1 Samuel, chapters 23-25

[…] David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel and said to her: “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She immediately rose up and bowed with her face to the ground and said: “Here is your slave as a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” Then Abigail quickly rose up and rode on her donkey with five of her female servants walking behind her; she accompanied the messengers of David and became his wife.
~1 Samuel 25:40-42

Abigail was a “discerning and beautiful” woman (1 Sam. 25:3).

On top of that, she was humble and hard-working.
Despite being the recent widow of a very wealthy man, she did not think she was above her servants in the sense that she would leave them all the dirty work (1 Sam. 25:2, 36-39).

At the time David proposed, he was not yet ruling as king.
He was dwelling in caves (1 Sam. 25:4).
Also, after being deprived of his first wife by his father-in-law, David had already taken on a second wife- making Abigail his third wife (1 Sam. 25:43,44).

This makes Abigail’s answer to his marriage proposal seem all the more selfless.

Abigail considered it a great honor to become David’s wife because she put faith in Jehovah’s words that David would one day be king (1 Sam. 25:30,31).

When I put myself in Abigail’s shoes- how she had just gotten out of a terrible marriage, how she was willing to leave her ranch estate for David- a man who lived like a fugitive, a man who a few days earlier had gone to take vengeance against her own household, a man who was not going to focus on her primarily, a man that had not even gone to propose in person!
I would not have reacted the way she did.
That is why I marvel at her faith and her self-sacrificing personality.

Ruth, chapters 1-4

“I will do for you everything that you say, for everyone in the city knows that you are an excellent woman. While it is true that I am a repurchaser, there is a repurchaser more closely related than I am. Stay here tonight, and if he will repurchase you in the morning, fine! Let him repurchase you. But if he does not want to repurchase you, I will then repurchase you myself, as surely as Jehovah lives.”
~Ruth 3:11-13

By the time the widowed Ruth approached her benefactor, Boaz to request he perform brother-in-law marriage with her, it is obvious he had already given the matter significant thought.

Through his reply, one can infer that he had taken enough notice of Ruth to ask others about her personality and reputation, and he had also taken into account her personal circumstances (Ruth 3:17).

He did not, however, rush into a relationship with Ruth, since he recognized that there was another man who legally had first choice regarding marrying Ruth and acquiring her first husband’s inheritance (Ruth 4:3-6).

Boaz, despite his power and feelings, did not overstep this law.

He took into account God’s instructions regarding the marital arrangement, setting a fine example for us, demonstrating that true love is based on principles.

Judges, chapters 1-4

“They would take their daughters as wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they began serving their gods.”

~Judges 3:6

Strict as God’s commandment on inter-religious marrying may seem, the truth is the person who can most influence our worship and spirituality is our spouse, whether for good or bad.

A person who has an unbelieving spouse lives divided, always trying to find the balance between two sacred priorities.

If both partners hold strong values, this can lead to countless unnecessary arguments that can leave emotional scars on either of them or their children.

Growing up, my father was agnostic and my mother, a zealous evangelizer of God’s word.

In recent years, my father has changed his opinion of the Bible and now participates in bi-weekly Christian meetings alongside my mother.

In effect, they get along a lot better now and are overall more happy than when they each held separate belief systems.

It is as easy now as it was in ancient Israel to underestimate the degree of influence a potential spouse will play in one’s relationship with God, especially because we tend to think of spirituality as an individual soul-searching process.

Sadly, throughout my adult life I have had the experience of witnessing the exact opposite of my parents’ experience.

I have had several friends leave their God-fearing spouses for unbelieving new partners.

This course of action has led these friends to spiritual ruin, and has undone the reputation of their faithful spouses.

It is just as essential, then, to heed God’s advice and seek an intimate relationship with someone of the opposite sex “only in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 7:39).

Numbers, chapters 30-32

Regarding any vow or any oath involving an abstinence vow to practice self-denial, her husband should establish it or her husband should annul it.
~Numbers 30:13

Under Mosaic Law, if a married Israelite woman made a vow to God, she had to communicate that vow to her husband that same day.

As head of the household, her husband had authority to either establish or annul the vow.

