Does a non-Jew have an obligation to get married like the Jew does?

2 Answers 2


Rabbi Achai Gaon, in Shiltos (165) states that non-Jews are obligated to marry and have children.

See also Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe (E"H book 4 ch. 29) where he concludes that the obligation of Pru Urvu (be fruitful and multiply) is an obligation on all of mankind, as a communal commandment. This also seems to be the opinion of Drisha (E"H ch. 1 note 2). It is the individual mandate to have children that was only given to Jews.

See also Yevamos (62a) where apparently Rabbi Yochanan held that one fulfills his obligation with non-Jewish children he had before his conversion to Judaism. (Rambam however adds that those children must have also converted.)

(UPDATE: on reflection, since non-Jews do not have the ability to effect a legally binding Kidushin/Nisuin, they couldn't be obligated to marry, at least not in the same sense as a Jew.

Noahide-law adultery involves not a married woman, but a woman who is living together with a man without the formal institution of marriage, aka "be'ulas ba'al".)

  • 2
    The position of R' Moshe that you quote doesn't seem to lead to a mandate to get married, since it's not an individual mandate, and anyway, one needn't necessarily get married in order to have children (unless non-marital relations are prohibited under Noahide immorality, which I doubt).
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Apr 22, 2010 at 20:57
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    Same is true of R' Achai's position. His wording is: דמחייבין דבית ישראל למינסב נשי ואולודי בני ומיעסק בפריה ורביה... אפילו גוים מפקדי אפריה ורביה. So he seems to be drawing a clear distinction: Jews have a dual obligation, to marry and to have children, but non-Jews have an obligation only to do the latter. The implication, then, is that they needn't marry for this purpose; having children out of wedlock would satisfy their basic halachic obligation.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 22, 2010 at 22:12
  • I agree with both of you, but see my update, above.
    – Barry
    Commented Apr 26, 2010 at 14:29
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    I don't know if your edit is correct. Rambam (Hil. Issurei Bi'ah 14:21) states that halachah does recognize "ishus" (a marital status) between non-Jews. It is true, based on the words "be'ulas baal," though, that this doesn't go into effect until they actually cohabit (Rambam, Hil. Melachim 9:7), unlike in a Jewish marriage where this state is entered upon at kiddushin.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 26, 2010 at 18:29

Apparently not. Rambam (Laws of Marriage 1:1,4) states that Torah law (for Jews) requires a marriage to be effected in the presence of witnesses, and outlaws non-marital sex. But neither of these applies to non-Jews.

Nor would they be required to marry (or have a non-marital sexual relationship) in order to have children. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 59b) states that the mitzvah of "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28) is one of the ones that was not repeated at Sinai, meaning that only Jews are obligated in it.

(To be precise, the Gemara says that it was repeated - in Deut. 5:26, by implication - but that this was done in order to teach us how halachic enactments have to be repealed, rather than to make it binding on non-Jews. Presumably, the She'iltos (cited in Barry Frank's answer) would understand this Gemara differently: this mitzvah is repeated for two reasons - to make it obligatory on non-Jews as well as to teach us about the rules of halachic repeal.)

  • Just the opposite: there are meforshim who understand that very Rambam to indicate that non-Jews are required to designate a woman as a wife (for purposes of establishing adultery) and the only difference is that Jews are required to have witnesses, whereas non-Jews do not. See: hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?mfid=19161&rid=2853 for one example although many of the meforshim understand it that way.
    – Curiouser
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 0:46
  • @Curiouser: thanks for that reference, but I'm not entirely sure it's relevant to the question being asked here. It's a good answer for judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/2718/…, but here the question was whether non-Jews are obligated in the mitzvos that Rambam associates with Hilchos Ishus (to marry, not to have relations outside marriage, and to have children) - and that source doesn't directly bear on any of those.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 3:38
  • Maybe you're right -- on the other hand the question here is pretty general.
    – Curiouser
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 15:39

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