I know you might be scratching your head right now asking “Isn’t premarital sex and pre-wedding sex the same thing?” Biblically speaking the answer is no they are not the same. These are two separate and distinct things.
This topic is crucial for young Christian couples who are dating or engaged to consider in this age where sex before marriage has become so common that a couple is considered weird if they do not have sex before marriage.
Does sex automatically make a couple married in God’s eyes?
Some Christians have tried to argue that there is no such thing as “premarital sex” because they believe the act of sex automatically makes a couple married. They reason based on this logic that the Bible does not condemn something that is impossible to happen.
But the Bible does not support this notion.
We will show here from the Scriptures that there really is such a thing as “premarital sex” and the act of sex itself does not automatically constitute marriage. Later in this article we will distinguish “premarital sex” from “pre-wedding sex”.
So if sex does not automatically constitute marriage what does?
Biblical marriage may be constituted in one of four ways.
Marriage Method #1 – A man seduces a woman into sex and her father consents to marriage
“16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.” – Exodus 22:16-17 (KJV)
One key word in this passage as it relates to the “does premarital sex exist” debate is the word “endow”. This occurs AFTER the man has seduced the woman into having sex with him and BEFORE she actually becomes his wife (is married to her).
The word Hebrew word that “endow” is translating is Mahar which means “to obtain or acquire by paying purchase price, give a dowry” – http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/mahar-2.html
So we have just proven from Exodus 22:16-17 beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is indeed such a thing as premarital sex in God’s view of sex.
In this passage God was saying that if a man seduced a virgin who was not betrothed to another man and he had sex with her that he had to pay her father the bride price and her father would decide if he would allow the man to marry his daughter. The father had the power to refuse him even after the man seduced his daughter but he still had to pay the bride price because he violated the father’s property rights regarding his daughter.
But then the question must be asked – what is the lasting moral law here in Exodus 22:16-17 and what is the temporary civil law that applied only to Israel as a theocracy? There are two moral law parts in this passage and one civil law part in this passage.
The first part of God’s unchanging moral law in Exodus 22:16-17 is found here in this phrase:
“And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her”
Whether the woman is a virgin or not – God only honors sex AFTER the covenant of marriage has been established between a man and a woman:
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” – Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)
All other sexual relations between a man and woman outside of marriage are either whoremongering or adultery.
The second part about of God’s unchanging moral law in Exodus 22:16-17 is found in this next phrase:
“If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him”
In Numbers 30:3-16 we see that the only way a woman had the power to make vows of her own (which would include marriage) that could not be overridden by her father or her husband were if she was a widow or divorced:
“But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.” – Numbers 30:9 (KJV)
A father’s authority over his daughter is further reinforced by the general principle of the headship of man over woman (not just a husband’s headship over his wife):
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” – I Corinthians 11:3 (KJV)
This passage above was not talking about marriage but rather that general authority of men over women and why women should wear head coverings in worship as a sign of women being under men. The marital status of the woman was irrelevant.
Under God’s moral law, a father transfers his ownership and authority over his daughter to her husband in marriage. If the woman’s husband dies or he sends her away in divorce then the chain of authority is broken and she is free to marry whom she will.
What is no longer required is that a man be forced to marry a virgin he has sex with. This was a civil punishment as part of the law given to Israel a theocracy and the New Testament tells us that God’s Old covenant law with Israel a theocracy has been replaced by the new covenant that God has made with the Church(Hebrews 8:13)
This leads us to the second Biblical method of a man and woman entering into marriage.
Marriage Method #2 – A widow or divorced woman could consent to or seek marriage on her own
“And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.” – Ruth 3:9 (KJV)
We see this situation occurring with Ruth who approached Boaz to see if he wished to marry her in Ruth 3:9. Since Ruth was a widow she had to the power to enter into marriage without seeking the consent of her father.
In the story of Ruth we see Levirate marriage being played out. Deuteronomy 25:5-10 describes the process of Levirate marriage where a brother or near kinsman was required to marry the wife of the dead relative to raise up an heir for his dead relative’s estate. Ruth had every right as the widow of a relative of Boaz to propose marriage to Boaz.
The only consent she needed was Boaz and then he confirmed with a nearer relative that he could in fact marry her.
Marriage Method #3 – A man rapes a woman and her father forces him to marry her
“28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” – Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (KJV)
This is a very controversial passage of the Scriptures that atheists and others who hate the Bible, hate the Jews and hate the Christian faith love to use to try say the Bible promotes immoral activity. The argument basically goes “How could a loving God force a woman to marry her rapist?”
The problem is those who want to accuse the God of the Bible of issuing immoral commands are not looking at this from the perspective of the culture in which the command was given. In the time period this was given a woman’s virginity was her most prized position. Once that was taken she would have had a very difficult time getting married. In a Biblical world view the greatest crime the rapist committed was not in forcing himself upon her against her will – but rather in taking her most prized possession. In a way rape was form of theft.
Remember this same woman who had been raped could have been forced to marry this SAME man before he raped her by her father. Then she would have been compelled to have sex with whether she wanted to or not.
Some say there is no mention of the father’s consenting to marriage and that it must automatically happen. But we must remember that no passage of Scripture stands on its own. This passage does in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 must be understood in light of Exodus 22:16-17 which clearly shows a father must always consent to any marriage his daughter enters into (unless she is a widow or divorced).
So a father forcing the man to marry his daughter whom the man raped was a punishment against him and restitution for his daughter. The man had to care for her the rest of her life and he could not divorce her for ANY reason.
Now this does not mean a father HAD to have his daughter marry her rapist – it was his discretion.
The real problem people have with this passage is NOT that a woman might have to potentially marry her rapist. The real problem people have is the fact that God gives such power of a father over his daughter that he could force her to marry her rapist.
But again considering the culture of the time a father could be looking out for his daughter’s best interests. In their culture the worst thing that could happen to a woman was not being raped, but instead not being able to get married. If we understand this then we understand this is not something immoral that God is commanding.
Marriage Method #4 – Men could take women as captives of war and force them to be their wife
10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.” – Deuteronomy 21:10-14 (KJV)
This is another favorite passage of atheists and people who hate the Bible. God allows men to take women as captives of war and force them to be their wife.
A few things to mention about this. It was actually a mercy that these men would take back some of these women as wives considering all the men and their families had been wiped out in war. They had nothing and they would probably have died on their own.
