Loyalty to Marriage Covenant Moves God to Mercy
“And I will engage you to me in righteousness and in justice and in loving-kindness [loyal love] and in mercies. And I will engage you to me in faithfulness; and you will certainly know Jehovah.”—Hos. 2:19, 20, marginal reading.
1. In our twentieth century, what questions arise as to a husband’s action toward a wife guilty of acts of adultery?
AN UNFAITHFUL wife, guilty of acts of adultery, has little reason to expect mercy from her legal husband. She has no solid reason to feel secure by depending upon her extramarital lovers to provide for her all the time. After a lengthy period of sexual satisfaction, even passionate lovers can tire of such a whorish adulteress and seek other flesh. In such an event, where can she go? Loyalty to her marriage contract ought to lead her back to her legal husband. But will he show mercy and take his adulterous wife back? How often is it the case that such a thing occurs in this merciless world, in our twentieth century?
2. Whose thinking and acting are superior to those of us humans, and so what did He do for His covenant people in 537 B.C.E.?
2 However, there is one who says to humans: “The thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Who is that one of such superior thinking and acting? It is the One who is heaven-high above us humans. This One, the speaker of the foregoing words, identifies himself as Jehovah, and he does so through his ancient prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. (Isa. 55:8, 9; 1:1) Jehovah spoke those words when foretelling the restoration of his exiled covenant people from the pagan land of Babylon back to their God-given land in the Middle East. Contrary to all human thought or reasoning, this God of mercy brought about such a restoration in the year 537 B.C.E.
3. This restoration occurred in connection with the handling of what kind of problem, and how was Mount Sinai in Arabia tied in with this?
3 This restoration of an exiled people to their distant homeland after it had lain uninhabited for seventy years occurred in connection with the handling of a marriage problem that Jehovah had on his hands. Almost a thousand years earlier he had engaged himself in marriage to that exiled people, the ancient nation of Israel. The location of the marriage was the neighborhood of Mount Sinai at the lower western end of the Arabian Peninsula. The man that officiated between the marriage parties was the prophet Moses, who acted as mediator between God and men. As the fundamental set of rules to govern the marriage relationship, God proclaimed the Ten Commandments, the first commandment of which says: “I am Jehovah your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You must not have any other gods against my face.”—Ex. 20:1-3.
4. To whom did those liberated twelve tribes of Israel really belong, and into what relationship did they choose to enter, and how?
4 By liberating the twelve tribes of Israel from unjust oppression and detention in ancient Egypt, Jehovah had really bought or redeemed this national “wife” for himself. (Isa. 63:7-9) Rightly she belonged to him. So he, as Husbandly Owner, chose to bring this wifelike nation into a marriage contract with himself. Such contract was the solemn contract based on God’s code of laws and it is generally spoken of as the Mosaic Law covenant. In order to get blessings and security due to having God as their Heavenly Owner, the Israelites entered the marriage relationship. They promised loyalty to their marriage contract, the Mosaic Law covenant. They became the only covenant people of God on earth. So Jehovah said: “I myself had husbandly ownership of them.”—Jer. 31:31, 32.
5. In an immoral world, to what did the nation of Israel find it hard to be true, and whose course was Hosea’s wife Gomer used to illustrate?
5 In the midst of an immoral world that had attached itself to Baal and many other false gods, the nation of Israel found it very hard to hold true to its marriage covenant, its contract with Jehovah as God and Husbandly Owner. So the nation in general gave way to spiritual adultery toward Jehovah. (Jas. 4:4) In 997 B.C.E. a split took place within the twelve-tribe kingdom of Israel. The adulterous course of the section called the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel was illustrated by the wife of the prophet Hosea, named Gomer.
6, 7. (a) How did Jehovah come to have a legal case against the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel? (b) After whom did that Kingdom of Israel unsuccessfully chase, and to whom would she want to return?
