Symbolism in Scripture
The Almighty as a Husband to Israel
(14 May, 2018, 1 Sivan, 5778 )
Several times in the Bible the figure of a Husband is used to represent the relationship of the Almighty to Israel. An example of this symbolism is found in Ezekiel 23. The Prophet Ezekiel was born in the Land of Judah and lived there until being taken away with other inhabitants of Judah into Exile in Babylon. The Book of Ezekiel consists of prophecies by Ezekiel some of which were spoken while he was still in the Land of Judah and others when he was in Babylon. Remember the 12 Tribes of Israel had separated into sections. The northern section centered around Samaria consisted of Ten Tribes. They were exiled by the Assyrians and did not return. They became the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. The Assyrian Empire was replaced by the Medes and Babylonians. Judah in the south had remained but was later exiled by the Babylonians. After 70 years the Persians conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Judah. The Ten Tribes did not return. Ezekiel ch.23 contains a Prophecy made by Ezekiel in Judah before he was taken to Babylon. Ezekiel 23 speaks of two women who became His, i.e. His wives. One was named Ohalah and the other Oholibah.
4 Their names were Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. And they became Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah.
Oholah represented Samaria i.e. the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel. She committed adultery with the Assyrians. Consequently the Assyrians killed her and "took her sons and her daughters" (23:10). Oholibah i.e. Judah in the time Ezekiel was prophesying was acting in the same way her sister had and is warned that the Babylonians and others will do unto her as was done to Oholah.
Similarly, in the Book of Hosea (chs. 1 &.2) the union of Hosea and Gomer is used as a prototype for the relationship between the Almighty and the Ten Tribes in their Period of Exile. Meanwhile the Israelites in their places of Exile had confederated with a group of non-Israelite peoples named after Gomer son of Japhet. Conventionally these are identified as the Cimmerians and Scythians both of whom were referred to by the Assyrians as Gimirri.
The Prophet Hosea had taken Gomer to wife and his relationship became a metaphor for that of the Almighty and Israel.
We find other passages elsewhere in the Bible where God is likened unto a husband to Israel.
In Isaiah 54:4 the Almighty depicts HIMSELF as a Husband to Israel. According to the context in this case he is referring primarily to Judah at the time of their Exile and Future Redemption. The Ten Tribes may also be intended.
Jeremiah uses the same analogy of husband and wife for the Ten Tribes. In Jeremiah 3:1 the Almighty says that Israel is like a promiscuous woman who has been divorced but later (against accepted practice) is to be taken back again by her husband. God is that husband. The specific case here concerns the Ten Tribes in their early stages of Exile. In the time of Jeremiah in the reign of King Josiah a chance was given to the Ten Tribes to return and join up with Judah. A small number of Israelites (who were among Gomer and the Scythians) tried to do but it did not last. The historical events surrounding this matter help prove that the Ten Tribes had indeed become affiliated and identified with the Cimmerians and Scythians.
We will now look at three of the above mentioned examples in a little more detail:
(a) Isaiah 54:
(4) Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. (5) For your Maker is your husband, the LORD Almighty is his name, the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. (6) The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit, a wife who married young, only to be rejected,' says your God. (7) 'For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.'
In previous chapters, Isaiah 52 and 53, Judah is represented by the suffering servant who will have suffered in exile and been despised by the heathen. In the end times his righteousness will be acknowledged and the Almighty will comfort him. Isaiah ch.54 emanates from the previous chapters but may be applied to all of Israel in a general sense.
8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,' says the LORD, your Redeemer.
9 ' For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,' says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
(b) Jeremiah ch. 3 The Almighty as husband (3:14) to the whole House of Israel and the Scythian Re-Union with Judah.
Jeremiah chapter 3 refers to God as a husband to the whole House of Israel and then to both Judah and Israel as separate entities:
Jeremiah 3:1 'If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers, would you now return to me?' declares the LORD.
All Israel is likened to a wife who has betrayed her husband with other men. Israel has been a harlot with many lovers yet God asks her to return to HIM (Jeremiah 3:1-5). In the time of Josiah son of Amon King of Judah the Almighty called to Jeremiah to compare the deeds of Judah to those of Israel (Jeremiah 3:6).
7 And I said, after she had done all these things, 'Return to Me.' But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.
