How Well Do You Know Love and Marriages in the Bible?

Torrance Grey

Image: Joseph Elmaleh

About This Quiz

"Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor. If one them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls with no one to help him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?"

Wise words from the book of Ecclesiastes! OK, we hear you out there saying "Dogs!" or "Electric blankets!" in response to the last question. But, in all seriousness, the Bible has a lot to say on the topic of love and marriage. The Old Testament, in particular, contains a number of stories about marriages -- some of which worked out better than others, to say the least. (We're looking at you, Samson and Delilah!) From the book of Genesis through the many letters the apostles wrote to believers in the early church, love, relationships, and marriage are a vital topic in the Bible. 

Of course, customs have changed, especially since the days of the Old Testament. Marriages between close family members are now frowned upon, as is polygamy. Even the New Testament, in a more subtle way, shows us how ideas about marriage have changed since the last words of the Bible were written. The early church valued celibacy and generally expected devout believers to follow Christ's example of staying unmarried.  Nowadays, though, Christianity casts itself the religion of "family values," in which marriage is highly respected, even encouraged. Celibacy has become a practice largely limited to Catholic clergy. 

If you're interested in exploring the Bible's ideas about relationships or want to test your knowledge of it, we've designed a quiz for you! Settle in for a tour of the Bible's lovers and lovelorn, faithful and faithless -- you might just learn a few things!

According to the Bible, Adam's first wife was _______.

The idea that Adam had a first wife named Lilith is well-known, but it isn't actually in the Scriptures. It's a story from Jewish folklore.

From what part of Adam's body was Eve made?

In the first surgery in history, God put Adam to sleep, removed a rib, closed up the wound, and fashioned Eve around it. This gave rise to the old joke about men chasing women for the rest of human history, trying to get that rib back!

I married Abram, and was also his half-sister.

Though not acceptable in most societies today, a marriage between half-siblings was accepted in Abraham and Sarah's time. The relationship becomes important when Abraham tells King Abimelech that Sarah is his sister, not his wife. Abraham is dissembling here, but not exactly lying.

Isaac saw his future wife, Rebekah, at a _____.

Abraham's servant had asked God for a sign that the young woman God had chosen for Isaac would offer the servant water, and water for his camels. Rebekah did this, and the servant knew he had found Isaac's wife.

Which of Laban's daughters did Jacob love?

Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah first, and allowed to marry Rachel only later. Perhaps he came to love Leah in time. Genesis says, even-handedly, "Leah's eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful." (Gen. 29:17)

In the Old Testament, who is David said to love?

Though David had several wives, the scriptures are largely silent on emotional relations between them. But Jonathan and David are said to be very close, like brothers, and David grieves when Jonathan is killed.

Who bore Abraham a son when it seemed Sarah could not?

What's surprising about this story is how many people accept it as normal for Abraham and Sarah to require her maid to have sex with him. Hagar's story actually parallels Margaret Atwood's, "The Handmaid's Tale," a story of sexual slavery.

What was Joseph and Mary's relationship status at the time they went to Bethlehem?

Joseph and Mary were engaged, had not had sexual relations, and yet she was pregnant. Joseph was asked to take it on faith that she was still a virgin, and that the pregnancy was a miracle -- a lot of ask of a young fiance. That was the state of things when they traveled to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.

According to an extra-Biblical tradition, who was Mary Magdalene's husband?

The idea that Mary Magdalene was Jesus's wife was revived in the mid-2000s with the success of "The Da Vinci Code." In that book and movie, Jesus and Mary have a present-day descendant.

According to Proverbs, a good woman's price is above _____.

This is Proverbs 31:10. "Who can find a virtuous woman? Her price is above rubies." It is considered advice for young men looking for a wife.

David's first wife, Michal, was whose daughter?

Michal loved David and protected him from her father's wrath. The scriptures don't make clear whether he loved her in return. He demands her back after Saul gives her to another man, but he cites the bride price he paid for her, not love.

According to the apostle Paul, who are Christians not supposed to be "yoked" with in marriage​?

This comes from 2 Corinthians, and is very basic advice for a devout Christian. A spouse that does not share strongly-held values is unlikely to be a good partner in life.

How did King David first lay eyes on Bathsheba?

Scholars suggest that the bath she was taking was a mikvah, a ritual cleansing that Orthodox Jews perform to this day. But in this case, it led to a sin, that of marital infidelity.

How did David get Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, out of the way?

The Bible's description of this is chilling. Uriah is an officer in the army, and David instructs one of Uriah's superiors to send him into the thickest part of the fighting, and then draw forces back, stranding him. David resorts to this only after bringing Uriah home from the war in hopes that he'll sleep with his wife, creating the illusion that the child she's already carrying is his.

Who was the wife of the apostle Paul?

