Cover Painting:

At Jesus' Feet by Nathan Greene

http://www.nathangreene.com

 

Luke 10:38-42, "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

John 11:1-5; 12:1-8, "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. ... Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein."

Mark 14:1-11, "They murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money."


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Precious Ointment:

The Special Ministries of Women


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The contents of this book may be freely reproduced in whole or in part except for the cover painting that has been used by permission.

 

 

December 2, 2016

 

 

Wayne ODonnell

 

 

ISBN 978-0-9825680-1-9


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is dedicated to Cora


 

Contents

Chapter 1 – Chastity: Including a Consideration of Adultery, Polygamy, Divorce, and Remarriage. 9

Chastity. 9

The Biblical Definition of Adultery. 11

Why Is the Bible Concerned Only About Women Being Virgins?. 14

The Definition of Adultery Allows Polygamy. 17

God Portrays Himself as a Polygamist 23

God Chose Solomon to Write the Bible's Marriage Manual 26

All Books in the Bible About Women Are About Polygamists. 31

Most of the Bible Was Written By and About Polygamists. 33

No Command Forbids Polygamy but Some Require It 37

The Definition of Adultery Cannot Change from Age to Age. 40

One Flesh. 42

Rom7:3 - The NT Continues the OT Definition of Adultery. 47

Mt 5:28 - Adultery by Lusting After a Woman. 51

Mt 5:32a - Adultery by Divorcing a Wife. 53

Mt 5:32b - Adultery by Marrying a Divorced Woman. 55

Mt 5:32b - The ‘Invalid Divorce’ Misinterpretation. 60

Mt 19; Mk 10 - No Valid Reason for a Husband to Divorce a Wife. 64

Mt 19; Mk 10 - It’s Never Right for a Husband to Divorce a Wife. 65

Mt19; Mk10, Lu16 - Adultery by Divorcing a Wife and Remarrying. 71

Mk10:12 - Adultery by Divorcing a Husband and Remarrying. 75

Table of Gospel Passages on Divorce and Remarriage. 81

Eph5 - Why Only Men Can Have More Than One Spouse. 83

Polygamous Families Have Lots of Problems. 88

The Source of the Monogamy-Only Doctrine. 91

Practical Considerations About Polygamy. 99

Chapter 2 – Submission: The Headcovering and Lord's Supper Ordinances of 1 Corinthians 11. 103

The Structure of 1 Corinthians 11. 103

Apostolic Ordinances. 105

The Authority of Men. 108

The Submission of Women. 113

Authority Structures in the Godhead. 117

The Goodness of Authority Structures. 120

Men Cannot Have Anything On Their Heads During Meetings. 123

Women Must Have Their Heads Covered During Meetings. 130

Creation Testimony #1 (Gen 1:26): Woman is the Glory of Man. 136

Creation Testimony #2 (Gen 2:23): Woman is of Man. 138

Creation Testimony #3 (Gen 2:20): Woman is for Man. 140

The Testimony to the Angels. 146

Mutual Dependence. 149

The Testimony of Nature. 151

Power Hungry Opposition. 154

Divisions at the Lord's Supper. 157

Their Own Suppers. 158

The Symbolism of the Lord's Supper. 161

The Improper Observance of the Lord's Supper. 168

The Proper Observance of the Lord's Supper. 171

The Rest 172

Chapter 3 – Affection: Annotated Song of Songs. 175

ACT I - ARRIVAL AT THE PALACE (1:2-2:7) 175

Act I, Scene 1 - Introducing the Play  175

Act I, Scene 2 - In the Throne Room   176

Act I, Scene 3 - At the Welcoming Banquet 178

Act I, Scene 4 - The Picnic. 180

Act 1, Scene 5 - The Second Banquet 182

ACT II – THE ENGAGEMENT PERIOD (2:8-3:6) 183

Act II, Scene 1 – Solomon Arrives for an Outing  183

Act II, Scene 2 – At the Mountains  184

Act II, Scene 3 - A Separation Dream   186

ACT III – THE WEDDING (3:6-5:1) 187

Act III, Scene 1 - The Wedding Procession  187

Act III, Scene 2 - The Wedding Night 188

ACT IV – MARRIED LIFE (5:2-7:10) 194

Act IV, Scene 1 - At Shulamith's Room   194

Act IV, Scene 2 - At Solomon's Garden  197

Act IV, Scene 3 - Back at Shulamith's Room   200

ACT V – VISIT TO SHULAMITH'S HOMETOWN (7:11-8:4) 203

Act V, Scene 1 - Arrival at Mahanaim   203

Act V, Scene 2 - Staying Overnight in Mahanaim   205

Act V, Scene 3 – Visit to Where They First Met 205

Act V, Scene 4 – Concluding the Play  209

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Chastity: Including a Consideration of Adultery, Polygamy, Divorce, and Remarriage

Chastity

Women have a special ministry of purity and chastity which requires virginity before marriage, and faithfulness to one husband after engagement and marriage. Paul told the Corinthian church, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to [After Engagement:] one husband, that I may present you as [Before Marriage:] a chaste virgin to Christ," 2Cor11:2. The word translated "chaste" here is the Greek word "agnos" which is usually translated "pure."

