What does it mean to leave and cleave?
"Leave and cleave" comes from Genesis 2:24. After God created Eve and Adam declared that she was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23), Genesis says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). The ESV translates "cleave" as "hold fast." Some translations, such as the KJV, use the word "cleave," others say "is united" (NIV), or "be joined" (NASB).
This cleaving is further described as "become one flesh"—an intimate cohesion that includes, but means more than, the physical union. Cleave and becoming one flesh is an intimate, soul-level adherence to one another that God intended for two people in a committed marriage. This joining is meant to be permanent, last through the tough times, look out for the interests of the other, and move as one.
Both the husband and wife are called to leave and cleave. Their allegiance is no longer primarily to the family they were born into, but to their spouse. This does not mean a person has to turn away from their parents, but give their new family, beginning with their spouse, preeminence. This builds cohesion and intimacy and oneness.
God calls those in marriage to act and reflect His own relationship with the church (Ephesians 5). Husbands and wives are to honor and serve one another. This relationship is meant to be the most fulfilling, emotionally and physically, connection one person has with another human being—for a lifetime.
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