’s Divorce and Remarriage And The Restoration of Israel Through the New Covenant
A Study of God’s Marriage to Israel under the First Covenant, at Sinai,
Their Divorce Due to Israel’s Adultery,
And their Restoration Under the New Covenant Established by Yeshua/Jesus
By Douglas Hamp
As Christians, we live and breathe the New Testament. There are some Christians who claim to be “New Testament Christians” only – referring to teaching exclusively from the corpus of the New Testament books. But what is the New Testament, that is, what is this new contract (not the Gospels, epistles, etc.)? To understand what the New Testament (contract) is, we must first understand that the Old Covenant/Testament (contract) was.
The First Marriage Contract
Simply put, it was a marriage contract between Yahweh/YHWH and Israel, who got married at Sinai. How do we know that “Old Covenant” was a marriage covenant? We know because of their subsequent divorce where Yahweh stated that Northern Israel “is not My wife, nor am I her Husband!” (Hos 2:2a) Yahweh could only divorce Israel if He had once been wed to her. In Jeremiah, Yahweh specifically stated that He gave the northern Kingdom of Israel a certificate of divorce and put her away.
Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. (Jer 3:8)
Later in Jeremiah, Yahweh stated that the covenant that He made with Israel was one where He became her husband:
…the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says Yahweh. (Jer 31:32)
The Wedding Vows
At their wedding on Mt Sinai, the groom and bride exchanged vows. Yahweh, the husband, expressed His love for His bride, Israel, when He vowed:
If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exod 19:5)
This vow of deep love was reiterated to Israel when they were about to enter the Promised Land:
Yahweh your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. Yahweh did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because Yahweh loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, Yahweh has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deut 7:6-8)
The Recording of the Vows
Their marriage was recorded in the “book of the covenant” (a mere four chapters), similar to a Ketubah (Jewish “marriage contract” of today).
Then he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. (Exod 24:7a)
It was a marriage contract, complete with prenuptial agreements – that is, terms and conditions of what was expected, and what would happen in case of infidelity. The terms and conditions were Yahweh’s ten words (commandments) which He gave for her good!
“And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear YAHWEH your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of YAHWEH and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (Deut 10:12-13)
Israel then exuberantly responded with her marriage vow saying: ‘All that YAHWEH has said we will do, and be obedient.’” (Exod 24:7b) All she needed to do was to love Him by remaining faithful to Him. Yahweh also promised that if they would be faithful then Israel would “be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” (Exod 19:5)
Their marriage contract was cut and the vows (contract) were ratified with blood:
And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which YAHWEH has made with you according to all these words.” (Exod 24:8)
Unfortunately, Israel was unfaithful to her husband from the beginning, and then after some time, His wife (United Israel) was divided into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Judah in the south which included the tribe of Benjamin (and part of Levi since they were landless); and the Kingdom of Israel in the north which included the remaining ten tribes. Yahweh, in His patient love and sovereignty, waited while Israel (the northern kingdom) committed her adulteries time and again. Yahweh explained this in the book of Ezekiel, speaking of the two daughters of one mother who both practiced harlotry and defiled themselves.
“Son of man, there were two women, The daughters of one mother. They committed harlotry in Egypt, They committed harlotry in their youth…Their names: Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister; They were Mine, And they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem is Oholibah. Oholah played the harlot even though she was Mine; And she lusted for her lovers, the neighboring Assyrians…Thus she committed her harlotry with them, All of them choice men of Assyria; And with all for whom she lusted, With all their idols, she defiled herself.” (Ezek 23:2- 4, 7, 9)
Ultimately, after 700 years of Northern Israel’s backsliding and adultery, Yahweh “put her away and gave her a certificate of divorce.” (Jer 3:8) This truth is also stated in 2Kings:
“Therefore YAHWEH was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. (2Kgs 17:18)
Their divorce created a seemingly unsolvable dilemma because, according to His own Instructions in Deut 24:1-4, a husband cannot take back his wife who has been with another husband (who has also sent her away or died).