 Webster's 1828 dictionary defines chastity as, "before marriage, purity from all commerce of sexes; after marriage, fidelity to the marriage bed." Faithfulness within marriage is just as chaste as virginity before marriage, because, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge," Heb13:4.

A married woman stays chaste by making love to only one man as long as they both live. "The woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man," Rom7:1-2.

The Bible never says anything like the reciprocal, "The man which hath an wife is bound by the law to his wife so long as she liveth; but if the wife be dead, he is loosed from the law of his wife. So then if, while his wife liveth, he be married to another woman, he shall be called an adulterer: but if his wife be dead, he is free from that law; so that he is no adulterer, though he be married to another woman." Men also need to be pure, but their sexual purity is determined by how they treat the chastity of women, and whether or not they violate the chastity of a woman. If a man only has physical relations, in thought and deed, with a woman who is married to him, then he is chaste.

The Biblical Definition of Adultery

Our modern definition of adultery is "a married person having physical relations with someone other than their spouse." But the Bible's definition of adultery is "a man having physical relations with a married or engaged woman other than his spouse." Biblically, only the marital status of the woman is relevant in determining adultery. Our modern definition talks about a married "person," but the Biblical definition talks about a married or engaged "woman."

This is an important distinction because the Biblical definition of adultery underlies everything the Bible says about marriage, polygamy, divorce, and remarriage. You can't understand these things apart from it. Here are some examples of the Bible's definition of adultery that show only the marital status of the woman is relevant.

"The man [married or unmarried] that commits adultery with another man's wife [a married woman], even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death," Lev20:10. (Hopefully, this penalty was probably almost never carried out.)

"They [married or unmarried men] ... have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives [married women]," Jer29:23.

"He [married or unmarried] that goeth in to his neighbour's wife [a married woman]; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. ... whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding," Prov6:29-32.

"As a wife [a married woman] that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers [married or unmarried] instead of her husband," Ez16:31-33.

"If a man [married or unmarried] be found lying with a woman married to an husband [a married woman], then they shall both of them die," Deut22:22.

The Bible never says the reciprocal of any of these verses, like, "If a woman [married or unmarried] be found lying with a man married to a wife [a married man], then they shall both of them die," because the marital status of the man is irrelevant.

There are four cases in Exodus 22 and Deuteronomy 22 that also make this clear. The penalty for adultery with a married woman was death; whereas the ‘penalty’ for fornication with an unmarried woman was marriage, a shotgun wedding.

Case 1: Seduction - Unmarried Woman - Not Adultery

"If a man [married or unmarried] entice a maid that is not betrothed [unmarried and unengaged], and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife," Ex22:16. It's not adultery when the woman is not engaged or married; so the man is required to offer to marry her.

Case 2: Seduction - Married Woman - Adultery

"If a man [married or unmarried] be found lying with a woman married to an husband [a married woman], then they shall both of them die," Deut22:22.

Case 3: Rape - Married Woman - Adultery

"If a man [married or unmarried] find a betrothed damsel [an engaged woman] in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die, but unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing," Deut22:25-26 (unlike the unimaginably cruel and wicked practice of so-called 'honor killings' in Islam).

Case 4: Rape - Unmarried Woman - Not Adultery

"If a man [married or unmarried] find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed [unmarried and unengaged], and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver [as a dowry for her in case they marry and it does not last or in case this causes her difficulty in finding another husband], and she shall be his wife [if she and her father so choose]," Deut22:28-29. Rape is horrible violence, but it's not adultery if the woman is unmarried; and the man is required to offer to marry her to allow her to choose to maintain her chastity if she thinks it's a safe marriage.

According to Webster's 1828 dictionary, Connecticut's laws back then gave an almost Biblical definition of adultery. They said "the sexual intercourse of ANY MAN, with a MARRIED WOMAN, is the crime of ADULTERY in both: such intercourse of a MARRIED MAN, with an UNMARRIED WOMAN, is FORNICATION in both ... ." Unfortunately, they also went on to say that for legal purposes "... and adultery of the man, within the meaning of the law respecting divorce." Today's Webster's Learner's dictionary defines adultery in total contradiction to the Bible, but in harmony with our modern gender equality culture, as "sex between a married PERSON and someone who is not that person's wife or husband."