6 Gomer turned out to be a “wife of fornication.” She came to have “children of fornication.” (Hos. 1:1-3) This illustrated how the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel entered into political alliances with the idol-worshiping nations. The wifelike nation of Israel began depending upon such pagan nations instead of on its Husbandly Owner, Jehovah. The economic well-being that she was enjoying was now attributed to those worldly nations instead of to Jehovah. She took up worshiping the gods of those nations and flagrantly violated her marriage covenant with her Redeemer and Husbandly Owner, Jehovah. For this reason He had a legal case against this spiritually adulterous kingdom of Israel. According to the terms of the marriage covenant, he had the legal right and obligation to take action against apostate Israel. Finally he did so. He said to her:
7 “Therefore here I am hedging your way about with thorns; and I will heap up a stone wall against her, so that her own roadways she will not find. And she will actually chase after her passionate lovers, but she will not overtake them; and she will certainly look for them, but she will not find them. And she will have to say, ‘I want to go and return to my husband, the first one, for I had it better at that time than now.’ But she herself did not recognize that it was I who had given to her the grain and the sweet wine and the oil, and that I had made silver itself abound for her, and gold, which they made use of for Baal [or, which they made into a Baal image].”—Hos. 2:6-8, marginal reading.
8. Thus, whom did Jehovah purpose to discipline, but without reversing what decision of his?
8 According to those words, Jehovah purposed to discipline the people of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Not that this would save the kingly rule of the nation, for Jehovah would not reverse what he said earlier in Hosea’s prophecy: “I must cause the royal rule of the house of Israel to cease. And it must occur in that day that I must break the bow of Israel in the low plain of Jezreel.”—Hos. 1:4, 5.
9. (a) Who could benefit from the disciplinary action against the kingdom of Israel? (b) At what event did the marriage covenant between Israel and Jehovah terminate?
9 Still, there were individual Israelites who could benefit from the disciplinary treatment given to the apostate nation. Take, for instance, those seven thousand Israelites that had not bent the knee to Baal. (1 Ki. 19:18; Rom. 11:1-5) Let us not overlook this fact: When Jehovah caused the kingdom of Israel to cease and let the surviving Israelites be deported to Assyria in 740 B.C.E., he did not cancel his marriage covenant with the whole nation of Israel. When, in 607 B.C.E., Jehovah let Jerusalem be destroyed and the surviving Jews be carried into exile in Babylonia, he did not abolish the Mosaic Law covenant by which twelve-tribe Israel had entered into marriage relationship with him as Heavenly Husband. The legal marriage relationship between Jehovah and all Israel was not blotted out until Jewish leaders had Jesus Christ put to death in 33 C.E.—Col. 2:14.
10. How did the “passionate lovers” of the kingdom of Israel fall her, but who could benefit from Jehovah’s disciplinary action?
10 Although the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel sought help from worldly nations that had been her passionate lovers, Jehovah’s time for holding an accounting with Israel came mercilessly upon her. She could find none of her eagerly sought “lovers” capable of helping her. As if by an impenetrable thornbush thicket, she was hedged off from procuring efficient help. The one-time lovers proved to be unable to get the needed aid to Israel, even though they wanted to do so. After three years of siege by the Assyrians, Israel’s capital city Samaria fell in 740 B.C.E. The surviving Israelites were deported to the land of their captors. That kingdom of ten Israelite tribes was never restored in its God-given land. Who, then, could benefit from Jehovah’s disciplinary action? Only individuals from among the deported exiles in Assyria. They would reflect on matters. They would recall how good things had been when their forefathers served Jehovah as Heavenly Husband and God. Realizing now what was the better state of affairs, they would turn away from Baal worship and seek renewed covenant relationship with Jehovah.
11, 12. When was the opportunity offered to the Israelite exiles in Assyria to return to Jehovah’s worship at Jerusalem, and how did this come about?
