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What Does the Bible Mean when it says “Leave and Cleave?”

Jeff:
If you’re not in the Facebook group, make sure to get in the group. This question we’re going to talk about today was actually, I believe, from the group. I think we have almost a thousand people in there now, eight or 900 people are fathers, encouraging one another, sharpen each other.

But the question we got from a dad in the group here was what does the Bible mean when it says leave and cleave? Because immediately when you start leaning into the family teams concept, you start butting up against this concept of what people always bring up, which is Genesis 1 and 2, against building a multi-generational family team on mission, meaning when we say live into your story, live into your generations, live into the people above you and below you and around you, sometimes that makes some alarms go off for some people on the West of saying like, “Oh, doesn’t the Bible say when you get married to leave and to go away and to start a new thing?” And so this is… Attention in the scriptures do say that. So Jeremy, what would you say that means? And how do we kind of wrestle through that?

Jeremy:
Yeah. So it’s important to remember the context. So in Genesis 2, it says in this way, a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh. So a couple of things about the context. Number one, this is in the book of Genesis, in the Torah, and in the Hebrew scriptures, in the old Testament, which is all about multi-generational families, right? You have, coming after this statement, the multi-generational family of Noah being talked about, obviously Abraham did leave his father’s house because he was an idol worshiper we found out. In the end of Joshua, we’re told why he left his father’s house. But then, of course, Isaac stayed with Abraham’s family. Jacob had to leave because there was a murder, or potential of him getting killed, but then all of his sons live with him. And then of course it culminates in the multi-generational sort of reconnection between Joseph and his father Jacob, and the story goes on and on, and we can talk about how much multi-generational stories and genealogies there are in the Bible.

So what is this talking about in a book written in the Middle East, from a Middle Eastern perspective, when it says that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife? What is it talking about? And the context you guys, of course, is that it’s talking about marriage. And it is incredibly important that when you get married that your wife comes first, and this is a very counterintuitive thing for a multi-generational culture. And this is something in which the multi-generational values do have to give, and that is that when that woman, who is obviously not from your family, maybe not even from your tribe, suddenly through a contractual agreement, becomes a part of your family, it could become a problem for you to think that you would put her above your father or your mother. And the Bible says, you absolutely must put her first. You are one with her.

And so in the context of marriage, you are to leave those other relationships. Every other relationship in your life pales in comparison to the oneness that you need to develop and protect with your wife or with your husband. So that’s what it’s talking about.

It’s really not talking about the structure of the family. In other words, it’s completely normal if you are one with your wife to honor and build a multi-generational family team with your generations, both upstream and downstream, and you see that happening throughout the Bible. But what really is important is while you’re building multi-generational family teams, that you do not ever slip into a scenario where you don’t put your husband or wife first. They are the most important person in your life. Their preferences, their presence, their needs, always are the most important thing to the husband or the wife, even in the context of a multi-generational family. So I do not think this at all is saying that we do not build families multi-generationally, and I certainly don’t think it means that we ought to hit the reset button every single generation. It means that when you get married, that relationship and that oneness is the top priority in your life.

Jeff:
Exactly. I’ll talk a lot about the scriptures as they cut both ways, right? So someone who gets married and then maybe the mother-in-law in some ways is almost basically pontificating the entire marriage behind the scenes, yeah, that person needs to hear leave and cleave, actually be obedient to the scriptures of a new entity being formed and submit to God’s design for what that means in a marriage. And then people who obviously, I would say, are the more predominant narrative, which they don’t realize it because we’re more in this fish in the water we’re swimming in, is the opposite of that, of restart, reset, just blow up everything before you and disconnect and don’t care about the stories and start fresh and start new. When it’s like, no, no, no. Have you read the scriptures? The entire thing is all about connecting to the generations and telling a story multi-generationally and actually caring about your ancestors and creating a legacy forward for your future in the same way. So it’s like, it cuts both ways.

And one thing I’ll say to end on is I think the way they did housing structure in the Middle East, I think it’s like this even now, but back then is when you got married, you didn’t necessarily move into the house. They built a little extension on the house and you moved into that. And I think that’s a perfect metaphor for what this verse is actually saying. You don’t move into the house, right? You don’t go move into the house with your mom and dad, but you don’t go move 3000 miles away.

Now, again, this is a metaphor. I’m not saying don’t move into the house or don’t move 3000 miles away, but you get a little extension connected to the house. So if that house is a metaphor for your last name, then connect to it, just don’t move into the house. And I think that’s a really cool picture of building because then, think about 10 generations from now, you have this kind of hodgepodge connected 10 houses all connected in one, but that’s a really cool picture of legacy of your last name and of a household, which is what the scriptures is talking about when it says that. So that’s what it looks like, guys, and that’s what we’re encouraging you with today.

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