Men took wives, women never took husbands

I cannot find one single example of women taking men as husbands in scripture.  Nor can I find a single example of men being given as husbands to women.  The biblical pattern is

  • men taking wives
  • father’s taking wives for their son’s
  • father’s giving their daughters to the men as wives.

Thus men are always the leaders and pursuers when it comes to marriage.

  1. And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. (Genesis 4:19)
  2. the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. (Genesis 6:2)
  3. And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. (Genesis 11:29)
  4. Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth. (Genesis 28:9)
  5. If you oppress my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us, see, God is witness between you and me. (Genesis 31:50)
  6.  “These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. (Genesis 34:21)
  7. Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite, (Genesis 36:2)
  8. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods. (Judges 3:6)
  9. And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. (Judges 21:23)
  10. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, (Ruth 1:4)
  11. David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and both of them became his wives. (1 Samuel 25:43)
  12. And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. (2 Samuel 5:13)
  13. And David took more wives in Jerusalem, and David fathered more sons and daughters. (1 Chronicles 14:3)
  14. Rehoboam loved Maacah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives and concubines (he took eighteen wives and sixty concubines, and fathered twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters). (2 Chronicles 11:21)
  15. But Abijah grew mighty. And he took fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. (2 Chronicles 13:21)
  16. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” (Ezra 9:2)
  17. Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us.” (Ezra 10:14)
  18. [The LORD said…] Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. (Jeremiah 29:6)

Men found wives, women didn’t find husbands

1. He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22)

2. An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:10-11).

3. [Abraham and Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac with God’s help] But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house (Genesis 24:40).

4. [Jacob is sent to find a wife by Issac] Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. (Genesis 28:1-2)

5. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife (1 Corinthians 7:26-27).

Men are the leaders in marriage, not women…

1. [A wife’s vow can be overruled by her husband] “If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it,and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her (Numbers 30:6-8).

2. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and ishimself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands (Ephesians 5:21-24).

3. Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. (1 Peter 3:1-6)

4. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5).

…marriage is a reflection of Christ…

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,  that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:25-29).

…and Christ is our pursuer

1. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

2. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

3. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Throughout the Bible, from the beginning, we see mankind rebelling against God and God relentlessly pursuing her with the desire to commit Himself to her through covenant.  The Bible is not a story of mankind pursuing God and God then responding but rather a story of God pursuing man and man responding. The male/female romantic roles have been set up by God to reflect Christ’s love, pursuit, care and sacrifice for His church as well as His authority over His church.

What about Ruth and Boaz?

First of all let me clarify that I define the pursuer as the one who is performing the majority of the “acts of pursuit”.   Thus in my understanding, a woman can at times perform “acts of pursuit” without being the pursuer. The story of Ruth and Boaz has been used by some as a justification for women performing the majority of the acts of pursuit and thus being the pursuers.  I think, in the light of all the other scriptures that show men to be the pursuers and leaders when it comes to romance, Ruth and Boaz’s story is not a strong enough example to justify a complete reversal of the biblical pattern of male/female romantic roles found in scripture.  This is my reasoning:

  • In the Old Testament a brother-in-law of a widow was commanded to marry her: “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her” (Deuteronomy 25:5). Thus it was Boaz’s duty to marry Ruth or Naomi, if her other closer relative would not marry her.  She was thus asking Boaz to fulfil a particular duty prescribed by scripture.  We do not have this system today and thus there is not a modern equivalent.
  • Ruth’s approach of Boaz was an act of obedience to her mother-in-law (Ruth 3:5). It was not Ruth’s idea to ask Boaz to be her redeemer. It was the man who was commanded to take the widow and marry her: “Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her” (Deuteronomy 25:5) so it is possible that what Naomi commanded Ruth to do was going against Jewish protocol but was used by God for His purposes.
  • Boaz had already shown Ruth a great deal of care, favour and protection before she asks him to be her kinsman-redeemer.  He notices her first and asks who she is (Ruth 2:5), he tells her she can glean with his women (Ruth 2:8) and also drink from the water the young men drink from (Ruth 2:9). He commands the young men not to touch her (Ruth 2:9) and tells her to not go glean in another field (Ruth 2:8). He gives her food at her meal time and then also commands the young men to allow her to glean from the shieves and to even purposely drop grain for her (Ruth 2:15-16). Moreover, he expresses how much he respects her (Ruth 2:11-12).
  • Boaz shows that he is pleased as well as enthusiastic and excited when she does ask him to be her redeemer suggesting that he had been interested in her before: “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives! Lie down until morning. So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.” (Ruth 3:10-12,14)
  • After Ruth has approached Boaz about being her kinsman redeemer, he quickly does everything else to make the marriage happen.  Thus Ruth shows a singular act of pursuit and Boaz does everything else.  We see no evidence of Ruth doing anything to try to persuade Boaz to redeem her nor do we see her performing any further acts of pursuit.

In conclusion, it can be fairly argued that Ruth showed a singular  “act of pursuit” in asking Boaz to be her kinsman redeemer. In context, she asked Boaz after he had already showed her care, favour and protection.  Moreover, she asked him as an act of obedience to her mother-in-law and was asking him to fulfil a biblical law that was his duty to fulfil.  Moreover, it can be argued that she perhaps went against protocol to ask him as based on the law, it seems that it should have really been the kinsman redeemer who would have lead the redeeming process.  I cannot therefore see from the book of Ruth a clear justification for women performing the majority of the acts of pursuit and thus being the pursuers.  Moreover, I think, in the light of all the other scriptures that show men to be the pursuers and leaders when it comes to romance, Ruth and Boaz’s story is not a strong enough example to justify a complete reversal of the biblical pattern of male/female romantic roles found in scripture.

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