Marriage: A Picture of Covenant (Part 1)

Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14).

COVENANT – A COMMON MISPERCEPTION

In the last article, I introduced the idea that our relationship with God is rooted and founded on covenant, and even though this is seen throughout the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) and the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), the focus of the covenant is not really understood by many people.  Many articles have been written looking at the process of covenant, and all of the various steps that were involved in the making of covenant.  As a result, many people view covenant as a “legalistic process” that detracts one from one having a relationship with God.  But in looking at covenant in this way, they’ve miss the point.  Just as a marriage ceremony may be quite elaborate and detailed, the focus of the ceremony is not about all of the elaborate details, but about the movement of a couple’s relationship to something much more deeper and intimate, and the same is true of covenant.

AN UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT

As the quote from Malachi above points out, marriage is a type or picture of covenant.  It’s a life-changing moment in the lives of people, and this was true for me as well.  I’ll never forget the moment.  Karen and I were making minimum wage jobs at the time, and we could not afford an elaborate wedding.  In fact, it took both of us contributing several payments to afford our wedding bands.  To be able to make our wedding more affordable, we decided to get married in my apartment, which I had rented just shortly before.  It gave us a chance to fix it up, even though neither one of us spent the night there until our wedding night.

The day of our wedding was Friday, December 12, 1981, at 11:00.  We were married in front of our sliding glass doors, which had those long white, free-swinging, vertical Venetian blinds.  In the middle of it, we had placed two artificial blue bells with white ribbons for decoration.  Our apartment was very small, so we only had room for the immediate family, and we had rented a nearby VFW Hall for the reception.  When the moment came for Karen to come out of our soon-to-be bedroom, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  We had recorded my dad playing the Wedding March on his accordion, and as the tape played, it was still the best moment of my life.

Our marriage ceremony was rather simple in comparison to some I’ve attended, which were much more elaborate.  But regardless of the simplicity or elaborateness of the wedding, the focus of the ceremony is on the couple and their relationship.

MARRIAGE – ROOTED IN THE CREATION OF ADAM

In order for us to understand the depth and context of marriage as God intended it, we must understand it within the context of the creation of Adam.

Thus God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…” (Genesis 1:26a).

First of all, the word translated as “man” in the Hebrew text is the word ‘Adam.  ‘Adam was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God.  It then goes on to say in verse 27,

And God created man (‘Adam) in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female created He them.

What is interesting about this verse is that it is written in poetic form, and you can even hear the poetic rhythm of the verse in English.  If we break the poetic form down, we discover that the first two lines are repetitions of one another; it is just for the most part that the word order has been changed.

And God created man in his own image
in the image of God created He him…. (Genesis 1:27a)

Why say the same thing twice?  I believe that as we learn later in Scripture, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses a thing is established.”  This teaching began as a means of establishing truth in a murder trial (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6), but then, a couple of chapters later, it was applied as a principle for establishing something as truth for any type of crimes (Deuteronomy 19:15). But then, by the time period of the Second Temple period of the first century, C.E. (i.e., the time period of the “New Testament”), it was used as a general principle for establishing something as truth (Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; and Hebrew 10:28).  So by repeating it, God is establishing this truth as a reality, that “man (or Adam) is created in the image of God,” but also, repetition is used for the sake of emphasis as well.  So God is not only establishing this truth, He is emphasizing it.

A BIT OF ANALYSIS

The following section gets a bit analytical, but the analysis, I believe, is important.  By taking the time to analyze what I am reading, I have found important details and truths seen in the biblical text that most people just skim over.  The ability to analyze various types of texts takes a lot of time and practice, so please do not get discouraged if you have not seen any of the following before.  Be encouraged to know this type of analysis is possible, and it will deepen your knowledge of the Word as it has mine over the year.

I believe one of the things that should be taught within the church is analysis.  Instead, though, we spend more of our time focusing on getting our quota of chapters read for the day or we hear people repeatedly say, “The Bible is so simple a child could understand it,” but this implies that there’s no depth to the Scriptures or that none of it is difficult to comprehend.   However, anyone who has read the book of Leviticus, the visions of Ezekiel, or even the book of Revelation are well aware this is not true.  So let’s begin this process of analysis by looking at the first two lines of Genesis 1:27,

…in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27b)

These two lines are the most poetical part of the verse, even in the English.  The poetical structure that’s used here is known as Hebraic parallelism.  This is where the one line develops or further defines a word or concept in the following line.  Let’s look, for example, at Psalm 103:1,

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all that is within me, bless His holy name.

