The Bible draws an analogy between the husband-wife relationship and God's relationship with Israel. Just as a man and woman become husband and wife through the marriage covenant, so there is a sense in which God and Israel became husband and wife through the establishment of a covenant.
The “marriage” took place at Mount Sinai when God and Israel entered into a binding commitment to each other through the Mosaic Covenant. Moses performed the “wedding” ceremony by functioning as the intermediary between God and Israel (Ex. 19:1-20:17; Dt. 5:2-5). In a marriage covenant, a man vows to enter into a unique, exclusive relationship with one specific woman. He will not grant this relationship to any other woman. So, too, in the Mosaic Covenant, God vowed to enter into a unique, exclusive relationship with Israel – one He would not grant to any other nation. He declared, “You shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6).
Later Moses told the people of Israel, “You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord you God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Dt. 7:6).
The root of the word translated “holy” means “to divide.” Thus to be holy is to be divided from other persons and things in the sense of being different, distinct, even unique. God divided Israel from all other nations with the intent that it be different, distinct, and unique in contrast with all other nations. The other nations were devoted to worshiping false gods. God intended Israel to be devoted exclusively to worshiping Him, the only God who actually exists.
The plagues God sent on Egypt were designed to show Israel that Egypt’s gods were false and nonexistent and that He was the only God, who truly exists. He further revealed the truth of His existence by supernaturally delivering the Israelites from Pharaoh’s clutches.
Just as in the marriage covenant the woman vows to enter into an exclusive, unique relationship with one specific man, so in the Mosaic Covenant the Israelites vowed to enter into an exclusive, unique relationship with God. God said to them...I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me... (Exodus 20 :2-5).
After Moses told the Israelites “all the words of the Lord and all the judgments,…all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has said we will do”’ (24:3). They vowed to worship Yahweh exclusively and affirmed their Mosaic Covenant relationship with Him.
Thus, through the establishment of the Mosaic Covenant, God and Israel were married spiritually. Yahweh became Israel's God, and Israel became His people.
However, just as a wife violates her marriage covenant by giving herself to another man – thereby committing adultery and robbing her husband of his property – so, too, the people of Israel violated their binding commitment of the Mosaic Covenant by unfaithfully giving themselves to the worship of false gods. They committed spiritual adultery and robbed God of His property.
God foretold this event: “This people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them” (Dt. 31:16).
Judges 2 records the fact that, after Israel invaded Canaan and settled there, “the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel” (v.7).
All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger. So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth (Judges 2: 10-13).
God responded to this unfaithfulness by delivering Israel into the hands of its nearby enemies (vv. 14-15). We must remember, however, that God always has a faithful remnant; and in every generation there have been Jewish people who have been faithful to Him.
In Ezekiel 16 God spoke to Jerusalem, describing how the capital city later became unfaithful to Him: “Your time was the time of love; so… I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine” (v. 8). As a loving husband, God cared and provided for her magnificently (vv. 9-14). But she became unfaithful by giving herself to spiritual harlotry through pagan worship (vv. 15-19).
She resorted to burning children alive as sacrifices to false gods (vv.20-21). She had high places of false worship in every one of her streets (vv.22-25, 31). She committed spiritual harlotry by entering into forbidden alliances with foreign, idolatrous nations (vv. 26-29). Whereas an adulterous wife is paid for her services, Jerusalem paid foreign nations to enter into alliances with her (vv. 32-34). God said to Jerusalem, “How degenerate is your heart!....seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot” (v.30).
God also declared, “Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them,… I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy” (vv.36, 38).
He would do so by bringing against the city the very nations with which she committed spiritual harlotry (vv. 37-41). This judgment would cause His fury toward Jerusalem to rest and His jealousy to depart (v.42). This was the price Jerusalem would pay for “despise[ing] the oath by breaking the covenant” (v.59).
Like an unfaithful wife, Israel's capital city had committed spiritual adultery by worshipping false gods and entering into forbidden alliances with idolatrous nations.
The Nations Adultery:
Jerusalem's unfaithfulness was a symptom of the spiritual adultery that characterized most of the nation of Israel. (We must remember, however, that God always preserves a faithful remnant; and in every generation, there have been Jewish people who have been loyal to Him). God used Hosea's experience with an unfaithful wife to illustrate His tragic situation with the unfaithful northern kingdom of Israel primarily, but with passing comments about the southern kingdom of Judah as well.
In the book of Hosea, God said the Israelites had "committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord" (1:2). He said they sought counsel from wooden idols and "played the harlot against their God" (4:12); were "joined to idols" (v. 17); committed "harlotry continually" (v. 18); "dealt treacherously with the Lord" (5:7); did "not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him" (7:10); sought forbidden alliances with idolatrous nations (v. 11); "rebel[led] against" Him (v. 14); and "devise[d] evil against" Him (v. 15).
He also said Israel "transgressed" His "covenant and rebelled against" His "law" (8:1); had "forgotten his Maker" (v. 14); "sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images" (11:2); and was "bent on backsliding" from God.
"None at all" exalted Him, He said (v.7). Instead, people sinned "more and more" and "made for themselves molded images" (13:2). Consequently, God told the northern kingdom, "Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel" (Jer. 3:20).
Because the northern kingdom's spiritual adultery was so persistent, God "put her away and" gave "her a certificate of divorce" (v. 8). However, it is evident He did not regard that divorce as terminating His spiritual marriage with the nation, for later He exhorted Israel to return to Him, saying, "for I am married to you" (v. 14). He promised to "betroth the nation to Himself "forever" in righteousness, justice, loving - kindness, mercy, and faithfulness (Hos. 2:19-20).
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God addressed Judah's spiritual unfaithfulness, but He referenced the northern kingdom significantly. Portraying these kingdoms as two sisters, He declared that even His judgment of the northern sister (Israel) through destruction and captivity by Assyria did not stem Judah's unfaithfulness: "Her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also," and "has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense" (Jer. 3:8, 10).
In fact, God said Judah "became more corrupt in her lust...and in her harlotry" than her sister (Ezek. 23:11).
This article was shortened for re posting on the internet. The full article can be found in Israel My Glory March/April and May/June 2009. (The Foundations of Faith)
Israel My Glory, March/April 2009. A publication of Friends of Israel written by Renald Showers.
Written by Renald E. Showers who is an author and international conference speaker for The Friends of Israel.