So the definition of adultery in American society has changed from an almost Biblical one back in 1828, in which only the marital status of the woman was relevant, to a totally non-Biblical one today. The problem is that pastors and Bible teachers continue to use society’s definition without realizing they are now using a non-Biblical definition of adultery.

Why Is the Bible Concerned Only About Women Being Virgins?

When Abraham sent his servant from Canaan to his relatives in Haran to find a wife for his son, Isaac, the scriptures made it very clear that Rebekah was a virgin. "Rebekah came out ... with her pitcher upon her shoulder, and the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her," Gen24:15-16. Why wasn't it just as important for the Bible to say Isaac was 'a virgin, neither had he known any woman?’ The same could be said regarding the "four hundred young virgins" for the men of Benjamin, Jdg21:12; or the "young virgin" that was found to help King David have heat when he was old, 1Kgs 1:2; or the "fair young virgins" gathered for King Ahasuerus, Est2:3. The Bible does not allow men to commit fornication, but it does not view the ‘virginity’ of men as relevant.

In Deuteronomy 22:13-21, a man can charge his new bride with not having been a virgin. "I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin, then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate." Why was there not also provision for a new bride to make such a charge against her husband? Of course, there's no "evidence of virginity" for a young man (and not for all virgin women either), but other people could have testified as to his 'virginity' if it was relevant.

There's a chapter in the Bible about a bitter water test for a woman suspected of adultery, but none for a man. "The priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone astray to uncleanness while under your husband's authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. ... Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall scrape them off into the bitter water. And he shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse," Num5:17-23. This would not work today, by the way, because there is no tabernacle, temple, or priests, among other things.

The high priest could only marry a virgin, "he that is the high priest ... shall take a wife in her virginity, a widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take," Lev21:10-14. But the scripture never says of any woman that she can only marry a male 'virgin'.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word 'bethulah' denotes a virgin woman, whereas there's no Hebrew word to denote a 'virgin' man. For example: "Both young men, and maidens [virgins, 'bethulah'] ... let them praise the name of the Lord," Ps148:12-13.  "My virgins ['bethulah'] and my young men are gone into captivity, ... my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword," Lam1:18;2:21. "Corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids ['virgins', 'bethulah']," Zech9:17.

In the New Testament, the Greek word 'parthenos' denotes a virgin woman, like in 2 Corinthians 11:2 quoted earlier, "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin [parthenos] to Christ." 'Parthenos' can, by extension, refer to a 'virgin' man, as it does one place in the Bible in Revelation14:4, but that’s an abnormal usage.

Even the English language traditionally, before the recent invention and popularizing of ‘Ms.’, differentiated between married and unmarried women by the titles Mrs. and Miss, but all men were always just called Mr. And it's only recently in our culture the word 'virgin' started to be used in reference to men, like in the movie, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Webster's 1828 dictionary defines a virgin as, "A WOMAN who has had no carnal knowledge of man." But Webster's modern Learner's dictionary defines a virgin as "a PERSON who has not had sexual intercourse." So the definition of virgin has changed over the years, and most pastors and teachers allow our changing culture to influence their interpretation of the Bible.

Young women start with a natural desire for chastity, but modern societies are very effective at chipping away at that mindset. David gave Solomon advice that would deliver him "from the strange woman ... which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God, for her house inclineth unto death," Prov2:16-18. But any woman, regardless of her past, can be chaste from any point onward by not having physical relations with any man if she's single, and by only having physical relations with her husband if she’s married.

The Definition of Adultery Allows Polygamy

No one can understand the Biblical definition of adultery without understanding it allows polygamy. I'm not writing about polygamy to promote it, but because modern Bible teachers have allowed our culture to skew their interpretations of scripture away from what would otherwise be obvious. Every misinterpretation of scripture causes harm to people, so we need to revisit this topic regardless of the risks and difficulties. Teachers that don't understand that the Biblical definition of adultery allows polygamy cannot understand Jesus' teachings about divorce and remarriage, and untold suffering has been inflicted on conscientious believers because of misinterpretations about those issues.

Why is the Bible so concerned about whether a woman is a virgin when she marries but considers the ‘virginity’ of men irrelevant, as we saw in the previous chapter? Because the Bible allows a man to already be married to another woman when he marries, but a woman can only be married to one man at a time. Since the definition of adultery only considers the marital status of the woman as relevant, then for a married man to add a second wife cannot be adultery, as long as that woman herself is unmarried and unengaged.