Can we guess again what the atheist’s biggest problem was? It was men forcing women to be their wives against their consent. But God does not give people (including women) the same rights we do in our modern civilization. And God is ALWAYS right.
Does this mean we have to take captives when we go to war and force them to be our wives? Of course not. This passage allows the taking of captive wives – it does not mandate it.
5 principles we learn from Biblical methods of entering into marriage
- A man may not marry a woman without seeking her father’s consent if he is still alive unless the woman is a widow or divorced.
- A woman may not consent to marriage without her father’s approval unless her father is dead, she is a widow or she is divorced.
- Based upon the 2 previously proven principles of God’s moral law sex by itself DOES NOT constitute marriage. So it is possible to have premarital sex which is a clear violation of Hebrews 13:4 where God says the only sexual relations he honors is between a man and woman in marriage.
- A father may force his daughter to marry a man without her consent based on his headship over her.
- Men may force women to marry them when they are captured during war. Again this is not something we are required to do by the Scriptures – it is only an allowance to do so.
What we don’t see in the Bible about entering into marriage is also very important
Some very important things we don’t see are any requirements to have clergy or judges conduct marriage ceremonies, requirements for marriages to occur before witnesses, or for couples to seek the approval of the government or a church.
Contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church and laws of the United States or most western countries neither the church nor the government have any authority over marriage. God created the intuition of marriage long before the formation of governments or the church.
The authority to enter into marriage has always fallen under the authority of the family – and specifically that of the father, then the husband and only a woman if she is divorced or widowed and not a captive of war.
So is pre-wedding sex a violation of the Scriptures?
We have shown here conclusively from the Scriptures that premarital sex is a violation of God’s moral law. But what about “pre-wedding sex”?
Most of the time people enter in marriage at their wedding so we often confuse the too. But a couple’s covenant of marriage and a couple’s wedding may be two separate events. In fact a couple may enter into a marriage covenant without a state marriage license and without a wedding and the marriage may be considered binding and valid before God.
The only way such a “spiritual marriage” would not be valid is if the woman was not windowed or divorced and her father was still alive with her being under his authority.
So what this means is it would be perfectly Biblical if a man sought and received the consent of a woman’s father for marriage if the couple felt they could not wait for the wedding for them to enter into a covenant of marriage before God privately and then have sex BEFORE THE WEDDING.
Once the father has agreed to his daughter marrying a man the wedding date is only a formality. At the moment of betrothal the woman is free to enter in a marriage covenant with her husband in private – just between them and God and then they may freely have sex. The wedding at this point is only a formality to show the world their commitment to one another. But the couple could choose not even to have a formal wedding.
Are there dangers in pre-wedding sex even if it is not unbiblical?
Yes but only if the man and woman do not see their vows made in private as just as binding as those that would be taken before witnesses. But if a man and woman don’t see their marriage vows made in private as binding what makes us think they would take their vows made in public any more serious?
Premarital sex even amongst Christians today is at an all-time epidemic level. I believe we should look for all ways possible to take away temptations to premarital sex. Previously I have talked about Biblical courtship and couples not allowing themselves to be alone together before marriage as a major method of preventing premarital sex.
But because our culture balks at courtship and limitations of being alone together I think that this option of “pre-wedding sex” which is made right before God by a couple entering into their covenant of marriage privately after they are engaged is a valid option that Christian couples should consider to avoid the sin of premarital sex.
Why should a couple put themselves under this pressure once they are engaged? A wedding is simply a date and a celebration of marriage. It is not something that should hang over a couple’s head and possibly tempt them to sin because they think they have to wait to exchange vows until that day.
87 thoughts on “Does the Bible condemn premarital sex and pre-wedding sex?”
“The authority to enter into marriage has always fallen under the authority of the family – and specifically that of the father, then the husband and only a woman if she is divorced or widowed and not a captive of war.”
or her father is dead?
just want to verify b/c you had stated it previously in your post.
so, my girls, since their father is dead, are free to choose to marry whom they please?
Technically since their father is dead then yes they are free to choose whom they marry(of course in the Lord – meaning they are Christians).
You could make an argument for their step father since they are under the authority of his home but I would not be dogmatic on that.
Also I think if a father was a Christian and making decisions based on Christian principles would make a difference.
You got a detail wrong in saying the father could refuse to give his daughter to a man who had sex with her outside of marriage. He couldn’t, as further writings in the law of Moses state that he did have to give her to him as wife and that her husband could not divorce her all his life for having humbled her into committing this shameful act, saying “She SHALL be his wife”.(Deuteronomy 22:28-29) The Your “Marriage Method 3” doesn’t refer to rape, but rather voluntary sexual intercourse outside of marriage between the two, as revealed by the absence of the word forced, which is used in the previous passages to indicate rape, for the punishment was madatoraly death, so a woman couldn’t marry her rapist. Next, your whole reasoning on the “Pre-wedding sex” is senseless and has no Biblical standing. God never said the State and Government couldn’t have marriage laws, which means He expects those laws to be followed as long as they don’t violate His commands regarding such(Romans 13:1 and Acts 5:29). You provided not so much as a single passage saying a private marriage covenant between a woman and her husband following her father’s consent would be valid in God’s eyes, though if you have one I’d love to see it since I couldn’t find it.
“Also I think if a father was a Christian and making decisions based on Christian principles would make a difference.”
could you explain this further, pls?
Sorry my friend by you are incorrect. Saying the phrase “she SHALL be is wife” in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 overrides the father right to refuse to give his daughter in marriage in Exodus 22:16-17 would be like saying because Mark’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel leave out the “fornication” clause found in Matthew that men cannot divorce their wives for fornication. An exemption given in one place that is not given in another does not negate the exemption.
Again you are incorrect. The terms “force” and “lay hold” both refer to rape. The difference between the two rapes are one is of a virgin and one is of a betrothed woman:
“senseless”? Tell me what you really think LOL.
The government is not all powerful. No sphere of authority which God has established is all powerful. All spheres of authority have their areas of authority and their limitations.
Christ and his unshephards(Pastors) are the head of the church and husbands/fathers are the head of the family:
By saying Christ is the head of the church and the husband is the head of the wife(and thus home) God is showing this is a place Government has limited authority as the authority of Christ and a husband trump the government in these areas.
