The Divine Divorce of Israel

The Divine Divorce of Israel

The Bible is unique among the religious books of the world partly because it is structured around a story which has a beginning, a plot, a climax and an end; and partly because this story is also a love story. Its lead character, God, is its hero. He takes a bride. His bride flourishes. Tragically, she wanders from her husband into adultery and then harlotry. Her husband pleads with her for her to return to Him. She refuses. He is left with no option but to divorce her. But the story does not end there.

 

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.
Jeremiah 3:8

GOD’S MARRIAGE TO ISRAEL

The Bible’s story opens with a marriage in Genesis chapter 2. From the outset, marriage is presented as the highest and closest union between a man and woman and was always intended to reflect the intimacy within the Godhead. As such, this unique relationship is identified as a covenant. This is the type of relationship which God also ascribes to His relationship with Israel. As the Scriptures unfold, we see that God thus describes Himself as a husband to Israel (Jer. 31:32). 

For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is His name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth He is called.
Isaiah 54:5

Ezekiel describes this marriage in a metaphorical story of God taking these Hebrews and bestowing magnificence upon them.

I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.  And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck.  And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.  Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.
Ezekiel 16:10-13

When the nation of Israel suffered a political division which divided them between north and south with ten tribes to the north being known as Israel (or Ephraim, or identified by its capital: Samaria) and the remaining two tribes in the south (Judah and Benjamin) being known as Judah (often identified by its capital: Jerusalem). From this point, God’s relationship with the Hebrews was then described as being married two sisters.

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.
Ezekiel 23:4

 

GOD DIVORCES EPHRAIM

God gave Israel laws regulating the practice of divorce in Deuteronomy 24. Prior to this, a man could verbally divorce his wife and virtually confine her to a lifetime of impoverishment.  

¶ “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.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4

There are two particularly important things to note about these regulations. Firstly, the divorce had to be a written document. Secondly, the husband divorcing his wife could not remarry her. Jesus Christ elaborated on this and stated that if a man divorced his wife and married another while his former was still alive, he was committing adultery. And if the wife he had just divorced was to marry another, he would be causing her to commit adultery.

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:9 NKJV

The terms of the covenant between God and Israel included blessings and curses, terms and penalties. The terms of the covenant with God could be summed up with the word – devotion. The blessings of the covenant could be summed up with the word – prosperity. The terms of the covenant could be summed up with the word – Law. The penalties of breaking the covenant could be summed up with the word – exile

And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.
Deuteronomy 28:11

And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the LORD has made it sick— the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger and wrath—all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’
Deuteronomy 29:22-28

When Israel abandoned the Lord, God sent them prophets who each reminded them of their Covenant with God. These prophets to the Northern Kingdom of Israel included: Hosea, Amos, Joel, and Jonah. If, as Jeremiah declared, God had given Israel a written decree of divorce, chances are it was penned by at least one of these prophets. What we cannot be as certain about is whether there is a Canonical (Scriptural) record of this decree. In Second Kings 17 there is a reference to prophets giving this prophetic decree to Israel without including the precise retelling of its wording or naming any particular prophet.

until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as He had spoken by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.
Second Kings 17:23

Initially it appears that the book of Hosea is the most likely candidate. Support for this candidature includes its historical context. It was written before Israel was exiled to Assyria. It metaphorically pictures Israel’s marriage to God and their adulterous unfaithfulness. It foretells of a coming new covenant, which would involve God taking a new bride. But in order for this to happen in accord with what Christ said about divorce and remarriage, one of the parties would have to die. This will be discussed shortly.

 

SENT AWAY

Divorce involved the sending away of the divorced wife. When Abraham divorced Hagar, it necessarily involved sending her away (Gen. 21:14). In Israel’s case, this was carried out by the Assyrians who took them into exile.

¶ In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
Second Kings 17:6

The Southern Kingdom of Judah faced the same threat from the Assyrians, but unlike their northern sister, they turned to the Lord.

Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ …  ¶ Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard … ¶ “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.
Second Kings 18:30; 19:20, 32

But eventually, despite the Prophet Jeremiah’s pleading, Judah also abandoned the Lord and committed spiritual adultery with idols. This eventually led to them also being divorced from the Lord. 

Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD.’”
Jeremiah 3:20

 

THE NEW COVENANT & GOD’S REMARRIAGE

The New Covenant was foretold by the prophets, particularly Jeremiah. It depicted a remnant of the twelve tribes of Israel being reunited under a new covenant.

In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.
Jeremiah 3:18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The New Jerusalem

About The New Jerusalem

 

The dividing line between Classical Preterists and Full Preterists is how the Biblical references to the New Jerusalem are understood. Full Preterists, who argue that all of the Book of Revelation is fulfilled, contend that the New Jerusalem has already (spiritually) come ‘down’. Classical Preterists, who argue that only Revelation chapters 1-19 are fulfilled, on the other hand contend that the expression New or Heavenly Jerusalem while indeed alludes to the New Covenant, will one day have its full expression after the Second Resurrection.

Full Preterists approach the Book of Revelation as if it is all fulfilled. Naturally then, the reference to the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven described in Revelation 21 is considered fulfilled. A supporting reference for this Full Preterist approach is allegedly found in Hebrews 12:22-.

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,

The writer to the Hebrews seems to be referring to the same New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. In this Hebrews reference, the writer is clearly stating this as a present (therefore, a past) event. This would then seem to be cased closed for the Full Preterist. But there are some serious problems with this interpretation.

