Nov. 17-30, 2005
Devoted to One Another
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
Biblical Couples Provide Examples of the Purposes and Obligations of Married Life “The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not belong to herself but to her husband; equally, a husband does not belong to himself but to his wife.” — 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 In the Bible, marriage between man and woman is ordained by God and viewed as a sacred covenant. The idea of the marriage covenant is verified in the New Testament. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul compares the relationship of husbands to their wives with the relationship of Christ to the Church.
“The Song of Songs” in the Old Testament is seen as an inspired portrayal of human love. It is a description of the sacredness and the depth of married union. Old Testament laws governed the relationship between husband and wife. They were meant to protect the wife and the family that came as a result of the marriage. Penalties for abuse and adultery were harsh, calling for the stoning of the guilty parties.
Since Eden, marriage and family relationships have been at the heart of God’s work and are at the very foundation of the church itself. Jacob and Rachel, more than any other biblical couple, personify the love between God and the people of Israel. They also exemplify the ideal state of manifest love between husband and wife. Jacob initially met Rachel when he traveled to Haram, a city in modern southern Turkey, in an attempt to flee from his brother Esau, who had threatened to kill him.
When he arrived at the well near Haran, the shepherds told him that the approaching maiden was Rachel, his Uncle Laban’s daughter. The love he felt at first sight enabled him to single-handedly roll back the boulder covering the well at which the shepherds watered their flocks. He did this in order to let Rachel’s flocks drink. Jacob then proceeded to cry, because he sensed that there would be difficulties and delays before he and Rachel could marry. Laban agreed to let Jacob marry his daughter Rachel, but only after Jacob worked for him for seven years. On the wedding night, however, Laban double-crossed Jacob, disguising his eldest daughter Leah for Rachel. Because the bride wore a veil covering her face, Jacob didn’t realize that he had married the wrong sister until the morning of the honeymoon. But Jacob wasn’t deterred, even when Laban tried to justify his deception, explaining that custom dictated that he marry off the older daughter before the younger. After the traditional weeklong wedding celebration, Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel — in exchange for another seven years of labor.
Jacob’s two wives spent their lives competing for his attention, but Jacob doted on Rachel, while offering Leah very little affection. God, however, took pity on Leah and blessed her with fertility, giving her and Jacob six sons and a daughter. Rachel remained barren for many years, until she finally gave birth to two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Tragically, Rachel died on the road to Bethlehem, while giving birth to her son Benjamin. Each woman wanted to give Jacob many sons. With the help of their two maids as surrogate mothers, the four women gave Jacob a dozen sons and a daughter. These 12 sons became the foundation of the 12 tribes of Israel. Adam and Eve were the first couple to inhabit the earth. God made them on the sixth and final workday of creation. God told them, “Be masters over all life — the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.” (Gen. 1:26) They were the caretakers of creation.
The story of Adam’s creation is in chapter one of the Book of Genesis. After his creation, Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it, and to enjoy its fruits under the prohibition: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shall not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The first thing Adam did was to give names to all living things. When this was accomplished, the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon him, and took one of his ribs; of this rib he made a woman, whom he presented to Adam when he awoke. Adam received her as his wife, and said, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” He renamed her Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. Being induced by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve persuaded Adam to eat the fruit also. When they disobediently ate the fruit, they damaged Creation. After that, men and women had to struggle to discern morally correct behavior. God then ordered Adam and Eve out of Eden. They were parents to numerous children until Adam died at the age of 930.
As a wife, Eve epitomizes the biblical teaching that in marriage, two become one flesh. Eve entered a covenant — sacred oath — with her husband, Adam. Their covenant symbolizes the covenant between God and all humankind. Joseph and Mary are one of the most important couples in the Bible. As a young man, Joseph had heard about the virtues and qualities of Mary, and as a result, he asked Mary’s parents for her hand in marriage. Mary’s father had told her that Joseph was a just man. It is a common opinion of theologians that Joseph had been blessed and filled with the Holy Spirit in order to make him both the fit partner of Mary and the teacher of the Son of God. Right before the couple was to be married, the angel Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth, a city of Galilee. He told her that she would bear a son and she would name him Jesus. Mary was skeptical, as she wasn’t living together with Joseph yet as his wife. Gabriel then told her that Holy Spirtit would “come upon” her and the power of God would “overshadow” her.
Then Gabriel revealed that Elizabeth, Mary’s elderly cousin who everyone thought was barren, was six months pregnant. Mary journeyed to Elizabeth in Judah to visit and help her. As Mary entered her house, Elizabeth’s unborn baby “leapt for joy” in her womb. John the Baptist, only six months in the womb, already assumed the role of prophet and heralded the arrival of Christ — only a few days conceived in Mary’s womb. When Elizabeth gave birth to John three months later, Mary went back home.
When Joseph learned that Mary was expecting a child, he knew he wasn’t the father. Joseph decided to divorce Mary. Joseph could have exposed Mary to public shame as an unwed mother but he was unwilling to do so. He was planning to handle it in this discreet way until he went to sleep and had a dream. In his dream, an angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary into his home as his wife, because she had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph complied. Joseph recognized the fact that Christ was present in Mary’s womb and he accepted Mary into his home. In response to God’s call, they both publicly, in the presence of their family and friends, freely confirmed the promise they had made to each other at their betrothal, with the conscious intention to be observant always of their mutual obligations towards each other. Mary and Joseph were the first couple ever to permanently commit themselves to each other in Holy Matrimony in the physical presence of Christ.