In the authority spheres of the church and the home the only thing the government can do is enforce the moral law of God. For instance if you murdered your wife or physically abused your children or a Pastor molests children in the church the of course the civil government can step in and enforce God’s moral law. But unless there is a clear issue of moral law government has no power over the institutions of the church and the family(which is the authority over marriage).
There is not a single passage of the Scripture that says we can have musical instruments in church services. But guess what we can. I actually know some friends of mine who attend a church with no musical instruments because they don’t see an example or command allowing it. Examples in Scripture do not bind, but rather they allow. The absence of an example however does not disallow something either.
As I have shown clearly from the Scriptures – premarital sex is FORBIDDEN by God, by pre-wedding sex is NOT and neither are private marriage covenants between a man and woman who have obtained the consent of the father. Therefore pre-wedding sex under these conditions is allowed by God.
wouldn’t a betrothed woman be a virgin? like what is the difference?
Sorry I worded that wrong when I said:
“The difference between the two rapes are one is of a virgin and one is of a betrothed woman”
I mean to say it like this:
“The difference between the two rapes are one is of a virgin who is NOT betrothed and the other is of a betrothed virgin”
The reason the betrothed virgin situation is treated very differently than the unbetrothed virgin is because a betrothed woman was considered legally as a married woman. If a man wanted to break a betrothal he literally had to “put away” or divorce his wife. The only difference between a betrothed wife and a normal wife was in one the marriage covenant has been consummated with sex and in the other it had not yet been consummated.
So in the case of a betrothed virgin she was literally now the property of her husband. The rape is consider a property crime against the husband and the punishment God prescribed for this under Israel’s theocracy was death.
In the same way if a woman who was married or betrothed voluntarily had sex with a man not her husband they were BOTH put to death for this property crime against the husband.
Also in the case of a betrothed virgin or wife there was no way to remedy the damage caused by the rape – death was the only answer as the woman was already married.
But in the case of an unbetrothed virgin and the property crime against the father there was a way to remedy the damage caused by the rape by forcing the man to marry the woman he raped if the father decided this was the best course of action.
Hope this makes sense.
No, sorry, but you are incorrect as the Exodus Scripture you cited doesn’t say he can refuse to give her to him. Those words do not appear in that Scripture in the Hebrew, whereas the word “SHALL” does appear in Deuteronomy in the Hebrew. Rather the Exodus Scripture simply goes hand in hand with the Deuteronomy one, revealing the man had to marry the woman who virginity he took without right. Again, you are wrong, not I, because the wording in the Deuteronomy doesn’t refer rape, but rather to a man enticing a virgin to have sex with him. Nothing in the Deuteronomy Scripture implies she was forced to have sex against her will, but rather that she chose to at his enticement. The absence of the word “forced”, always used of rape, is not present as in previous verses. And as to your statement on pre-wedding sex not being disallowed in Scripture, there is also no Scripture allowing it either. The Bible expressly says the Government is in place by God, and that the only limit to our obedience to them is if they make laws and decrees contrary to His commands(I gave Scripture showing that) Which means that if they make a marriage law that says a couple must have a license and medical testing for disease or anything before they can marry, a law which is not contrary to Scripture at all since God gave no commands regarding marriage except it be between a Man and a Woman, that law has to be obeyed. Theres no Scripture that implies Government can’t make such laws, even if the Bible doesn’t expressly say they can.
Actually, the government and church didn’t initially intervene in marriage to contravene God’s law. From the earliest days of the Christian Church until well into the Early Modern period, there was a prevailing belief that “consent makes a marriage.” What this meant was that a man and a woman could state, “I marry you,” in the present tense and be considered married. Alternatively, they could state, “I will marry you,” have sex, and be considered married. There was some debate over this because it removed the necessity for parental consent, but even with parental consent, a formal wedding or even the blessing of a priest was not needed to make a marriage. The reason that people chose to engage in these more formalized arrangements was twofold. Firstly, the blessing of the priest and the public wedding would each enhance the importance of the parties who married. Secondly and more vitally, it allowed the marriage to be proven at a later date. Private spiritual marriages were considered binding before God and in theory before the law. But if one member of the couple later claimed that the marriage had not taken place, then the law would be hardpressed to determine who was telling the truth. Even if the father or parents had consented, that might not be sufficient. The father could be dead, or he could be suspected of lying to preserve his daughter’s honor. Alternatively, he might regret giving his daughter in marriage to her husband, and he could in many cases claim that they had not married. That’s why we have a much more formalized marriage process today. Even those in the late early modern period who firmly believed that spiritual marriages were valid had to recognize that the private nature of these matches made them difficult, if not impossible, to prove later if one party decided to back out. I won’t deny that today there is a greater agenda at play than just being able to determine who is legitimately married, but that is why the government ultimately took more control of what defined a marriage before the law. Also, the Church resisted government intervention for centuries.
There are Baptist churches in Texas that have decided to no longer do legal weddings. Since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states now, they do not want to continue to be agents of the state. They have decided to issue marriage covenant certifcates instead, keeping the state out of the marriage process.
There is no passage in the Bible that supports the notion that the state has to approve of our marriages.
I should also add that clandestine marriages made without parental consent rarely stood. The Church may have insisted that they were valid, but the couple’s parents often pressured them into denying the marriage and marrying the spouse whom their parents had chosen. I’m using gender-neutral language here because early Christian parents typically had at least as much to gain from their sons’s marriage as they did from their daughters’ marriages, and they wanted to maintain that control until their son was of age. Furthermore, even children whose fathers had died while they were unmarried minors could not marry without their guardians’ permission. Those who did (usually boys) were fined to discourage others from following their example. So, a lot of early state interventions in marriage were actually concerned with enforcing parental powers and allowing the king to ensure that he could award fatherless minors’ marriages to his courtiers.
the phrase “utterly refuse” as in the father utterly refusing to give his daughter to the man who has violated her virginity is ABSOLUTELY in the Hebrew text. The word is Ma’en which means literally means “to refuse” and it is used 39 times in the Hebrew Scriptures.
I leave the reader to investigate this for themselves.
We will simply have to agree to disagree on this my brother.
