Home Relationships MARRIAGEABLE AGE



THE BIBLE DOES not specify any particular age requirement for a person to be married; rather, it speaks in general terms of marriage being for those who are “grownup” (see Ruth 1:12–13).

Both the language and culture of the Bible strongly support the idea that puberty, at a bare minimum, is a condition that must be met before becoming someone’s spouse.

This fits with one of the historical purposes of marriage—conceiving and rearing children. Scriptural evidence indicates that those too young for childbearing are not candidates for marriage, though there is no explicit age given in the Bible.

It is reasonable to look at the practices of ancient Judaism for cultural considerations on the proper age for marriage. A look at Genesis account, the marital union is between a man and a woman, and not between a boy and a girl. According to tradition, boys were not considered “men,” and therefore not marriageable, until the age of 13.

Girls were not considered “women” until age 12. These ages more or less correspond to the onset of puberty. While those ages might seem too young to us, they are not unusual ages for getting married, historically.

It has only been within the last century or so that the average age of getting married has drifted into the late twenties and early thirties.

The Bible teaches that a woman must have reached puberty before she can be allowed to marry. Two Bible passages, one from the Old Testament and one from the New indicate that the minimum age for marriage of a woman is when she reaches puberty.

In the book of Ezekiel 16:7-8, we read of God’s love story with Israel. He presents himself as a wealthy man who finds an infant girl who had just been born and is left for dead in a field.

He takes her as a ward in his home and when she reaches puberty (grows breasts and pubic hair) he declares that “thy time was the time of love” and he takes her as his wife.

Hebrew, like English, uses different words for younger and older members of either sex. Naˈar refers to young men, while yeled refers to boys age 13 or younger. For females, naˈarah means “a marriageable woman,” while yaldah refers to a girl 11 or younger—too young for marriage.

Once again, these words and definitions seem to enforce the idea that the onset of puberty is a requirement for marriage. Before that time, a boy or girl is not of an age to be married. When it says “pass the flower of her age” it means “ripe” as when a fruit is ready to be plucked and eaten.

Like Ezekiel 16:7-8 it refers to the fact that she has reached puberty and is now ready for marital love.

So according to both the Old and New Testaments, a girl must first reach puberty before she can marry and when a girl reached puberty she was no longer considered a child but was now considered a woman.

The New Testament has even less to say about the age of getting married. Still, there are clues in New Testament Greek similar to those in Hebrew. “But if any man thinks that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she passes the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.”

I Corinthians 7:36 (KJV) Paul uses the word hyperakmos about a female. In this case, it’s a young woman who’s engaged to be married. Hyperakmos is translated as “past her youth” (NASB), past “the flower of her age” (KJV), or “past marriageable age” (CSB). The word means “ripe,” a common euphemism in many cultures for describing a woman’s capability for bearing children.

Paul’s inclusion of the word indicates that the marriageable age was sometime after puberty when a woman is fully grown. But Scripture nowhere sets a definitive marriageable age: physical maturity is a must, but when a girl reaches maturity can vary.

As with many other issues, the proper age for getting married has a cultural component that the Bible does not specifically override. What constitutes a proper marriage age can vary from culture to culture and still fall within the bounds of scripturally proper conduct.

The bottom line is that child marriages are unacceptable. A person must be fully grown to be married; he or she must be physically mature enough for sexuality and child-bearing. Beyond that, the Bible does not specify a minimum age for marriage.

This means the believer has liberty in this area: we may marry at whatever age seems best to us. But let us also put into consideration the verse that said, “…wisdom is profitable to direct”, Ecclesiastes 10: 10. On the other hand, the believer is also required to obey the governing authorities over us according to Rom. 13:1-7.

As believers in Christ, it is our obligation to obey the laws of the place where we live, unless a law directly contradicts the commandments of scripture. Therefore, we must obey the laws concerning marriage, and every civilized community has a minimum marrying age. Christians must abide by that law or else sin in violation of Romans 13.

If a person decides to violate the law in this matter or any other, Paul says we should expect the governing authorities to punish us accordingly, which is God’s will for those who rebel in this way.


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