If both the man and woman are of legal age and the man is considerably older than the woman, can they be married?
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I am not aware of any specific guidelines or restrictions in the Bible regarding the subject of age difference between husband and wife. Verses such as Proverbs 5:18, or the relationship between the man and woman in Song of Solomon, would seem to imply a relative closeness in age between spouses as a more common practice, but this area seems to be one where Christian liberty applies. (Speaking from my own experience, I knew a man (who was a pastor, in fact) who married a woman fifteen years his senior, and to whom he remained married until her death.) However, I would say that, the greater the age difference, the more that one or both partners would have to be very sure of their motivations for the relationship. Is the older partner reacting to a "mid-life crisis"? Is the younger partner seeking the security of a parent figure, rather than risking a relationship with a peer? Are there selfish sexual or financial motivations? Are both partners fully agreed with respect to the possibility (or impossibility) of having children? Is the younger partner fully prepared for the changes and responsibilities that may arise as the older partner ages (especially if there might still be children to care for at that point)? Finally, even if the couple's motivations are entirely pure, the greater the disparity in age, the harder it may be for others to believe that love is actually their motivation. This may negatively affect the witness of a Christian couple in the view of cynics or unbelievers.
The only information given in the bible deals with a man's obligation to God, not to his wife, based on his age. I am not finding the exact texts so I may be misremembering the actual wording, or I may be attributing tradition to being in scripture somewhere. All the men above a certain age (generally thought to be 12) were to present themselves before God at the tabernacle/temple three times a year (Ex 23:14-17, Ex 34:23, 24, Dt 16:16, 17). Although the Bible never speaks of the right of passage ceremony Bar Mitzvah (Son of the Law) it does speak of things that happen as a result of that ceremony. The son now is a youth (not a man as is claimed today) and enters his father's business as an apprentice. This is the source of Jesus statement in Luke 4:49. At this point a male could be given a bride. This does not necessarily mean they would marry at this time; it may only have been a betrothal. I have not studied the history of this matter, and do not know the actual practice. The Bible says nothing about this. However, the history, Book of Jasher (correct record), which is mentioned in the Bible, does speak of this. While the bible focuses on the men this book includes much more information on women, often including their age at the time they were married. We find in scripture that Isaac was 40 when he was married, but we only assume that Rebecca was much younger because women usually married by the time they were 14 or 15. Jasher tells us that she was 10 years old when Eleazar asked her if she would agree to Marry Isaac. She agreed and returned with him immediately and was married as soon as they returned. It appears in Gen 24:67 that this relationship was consummated immediately. Jacob was 78 when he arrived at Laban's house according to Jasher. We know that his wives were older than the usual marrying age because Leah's physical flaw (Jasher says she was cross-eyed) made her an unsuitable wife in the eyes of most men and Laban would not allow the younger sister to marry first. I do not recall if the women were 17 when Jacob arrived or if they were 17 when they married him, but they were much older than the normal marrying age, and Jacob and Rachel were in love with each other.in spite of the fact he was middle aged for the time and she was a youth. Most of Jacob's sons were older when they married, but Benjamin was only 8 years old when he was given his first wife and 18 when he took his second wife according to Jasher. This would place him at an age much younger than normal for a boy to go through the Bar Mitzvah, so perhaps he was only betrothed at this time, but that is not clear. Your second question is even less of a concern biblically. There are two kinds of wife in scripture, a bondwoman and a free woman (Gal 4). When a man buys a bondmaid he can either take her as his wife or as his daughter. If he takes her as his daughter he can give her as wife to any of his sons or his bond-servants. No mention of age being a factor here, and history shows it was not a factor in practice either. We can assume for legal reasons that Mary was a free wife (Gal 4:27-31) since Jesus had to fulfill the law in every respect and was the inheritor of the earth. We know from historical records of the early church that Mary was in the 14-17 year range when she was betrothed and that Joseph was much older, so it appears age differences were not a concern at all with the marriage of a free woman either. You cannot judge their society by ours and vice versa. Our attitudes in this matter are not bibilical, but the bible and history do not provide much guidance either. Modern psychology gives apparently good reasons for why age makes a difference, but it is also a pseudo-science largely lacking in detailed scientific studies, and openly ignoring such studies at times when the conclusions did not meet the approval of the "scientists" conducting the study or teaching the discipline. How reliable is such information?
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