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.
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 ((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 ((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.
My translation conventions can be found here.
Therefore, a-man will-leave his-father and-his-mother and-stand by-his-woman that-they-will-become for-flesh one
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.