Saturday, February 4, 2023

Sovereignty and Two Wives


Sumerian King Dumuzi and his royal bride. He is mentioned in the Sumerian King List.

Alice C. Linsley

Bridal imagery is found throughout the Bible. Hosea 2 describes how YHWH sets aside Israel, his bride, and vows to win her back, even if it means moving heaven and earth.

In the Gospel according to John, John the Baptist speaks of Jesus Christ as the bridegroom. "The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice." (John 3:29)

In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul uses marriage to analogize Christ as the husband of the Church.

In Matthew 22:2, Jesus compares heaven to a wedding banquet that a king had prepared for his son.

Consider how in the Bible brides are often found at wells. Abraham met Keturah at the Well of Sheba. Jacob met Rebekah at a well in Padan-Aram. Moses met Zipporah at a well in Midian. Jesus met Photini at the Well of Jacob and she, a Samaritan, became the first evangelist. 

Among the early Hebrew ruler-priests, it was a common practice to have two wives. Like his father Terah, Abraham had two wives: Sarah and Keturah. The Hebrew priest Elkanah had two wives: Peninnah and Hannah. Other Hebrew rulers with two wives include Lamech, Jacob, Amram, Moses, Jesse, and Joash.

In 1 Chronicles 4:5, we read that "Ashur, the father of Tekoa, had two wives, Helah and Naarah."

In 1 Chronicles 4:17-18, we read that Mered had two wives and one was "Pharaoh’s daughter Bithiah, whom Mered had married."

Those who are troubled by the idea of two wives should consider that this is exactly what is presented in Jeremiah 3:8 which speaks of God divorcing the northern kingdom of Israel for being an unfaithful bride. The same judgement is spoken over the southern kingdom of Judah. “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.” Here God is presented as having two unfaithful wives.

The ruling house of a high-status Hebrew man consisted of two wives. Two wives were instrumental in establishing and maintaining territorial boundaries for the early Hebrew rulers. Abraham's territory in ancient Edom (Idumea) extended between the settlements of Sarah in Hebron and Keturah in Beersheba. Both locations are shown on this map.

Jesse's two wives resided in separate settlements. David's mother probably resided in Bethlehem and Jesse's other wife probably resided in Hebron. This would explain why David was anointed first in Bethlehem and later anointed in Hebron (2 Sam. 2:1-4).

2 Samuel 23:24 mentions three sons, Abishai, Joab and Asahel, born to Jesse's daughter Zeruiah. Zeruiah was David's half-sister.

The Song of Songs speaks of two brides. One is "dark as the tents of Kedar" (1:5) and the other is "fair as the Moon" (6:10). This exalts Solomon's reign as divinely appointed since in the ancient world the High God's sovereignty was expressed by the journey of the Sun between the houses of his two wives.

This is typical of the territorial claims of high kings in the Ancient Near East. The brides represent the east and the west, the territorial boundaries observed by the solar arc, the symbol of the God’s High rule over the Earth. This was a way of identifying the authority of the high king with the authority of the High God.

Psalm 19:5-6 says God "has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat."

The names of Lamech’s two wives Adah and Tzillah (Gen. 4) are a claim to expansive earthly rule. The Bible scholar, Theodore H. Gaster, noted that the east-west arrangement is suggested by the names Adah (dawn) and Tzillah (dusk). 

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