Notice, for example, the phrase “Bless the LORD” in the first line is equated with “bless His holy name” in the second line.  Both phrases begin with the word “bless,” but then, by writing this in parallel form, David here is equating the phrase “the LORD” with “His holy name.”  I believe the equating of these two phrases could be used as a basis for an interesting discussion about how God and His name are one.  For one thing, just as God is holy, so is His name, and, as a result, we are to treat it as such.

But also note that in the first line, the concept of “soul” is further defined in the second line as “all that is within me.”  This could likewise raise an interesting discussion about how the Hebraic concept of “soul” in the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) = “all that is within me” – differs from the Greek concept of soul, which is “the immaterial part of us that lives forever.”  So in examining this brief example, we can see that David makes use of this poetical structure to not only encourage us to “Bless the LORD” and “His holy name,” but to also define for us the Hebraic concept of the “soul.”

This same technique is being used here in lines 2-3 of Genesis 1:27,

…in the image of God created He him;
male and female created He them.

In these two lines, we see repetitions used again.  For example, “created” in the second line is equivalent to “created” in the third line, and “He” in the second line is equivalent to the “He” in the third line.  That is pretty easy to see.  However, where it gets really interesting, though, is in the next two pairs:

in the image of God” = “male and female
him” = “them

In these two subsequent pairings, we can see that the phrase “in the image of God” in the second line is made equivalent to the phrase “male and female” in the third line, and the word “him” [i.e., Adam] in the second line is made equivalent to the word “them” in the third line.  Adam was created “in the image of God” which was comprised of both “male and female,” and the “him” was, in reality, a “them.”  This may surprise many people to learn, but this idea is again reiterated and made more explicit in Genesis 5:2,

He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day that they were created.

Again, the word translated in English as “Man” is the Hebrew word ‘Adam.  They, “male and female” was “created” by God and “blessed” by Him, and it was He who named them ‘Adam, or “Man.”  So here, again, we can clearly see that the Scriptures are teaching us that in ‘Adam,  there was “male and female”…”in the day that THEY were created” [emphasis mine].  This tells us that the woman was not an afterthought in the creation process, but she was right there in ‘Adam, just like the man.

A REMEZ – A HIDDEN ALLUSION

In the rules of interpretation that we see illustrated within the Scriptures, including the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), there is an interpretative form that’s known as a remez, which means that a deeper reality or truth is in some way being hinted at, illustrated or in some way alluded to within the text.  In this case, we can gain the remez understanding of the text by examining the following two statements:

  • Adam was created “male and female”
  • Adam was created “in the image of God”

Consequently, then, we can see that “the image of God” is seen in the composite unity of “male and female.”  Adam was created to reflect the “image and likeness of God” in the earth, and that image and likeness was comprised of “male and female.”

DOES THIS MEAN THAT GOD IS BOTH A “HE” AND A “SHE”?

No, absolutely not!  To possess gender (“He” or “She”), one must have a physical body, but “God is Spirit” (John 4:24).  However, it does mean that the One God contains within Himself both masculine and feminine traits and qualities, and yet He is One Spirit. And it should be noted that in both the original Hebrew and Greek texts of Scriptures, God is consistently referred to by the pronoun “He.”

However, what is interesting to me is that the Hebrew word for “Spirit” is in the feminine form, and if we look at many of the characteristics or traits of the Ruach Hakodesh (“Holy Spirit”), they are characteristically “feminine”:  He guides us, teaches us, comforts us, encourages us, etc., but as I previously stated, this does not mean that God is “feminine,” and should be called “She,” but it does indicate, as I said, that God does possess what we would traditionally characterize as “feminine qualities.”

But at the same time, He also possesses what we would traditionally characterize as “masculine” qualities and traits.  For example, He’s our “Heavenly Father,” who loves and cares for us, but He is also assertive, aggressive, He makes war (see Exodus 15), He conquers, etc.   Also, another picture of God’s “masculine” traits and qualities can be see in the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), where God’s Spirit is pictured as “seed”:

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in Him; and He cannot sin, because He is born of God. (I John 3:9).

The Greek word that’s used here for “seed” is the word sperma; it is from this Greek word that we derive the English word “sperm.”  Please do not take this reference to “sperm” or “seed” literal to mean something physical; remember, God is Spirit, not physical, so this illusion must likewise be seen spiritually.  But notice the interesting parallel, we are “born of God” when God’s “seed” (His Spirit) enters into us, and physical human life is produced when the male “seed” (or sperm) enters into the woman.

