"For this reason,
shall leave his father and mother
and cleave to his
and the two shall become one flesh."
Paul called it a mystery (Ephesians
But at first glance
it seems more like a mistake.
Men don't "leave
and cleave." Stereotypically, women do!
The ancient writer of the creation story
seems to have it backwards. The Lord forms a woman out
of Adam's rib and brings her to him. Adam, in a
rapturous moment, declares that she is "bone of my
bones, and flesh of my flesh, and shall be called woman
because she is taken out of man."
Then comes the strange twist. "For
this cause a man shall leave his father and mother
and shall cleave to his wife
; and they shall become one
Cleaving sounds decidely dependent.
Like a child wrapping herself around her daddy's leg,
cleaving seems altogether too subservient. Guys don't cleave.
They control! They don't hang on. They
take the wheel!
Indeed, the text has
such an uncomfortable ring to it that the
New International Version offers a pallid translation: "A man will leave
his father and mother and be united to his
; and they will become one flesh."
The Hebrew word (dabaq) is used
elsewhere in the Old Testament when Ruth clung
to her mother-in-law amidst their mutual grief (Ruth
1:14). It also appears in multiple texts that exhort
Israel to "cling to the Lord your God" (for
example, Deut 10:20; 11:22; and Josh 22:5).
This is the stuff of
infatuation and devotion -- rarified air for many males once
a marriage sets in.
We cleave to
our jobs, our sports, our toys, or our TVs. We
cleave to power, fame, and
success. But cleave
to our wives?
Perhaps this highlights one of the reasons why many
marriages fail completely or fail to produce the kind of
intimacy that pre-marital counselors glow about. We
don't cleave. We can't cleave. We fear it and resist it
because, at best, it suggests weakness on our part.
But the apostle Paul packs the toughest punch.He called it a mystery (Ephesians
5:31-32). And then connects this "marriage text" to
Jesus and the Church. Those who do not cleave to
their wives quite probably do not cleave to
May we learn the art of cleaving,
to each other and to Him.
In HOPE --