Our Maker and Husband: Who is the Divine Bridegroom?

“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

(Hosea 2:16-20)

In their desperate acts to evade the sheer weight of the testimony of the scriptures to the cultic veneration and devotion rendered to Christ coupled with the essential divine attributes predicated to Him, many Unitarians (and their strange bedfellows) will reply that such do not necessarily prove the deity of Christ since the Father had made Him Lord. One of such passages they are eager to bring forth is:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

(Acts 2:36)

While this text is consistent with the deity of Christ given the Trinitarian metaphysics, Unitarians, ad nauseam, had employed verses like this into their service to explain away the loftiest terminologies (the ones exclusive to a deity) rendered to Christ in the NT. To lend credence to their interpretation, they’ve managed to find solace in tapping from the memoirs of Biblical heroes who are antitypes of Christ. A very striking parallel had been found in the life of Joseph.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into exile, vindicated by God and later became king before whom his betrayers bowed. In such wise, Jesus was betrayed by His nation who sold Him into exile (death) but vindicated by God (through resurrection) and will come back again as the King before whom Israel will bow and swear allegiance to. In fact, it had been argued that Jesus being 30 yrs when He started His ministry (Luke 3:23) corresponds to Joseph entering the service of Pharaoh at the age of 30 (Genesis 41:46).

What’s more? Pharaoh placed Joseph over all of Egypt and put everything under the feet of Joseph. Unitarians will tell you that since Pharaoh placing everything under the feet of Joseph does not automatically turn Joseph into a Pharaoh, then it follows that God placing everything under the feet of Jesus does not imply that Jesus is a deity[1]. While it is true that this sort of exaltation mirrors the exaltation of Christ, the image given by this mirror is incomplete because there are lots of problems fraught with fitting the exaltation of Christ within a subordinationistic/adoptionistic framework. Two of the problems with this interpretation ought to be highlighted.

First, while it is true that Pharaoh placed the whole of Egypt under the feet of Pharaoh, it ought to be pointed out Pharaoh made his throne off-limits to Joseph (Genesis 41:40). On the other hand, the Father’s throne is not off-limits to Jesus. The Father and The Son sit on the same Heavenly Throne (Revelation 3:21)[2].

The second problem – the very one which this series intended to address – is that Pharaoh’s wife (or wives) is off-limits to Joseph. You don’t need a genius or verbal/written revelation to make this point obvious and glaring. Pharaoh didn’t hand over his wives to Joseph but he rather made a provision for Joseph by giving his hand in marriage to Asenath (the daughter of Potiphera) [Genesis 41:50]. On the other hand, if Jesus is not YHWH and is a mere creature, we’re left to wonder how Jesus managed to inherit YHWH’s bride. Now, someone may be forced to ask, “Who is YHWH’s bride?”. I find it beholden upon me to let the Biblical authors have the first say on this matter.

The Wedding in Sinai

After God brought Israel out of Egypt and led her into the wilderness, He made a covenant with the nation of Israel – a blood covenant (Exodus 24:1-11). This covenantal ceremony, celebrated with eating and drinking in the presence of the God of Israel (vs. 11), preceded the ascension of Moses into Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. The acceptance of these commandments, coupled with the blood sacrifice rendered to YHWH, sealed the Covenantal Relationship between YHWH and Israel.  While Old Testament scholars argue that this sort of covenant is very similar to the suzerainty treaties common in ANE societies, the Old Testament prophets see a deeper theological significance of such bond.

Centuries later, the oracles of YHWH recant this momentous event in form of a wedding banquet! In other words, “from the prophets’ point of view, what happened at Sinai was not just the giving of a set of laws, but the spiritual wedding of God and Israel. From this perspective, the God of Israel is not only the Lord of creation; he is the Bridegroom.”[3] So strong was the connection of the Sinai Covenant to a Wedding Banquet that the scriptures said:

I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare. “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.

[Ezekiel 16:7-10]

“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.

