My Thoughts. . .
Every Bible student will miss something in the Bible as he reads. This is not usually done on purpose. There are many valid reasons for this skipping or failing to recognize a point given. One reason is because the New Testament was written over 1,965 years ago by Jews and one lone Gentile named Luke.
I mention this as an introduction to why we sometimes miss things as we read the Bible. When those writers mentioned different activities common to that time, they are seeing it through their culture, not ours. We miss what is being said due to reading our culture into the scriptures as if they did things the way we do. They didn’t.
Although scripture commands the husband to “love his wife,” a similar command is not given directly to the wife. When Paul wrote to the Ephesian and Colossian churches, he told men to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29, 31, 33a; Colossians 3:14). In Ephesians she is told four times to love her husband. In Colossian he commands it once. Paul tells the woman in Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18 to submit to her husband. In Ephesians 5:23 KJV the woman is instructed to “reverence” her husband. This Greek word is found 93 times but translated only once as “reverence.” 62 times it is translated as “fear” and 28 times as “afraid.” The ASV uses the word “fear,” but most other translations use the word “respect.” Titus 2:5 states she must be obedient to him. The only time the word “love” is used is when Paul tells Titus that the older women are to teach the younger women “to love their husbands” (v.4). Apparently, until those older women obeyed that command, the younger married women needed to learn to love their husbands in order to have a godlier marriage. Most today see those passages in light of our 21st century practices and prejudices. Most read Paul’s command to men and assume the men in question already loved their wives. We fall in love, so they must have too! Love was not the determining factor for marriage in the Bible.
Isaac had never seen his wife before and did not see her face until they woke up the morning after he took her to his mother’s tent (Genesis 24:67). Jacob worked for Rachel 7 years and when he woke up the next morning, his new wife was Leah. She apparently did not uncover her face to Jacob until then (Genesis 29:21-26). He had to work another 7 years to gain Rachel as a wife. If a woman’s husband died before she had his son, she was to be wed to the next oldest son (Matthew 22:23-28). The first son born to that union was considered his older brother’s child. Mary was betrothed to Joseph and no other man could expect her to marry him. These contracts were usually made between the parents of the two children while they were both small. They rarely were in on the decision making. When the girl reached her teens, she was given to the man as his wife.
The 21st century practice of dating, courtship, falling in love, and asking the woman for her hand in marriage, were foreign ideas that would develop in much later cultures. Loving one’s mate before marriage was not necessary in biblical times. Isaac came to love Rebecca after the honeymoon. Jacob loved Rachel before their marriage but found out the next morning he was married to Leah whom he loved a lot less. He would not have consciously worked for her for seven years! Culture dictated several marriages for women which the Pharisees described to Jesus (Matthew 22:23-28). Did she love each one of those brothers and desire marriage with each? A 21st century woman would not. For a women in her culture it was expected. It was not her choice!
Paul is telling male believers in Ephesus and Colosse to love those women they have married. Those women are more than baby makers or meal preparers. Wives are taught by older women to love their husbands and children. They are to submit to and respect their husbands. A marriage is to be mutual in feelings one for the other.
Some miss Paul’s point due to our belief that love always precedes the marriage ceremony. The lesson to us today is that love is learned and must be practiced by both parties in a marriage. A successful marriage is one where each loves the other. After all, “no man hates his own body” (Ephesians 5:29). The culture of Paul’s day figures heavily into that statement! “He that has an ear to hear, let him hear.”