"And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea and I will betroth thee to me in righteousness and in judgment and in loyal love and in mercies. And I will betroth thee to me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the L-rd."
- Hos. 2:21-22
Throughout the Torah, the Writings and the Prophets, we encounter terms and metaphors relating to marriage and its vicissitudes. All of them relate to the intimate relationship God has made with Israel in the Covenant. Israel was to become G-d's "my people," and for Israel, God was to become "my God." Speaking through Jeremiah, God explicitly tells Israel: "I married you..." and charges that she has turned away from her God, and her husband. (Jer 3:14, 20.) Jeremiah citing the northern house of Israel's adulterous example, warned Judah, the southern house, to repent and return to Him. He warned Judah of how the former was given a "bill [certificate] of divorcement"/ סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻת and was "put away"
וָאֵרֶא, כִּי עַל-כָּל-אֹדוֹת אֲשֶׁר נִאֲפָה מְשֻׁבָה יִשְׂרָאֵל, שִׁלַּחְתִּיהָ, וָאֶתֵּן אֶת-סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻתֶיהָ אֵלֶיהָ; וְלֹא יָרְאָה בֹּגֵדָה יְהוּדָה, אֲחוֹתָהּ--וַתֵּלֶךְ, וַתִּזֶן גַּם-הִיא.
"And I saw, when, forasmuch as backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement, that yet treacherous Judah her sister feared not; but she also went and played the harlot;" ― (Jer. 3:8 JPS)
This action was in accordance with the Torah's laws regulating marriages. If the promise of faithfulness to the marriage covenant and its holy clean life, i.e. cleanness, was broken, the wife was to be sent away with divorce papers.
כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ אִשָּׁה, וּבְעָלָהּ; וְהָיָה אִם-לֹא תִמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינָיו, כִּי-מָצָא בָהּ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר--וְכָתַב לָהּ סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻת וְנָתַן בְּיָדָהּ, וְשִׁלְּחָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ.
When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it cometh to pass, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he writeth her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house, ― (Deut. 24:1 JPS)
The Hebrew term ervat [from ervah] / עֶרְוַת in Deut. 24:1 is often mistranslated as uncleanness in the KJV. The NIV translates it a bit more accurately: "something indecent." Strictly speaking, it does not mean unclean. The word for that is tamei / טָמֵא as in Lev. 5:2. Ervah implies "an inappropriate exposure of one's nakedness to another, other than to whom one is married." It implies invitation to intimacy and union. Because the exposure's inappropriate context, such exposure is viewed as "indecent."
We read in the Torah how Moses reiterates to the new generation entering the Land the terms of the Sinai Covenant (Deut. 26:16-19). He tells all Israel that with their acceptance, they need to hear / listen and take heed for "... this day thou art become a people unto the LORD thy God." (Deut. 27:9). This was God's original purpose for their existence that He intended them to be "a holy people of God," (Ex. 19:4-8). To remain so, they were not even to inquire after the gods of the gentiles, lest the Land spew them out, and they would be cut off from the G-d of their people, (Deut. 12:30, 28:58-59, 63-64, Lev.18: 24-30, 20:22). Staying with the metaphor of "marriage" to describe the intimate relationship between himself and Israel, God uses related words, e.g. "adultery" and "divorce" to describe the breakdown of that holy relationship should Israel go after other gods. For this reason the Covenant has its built-in divorce clauses. They warn that if Israel reneges on her promises to be faithful, she will be automatically cast out of the Land to be with her lovers, the nations, (Deut. 28:63-64, Jer. 11:8, Hos. 8:9, Ez. 16:33,36, 23:5,9). In the ensuing exile to such a breach of the "marriage" Covenant, she will have to stay identified with the nations she wanted to imitate and there eat her words. If she went after other gods, she was to be cut off, separated, i.e. divorced, "I had sent her away with a decree [bill] of divorce," (Jer.3:8). This was to be her sentence and fate in order that she may learn the quintessential lesson.. Like women who divorce and change their names, likewise God has not allowed the "departing" wife to carry the name Isra-EL, "one who prevails with God." Their names were to be revoked from their identities and usage according to the provisions of the Covenant to which they agreed, (Deut. 27:15, 26, 29:9-15). They were not to be known as "God's holy people" any more till their "sentence" was all served out "in the latter days" and their rehabilitation has begun.