(Jeremiah 2:2)

Given the fact that God is Love (1 John 4:16), it is hardly surprising to find Him casting His relationship with humanity in terms of family bonds (e.g. father, husband) – although it is astonishing to discover that YHWH does not allow His transcendence to impede His immanence. Not only He is a God far away, He is also a God at hand (Jeremiah 23:24).

Brant Pitre is spot on when he says, “from the vantage point of the prophets of Israel, behind all of the visible events surrounding the exodus—the fire, the mountain, the sacrifices, the smoke—lies the invisible mystery of God’s wedding day. Building on the words of the prophets, later Jewish tradition would teach, in the words of Rabbi Jose, that “ The Lord came from Sinai,’ to receive Israel as a bridegroom comes forth to meet the bride” (Mekilta on Exodus 19:17).[4]

Covenant Broken and God’s Jealousy Provoked

There is a tendency for some people to see God in the Old Testament as harsh if not outright wicked. However, when we’re still, so that we may know that YHWH is God (Psalm 46:10), we won’t model our thinking about God in the Old Testament in the wake of the sweeping assertions of Marcion and his fellows. A careful examination of the Old Testament reveals that YHWH is a loving God whose jealousy is easily provoked by “stiff-necked” people despite His long-suffering forbearance. He is a lover that cares very much about His beloved and is ever willing to protect her from the demons (who pretend as lovers) that surround her.

Almost immediately after the Wedding Banquet, while Moses was still on Mount Sinai, the Israelites through the worship of the Golden Calf provoked God’s jealousy (Exodus 32). How would a man feel when he catches his wife with another man few moments after his wedding! It is a man who doesn’t truly care about his wife (and her attention) that would shrug and dismiss such acts of betrayal. One could understand how angry YHWH will be to see His beloved bride already lusting after a foreign god that does not even exist (except perhaps for the demons who wants to set the wrath of God against Israel).

However, upon the intercession of Moses (Ex. 32:11-13; 31-32), YHWH who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6) relented and decided to forgive the Israelites and remain steadfast with His Covenant with them. Thereafter, the YHWH’s beloved continued to provoke YHWH until He decided to wipe out a whole generation (Numbers 32:13) and continue the Sinai Covenant with the upcoming generation.

After YHWH led the Israelites to the Promised Land and established her in the promised dwelling under the Golden Age of Israel (i.e. reign of Saul, David and Solomon), the Israelites reverted to the abominations that made the previously dislodged Canaanites unfit for the land. The nation of Israel lusted after foreign gods thereby provoking YHWH’s wrath. The prophets casted such violation of the Covenant as Spiritual Adultery:

How is the faithful city become an harlot! she that was full of judgment! righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.

(Isaiah 1:21)

Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD.’”

(Jeremiah 3:20)

“How sick is your heart, declares the Lord GOD, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!

(Ezekiel 16:30-32)

A lot of passages could be brought forth to reiterate the fact that the scriptures recant Israel’s disobedience as a spiritual adultery i.e. violation of the marital vows between God and Israel. After centuries of God’s warning, the wrath of God was measured and poured out upon Israel – enough is enough. YHWH tore Israel into pieces and sold her into the merciless hands of the enemies. This exile signifies the end of the Sinai Covenant – YHWH had divorced Israel.

She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.

(Jeremiah 3:8)

The New Covenant

No other prophet lived out an object lesson with quite the same emotional force as Hosea did. Hosea was a prophet chosen by God to act out the treachery of Israel in real life and also act out the reconciliation of Israel under a new covenant. This remarkable deed of faith which will no doubt earn Hosea the mockery and gossip of his fellow countrymen, was actually meant to shock Israel into realizing the gravity of her spiritual rebellion – and also to symbolize God’s undying love for her. After Hosea’s unfaithful wife, Gomer, deserted him for another man, YHWH ordered Hosea to go back and redeem his wife which Hosea did at a cost (Hosea 3:2). In fact, the latter prophecy this chapter is indeed interesting:

And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

(Hosea 3:3-5)

The reader should note clearly that this second reconciliation symbolizes the coming second covenant during which Israel will be without a ruler (kingly office) and without sacrifice (priestly activities) until they eventually return to seek YHWH their God and David their king – who could be none other than the eschatological Messiah (note the phrase “in the latter days”).

