Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bible Quiz

1. Name 4 great women of the Bible
2. Name 4 great men of the Bible
3. Name 4 great marriages of the Bible

Well, how did you do?

  • For question one you might have answered Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Abigail, Elizabeth, Mary, Lydia, and others.
  • For question two you might have answered Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, David, Solomon, John, Peter and others.
  • So how did you do on question three?

    I came up empty.

A few marriages clearly were not in the great category:

  • Adam & Eve
    • Honeymoon in paradise, but her quest for knowledge got them evicted
  • Abraham & Sarah
    • "She’s not my wife, she’s my sister”—so much for stepping up...
  • Moses & Zipporah
    • Spent a lot of time apart. She tossed a foreskin at him in Exodus 4:25!

Somewhat more promising:

  • Ruth and Boaz
    • We read about the romance, but not much about their marriage
  • Rachel and Jacob
    • Another romance. Jacob clearly loved Rachel, but we don’t learn about their marriage other than fertility troubles

The best (?):

  • The “excellent wife” in Proverbs 31
    • Trust, financial gain and “She does him good and not evil All the days of her life” – not much else.
  • Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18
    • Obviously a great couple, who helped Paul in his ministry. But we don’t learn anything specific about their marriage.

Marriage is the only human institution established before the fall. It is used to symbolize the relationship between God and Israel Jeremiah 31:32 and Christ and the Church—and yet there are only a handful of verses regarding its practice.

Why did God choose to give marriage the silent treatment?


Heidi said...

Hmmm... perhaps because of the variety of marriages that are spoken of.

Polygamy - Many wives (Esau, 3; Jacob, 2; Ashur, 2; Gideon, many; Elkanah, 2; David, many; Solomon, 700 wives of royal birth; Rehaboam, 3; Abijah, 14; Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin, Belshazzar ....)

Levirate - Childless widow required to leave her home, marry her brother-in-law, live with him, and engage in sexual relations, whether or not she wanted to do so. The first son was counted as the son of the deceased husband. See Ruth 4 for an account of the requirement to enter into a levirate marriage with a widow to whom he was the closest living relative.

Female Slave in a Polygamous Marriage - Hagar is the best example.

Wives and concubines - Concubines were typically a purchased Hebrew girl, a Gentile war captive, a purchased foreign slave, or a Canaanite woman, bond or free. Typically brought into a already-existing marriage of any of the above types. (Abraham, Gideon, Nahor, Jacob, Eliphaz, Caleb, Manassah, Saul, David, Rehoboam, Solomon, Belshazzar).

A male soldier and a female prisoner of war as wife/property. (Numbers 31:1-18, Deuteronomy 21:11-14).

A male rapist and his victim (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

A male and female slave - assigned by owner (Exodus 21:4).

What about Isaac and Rebekah? A very sweet story.

Many of the marriage narratives seem to be object lessons of some kind.

Hosea and Gomer - A weird one where God tells him to marry a prostitute.. I think that's a story about patience and steadfastness.

Despite the shameful beginning, remember that God blessed David after her repented... "David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her" (2 Sam 12:24). And look where his line ended up. I still think it's a true love story...

Ananias and Sapphira loved each other, but wanted acclaim - becoming dishonest hypocrites... They were more interested in appearances than in reality, and their internal lie was exposed...

Priscilla and Aquila worked together - and he didn't seem to be threatened by her higher status or knowledge... (1 Cor. 16:19, Rom. 16:3-5, 2 Tim. 4:19). Priscilla’s name appears before Aquila’s in four out of the six biblical references to them.

Some of the best examples of real love - as might be expected, really - are between women and between men. Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, and so on.

I don't think that contemporary notions of marriage really apply very well in such basically misogynistic cultures as the biblical books represent.

Remember, too, the way the early Christians tended to frown on marriage in general, seeing it as a method to avoid out-of-control lust... It is better not to marry. The emphasis moved from tribal concerns with land acquisition and war, which had fueled the need to produce many children (however that might have happened) and providing structure for those children. The most compassionate early laws were for the motherless boy, etc.

Of course, the best love story to me is the one of Jesus and Mary the Magdalene, but we know little about that from church-approved biblical sources.

Cliff Martin said...

Interesting topic, Vance; and Heidi, your observations are very good.

It is puzzling that we have virtually no Biblical role models for marriage, especially in light of the obvious high regard God has for marriage. It seems to be one of his favorite metaphors for the God - Man relationship as you noted, so "Why did God choose to give marriage the silent treatment?"

