Why Age 20 is the Minimum Age for Marriage

Posted in Family

Many people today are getting married too young. While some believe that in bible times, the menstrual cycle determined the age for marriage, scripture actually teaches that one is not eligible for marriage until age 20.

Let’s first examine the Hebrew word “taph,” which is typically translated “little ones.” It doesn’t actually mean “little ones,” but that’s how it is often translated.

Num. 14:31 - `But your little ones <#2945 taph>, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.

So how old was a person that the Hebrew language calls “taph?”

Num. 14:29 - `The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.

Such persons were regarded as lacking proper knowledge of good and evil:

Deut. 1:39 - `Moreover your little ones <#2945 taph> and your children (beneichim, sons), who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.

So according to this scripture, those who are “taph” are those who have not yet developed proper knowledge of good and evil. For this reason, they lack the proper knowledge to enter into such a serious covenant as the covenant of marriage and then lead a family?

The Hebrew word “taph” literally means

02945 טַף taph {taf}
Origin: from 02952 (perhaps referring to the tripping gait of children); TWOT – 821a; n m
The word is in reference to the smaller steps taken by young people. It is rooted in 2952:
Meaning: 1) (Qal) to skip, trip, take quick little steps
Usage: AV – mincing 1; 1

The word is in reference to the smaller steps taken by young people. It is rooted in 2952:

02952 טָפַף taphaph {taw-faf’}
Origin: a primitive root; TWOT – 821;
Usage: AV – mincing 1; 1

This word can also be found here:

Isa. 3:16 - Moreover Yahweh says: "Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with outstretched necks And wanton eyes, Walking and mincing as they go, Making a jingling with their feet,

But regardless of the exact meaning, one thing is clear: It’s exclusively used in reference to someone under the age of twenty.

Only a person twenty years or older would have been counted as separate “families.” Such persons were also at the age for war:

Num. 1:2-3 - "Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male individually,
3 "from twenty years old and above-- all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

Num. 1:17-18 - Then Moses and Aaron took these men who had been mentioned by name,
18 and they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month; and they recited their ancestry by families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, each one individually.

During the first year of marriage, Yahweh commands that a man not be charged with going to war:

Deut. 24:5 - "When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.

This command would not make any sense if children were getting married. They weren’t even allowed to go to war in the first place.

So clearly something significant takes place at age 20. It’s the age that a person is no longer among the “taph” and they become a man or woman.

Gen. 2:24 - Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

“A man” (ish) shall leave his parents and be joined to his wife/woman “ishah.”

Nowhere in scripture do we find a “taph” leaving his parents and getting married, and I can’t find a single place in scripture where a “taph” is even considered a man or woman.

In every case, a “taph” is distinguished from men and women.

Here are some examples:

Deut. 2:34 - "We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones <#2945 taph> of every city; we left none remaining.

Exod. 12:37 - Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children <#2945 taph>

Deut. 31:12 - "Gather the people together, men and women and little ones <#2945 taph, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear Yahweh your Mighty One and carefully observe all the words of this law,

Jer. 40:7 - And when all the captains of the armies who were in the fields, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, children <#2945 taph>, and the poorest of the land who had not been carried away captive to Babylon

Persons who are “taph” are considered to be a separate class of people, under twenty years of age.

“Little ones” is not actually an accurate translation. What is meant would mean “teens and little children” since “Taph” is used to describe the group of people under twenty years of age.

If you look at the secular history of the Jewish and Christian people, both of them made a habit of marrying early teen girls. Even in our country, it is still legal for a adult man to marry a fifteen year old girl in some states, as long as there is parental permission.

However, I cannot find an example in scripture where a teenager got married. If anyone can find an example, I would be interested in seeing it.

In the New Testament, Paul indicates that someone must be a certain age to get married:

1 Cor. 7:36 - But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.

Notice that it says "if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be." In other words, a female needs to be a certain age before getting married.