The northern Tribes of Israel had committed adultery. The Almighty divorced them. Judah had imitated the idolatrous practices of the northern Tribes. The Almighty reproved Judah and under the leadership of King Josiah the Land was purified of idolatry and the people repented, at least in part (2-Kings 22-23). This was in the time of Jeremiah. The Prophet Jeremiah said that the contrition of Judah was insincere. In 2-Kings 22:8 we are told how in the reign of Josiah, a Torah Scroll written by Moses was found in the Temple. It was open to the passage warning of exile of the King and nation as punishment for idolatry (Deuteronomy 28:36). King Josiah understood that this occurrence forebode ill for Judah. A delegation was sent to the Prophetess Hulda who confirmed the negative prognosis. Normally Jeremiah would have been consulted but he had gone to visit the Ten Tribes in their places of exile and try to convince them to return (Talmud, Megilla 14b). He was only partially successful in this mission and then for a short time only. At all events, Hulda informed the emissaries that due to the sins of Judah and its monarchs especially in the time of King Manasseh, grandfather of Josiah, the punishment of exile had been decreed against Judah. Since however Josiah himself had been righteous the disaster would be diverted to the next generation (2-Chronicles 24:28).
Putting off the punishment was by virtue of King Josiah rather than that of his people. Jeremiah is told that the repentance of Judah was in "pretense" (Jeremiah 3:9). The Bible tells us how King Josiah had cleaned out the Temple and purified it of idolatry. He had also attempted to extirpate heathenism from the Land (2-Kings chs. 22-23 and 2-Chronicles chs. 34-35). The Sages describe how the people of Judah had pretended to go along with the reforms of Josiah but in secret had continued their idolatry (Midrash, Eichah Rabah 1:53).
When Josiah reigned over Judah the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the former Kingdom of Israel had already been taken into exile by the Assyrians. The Assyrians had also established their suzerainty over Judah and were a factor in the increasing paganism of the Kingdom. King Josiah threw off the yoke of Assyria. He destroyed Assyrian idols (symbols of domination), and restored the Temple worship of the Almighty. Josiah also went through all the former domain of the Ten Tribes in the Land of Israel. He obliterated idols from the ruined cities. He also slaughtered pagan priests (wherever Israelite or not) wherever he found them (2-Kings 23).
Jeremiah is told to go unto the Northern Tribes and bring them back.
12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
' Return, backsliding Israel,' says the LORD; ' I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,' says the LORD;
' I will not remain angry forever.13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God,
And have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice,' says the LORD.
14 'Return, O backsliding children,' says the LORD; 'for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
Here the Almighty describes Himself as married to Israel meaning in this context the Ten Tribes. Meanwhile the Scythians established a center at Beth-Shean in the former territory of Manasseh. Beth-Shean seems to have served as their de facto headquarters in the period when they ruled over the Assyrian Empire. Scythian presence throughout the former territory of Israel during this time is attested by archaeological remains. Since Josiah was passing through this region and purifying it off idolatry there must have been some interaction between himself and the Scythians. In fact, the Scythians seem to have acknowledged Josiah as King over them. A stele has been found in Beth-Shean declaring the authority of King Josiah! Talmudic and Rabbinical sources say that Jeremiah went to bring the Ten Tribes back. A small minority returned. King Josiah ruled over them. When Josiah was killed most of the northern Israelite returnees went back to their places of exile. This could also explain the declaration to Jeremiah that the Almighty would take from the northern Israelites "one from a city and two from a family" and bring them to Zion (Jeremiah 3:14).
This is what happened.
The Cimmerian-Scythians had reclaimed their independence from the Assyrians and began to attack them. They had also split up into different groups. The "Scythian" section (or one of them) came to terms with Assyria. These Scythians helped Assyria defeat the others and drive some of their brothers out. After that they either ruled over the Assyrian Empire or at the least they became a dominant factor while the Empire was in a state of semi-anarchy. Later, under Assurbanipal the Assyrians managed to re-assert themselves. Meanwhile the Medes, Babylonians, different sections of the Cimmerians, and others were in active revolt.
They besieged Assyria in her cities.
