LOOKING AT THE PROPHECIES
Actual marriage relationships between Yahweh and His people are
not mentioned in specific terms until the prophets are reached, but several allusions to
the image are made from the time of Egypt on. In the spiritual union of God with Israel
Moses fulfilled the office of friend of the bridegroom who led out the bride
(Ex.19:7), while Yahweh as the Bridegroom met His betrothed at Sinai (Psa.68:7) and was
there joined to her (Ezek.16:8) when He assumed the throne, first on the fiery and smoky
mount (Neh.9:13-15) and later between the cherubim in the most holy of the tabernacle (1
Sam.4: 4; 12:12 R.V.margin; Psa.5:2; 10:16; 47:6,7; 74:12; 89:18; Isa. 6:5;
33:22; 43:15; Jer.10:10; 46:18; etc.).
The covenant which was solemnized at that awful tribunal is in
later days associated with Yahwehs husbanding of his people:
The covenant that I made with their fathers in the day
that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant
they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Yahweh (Jer.31:32,
The sanctifying of the whole people at Sinai was the formal
betrothal or espousal, which, as was seen before, was the only ceremony connected
with marriage in the East. Moses, as the middleman, was told what to say to the people:
Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the
children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on
eagles wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice
indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all
peoples: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a
holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And
Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words
which Yahweh commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that
Yahweh hath spoken we will do (Ex.19:3-8).
But Israels bridal beauty was marred by slander against
her God and King; for while Moses tarried in the mount for instructions from the Lord the
faithless people set up an image of the Egyptian god Apis and attributed their deliverance
from the land of bondage to him instead of Yahweh (Ex.42:4).
In fact, not only was Israel faithless during the betrothal
ceremonies, but the tokens of her virginity were wanting. She was already a woman of
whoredoms when Yahweh married her, as was subsequently illustrated by Hoseas
marriage to a woman of similar fame (Hosea 1:2). The chosen one provoked Him at the
sea, even at the Red Sea (Psa.106:7; Ex.14:10-12). Thenand God is always thus
good, as though to overcome evil with good, Yahweh rises in might and mystifies the
pursuing hordes with a cloud. But the sea in the way? That is nothing. He cleaves it,
leads the chosen people through, closes up the wound, and the Red Sea looks like blood
from the yonder shore but like a sea of glory from the hither side. The very stones cry
out in acclamation of the deed. The stony hearts of Israel melt into vibrant hearts of
gratitude, and praise bursts forth from their lips in song:
Then believed they His words;
They sang His praise.
But sad, sad history of a hard people crammed into eleven
They soon forgat his works;
They waited not for his counsel.
That little burst of responsiveness, brief though it was, was
ever a tender spot, backward toward which the eyes of the Lord were ever looking in
centuries to come.
I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth,
the love of thine espousals,
When thou wentest after me in the wilderness,
in a land that was not sown (Jer.2:2).
That little love becomes the basis of a prophecy of
Israels greater and more lasting praise when greater wonders than those in Egypt are
She shall respond there as in the days of her youth;
As in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt
The Prophet Ezekiel also was used of the Lord to review the
course of Israel as it was pictured by marital relations. And it must be borne in mind
that these relations are not physical but spiritual. The marriage of Israel to Yahweh
meant their spiritual union with Him, not of scattered individuals but of the nation.
The betrothal was an engagement or bonded promise by Israel to have no god or gods but
Yahweh. Eyes and ears were to be single toward Him, and, above all, there was to be no
union of mind and heart with other gods or objects of worship. Such would be marriage
infraction. On the other hand, Yahweh was to provide for their needs, and do it
bounteously, as befits an Incomparable King. He was to love, cherish, and protect them
with all the forces of Omnipotence. Her property claimswhich she had originally
derived from Him in another capacitywent along with her, so that we have the
Ye shall not sell the land for the age;
For the land is mine, saith the Lord
Only a moments reflection will establish the fact that
there never was any consummation of this marriage. There was never any national
spiritual union between the people and their Husband-King. The tokens of their national
virginity were always lacking (Jer.23:2-4). But Yahweh did His part. He took them into
their promised and provided homethe Married Land, Canaan.
