My question may seem bizarre, since in our age marriage is a juridical institution widely regulated in every nation, with the presence of witnesses and a precise registration in public registers; however I am interested in the exquisitely halachic aspect.

My doubts arise from the following passages of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah:

Hilchot Ishut 1:1

Before the Torah was given, when a man would meet a woman in the marketplace and he and she decided to marry, he would bring her home, conduct relations in private and thus make her his wife. Once the Torah was given, the Jews were commanded that when a man desires to marry a woman, he must acquire her as a wife in the presence of witnesses. [Only] after this, does she become his wife. This is [alluded to in Deuteronomy 22:13]: "When a man takes a wife and has relations with her...."

Hilchot Melachim 9:8

When is a Gentile woman considered divorced? When her husband removes her from his home and sends her on her own or when she leaves his domain and goes her own way. They have no written divorce proceedings.

From what Rambam says it would seem that, from a halachic point of view, the requirement for marriage between Gentiles is simple cohabitation, and that Halakhah considers the presence of a written legal act irrelevant to the Gentiles to ascertain the constitution and / or the dissolution of the marriage bond (I do not understand however, at this point, how were legally distinguished the wives and the pilagshim mentioned in the Pentateuch before Matan Torah: perhaps the pilagshim were all slaves, as about some pilagshim it is explicitly said in the book of Genesis?)

The issue has considerable relevance, as among the Noahide Laws there is a ban on sexual intercourse with a married woman (adultery), and therefore it is essential to know when a Gentile woman is to be considered married or not on the halachic level. According to what Rambam says, even the cohabitation between Gentiles so-called "more uxorio", that is, without the celebration of a marriage according to the state's binding laws, would still qualify as a marriage for the Halakhah, but perhaps I misunderstood.

  • asif.co.il/?wpfb_dl=2215..... torahbase.org/…
    – interested
    Apr 19, 2020 at 16:00
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    This is a probably a duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/29872/170. See also judaism.stackexchange.com/q/97512/170
    – msh210
    Apr 19, 2020 at 19:14
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    It may be a matter of dina demalchusa in which the law of the country defining marriage takes precedent. That is the contractual relationship between two parties would define marriage in that country. Apr 19, 2020 at 22:47
  • @sabbahillel Do you have a source for the notion, that "Dina De'malchusa Dina" supersedes Torah laws regarding marriage? Are you suggesting that if two Noahides merely "get married" in front of a Justice of Peace, and before they get to go home and engage in sexual intercourse, the woman had relations with a different man, then she would be guilty of adultery, since "Dina De'malchusa Dina", and therefore halachically she was considered to be already married to the first guy? Apr 20, 2020 at 19:56
  • @IsraelReader No. I was suggesting that the halachic definition of much that the gentiles do would be based on the Noachide mitzvah of dinim. That is the requirement to set up a system of laws and courts to cover the details of the legal system. There are requirements that the laws that they set up cannot violate the other six Noachide laws, but the actual details are what the society establishes. Once they establish the legalisms, then they would have to abide by them. Apr 20, 2020 at 21:23

1 Answer 1


For the purpose of Jewish Laws affecting the Noahide, Halacha is indifferent as to the ritual or ceremony by which non-Jews traditionally effect a marriage bond.

[Nevertheless, practicing Noahides should definitely abide by the laws of the land that they live in, and follow any legal procedures that are required, in order to ALSO be considered married according to the laws of the land.]

From the perspective of Jewish Law, crucial to the Noahide status of husband and wife, is the component of INTENT of marriage, which is initiated by the couple’s decision to live together as husband and wife, and followed by their sexual union.

Maimonides describes three events that occur in a Noahide marriage. A. He and she decided to marry. B. He would bring her home. C. They would conduct relations in private. If these three conditions are met, then she is considered his wife, with all its ramifications.

Maimonides does not make any mention, in the context of Noahide marriage, of the need for a formal contract, or any witnesses, or a ceremony of any form, in order for the marriage to take effect.

  • What's the source that a Noahide marriage takes effect based on intent of marriage?
    – Harel13
    Apr 21, 2020 at 12:09
  • @IsraelReader But it seems to me that Hilchot Ishut 1: 4 highlights precisely the legal requirement of cohabitation in the marriage between Gentiles, as it refers to occasional sex (among other things for a fee) explicitly without cohabitation ("Before the Torah was given, when a man would meet a woman in the marketplace, and he and she desired, he could give her payment, engage in relations with her wherever they desired, and then depart ")
    – Amos74
    Apr 21, 2020 at 15:47
  • @IsraelReader I would add: the intention to live as husband and wife, in the absence of witnesses and / or a written document, would be unsuitable for constituting a manifestation of will, remaining within the context of the couple's internal thought, and as such impossible to ascertain from part of the members of the community. Cohabitation, on the other hand, is an empirically verifiable fact. That is why I insist on this point.
    – Amos74
    Apr 21, 2020 at 15:57
  • @IsraelReader Precisely: for this reason cohabitation seems to assume, according to Rambam's interpretation, the essential legal requirement for the marriage between Gentiles
    – Amos74
    Apr 21, 2020 at 16:46
  • @Harel13 The source that a Noahide marriage takes effect based on intent of marriage, is found in the words of the Rambam, quoted in the OP, "and he and she decided to marry". Apr 21, 2020 at 16:59

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