Cleaving—Dabak

June 4, 2012

by: Charleeda Sprinkle, Assistant Editor

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One of the words in the Bible that deals with intimacy is the Hebrew word dabak, which can be translated in the following ways: to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch. My favorite is the first one listed in Gesenius’s Hebrew Lexicon—“to cleave, to adhere, specially firmly, as if with glue.” What does God want us to stick to like glue?

To Your Mate

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, KJV). This verse contains God’s recipe for a successful marriage: leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh. I believe the order is intentional. If one part is left out or done out of order, there can be trouble, but we will focus on the cleaving part.

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In Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz’s commentary on Genesis, he points out that whereas animals were created simultaneously and can therefore function independently of one another, “woman was created from man to show that only in partnership do the two form a complete human being.” They cleave because the cleaving makes them whole; any division makes them feel incomplete. It speaks of permanence, a wholehearted commitment.

If they are not able to leave behind all previous relationships, if part of their heart still lingers behind, they cannot cleave to the mate wholly. The cleaving is dependent upon how well one does the leaving. A Jewish saying goes, “When a son gets married, he divorces his mother.”

There are marriages or “arrangements” where two people live together. They have left and they have become one flesh, but there’s nothing that causes them to stick together. Cleaving cannot happen without commitment, and one cannot commit to a lifetime without love. So, cleaving denotes the kind of love that is essential if the couple is to say “till death do we part.” It’s a selfless, unconditional love. It has to be unconditional, because every “condition” can become a reason to separate. Of course, there are numerous ingredients to this “glue,” which cause a marriage to stick: forgiveness, submission, thinking of the other more than one’s self, honesty, transparency, etc.

To God and His Word

israelimages / Michael Levit


Michael Levit
The book of Deuteronomy speaks of cleaving to God more than any other book in the Bible. “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast [cleave] to Him” (Deut. 13:4).

It could be that this verse is a good definition of what it means to cleave to God: to walk after (follow) Him, to fear (revere) Him, to keep (guard, watch carefully) His commandments, to obey (shema, hear to do), and to serve (work for). Each word has a little different meaning, but when you put all those actions together, you are cleaving to God, and there’s no room for separation. Why do we do this? “That you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling [cleave] to Him, for He is your life…” (Deut. 30:20).

One can’t cleave to God without cleaving to His Word. “I cling [cleave] to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!” (Ps. 119:31). Using other words found in Psalm 119, if we wait for, delight in, never forget, run the way of, seek, meditate on, love, sing of, and rejoice in His Word, then His Word will cause us to live in the kind of intimacy He designed.

To the Land of Israel

Photo by Nefesh B’Nefesh

Though this point particularly affects the Jewish people, any Christian who has visited this Land will testify that they felt like they were “home.” It’s a God connection, a kind of “cleaving” He deposits in the heart.

Just before the Children of Israel crossed over into the Promised Land, the daughters of Zelophehad asked Moses about their situation. Their father had died and there were no brothers, so who was to acquire their father’s inheritance of the land? The Lord instructed Moses to give the land to the daughters with the stipulation that they were to marry within their tribe, so the land would not be transferred to another tribe. “Thus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance” (Num. 36:9). Literally, it says that every tribe shall “cleave to” its own inheritance. They were to stick to the Land like glue, not “disengage” from it or give it away.

Hundreds of years later, the prophet Isaiah connected this land possession with marriage: “It will no longer be said to you, ‘Forsaken,’ nor to your land will it any longer be said, ’Desolate’ but you will be called, ‘My delight is in her,’ and your land, ‘married’ for the LORD delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you…” (Isa. 62:4–5a, NASB). God’s Land and people are intended to be as inseparable as a man and woman in marriage—stuck together like glue!

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