I am not against couples doing things like having a wedding and a wedding license. I agree with you it offers Christian couples more protection in doing so and I would encourage all my children to do this. My point in this post was to address the two issues of premarital sex and pre-wedding sex and show the distinction between the two.
I hear what you are saying about parent consent but I do believe that in the most(not all cases) parent consent would be required otherwise we completely and utterly undermine the authority of a father in his home.
As with all human authorities whether they be civil,church,employers, husbands and even fathers each sphere of authority has it area of authority and limitations.
A general overriding principle of Scripture is that God is over all spheres of authority so if our human authority in any area asks us to do something against God’s law we must refuse(Acts 5:29). So for instance if a father told his daughter to sleep with men outside of marriage she could rightly refuse this command from her father(Leviticus 19:29). If a father tried to have sex with his daughter she could also right refuse him as this would be a violation of God’s law(Leviticus 18:2).
Also if an unbelieving father tried to have his believing daughter marry an unbelieving man that daughter could rightly refuse(II Corinthians 6:14).
So I think when we take all this in account the Scriptures are teaching women that they just can’t run out and have sex with a man and come home and tell Dad they want to marry him. And in the same way a man can’t just seduce a young girl into sex and then run to the father and say “I am marrying your daughter whether you like it or not”. Does our society allow this yes? But as a believing Christians we should not tolerate this.
I think daughters should strongly consider their father’s advice and consent on marriage and only in the case where a father was acting with evil and unchristian intent do I think it would be OK for a Christian woman to go against her father’s wishes.
For the sake of clarification, when I said in my last post that the Scripture in Exodus doesn’t say the father can refuse to give his daughter in marriage to the man who had sex with her, I mean’t that he couldn’t AFTER the bride price of virgins was paid, as the last part of the Scripture you cited requires him to do. After the man has paid the bride price of virgins to the father, nothing in that Scripture or any other implies he can still refuse to give his daughter to the man as wife.
“After the man has paid the bride price of virgins to the father, nothing in that Scripture or any other implies he can still refuse to give his daughter to the man as wife.”
Well this is where we still agree to disagree:
In either case whether the father decided to allow his daughter to marry the man who seduced his daughter or not the man who seduced his daughter still had to pay the bride price to his father as this was a violation of the father’s property rights regarding his daughter. It was not a matter of if he paid the bride price he automatically got the man’s daughter as his wife.
“I hear what you are saying about parent consent but I do believe that in the most(not all cases) parent consent would be required otherwise we completely and utterly undermine the authority of a father in his home.”
I definitely agree that parental consent is a good idea for anyone considering getting married, unless the father has evil or unchristian intentions. At the very least, a young man or a young woman should wonder why his or her father doesn’t like the intended spouse. Granted, some parents (particularly fathers in certain Christian groups) do object to their children (particularly their daughters) marrying at all or marrying anyone who doesn’t seem perfectly perfect. But most parents really do have their children’s best interests at heart, and fathers aren’t likely to reject a good husband for their daughter.
From what I’ve read, the early Church’s objected primarily to the reasons for which parents arranged their children’s marriages. They argued that most fathers (usually supported or encouraged by their wives) married off their children without regards to the children’s best interests or future happiness. They focused purely on how the marriages would benefit the families and didn’t worry about much beyond the wealth and connections of the prospective bride or groom. The man’s personal character and abilities were secondary considerations at best, while the bride’s looks and character were also secondary considerations at best. Parents today, I believe, are more likely to consider these things when approving of their children’s matches.
The Scripture from Deuteronomy I cited expressly says he does have to give her to him as wife after that as the word SHALL was used there in the Hebrew. I checked it myself, so I know. So yes, once the bride price of virgins was paid, which the Exodus Scripture shows had to be done in direct response to the father’s refusal to give her to him as wife after the initial payment, then the father did indeed have to give her to him as wife then according to Deuteronomy 22. Its not just about a violation of the father’s property rights concerning his daughter, though yes that was a part of it. If you don’t see that way, so be it. We will just drop the subject.
I agree with you and with the early church that some parents may have strictly married off their children for the wealth and connections that it might offer the family in doing so. But we have to really consider what we mean by “best interests and future happiness”.
Today we primarily focus on physical chemistry and romance as the most important factors in couples coming together. We dismiss as “shallow” any thought of financial considerations.
But let’s put ourselves in the shoes of some family 1000 or 2000 years ago. A poor farmer who can barely feed his wife and 5 children has a beautiful daughter. His daughter has a crush on another local farmer’s son who also very poor and will not be able to offer his daughter much financial security. As he walks through the market with his family a man with great power and wealth is passing through and notices his daughter. He approaches the father and asks to court his daughter. The father agrees.
As the courtship progresses the wealthy man comes to desire this young women even more while his daughter has absolutely no physical or emotional chemistry with the wealthy man. All she can think of is that young farm boy whom she loves. Let’s also assume from a Christian standpoint that both men are equally good Christians and men of good character.
Similar scenarios to this have played out in many romance novels and romantic movies. Guess who the women are always rooting for the girl to marry? The poor farm boy.
But God shows us that a godly woman chooses a man not based on his looks, his age or the chemistry involved. God shows us in the story of Ruth something that all women should follow. She pursued a man in the best interests of her family:
Ruth pursued Boaz because Naomi told her he could help restore their family. She was on a mission. Were there richer men then he? Yes. Were there younger men then he? Yes. But Boaz was the one who could restore Naomi’s family. Esther did the same thing in the best interests of all her people.
So coming back to our example would it be wrong for this poor father to force his daughter to marry this wealthy man if it would save her family bring them out of poverty? Absolutely not. This has been practiced for centuries and there is nothing immoral in such behavior in my opinion when I look at Biblical examples.
There’s nothing wrong with the example that you provided, but for much of history, the best that a poor girl, however beautiful she was, could hope for from a wealthy man was to become his whore, not his wife. Furthermore, the Church never objected to marrying for wealth or for social connections. Their issue was more that parents sometimes forced their children to marry people whom they hated (leading to a disastrous marriage that didn’t fulfill any parts of God’s design for marriage) or that they would choose a man or woman who was wealthy but had a terrible character (and this again would lead to a disastrous marriage).