11 When was the opportunity offered for those Israelite exiles in Assyria to return unitedly to Jehovah’s worship at his appointed place? First in 537 B.C.E., under a new world power. How so? Well, about the year 632 B.C.E., Assyria’s capital Nineveh fell to the Babylonians, and the Babylonian World Power gained the topmost position. So Assyria’s provinces with their Israelite exiles became provinces of the Babylonian Empire. About twenty-five years later Jehovah’s penal judgment was executed upon the now renegade kingdom of Judah. Thus, in 607 B.C.E., he let Jerusalem and her temple of worship be destroyed. Thousands of surviving Jews were deported to Babylonia, to join the Israelite exiles in the erstwhile Assyrian provinces.
12 In the seventieth year afterward, Jehovah saw that sufficient discipline had been administered to his wayward wifelike organization on earth. In his mercy Jehovah had raised up the foretold Cyrus the Persian to overthrow Babylon in 539 B.C.E. Shortly thereafter, in 537 B.C.E., Jehovah moved this Cyrus the Great to declare a release for repentant Israelites to return to their beloved homeland.
13. Why, in the light of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, was this an exceptional mercy on God’s part toward his wifelike covenant people?
13 Was that not an exceptional act of mercy on the part of the Heavenly Husband toward his covenant people, the twelve tribes of Israel? Yes; for according to the Mosaic Law covenant this was not to be expected. In the Law, we read: “In case a man takes a woman and does make her his possession as a wife, it must also occur that if she should find no favor in his eyes because he has found something indecent on her part, he must also write out a certificate of divorce for her and put it in her hand and dismiss her from his house. And she must go out of his house and go and become another man’s. If the latter man has come to hate her and has written out a certificate of divorce for her and put it in her hand and dismissed her from his house, or in case the latter man who took her as his wife should die, the first owner of her who dismissed her will not be allowed to take her back again to become his wife after she has been defiled; for that is something detestable before Jehovah, and you must not lead the land that Jehovah your God is giving you as an inheritance into sin.”—Deut. 24:1-4.
14. In Jeremiah 3:1, how did Jehovah say that he had grounds for a permanent divorce from Israel?
14 In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, Jehovah emphasized that law to the covenant-breaking Jews in the kingdom of Judah. Stressing the fact that he had grounds for a permanent divorce from Israel, Jehovah inspired Jeremiah to say: “There is a saying: ‘If a man should send away his wife and she should actually go away from him and become another man’s, should he return to her anymore?’ Has that land [of Judah] not positively been polluted? ‘And you yourself have committed prostitution with many companions; and should there be a returning to me?’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jer. 3:1.
15. When and how did the break in marriage relationship come, and how was Jehovah’s mercy expressed toward individual Jews?
15 In the face of that, only Jehovah’s all-excelling mercy permitted his marriage covenant with all Israel to continue on for centuries after Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. But the breaking point came in 33 C.E., when the nation rejected the Messiah Jesus and had him slain outside Jerusalem’s walls. Then the nation was divorced from marriage relationship with Jehovah God. Does Jewish history since then prove that? Yes. Mercifully, though, Jehovah let individual Jews who believed in the Messiah Jesus renew their relationship with him in a new covenant, the covenant mediated by the Messiah Jesus.
16. Why does the remnant of spiritual Israelites escape destruction with Christendom, and who else avail themselves of Jehovah’s mercy?
16 Today Christendom claims to be in that new covenant. Yet, despite her claim, despite the 1975 Holy Year of the Roman Catholic Church, despite other religious revivals, Christendom is doomed to destruction during the impending “great tribulation” upon this ungodly world. Yet, in his loving mercy, Jehovah has called forth a repentant remnant of spiritual Israelites out from Babylonish Christendom. In this way they escape destruction with her. (Rev. 18:4) But not just a remnant of spiritual Israelites has come out of her. A “great crowd” of other sheeplike persons has taken advantage of Jehovah’s expanded mercy since the year 1935 C.E. They have gotten out of all parts of Babylon the Great and have joined the remnant in giving exclusive devotion to Jehovah.—Rev. 7:9-17; John 10:16.
PENALTIES FOR SPIRITUAL ADULTERY
17, 18. (a) Why is Christendom obliged to suffer God’s curses? (b) In a warning of this, what did Jehovah say in Hosea 2:9-13?