Isaiah also picked up this theme when he prophesied, saying:

For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

(Isaiah 54:5-8)

Jeremiah also declared:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

(Jeremiah 31:31-34)

From Ezekiel:

“yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.”

(Ezekiel 16:60-63)

In fact, this ancient Jewish writer remarked:

This world is like the betrothal, for it says: “And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness” [Hosea 2:20]. The actual marriage ceremony will take place in the days of the Messiah, as it says: “For thy Maker is thy husband” [Isaiah 54:5].” (Exodus Rabbah 15:31)

Finally, consider this passage from Hosea:

“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

(Hosea 2:16-20

In other words, YHWH said that He will bethroth Israel to Himself forever in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy and in faithfulness. The New Covenant includes both the Jews and gentiles under the banner of a New Israel. The Bride that YHWH will betroth to Himself is none other than the New Israel (i.e. the redeemed people of God).

With the foregoing in perspective, we’re now led to the crux of this article which happens to be a question (which will be asked later). With the foregoing from this article in perspective, here are the points laid out in form of a syllogism:

  1. YHWH is a loving God who is interested in a loving relationship with humanity

  2. YHWH chose Israel as His spiritual bride and married her at the Wedding Banquet in Sinai

  3. Israel provoked YHWH’s jealousy by lusting after foreign gods. After centuries of warning and forbearance, Israel failed to pay heed and YHWH sent Israel away, divorcing her. The marital vows at the Sinai Wedding Banquet stands violated – hence the Sinai Covenant is broken – incurring God’s wrath

  4. YHWH promised to forgive Israel (through atonement) and make a new covenant with her (which would now include the gentiles) and that He will bethroth Israel to Himself forever in faithfulness. IOW, the New Israel is actually YHWH’s bride.

  5. Now, when the promised Messiah came (i.e. Jesus), Himself (Matthew 25:1-10; Mark 2:19-20), His forerunner, John the Baptist (John 3:29) and His Spirit-filled disciples (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7,9) declared that He is the long-awaited Bridegroom.

Now the question is: Who is this Jesus? Where did this Bridegroom suddenly pop out from?

Given the Unitarian’s conviction that Jesus is not YHWH, then we ought to ask: What happened to YHWH and His Bride? If the Father alone is YHWH, then there is a problem. Apart from the fact that nowhere in the NT were we given the impression that the Church is the Bride of The Father, also given the fact that the unanimous testimony of the NT authors is that the Church is the Son’s Bride, then we’re left to wonder if YHWH (in the OT) had another Bride in mind which will in turn make us wonder who actually the Bride is. Are we now to say that YHWH was so smitten with the works of His adopted human Son (or created angel) that He decided to not only share His Seat with Him but also hand over His bride to Jesus – which makes one wonder if YHWH could not keep His promises or that He is not faithful? Is it really tenable for us to hold to the conviction that Jesus had relieved YHWH of His marital vows and responsibilities?

Now, lest our Unitarian friends rush to the scene to play the “law of agency” card, I will have to tell them about the shame in having to remind them that such “law” CAN NEVER apply in this scenario – perhaps it does work in the chaotic world that resides in their imaginations. Something tells me that a Unitarian who caught his wife in a compromising position with his employee, gets the ultimate shock (is it?) when his darling wife gently reminds him, “Honey. You sent your employee to me. By the law of agency, seeing your employee is the same as seeing you. I ought to relate to him the way I will relate to you because he carries your authority – he is your representative”. It would be fascinating for the Unitarian to cool down and say, “Darling. Pardon me. My memory is addled. You can continue with what you’re doing. I have a message to deliver to my friend’s wife. I have to hurry lest the authority from my friend I still carry fades”

I can as well imagine the Unitarians stuttering and stammering under the heated glower of Prophet Hosea while he is tapping his foot, expecting the “Biblical Unitarians” to explain to him why he re-married Gomer by himself and not through a surrogate representative or servant i.e. the reason why Hosea have to endure the mockery of his folks for a point that would accurately be communicated if he actually re-married Gomer through a designated son, representative or servant – whatever that means anyway.

