Yet you say, Wherefore? Because Jehovah has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion... Malachi 2:14
The Hebrew word for “companion” in this passage is only used here in the Old Testament, and is feminine. It makes sense then, that this is a one-of-a-kind companion to the man, which should make them special to each another.
The prophet obviously speaks to older men who were “dealing treacherously” with the women they had married young, trading them in on a new model, as we often say nowadays. They had forgotten the covenant they made when they were younger to be a companion, not just for awhile, but for life. Men are not the only ones who need this reminder. So you will be delivered from… the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; Proverbs 2:16-17.
Since we cannot look to other uses of the word in scripture, it might be helpful to examine the English word the translators chose. Originally it derived from “someone to share bread with.” It speaks of a closeness beyond simple acquaintance. When people put their feet under the same table, they learn far more about each other than they ever will with a handshake in the foyer. For a man and woman to share a meal, the assumption is intimacy. What do you think of a couple you see eating together in a restaurant? Either they are married or dating.
The intimacy of a marriage, of course, goes far beyond eating together. When I see a man whose tie is askew or whose collar is turned up, I tell his wife. I would never put my hands on another woman’s husband in quite that way. In the same manner, Keith and I eat off one another’s plates and share drinks, we brush lint off one another, and get in one another’s personal space without a second thought. The sexual relationship, which we have already discussed (see “Cistern”), is a natural element of male-female companionship and all these small nuances are its natural byproducts. That is why married people should be careful who they spend the most time with.
God meant that this companionship begin, ideally, in youth, and continue for a lifetime. “A man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife…” Gen 2:24. As he reaches manhood, as she reaches womanhood, they search out a companion, make a covenant together and begin a marriage. In their “youth,” however a particular culture may define it, they learn together and grow together. They make plans and share a purpose—together. These are choices they make, not some overpowering feeling they cannot control. Choosing to be together and using that time to best effect makes the relationship more and more intimate as the years go by. But just as the myth with children, “quality time” does not happen if a quantity of time is not being spent at it. Anything that lessens companionship, in both quality and quantity, is a danger to the relationship.
Dating couples need to be talking about these things early on. If you cannot agree on life goals, if you do not share priorities, if you become bored in one another’s company, maybe this is not the ideal companion for you. Stop now before you get in so deep you feel unable to get out. It will only make the hurt worse to continue in something that will have no good end. You are talking about a lifetime decision here, one that will affect you as no other will, one that can even determine your eternity.
It is interesting that Barnes defines “companion” as “another self.” While some time alone can be re-invigorating to a marriage, it should always leave one with a sense that something is missing. Couples who make it a habit to be away from one another are lessening that sense of belonging. “But we’ve grown apart,” some will say to excuse divorce, condemning themselves in the process. The whole point of the relationship is togetherness. Do we think this happens by magic? It is my responsibility to make sure we grow closer together, not further apart. That does not mean that we must share every single interest, but we should share the things that matter the most.
When you’ve started out young and made it together through the various trials of life, the relationship grows stronger, deeper, and sweeter. Knowing there is always someone you can count on, that any little tiff will soon be over and all will be right again, gives you a sense of security that will see you through the toughest times, and that includes the time when this lifetime relationship is broken by death. To hear my mother say to my father just moments before he died, “Wait for me at the gate. I’ll be there soon,” was something I will cherish till my time comes to say the same words. That is what companionship is all about.
From those first baby steps as a brand new person—“one flesh”—to the maturity of an interdependent couple who have seen the both the best and the worst of each other, who have helped each other, supported each other, lived together, worked together, laughed together and cried together—a married couple should cling to one another and no one else in this relationship, under the loving watch of the Father who designed it.
And God said, It is not good for man to be alone… Gen 2:18.