For an example of a particularly disastrous marriage, we have John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey and Jeanne de Bar. In 1306, the 20-year-old Surrey married the 10-year-old Jeanne, whose maternal grandfather was Edward I of England. John understandably didn’t have much of an interest of his 10-year-old new wife, and anyway, he wouldn’t have been allowed to consummate their marriage until she was at least 12. He spent the next few years in a romantic and sexual relationship with a woman named Maud de Nerford. By 1313, he was living apart from his wife and trying to annul their marriage so that he could marry Maud, who had given birth to several illegitimate children. He never succeeded in annulling his marriage to Jeanne, even though he at various point tried to argue that they were related with him a forbidden degree, claimed that he had been forced into the marriage, and even claimed to have had sex with her maternal aunt Mary (a then-deceased abbess and an English princess). He ignored all papal and ecclesiastical orders to part with his mistress and treat Jeanne with proper marital affection. Instead, he named his sons with Maud as his heirs and gave her lands. But then he eventually parted with Maud, disinherited their sons, and blocked her from suing in court for any money and lands that he had given to her and promised to her. He didn’t treat Jeanne any better after this point, and he eventually took up with the much-younger Isabella Holland (about 35 years his junior). Then he started trying to put her aside again. When he died in 1347, he left Isabella everything that he could and left Jeanne nothing. She did get lands that were due to her by the terms of her marriage contract, but that’s about it. She and John had not children together, although he had a total of nine illegitimate children, some with Maud, possibly some with unknown women, and possibly some with Isabella.
And for another example, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the third son of Edward III, married his second-surviving daughter Elizabeth to John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was already seventeen, and Pembroke was only eight. While waiting for her husband to become old enough to consummate their marriage and behave as a true husband to her in other ways, she was seduced by John Holland, her second cousin-once-removed and the half-brother of Richard II. She became pregnant by Holland, and her father had to hastily annul her still-unconsummated marriage to Pembroke, who was still only fourteen, so that she could marry Holland and preserve some form of honor.
These are all really great examples. There is some debate about child marriage in the Bible because of the story of King Joash:
The debate is did Jehoiada get the king his two wives when he was 7 and began to reign or did he get them later when he was in his teens?
I personally believe based on my understand of Jewish tradition that marriages did not happen until at least the age of 12 that Jehoiada would have been much older when he actually got his two wives.
I think that it is not wise policy and your stories show this to put a man and woman together in marriage that are incapable of consummating that marriage and regularly having sex.
Definitely. This is why most boys and girls were not married until they were at least 12, although their parents might easily wait two or three more years. They knew that girls might still be too small to safely give birth, even if they’d gone through puberty, at the age of 12, and they feared that boys who started having sex too young might suffer ill-effects on their health. Granted, this was based on the idea that sperm was a potent lifeforce for men rather than a resource that’s constantly being renewed, but that was, er, science of the time.
Reading some of these comments just reinforces my previous comment (on the other post) that we modern people are just too out of touch with the past to fully understand marriage back in the medieval and biblical times.
“There’s nothing wrong with the example that you provided, but for much of history, the best that a poor girl, however beautiful she was, could hope for from a wealthy man was to become his whore, not his wife. Furthermore, the Church never objected to marrying for wealth or for social connections. Their issue was more that parents sometimes forced their children to marry people whom they hated (leading to a disastrous marriage that didn’t fulfill any parts of God’s design for marriage) or that they would choose a man or woman who was wealthy but had a terrible character (and this again would lead to a disastrous marriage).”
Again we see that, in modern times, a woman being forced to marry someone they weren’t ‘in love with’ doesn’t make sense. It seems wrong and ‘doesn’t fulfill any parts of God’s design for marriage’. This would be true if God’s design for marriage was strictly to have the emotional high of being in love, but its not. “The best that a poor girl, however beautiful she was, could hope for from a wealthy man was to become his whore, not his wife.” – this statement is so…..unbelievable, I don’t even know how to properly address it! Where is your proof? What makes her a whore over a wife? Does this rich man take his hard earned money and provide her food? Shelter? Clothing? Affection? Children? These are not the things a man provides to a whore. Providing all these things is an act of love. LOVE! Modern day love is translated as showering someone with affection, going on dates, buying gifts – basically making sure the high lasts as long as you can keep it going. When the high ends, the ‘love’ ends. As a result we have marriages that last little more than a year, or less, before they fall apart and end.
Now, not every marriage in those times was perfect, I’m sure, but marriage meant more than it means now. Marriage was the promise of a man providing for and taking care of another person – his wife. The promise of a wife taking care of her husbands home and children. Today marriage is merely a formality! Oh sure, lets get married. You have your job, I have mine. Separate bank accounts, pre-nup agreements. If this fails, you know, I’ll have some cash in the bank to keep me going until I find spouse #2! Marriage is a sham now where it was something deeper then.
I don’t know if we can have a good and honest conversation about all of this. Not for lack of trying, but for lack of understanding.
“this statement is so…..unbelievable, I don’t even know how to properly address it!”
I’m a bit puzzled that you find this unbelievable. Marriage was for centuries upon centuries a matter of economics and status, NOT a matter of love, physical attraction, or emotional intimacy. It seems as though you’re the one who believes in modern fairytales (i.e. a rich and handsome prince marries the poor but beautiful and virtuous farm girl), not me. The fact of the matter is that throughout history, men have married women who could enhance their wealth and their social status and have sought beauty and sexual passion from mistresses. True, some fathers (and even some husbands) thought that it would benefit them and the woman if she engaged in a non-marital sexual relationship with another man.
“Where is your proof? What makes her a whore over a wife?”
The fact that he doesn’t marry her and that their arrangement will likely only last as long as she’s young and beautiful and/or until he marries a woman who is his economic and social equal.
“Does this rich man take his hard earned money and provide her food? Shelter? Clothing? Affection? Children? These are not the things a man provides to a whore. Providing all these things is an act of love. LOVE!”
Yes, but she’s not given the respect or honors of a wife, and she will be unable to make any claims on his property or wealth after his death or if he sends her away while he’s still alive. He can also send her away for any non biblical reason whatsoever. As for her children, they’re illegitimate, have limited social options, and cannot inherit their fathers’ titles, properties, or anything else that isn’t automatically entailed to his legitimate heir.
” Providing all these things is an act of love. LOVE! Modern day love is translated as showering someone with affection, going on dates, buying gifts – basically making sure the high lasts as long as you can keep it going.”
