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State the differences between the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of marriage and that of their pagan contemporaries in the Middle East. Explain why these differences are significant. Indicate what Lawler means when he calls the pagan cultures “syncretistic.”
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1. the differences between the ancient Hebrews’ understanding of marriage and that of their pagan contemporaries in the Middle East. Explain why these differences are significant. Indicate what Lawler means when he calls the pagan cultures “syncretistic.”
Hebrews see marriage as a union between a man and a woman not only physically but also spiritually. As one person united, they are “adam” or human. This reflects the equality between man and woman who are both expected to procreate and “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Their pagan counterparts saw marriage as something coming from a divine power – that of a god-father and a goddess-mother who bless the union in marriage rituals and sexual intercourse. Lawler describes pagan marriage as “syncretistic” (Lawler: 8) or fusing two opposing meanings – that of both divine and human action. Fertility from human sexual intercourse is considered a divine blessing.
2. Discuss what you think about the story of Hosea and Gomer. Explain the understanding of God that is the basis of the pagan custom of “temple prostitution.” State how what Hosea said about the relationship between God and Israel differed from that pagan custom.
Hosea followed God’s command to him to marry Gomer, a harlot who participated in sexual rituals in temples as re-enactment of the sexual intercourse between pagan god Baal and his wife and sister, Anat. Hosea’s marriage to Gomer mirrored the relationship between God and Israel because it was unconditional. Although Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, he remained faithful to her and even bought her back when she was auctioned off to men. God’s love for Israel was the same. Even if Israel turned its back on God in favor of Baal, God still saved it from ruin. Pagan marriage is conditional and is open to divorce while marriage in Jewish tradition is supposed to be unconditional and does not approve of divorce.
3. Explain what “anachronism” is and why it is a problem in determining the meaning of love in the Book of Hosea and the hatred of divorce in the Book of Malachi.
Anachronism means something that is not appropriate to the times. In this reading, it is reflected on two things: love and divorce. Hosea’s account of Gomer’s and Israel’s faithlessness not being reasons to turn away from them justifies the marriage covenant. Staying with them and remaining faithful is the true meaning of unconditional love. Marriage is a covenant that spouses should enter with loyalty, service and obedience. Love comes from divine covenant to human marriage, and Yahweh’s covenant fidelity to Israel should be emulated by all married couples. Thus, in Malachi’s book, Yahweh confirmed His hatred for divorce. Such convictions may be anachronistic in the present times because marriage is not given the same regard and divorce is a way out of a marriage that does not fulfill a person. Not many people will emulate Hosea’s example of staying with an unfaithful spouse as a show of love and devotion to the unfaithful spouse. Divorce has been promoted as a convenient way to freedom.
4. “Is the author claiming that marriage is the analogy for understanding our relation to God or that our relation to God is the analogy for understanding marriage?”
The author tries to parallelize marriage to Christianity. “Fear of the Lord” may be misconstrued as being terrorized by the Lord to obey His commands. Lawler argues that it is not the fear that most people imagine, but it is out of love and reverence for God that is why Christians submit to Him (13). The same is true of husbands and wives. Mutual submission to each other or giving way to each other is to be expected of marriage. Spouses should love each other with covenant fidelity, the way the Lord has manifested for Israel and all His people.
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Lawler, Michael G., Chapter 1 Marriage in the Bible, Perspectives on Marriage, pp. 7-12. Print Read More
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