How do we know this to be true? Those prophesied days are here, for we are beginning to have our ears and eyes opened to begin to understand this judgment's whys and wherefores, (Jer. 30:24). It is essential that we know these facts about our sordid history in order to regain our forgotten identity as "the people of God." We read in the book of Hosea, who by marrying a harlot in real life was to act out the role of God in his marriage to the northern house of Israel, also known as Ephraim in Biblical writings. Hosea's children from this union were to be named "prophetically," to depict Ephraim's sentence. Because of their refusal to repent of their idolatries, they were not to receive any mercy like Judah was to have:
"And He said unto him: 'Call her name Lo-ruhamah [Not having received mercy]; for I will no more have compassion upon the house of Israel, that I should in any wise pardon them.'" ― (Hos.1:6)
"Then said G-d, call his name LoAmmi, [Not my people] for ye are not my people, and I will not be your G-d." ― (Hos. 1:9)
The Talmud correctly remarks that our membership in the legal body of Israel was suspended; and "legally speaking," we are considered by Jews the same as "gentiles" (Yebamot 17). Our spiritual connection to our true identity, being the people of G-d, was to be hidden from our consciousness for a long time. God has considered destroying Israel all together and thus blotting out our names more than once, since the penalty for idolatry was death:
"Let Me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.' ― (Deut. 9:14)
"I thought I would make an end of them, I would make their memory cease from among men;" ― (Deut.32:26)
True, many of the offenders died in the Assyrian invasion of the northern house of Israel. They received the physical death penalty then and there. It was all part of the whole house being moved into "spiritual graves." For the survivor's of God's wrath then, that death penalty was commuted into "spiritual death." The metaphor for that was the Valley of Dry Bones, where we have been been as "very dry bones." Yes, very dry, for 2700 years(!) we have not had the life- nourishing moisture of God's Water of Life spiritually nourishing us.
"...the LORD will not be willing to pardon him, but then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy shall be kindled against that man, and all the curse that is written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven;... and the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that is written in this book of the law." ― (Deut. 29:20)
The Hebrew root for the term "divorcement" כְּרִיתֻת / kiriytut means cut off. Being cut off was synonymous with death, not necessarily physical death in all cases, but spiritual death, death of the relationship. Although among humans the penalty for adultery was death, the penalty on Israel could not be a final physical death, since the Covenant was an eternal agreement, in which God promised to regather His errant wives after they have learned their lessons.
"1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; 3 that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee. 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7 And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, that persecuted thee. 8 And thou shalt return and hearken to the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments which I command thee this day. 9 And the LORD thy God will make thee over-abundant in all the work of thy hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good; for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers; 10 if thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law; if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul." ― (Deut.30:1-10)
That is why in Ezekiel 37 her return is like a resurrection from the dead. Israel was temporarily sent away from G-d's land, and was cut off from the benefits of the Covenant in the Land, (Isa. 54: 6, Jer. 7:15, Hos. 9:17). She wanted to be like the nations, and she received her heart's unclean desire, (Psalm 81:11-12). This is clearly stated in the opening verses of Hosea 1:6,8-9, where she is called, "not having obtained mercy... and not my people..." and is told: "I will not be your G-d." Instead she was to have the gods of her choice, the same as of the nations she wanted to imitate:
"The LORD will bring thee, and thy king whom thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation that thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone."