Far be it from us that we should implicitly say that The Son defiled His Father’s bed (God forbid such blasphemy!). Any Trinitarian worth his salt could answer this question though, I must admit, in different ways. There are some Trinitarians (especially those who are averse to finding the pre-incarnate Son in the OT) who believe that the Bride actually belongs to the one God who exists as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – I won’t bother to argue for this view since I don’t subscribe to it. I believe that it was the pre-incarnate Son who led the Israelites out of Egypt and bonded Israel to Him in a marital vow. He is also the YHWH who actually declared that He will betroth the New Israel to Himself forever in faithfulness and steadfast love.

Our work is far from done – after all, there is a Unitarian sect who seem to be unruffled by the main question – you know, the Modalists (the guys who agree that Jesus is YHWH but the same person as the Father – they will also receive their own fair share of refutation later). This article is just the first one out of the six installments in this series concerning the Divine Bridegroom. The forthcoming installments, Lord willing, are:

Part II – The Son as the Arm of the LORD

Part III – The Son as the Messenger of the Covenant

Part IV – The Son as the Glory of the LORD

Part Va – The Neglected Shema

Part Vb – Do not provoke Him to jealousy!

Till then, stay blessed…

1. While it is true that one of the functions of the office of Jesus as the Messiah is His role as God’s vicegerent meant to rule over all of humanity and establish God’s perfect will on earth, what should we now say about His rule over the spiritual realm? How can a finite man oversee the affairs of the spiritual realm especially when we consider the fact that Jesus as the Messiah did not come to redeem the angels and other created spirits?

Second, articulating the ontological identity of Jesus by parallelizing His exaltation with that of Joseph, if the parameters are correctly aligned, will in turn make a case for the deity of Christ. Pharaoh and Joseph are still equal in nature – they are both equally human. In fact, one of the reasons why Pharaoh can set Joseph over Egypt is because Joseph is equal to Him in nature and possess the latent abilities to rule over Egypt. It is unimaginable for Pharaoh to set an animal (even if the animal saved his life many times) as ruler over his household – let’s not even talk about the rest of Egypt for the moment.

Finally, the difference between Pharaoh and the people of Egypt lies in within the boundaries of functional identity. Any human has the latent ability to rule over Egypt. On the other hand, God’s Heavenly Throne goes beyond the confines of functional identity – it includes ontological identity as well. God rules over the works of His Creation because He is fully divine. He possesses all the necessary abilities required to oversee the affairs of both the physical and spiritual realm. He has always been God before the world began and He doesn’t have to depend on a creature to execute His administrative functions – God is self-sufficient in and of Himself.

2. A very important point that is often ignored in Incarnational Theology is that the exaltation of Jesus is double-fold i.e. not only did The Son pick up His divine prerogatives and return back to the Throne of endless glory He left before coming to earth, He was also exalted as a glorified human. The readers should note the two references to the throne in Rev. 3:21. The Father’s Throne is the one in Heaven that Jesus sits on (implying His divine nature) while His Throne is the one that will later be established on earth with the glorified saints ruling under His authority. Jesus also made this important point when He differentiated between the glory He possessed with the Father before the world began (John 17:5) and the glory The Father gave to Him (John 17:22) by appointing Him as the Messiah – the glory He is willing to share with His disciples. That Jesus sits on two thrones (one Heaven and the other on earth) is pointing us in the direction of the Chalcedonian Creed i.e. Jesus having both human and divine nature. The glory He had by virtue of His divinity, the glory He shared with His Father before the world began is the glory that Jesus asked His Father to glorify Him with (John 17:5). The glory given to Him by The Father, the glory He acquired when He became man is the glory The Son is willing to share with His Bride (John 17:22).

3. Brant Pitre, Jesus The Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. (Crown Publishing Group, New York, USA, 2014), Chapter 1, pp. 10

4. ibid. pp. 15

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