Before we examine the particular texts, it is important to state clearly the hermeneutical principles employed for approaching the Scriptures. There are some negative principles (what we don’t do to Scripture) and there are positive principles.

– DO NOT

  • Assume that a Bible fulfilled prophecy must have another future fulfilment (how many future virgins will conceive and bear a Son?)
  • Take words or concepts in the Bible as uniquivocal (as only having one meaning). Biblical words and concepts in the Bible are equivocal. It is the intent of the passage which guides the way we understand them. For example,
    What does the word “father” mean in Scripture?
    What do “star” mean in Scripture?
    What does “earth” mean in Scripture?
    Depending on the context, “father” could mean the man who sired a particular child, a grandfather, or even a great great great great great great great great great great great (you get the idea) father. A “star” could refer to an astronomical object or it could refer to a tribe of Israel, or it could refer to a local church. “Earth” as it’s used in Scripture could refer to the planet we’re on, the territory of Israel, or dirt. Just because a word is used one way in one Biblical passage does not necessitate that it must be understood that way in every other passage. For example, “leaven” is depicted as either: moral corruption, a Gentile, or a growth agent.
  • Interpret a verse of Scripture to contradict the overall message of Scripture
  • Lightly dispense with how the original and near original audience understood the passage as they were often in a better light to understand the text.

On the other hand, we should-

  • Assume Biblical Prophecy only needs to be fulfilled once
  • Use Scripture to interpret Scripture
  • Draw on the context of a passage (textually, culturally, historically) to guide in it’s interpretation
  • With controversial passages do negative exegesis (determine what a text can not be sayingin the light of the overall message of the Bible even though it may superficially appear to do so)
  • Seek to discover the intent of the author in a passage (helped by uderstanding who the author was and who the audience was)

When we approach references in Scripture refering to the New or Heavenly Jerusalem we are guided by these principles of hermeneutics (The Method of Bible Interpretation). Added to this, we are also guided by our system of Eschatology. Our Eschatological system will give us certain presuppositions which heavily influence our understanding of the Bible. If for example, we have a Futurist Eschatological system, we will regard references in Jeremiah and Ezekiel of Israel being returned to their land after exile as pertaining to a last days regathering of Israel to the Promised Land which we would claim is being fulfilled today. But if we have a Historicist Eschatological system, we would regard the exact same references as predicting the return of Judah from exile in Babylon when the conquering Emperor, Cyrus, issued the decree allowing them to return (as chronicled in the Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah). Eschatological systems matter. Here are some of the features that a sound eschatological system should possess-

      1. a means to accommodates all eschatological references
      2. the ability to identify whether a prophecy is fulfilled or not
      3. the capability to make certain testable predictions based on the Biblical text

It is for these reasons that I consider the Classical (Partial) Preterist Eschatological system the most Biblically sound. But perhaps the greatest challenge to this system is how it can consistently account for the references to the New/Heavenly Jerusalem. Has it come? Or is it yet to come?

AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION

Futurists regard Revelation chapters 1-3 as letters to seven Asian (Turkish) churches that existed sometime around 95AD. Historicists regard the same chapters as foretelling the unfolding history of the Church down through the ages. Preterists regard these 3 chapters as letters written to 7 real churches around 65AD which sets the scene for the remainder of the Book.

Futurists regard Revelation chapter 4 as marking the point of “the Rapture” which they say is yet to come. Historicists regard this chapter as the point where world history is now prophetically revealed. Preterists regard this chapter as a glimpse for the seven churches into the dimension of heaven where, despite the turmoil on earth, they can begin to see that Christ is seated on the Throne and is ruling as Lord.

From this point Futurists and Historicists speculate, whereas Preterists appeal to first century history to show that the Four Horsemen were actually the first four emperors of Rome (Augustus was the first Roman Emperor) and the fifth seal was Emperor Nero who was a martyring Emperor. The sixth seal marks the deepening of Israel’s apostasy and the seventh seal marks the judgments of God beginning (identified as 7 trumpets). These seven trumpets culminate in the 7th trumpet announcing the completion of the Old Covenant and Israel’s time to repent. The seven bowls are then the next stage of God’s judgment upon apostate Israel which culminates in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and in particular the Temple. This is where Christ comes in the clouds riding as it were a white horse of judgment. With the close of the Old Covenant system of ceremonies and sacrifices the Kingdom of Christ (achieved at the Cross and the Resurrection) is now inaugurated. Thus begins the reign of Christ through His Church on earth (“a thousand years”) which can only be entered into through the New Birth (the First Resurrection). At a point in the future, God will allow the Devil to muster global persecution against the Church (“the camp of the saints”). But Christ will ‘descend’ from heaven as “fire” (Rev. 20:9) and deliver the victorious Church and eternally punish the Devil. He will summon all of the living and the dead to be eternally judged. It is then that what was birthed at the Cross, the New Jerusalem, the place of the New Covenant Redeemed, will be fully realised because there will be no more to redeem.

In this sense the writer to the Hebrew in chapter 12 verse 22 could say that we had already come to the Heavenly Jerusalem in much the same way that the Apostle Paul said that we were already seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Thus, the believer is already spiritually positioned in the Heavenly Jerusalem even though God is right now still admitting people to it. What the Patmos Apostle saw was the Heavenly Jerusalem (in existence) but not yet here. When the day comes that is has fully ‘descended’ there will be no further possibility of redemption for anyone.

Read another comparison between Classic Preterism and Hyper Preterism. [Read]

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.

John 5:25 ¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Amen.

 Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, Australia June 19th 2010

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