Going back to the four cases that defined adultery in Exodus 22 and Deuteronomy 22, if the woman was unmarried, the act was not adultery, and the man was required to offer marriage so the woman could choose to maintain her chastity, and no exception was provided for if the man was already married.

Case 1: Seduction - Unmarried Woman - Not Adultery

"If a man [married or unmarried] entice a maid that is not betrothed [unmarried and unengaged], and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife," Ex22:16, even if he's already married.

Case 4: Rape - Unmarried Woman - Not Adultery

"If a man [married or unmarried] find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed [unmarried and unengaged], and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife [if she and her father so choose]," Deut22:28-29.  Rape is a very horrible sin, but it's not adultery if the woman is not married, and the man is required to offer to marry her, even if he's already married.

It sounds strange to us that a rapist would be required to offer to marry his victim. The woman is totally innocent regardless of what she decides. The guilt of the violation of her chastity that will occur if she decides to wait and marry someone else will be laid to the account of the man that forced her. Most rapists are only suited for jail, but some may be redeemable, like Shechem.

Before Moses gave the law, "Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife," Gen34:1-4. But Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, didn't ask Dinah what she thought; they killed Shechem and all the men of his city and took their wives and children.

And after Moses gave the law, the requirement for a rapist to offer marriage apparently was not followed. “Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his [half] sister Tamar," and was "lean from day to day," 2Sam13:1-2. He eventually forced her and as soon as his lust was satisfied he hated her, and “said unto her, Arise, be gone. And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. … When king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth," 1Sam13:15-21. But Amnon was never required to offer to marry her; and Absalom, Tamar’s brother, eventually killed Amnon.

God also commanded Jewish men to offer to marry their brother's wife if their brother died without children, even if they themselves were already married. "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead [now unmarried] shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother [married or unmarried] shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her," Deut25:5. Would God ever have commanded a married man to marry a second wife if it were adultery?

The example of David also shows that the Biblical definition of adultery allows polygamy. When David was young he married Michal, Saul's daughter. Later, while fleeing from Saul, David married two more single women, Ahinoam and the righteous Abigail (1Sam25). God did not rebuke or punish David for marrying Ahinoam and Abigail while he was already married to Michal. But when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God rebuked him through Nathan the prophet and punished him for an extended period of time.

"Nathan said to David, ... thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel,... and I gave thee ... thy master's wives into thy bosom, ... and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. ... Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast ... taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife ... I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. ... And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick," 2Sam12:7-24.

Notice that Bathsheba was not referred to by name in this part of the passage, but as "the wife of Uriah," and "Uriah's wife," because it was her marital status that made David's action sinful. “Because thou hast ... taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife ... the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David," 2Sam12:10,15. However, after David and Bathsheba were married, from then on she's referred to by name in the passage. "And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the Lord loved him," 2Sam12:24.

Thus, a man having physical relations with the wife of another man, like Uriah’s, is adultery; but being married to multiple wives is not adultery. Notice also that back in verse 8 God told David he "gave thee ... thy master's wives [plural] into thy bosom." God would not have given David multiple wives if polygamy was in any way sinful.

At least one Bible scholar had enough respect for God's word to change his opinion. The Rev. William F. Luck, Sr., is a former Professor of Moody Bible Institute. He has published numerous articles in Moody Monthly, Christianity Today, the Southern Presbyterian Journal, and the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

In the 2nd edition of his book, “Divorce and Remarriage; Recovering the Biblical View,” he says "In ... writing a book on marriage, divorce and remarriage in the Bible, I was motivated by the fact that God didn't ask me my opinion about the issue. He expected me to represent His. I've tried. If you can prove I'm mistaken, I'll be the first to thank you. But I'm not holding my breath in the meanwhile. It never crossed my mind, when I started my research on the book, that the Old Testament law allowed polygyny. Of course I knew that some people in ancient times practiced it, but I thought it was a sin, perhaps one that God winked at. My first clue that I was mistaken came when I attempted to define "adultery" from a Biblical perspective. I had no doubt in my mind that "adultery" would be defined as "any sexual relationship between a married person and someone other than their spouse." I could not even imagine another definition. So imagine my surprise when I sought, like a good little Evangelical fundamentalist, to find verses which "proved up" that (working) definition, and found instead that adultery was always defined by the woman's marital status, never the man's."

When I use the term "polygamy" in this chapter, I'm actually referring only to "polygyny," the form of polygamy where a man marries more than one woman. "Polyandry," the form of polygamy where a woman marries more than one man, is obviously strictly forbidden by the Bible's definition of adultery.