Consequently, we can clearly see, then, what God is in Spirit – One being consisting of both masculine and feminine traits and qualities – He created Adam in flesh.

THE FORMATION OF THE WOMAN

Before we get into what all this means, let’s look at the next important step in God laying the foundation for marriage, the formation of woman.  In Genesis 2:18, we read,

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him?”

While we were dating and even engaged, my wife would write this verse on the back of the envelopes of the letters she wrote me.  I think she was hinting.  But there’s been a lot of discussion about the meaning of the Hebrew word k’negdo (translated as “suitable”).  It comes from the root word nagad, which means “in front of,” “in sight of,” or “opposite to.”  Through the use of this word here in verse 18, it implies a coming change to this single entity called “Adam” so that a part of him will now be “in front of” of him or “in sight of” him or “opposite to” him, in contrast to being an intricate part of him.

RIB OR SIDE?

Then in verse 21-22, we read,

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man (Heb. Adam), and he slept; then he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place.  And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man (Adam), and brought her to the man (Adam). (Genesis 2:21-22)

The Hebrew word translated as “rib” is the Hebrew word tsela, a feminine form of the noun, and it can be translated as either “rib” or “side.”  Obviously, there’s a big difference between just removing a “rib” as opposed to removing an entire “side” from Adam.

I remember seeing this same discussion many years ago in the movie Yentl (1983).   After her father’s death, Yentl (played by Barbra Streisand), an Ashkenazi Jewish girl in early 20th century Poland, masquerades as a man, so that she could go to the Yeshiva to study Talmud and other rabbinical writings and studies, and when asked for her name, she chooses for her “male role” her late bother’s name, Anshel.  Once she arrives at the Yeshiva, “Anshel” becomes friends with one of the other rabbinical students by the name of Avigdor (played by Mandy Patinkin).  It is during one of their daily walks and arguments with one another that “Anshel” enters into an argument about how this word tsela should be translated and the importance of that meaning for relationships between men and women.  “Anshel” attempts to argue the position that it should be translated as “side,” indicating the equality of the two genders; whereas, Avigdor maintains the traditional translation of “rib.”  But the fact is, as this scene illustrates, the Hebrew word tsela can be translated either way.

In this particular case, I believe the evidence supports the idea of “side,” rather than “rib.” Since Adam was made “male and female,” and “a part of Adam” was to stand “in front of” him, “in sight of” him, or “opposite to” him,  I strongly favor the word “side” over the traditional translation of “rib.”

THE MAN’S RESPONSE

Additional evidence for this position can be seen in examining the man’s (Adam’s) response when God brings him the newly formed woman.  It is in scene where this same deeper truth is again alluded to within the text:

And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23)

Notice the man (Adam) did not just say, “This is now bone of my bones,” which is what you would expect if all that God removed was “a rib,” but instead, he says, “This is now bone of my bones, AND flesh of my flesh” [emphasis mine].  This indicates the removal of more than just a “rib” bone.

It is also after this statement that we see in the Hebrew a word change for the man.  Biblically, whenever someone’s name or word used to refer to them is altered or changed, it indicates some important change has occurred within the individual; for example, we see this in such name changes as ‘Avram (“Abram”) to ‘Avraham (“Abraham”), Hoshea (or Oshea) to Y’hoshua (“Joshua”),  Shi’mon (“Simon”) to Petros (“Peter”), etc.

She shall be called Woman (Heb. ‘ishah), because she was taken out of man (Heb. ‘ish).  Therefore, a man (‘ish) shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife (‘ishah), and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)

What is interesting about the term “Adam” in the Hebrew is that it is a plural noun, which further indicates Adam being a single entity comprised of a plurality,  which the Bible describes as being “male and female.”  However, the terms ‘ish (“man”) and ‘ishah (“woman”) are both singular nouns.  Adam, originally consisting of a plurality, has now become two separate single entities, or what we now know today as “a man” and “a woman.”

