual relationship and any children that might come from that
relationship? How does it provide for the well-being of a couple in general?
For Prayer:
If you are married, ask the Lord to show you if you have truly left all others
to hold fast to your partner? Ask God to show you if there is anything that
stands between you as a couple.
Thank the Lord that He has placed His blessing on your marriage in the
person of the Holy Spirit who comes to empower and enable you to live in a
one-flesh relationship.
Ask the Spirit of God to have full control of your marriage and to teach you
how to consider the needs of your partner as your own. Ask Him to open
your eyes to the needs of your partner. Ask Him to give you wisdom and
strength to minister to those needs.
Ask the Lord to break any independent spirit that would keep you from
being one with your partner. Ask Him to help you to grow in His purpose
for you to be one-flesh in all that you do.
s we continue our examination of what the Bible teaches about
sexuality we come across some verses in Leviticus that seem to
be somewhat perplexing.
16 “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his
whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. 17 And
every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall
be washed with water and be unclean until the evening. 18 If a
man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of
them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the
evening. (Leviticus 15)
From what we have seen so far, God gave Eve to Adam to be his wife. It
was His intention that they multiply and fill the earth. A sexual relationship
was the means He ordained for this to take place. God blessed the union of
this first couple. From Malachi 2:15 we saw that God places a portion of
His Spirit on the union of a husband and wife in marriage. It comes as a
surprise to us, therefore, that we read in Leviticus 15:18 that by engaging in
the sexual act, the husband and wife would become unclean before God.
The Law of Moses would go even further than this. Listen to the command
of God to the priests of Moses’ day:
3 Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your
generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel
dedicate to the Lord, while he has an uncleanness, that person
shall be cut off from my presence: I am the Lord. 4 None of the
offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge
may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches
anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a
man who has had an emission of semen, 5 and whoever touches
a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a
person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his
uncleanness may be— 6 the person who touches such a thing
shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy
things unless he has bathed his body in water.
What is significant here for us to see is that according to verse 4 if a priest
had an emission of semen, he was forbidden to approach the holy things of
God. He was unclean and could not perform his duties. If he disregarded
this command of God, he was to be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Instead, he was to bath himself and remain unclean until the evening. Only
then could he return to his duties.
1 Samuel 21 tells the story of how David was forced to flee from King Saul
who sought to kill him. Because he had to leave in haste, he did not have
time to pack for his journey. Arriving in the town of Nob, David went to see
Ahimelech the priest. He asked the priest for food for him and his men.
Ahimelech did not have anything to offer him but the holy bread that was
on the table before the Lord. Listen to the account of this incident in 1
Samuel 21:4-6:
4 And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on
hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept
themselves from women.” 5 And David answered the priest,
“Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on
an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when
it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their
vessels be holy?” 6 So the priest gave him the holy bread, for
there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is
removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on
the day it is taken away.
Notice what is happening in this story. Ahimelech understood the Law of
Moses that stated that no priest who had an emission of semen was
permitted to touch the holy things of God. Out of compassion for David and
his men, the priest was willing to offer this bread to them on one condition
–they had to guarantee that none of them had had a sexual relationship with
a woman that day. Only after being assured that none of these men were
unclean through sexual activity, did the priest surrender this bread.
What is equally as significant in this passage is the response of David to the
priest in verse 5. When asked if the men had engaged in any sexual activity
that day, David responded:
5 … “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go
on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even
when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their
vessels be holy?” (1 Samuel 21)
David tells us that women were kept from the army on every expedition
they undertook. In other words, David’s men would not make themselves
unclean through sexual activity when they were engaging in war against the
enemy. The idea here is that they were to remain clean before the Lord
when they went to battle.
This practice is confirmed in Deuteronomy 23 where we read:
9 “When you are encamped against your enemies, then you
shall keep yourself from every evil thing. 10 “If any man among
you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he
shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp,
11 but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and
as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp. (Deuteronomy
If a soldier had an emission of semen while he slept, he was to leave the
camp, bathe himself, and only return in the evening. The idea here is that
this emission of semen would make him unclean and his presence in the
camp could hinder the blessing of God on the army.