Many Bible teachers today will say polygamy was never right, but that God overlooked it in the lives of a few men in the Old Testament, the same way he overlooked other sins in their lives, like murder. But 1) God explicitly forbade things like murder and sodomy but he never explicitly forbade polygamy; 2) it's not true that God overlooked sins like adultery and murder as we saw in the example of David; and 3) the Bible does not present God as merely overlooking the polygamy of a few people, but as going out of his way to use polygamists as his greatest servants from the time of Abraham onward. God even portrays himself as a polygamist.

God Portrays Himself as a Polygamist

Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Jerusalem was the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah. God was married to both of them. They both committed adultery, so God allowed them both to be carried away into captivity into the lands of their lovers. First Israel was carried to Assyria, and then Judah was carried into Babylon.

Ezekiel 23, "Son of man, there were two women. ... 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, ... with all their idols, she defiled herself. ... Therefore I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers, into the hand of the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. ... Now although her sister Oholibah [Jerusalem] saw this, she became more corrupt in her lust than she, and in her harlotry more corrupt than her sister's harlotry. ... The Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love. ... Then I alienated myself from her, as I had alienated myself from her sister."

God tells the same story in Jeremiah 2 and 3. "Of Jerusalem ... thus says the Lord. I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after me in the wilderness. ... Have you seen what backsliding Israel [the northern kingdom] has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, 'Return to Me,' but she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah [the southern kingdom] saw it. 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. ... Return, O backsliding children, says the Lord; for I am married to you."

God divorced the northern kingdom of Israel. Once they were taken into captivity by Assyria they never returned to Canaan as a nation, though some individuals returned. God did not divorce the southern kingdom of Judah, but only separated from her. After seventy years in Babylon, many captives returned en masse to reestablish the kingdom of Judah. Whereas God says he gave the northern kingdom a writ of divorce, “I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce,” Jer3:8; he says he never gave the southern kingdom one, “Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away?” Is50:1.

And God tells the same story in Ezekiel 16. Notice the story will eventually have a happy ending. "Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem, ... when I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love. ... I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became mine, says the Lord God. ... But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame. ... Behold, therefore, I ... will judge you as women who break wedlock ... are judged. ... Your elder sister is Samaria, who dwells with her daughters to the north of you. ... You did not walk in their ways nor act according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you became more corrupt than they in all your ways. ... I will deal with you as you have done, who despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you."

Would the eternal, unchangeable God ever portray himself as a polygamist in his eternal word if polygamy was, is, or ever will be sinful in any way? God would never portray himself as an adulterer, or as a polygamist if there was anything immoral about it.

By the time of the Messianic Kingdom, the houses of Israel and Judah will be recombined into one nation, but even then God will have two wives, Israel and the Church, since by then the "marriage supper of the Lamb," Rev19:9, will have taken place. Some say God the Father is married to Israel, and Jesus Christ will be married to the church, but God is one. God will be married to a reunited Israel and Judah and also to the church. So God has and always will portray himself as a polygamist, and therefore polygamy cannot be wrong. "Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid!" Rom9:14. "Let God be true but every man a liar," Rom3:4.

God Chose Solomon to Write the Bible's Marriage Manual

Solomon sinned by marrying too many wives. He had 1000 wives and concubines, but God had said the kings of Israel "shall not multiply horses to himself, ... neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold," Deut17:16-17. Now this didn't mean Solomon wasn’t allowed to have more than one wife, any more than it meant he wasn’t allowed to have more than one horse or more than one piece of silver or gold. He was permitted to 'add wives to himself', but not to "multiply wives to himself,” Deut17:17. He was permitted more than one, but not a great many.

And though Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, he took so many foreign wives for political alliances they led him into idolatry, which resulted in his kingdom being split into Israel and Judah. "King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. ... But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. ... Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and ... it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods. ... The Lord said to Solomon, Because you have done this, ... I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. ... However ... I will give one tribe [Judah] to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen." 1Kgs10:23-11:13.

But despite the fact that Solomon sinned by "multiplying" wives, God chose him, the most extreme polygamist in the Bible, to write the Bible's marriage manual. It's called the Song of Songs, and it's the love story of Solomon and his one hundred and fortieth wife, Shulamith. We know more about the romance, wedding, and married life of Shulamith than of any other woman in the Bible because Solomon wrote the book from her perspective, often narrating even her thoughts by divine revelation.

(As the book begins we share in Shulamith's nervousness the first time that she, a poor country girl, is brought to the palace and presented to the women of the court.)

[Shulamith's narration]

"The king has brought me into his chambers," Song1:4.

 

[Shulamith to the women of the court]

"I am dark, but lovely,

O daughters of Jerusalem,

Like the tents of Kedar,

Like the curtains of Solomon.