But to return to the romantic rehearsal and scathing invective
of Ezekiel (Ezek.16:1-63): Verse 13 gives us the key to the highly metaphorical language
of the rebuke. The subject is there shown to be the course of the kingdom over which
Jerusalem was the visible head. By the wretched infant is pointed out the low estate of
the Jewish nation in its origin; by the growing up of the child into womans estate,
the increase and multiplication of the people, as it took place in Egypt; by her
betrothing, the covenant which God made with the Jews; by her being decked out and
ornamented, her Tabernacle service, religious ordinance, and laws, compared to which no
other nation had anything so righteous (Deut.4:7,8); by her fornication and adulteries,
the failure to trust in and apostasy from God, and the establishment of idolatrous worship
with all its abominable rites; by her fornication and whoredoms with the Egyptians
(Ezek.8:10,14; 20:7,8) and Assyrians, the sinful and faithless alliances which the Jews
made with those nations, and the incorporation of their idolatrous worship with that of
Yahweh; by her lovers being brought against her and stripping her naked, the delivery of
the Jews into the hands of the Egyptians (2 Chron.12: 2-9), Assyrians (2 Kings 18:9-16),
and Chaldeans (2 Chron.36: 17-21), who stripped them of the riches and excellencies, and
at last carried them into captivity.
This 16th chapter of Ezekiel contains Gods manifesto
against His abominable people. Where there was so much idolatry, there must have been
adulteries, fornications, prostitutions, lewdness, and lasciviousness of every
description, but those things were by-products. The point to be caught is the idolatry,
the woeful lack of spiritual union between the people and Yahweh. Their hearts were far
Many of the expressions in this and similar passages we now
consider indelicate. But if we were only half as squeamish about avoiding collusion with
the world and its spirit as we are about avoiding some of the modes of speech which are
used by the prophet to depict spiritual infidelity we should be wonderfully devout,
indeed. At all events, to say nothing about the fact that the metaphors are divinely
chosen, not to entertain us, but to cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
the figures have the advantage of being universally understood. About that there can be no
More than a hundred years before Ezekiel, as the mouthpiece of
the Lord, had delivered his invective against the infidelity of Judah and of such from the
other tribes as clustered around that family, Judah had been warned by the things which
Hosea denounced against the northern ten-tribe kingdom, called Israel from the time of its
severance from Jerusalem upon the death of Solomon. Under the figure of a wife proved
false to her marriage vows, and bearing children that would follow her example, the
prophet represents the shameful idolatry of the ten tribes which provoked God to cast them
Information is conveyed by action as well as by words. The
names of the children are all highly significant: (1) Jezreel (God will disperse or sow)
is intended to put Israel in mind of their own unrepented guilt and of the acts of cruelty
committed in their palace of Jezreel (1 Kings 21:1), and also to intimate that a speedy
dispersion or sowing of Israel was soon to take place (2 Kings 17:5,6); (2) Lo-ruhamah
(not having obtained mercy, unpitied) signified that Yahwehs store of mercy for the
ten tribes was exhausted (Hosea 1:6), though Judah would still have mercy shown for
Jerusalems sake (2 Kings 19:34,35); and (3) Lo-Ammi (not my people) showed that from
then on Israel was not Gods people, nor would He be their God (Hosea 1:9). But the
tender promise is thrown in that some day happier conditions will prevail and God will
fulfill what He has long before said about the number of the children of Israel (Hosea
Next the prophet exhorts his people to speak and to act as
became those who obtained mercy of God; and to remonstrate strongly against the conduct of
their mother Samaria, whose captivity is threatened on account of her forsaking God and
ascribing her prosperity to idols (Hosea 2:1-5). As an amplification of this threatening,
the prophet enumerates a series of afflictions which were to befall her to bring her to a
sense of her duty to Yahweh (Hosea 2:6-13). God engages to deal with them as a tender
husband, and not as a severe master.
. . . I will allure her,
And bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfortably unto her.
And I will give her her vineyards from thence,
And the valley of Achor for a door of hope:
And she shall sing there as in the days of her youth,
And as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.
And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord,
That thou shalt call me Ishi;
And shalt call me no more Baali.
