“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.“
So much has been written about the Bride. Arguments over it have raged for 2,000 years. Jews have always maintained it is Israel. And of course, the Church says they are the true spotless Bride, many of whom have said they are now the true spiritual Israel because the Jews rejected Jesus. I’m not sure when the Bride of Christ [Messiah] thinking emerged, but it has persisted to this day.
I have heard many teachings on who the Bride is. Some border on bizarre, such as Israel is God’s Bride and the Church is Jesus’ Bride. Others claim any blood descendent of Jacob who rejected Jesus forfeited their right as being part of the Bride.
With the rise of the Hebrew Roots movement a new doctrine has emerged. This was made popular by Jim Staley’s teaching called Identity Crisis. In a nutshell it goes something like this: Exo 19 was the marriage proposal, Israel accepted, the Torah was the marriage contract, they broke it, therefore He issued a certificate of divorce [Jer 3:8] to Israel.
A law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 forbids a man from remarry a wife after a divorce if she remarried because she is now defiled.
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Paul, who most in the HRM say was the greatest Rabbi ever – second only to Jesus – tells us in Romans 7 that the only way the woman is free from adultery is if her husband dies.
For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. (Rom 7:2-3)
In other words, God had to die in order for Israel to be released from the marriage without being an adulterous woman – then they could remarry? Therefore, Jesus had to come as God in the flesh to die in order to release Israel so she could remarry. This sounds good on the surface, but it also raises other questions. For one, it never says Israel remarried after the certificate of divorce, and is the death clause valid after the divorce and remarriage? Furthermore, how does a woman remarry a dead husband?
I listened to a program called Did God ever Divorce Israel? from Torah Threads that brought out another problem I hadn’t thought of. And that is, in the Torah, a son is forbidden to marry his father’s wife, or his mother. If Israel was God’s wife and Jesus was God’s son then this poses a big problem because Jesus, being the son of God, can’t marry his mother.
However, if we look to the Bible to define who God says is his bride we can solve this convoluted Bride doctrine. Questions that need to asked are: What does God call himself? Who does He call his betrothed? And who are their children?
God the Father
I think it goes without saying that God is the Father. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. Nonetheless, let’s look at scripture references that show this is indeed the case.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for The LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.
For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.
But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Have you not just now called to me, ‘My father, you are the friend of my youth—
“‘I said, How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me.
With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’
Ezekiel 16 paints a vivid picture of the relationship between God and Jerusalem. In v2 He tells Ezekiel to make known to Jerusalem her abominations. This is very strange language, but the imagery of the birth of Jerusalem is one of a baby being born without its blood being washed off or the umbilical cord being cut. God passed by and saw her wallowing in her blood and said Chayah! (Live!)
He made her flourish and she grew but was still bare and naked. God passed by again and she was at the age for love so He spread the corner of His garment over her and covered her nakedness. He swore an oath to her and entered into a covenant and she become His.
He then washed off her blood, dressed her in the finest of garments, and anointed her with oil. He adorned her with ornaments, bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and placed a beautiful crown on her head. Again, we’re still talking about Jerusalem.
But, she began playing the harlot by giving her beauty to those passing by. She used her beautiful jewels to build images of men [idols]. She gave everything God had given to her away, even the children who she slaughtered and delivered them up as an offering by fire.
God said she was even worse than a prostitute, because even a prostitute takes payment for her deed. But not Jerusalem, she gave it away freely. The result is God gave her into the hands of her lovers and let them devour her to satisfy His wrath.
Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! (33) Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings.
Like I said, this is very strange language to be speaking to a city, a piece land, as if it could literally sin and play the harlot. It was the children of Israel who actually did all of this sin. Nevertheless, it is the land that gets the wrath. Looking back we can see this wrath play out over the centuries. If this was the only place this language occurred we could surmise it was a parable or other poetic language showing an analogy. But, there are numerous scriptures talking about the abominations and harlotry of the city.
“And you, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? Then declare to her all her abominations. You shall say, Thus says the Lord GOD: A city that sheds blood in her midst, so that her time may come, and that makes idols to defile herself! You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. Therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries.
“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother. They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosoms handled. Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.
Thus says The LORD: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.
Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares The LORD.
Isaiah 50 is a very popular verse that is used to prove God divorced Israel. But when looked at in the context of the preceding chapter it’s calling Zion the mother – for Israel’s iniquity they were sold and for their transgressions their mother [Zion] was sent away, i.e. divorced.
Then, of course, there is the prophet Hosea who is told to take a prostitute for a wife and bear children. Almost everyone says that Gomer represents Israel. However, Gomer is actually compared to the land – it is her children she bore to Hosea that represent the children of Israel, i.e. children of whoredom. If we look closely, there is something that has been largely overlooked.
When The LORD first spoke through Hosea, The LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking The LORD.”
Hosea (salvation) is told to take of wife of whoredom named Gomer (complete) and bear children of whoredom, why? Because the land committed great whoredom. This is consistent with the verses above about the land being the wife who commits whoredom. She has 3 children that portray the historical and future fate of the house of Israel. Gomer and her children can’t both refer to Israel.
- First Son: Jezreel = God sows – the house of Israel were sown, or scattered, throughout the earth.
- Second daughter: Lo-Ruhamah = No Mercy because God will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel to forgive them.
- Third Son: Loammi = Not my People because the house of Israel is no longer His people and He is no longer their God. Judah would obtain mercy but not Israel.