Do not look upon me, because I am dark,

Because the sun has tanned me," Song1:5-6.

 

(Solomon publicly expressed his support for her and thus won over the women of the court to her.)

 

[Solomon]

"I have compared you, my love,

To my filly among Pharaoh's chariots.

Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,

Your neck with chains of gold," Song1:9-10.

 

[Women of the court to Shulamith]

"We will make you ornaments of gold

With studs of silver," Song1:11.

 

(We learn in the book that Shulamith likes Solomon’s character and good reputation.)

 

[Shulamith]

"Your name is as ointment poured forth," Song1:3.

 

(And she likes his gentleness, and appreciation of beauty.)

 

[Shulamith]

"He feeds his flock among the lilies," Song4:16.

 

(Solomon cares for, protects, and provides for Shulamith.  He is a safe haven for her; a place free of criticism.)

 

[Shulamith]

"Like an apple tree among the [non-fruit] trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight," Song2:3.

 

(We learn about their outings to the countryside, their wedding day, the details of their wedding night, and some of their arguments and making up afterwards. And we are admonished over and over in the book not to arouse passion by physical contact before marriage, so we can find the best possible marriage without passion clouding our judgment.)

 

[Shulamith]

"I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,

By the gazelles or by the does of the field,

Do not stir up nor awaken love

Until it pleases," Song4:7.

 

(We even get to meet her brothers who helped protect her chastity after her father died. If she was too shy, they would help her meet people; and if she was too open, they would chase away undesirable suitors.)

 

[Shulamith's Brothers]

"We have a little sister,

And she has no breasts.

What shall we do for our sister

In the day when she is spoken for?

If she is a wall,

We will build upon her

A battlement of silver;

And if she is a door,

We will enclose her

With boards of cedar," Song8:8-9.

 

Why would God have chosen the most extreme polygamist in the Bible to write the Bible's marriage manual if polygamy was in any way sinful? Couldn't he have found a single monogamist in all the years from Moses to Solomon to write it instead? Wouldn't he be sending the wrong message about marriage by using a polygamous marriage as the Bible’s model if polygamy is ever wrong?

All Books in the Bible About Women Are About Polygamists

There are three books in the Old Testament about women: The Song of Solomon, the Book of Ruth, and the Book of Esther. All three are about polygamists. Ruth was a Moabitess who married one of Naomi’s sons when she and her husband moved to Moab to escape a famine in Israel. Naomi's husband and sons died in Moab and so she told her daughter-in-laws to stay in Moab while she returned to Bethlehem. But Ruth said the famous words, "Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried," Ruth1:16-17.

After they arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth went out to glean the harvest leftovers as the poor were allowed to do under the law, and by God's grace she chose to glean in the field of Boaz, a near kinsman of her deceased husband, who was willing to perform the duty of a kinsman redeemer and marry her. Though we don't know for sure, Boaz probably already had a wife when he married Ruth, because he was old, wealthy, and a ruler in the tribe of Judah; and there was no allowance in scripture for a man to avoid becoming a kinsman redeemer because he was already married.

The Book of Esther is also about polygamists. Esther, a beautiful and humble orphan of the captives in Persia, was raised by her uncle Mordecai and competed with other maidens to become Queen of Persia. Esther is chosen as queen without revealing she is Jewish, and then the enemy Haman convinces the king to kill all Jewish people in the empire. Mordecai asks Esther to try to intervene on behalf of her people, and though the queen of an empire she continues to obey her foster father, Mordecai.

We hear Esther issue her famous statement, "I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish," Est4:16. Then we hold our breath with her as she enters unsummoned into the king’s presence, the penalty of which is death, unless the king raises the golden scepter. "When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, ... she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre," Est5:2. So all the books in the Old Testament about women are about polygamist women.

Another romantic love story in the Bible is that of Jacob and Rachel. "Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east. ... And ... Rachel came with her father's sheep; for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, ... Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. ... And Jacob loved Rachel; and said [to her father], I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. ... And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her," Gen29:1-20. Most women would want to be loved like that. And Jacob continued to love Rachel like that though he also had three other wives.

Most of the Bible Was Written By and About Polygamists

Moses, the law giver, was a polygamist. He married both Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro the Kenite/Midianite (Ex2:21; Ex3:1; Ex18:6; Jdg4:11) and an Ethiopian woman (Num12:1). Moses wrote the Torah, the Law of God, the first five books of the Bible, and the very beginning of scripture revelation.