For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth,
And they shall no more be remembered by their name
After inflicting many judgments upon Israel, Yahweh would
restore her again. He would deal with her as a very affectionate husband would do to an
unfaithful wife. Instead of making her a public example, He would take her in private,
talk and reason with her, put her on her good behavior, promise to pass by all and forgive
all if she will now amend her ways. In the meantime He would provide for her necessities
and comforts. Thus He would open the door of hope for her to be fully reconciled to Him. She
would rejoice as at the beginning, would sing the responsive song, as when He first took
her by the hand and she became His own. Israel, the wife, under such a show of kindness
and love, shall cry, Ishi, my Husband, a title of love and affection, and not
any longer Baali, my Lord, my Master, a title more suggestive of fear and
apprehension, and also rendered particularly unfit because of its having been prostituted
to false gods, baals, lords.
Then follow more unstinted promises of the bounties which would
be poured out upon her, if she would but repent. He would make an agreement between her
and the birds, beasts, and reptiles, so that she should not be injured by them. Her flocks
should not be destroyed nor her crops spoiled. Every species of war should be prevented
and she would be safe from robbers and nightly alarms; for he would make her to lie down
in safety (Hosea 2:18).
And I will betroth thee unto me for the age;
Yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness,
And in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies,
I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness;
And thou shalt know the Lord (Hosea 2:19,20).
The time will come when the names Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and
Lo-Ammi, will cease as applied unfavorably to Israel. I will say to Lo-Ammi, Ammi;
and they shall say, My God (Hosea 2:23). I will say to Not-my-people,
My-people. The reference is not to the Gentiles, but only to that people who had the
divorce stigma, the disclaimer, which was not necessary to fasten on anyone save those who
had been Gods. These promises manifestly await their fulfillment.
Again, the prophet is instructed to take back his wife, for
whom he as her friend and husband retained his affection, though she had proved
unfaithful. He was to enter into a new contract with her and give her hopes of
reconciliation, after she should prove for some time, as in a state of widowhood, the
sincerity of her repentance. During these many days he was to give her money
and barley to subsist upon, that she might not be under the temptation of becoming again
Thus did God represent the graciousness of the manner in which
He would restore the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. Would they take His money and
barley and wait for Him as a nation to come to them as He promised? Did they (Hosea
Over and over again the saddening story is reiterated
throughout the whole of Hosea. Ephraim (the head of the ten tribes as Judah was of the
two) on her then course was doomed to be cast off; but with vehement yearning she is
pleaded with to turn back.
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?
How shall I deliver thee, Israel?
How shall I make thee as Adamah?
How shall I set thee as Zeboim?
My heart is turned within me,
My repentings are kindled together
Throughout the prophecy side-flashes of warning are given to
Judah. Israel was totally dissolute; Judah was not so. Hence she is exhorted to maintain
her integrity. If Israel will go to what was once Beth-el, the house of God, but now
Beth-aven, the house of iniquity, let not Judah imitate them (Hosea 4:15). But Judah was
not without uncleanness. Speaking after the manner of men, the justice and mercy of God
seem puzzled as to how to act toward these unfaithful people, who, nevertheless, sometimes
had a little goodness, even though it was as a morning cloud and as the
early dewquick to pass. When justice was about to destroy them for their
iniquity, it was, so to speak, prevented by their repentance and contrition: when mercy
was about to pour upon them as penitents its choicest blessings, it was prevented by their
fickleness and relapse. These things induce the just and merciful God to exclaim,
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?
O Judah, what shall I do unto thee (Hosea 6:4)?
The only thing that could be done under those circumstances was
what was done. Yahweh hewed them by the prophets. They were testified against and smitten
with the most solemn and awful threatenings. He used every means and employed every method
to instruct and save them. He not only sent the prophets who spoke plainly,
exhorting, warning, and beseeching them to return to Him, but they were also given divine visions,
which had been declared and interpreted. Similitudes were used, and symbols,
and metaphors, and allegories, in order to fix their attention and bring
them back to their duty and interest (Hosea 12:10). Truly, they like Adam,* had transgressed the covenant, sinning against light and
knowledge as he did. Adam, in Paradise, transgressed the commandment and God cast
him out: Israel, in possession of the Promised Land, transgressed Gods covenant, and
He cast them out and sent them into captivity.
|*The Hebrew reads ke-adam,
like Adam. It is true that the word adam also means human being in a general way, like Mensch
in German, but the comparison here seems to call for Adam rather than men.
