A Little More on Cunningham’s Ideas on Delay of Marriage

Mr. Cunningham has suggested in this video that his position comes from the Bible. He presents his position in the following video at 4:39:

His argument is that Genesis 2:24 teaches what he is saying. Notice, he gives five markers of adulthood, amongst them was marriage and children. Hence, he argues that the growing up [the leaving] should be connected with the cleaving [getting married].

There are major league problems with this viewpoint. The first is that it is most likely that the “leaving and cleaving” has nothing to do with “growing up” at all. The key phrase in all of this is וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּו, “and cling to his wife.” This construction consists of the verb דָּבַק with the preposition בְּ. Mr. Cunningham seems to be suggesting that this refers to marriage en toto. That is, “to cleave” means “to get married.”

However, given the way this term is used in the rest of the Pentateuch, that is highly unlikely. For example, here are two relatively well known passages in which that is impossible:

Deuteronomy 10:20 You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve him, you shall cleave to him[דָּבַק+בְּ], and you shall swear in his name.

Deuteronomy 30:20 To love the Lord your God, and to obey him, and to cleave to him [דָּבַק+בְּ]. For it is your life and the length of your days, so that you might dwell upon the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.

In other words, the phrase דָּבַק+בְּ seems to be dealing with commitments and obligations of the covenant, rather than the covenant as a whole. To put it another way, just as Israel was to be committed to God in the covenant, so, in the covenant of marriage, a man is to be committed to his wife.

This, then, also explains what is meant by the term “leave.” It does not refer to “growing up,” or “leaving home,” but, instead, it refers to the leaving behind of the commitments to your parents, and transferring those commitments to your wife [cleaving to your wife]. In fact, I read one commentator [Dr. Kenneth Matthews] who notes that these same two terms are used in Ruth 1:14-16, and these same things are probably at issue when it comes to whether or not Ruth is going to go with her mother in law back to Israel.

There are other reasons why Cunningham’s views are impossible. First of all, when a person got married in the Ancient Near East, they almost never left home. The family usually consisted of three generations living together-the children, the father, and the grandfather. While there certainly was some freedom for individual fathers to run their own households, the patriarch was usually the grandfather. Secondly, when a man got married, the woman would be expected to enter into the household of the man. Thus, the idea of the man leaving the household is absolutely impossible historically.

Now, that is not to say that I do not believe that parents should raise their children up to be adults; far from it! However, adulthood has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage, and there is nothing in Genesis 2:24 to say otherwise when the context and the language are considered. “Leaving” has nothing to do with adulthood, when considered in the context of “cleave to his wife.”

Also, the apologetic for Cunningham is starting to develop. A man by the name of Ian Chai posted a comment over on the Boundless blog expressing his total outrage at the idea that someone can steal another person’s girlfriend. Someone with the name of Autumn responded to his comment with these words:

I think you might have overreacted a bit. What I think he is saying is that if there is a girl you like who is dating another guy, but that guy is not moving the relationship towards marriage, then you should ask her out. She can always say no. But I don’t think he’s advocating stealing someone’s girl when her boyfriend is intentionally moving the relationship towards marriage, about to propose, etc. I think his comments are more directed to guys who are interested in girls who are dating bums.

I think this person knows that this response is quite weak when she says, “she can always say no.” Remember, the point I raised was faithfulness and commitment both to the man and the woman. If you see a man who is not moving a relationship towards marriage, do you act selfishly, and steal his girlfriend, or do you try to help them by talking to the guy and talking to the girl, and trying to reason with them? According to Cunningham, you do a very unchristian thing, and try to take advantage of the guy for your own gain.

In other words, there were simply no qualifications given to Paul’s statement that we are to consider others better than ourselves, and to have our love be sincere and devoted. Paul never gives the qualification, “Unless the guy is not moving the relationship towards marriage.” While Ian Chai accepted this response, I don’t. I think it is still every bit as unchristian as when someone steals someone else’s girlfriend for other reasons. It is called taking advantage of someone else’s weakness for your own selfish gain, and, again, is totally anti-biblical, and completely unchristian.

Addendum: After listening to this interview again, I have to wonder if Cunningham might say that Genesis 2:24 is defining what it means to be a man [a man leaves…]. The reason I say that is because he emphasized the word “man” when he quoted the passage. However, I have addressed this already a long time ago, and I would point everyone back to my article there for more details [just scroll down to the section on Genesis 2:24]. Suffice it to say, when we look at how this construction is used throughout the Pentatech, especially at the end of a narrative like Genesis 2:24, we find that it is telling us the reason for a particular tradition existing [in this case marriage], and is not defining anything or commanding anything.


One Response to “A Little More on Cunningham’s Ideas on Delay of Marriage”

  1. jew Says:


    […]A Little More on Cunningham’s Ideas on Delay of Marriage « Old Testament Studies Blog[…]…

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