It is after this separation of the original Adam into two entities, the man and the woman, that we read the traditional line that’s recited in most weddings:

Therefore, the man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

In other words, as a result of this separation occurring, the man (Heb. ‘ish; “the masculine aspect or side of Adam”) is to “cleave” to his wife (Heb. ‘ishah; “the feminine aspect or side of Adam”), and the two together are to “become one flesh.” It does not say that they are to remain as two separate entities under one roof, but out of their desire, passion, and love for one another, they are to “cleave” to one another, and through this process of “cleaving,” they are to “become one flesh,” or to put it another way, they are to reconstruct the original Adam, who was made “in the image and likeness of God.”

I know this is deep, but this is an important truth that we need to understand if we want to understand the biblical view of marriage and the truths taught in the rest of Scripture.  One rabbinical teaching that reflects this same idea is the statement, “A man cannot be a man without a wife.”  Now in English, this statement is often misunderstood as being “chauvinistic;” however, in Hebrew it makes complete sense: “A man (‘ish) cannot be a man (Adam) without a wife (‘ishah).  In other words, ‘ish + ‘ishah = Adam.

In other words, each man and woman are not the full image of God, but half of His image, and in the marriage relationship, these two parts of His image are being joined together to formulate the full image.  This process of “joining together” the two halves of His image is a process that occurs throughout the marriage relationship, it does not just instantaneously “happen” because the man and the woman says, “I do.”  Although the relationship of the couple began to evolve when they were dating, it is after the wedding ceremony when this process really becomes deeper and more intensified.

THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

The primary purpose of marriage, then, is not the propagation of the human race, as I’ve heard often argued, although it is one of the purposes.  Rather in and through the marriage bond, a man and a woman are to come together in “oneness” (Heb. echad) in every area of their lives (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and socially).  Why?  So they reconstruct the original Adam who was made “in the image and likeness of God.” So that through their unity, the “image of God” may be seen in the earth through their relationship, their passion, their desire, and their love for one another. However, in many marriages, the “image of God” is not being seen.  Why? Because the more that a man and a woman seeks to be their own individual beings, the more they oppose God’s desire that they become “one flesh” and, therefore, reflect “His image and likeness.”

Another reason for this is because it teaches us that the “image of God” is seen when we come together as a “corporate unity.”  For example, in Psalm 133, it teaches us that –

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious [anointing] oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing – life forever.

Notice, that unity is “good” and “pleasant,” and that it is compared to the anointing and the blessing of God.   We also see this emphasis on unity (or oneness) in John 17, when Yeshua/Jesus prays,

I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who [continue to] believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.  (John 17:20)

Notice that the prayer of Yeshua/Jesus is that we, as His followers, may be one with God and with one another, even as He and the Father are One.   And it would be through our oneness with God and one another that the world would finally believe that God was the One who sent Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah.  Consequently, all the divisions and schisms in the church work in opposition to the desire and prayer of Yeshua/Jesus.   And where do we begin to learn about the importance of corporate unity?  The marriage relationship.

DOES THIS MEAN THAT THE WOMAN SHOULD DO WHATEVER THE MAN SAYS?

To bring about this oneness, does this mean that the woman should “submit” and just do whatever her husband tells her?  No, this is a common misinterpretation and misapplication of certain teachings of the Bible regarding the marriage relationship.   God does not indicate in His Word that He expects the woman to become a “door mat” and simply lie down and let the man walk all over her, nor does this mean that she should lose her own identity, while he maintains his.  Instead, this process of “joining together” the two halves of God’s image into One equally involves the effort of both the man and the woman.  Both of them together need to work on “melting together” their identities, their desires, their needs, their wants, their goals, etc., to formulate this new single creation.   Both the man and the woman may lose certain aspects of themselves within this process, but they also both gain something through this process: the knowledge, gifts, talents, and strengths of the other.  If this is done God’s way, rather than our own way, it is a “win-win” situation for both the man and the woman.

Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) explains this process by using the word “subject.”

and be subject to one another in the love of Christ [Messiah]. (Ephesians 5:21)

It is after this verse that he goes into more depth as to what constitutes this process of “subjecting” ourselves one to another.  However, it should be said that some have abused the Scriptures by emphasizing Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” while ignoring verse 21 above, as well as what is taught in verses 25 and 28-29:

Husbands, love your wife, just as Christ [Messiah] also loved the church [His Bride] and gave Himself up for her;…So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who [continues to] loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ [Messiah] also does the church, because we are members of His body.