"And the LORD shall scatter thee among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers, even wood and stone." ― (Deut. 28:36, 64)
"...lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;" ― (Deut. 29:17)
Ezekiel, also uses the metaphor of unfaithful wives, and calls the Northern Kingdom Samaria, Ahola. Ahola is a derivative of ohel, i.e. dwelling / tent. Instead of being a tent for the Presence of G-d, the Northern House was to bear the sins of her idols she bonded to. The Creator God has allowed this free choice for Israel so that in time she may learn the quintessential lesson for all Israel: "and you shall know that I am the L-RD," (Ezekiel 23:49). Hosea cannot make it any clearer: "Thou shalt know no god but me, for there is no savior beside me" (Hos. 13:4). Though Israel, the desolate wife was forsaken, the birthright blessings still went with her, for they were unconditional, (I Chron.5:1). She has far more children than Yehudah, and is dwelling in a large tent of spacious great lands of power with rich resources she inherited for her progeny, (Gen 49:22-26, Deut.33:13-17, Isa. 54:2-3). She is prophetically told that though she was put away, God is still her true husband, and will call her back to the Covenant after a little while, (only some 2700 years), and all her children shall be taught of the L-RD, (Hos 2:2, Isa. 54: 5-7,13). They will be taught the Torah, not the ways of "the imagination of their heart," e.g. their packages of hermeneutics and doctrines which form the patterns of their spiritual exile and grave, (Jer. 13:10-11). G-d makes a point of this, since the House of Israel cannot see straight, and is confusing the G-d of Israel with her adopted savior that she added to and amalgamated with the G-d of Israel. She has a valid-sounding excuse: "My G-d we know thee," (Hos. 8:2). However, G-d says:
"Set the horn to thy mouth. As a vulture he cometh against the house of the LORD; because they have transgressed My covenant, and trespassed against My Torah." ― (Hos. 8:1)
G-d decreed that she will have to be the way she wants to be, imitating her lovers... the nations, (Hos. 2:13). After a long period of this estrangement, she is prophesied to come to her senses and ask for the forgiveness of her husband and return to Him and reaccept the Covenant:
"And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in compassion. And I will betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the LORD. ― (Hos. 2:21-22)
G-d Asks: "Where is your bill of divorcement?" ― (Isa. 50:1). She is asked this because she does not have it, for she contemptuously cast the Torah away which has these provisions in it. In effect she is saying: "What is this Torah to me?
"Though I write for him never so many things of My Law, they are accounted as a strange thing." ― (Hos..8: 12)
"Therefore as the tongue of fire devoureth the stubble, and as the chaff is consumed in the flame, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust; because they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and contemned the word of the Holy One of Israel. ― (Isa. 5: 24)
She has forgotten the Torah of God (Hos. 4:6). She does not understand that the Covenant is also the bill of divorcement, for it contains the clauses for divorce and for being cut off from G-d, resulting in spiritual death, (Jer. 8-11, Deut. 28-30). She is "joined," i.e. Heb. / wedded to idols, (Hos. 4:17). From all the references to another god and "savior" in the book of Hosea, it is quite easy to figure out who their savior is to whom Ephraim is "wedded" and takes pride in. The Northern House of Israel, the people of Ephraim / Joseph, are called to come out of this Babylonian [confusing] relationship, and return to the paths of old, (Isa. 42:15, Jer. 6:16, 18:15). Israel, who is dwelling and waiting for the Torah in the isles in the latter days, (Deut. 29:4, 22, Isa. 42:4, 10), is called to "hear" / shema, for they are spiritually deaf (Isa. 30:9, 41:26, 42:18, 43:8). They are called to hear G-d's wake-up call to their identity. Knowing this sacred identity is most important in the wake-up process. Once one knows his identity, one starts to become "self-conscious," conscious of the true "self" as a child of God. They are also called to hear "the Shema," that there is no other G-d besides the Holy One of Israel:
"Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt; and thou knowest no God but Me, and beside Me there is no savior."
― ( Hos. 13:4)
He is the One who is waking them up at the present. They are called to hear that G-d's firstborn people were not to be split in their consciousness and be joined to other gods, but are to be "one as He is one." They are also called to repentance: "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the L-rd, for I am married to you," (Jer. 3:14). We are among the early returnees from the exile of the Ten Tribes at the end of days. One of our tasks on behalf of all of the House of Joseph, is to ask for the old paths, which we have not known, and G-d promises to lead us therein (Isa. 42:16). The implication for the returning tribes today is to note that we, the unfaithful wife, are to return to faithfulness to that contract, i.e. Covenant, as G-d communicates that directive to us on our individual and collective homeward journeys. This eventual reacceptance of the Torah was prophesied for the whole house of Israel, for both the northern House of Israel, and the southern House of Judah, when both houses will reaffirm and reaccept the Marriage Covenant of Israel. Hosea wrote of this grand reunion. Israel's particular return to the Marriage Covenant as G-d's chosen, i.e. "betrothed," is explicitly prophesied:
"And it shall be in that day, saith the L-RD, that you shall call me Ishi, [my husband], and shalt no more call me Baali [my master], ― (Hos.2: 7, 20). Ephraim will no longer regard the G-d of Israel as that "harsh, God of the Old Testament Law," and make an idolatry of the "god of grace." Rather they shall realize G-d's kind "grace" and loving kindness always has been there for them, spelled out in the "blessings" provisions of the Covenant and the promises of deliverance from the corrective crucible of exile, (Ez. 22:15). They will surely reciprocate in kind to G-d's "kind and friendly" message to them, (Hos.2: 14). This time the split between the two houses will be healed. They shall be united with each other to be united to their husband, the Eternal G-d of Israel:
"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to 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; forasmuch as they broke My covenant, although I was a lord over them, saith the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the LORD, I will put My law [Torah] in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people;
― (Jer. 31:30-33)
It is important to note here, that there is no superseding of the original, so-called "Old Covenant here," as taught in the packages of mixed truths, lies and errors of doctrinal hermeneutics. Yes, this is the "same old" Covenant that Israel accepted at Mt. Sinai and again between Mts. Ebal and Gerizim.