I’m not denying that those providing those things are an act of love. I’m saying that it’s incredibly unlikely that a rich man would have made a poor farm girl his legitimate and official wife, however beautiful she was. In any monogamous society, that makes her a whore, if a beloved one.
“I don’t know if we can have a good and honest conversation about all of this. Not for lack of trying, but for lack of understanding.”
If you can get ahold of yourself for a second, I think that we can.
If you want an example of what often happened to women who were beloved, longterm mistresses of higher status men who couldn’t legally marry them, look at my post about John de Warenne, Jeanne de Bar, Maud de Nerford, and Isabella Holland.
To be this in really simple terms: when I said, “The best that a poor girl, however beautiful she was, could hope for from a wealthy man was to become his whore, not his wife,” I meant, “A rich man most likely would not make that beautiful but poor woman his wife. Instead, he’d reach an arrangement with her father where she’d be his mistress for the time being.” Is that clearer? Sorry if it was confusing the first time.
Yours is a pessimistic view, it seems. To assume that the majority of rich and well to do men would marry a young, beautiful, yet poor girl as merely a sex toy, to be done away with when she is old and shriveled as a standard is a poor outlook. That is akin to me declaring that the only women who marry high status rich men are merely using them for their money and, once his funds have dried up, she will ditch him in search of a younger, richer man. Does it happen? Yes, and it’s scandal typically makes the history books. Is it typical? Probably not.
“A rich man most likely would not make that beautiful but poor woman his wife. Instead, he’d reach an arrangement with her father where she’d be his mistress for the time being.”
Again, assuming that the majority of rich men during the time periods being discussed were rich pricks with no regard for the feelings of others. A possibility, for sure, but to deem them a ‘most likely’ – most likely not. Perhaps amongst the nobility of Europe during that age, but there were those who would be considered ‘rich’ while lacking the nobility, thus lacking the need to keep pure bloodlines.
“Yours is a pessimistic view, it seems. To assume that the majority of rich and well to do men would marry a young, beautiful, yet poor girl as merely a sex toy, to be done away with when she is old and shriveled as a standard is a poor outlook”
I didn’t say that he’d merely use her as a sex toy. He’d keep her as his mistress for a period of time and probably treat her with love and affection, although he wouldn’t have considered it appropriate to marry her. If he was able to, he likely would provide well for her after he was done with her. He’d make provisions for any illegitimate children and come up with some sort of settlement for her. If she wanted to marry, he’d find her a decent husband and give her a good dowry. If she wanted to retreat into a religious life, he’d pay for her entry into a good convent.
In all honesty, your belief that men of the past typically married for love and sexual attraction is overly optimistic and even a little naive.
“Perhaps amongst the nobility of Europe during that age, but there were those who would be considered ‘rich’ while lacking the nobility, thus lacking the need to keep pure bloodlines.”
No, they didn’t need to keep the bloodlines pure, but they did want to get richer and expand their network of connections. If you want to look at some good examples of this, Florence is the place to start. Although they didn’t technically have a nobility, the richest and most politically important families typically intermarried. Men also didn’t usually marry until they were in their mid-thirites, by which time they would have enough wealth and position to attract a teenaged wife from a good family who hopefully also happened to be good-looking. Before they married, they typically kept longterm mistresses. Once they were getting ready to marry, they’d set aside their longterm mistress, provide for her in some way, and raise their illegitimate children within their household with their new wives.
Also, dowries continued to become ruinously high in Renaissance Italy for a reason. Women were expected to bring fortunes to their new husbands.
I believe we are talking about two different time periods and two different peoples. I can only assume this is why we are so disconnected in our discussion.
I’m guessing that you’re talking about biblical peoples, and I’m talking about medieval/early modern peoples. That would make sense, actually. In polygamous times, a wealthy man could very well take a poor, beautiful as a concubine or a secondary wife while also making at least one marriage for social or financial advantages. In monogamous times, men had to be more selective about whom they married, so they kept women that they may have loved more but who weren’t as wealthy or highborn as long-term mistresses. They never exchanged vows to establish a spiritual marriage, and they never legally married, but the man would provide for her in the way that men of the past would have provided for a concubine or a secondary wife.
I knew there was something fishy going on. The missing link has been found! On this, I can totally agree. Your words make perfect sense now.
There we go! lol. Happy to have sorted this out.
I have a question, but also wanted to say I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog lately; lots of food for thought as well as motivation to find ways to strengthen a marriage and family.
I married the same man twice. He left me during our first marriage, to be with another woman. After several years of separation, eventually including divorce, he repented and sought a reconciliation, which has been successful. We are now fully and legally remarried, but what I’m wondering is, since we resumed marital relations prior to remarrying, is that premarital sex, scripturally speaking, in your opinion?
I am clear in my conscience as a Christian with the way that we approached this. There was no need, and no interest, in our having a “dating” relationship. We were either going to reconcile as man and wife, or we weren’t; there was no halfway relationship that either of us was interested in. There are a couple of things that give me pause, though. First, we did wait several months before having a wedding ceremony. He expressed from the start both that he was willing to marry at any time and that we would certainly marry at some point, sooner or later. So, I know that I was hedging my bets to a certain extent by not insisting on a wedding immediately. I wanted to be his wife again but still had residual doubts (and understandably so, I think, based on previous conduct.) Thus, I feel there is a sort of wanting to have it both ways there, that goes against the spirit of the prohibition against premarital sex.
The other thing is that, since we were divorced at the time we resumed our relationship–and because he had abandoned the marriage, thus in my mind freeing me of any obligation as his wife–I was at the time free to find another husband had I chosen to do so. So, again, in a more general sense, there is a sort of you-can’t-have-it-both-ways situation in that you can’t choose to be both free of the marital relationship and at the same time free to pursue sex which is not permitted outside of the marital relationship.
At the time, I was leaning more toward divorce being in some way undone in God’s eyes in a case where both parties have agreed to reconciliation–regardless of the civil legalities–so before God I was still his wife in a very real sense. But that is not scriptural. Also, I never so much as went on a date with another man during our separation, and in my heart I was still his wife, or at least still desired to be so.
I know this is long, especially for an issue that isn’t likely to come up all that much. It’s partly your blog’s fault though, because it’s got me thinking this over in great detail! Just wondered if you had any insight.