In Exodus 19 we read how the Lord descended on Mount Sinai in the
presence of the people of Israel. To prepare the people for this presence,
Moses consecrated the people. Listen to the words of Exodus 19:14-15:
14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and
consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15
And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not
go near a woman.” (Exodus 19)
The command of Moses was very clear. The Lord is going to descend on
this mountain in three days. Because the Lord was going to make His
presence known in their midst, they were not to engage in any sexual
activity, making themselves unclean before Him.
While not as clear, the words of Joel seem to convey this same principle.
Calling for a confession of sin and a fast of repentance the prophet says:
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16 gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2)
According to Joel 2:16 the people were to be consecrated. One of the
requirements of this consecration was that “the bridegroom was to leave his
room, and the bride her chamber.” In other words, they were to cease their
sexual activity for this period of fasting. They were not to make themselves
unclean by having a sexual relationship with their husband or wife during
this time of seeking God’s forgiveness and pardon.
Even in the New Testament we have a hint of this practice of abstaining
from sexual activity while seeking the Lord in prayer and fasting. Listen to
Paul’s advice to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 7:5:
5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for
a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but
then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you
because of your lack of self-control.
We will examine this passage in another context later in this study. What we
need to see, however, is that Paul told that Corinthians that it was
acceptable, when there was an agreement between partners, to abstain from
sexual activity when they were in a period of seeking God in prayer.
Leviticus 15:23 tells us that another means by which a man could become
impure was by having a sexual relationship with his wife during her
monthly period.
24 And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity
comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed
on which he lies shall be unclean. (Leviticus 15)
In this case, the man was to be unclean for a period of seven days and
anything he touched during that seven-day period became unclean.
What do we see here in these laws of the Old Testament? While God
created human beings with a desire for sex and the population of the earth
depended on this, the very act He created would make the couple who
engaged in it unclean. Priests were not to perform their duties on the day
that they had a sexual relationship with their wives. Soldiers fighting the
enemy would not have sexual relations lest their uncleanness affected the
outcome of the battle.
How are we to understand these laws of God and what does this teach us
about the sexual relationship between a husband and wife? Let me conclude
this chapter with a few words on this topic.
Uncleanness Versus Sin
The first point we need to make here is that there is a difference between
uncleanness and sin. It is of significance that to be purified of the
uncleanness caused by an emission of semen, all the husband and wife had
to do was to bathe in water. There was no sacrifice required for this
uncleanness. This is to say that the couple had not sinned by engaging in
this sexual activity –they were simply unclean.
There were many other activities that would render an object or person
unclean. A woman’s menstrual period would make her unclean according to
the Law of Moses (Leviticus 15:19-24). Touching a dead body required a
period of seven days of purification (Numbers 19:16). When a family
member died, someone had to take care of the body and see that it was
properly disposed of. This required that the person involved become
unclean for a period of time. This compassionate act of caring for a loved
one was necessary, and God expected nothing less of His people. While it
made the person unclean, it was required by God and not a sinful act.
While a sexual act between a husband and wife was blessed by God, He did
require that the couple recognize that the emission of semen was an
uncleanness that needed to be cleansed by water.
Health And Hygiene
Another issue of concern in the law of God was that of the health of the
greater community. Anything that could cause the spread of disease was
carefully monitored. In our day we understand that sexually transmitted
diseases can be spread through bodily fluids. God has a concern for the
health of His people. By requiring that the couple bathe and remain unclean
until the evening, the Lord was protecting the entire community from
disease and sickness. Sexual activity was not the only concern. Whole
chapters of the Bible are devoted to skin diseases and mold in homes. All
these things were to be monitored so that the community would not be
infected with any kind of sickness.
Reminder Of The Holiness And Purity Of God
Finally, this period of uncleanness was a reminder to the couple of the
absolute purity and holiness of God. Even the smallest defilement was an
offence to Him. It was also, however, a reminder of the grace of God in
accepting them even though they were unclean in many ways.
The fact of the matter is that we cannot live in this world without becoming
unclean. Our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions all make us unclean. The
things we see around us or the things we hear from co-workers splatter us
with uncleanness. Sin is everywhere-present. Our minds are filled daily
with sinful images, words and thoughts. Those who are serious about their
relationship with God will constantly seek cleansing from these daily
As we continue our examination of Biblical sexuality, we will see that while
the sex act itself did make the couple unclean for a time, it was encouraged
by God who blessed it for the good of the couple.