If the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce [kritut כְּרִיתֻת֙], puts it in her hand, and sends her out [shlichah] וְשִׁלְּחָ֖הּ] of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband [in this case Yahweh] who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before Yahweh… (Deut 24:3-4)
Consequently, there was no conceivable hope for northern Israel to return to a marriage covenant with Yahweh or for Judah and Israel to ever reunite. Reconciliation with her groom would, according to Yahweh’s own commandments, result in abomination and the land becoming defiled. Nevertheless, Yahweh passionately calls His wayward wife to return (repent) to him and presumably, He would have to find a way to work things out.
“They say, “If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return (repent) to Me,” says Yahweh. (Jer 3:1) Yahweh said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. (Jer 3:6) And I said, after she had done all these things, “Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. (Jer 3:7) Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. (Jer 3:8) And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says Yahweh. (Jer 3:10) Then YAHWEH said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. (Jer 3:11) Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ”Return, backsliding Israel,’ says Yahweh; ”I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says Yahweh; ”I will not remain angry forever. (Jer 3:12) Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against Yahweh your God, And have scattered your charms To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says Yahweh. (Jer 3:13) “Return, O backsliding children,” says Yahweh; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. (Jer 3:14)
The Divine Dilemma
How could Israel be brought back into a marriage covenant without Yahweh violating His own law?
“Then her former husband [Yahweh] who divorced her [Israel] must not take her [Israel] back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before Yahweh.” (Deut 24:4a)
The only way the wife (Northern Kingdom Israel) could be released of her fate of having been put away [shlichah] וְשִׁלְּחָ֖הּ] [Hebrew word] and divorced [kritut כְּרִיתֻת֙] [Hebrew word] by Yahweh was for Yahweh (her husband) to die which would annul and dissolve original marriage contract. Paul understood that when, using the law to explain, he reminded the Jews (who knew the law) that the law only has jurisdiction over a person until their death. When the person dies, any judgments, contracts, or obligations are then dissolved:
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? (Rom 7:1)
Paul then explains how a woman is covenanted to her husband only as long as he lives. When he dies, she is free to remarry at will.
For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. (Rom 7:2)
Continuing with Deuteronomy 24:1-4 in mind, Paul explains how the wife is freed from the “law of the husband” (the marriage contract), which had kept her out of the covenant relationship with her former husband. It should be noted, that Paul is only speaking of the cancelling of the divorce status; he is not suggesting that the entire “Torah” (Laws given at Sinai) are repealed. (“Yahweh” and “Israel” have been inserted below in brackets to make the relationships clearer).
So then if, while her husband [Yahweh] lives, she [Israel] marries another man [Ba’al etc.] , she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (Rom 7:3)
Following that, Paul reaches crescendo with his exciting conclusion that through Yeshua/Jesus (the incarnate Word of Yahweh), the wife, Israel, can be married to a different man – which is none other than the Risen Yeshua – Wow!
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law [of her husband c.f. Rom 7:2] through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. (Rom 7:4)
In other writings Paul explains how the curses of the broken marriage covenant died with Yeshua, being nailed to the cross.
having wiped out the handwriting of requirements [death because of adultery] that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col 2:14)
A New Marriage Contract
At the first covenant, cut at Sinai, the book of the covenant (marriage contract) was proclaimed and then the blood of bulls was sprinkled in order to “seal the deal” in the same way how today we sign a contract and then have it notarized and filed with the city clerk. The blood made the contract effective, operable, and binding.
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that Yahweh has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you according to all these words.” (Exod 24:7-8)
After the people had heard all of the conditions of the contract, they said “I do” and gladly accepted the marriage contract with Yahweh/YHWH. They agreed to be faithful to Him and to do all that He had asked them to do (which is what we always do when we enter into an agreement/contract).
With the New Covenant (new marriage contract), blood was offered to “seal the deal” just like the first covenant.
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt 26:28)
However, the nature of the blood sacrifice was of immeasurably greater quality than that of the first covenant. Additionally, the one who would officiate the sacrifice would not be a Levite, but one of the order of Melchizedek. In this, the husband died to dissolve the old marriage but at the same time, his blood became the blood of the new covenant, and he also was the one who offered the blood on the heavenly altar.