BGR, I have not known you to be this culturally relevant in posts! Unless that is my interpretation error. I definitely agree that back in Israelite days (for the Israelite culture), the things you present here was a workable method and perhaps the best one. But as you said multiple times, it is important to remember the culture surrounding these laws. I think we can both agree that the culture has changed a LOT. Would you say the ideas here would make just as much sense in the culture we have now?
A couple key areas of difference that I can see (and I’m sure there are tons more) involve rape as well as a woman’s financial status. Rape back in the day was mostly about sexual desire whereas today it is more about power and a desire to dominate and humiliate (not saying there were not and are not exceptions of course…and I am only speaking of non-statutory rape when I refer to rape in our current culture). I’m not excusing rape that occurred back then, but I can see why it would be much easier for the father (and the daughter while we’re at it) to consent to a marriage where the man truly desired the women. If she were to come back from being raped bloodied and bruised, that would probably be much harder for both of them. I do also think there is a legitimate interest between giving up one’s virginity pre-maritally and having it taken from them. Obviously neither is ideal, but the differences in character of the woman are likely to be massive.
Also, fathers had a legitimate interest in their daughters marrying because it freed them from the financial obligations of providing for her. In today’s world that is not the case. Today, other than happiness of one’s adult child, the most common desire for one’s daughter or son to marry is grandchildren!
“Rape back in the day was mostly about sexual desire whereas today it is more about power and a desire to dominate and humiliate…”
Or it was an attempt to force the father to marry give the rapist his daughter in marriage. Abducting and raping a woman and then coercing her into agree marriage was a rather common tactic for medieval men hoping to get rich wives (either virgin heiresses or wealthy widows). I know that it’s not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, but I could certainly believe that a man who really wanted to marry a young woman, whether it be for sexual desire or greed or both, might consider raping her in order to pressure the otherwise reluctant father into giving her to him in marriage.
Oh wait. I forgot that there is an example of that in the Bible with Dinah and Shechem.
True, Alex, I definitely wasn’t intending to say that sexual desire was the only motivation for rape back in the day. But more that it wasn’t necessarily as violent a crime as it is considered today (again, important to distinguish between statutory and non-statutory rape).
I’m coming off a particularly rough couple hours at work so I might honestly just have a very pessimistic view of human nature at the moment, but I can’t help but feel that part of a man’s desire (particularly that of a single man but not necessarily if polygamy is on the table and therefore so are future wives) to return to Israelite culture is the desire to remove choice for the woman in question. It is so much easier for men to not have to build attraction in a woman and to just focus on how much he is attracted to her. And in this culture, the hottie that had the nerve to walk away from him at the supermarket wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. The idea of going through life just taking what we want has a certain appeal (and not just to men to be sure), but it certainly isn’t an appeal to virtue.
I see what you’re saying too. I think that there was far less of a desire to establish control through rape back then (except maybe to force a girl and her father to consent to an unwanted match or to get revenge on a man by defiling his daughter). Nowadays, I think that that desire is definitely stronger.
Calling me “culturally relevant” is like an insult most of the time…LOL
Let me try and clarify something on what I view “cultural relevance” vs what other Christians may view it as.
One of the things I am working in more posts is to help Christians understand how to “rightly divide”(II Timothy 2:15) those parts of the old testament that were lasting moral laws of God and those which were temporary civil punishments.
For instance God condemned premarital sex in Exodus 22:16-17 but he also prescribed the punishment for it that a man had to offer the father the bride price and if the father consented the man was forced to marry this woman whom he seduced. So the moral law we see here is God does not approve of premarital sex. That is still relevant to us today. We also see the moral law that a father must approve of a man marrying his daughter. Some today try and argue that was only temporary but I believe this is part of God’s lasting moral law based on I Corinthians 11:3 and the general principle of the headship of man over woman and father has that headship until he passes it to his daughter’s husband.
Now what is no longer relevant to us today because we are not under the civil law of Israel are the punishments and restitution prescribed. So if a man today sleeps with a man’s daughter he is NOT required to marry her and he is NOT required to pay her father some bride price by the Scriptures.
However if we in the United States decided to incorporate Biblical punishments like this and say that if a man seduces a girl he has to marry her and also pay her father half a years wages(which is approx what the bride price was) we could do that – but God does not require it.
I believe that if our nation experienced a true revival and turned back to God it would not be wrong to place penalties on violating a woman’s virginity. Perhaps it might not be forced marriage but I could see making the young man have to pay a substantial fine. In fact we could scare young men into the courtship model where they are NEVER alone with the girl.
Imagine if you knew if you had sex with a man’s daughter before being betrothed to her that you would have to pay half a years wages as a penalty? That might make a lot men think twice about letting themselves be alone with women they were dating.
On the issue of rape what is still “culturally relevant” is God’s moral law that a man who forces himself upon a woman who is not his wife is sinning against God. As I have discussed 100,000 times on this site if a husband forces himself on his wife that would not be rape but would fall into the physically abusive category. But on God’s moral law concerning rape we do not have to use the punishments prescribed here. Although I would love to see automatic death penalty for rape.
The punishment of forcing the rapist to marry an unbetrothed virgin is not binding on us and would not make sense in our culture due to the fact that women who get raped can still find husbands because a woman’s virginity means next nothing in our culture(which is a very sad judgment on our culture).
I understand your desire for there to be an automatic death penalty for rape, but unfortunately, this would only motivate rapists to kill their victims. As it stands, they have enough of a motivation not to commit murder as well as rape because that puts them on the line for more severe penalties, including the death penalty in states where it’s applicable. But if they were going to be condemned to death for rape anyway, then they’d be safer killing their victim so that he or she couldn’t identify their rapist later to the police.
I agree with you that it makes sense that the death penalty for rape might encourage more rapists to kill their victims. But I wonder would a rapist who is thinking of the penalty at all for what he has done and not wanting to risk decades in prison not also kill his victim to avert that punishment?
I think that the hope of avoiding punishment, or even just the possibility of a soiled reputation, definitely pushes some rapists to kill their victims currently, but as it stands, if they are caught, their punishment will still be far more severe for murder/rape than for rape alone.
BGR, please believe that I meant no offense by using the phrase ‘culturally relevant’. While not always a good thing, i thought it was appropriate in this post.