17 Because of claiming to be in covenant relationship with the God of the Bible, Christendom’s religious organizations must suffer the penalties for prostituting themselves by friendship with politicians and militarists. Let them remember that ancient Israel was bound to suffer God’s curses as penalties for violating the Mosaic Law covenant between itself and Jehovah as Heavenly Husband of his wifelike organization. As a warning of this, Jehovah said further by Hosea:
18 “‘Therefore I shall turn back and certainly take away my grain in its time and my sweet wine in its season, and I will snatch away my wool and my linen [or, flax] for covering her nakedness. And now I shall uncover her private parts to the eyes of her passionate lovers, and there will be no man to snatch her out of my hand. And I shall certainly cause all her exultation, her festival, her new moon and her sabbath and her every festal season to cease. And I will lay desolate her vine and her fig tree, of which she has said: “They are a gift to me, which my passionate lovers have given to me”; and I will set them as a forest, and the wild beast of the field will certainly devour them. And I will hold an accounting against her for all the days of the Baal images to which she kept making sacrificial smoke, when she kept decking herself with her ring and her ornament and kept going after her passionate lovers, and I was the one that she forgot,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Hos. 2:9-13.
19. According to the Law covenant, what were Jehovah’s obligations toward an adulterous nation?
19 Let us note that Israel forgot Jehovah. What treatment did she deserve for this? According to his plain warnings in his marriage covenant with Israel, he was obliged to withdraw his material blessings because of infidelity to Him as Heavenly Husband. He was not obliged to provide for an adulteress, a nation that broke its covenant and turned to worshiping Baal images and having adulterous relations with worldly lovers. Jehovah could properly lay bare to public gaze the nation’s moral unreliableness and looseness, so that even its worldly allies would turn against it in disdain.
20. How would Jehovah set the adulterous nation as a forest, and in what way could no man snatch her out of Jehovah’s executional hand?
20 Jehovah would make it like a wild forest that offered no protection to anyone from wild beasts, no security. The nation could not claim exemption from being punished just because it had descended from the faithful patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and the twelve tribal heads who were the sons of Jacob. Fleshly connections with such men will be of no power or merit for snatching the nation out of Jehovah’s hand when he executes adverse judgment.
21. Despite its line of natural descent, what earlier covenant of Jehovah did Israel prove unfit to share in fulfilling?
21 This did not mean that Jehovah did not remember and stick to the covenant that he had made with his friend Abraham away back in 1943 B.C.E. Jehovah swore by himself to that covenant and will never break it, but adulterous Israel did not prove worthy to have a part in the fulfillment of that covenant even though it had natural descent from Abraham. To Abraham their forefather, Jehovah said: “Prove yourself a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and him that calls down evil upon you I shall curse, and all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.” (Gen. 12:2, 3) “I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.”—Gen. 22:17, 18.
22. In spite of letting the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah be overthrown, why did Jehovah preserve Abraham’s seed, and what did He do to a remnant thereof?
22 The principal one of Abraham’s seed, namely, the Messiah, had not come by the time of Samaria’s destruction in 740 B.C.E. nor by the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. And yet the Messianic Descendant of Abraham had to come through his natural, fleshly line. True, Jehovah did let the enemies overturn the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah, but, still, he had to preserve the natural seed of Abraham. Why? Because out of that line the Messiah for blessing all nations of the earth had to come. (Matt. 1:1-3; Gal. 3:8-29) To that end Jehovah mercifully preserved a remnant of repentant Israelites clear through the seventy years of exile that followed the overturning of the kingdom of Judah at Jerusalem. He loyally held to his marriage covenant with the faithful remnant. Then he raised up the one who prefigured the Messiah, namely, Cyrus the conqueror of Babylon. Through this liberator Jehovah restored the remnant of the seed of Abraham to the land of Judah.
23. To foretell the coming reconciliation of himself with his wifelike covenant people, what did Jehovah say in Hosea 2:14-16?
