Age Gap in Marriage
by Edmond Ng
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Many people have reservation about marrying someone much older than the other.
The Bible provides several examples of marriage by people with a difference in age gap, and one of them is between Ruth and Boaz.
Ruth is one of the few people in the Bible with no recorded sin, and she goes down into history following the genealogical line of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
In Ruth 3:9-11 (NAS), the Bible records Boaz's evaluation of Ruth and expressed Boaz's willingness to take Ruth in marriage:
- He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." Then he said, "May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. "Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.
Matthew Henry (1706) in his Commentary on the Whole Bible states the following:
"Boaz knew it was not any sinful lust that brought her (Ruth) thither, and therefore bravely maintained both his own honour and hers. He did not put any ill construction upon what she did, did not reproach her as an impudent woman and unfit to make an honest man a wife. She having approved herself well in the fields, and all her conduct having been modest and decent, he would not, from this instance, entertain the least suspicion of her character nor seem to do so, perhaps blaming himself that he had not offered the service of a kinsman to these distressed widows, and saved her this trouble, and ready to say as Judah concerning his daughter-in-law, She is more righteous than I. But on the contrary, he commended her, spoke kindly to her, called her his daughter, and spoke honourably of her, as a woman of eminent virtue."
"She [Ruth] had shown in this instance more kindness to her mother-in-law, and to the family into which she had matched, than in any instance yet. It was very kind to leave her own country and come along with her mother to the land of Israel, to dwell with her, and help to maintain her. For this he had blessed her (Ruth 2:12); but now he says, Thou hast shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning (Ruth 3:10), in that she consulted not her own fancy, but her husband’s family, in marrying again. She received not the addresses of young men (much less did she seek them) whether poor or rich, but was willing to marry as the divine law directed, though it was to an old man, because it was for the honour and interest of the family into which she had matched, and for which she had an entire kindness. Young people must aim, in disposing of themselves, not so much to please their own eye as to please God and their parents. He promised her marriage (Ruth 3:11):
"Fear not that I will slight thee, or expose thee; no, I will do all that thou requirest, for it is the same that the law requires, from the next of kin, and I have no reason to decline it, for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman."
"Note, exemplary virtue ought to have its due praise (Philemon 4:8), and it will recommend both men and women to the esteem of "the wisest and best. Ruth was a poor woman, and poverty often obscures the lustre of virtue; yet Ruth’s virtues, even in a mean condition, were generally taken notice of and could not be hid; nay, her virtues took away the reproach of her poverty. If poor people be but good people, they shall have honour from God and man. Ruth had been remarkable for her humility, which paved the way to this honour. The less she proclaimed her own goodness the more did her neighbours take notice of it. In the choice of yoke-fellows, virtue should especially be regarded, known approved virtue."
As can be seen from the commentary, Ruth chose “to please God” rather than self, and in so doing, pleases God. Marriage in the real world is not about age differences, it is about honoring God. There is no failed marriage if we do all things to honor God!
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It's true, the subject of age difference in marriage lacks, for the most part, a biblical slap on the wrist. However, your article does not address the issue of older women marrying younger men. Apart from a biblical perspective, this could be problematic when we consider it from an emotional and pragmatic point of view. We can always highlight examples of where the uncoventional meets with success, but in general, age similarity, in my view, works best for each spouse and their offspring.
Thanks so much for a thought provoking article. I am 20 years older than my wife and we have a wonderful marriage. www.kpprobst.blogspot.com
Edmond thank you for addressing this most thought provoking subject. Aside from "Flee youthful lust", I don't believe I've ever read anything Biblically that discouraged relationships because of age differences. "God's thoughts are not our thoughts nor His ways ours ways." Someone mentioned it could be a sign of immaturity on the older person's part. Then all the more reason they should seek someone at their level of maturity. The Lord could be restoring something to them so they can move forward from there. Obviously this is a subject of controversy. But again we don't always understand God's purposes behind things. I hope to read more articles on this subject. Thank you for addressing it. Blessings.
Interesting take on the story of Ruth. I do think the subject of the article (Age gap) would be more interesting if there were some contemporary examples besides the Biblical one. The writing is excellent though!
I agree that the Boaz-Ruth marriage was a good one, based on deep respect and love for each other. I'd be reluctant though to conclude from this story that a significant age difference is not something to be concerned about. When 2 people are greatly different in age, they will usually have different lifestyles, responsibilities, concerns, levels of maturity, social pursuits, circles of friends, associations, etc. I agree it is possible that 2 people say 20 years apart in age can be compatible on a sufficient number of these areas and have a healthy marriage where they both continue to grow together, but it seems far more likely that the older partner is somewhat immature or insecure (or trying to relive their youth) and so seeks out someone they'll be "comfortable" with. Unfortunately, if the younger partner is emotionally healthy (and they for some reason don't see these problems in time to avoid marriage), they will continue to mature while their partner doesn't and grow disappointed with them, or their differences will just become much more obvious once they're together 24x7, develop different interests and circles of friends, grow apart, and long for more compatible soul mates.
A very eye opening article. In this day and age when the divorce rate in The United States is almost half of any surviving marriage, even amongst christians, it is so sad that people still look down upon age gap relationships. If age gap relationships were the cause of the high rate of divorce, then I would have a problem with it. But there is nowhere in God's word that condems age gap relationships. However, divorce is mentioned. The high divorce rates are amongst partners who are close in age. I am an older, single man and am attracted to a younger person of whom we have a significant amount in common. My parents likewise had a significant( 26 years) gap yet they had a wonderful relationship.
I'm not sure why no one has commented on this article. It is excellent. Perhaps because few can relate to age gaps in marriage. I can. My mother died (in 1951), at the age of 49. My father was devastated. Her last words to him had been: "Go out and find yourself a good wife. You were not meant to live alone."..My dad was 51. Eight months later he married my step-mother. She was 22 years younger than he. It was a perfect marriage. He had 4 more living children. (Had 6 from Mom)... God blessed that marriage. I am all for the "Age Gap in Marriage", if God chooses the right partner...Helen