So it came that Israel was divorced, cast away
because they did not hearken unto God, and made to be wanderers among the nations
When a man taketh a wife and marrieth her
then it shall be,
If she find no favor in his eyes because he
hath found some unseemly thing in her,
That he shall write her a bill of divorcement,
and give it into her hand, and send her out
of his house (Deut.24:1).
JUDAH ALSO DIVORCED
And how fared it now with Judah after the terrible example that
was visited on her sister Samaria, Ephraim, Israel? The answer is copiously and vividly
given by both Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
Ezekiel shows it by the sisters Oholah (her tent, i.e., her own
tent) and Oholibah (my tent is in her) (Ezek.23:4). Both had been long accustomed to the
amorous embraces of strangers (Ezek. 23:3,8). And the key to the meaning is given us in
the words, She bestowed her whoredoms upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of
them; and on whomsoever she doted; with all their idols she defiled herself
The northern kingdom was sometimes called Samaria, because that
was its capital city; sometimes Ephraim, because that was its largest and most influential
tribe; and sometimes Israel, because these ten tribes constituted the major portion (in
numbers) of the original twelve tribes of Israel or Jacob.
Adultery, then, is a breaking of Israels vow to
love, serve, worship, and obey only Yahweh, her Husband, by loving, serving, worshiping
and obeying some other god. Whoredom; is a giving of love, service, worship and
obedience to the rulers of surrounding nations for hire, for gain in power, in
pelf, in earthly standing and emoluments. The connection with idols is more clearly
understood when it is remembered that the pagan monarchs of those days always claimed
lineal descent from Baal; all bore the title Sons of the Sun (i.e., Baal) and demanded and
received worship as gods.
After the leading away of the northern ten tribes by
Shalmanezer, some of the people found their way down to Egypt (Hosea 8:13; 9:3; Jer.2:36),
as they had long before found their way to the worship of Apis, the calf-god of Egypt; and
others of the exiles, humbled by the captivity into Assyria, sifted back and clustered
around and gradually mixed in Judah, so that after the Babylonian captivity all
distinction between Israel and Judah, as kingdoms, is lost. All is Israel. The twelve
tribes were all represented in Judea, and also in Galilee (Matt.10:6; 15:24). This merger
or fusion was even apparent at the time of Jeremiahs prophecy (Jer.2:4; 3:12).
But before the sojourn in Babylon the prophet Ezekiel takes up
the case against Judah and Jerusalem, calling Jerusalem Oholibah because Yahwehs
tent was still there. Referring first to the judgment executed upon Samaria, he says:
And her sister Oholibah [Jerusalem] saw this,
Yet was she more corrupt in her doting than she,
And in her whoredoms, which were more than the
whoredoms of her sister.
* * *
Therefore, O Oholibah, thus saith the Lord Yahweh:
Behold I will raise up thy lovers against thee,
From whom thy soul is alienated,
And I will bring them against thee on every side.
* * *
These things shall be done unto thee, for that thou hast
played the harlot after the nations,
And because thou art polluted with their idols.
Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister;
Therefore will I give her cup into thy hand.
Thus saith the Lord Yahweh:
Thou shalt drink of thy sisters cup which is deep and large;
Thou shalt be laughed to scorn and had in derision;
It containeth much (Ezek.23:11,22,30-32).
So also in similar strain Jeremiah, who was prophesying in
Jerusalem at the same time that Ezekiel was prophesying about Jerusalem from
Moreover, Yahweh said unto me in the days of
Josiah the king,
Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done?
She is gone up upon every high mountain and under
every green tree,
And there hath played the harlot.
And I said after she had done all these things,
She will return unto me;
But she returned not:
And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
And I saw, when, for this very cause that backsliding
Israel had committed adultery,
I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement,
Yet treacherous Judah her sister feared not;
But she also went and played the harlot.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom,
that the land was polluted,
And she committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath
not returned unto me with her whole heart, but
feignedly, saith Yahweh.
