One of my favorite laws from the Torah comes from a passage in Deuteronomy 24 concerning marriage. This passage (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) is well known as the backdrop for the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees in Mark 10 and Matthew 19. But right after those first 4 verses is a law a lot of people forget about, but it’s a really cool one.
When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken (Deuteronomy 24:5).
This law is easily forgotten. It doesn’t ever really come up again or play a prominent role in any major Old Testament narrative. But I bet the young men and women of Israel remembered it.
Jewish Rabbinic tradition viewed it as the reason that King Asa “was diseased in his feet” before his death (1 Kings 15:23). For his building projects, Asa compelled all the men to work: “King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, none was exempt, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber… (1 Kings 15:22). This would be a violation of Deuteronomy 24:5 because newly married men were supposed to be exempt from mandatory public service. Whether that is really why Asa’s foot was diseased, I have no idea. But there are a few things I think we can know:
- God cares about happiness in marriage. God wants married couples to be happy with one another. The phrase “to be happy with his wife” could also be translated “to make happy his wife.” Husbands, I know you have important work to do. I know you have expectations put on you. But the Lord wants you to make your wife happy. Take that job more seriously than any other.
- God sees time together as an important part of happiness. The way God wants the husband and wife to be happy together is by spending time with each other. Free up your schedule. Take a break from your hobbies. Slow down at work. Time management is a difficult skill to learn. But when you examine how you spend your time, there is usually a pretty strong correlation to where you priorities are. You spend more time doing the things you prioritize. Prioritize quality time with your wife.
- God sees the home as more important than public affairs. I realize that this is only for one year, but I think the principle is that you first and foremost make sure your home is happy, then you can move on to other matters. This passage does not say, before you spend time with your wife, make sure you have done your military service or served your community. God wants us to make sure our homes are in order and places of peace and happiness before we go out and serve in other capacities. The home comes first.
This is an area in which I think we can all strive to improve: Prioritize your wife and home life, spend quality time together, and make sure your home is a happy place. Scaling back at work, giving up a few hobbies, throwing away your phone, whatever it requires, make sure you are willing to make the sacrifice for your wife and family. God bless and have happy lives and happy homes.