These nine books of the Bible were written by known polygamists: Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. David wrote Psalms. Solomon wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

1st and 2nd Samuel were written by a man from a polygamist family; and as we saw earlier Jeremiah and Ezekiel both portray God as a polygamist. Ruth and Esther are about polygamists, and most of 1st and 2nd Kings and 1st and 2nd Chronicles are about polygamist kings.

Thus about 63%, two-thirds, of the pages of the Bible including the New Testament, were written by or about polygamists. Was God really so short of monogamists that he had to use polygamists to write most of the Bible if monogamy is the only godly form of marriage?

We don't really know how many men in the Bible were polygamists because the Bible doesn't usually include the names of men's wives in genealogies. Therefore, it would be impossible to prove that men we might assume were monogamists had only one wife. Polygamy must have been very widespread beyond those specifically named because of all the women taken in war, for example.

“When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, … and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife, then thou shalt bring her home to thine house,” Deut21:10-11. “The sons of Jacob … spoiled the city … and their wives took they captive,” Gen34:27-29. “Have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two,” Jdg5:30. “And the booty … which the men of war had caught, was … thirty and two thousand … women that had not known man by lying with him,” Num31:32-35. “The sons of Uzzi … five, all of them chief men. And with them, by their generations, … six and thirty thousand men: for they had many wives and sons,” 1Chr7:3-4.

Some Bible teachers say there were a few heroes of faith that were polygamists, but that God overlooked their polygamy and used them anyway; but that’s not how the Bible presents it. It was the greatest men of faith that were polygamists. Who is greater than Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David? Abraham was called, "the friend of God," Ja2:23; Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” since all his descendants comprise the Jewish people, Gen32:28; Moses wrote the Law; and David was called "a man after God's own heart," Acts13:22. And other heroes, like Caleb and Gideon, were polygamists.

All Jewish people are physical descendants of the polygamist Jacob; and all Gentile believers are spiritual descendants of the polygamist Abraham. "It is of faith ... to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all," Rom4:16. "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise," Gal3:29.

We know these men of God did not commit fornication or adultery by marrying more than one wife, because Paul says, "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals ... will inherit the kingdom," 1Cor6:9. We know David will be the King of Israel in the Messianic Kingdom, "they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up [resurrect] unto them," Jer30:9. Jesus will be “King of Kings,” Rev19:16, over all the earth and there will be kings of individual countries like David under him. We know the polygamists Abraham and Jacob will be in the kingdom because Jesus said, "many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom," Mt8:11. None of these men were adulterers or they could not inherit the kingdom," 1Cor6:9.

There were polygamists in the early church. The entire church was comprised of believing Jews and Jewish proselytes until Acts 15; and even after that time Paul always preached, "to the Jew first," Rom1:16. As late as 393 AD, the Roman emperor Theodosius had to issue a special law to try to stop Jewish men from practicing polygamy.

In Timothy and Titus, Paul says "A bishop [pastor] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife. ... one that ruleth well his own house," 1Tim3:2-6, and "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest ... ordain elders [pastors] in every city. ... If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children," Titus1:6. The phrase, "husband of one wife" has been translated and interpreted many ways, but if it means polygamists can’t be pastors, then it shows there were polygamists in the congregations. I don’t think the phrase “husband of one wife” can be translated as “a one-woman man” as some do because that sounds like a modern phrase, and because the context is about ruling the family as ‘husbands’ and ‘wives’, not as ‘men’ and ‘women.’

Why wouldn’t polygamists be allowed to be pastors or deacons? Perhaps because monogamy is preferred, though polygamy is permitted; just as singleness is preferred, though marriage is permitted. Or possibly because polygamist men have enough work to do caring for their own families without also trying to care for the church. The tragedy is that not only would great men of God like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David not be allowed to be pastors in churches today, they would not even be allowed to be part of the congregation because the modern church persecutes polygamous families.

God will never let us put polygamy out of our minds. Today, every Jewish person is descended from one of Jacob's four wives; and via genetic testing or future revelation, they will eventually know which of his four wives they are descended from. In the future, when you visit Israel during the Messianic Kingdom, you will be reminded that the polygamist David will be head of Israel’s government during that time.

Also during the Messianic Kingdom, every time someone enters or leaves the world capital of Jerusalem, they will be reminded of Jacob's four wives because the gates of the city will have the names of the twelve tribes on them, arranged in order of their moms. "The gates of the city shall be named after the tribes of Israel, the three gates northward [of Leah]: one gate for Reuben, one gate for Judah, and one gate for Levi; on the east side ... three gates [of Rachel and Bilhah]: one gate for Joseph, one gate for Benjamin, and one gate for Dan; on the south side ... three gates [of Leah]: one gate for Simeon, one gate for Issachar, and one gate for Zebulun; on the west side ... three gates [of Zilpah and Bilhah]: one gate for Gad, one gate for Asher, and one gate for Naphtali.... And the name of the city from that day shall be The Lord is There," Ez48:30-35.

