Posted by: Ety W. | July 16, 2008

Leaving and Cleaving

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There are two more verses in Genesis 2 that we need to examine; verses 23 and 24.

And the man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh,
She shall be called Woman
Because she was taken out of Man”
For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Gen. 2:23-24 (NASB)

When Adam sees Eve, he recognizes that she is the perfect companion whom he couldn’t find elsewhere. She is unique among all creation. Because of this (“for this cause,” or “therefore” in the King James) man is to leave his parents and cleave to his wife.

Leave – Strong’s 5800 – צזב – azab = to loosen, i.e. relinquish, forsake, permit, commit self.

Cleave – Strong’s 1692 – דבק – dabaq = cling, adhere, keep close to, join to

Why? That that they might become one flesh. The word “flesh” (Strong’s 1320) can mean physical flesh, but it can also mean a body as in a unit. We see this formalized in the marriage ceremony, where a man loosens himself from his parents and commits himself to his wife.

Why is this directed at the man and not the woman? That’s a good question, and one which theses verses don’t answer. Perhaps because men tend to be more task/career oriented while women are already more relationship oriented. That’s speculation on my part, but I think it often tends to be true.

The word “one” in Gen. 2:24 is of particular interest for how it is used elsewhere.

One – Strong’s 259 – אחד – echad = united, single, same

This is the same word that is used of God Himself as the Trinity,

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One! Deut. 6:4


It makes sense then, that the marriage unit is used as a picture of Christ and the church in Ephesians 5:23-32, which we looked at awhile back. Does that mean we apply what Paul’s description of unity to marriage?

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Phil. 2:2

I think so. In fact, I think this verse from Philippians would be a great start to a four part series for pre-marital counseling! For those of you considering marriage, this might be an excellent checklist when you are wondering, “Is this the right one for me?”

For those of us already married, we are probably well aware of the areas in our marriages where we have either unity or disunity. Of course, we have been looking at God’s intent for men and women in a perfect, unfallen world. Still this gives us something to work toward.

It should also help us to better understand our role as parents. Hopefully we are not clinging to our children, but are preparing and training them to go out from us to be godly husbands and wives. Hopefully, we are not so emotionally bound to them that we will be unable to release them when the time comes.

In those two verses in Genesis 2 then, we see the pattern and the goal for a godly marriage.


  1. Ety,
    This one is close to my heart =-)

    I can think of two reasons why God told the man to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife.

    1. It has something to do with being head, the one who initiates, like Christ initiated the relationship with us.

    2. In a patriarchal society, if the man didn’t leave his father’s authority, he’d still be under it and there would be conflict between the heads.
    Wives were given in marriage, passed from the father to the husband.

    Leaving parents is essential to a one-flesh relationship. It’s hard to cleave when there are extra appendages pulling one or both spouses away from each other.

  2. Madame, those are very thoughtful reasons and I have to agree with you. One the first point, I am still trying to find a scriptural description of man as the initiator, and woman as the responder. These concepts really help explain quite a few things we find in the Bible.

  3. Ety –

    I have a “theory” about this husbands leave & cleave thing, too. I believe that husbands need to leave their “mommy” in order to be able to cleave to their wife. A husband who is trying to please his mom and his wife can be a miserable husband indeed (and may end up with a miserable wife)! I’m blessed not to have that situation, but have seen several situations where it would greatly benefit the marriage for that mama’s boy to leave and cleave!!

    God knows us so well, our weaknesses and all. I’ve found that consistently through His word He gives instruction toward those specific weaknesses. I believe this could be one of those instances.

    I’m a Believer!

  4. Laura, I have to agree with you. It is interesting that God was able to set guidelines according to our sin natures before we even had them!

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