For Consideration:
What was the requirement of the Old Testament law for a married couple
who had a sexual relationship? How could they become clean again?
How did having a sexual relationship with his wife affect what the priest
could or could not do in the tabernacle or temple?
What was expected of soldiers who were engaged in battle?
What is the difference between becoming unclean and sinning? Was it
acceptable, given the right circumstances to become unclean. Was
becoming unclean a sin?
How did the Law of Moses protect the health of the community of God’s
What kind of things can make us unclean before God today?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to give you grace to understand the difference between being
unclean and sinning.
Ask God to cleanse you of the defilements of this day so that these
defilements will not hinder your relationship with Him.
Thank the Lord that while we are daily rendered unclean by living in this
world, we can know the cleansing of the Lord.
s we continue our study of God’s purpose for human sexuality it
is important that we examine a couple of practices found in the
Old Testament. The first of these two practices is a marriage
known as the levirate marriage.
Levirate Marriages
A levirate marriage took place when a husband died without giving his wife
a child. If this was the case, the nearest male relative of the deceased
husband was to take his widow as wife. The first child born to this union
would be heir to the deceased husband’s property and wealth.
5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no
son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the
family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her
and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s
brother to her. 6 And the first son whom she bears shall succeed
to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be
blotted out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 25)
This was the command of God for a wife who did not have a child when her
husband died. The practice guaranteed that a widow of child bearing age
was provided for and that the name of her first husband was not “blotted out
of Israel” (Deuteronomy 25:6). To refuse to marry the wife of a deceased
brother was to dishonour his widow and the name of the deceased. In fact,
Deuteronomy 25:7-10 describes what would happen to the male descendant
who refused to take on this responsibility:
7 And if the man does not wish to take his brothers wife, then
his brothers wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say,
‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brothers name
in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to
me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to
him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ 9
then his brothers wife shall go up to him in the presence of the
elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And
she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who
does not build up his brothers house.’ 10 And the name of his
house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his
sandal pulled off.’ (Deuteronomy 25)
Four things took place when a man refused to marry his brothers widow
and provide for her need. First, she would report the matter to the elders of
the city. Second, these elders would meet with the man to convince him to
take on his responsibility. Third, if he refused even after meeting with the
elders, the widow was to approach him, pull of his sandal and spit in his
face. This was in response to the insult and dishonour the man had
expressed to her and his brother. Finally, the household of this man would
from that point on bear the shame of their unwillingness to help. His
household would be known in the community as “the house of him who had
his sandal pulled off” (Deuteronomy 25:10).
We have a couple of examples of this practice of levirate marriage in the
Old Testament. The first example of this is found in Genesis 38:6-10. Judah
had three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah. His first son Er married a woman by
the name of Tamar. Because Er was an evil man, the Lord struck him so that
he died without giving his wife Tamar a child. Notice the response of Judah
when this happened:
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brothers wife and
perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up
offspring for your brother.” (Genesis 38)
It was expected that Onan have a sexual relationship with his brothers wife
and provide her with a child. Onan, however, knew that the child born to
this relationship would not be his. Notice what he did in Genesis 38:9:
9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So
whenever he went in to his brothers wife he would waste the
semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother.
(Genesis 38)
Onan had a sexual relationship with his brothers wife, but he refused to
impregnate her, choosing to spill his semen on the ground instead. The Lord
became so angry with Onan over this that He struck him dead (see Genesis
38:10). By refusing to provide an offspring for his brother through Tamar,
Onan disobeyed the law of God and brought about his own judgement.
Another example of a levirate marriage is found in the book of Ruth. Ruth
was a widow whose husband had died without giving her a child. The
brother of Ruth’s deceased husband also died. As a widow, Ruth settled in
the region of Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi. There in the region
of Bethlehem was a male relative by the name of Boaz. When Naomi
discovered that Boaz was in the region, she immediately set in motion a
plan to have him marry Ruth and provide her with a child to continue her
family name.
The opportunity came for Ruth to ask Boaz to be a redeemer for her so that
the name of her husband would not be blotted out. Listen to the response of
Boaz to this request:
12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a
redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning,
if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing
to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. (Ruth
While Boaz was quite willing to marry Ruth and provide her with a child to
carry on her deceased husband’s name, he was aware that this
responsibility, according to law, was to go to the nearest male relative.