5230 ὑπέρακμος huperakmos {hoop-er’-ak-mos}
Meaning: 1) beyond the bloom or prime of life 2) overripe, plump and ripe, (and so in a greater danger of defilement) 2a) of a virgin
Origin: from 5228 and the base of 188;; adj

The word has to do with something that is ripe or overripe. Some have mistakenly believed that the term “flower” is in reference to the KJV description of a woman in her menstrual cycle, such as what is seen in the KJV:

Lev. 15:24 - And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days;

But would our Heavenly Father really approve of marrying very young girls, even as young as ten years old or less? Not so. Notice in the above lexicon it says “from 5228 and the base of 188.” This means the word “huperakmos” is a combination of two words:

5228 ὑπέρ huper {hoop-er’}
Meaning: 1) in behalf of, for the sake of 2) over, beyond, more than 3) more, beyond, over

188 ἀκμήν akmen {ak-mane’}
Meaning: 1) a point 2) extremity, climax, acme, highest degree 3) the present time
Origin: accusative case of a noun (“acme”) akin to ake (a point) and meaning the same;; adv

Looking at these two words, the literal meaning of Huperakmos would appear to mean “Beyond the highest degree, or point.”

If we considered the growth of a child, twenty years of age would make sense as a point to where a person is considered fully grown and will not be growing any more.

However, even if a person is physically reached maturity, there is a certain level of mental maturity that must be reached. Science now tells us the brain continues to develop until a person is 25 years of age. But since Yahweh allows marriage between people 20 years and older, Yahweh has judged a person’s mind to be sufficiently developed to handle marriage and family.

In seeking out a marriage partner, Yahweh has given parents the right of refusal, as even 1 Corinthians 7:36 indicates:

1 Cor. 7:36 - But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.

Notice that the text says, “Let them marry.” The parents do not choose their children’s spouse, but they do have the right of refusal if the parents deem someone to be a harmful person to marry. This protects their sons and daughters from making a wrong decision, especially at an age where the brain is still developing.

Another scripture also points to a point past the onset of puberty as the appropriate age for marriage:

Ezek. 16:4-8 - "As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.
5 "No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.
6 "And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood,`Live!' Yes, I said to you in your blood,`Live!'
7 "I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.
8 "When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the Master Yahweh.

This text is an allegory in that He is describing the nation of Israel like He would a young girl. Notice that Yahweh did not enter into a covenant with her for marriage during the time that “breasts were formed and hair grew.” This would be in the middle to late teens, depending on when puberty began. He did not marry her at that time.

He later passed by again and saw that her time was the “time for love.” So once again it appears that the time for entering into marriage is past the point of the only consistent biblical definition of childhood, the Hebrew word “taph.”

Once a person is past the point of “taph,” they are fully accountable for their themselves, and thus are able to enter into the marriage covenant as a man or a woman.

So by all appearances, the full counsel of scripture points to twenty years of age as the minimum age for marriage.

Some young people may find it difficult to wait until twenty years of age to marry, but this is an opportunity to develop the discipline and self control a person needs to be faithful to their future spouse. It’s also a time for young people to really learn about themselves and discover what kind of vision and purpose Yahweh has for their lives.

Whomever they marry will be the kind of person that will compliment their vision and their purpose in life.

Anyone allowing their hearts to lust for a person under the age of 20 years of age is, biblically speaking, actually committing child sexual abuse in their hearts.

A person under the age of 20 is just as off limits as a man lusting for another man, or a man lusting for a beast, or a man lusting for his own sister. Persons under the age of 20 are forbidden. Anyone marrying someone under 20 is marrying a child, which is not supported in scripture.

If 20 years of age were not the age, when would it be? 20 years of age has the most support of any other age of consent. Otherwise, one could marry a menstruating ten year old girl, and there are no scriptures against it.

We need to get back to scripture and reject the modern corruption and perversion that 18 years of age is the age of adulthood. This has absolutely no support in scripture. In fact, before the 1970’s no one was considered an adult until they were 21 years of age. Scripture says age 20. “Thus is must be.” (1Corinthians 7:36).