As Heidi points out, the social settings of the ancient cultures made it nearly impossible for marriage to flourish. So maybe the silent treatment in the narratives simply reflects the lack of material. On the other hand, the Bible contains what I consider excellent advise for marriage (though sadly many expositors and Christian teachers fail to represent it fairly!).

Marital love is, in my view, mankind's most remarkable transcendent experience; it is a bit of eternity available to us now. I sometimes use this truth with skeptics who would deny all transcendence. No matter how many natural explanations we discover for marital love, both chemical and electrical, there will always remain a mystery and joy which refuse to submit to the laboratories of biological science. As such, I consider the phenomenon to be evidence of transcendence ... we are more than molecules! And if marriage is given to us a means of exploring the love of God and the nature of the relationship he longs for us to enter into with him, it's overpowering spiritual nature should come to us as no surprise!

VanceH said...

Hi Heidi & Cliff, Thanks for your comments. Both of your suggestions were angles that I had not thought of--and are being included in my thinking. One question for Heidi or anyone else--I have assumed that the role of women, while not close to balanced in the Bible is more positive that would be expected compared to the contempory literature. Any thoughts on that assumption?

-- Vance

Mike said...

Great Marriages:

Mary and Joseph

Ruth and Boaz

Salmon and Rahab

Aquila and Priscilla

Peter and his wife (mother-in-law is mentioned)

Moses and Zipporah

Noah and Joan (Joan of Ark)

Elizabeth and Zechariah

Scooper said...

So the Bible is not a marriage manual, although one might take some inspiration in that direction from the Song of Solomon. It seems to me that the Bible is a library of books describing ancient Israel's struggle to be the People of God, and is given to us to be our mind's window to God. Isn't that enough?

VanceH said...

Hi Mike,

Perhaps these marriages were great, but the Bible doesn't appear to me to say that. My definition of greatness would require at least one positive interaction between the two of them after marriage.

-- Vance

VanceH said...

Hi Scooper, Clearly it is enough and the best. But sometimes I think the absence of something can be just as significant as its presence.

-- Vance

Scooper said...

Thanks, Vance.
Maybe the lack of detail regarding marriage is because God wants us to work it out for ourselves.

jeff said...

On the subject of MAry and Joseph...
In a way we start off on the wrong foot with Joseph. But I think it's an amazing show of Joseph's character that he's not interested in publicly shaming Mary. When he breaks things off he is interested in protecting her as much as he can.
All it takes is simple dream, which it seems like he easily could have rationalized away, to bring Joseph on board to the whole project.
We see several instances of Mary's amazing submission to God (for example in her discussion with the angel)
Though we end up with no interactions per se, between them, it certainly seems like they have a lot going for them.
I suppose this in turn leads to the question: if we knew people were Godly, courageous, etc, and we knew that they were married to each other, is it likely that they had a BAD marriage?
It is a fascinating thing you observe: there doesn't seem to be much in the way of blueprints for marriage. Is this a case of seeking first the kingdom, though? Maybe if we act in the way God expects we'll end up with the sorts of marriages God (and us) want.

VanceH said...

Hi Jeff,
I agree that the obedience of Joseph and Mary was very impressive, and that it is likely that they had a great marriage. Joseph was still around when Jesus was 12, so we know they had at least that much time together. This still leaves us with the mystery of why the lack of information. I am intrigued by Heidi's observation--that marriage has changed a lot over the last couple of thousands of years, probably more than other human relationship. Lacking in direction, I agree that seeking God and His kingdom is what we need to do.

By the way, you might want to change your profile so that you drop the www at the beginning of your blog URL. Otherwise people won't be able click on your name to check out your excellent blog at . I have really appreciated your blog in general and your posts on how you became a Christian have been excellent.

Jeff said...

thanks vance!
I appreciate the praise and would love for your insight when you're feeling so motivated to leave a comment. (Ditto anybody else who reads this blog.)
I'm not terribly technologically literate. I'm wondering if I'm supposed to put "http:" to make the link work. If it doesn't, I'm at (My blog title sounded funnier and less self-indulgent when I originally thought it up; I hope it can be seen as self-depreciating and not arrogant.)
I'll try it without and see what happens.

VanceH said...

Hi Jeff, You do need the http. The URL you should use in your profile should be

-- Vance

Bible Quizzing said...

I don't know that 'silent treatment' is quite the right description.

The pattern for a successful marriage is our relationship to God, not the example of any particular couple.