If we look at the Scriptures as a single whole revelation, rather than just the parts that we tend to like, than we see that this process of subjection is to one another as we subject ourselves to God and His Word is venue by which God will bring about the oneness He desires in our lives and in our marriage relationship.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Why is it so important that married couples should seek oneness, rather than separation. I believe it’s for several different reasons, but the most important three is

  • Through our oneness with one another, we will fulfill God’s desire for marriage – that our marriages become a physical picture or representation of Him within the earth;
  • Through our oneness with one another that we will present within and through the depth, passion, and love expressed for one another in our marriage unions, a picture of the type of relationship that God desires with us.  Throughout the Scriptures, God refers to Himself as our “Husband” and His people as “His Bride.”  I want to examine this idea further in the next article because by looking at our relationship with God within the context of marriage, we gain a better perspective and understanding of what type of depth of relationship that He desires from us; and
  • Through our oneness with one another, we will experience a depth of self-fulfillment and satisfaction that we would not have initially believed possible.

IS MY MARRIAGE PERFECT?

In examining these goals and what I have described as God’s desire for marriage, some may wonder if my wife and I have attained this ideal of marriage.  No, but it has gotten a whole lot better, particularly over the last few years.  There are many times when we get angry, frustrated, and say or do something we shouldn’t, or even try to exert our own will in the situation, rather than seek the oneness that God desires. However, I will tell you, my marriage continues to improve with each passing day.  Indeed, I would describe it as “a fine bottle of wine that has finally fermented and has reached that age where it is enjoyable to the taste.”  But even though there are areas in our marriage that we are still working on (e.g., selfishness, pride, stubbornness), we know the goal that God has presented within His Word, and we continually seek to move towards it each and every day.

GOD CARES ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE

Just as God cares about my marriage with Karen,  He also cares about yours.  Perhaps, your marriage is closer to that of a “war zone,” as opposed to a loving, passionate union of two people seeking to “become one.”  We can relate.  There were many years where “a war zone” would have been a perfect picture of our relationship with one another,  but once we actually allowed God to come into it,  He began working with each of us individually and then with us together, and we now have a marriage we wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.  In regard to our marriage, God spoke to us prophetically through His Spirit, and this what He said,

Yes, you have been very unstable minded, but that was due to you and your wife being unstable with one another, says God.  I could not do what I have needed to do with your lives a mess, says God Almighty.  I cannot and could not be a Holy God living inside a temple that was living in such disharmony and confusion as the two of you were.  Things were not good, but your minds and hearts yearned to do what was right in My eyes, but you two were like fighting bears and lions, trying to tear each other apart from the very core of your being.  You could not see Me through all of your discord and disharmony, says God, and you were so unhealthy while trying to serve Me. (“God’s Calling of My Husband and I into Ministry”)

Disharmony, division, on-going fighting and hostility in a marriage will not only make your lives miserable, but it keeps you from seeing God and from Him using you and your spouse.  Consequently, we need to strive for Oneness with one another.  As a result,  we know from experience that if you invite God into your marriage and into each of your lives, read and study His Word, and submit yourself to the leading of His Spirit, He will transform your “war-torn home” into a loving environment that you and your spouse will continually crave and desire, and that He can bless and use.

Therefore, all marriages are important to God because He designed them to be so much more than what most of us live and experience in our day-to-day lives.  But I want to invite you to take the first step to bring a change to that, invite the LORD into your lives and home.  Say this prayer with me (or something similar):  Is this prayer some “magic formula” that will suddenly make things better?  No, but it is the first step.  Remember, learning to do things God’s way is a process, but it is a process that always begins with repentance and submitting ourselves to God and His Word.

PRAYER

Lord, my marriage and life is a shambles.  We are continually fighting and tearing one another apart.  I have tried to bring peace to it, but it hasn’t worked.  Lord, I want the kind of marriage that’s taught here in your Word and that Chris has described.  Lord, I know that You are not a respecter of persons, and that if you can change Chris and Karen’s marriage, I believe You can change mine.  

Lord, I invite you now to come into my life and into my marriage.  I open every door of my life to You.  Forgive me of my sins.  Lord, I embrace your gift of salvation that Yeshua/Jesus provided for me by dying on the cross.  Lord, I ask You to please change whatever needs to be changed; remove whatever needs to be removed, and please add whatever needs to be added to my life and my marriage.  I submit myself entirely to You, Your Word, and the leading of Your Spirit.  

Thank You, Lord, for what You are about to do.  In Yeshua’s/Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you have prayed this prayer, I would like to hear from you.  Please email our ministry at followingmessiah@gmail.com, so that we can pray with you again and begin you on your journey to a new life and marriage.
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