Q: Why does the Bible teach that a man is to leave his parents in order to cleave to his wife? What is meant by this? Does this also mean, by extension, that the wife is to leave her parents as well, in order to cleave to her husband?


A: The Bible is very explicit, for important reasons, to enjoin the newly married couple to live separate from their parents. We read about this Biblical injunction at the institution of the marriage, in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Later, in Matthew 19:5, Jesus Christ quotes this very Scripture with approval, to explain and to uphold the sanctity of the marriage relationship.

Commentaries agree that this command is meant to be taken and obeyed quite literally. A reason for this command is given in the Ryrie Study Bible, as follows, “Jesus cites the purpose of God in creation that husband and wife should be one flesh — the oneness of kinship or fellowship with the body as a medium, causing marriage to be the deepest physical and spiritual unity.”

The Nelson Study Bible elaborates, “The implication is that the Creator is Lord and is the One who determines what is the ideal in marriage… God ordained marriage as the strongest bond in all human relationships. A man leaves his parents and is joined to his wife. The language is very strong here. Leave means ‘to abandon’; joined to means ‘to be glued to.’ The most permanent relationship in society is not between parent and child, but between husband and wife.”

Paul explained, in Ephesians 5:30-32, that the literal application of the Biblical command to the newly-wed couple to leave their parents’ house and to start a new and separate household, should even be applied, in a spiritual sense, to our marriage relationship with Christ, by coming out of this world and to be separate from it, spiritually speaking.

The Biblical injunction to “leave their parents” is given to a newly-wed couple, as they need to spend much time together — apart from everyone else — to become a “physical and spiritual unity.” They cannot, and will not, achieve this goal, by staying with the husband’s or the wife’s parents in the same household, and under the same roof. This is not to say, of course, that the newly-wed couple is not to visit their parents often, continuing to show them respect and honor, as commanded in Scripture (Exodus 20:12). But, the couple is to live separately from the parents. Of course, later on in life, the couple may have to take into their home a lonely parent who might otherwise not be able to take care of himself or herself.

If a young couple cannot afford, financially, to start a new home away from their parents, they should not get married until they are able to do so. It is the duty of the husband to provide for his family. He should be financially able to do so before getting married. Proverbs 24:27 instructs, “Prepare your outside work, Make it fit for yourself in the field; And afterward build your house.”

In his book, “The Missing Dimension in Sex,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, on page 228 of the hard-cover version, “The best age for a man to marry is around twenty-four to twenty-six, after he has devoted those top aptitude years between sixteen and twenty-five for mature education, experience and preparation — after he has acquired the knowledge, preparation and preliminary experience to assume adult responsibilities — after he is able to assume the responsibility of supporting a wife — and family.”

God wants us to have a happy and fulfilled marriage. One of the keys for success in marriage is to follow God’s instruction to a newly-wed couple to leave their parents, and to cleave to each other. In other words, the newly-wed couple needs to be looking to one another for support in the shared responsibilities of the marriage. If they are staying with either set of parents at the outset of their marriage, they are effectively asking the parents to share in this responsibility, thus illustrating the inability of the newly-wed couple to support themselves.

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