Celibacy was common among devout believers in the early Church. Christianity would later shift to its focus on "family values," in which marriage is a highly-respected way to serve God.

When God tests Job's faith, how does Job's wife react to their losing everything?

The advice of Job's wife is, essentially, 'Just give up; God has abandoned you.' Job rebukes her, and she disappears from the story thereafter. However, since Job later has more sons and daughters, as part of God's renewed blessing, we can assume they worked things out.

Which of these Biblical books contains very sensual poetry?

Song of Solomon is also known as the Song of Songs, and clearly deals with romantic love between humans. It's also considered, though, a metaphor for the love between God and his people.

Who married Boaz and became part of the lineage of David?

Ruth was a Moabite; that is, a heathen. But her faithfulness to her Jewish mother-in-law was rewarded by God with marriage to the well-off landowner, Boaz. That's how she became King-David's great-grandmother.

Which of these women was NOT a wife of David?

King David had several wives. But Jezebel, a foreign princess and worshiper of Baal, was not one of them.

Which of these Biblical books ends with the words "the greatest of these is love"?

The entire chapter, 1 Corinthians 14, is known even to casual "Christmas and Easter" Christians. It's a favorite text often read at weddings.

To whom was queen Jezebel married?

Jezebel was a foreign-born queen and a worshiper of Baal. The prophet Elijah opposed the rule of Jezebel and her husband, Ahab, and predicted her violent death.

______ was the wife of Moses.

Zipporah remains a popular name for girls among observant Jews. It's sometimes spelled with a silent T, "Tzipporah."

Which of these women became a queen?

Esther is said to be beautiful, and she finds favor with King Ahasuerus after his queen, Vashti, refuses to display her beauty for his guests. Esther uses her new position to save the Jews from their enemy, Haman.

In the Protestant tradition, who is the "bride of Christ"?

It's a little more complicated in Catholicism, where nuns are considered brides of Christ. Protestants, though, tend to identify Jesus as "the Bridegroom" and the church as his Bride. This metaphor is found in Ephesians Chapter 5 and elsewhere.

How many Philistine women did Samson love?

Samson first falls in love with "a Philistine woman" who is not named (Judges 14). After that marriage fails, he becomes smitten with Delilah, "a woman of the valley of Sorek." According to scholars' knowledge of ancient geography, she could have been a Philistine or an Israelite.

Whose wife was Abigail before she was King David's?

Nabal was an "ill-natured man" who refused to show hospitality to David -- a very serious sin in the Bible and in Middle Eastern culture to this day. Nabal's wise wife, Abigail, secretly sent food and drink to David and his men, and asked his forgiveness. Shortly thereafter, "...the Lord struck Nabal, and he died."

Who is identified in the gospel of John as "the disciple whom Jesus loved"?

Theologians believe that this refers to John -- but that he didn't write the Gospel of John himself. Rather, his followers did, and they use this description to shore up the reader's faith in the authenticity of their version of events.

In which book would you find the verse, "Therefore what God has put together, let no one separate."

This famous verse is incorporated in wedding ceremonies -- and it's perfectly in context, too. Jesus was talking about a husband and wife, when the Pharisees were asking him about the morality of divorce.

Which of these Biblical figures famously said, "Whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God."

Ruth wasn't speaking to her husband, but rather to Naomi, her mother-in-law (Ruth was widowed at the time). We include it here because traditional Christians like to incorporate this text into wedding vows.

In which book of the Bible would you find the verse "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."

This verse sums up perfectly the "two against the world" feeling that lovers often have, most intensely in the early days of a relationship. It's popular as a tattoo, usually in the original Hebrew.

Which apostle wrote "Love covers a multitude of sins"?

This verse is 1 Peter 4:8: "Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins." English speakers have borrowed the last part of the phrase, "covers a multitude of sins," for everyday use: "He's a great cook, which covers a multitude of sins."

What was the relationship of the young Abishag to King David?

Abishag slept in the king's bed to keep him warm in his old age. But Bible scholars suggest that Abishag was also a test for King David, set up by his counselors -- that if he did not have sex with the young beauty in his bed, he was too old to rule Israel.

Miriam was the priest Aaron's wife. What relationship was she to Moses?

Miriam was Moses's sister, but presumably they weren't raised together. Moses was raised by Pharaoh's daughter, after she found him in a reed basket in the Nile.

To whom was Jesus's friend Lazarus married?

Mary and Martha were Lazarus's sisters, and all three of them seem to keep house together. Why all of them are single despite religious and societal expectations of their time is not clear.

How many wives did King Solomon have?

Fun fact: Sociologists, in response to the idea of Facebook "friends," which can exceed 1,000 in number, say that the number of people with whom a person can have genuine familiarity tops out around 150. Presumably many of Solomon's marriages were political in nature, and/or the number was inflated.

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