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Marriage in the Old Testament

What is marriage? Is it a legal institution the government can re-define at will?  If a couple live together, have children but never have a wedding ceremony of any kind, are they married? And does it matter?  And what differentiation of persons constitutes marriage?

Right at the beginning of the bible we have the fundamental principles of what God meant marriage to be.  This is the framework we must use when we are weighing up some of the issues we are facing in society today.  This is the way marriage was meant to be.  This is the way God meant it to be.  And as the way God meant it to be it is the best way for us to live and for society to prosper.