There was a closer relative who had this obligation.
Boaz went before the elders of the city and called this relative to his side.
He offered him the opportunity to redeem a parcel of land and to take Ruth
as his wife.
5 Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of
Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the
dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his
inheritance.” (Ruth 4)
Hearing that he would have to marry Ruth and provide her with a child to
inherit the property of her first husband, the relative refused the offer,
turning the obligation over to Boaz as the next of kin. This matter was
sealed by the removal of a sandal (Ruth 4:7). The result of this marriage
between Boaz and Ruth was a child by the name of Obed who would carry
on the name of Ruth’s first husband.
The levirate marriage was designed to provide for a childless widow. It was
the obligation of the closest male relative to care for her and give her a child
to carry on her first husband’s name. It assured that his property was not
lost to the family and that his widow would be provided for after his death.
The New Testament does not impose this law on widows. Instead, the
apostle Paul encouraged widows to remain single (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). He
also called on the church to care for widows who had no family to care for
them (1 Timothy 5:9-16).
The second practice found in the Old Testament is polygamy. Polygamy is
the practice of taking more than one wife. There are numerous cases of men
who had more than one wife in the Old Testament. The most notable of
these was Solomon. 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that he had 700 wives and 300
concubines. While there is reference to polygamous marriages in the
Scripture this was not the common practice of the day. The Tyndale Bible
Commentary has this to say about polygamy:
Despite numerous examples of polygamy cited in the OT, there
is no doubt that the vast majority of the Israelites were
monogamous. There are no examples given of large
polygamous marriages in the families of commoners. (Comfort,
Philip W., Elwell, Walter A., “Marriage, Marriage Customs,”
Tyndale Bible Dictionary: Cedar Rapids: Laridian, 2001)
Most of the Jewish marriages in the Old Testament were between one
husband and one wife. When God presented Adam his wife, Adam
[24] Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and
hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis
Notice that the word “wife” is singular. The idea is that it was God’s
intention that a man take only one wife. The use of the word “wife” in the
singular is repeated often in the Old Testament laws (see Exodus 20:17,
Exodus 21:5, Leviticus 18:8, Leviticus 20:10). Again, this expresses the
purpose of God for a marriage between one man and one woman.
While polygamy was not God’s intention for His people, they did not
always walk in His purpose. Even godly men chose to take more than one
wife. Those who did take more than one wife, however, were obligated to
care for them and provide all their needs.
[10] If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish
her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. [11] And if he does
not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing,
without payment of money. (Exodus 21)
Notice particularly that the man who took a second wife was obliged to
provide her with food, clothing and marital rights. Verse 10 tells us that he
was not to “diminish” any of these necessities. In other words, he was to
provide her with all she required. She was not to be in need. Of interest to
us here is the reference to “marital rights.” The Hebrew word used here is
the word “ônāh”. The AMG Complete Word Study Dictionary defines this
word in the following way:
A feminine noun referring to conjugal rights, the duty of
marriage. It refers to the right of a wife in a polygamous
marriage to have intimacy with her husband (Ex 21:10).
(Baker, Warren; Carpenter, Eugene, “5772 ônāh” AMG
Complete Word Study Bible, Cedar Rapids: Laridian, 2003)
The Law of Moses required that a man have sexual relations with his wife
and if he took a second wife this was not to diminish. Each wife had the
right to a sexual relationship with her husband.
Deuteronomy 21 makes it quite clear that a man was not to show
favouritism when it came to the children born to these wives.
[15] “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other
unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him
children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, [16]
then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an
inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as
the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the
firstborn, [17] but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son
of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he
has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the
firstborn is his. (Deuteronomy 21)
This passage shows us one of the reasons for polygamy in those days.
Sometimes the man and woman in the marriage ceased to love each other. It
may be that there was no legitimate reason for divorce. Maybe, out of
respect for her or for a desire to keep his reputation, the husband may have
chosen to provide for his unloved wife. He may have chosen another wife
to meet the emotional needs she was not meeting. For whatever reason the
man may have taken another wife, the Old Testament required that the
firstborn son of that first relationship was to inherit the fathers estate. His
obligations to this son of the unloved wife were not to change. Before God
the legitimate heir was the son of his first wife.
The practice of polygamy was discouraged in the New Testament. If a man
wanted to be a leader in the church, he needed to be the husband of only
one wife.