I think that for our culture, the best way for people to handle the whole father/daughter aspect of entering into a marriage is to keep the father as involved as possible. Unfortunately, there are lots of families where there is no dad in the picture at all, or he is totally hands off and doesn’t really care what happens as long as nobody gets hurt. There are also families where the dad is more than willing to be a source of advice but the daughter rejects it. I know for me, my dad was able to provide some truly excellent advice to me and Tobias throughout the dating stage and he did give his full blessing for our relationship to start, flourish, and result in marriage. Before Tobias, I had been kinda-sorta dating someone who he did not think was very good for me. He advised that I back off and had very solid reasons why. So I think whether it’s in support or protest, a father can provide very helpful advice.
But that is a totally different thing than actually forcing a daughter to marry someone she doesn’t want to. I don’t really understand you and Snapper here. Cuz he says that women are more than happy to join a harem for a rich man but you say that women are often go for the poor man and need their dad to force them to marry the rich man. It honestly seems like we as women are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Can’t the woman that wants to marry the rich man marry him and the woman that wants to marry the poor man marry him? Assuming the men are willing of course. You say that it doesn’t matter if the woman is ‘in love’ with the man or not, but would you also argue that it doesn’t matter if the man is attracted to her or not? Or is it only women who have to make allowances here?
On the whole rape issue, I would actually tread very carefully there. There are a lot of false rape accusations from emotionally and mentally unstable women, and unfortunately more than a few unjust convictions. While I’d like to think that if the stakes were raised (by putting the death penalty on the table), it would cause women to be less flippant in their accusations, and it would encourage a jury to follow due process for men, I think that has the order backwards and it feels like we’re gambling with men’s lives at that point.
Don’t worry I was not a offended and thus my “..LOL” believe I have a thick skin and it has had to grow thicker since I started this site as I get death threats and get called every name in the book.
First I don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman wanting join a man’s harem because he is rich and can provide for her. Remember when I wrote on concubines a while back – they were were regarded as wives, it was simply that they were a slave wife instead of a free wife and their children would not have an inheritance. But if a woman sold herself to a man a concubine to be part of his harem there nothing immoral in this from a Biblical standpoint. So the woman who sold herself as a concubine in Israel was actually doing a noble thing in making sure she was cared for and would not be burden to others begging on the street.
She is not “damned” if she does this. However a woman who follows her emotion in marrying the poor farm boy instead of the wealthy man who could save her family is “damned” for acting in selfishness.
Absolutely it does NOT matter if the woman is in love. Read the story of Ruth -she married boaz because he could restore Naomi’s family. There is absolutely nothing in the text about her being attracted to him. In fact most scholars believe he was significantly older and thus his comment about her not seeking after younger men(the young farm boy).
I believe the story of Ruth is an indictment of our culture and our modern concept of romance and what we think makes “good reasons” for a couple to be together.
Ruth only married Boaz for these two reasons – he was a man of noble character(a Christian in modern terms) and he could save her family. Their were other younger men who were richer or poorer she could have married but she chose marriage for the benefit of her family.
Now you might say “ah she chose” – again as I have said previously widows had the right to choose whom they would marry where virgin daughters did not. The point is Naomi told her he could save her family and she chose him because of this.
In fact I think there are so many things Christian women could learn from the story of Ruth and my daughter absolutely loves this story. Ruth was humble and a hard worker. She put herself at Boaz’s feet asking for his help. Today men bow down to women asking them to marry them – in the Bible women put themselves at men’s feet asking them to take them under their protection and provision. Again this should sting every woman today who believes in our backward notions regarding romance and “woman worship”.
Now as to your question about a man marrying a woman he was not attracted to. There was a situation in which a man was required to do this – leverite marriage to raise up a son for his dead relative is the story of Ruth. The only way around this was if another male relative agreed to marry the woman as Boaz did, otherwise the man would be shamed for not doing his duty.
But yes in most cases a man had the choice of the woman he married where a woman did not this is fine Biblically speaking. God chose us before we chose him.
God did not create men and women with equal rights. God place us in different vessels. If we are born in the stronger vessel(male) made in the image of God then we have different rights, privileges and responsibilities than if we were born in the weaker vessel(female) that is the glory of man. Simply put in God’s created order men to get make some choices that women don’t get to make.
God did not make us to be happy, he made us to be holy. He wants us to find joy in our circumstances and do whatever we can to avoid sin and to live out the model that he has designed us to live out for his glory and honor. Each of us has a different part to play and we must accept that part. Ruth accepted her part and God honored her by making her one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ.
I don’t think it was a problem for Ruth to marry Boaz, nor do I think that a woman can’t be in love with a man who is a little older than her. Tobias is a little older than me and that has never been a problem for me. Incidentally, a lot of the guys my age at school were really immature, so being with someone a little older is totally worth it to me. 🙂
Ultimately, I don’t think the word ‘rights’ has any place in a marriage discussion at least in modern times. The only rights a person has here is the right to pursue marriage because the responsibility to do so is found in that person as well.
Think about how it would play out realistically, not necessarily ideally, if you were marrying a woman who you knew was being forced to marry you. Would that not bother you the slightest bit or would you just be glad that you got to get her in the end? If sexual denial is a problem with couples who actually did want to marry each other, how much worse with someone who is being forced into it? Not excusing it, but we do live in a fallen world and should consider the consequences of our actions rather than imagining that the other person will be perfect in spite of our own actions.
I’m not sure that the Bible gives men complete freedom to choose their wives in every case except for that of Levirite marriage. For example, the story of Isaac and Rebekhah seems to suggest that a man living under his father’s protection was expected to marry according to his father’s wishes. After all, Abraham, not Isaac, was the one who sent out a servant to find a wife for Isaac. While nothing implies that Isaac would have been forbidden to refuse Rebekhah, he wasn’t involved in choosing his own wife, and he went along with his father’s wishes. Rebekhah arguably had a more active role in the matchmaking than Isaac did. There’s also the example of Esau, who is condemned for taking pagan wives of whom his parents disapproved and later was persuaded to marry one of his kin to alleviate his earlier decisions. Then we have Jacob, who did choose Rachel but who also followed his mother’s advice in wear to seek shelter and a potential wife. So while men in the bible seem to have more freedom to choose or refuse a bride, they also appear to be called upon to follow their parents’ advice on the matter.