Chapter two continues with the theme of the “land” being the wife of YHVH, not the children:
Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.” “Plead with your mother, plead– for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband– that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’
But, both Gomer [the land] and her children[Israel] who became “Not my people” get redeemed:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope [the land]. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth [re Eze 16], as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares The LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know The LORD. “And in that day I will answer, declares The LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'”
He will betroth the land to Himself forever. Jezreel will be answered and the land “sown”. He will have mercy on the daughter Lo-Ruhamah again and say to the son Loammi “You are my people” and Loammi will say “You are my God”.
Other scriptures talking about the redemption of the land.
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says God.
Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I have spoken in my jealous wrath, because you have suffered the reproach of the nations. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I swear that the nations that are all around you shall themselves suffer reproach. “But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they will soon come home. For behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. And I will multiply people on you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt. And I will multiply on you man and beast, and they shall multiply and be fruitful. And I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you will know that I am The LORD. I will let people walk on you, even my people Israel. And they shall possess you, and you shall be their inheritance, and you shall no longer bereave them of children. Thus says The Lord GOD: Because they say to you, ‘You devour people, and you bereave your nation of children,’ therefore you shall no longer devour people and no longer bereave your nation of children, declares the Lord GOD. And I will not let you hear anymore the reproach of the nations, and you shall no longer bear the disgrace of the peoples and no longer cause your nation to stumble, declares the Lord GOD.”
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Your builders make haste; your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you. Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, declares The LORD, you shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does. “Surely your waste and your desolate places and your devastated land– surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: ‘The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’ Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?'” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am The LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of The LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but The LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of The LORD. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will beautify my beautiful house. Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows?
For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of The LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful. Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in my wrath I struck you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you. Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
For Zion‘s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem‘s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of The LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of The LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for The LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put The LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: “I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise The LORD, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.” Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a signal over the peoples. Behold, The LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of The LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.
“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says The LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown
As you can see, there is no lack of scriptures that describe the land as the one betrothed and was laid desolate with her children scattered to the ends of the earth. This has historically been fulfilled. Jerusalem was desolate and has had more foreign occupiers than any city in the world. That could be said for all of the original land inheritance of Israel – it’s still desolate.
Jacob’s descendants are always called the children, or sons and daughters, of Israel. They are not the bride or wife – they are the children. The Torah forbids marriage of a father to a child and a child to a mother, so Israel cannot be the bride. If God is the Father and Zion is the bride, then we can reasonably expect scriptures that say Zion is a mother to the children of Israel – observe the following:
Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken The LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.
“Ah, stubborn children,” declares The LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin;
For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of The LORD;
The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: ‘The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’
Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says The LORD.
All your children shall be taught by The LORD, and great shall be the peace of your
For the coastlands shall hope for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from afar, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful. Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in my wrath I struck you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you. Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children.
And you, take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel, and say: What was your mother? A lioness! Among lions she crouched; in the midst of young lions she reared her cubs. And she brought up one of her cubs; he became a young lion, and he learned to catch prey; he devoured men.
Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard planted by the water, fruitful and full of branches by reason of abundant water.
Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
“For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’–in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.”
My tent is destroyed, and all my cords are broken; my children have gone from me, and they are not; there is no one to spread my tent again and to set up my curtains.
The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; her virgins have been afflicted, and she herself suffers bitterly. Her foes have become the head; her enemies prosper, because the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. From the daughter of Zion all her majesty has departed. Her princes have become like deer that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer. Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and wandering all the precious things that were hers from days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was none to help her, her foes gloated over her; they mocked at her downfall. Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away.
“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.
To summarize, God is the Father, Zion is His Bride, and Israel is the son, or children. No divorce, no forbidden marriage, and no incestuous marriage. All in perfect harmony with His perfect Law.
So, how did the idea evolve that Israel or the Church was the Bride? There are several reasons. For one, there are several verses that compare the children to that of an adultress wife. But they are not called the wife specifically.
Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares The LORD.'”
But, there are some verses that indicate the children are indeed the wife:
She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.
It does indeed indicate a marriage, in that you can’t have a divorce unless you’re married. But is that what it means? The root of the Hebrew word translated as divorce (כריתתיה) isכּרת (karath), meaning to cut off. This is exactly what happened to the house of Israel – she was cut off because of transgressions. Other verses that use this same root word to be “cut off”:
I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Another verse that indicates God is married to Israel is Jer 31:32
..not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares The LORD.
The Hebrew word translated as husband also means to rule over, possess, own, be lord, etc. Incidentally, it is a derivative of Ba’al and some translations correctly translate it as such.
Jer 31:32 Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers, In the day of My laying hold on their hand, To bring them out of the land of Egypt, In that they made void My covenant, And I ruled over them–an affirmation of Jehovah.
Jer 31:32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; forasmuch as they broke My covenant, although I was a lord over them, saith The LORD.
Jer 31:32 not by the covenant which I made with your fathers, in the day in which I took the hand of them, to lead them out of the land of Egypt, the covenant which they made void; and I was Lord of them, saith The LORD (though I was like a lord, or like a husband, to them, saith The LORD).
Orthodox Jewish Bible
Jer 31:32 (31) Not according to the Brit that I cut with their Avot in the day that I took hold of their yad to take them out of Eretz Mitzrayim; which My Brit they broke, although I was Ba’al (Husband) to them, saith Hashem;
Then we read in the Christian Bible these things:
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
It does appear the Church is called the Bride of the Lamb, which is understood to be Jesus. But, even the writer of Revelation understands the Bride to be Jerusalem.
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.