Before that grand formal event, this reacceptance of the Covenant, the ketuba / marriage contract is especially relevant to the early individual returnees of the people of Joseph now. Moses pointed out to us that the Covenant was made with all of Israel, even with those of future generations, who were not [visibly] present at Mt. Sinai (Deut. 29:15). Yet in a way, we were all there, because we are all parts of the "one soul" of Israel which was there. All Israelites, be they of whatever tribe, whether known to themselves or not, are part of that one soul, one heart. As such, to recover our identity as members of the "spiritually cut off" House of (northern) Israel, we will have to consider the reacceptance of the marriage contract /Covenant of the Torah, by which we ALL had promised to faithfully abide. To recover our identities as "Israel, the people of God," it is not enough to just learn about our roots in history and the Bible. Yes, that is a necessary beginning. To have our forfeited and lost identities restored, it is also necessary to return to the Covenant itself. Therefore for us, the early resurrectees at the end of the age, our "journey homeward" is one of incrementally "espousing" more and more of the tenets of the Covenant into our lives, hearts and souls. This cannot be done all at once after 2700 years of gross ignorance and misconceptions about Israel, her God and her covenant with God. It is a process, one of learning, unlearning and doing / living according to the instruction we have been given in the Torah of God.
We are given the marriage metaphor to understand the relationship between G-d and His betrothed. It is replete with great mysteries. Yet, they will begin to unfold for us when we understand it as an "everlasting Covenant" and begin to conform to it, (Ez. 16;60, 37:26). The Mishkan's innermost chamber, the Holy of Holies housed the Ark of the Covenant." This is where the Torah, i.e. the Ketuba, the written marriage contract between G-d and his people Israel was kept. It layed out the specifics of This is why the Holy of holies was sometimes referred to by mystics as "The Bridal Chamber." The cover of the Ark of the Covenant had two winged figures on it, one with a male face and the other with a female face on it. There are many guesses with many good possibilities as to what spiritual principles and relationships they symbolized. The Zohar explains that the mystical meaning of the two winged figures reaching out for each other on the cover of the Ark symbolized the relationship between the God of Israel and the children of Israel. The latter was understood to be standing for the Shekhinah, the soul of Israel, symbolizing all of Israel. For this reason mystical prayers of Judah plead for the eventual reunification of the exiled Shekhinah with the God of Israel. Knowing our identity is only the beginning of our resurrection from the dead. We are also to seek healing and purification that the Shekhinah may indwell and "ensoul" us, (Hos. 6:1-2) If this "ensoulment" does not happen, "Our hope is lost." (Ez. 37:11).
Where are we and what are we to do? If we ask G-d, the Healer of Israel, He will surely tell us, individually and collectively. Our merciful and gracious God will speak kindly to our split hearts, and heal our backsliding, (Hos. 2:24, 10:2, 14:4). He will guide us with His eye, (Psalm 32:8).
This judgment of "three days" against us started with the Assyrian invasion and captivity and is to end just before the end of the age whether we are willing or not willing to be return to our forgotten heritages of the Torah and within the Torah. It is our choice as to how harsh the conditions will be that will force us to return to our God and His Covenant. God through the Prophets tells us what to say and what to do. We need to tell ourselves and each other these words:
"'Come, and let us return unto the LORD; for He hath torn, and He will heal us, He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us, on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His presence. ― Hos. 6:1-2
A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way and they have forgotten the L-rd their G-d. Return Ye backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings. Behold we come unto thee; for thou art the L-rd our G-d."
- Jer. 3:20-22
"It is time to seek the LORD!" ― Hos.10:12