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Heb 9:11-12)
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight (Col 1:21-22)
Now free from the curse of her broken marriage covenant, Israel could actually remarry without being called an adulteress. However, how could she be rejoined to her groom if he was in the grave? If Yeshua remained dead, then no remarriage between him and Israel could take place, despite her new freedom. Therefore, Yeshua had to not only die to free Israel, but had to also rise from the dead so that she could remarry her former husband, who was in reality a New Husband.
A New Husband for a New Wife
Yeshua’s resurrection, therefore, is the crux of the matter! Without the resurrection, Israel would have been free to marry another, but not to the very one who promised himself to her FOREVER. Now having risen from the dead, the Old Husband was actually a NEW Husband. All of the lawlessness (her adultery) of the first marriage was literally buried with Yeshua (the Husband, Yahweh in the flesh). Now he was free to remarry his former wife without breaking his own instructions. His new marriage would be a NEW COVENANT/TESTAMENT with Israel!
With this in mind, we can better understand Paul’s excitement as he proclaims in Ephesians 2:11-13 how the House of Israel (the Gentiles/Nations) has been brought back into the covenant relationship.
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles [scattered Israel, out of covenant] in the flesh…that at that time you were without Christ, beingfrom the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world But now in Christ Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:11-13) [“For you are not My people, and I will not be your God.” (Hos 1:9)]
Therefore, the New Covenant is not a new dispensation where Yahweh suddenly starts operating on the basis of grace with all of humanity. Yahweh has always been gracious and that quality of grace and mercy is the very thing that Yahweh declared about himself on Mt. Sinai:
Yahweh passed by before him and proclaimed: “Yahweh, Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, (Exod 34:6)
The New Covenant, rather, is not a new basis of grace, but is rather a gracious, renewed marriage covenant between Yahweh and His divorced wife who had been scattered to the nations, just as Yahweh had promised would happen:
Yahweh will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of wood and stone. (Deut 28:64; see also Lev 26:33 Jer 9:16, 13:24, 30:11, Ezek 5:10, 6:8, 20:23, 22:15, 36:19)
The Sisters Reunited Under the New Contract
While Yeshua’ death and resurrection resolved the divorce of Yahweh and Israel, what about Judah’s (the Southern Kingdom) relationship with Yahweh? Does she get a new marriage covenant? She certainly needed it based on how she “defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.” (Jer 3:9) In fact, her adulterous conduct, according to Yahweh, was actually worse than Israel’s (the Northern Kingdom).
And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned [repented] to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says Yahweh. Then Yahweh said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. (Jer 3:10-11)
Let there be no doubt, Judah most certainly deserved to be divorced because of her adulterous heart and wandering eyes which deeply hurt Yahweh (Ezek 6:9), but Yahweh never did divorce Judah because of the promise that he made to King David:
If his sons reject my law and disobey my regulations, if they break my rules and do not keep my commandments, I will punish their rebellion by beating them with a club, their sin by inflicting them with bruises. But I will not remove my loyal love from him, nor be unfaithful to my promise. (Ps 89:29-33)
Nevertheless, Yahweh stated that both “the House of Israel and the House of Judah have dealt very treacherously with Me,” (Jer 5:11) – they were both guilty of adultery and of breaking the covenant.
They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the House of Israel and the House of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers.” (Jer 11:10)
Furthermore, the two sister nations needed to be reunited into one nation: one wife. Yahweh declared that He would in fact make a new marriage contract with both houses:
“Behold, the days are coming, says Yahweh, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah– (Jer 31:31)
Yahweh also promised that he would join the two houses back together as depicted in the imagery of a stick, broken in two, which becomes one again:
“Thus says the Lord YAHWEH: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘ (Ezek 37:19)
Therefore, Yeshua’s death on the cross annulled Judah’s marriage contract with Yahweh and thereby allowed for the House of Judah to have a new covenant with Yahweh (because their first marriage was marked by gross adultery) even though she was never divorced. Judah could have a new relationship with Yahweh and so too Israel could come back into fellowship with her husband.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, [and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘ (Ezek 37:19)] thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. [Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together…” (Hos 1:11)] And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (Eph 2:14-19)
As a result their joint status as adulterers was wiped away. Israel’s utter hopeless situation as a divorcée was also annulled and Judah’s status as adulterous wife was cancelled. Furthermore, the House of Judah and the House of Israel have become one again and the wall of separation between them has been removed.
