Leading Question: What was a “love story” like before sin entered the world? How did sin affect the male-female relationship?
In some ways, the only love story before sin, that of Adam and Eve, was a very simple one: They were made for each other and had no other choice. But “love stories” become much more complex after sin, especially if we are expecting to find our modern ideas of romantic love represented in the biblical accounts.
Non-love stories in Genesis. The following patriarchs were all involved in non-romantic love stories. What is the difference between the role of the man and the role of the women in each instance?
Abraham and Sarah: We know nothing of how they met; and Sarah was Abraham’s half sister.
Abraham and Hagar: Sarah is the one who gave Hagar to Abraham and when her haughtiness threatened Sarah’s place in the family, God had to intervene to keep Abraham from sending her away. The purpose of this non-love story was purely for the purpose of producing a male heir.
Isaac and Rebekah. Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, chose Isaac’s for him. He simply accepted her.
Jacob and his wives. In the story of Jacob, something like romantic love seems to have drawn Jacob to Rachel. But Laban, Rachel’s father and brother of his mother Rebekah, intervened to make sure that he received the “right” bride. The resulting story illustrates the horrors of a polygamous family. There is no overt moralizing against polygamy. But to watch the children being named to indicate the latest status of the battle between the wives is a vivid and horrific illustration of the dangers and tragedies of polygamy.
Ruth. The story of Ruth is in many respects a beautiful love story. But it, too, is a story driven by duty and it is Ruth who takes the lead in seeking Boaz’s protection for her family’s name and posterity.
Song of Solomon. The story is a very sensuous one and suggested that physical love could indeed be part of a love story. Interestingly enough, Christians very early began to interpret the story as an allegory of the relationship between Christ and the church. And during the medieval period, marriage came to be seen as a denial of one’s relationship to Christ.
Hosea. The story of the marriage between Hosea and Gomer in Hosea 1-2 is a painful one for moderns. God commanded him to marry a prostitute and bear children by her. When she left him for other lovers, God commanded Hosea to seek her out and win her back.
Jesus and the wedding at Cana. John 2 describes how Jesus and his disciples attended a week-long marriage ceremony. Is there any indication in the story that Jesus might have felt that this week was a waste of his precious time?
Paul and marriage. In first Corinthians 7, Paul is clearly ambivalent about marriage. Could this possibly be the source of the hostile attitudes toward marriage in the medieval church? Ephesians 5:21-33 is more positive toward marriage.
Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul uses the marriage relationship as an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church. In Revelation 21:2, when the New Jerusalem in announced it is described as coming down from heaven “as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Question: What lessons can we draw from biblical “love stories” that will help us in our searching, in our commitments, and in our promises today?