[2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband
of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable,
hospitable, able to teach (1 Timothy 3)
[5] This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what
remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I
directed you— [6] if anyone is above reproach, the husband of
one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the
charge of debauchery or insubordination. (Titus 1)
[12] Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing
their children and their own households well. (1 Timothy 3)
While polygamy was practiced by some individuals in the Old Testament, it
was not the intention of God from the beginning. If a man did take another
wife, however, he was obligated to care for her and give her all the attention
he gave to his other wives. In New Testament times, those who did take
more than one wife, were not permitted to function as leader in the church.
For Consideration:
What is the practice of levirate marriage in the Old Testament? What is our
obligation as a church today toward widows?
Was it God’s intention that a man have more than one wife? Does the
practice of polygamy in the Old Testament mean that God intended that
man have more than one wife?
God’s law imposed clear obligations on those who did take more than one
wife. What is the difference between protecting women in a polygamous
relationship and condoning the practice?
What does the New Testament teach about church leaders and polygamy?
For Prayer:
Are there widows in your community that need support and
encouragement? Ask the Lord to show you how you can minister to them as
a church in their time of need.
If you are married, ask the Lord to develop your love toward your husband
or wife. Ask Him to help you to be faithful to them and to minister fully to
all their needs.
n the last chapter we examined the levirate marriages and polygamy as
found in the Old Testament. Closely related to this was the practice of
taking concubines. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines a concubine as
Concubine in the Bible denotes a female conjugally united to a
man but in a relationship inferior to that of a wife…The
concubine was a wife of secondary rank. (Easton, M.G.,
“Concubine”, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Cedar Rapids:
The concubine was not a prostitute. She was dedicated to the man with
whom she had a sexual relation and was provided for on a regular basis by
this man. It was considered shameful for a concubine to have a sexual
relationship with any other man. This is seen clearly in Genesis 35 when
Reuben was found guilty of sleeping with his fathers concubine.
[22] While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with
Bilhah his fathers concubine. And Israel heard of it. (Genesis
In Genesis 49 Jacob, Reuben’s father speaks to all his sons and pronounces
his blessings on them. Listen to the words he had to say to Reuben:
[3] “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
[4] Unstable as water, you shall not have pre-eminence,
because you went up to your fathers bed;
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch! (Genesis 49)
While Reuben was the firstborn of Jacob, and the one who was to receive
the greatest inheritance, Jacob called him unstable and to told him that he
would not enjoy the privileges his position as first born offered. The reason
for this was because he had defiled his fathers bed by sleeping with his
concubine. This was a tremendous insult to Jacob and one for which
Reuben would pay heavily. 1 Chronicles tells us what would happen to
[5:1] The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the
firstborn, but because he defiled his fathers couch, his
birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so
that he could not be enrolled as the oldest son; (1 Chronicles 5)
Reuben was disinherited. He was not given his birthright because he had
slept with his fathers concubine.
Another detail to notice is that the children born to a concubine did not have
the status of those born to a wife. Abraham had children though concubines
but only one son by his wife Sarah. Notice what Genesis 25 tells us about
the inheritance of these children:
[5] Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. [6] But to the sons of his
concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he
sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east
country. (Genesis 25)
Abraham’s sons, born to his concubines, did not receive an inheritance.
While Isaac was given all that Abram had, these other sons were given gifts
and sent away. God’s purpose would be worked out through Isaac, the son
of his true wife.
There is a record of Old Testament men taking concubines. Solomon had
three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). We also have records of Gideon
(Judges 8:29-30) and Saul (2 Samuel 3:7) both of which took concubines.
It is important to note that this practice was not approved by Scripture. The
fact that these men of God took concubines does not make their actions
right. The New Testament is quite clear that when a married man has a
sexual relationship with a woman who is not his wife, he is committing
adultery. We will examine this in greater detail at a later point in this study.
Surrogate Mothers
Another practice found in the book of Genesis was that of a wife having
children through her maid. The first occurrence of this is found in Genesis
1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had
a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai
said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from
bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall
obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of
Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of
Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her
servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.