The Fullness of the Gentiles
The situation has now been rectified, though not in full. The House of Israel (Ephraim / Gentiles) can now return to her husband. They are no longer “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12) Yeshua is now Israel’s and Judah’s “peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation (Eph 2:14). When Yeshua died on the cross, he “abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (Eph 2:15) and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (Eph 2:16)
Hence, Yeshua gave Good News to both the House of Israel and to the House of Judah when he “came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.” (Eph 2:17) Through the work of Yeshua on the cross, the two houses now “both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph 2:18) And truly, those of the House of Israel are “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” (Eph 2:19)
Thus, while the barrier to restoration has been removed, the reunification is not complete and will not be complete until the fullness of the nations/Israel comes in, as Paul explained to his Jewish brethren:
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Rom 11:25)
The phrase that Paul employed comes directly out of Genesis 48:19 where Jacob prophesied over Ephraim, stating that his descendants will be THE fullness of the nations/gentiles.
But his (Joseph’s) father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations [M’lo HaGoyim מְלֹֽא־הַגּוֹיִֽם literally the fullness of the nations].” (Gen 48:19)
The New Covenant is Yahweh’s Renewed Marriage with Israel
So what is the New Covenant? It is the renewed marriage contract between Yahweh and His wife Israel, (reunited House of Israel and House of Judah). Yeshua’s statement “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” (Matt 26:28) was the blood necessary to establish the new marriage covenant. His death released his unfaithful wife (both Judah and Israel) from the curses of the broken marriage contract, and allowed northern Israel to remarry him, and for Israel and Judah to become one nation again. Yahweh’s first marriage was with his special treasure (united) Israel, and His new marriage is with His special treasure Israel and Judah (reunited). Yeshua did all that was necessary to restore his bride, Israel, just as he promised in Hosea to Israel, whom he divorced:
“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know Yahweh. (Hos 2:19-20)
However, what is even more amazing is that through the dispersion of the House of Israel to the nations, the entire world is being blessed because the House of Israel was assimilated into the nations and became one with them. Thus their return is nothing other than the ingathering of the gentiles into the kingdom and fulfills Yahweh’s original promise to Abraham that his seed would be like the stars of heavens.
Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” (Gen 15:5)
Yahweh’s regathering of House of Israel, which was divorced, scattered, and assimilated into the nations (through intermarriage), is nothing less than the House of Israel (gentiles, non-Jews) receiving by faith the fact that Yeshua graciously died to annul the first marriage covenant which they were in bondage to and resurrected to lovingly take her back under a new marriage covenant. The point is that any non-Jew who trusts in Yeshua, is part of “the fullness of the Gentiles” – they are part of the “mixed multitude” (Exod 12:38) which was added to children of Israel when they came out of Egypt. Indeed, Yahweh said that it was not enough for Yeshua to just restore the tribes of Jacob, but he would be salvation for the nations all over the planet:
Indeed He says, ”It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”‘ (Isa 49:6)
Yahweh reiterates this promise by saying that He would bring in the outcasts of Israel and also others:
Lord Yahweh, who gathers the outcasts of [the house of] Israel, says, ”Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.” (Isa 56:8) [other regathering prophetic scriptures: Eze 11:17, 20:34, 20:41, 28:25]
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt 15:24)
Yeshua alluded to the others that would come in and the “one flock” when He said:
And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
Yeshua confirmed the restoration when he said concerning his death: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32) With this in mind, we now understand clearly how Paul could state so emphatically that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Yahweh over all is rich to all who call upon Him (Rom 10:12) because the House of Israel and the House of Judah have been restored into one nation and one wife! Paul could say that with enthusiasm because, as an expert of the Scriptures, he knew that he was seeing the fulfillment of prophecy before his very eyes – the two houses were reunited as Yahweh said in Ezekiel:
Thus says Lord Yahweh: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘ And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. “Then say to them, “Thus says Lord Yahweh: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. (Ezek 37:19-22)
The New Testament is Yahweh restoring the House of Judah and Israel into one nation which was made possible by the death of Yeshua.
Truly, Yahweh is a faithful and loving husband and king worthy of our praise and gratitude.