The Book of Micah, chapter 5, describes the Ten Tribes as being exiled, becoming shepherds or protectors of the Assyrians, and later progressing to destroy the Assyrian cities as revenge for the destruction of Samaria. In other words Micah describes the Israelites as having played the same role secular historical sources attribute to the Scythians.
Herodotus (1;106) tell us that the Medes and their Scythian allies held a banquet to celebrate their victory over Assyria. The Medes got the Scythian leadership drunk. They then massacred them. After that the Medes and Babylonians divided the Assyrian Empire. Together, they progressively drove the Cimmerians and Scythians out of the Middle East area.
Later the Babylonians conquered Media and then Judah and exiled the Jews to Babylon. The Persians eventually rebelled against the Medes who had ruled over them. The Persians then conquered Babylon, and allowed the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple. At this stage, the Ten Tribes had mostly moved onwards and were no longer a factor in the region.
Amongst the Scythians we find private names, tribal names, legends, Hebraic customs, specific styles of artistic craftsmanship, and other indications of Israelite ancestry, at least in part. In continuation the Cimmerians and Scythians split up into different groups. Some went to the west almost immediately. Others went to the north and east and then returned westward. Ultimately they all converged on Western Europe. A study of these different peoples throughout their sojourning and peregrinations continues to provide evidence of Israelite origins. At the least it must be admitted that there was a significant Israelite component amongst them. Many peoples of West European origin derive from these groups. This makes them offshoots of Israel.
Jeremiah chapter 3 after describing or predicating events that took place during the time of King Josiah then moves on to a scenario that will transpire in the Messianic Era. This is the way of Scripture.
The Prophets pictured the distant future by describing events from their own experience or time period. They would use them as prototypes for what will occur in the End Times. Jeremiah describes how Israelites will greatly increase in the Land (3:16). Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD (3:17). Emissaries from Judah will go to the Lost Tribes to bring them back.
Jeremiah 3:18 'In those days the house of Judah shall walk with [go unto] the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers.
The rest of Jeremiah chapter 3 describes the feelings of shame and remorse the Israelites will experience and the call of the Almighty exhorting them to repent. In Jeremiah 31:32 the Almighty also describes Himself as having been a husband to Israel. To understand this it is worth briefly perusing the whole of this chapter.
Jeremiah Ch. 31: The Almighty will be reconciled with Israel (Jeremiah 31:1). The Lost Tribes will be "Notsrim" (translated as Watchmen) when they return (31:6). The word translated as Watchmen in Hebrew may also mean Christians. This does not mean that Christianity is correct. It merely describes the state they will be in. Ephraim is still the firstborn (31:9). The North Country, coasts of the earth, and "Isles afar off", are all linked with Ephraim and the Chosen People (31:10). These expressions ("North Country", and "Coasts of the Earth") regarding the Latter Day Era of our own time refer to North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and like places. Even in the time of Jeremiah these expressions could refer to areas in Northern Europe. A related expression connected with the Lost Ten Tribes is 'ends of the earth' (Genesis 33:13, Isaiah 41:8, 9, 13).
This expression too in ancient times could relate to northern regions:
16 Thus says the LORD: Refrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD,
And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
17 There is hope in your future, says the LORD, That your children shall come back to their own border.
Commentary of the Malbim on Jeremiah 31:17:
There is hope in your future: There is hope for the Last Days, in the End Time. Your children shall come back to their own border: Meaning that even though the Lost Ten Tribes who were exiled will not return themselves, their descendants in the End Time will return to their boundary. Here it does not say they will return from THE LAND OF THE ENEMY [as it does for Judah in Jeremiah 31:16 above] for the Ten Tribes are not in the Land of the enemy but they shall be dwelling alone in a land faraway from their boundary. They will return at the last to their border.
Ephraim is the "AEGEL" [also pronounced as "Angle"] or bull-calf of the Almighty (Jeremiah 31:18). The path of "megalithic" monuments (dolmens, etc.) should be used to prove the Israelite Origins of the Lost Ten Tribes (31:21). This is confirmed by Rabbinical commentaries such as Radak, Abarbanel, and Metsudot. It includes historical and archaeological researches especially those dealing with megalithic monuments.
There will be a restoration of Both Houses, of Judah (31:23) and Israel. Human Nature (especially that of Israel) will be changed and a "New Covenant" made (31:31). This New Covenant will be different from the previous one.