“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.” Hosea 2:19-20
Betroth – God offers hope, even for the most miserable, most rebellious, most immoral of us. Israel betrayed God’s trust. Israel turned its back on God’s favor and commission. In spite of all that, God promises restoration, renewal and revival. But unless we know something about the Hebrew words here, we will miss how God is going to accomplish all this.
“Betroth” is the Hebrew verb ‘aras. It means “to pledge in marriage, to become engaged.” Of course, Hebrew engagement is not like the kind of wedding announcements we have in this age. Betrothal was essentially a contract between families witnessed by the community. Couples were considered “married” as soon as the contract was validated in spite of the fact that no sexual relationship occurred until after the wedding. This expectation stands behind the story of Joseph and Mary and explains Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s pregnancy. How was the contract validated? By the exchange of the bride price and the dowry. The groom gave gifts to the family of the bride signaling his intention to wed and cementing the agreement. God tells Israel that He is giving gifts too. These gifts will validate the marriage contract between God and Israel. It is not simply an intention to someday restore the relationship that has been broken. It is a guarantee that for all intents and purposes the marriage is done. All that’s left is the celebration.
What kind of gifts will God give in order to secure this bride? He will give righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, compassion and faithfulness. In other words, He will give who He is, the essence of His character. He pledges Himself to this marriage.
Righteousness (tsedeq) is in desperate short supply in Israel. This is a gift that meets the most basic need of a fallen nation. God will give a right relationship consisting of loyalty and commitment. Where Israel has no tsedeq, God provides it. Once tsedeq is in place, justice (mishpat) follows. The gift of a right relationship precipitates the need for instruction, direction and guidance. What fool would believe that God would provide righteousness and then leave His bride to figure out on her own how she should honor her husband and behave toward him? Tsedeq and mishpat live and grow in an atmosphere of rahamim (compassion) and hesed (lovingkindness). You might find it interesting that “compassion” is plural in this verse (Think about that for a few years). Hesed is far more than lovingkindness. It is the fundamental constituent of the covenant.
All of these gifts are exemplars of God’s faithfulness (‘emunah). He is reliable! He is constant! He can be trusted! If every groom provided these gifts to his bride, marriage might be considerably different than the compact for mutual possession that we have in our culture. We should probably read Genesis 2:24 in light of Hosea 2:19-20 and we should certainly remind grooms that the model for their marriages is God’s marriage. Do you think Paul might have had Hosea in mind when he wrote about the marriage between the Christ and the qehelah?
Topical Index: marriage, gifts, betroth, ‘aras, hesed, ‘emunah, raham, tsedeq, mishpat, Hosea 2:19-20