“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.”—Hosea 2:19–20
In Hebrew, the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root word, hav, “to give.” In Judaism, to love is to give. Giving to others forms the connection that enables us to love one another. Join us this month, as we offer a devotional series exploring the Jewish perspective on love.
At times, it is difficult to read through portions of the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) – in particular, the words of the prophets. Repeatedly, men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and others conveyed messages of warning, judgment, and dire consequences if God’s people did not turn from their sinful ways and obey Him. At times, such messages of judgment can obscure the very reason God sent prophets to warn His people—because of His deep, abiding love for them.
You see, the relationship between God and Israel is really a reciprocal bond based on love. When we talk about the covenant that exists between God and His people, it really is much more than a formal binding agreement. It’s more than just an agreement between two parties. It is an agreement that is rooted in love and cannot be reduced to mere legality.
Jewish literature often portrays the covenant between God and Israel as a marriage—established through vows, and built upon a foundation of mutual love and commitment. As the prophet Hosea wrote, God addressed Israel as a husband would address his intended wife: “‘I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness; and you will acknowledge the Lord.’”
The term “betroth” – clearly one we associate with matrimony – implies an intimate promise to Israel to care for her. Jeremiah, too, affirmed this loving attachment when he recalled God’s past words to Israel in Chapter 31:3: “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’” Again, everlasting love is something we associate with a personal, intimate, lasting relationship such as marriage.
This covenantal relationship between God and Israel has guided the Jewish people through the centuries and is one of the most powerful forces in everyday Jewish life. Observant Jews renew their commitment to God and the covenant on a daily basis by observing God’s commandments and by linking themselves to the chain of Jewish life and tradition. They acknowledge their personal relationship with God and spend time nurturing it every day.
And while Jews and Christians sincerely differ on some very key points of theology, we do share this powerful bond—that we are called into an intimate, mutual and loving relationship with the God of the universe that requires that we seek His face every day in prayer, that we listen to His voice through the study of His Word, and that we obey Him.
Download our complimentary Bible study, “The Life of Ruth,” to learn more about this courageous young foreigner, whose love and devotion to the God of Israel led to unexpected blessings.