Part of a Larger Narrative

Part of a Larger Narrative

by Bill High

Are you getting married? Setting up a new household?

There’s an oft repeated phrase: “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.”

It’s found in Genesis 2:24. Gordon Wenham writes about “Family in the Pentateuch,” in Family in the Bible.[1] He notes that Walter Trobisch wrote a book called I Married You. While teaching on the subject of marriage in Nigeria, Trobisch advocated for the Western practice of a newlywed couple to set up a home of their own out of the range of parental interference.

For the Nigerian listeners, this was contrary to their practice. Much like the Israelite families in the Old Testament, Wenham notes that these families practiced patrilocal marriage—the man stayed near his parents because in due time he would inherit the land.

Wenham notes that the idea of “leaving family” was not meant literally but was an emotional leaving. The new couple should form a separate and distinct emotional unit—a singular unity, one flesh.

But they were not a unit to themselves Wenham notes. In our Western culture, we tend to see our individual families as freestanding units—a romantic notion of two against the world. Whereas the biblical family saw themselves as part of a father’s house, a clan or a tribe.

As Wenham notes,

“The individual’s welfare depended on the success of the team to which he or she belonged…Thus, every individual saw his or her responsibility primarily to family or clan or tribe, not to self.”

It’s a vastly different view of our Western view of family. An individual unit or part of a larger narrative.

Subscribing to the larger narrative approach takes a different turn and cuts against our own notions of independence. But perhaps…


[1] Edited by Richard Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R (Baker Academic 2003).


Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.

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Published November 14, 2022

Topics: Family Legacy | Lessons with Bill

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