And Yahweh said unto me,
Backsliding Israel hath showed herself more righteous
than treacherous Judah (Jer.3:6-11).
Then follow addresses to the people of Judah and Jerusalem,
exhorting them to repentance and reformation that the dreadful visitation with which they
were threatened might be averted. The prophet sounds the alarm of war. And, because the
destruction is certain unless repentance is shown, Nebuchadnezzar, like a fierce lion, is
seen to be on his march. The lying prophets who had flattered the people with hopes of
peace and safety now essay to excuse themselves, and, with matchless effrontery, lay the
blame of the deception upon God.
Jeremiah, as Gods mouthpiece, laments the approaching
desolation of Jerusalem in language which is amazingly energetic and exquisitely tender.
The bugle of the approaching hosts is heard. The terrors of war seize on the city. A
sickening wave of dread sweeps through the bowels; painful stricture of the pericardium is
next felt: the heart itself is strongly affected by irregular beatings; a gush of tears,
tuned by bitter wailing ensues.
But since Jerusalem was the place of Gods throne on
earth, the very landscape and skies grow black with the dread thought of judgment on the
favored city. A beautiful assemblage of the most striking and afflictive circumstances is
formed into a picture of the land swept with the besom of destruction. The earth seems
ready to return to its one-time chaos; every ray of light is extinguished and succeeded by
a frightful gloom; the mountains tremble; the hills quake; all is one awful solitude,
where not a vestige of the human race is to be seen. The fowls of heaven, finding no more
subsistence, flee. Fruitful places are become a dark and dreary waste, and every city is a
heap of ruins. Through the frightful gloom break the dolorous shrieks of Jerusalem as of a
woman in the height of agony. Zion spreadeth her hands for aid, and there is neither help
nor comfort (Jer.4).
Thus is Judah given a bill of divorcement and sent out of the
house of the Lord. Will the most compassionate of husbands ever take her back! According
to the law He cannot (Deut.24:1). But that statute was doubtless made in that very way
that Gods own mercy might the more clearly shine in His relationship to Israel.
Yahweh both can and will take back the wife whom He has
They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from
And become another mans, will he return unto her again?
Will not that land be greatly polluted?
But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers;
Yet return again to me, saith Yahweh (Jer.3:1).
But even after the humiliating captivity in Babylon only a few
believed God enough to return (Ezra 2:64). Nevertheless, the lesson of idolatry was
learned. Never again has Israel inclined to worship more than the one true God. But what
new danger threatened them now? The answer is, Religion. They will not again turn to the
amorous embrace of the strange lover; but that is negative virtue. God, as the Husband,
desires to see in Israel not merely a system of refrainings, but He will above all things
see tender and ardent responsiveness. For such doth the Father seek to be His
worshipers (John 4:23).
Religion, as a set system of worship, is and has ever
been the most implacable foe of spiritual life. Philosophy, as a set system of
thought, has ever been the foe of truth. The Jews came to be the most punctiliously
religious people on the face of the earth; while the Greeks, during the same period, grew
into the most philosophical. So Gods message of grace and kindness through His Son
was unto Jews a stumbling block and unto Gentiles foolishness (1 Cor.1:22,23).
Between the return from the Babylonian captivity and our
Lords first advent there grew up various sects and groups of men among the Jews who
vied with each other in their devotion to religion, to formalistic and ritualistic
religion. But, while there was some individual spiritual life (Mal.3:16), the most of them
were hard of heart and unresponsive to the divine love. In fact, they did not even
recognize the fact of His love.
I have loved you, saith Yahweh.
Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us (Mal.1:2)?
The Hebrew Scriptures close with a reiteration of Yahwehs
invitation to Israel to return to Him and thus to reenter the relationships once enjoyed
(Mal.3:7). After the captivity there was not the Kingly Presence, the glory light, in the
Most Holy; there was no ark of the covenant; there was no miraculous fire on the altar in
the court. But there was provision made for their sustenance pending their reinstatement
in kingly horrors before the world. The estranged wife was told to look for the
friend who would call attention to the presence of the Bridegroom.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Fredrik Homer Robison
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