Genesis 2:24

Translation

עַל־כֵּן יַֽעֲזָב־אִישׁ אֶת־אָבִיו וְאֶת־אִמּ֑וֹ וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָֽד

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and stand by his woman for they will be one flesh.

Commentary

Therefore: the Hebrew phrase, עַל־כֵּן (`al-ken) is not part of the story. Rather, its use introduces an editorial comment on the part of the author.

a man shall leave his father and his mother: first, fathers and mothers are not part of the narrative, hence the need for the author to break out of the story in order to tell us something about the etiology of the man and woman becoming one flesh.

stand by his woman: the Hebrew word דָבַק (davaq) is often translated as clings, united, cleaves, and joined. These words do not capture the full connotation of the text.  Here’s the definition from Harris, et al (paraphrased):

Davaq also carries the sense of clinging to someone in loyalty. Man 1)In the text of this verse, the Hebrew word used is ‘ish, in this case referring to man as a husband. is to be loyal to his wife (Gen 2:24), Ruth was loyal to Naomi (Ruth 1:14), the men of Judah were loyal unto death to their king David during Sheba’s rebellion (2 Sam 20:2). Shechem loved Dinah and stood by her (Gen 34:3)

For the husband to stand by his wife, I think better captures the idea of the his obligation to stick with his wife through thick and thin.

one flesh: this is often understood as referring to the physical aspects of marriage 2)Sarna, p. 23 and is just fine insofar as it goes. However, the plain meaning of the text seems to express the idea that “one flesh” represents the union of the husband and wife in marriage. This notion is evident in the literal translations (below). Specifically, the text seems to say that the quality of loyalty and fidelity is constitutive of “one flesh”. After all, one need not be loyal (or even loving) to have sex and live together. The idea in view here is commitment, especially of the man for his wife.

Preliminary Translations

My translation conventions can be found here.

Mechanical

Therefore, a-man will-leave his-father and-his-mother and-stand by-his-woman that-they-will-become for-flesh one

Literal

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and stand by his woman that they will be one flesh.

Commercial Bible Translations

  • (nas)  For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
  • (kjv) Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
  • (niv) For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
  • (nlt) This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

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6 Responses to Genesis 2:24

  1. Benjamin Marcelo says:

    My gratitude for your website and scholar’s knowledge which the Wisdom of the Most High GOD used to divide the word in Genesis 2:24. I appreciate your adding a new word to my vocabulary and learning the meaning of “Etiology,” and the Hebrew phrase “al-ken.”

    Permit me to include my interpretation on the verse, if it’scorrect:
    “To leave a man’s father and mother is to leave their decisions and to begin making his own with his new partner in life, his wife. Thus, the word “cleave,” meaning of being “one flesh,” isn’t only referring to the sexual act but, also in loyalty of heart (mind) and spirit. Two people becoming one in having their own choices, agreement in whatever they could accomplish and accepting the outcome of their decisions with complete togetherness.”
    The reference I used for my conclusion is the entire four chapters of the Book of Ruth.
    Thank you very much.

  2. Benjamin Marcelo says:

    This is a continuation of my comments on Genesis 2:24.

    “Your explanation of the husband to standby his wife or the idea of his obligation to stick with his wife through thick and thin gave me the proper perspective of how it’s naturally correct. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi’s sons didn’t leave their mother after they got married but, instead dwelth with her for ten years. I find your explanation much better in contrast to what churches are giving out in bible studies where a husband should join his wife and leave his parents to become independent, because of what it says literally in Genesis 2:24. This is how I’ve formed the conclusion, as stated in my previous comments, based on what I’ve understood from your article.”

    Please tell me if my assumptions are right. Much thanks.

    • Michael says:

      @Benjamin Marcelo
      Yes. I think your interpretation is largely correct. It’s worth noting that in the Ancient Near East, the Semitic cultures were patrilocal meaning that the son (and his wife) often remained living with the parents BUT independently.

      • Benjamin Marcelo says:

        Thanks Mike, I really appreciate your response. By the way, I’m absorbing the wisdom available through your website. Will consider learning biblical Hebrew.

        • Michael says:

          You’re welcome and if you decide to pursue biblical Hebrew, open your mind and have fun. Here’s another site you might want to plow through

          http://www.hebrew4christians.com/

          It’s much more religious than this site (tho’ I am a committed Christian).

          Now, there are two reasons for learning biblical Hebrew: first, when you translate a passage you are forced to read it very carefully, slowly, and with a lexicon close at hand. Second, by engaging the biblical authors in their own voice and context, the text becomes so much richer. In any case, good luck.

  3. Pingback: The Image of God - Part I - Learn Biblical HebrewLearn Biblical Hebrew

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