(Genesis 16)
Notice what is happening here. Sarah was not able to have children, so she
told her husband to sleep with Hagar and have children through her. What is
of significance for us to note are the words of Sarah in verse 2: “that I may
obtain children by her.” In other words, the children born to this sexual
union of Abraham and Sarah’s servant would be Sarah’s children and not
Hagars. Hagar would bear children for Sarah, who was unable to get
We see another occurrence of this practice in Genesis 30:
1 When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied
her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”
2 Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I
in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the
womb?” 3 Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to
her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may
have children through her.” 4 So she gave him her servant
Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 And Bilhah
conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has
judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.”
Therefore she called his name Dan. (Genesis 30)
Again, notice several details in this passage. When Rachel could not get
pregnant, she gave Jacob her servant to bear children for her. Rachel’s
understanding was that her servant Bilhah would give birth on her behalf
and that she would have children through her (verse 3). When a son was
born through this sexual union of Jacob and Bilhah, Rachel said: God has
judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son (verse 4).
There was no doubt in the mind of Rachel that this child belonged to her
and not to her servant who was only acting on her behalf.
Jacob’ second wife Leah, seeing that she has stopped bearing children gave
Jacob her servant Zilpah to bear children on her behalf (see Genesis 30:9).
Out of the twelve sons of Jacob, four of them were born to him through
Zilpah and Bilhah, the servants of his two wives.
It is of importance to note here that that there was a difference between the
offspring of the concubine and that of a surrogate mother who bore children
on behalf of her master. The children of the concubine did not inherit the
property of their father. The fathers inheritance was given to the children of
his wife.
This is not the case for the child born to a surrogate mother. This child
belonged to the wife and would be considered her child even though he or
she was born to another mother. Dan, Naphtali, Asher and Gad, born to
Bilhah and Zilpah, were given equal status with their brothers.
The only references to the practice of surrogate mothers bearing children
for a barren wife are found in the book of Genesis. The practice was not
without its problems. In the case of Sarah and her servant Hagar, there was
bitter jealousy between the two women. Sarah began to mistreat her servant
after she bore a child to Abraham. Hagar would run away from Sarah to
escape the abuse (see Genesis 16).
It was the intense desire of Sarah, Rachel and Leah to have children and
when they couldn’t, they resorted to giving their servants to their husbands.
What is of significance for us to note here, however, is that each of these
women would eventually bear their own children as God opened their
womb in His time. This leaves us to understand that these women were not
acting from God so much as they were out of a sense of desperation. They
took matters into their own hands.
As we move into the New Testament, the practice of having a child with a
woman who is not one’s wife would be considered adultery. Couples that
are not able to have children have other options in our day.
There have been those who justify their sexual activities on the basis that
the saints of the Old Testament practiced polygamy, had concubines or bore
children through their servants. This argument is not legitimate. David
committed adultery with another man’s wife, but this does not prove that
the practice was acceptable. He had a high price to pay for his sin. From the
beginning of time, men and women have wandered from the purpose of
God for their sexual lives. We have examples of this throughout the
The Law of Moses does regulate the practice of polygamy. This, however,
was to protect the women who were in this kind of marriage, not to
encourage its practice. Built into the Law of Moses were principles that
were intended to protect the vulnerable from abuse. For example, in the
Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees came to Jesus to speak to Him about the
question of divorce. In Matthew 19 they asked Jesus if a man could divorce
his wife for any reason. Jesus told them that it was the purpose of God that
a man and a woman be joined together as one flesh for life (see Matthew
19: 3-6). The Pharisees then asked Jesus why Moses made provision for
divorce if it was not the will of God that a man divorce his wife:
7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give
a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to
them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to
divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And
I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual
immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew
The Pharisees bring up a very important point here. If it were not the
purpose of God that a man divorces his wife, why did Moses allow it in the
law? Jesus answers this by telling the Pharisees that the reason Moses made
a law that was contrary to the purpose of God for a couple was because of
the hardness of human hearts. In other words, there were times when a wife
was being so abused by her husband that the merciful thing to do was to set
her free from her obligations toward him. While divorce was not the will of
God, there were times when it was better, according to the Law of Moses, to
divorce one’s husband than to be abused and harm the children in that
union. The Law of Moses does not encourage divorce but provides a
solution for extreme situations where remaining in a marriage would be
destructive. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, and this is evident in
the Law of Moses.
Why is it important that we understand what Jesus is teaching in this
context? The fact that the Law of God permits something, does not mean