23 So, to foretell this reconciliation of Himself with his wifelike covenant people, Jehovah inspired his prophet Hosea to say further: “‘Therefore here I am prevailing upon her, and I will cause her to go into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart. And I will give her her vineyards from then onward, and the low plain of Achor as an entrance to hope; and she will certainly answer there as in the days of her youth and as in the day of her coming up out of the land of Egypt. And it must occur in that day,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘that you will call me My husband [Hebrew: ishi], and you will no longer call me My owner [baali].’” (Hos. 2:14-16) Or, to quote Leeser’s translation of verse sixteen: “And it shall happen at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi [my husband], and shalt not call me any more Baʼali [my lord].”—Hos. 2:18; Leeser; Rotherham.
24. How did Jehovah speak to his wifelike organization in “the wilderness,” and what did his giving her “her vineyards” mean?
24 While the Israelites were exiles in the land of Babylon, they were as in “the wilderness.” There Jehovah mercifully ‘prevailed upon’ the repentant remnant and ‘spoke to their heart.’ He did so by means of the loving discipline and by means of the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel. Jehovah had promised to give his wifelike disciplined organization “her vineyards from then onward.” This meant that he would take her out of the Babylonian “wilderness,” and restore her to the long-desolate land of Judah and Jerusalem.
25. Jehovah’s giving his wifelike organization “the low plain of Achor as an entrance to hope” meant what for her?
25 When Jehovah spoke of “the low plain of Achor,” this is what it called to mind: After the invading Israelites destroyed the Canaanite city of Jericho, the greedy Achan was stoned to death, together with his family, because of his violating Jehovah’s command. Thus Achan caused trouble to Israel by his selfish disobedience in taking spoil. Appropriately the valley where Achan was stoned was called “the Low Plain of Achor,” the name Achor meaning “Trouble.” (Josh. 7:10-26) Accordingly Jehovah’s promise to give his wifelike organization the “low plain of Achor as an entrance to hope” meant her being restored to her homeland where the low plain was located.
26. How did the wifelike organization in “the wilderness” respond to Jehovah, and how did He give proof of the renewal of the marriage relationship?
26 What, now, about the repentant remnant of Jehovah’s wifelike organization? Did they “answer” or respond appreciatively to His persuasive dealing and his speaking “to her heart”? Bible history replies, Yes! Away back in the days of her “youth” as the nation of Israel, she had ‘answered’ or reacted in a heartfelt way. She accepted Jehovah’s invitation to become his wifelike organization by entering into the Mosaic Law covenant with Him. Similarly to this, the repentant remnant in ancient Babylon responded in favor of renewing the marriage ties between Israel and her Heavenly Husband, Jehovah. In proof of renewal of this marriage relationship, Jehovah used the typical Messiah, Cyrus the Great, and returned the faithful Israelite remnant to the land of Judah and Jerusalem.
27. What course did the remnant now take toward Baal worship, and what did the wifelike organization evidence by calling Jehovah “My husband”?
27 Never again did the restored covenant people of Jehovah turn back to the worship of Baal or other forms of idol worship. The reinstated remnant zealously restored the worship of Israel’s Heavenly Husband as their God in the land that he had given to them. They felt deep gratitude and appreciation just as did their forefathers when these were delivered from Egypt and its military hosts. Israel’s Heavenly Husband seemed closer, more intimate, to them. Spontaneously the wifelike organization addressed Jehovah in more intimate and affectionate terms. So the organization called him, spiritually speaking, “My husband,” rather than “My owner.” No longer did she want to feel just “owned,” as belonging to a slave-master. She wanted to feel like a helper to him, just as the first woman Eve was meant to be to her husband, Adam. (Gen. 2:19-24) How beautiful all that was!
28. What like that ancient display of divine mercy is just as beautiful today?
28 Beautiful, too, is the modern-day parallel of that in our twentieth century. What marvelous effects are produced even today by Jehovah’s mercy to which his loyalty to his spiritual marriage covenant moves him! Happy are those who now experience his mercy!