At first view, it seems God did not trust married women to make their own decisions, which could offend some of us.

However seeing it from a financial perspective it makes sense, because it was the husband’s responsibility to make ends meet and so any vow incurred by his wife might affect the family as a whole.

Let’s say for example that the wife vowed to donate 20% of the harvest instead of just the 10% the tithe required.

Now let’s imagine that in that year it did not really rain so there was not much grain to harvest and now they have more than five starving kids to feed.

It would make sense that the husband had the authority to annul his wife’s vow, ‘bearing the consequences of her guilt,’ (Nu. 30:15).

By requiring the vow to be communicated to her husband, the wife was also pressed to think twice before saying compromising things out of sentimentalism that were not thoroughly calculated.

Christian women are not obligated to have their husband’s approval before they enter spiritual compromises.

Many women in the first century converted to Christianity even when their husbands were unbelievers (1 Pet. 3:1).

However, the husband is still considered head of the household, so it is still wise on the part of a wife to communicate her decisions to him either before or soon after taking them, yielding to his advice whenever reasonable (Prov. 13:10; Acts 5:29; 1 Cor. 11:3).

She would thereby demonstrate respect for both Jehovah and her spouse and contribute to the whole family’s success.

Numbers, chapters 4-6

[…] In the case of a man who becomes jealous and suspects his wife of unfaithfulness; he should make his wife stand before Jehovah, and the priest must carry out toward her all this law.

~Numbers 5:30

This passage stirs up negative feelings in me, so this post might come off as more subjective than others.

When an Israelite man suspected that his wife had been unfaithful to him but there were not enough witnesses, he had to bring her to trial before the priests and Jehovah.

There he was to offer “a grain offering of jealousy,” his wife had to publicly swear that she had been faithful to him, calling a curse upon herself in the case that she was lying, and then the priest would pick up dust from the tabernacle floor, put it in clean water and have her drink the water (Nu. 5:14-26).

I have read this passage a few times but have a hard time reconciling why God would put a woman through what seems to me an abuse of power and public humiliation when it was just as likely that she was innocent.

I therefor decided to investigate this law in more detail in order to gain a better understanding of it.

The law called on God to act as ultimate judge. The water she drank did not have special powers; it simply symbolized that the oath had been taken before Jehovah in a sacred place.

It was normal back then, even more so than it is today, for a sexually active woman to bear children.

But the curse the woman called down upon herself asked God to intercept this natural process by making her barren.

If the woman’s ‘abdomen swelled and thigh fell away,’ she would henceforth be incapable of having children, meaning God had found her guilty and he had punished her himself (Nu. 5:27).

This act of divine intervention would be the equivalent of a miracle- a negative miracle, seeing it from the woman’s perspective.

Now, obviously for this curse to be tested out, the husband had to have sexual relations with his wife. If she did not swell up and eventually ‘conceived and produced offspring,’ that would be testament of her innocence (Nu. 5:28).

I still have trouble assimilating the trauma and social stigma this exposed a woman to, the frustration she must have felt if she suspected him of being unfaithful, not having a law to process that, plus the lack of a way to identify the male adulterer in cases where the woman was in fact an adulteress.

However I have to note that there is a great deal of wisdom behind the law which basically required the man to lie down again with his wife.

From a marriage perspective, when a couple lies down together after a serious argument, it triggers something in one’s psychology that presses one to forgive the spouse and move past that obstacle in the relationship. It is what is colloquially called “make-up sex.”

Also the time that passed while trying to conceive allowed the couple to try to work their problems out over several months, instead of just recurring to divorce or stoning.

At this point I would like  to note that jealousy in itself is and always has been a sin, so if the accused woman bore a child, her husband was publicly regarded as having been wrong (Gal. 5:19,20).

And that can be pretty hard on a guy’s ego.

There are a lot of ‘what-if’ scenarios that must have arisen when this law was enforced, questions that modern fertility tests would answer for us impartially and without the need for divine intervention.

Certainly Mosaic Law did have its limitations, and where these laws fell short, justice became a matter of faith (Rom. 8:3).

For “there is only one who is Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy. But you, who are you to be judging […]?” (Jam. 4:12).