Questions From Readers
● How are we to understand Hosea’s apparent withholding of sex relations from his restored wife Gomer?—Hos. 3:3.
The Watchtower of March 15, 1976, page 188, paragraph 25, makes comment on this verse, indicating that Hosea was disciplining his restored wife “with sexual restrictions, including, apparently, his own holding back from husbandly attentions.” The Scriptural sense in the Hebrew supports this conclusion of Hosea’s withholding sex relations.
The New World Translation renders Hosea 3:3 according to the literal Hebrew. “Then I said to her: ‘For many days [an unspecified period] you will dwell as mine. . . . You must not come to belong to another man; and I also will be for you.’” What does this latter phrase seem to mean, “I also will be for you”? Just as the restored wife, Gomer, was forbidden to have adulterous relations with any other man, so likewise Hosea would be that way toward her too, not having sex relations for a time. Note that other Bible translations make it even more definite that Hosea was to withhold sex relations from her for a time: “Nor will I be thine” (Jewish Publication Society, 1917), “and I will do the same for you” (Jerusalem Bible), “nor will I myself come near you” (An American Translation), and “have no intercourse with a man, nor I with you” (New English Bible).
What, then, was the reason for this restriction? Mercifully Hosea had taken back his “wife of fornication,” repurchased her for the price of a slave and forgiven her. Yet Hosea had a natural interest in having his wife submit to a period of marital purification. This would be a cleansing time when Gomer was to remain in a state of detention, in conjugal inaction, debarred from intercourse even with her legal husband Hosea.
How does this reconcile with 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, where it says that husband and wife are not to deprive each other of their sexual due except by mutual consent? What happened here in Hosea’s case is not to be taken as a pattern for Christian marriage mates to be withholding sex relations from each other as a form of personal punitive action. Rather, the Hosea-Gomer case demonstrates a form of mercy on the part of the forgiving mate where marital unfaithfulness has occurred. The innocent mate accepts the return of the truly repentant mate as a cleansed one.
In a similar way, as enacted by Hosea and his wife, Jehovah took back unfaithful Israel in the restoration time that followed 537 B.C.E. and then purified her. Israel was forbidden to establish any adulterous relationship again with Gentile princes or idolatrous priests or other paraphernalia of idolatrous worship. Jehovah himself withheld the appointing of a non-Davidic king to sit upon any throne until Messiah, the rightful king, would come. (Ezek. 21:27) Hence, during a purification period the disciplined, repentant remnant of natural Israel began patiently to look forward to their Messianic Liberator from Gentile control.
Likewise, from and after 1919 the trembling, quivering remnant of the true spiritual Israel were brought into a renewed covenant or marriage relationship with Jehovah. Accordingly, they were debarred from any spiritual adultery with apostates, rulers or priests, as Christendom still persists adulterously in doing. Only after a period of purification did Jehovah restore close intimacy with the remnant of spiritual Israel. Finally, the remnant came to realize that Jehovah was indeed their loving husbandly protector and that they were in a secure relationship with him under the new covenant, of which Jesus Christ is the Mediator.—1 Tim. 2:5, 6.
● If a Christian must testify in court, is it proper for him to place his hand on the Bible and swear to tell the whole truth?
There is no Scriptural objection to doing so, though each person must decide whether to comply or to ask to be excused from this.
The practice of taking an oath while touching some object that is viewed as sacred has been widespread. For example, the ancient Greeks lifted up the hand to heaven or touched an altar while taking an oath. Among the Romans a juror held a stone in his hand and swore that if he were lying Jupiter should cast him away as he then cast away the stone.
Such acts manifested mankind’s inner inclination to recognize that there is a divine power to whom humans are accountable and who observes what is said and done. Certainly the worshipers of the true God, Jehovah, recognized this. And the Bible shows that they took oaths, in the presence of God, as it were, or with him as a witness. (2 Sam. 3:35; 1 Ki. 2:23, 24; Ruth 3:13; Jer. 38:16) True worshipers also permitted others to put them under oath.—Gen. 21:22-24; Matt. 26:63.
Sometimes when an oath was taken before Jehovah, the one swearing to it also made an accompanying gesture. The angel speaking to the prophet Daniel “proceeded to raise his right hand and his left hand to the heavens and to swear by the One who is alive for time indefinite.” (Dan. 12:7; Gen. 14:22) Even God spoke of himself symbolically as raising his hand in an oath. (Isa. 62:8; Deut. 32:40) Another gesture that evidently was used in confirming an oath was that of placing the hand under the other person’s hip or thigh.—Gen. 24:2, 3, 9; 47:29-31.
Of course, a true Christian does not have to take an oath so as to back up every statement that he makes in daily life. His Yes should mean Yes, and his No, No. (Matt. 5:33-37; Jas. 5:12) But if in court he is asked to swear that his testimony is truthful, he may feel that he can take such an oath. Or he may be permitted to give an affirmation that he is not lying.—Gal. 1:20.
When the courtroom procedure is that of raising a hand or of placing a hand on the Bible when swearing, a Christian may choose to comply, having in mind the Bible examples of accompanying an oath with a gesture. But more important than whether a person makes a certain gesture with his oath is the fact that he is swearing before God to tell the truth. Such an oath is serious. So if a Christian feels that he can and should answer a question put to him in such circumstances, then he is under oath to tell the truth.