For, oh, all of recorded history, men and women have entered into a covenant relationship, usually for purposes of procreation, and often out of a motivation of love. The Bible records this institution from the earliest of times, even before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden.
The story goes like this. God had just finished creating the earth, and all that was in it. He had placed someone created in His image over all earthly creation, and this someone was Adam. But Adam was lonely - there were no creatures like him, nobody to talk with, to play with, to work with, to have relationship with. So God created Eve.
My guess is that when Adam saw Eve, his thoughts were akin to, "whoa baby! Now that's what I'm talking about!" Adam had no reason to feel alone as the only human being. He had a companion, a helpmate. Adam was now complete. And really, that's one of the primary purposes of marriage (more will be discussed as the series progresses.)
God gave Eve to Adam as his wife on day 1. Marriage is as old as history itself. Every culture has had, in one form or another, recognized a special place for a marriage relationship. Ceremonies and legalities have differed, as have the priorities placed on different purposes of marriage. Some cultures have deemed marriage only for procreation, others as a means to pass along inheritances in an orderly fashion, and yet others as a primary method to control sexual promiscuity. No matter the structure, priority, position or constitution of marriage, history bears out that marriage is one of the foundational structures of human society. The Bible indicates this, both in describing the "first marriage" so early in Genesis, and by discussing marriage throughout both testaments.
Marriage is important. It's foundational, and key and needs to be understood with clarity. History has shown us many different purposes for marriage, some good and some, eh, not so much. History has also shown us different marriage structures, again some good and some harmful. Current debates on marriage are well served to include discussion of past marriage types and cultural approaches. The most important source of information on marriage, though, is the Bible itself. God created marriage when He created Adam and Eve, then told them to "be fruitful and multiply". From whom would it be better to learn than the creator of marriage Himself?
I will be taking a Biblical perspective throughout this series, but I hope that doesn't make me predictable - except to those who have a true understanding of what the Bible says about marriage (because that would mean I have a true understanding too, which is my goal in all things.) Please correct, admonish and question in a civil spirit; I know this topic can get heated at times, and I hope to approach things in a civil manner, even when certain topics are tough. As always, feedback is welcome and encouraged.