And for eternity, their names will also be on the gates of the New Jerusalem that will descend out of heaven from God. "He … shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God … and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel," Rev21:10-12.

God Never Forbids Polygamy but Sometimes He Commands It

Nowhere in the Bible is polygamy explicitly forbidden or condemned. Don't you think there has been enough polygamy in the world throughout the ages for God to have explicitly forbidden it at least once in the Bible if he thought it was immoral? Wasn't there enough space in the Bible? In the 78 verses of Numbers 7:10-88, God repeats twelve times that each prince offered, "one silver charger, ... one silver bowl, ... one spoon," etc.  Couldn't he have replaced just one of those verses with "Thou shalt not commit polygamy," or "Thou shalt not have more than one wife at a time?"

God explicitly said adultery is wrong many times, like in the seventh of the ten commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," Ex20:14. And, "The man who commits adultery with another man's wife ... shall surely be put to death," Lev20:10. And, "You shall not commit adultery," Deut5:18.

God explicitly said homosexuality is wrong many times, like in, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination," Lev18:22. And, "Their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful,” Rom1:26-27.

And God couldn't bother to say polygamy is wrong even once? Why didn't he mention polygamy in the list of sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals ... will inherit the kingdom of God."

By the way, the reason you won't find the word 'polygamy' anywhere in the Bible is because the Bible simply calls it 'marriage,' regardless of the number of wives. It’s not called 'adultery' either, as we saw from the definition of adultery in the Bible.

Instead of being explicitly prohibited, polygamy is explicitly commanded by God in some situations. We saw that a man who seduced or raped an unmarried and unengaged woman was required to offer to marry her, even if he was already married. And we saw that God also commanded Jewish men to offer to marry their brother's wife if their brother died without children, even if they themselves were already married.

Instead of prohibiting polygamy in the Bible, God regulates it along with other regulations about marriage. He says if a married man "take him another wife; her [the first wife's] food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage [physical love], shall he not diminish," Ex21:10. Also, "If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, ... he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath," Deut21:15-17.  These verses teach a man must continue to be a good husband to his first wife if he marries a second.

So if it's a sin to fail to continue to be a good husband to a first wife after taking a second, then it’s a far greater sin to divorce and not be a husband at all to a first wife and then take a second. But that’s exactly what the laws of our ungodly society require men to do. Our modern laws allow a man to live with as many women as he wants, simultaneously or sequentially, just so he doesn't commit to caring and providing for them, because as soon as he does that, it's considered bigamy. Modern law promotes 'serial polygamy,' where a man divorces and remarries one woman after another; but God's law promotes chastity and an unending commitment to protecting and providing for women.

The Definition of Adultery Cannot Change from Age to Age

There are three kinds of things in the world: moral, immoral, and amoral. Things that are inherently moral or immoral cannot change from age to age or place to place. Only things that are amoral, not inherently right or wrong in themselves, can change. These amoral things become moral when God commands them because it's always moral to do something God commands; and they become immoral when God forbids them because it’s always immoral to do something God forbids.

Dietary laws are an example of amoral things that became moral or immoral when God commanded different things for different people at different times. Adam was only allowed to eat plants, “I have given every green herb for meat,” Gen1:30. Noah was allowed to eat anything that moved, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you,” Gen9:3. Moses was not allowed to eat pork, “The swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you,” Lev11:7. And the church is not allowed to eat blood, “Write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood,” Acts15:20.

Dietary laws can change from age to age, because food is not inherently moral or immoral. Jesus said, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. ... Whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated, but those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man," Matthew 15:11-20. Things like adultery and fornication are immoral things, and their definitions can't change from age to age.

Today we are forbidden to commit adultery because 1) it's unrighteous, and 2) it's forbidden in the law of Christ; not because it was forbidden in the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses teaches us that adultery is unrighteous, and today we are still obligated to keep "the righteousness of the law," Rom2:26, but not the Law itself. Adultery had to be forbidden in both the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ because it’s inherently immoral and thus its definition can’t change.

One Flesh

The Bible probably doesn't give us enough information to know for certain what being 'one flesh' technically means, but the concept may be useful to understand the gospel passages about divorce and remarriage and to figure out what the obligations of chastity are in each situation.

Becoming one flesh doesn't mean becoming 'one soul,' or 'one spirit,' because it says 'one flesh.' The concerns of marriage are the concerns of this physical world, which is why a single person has less distraction to serve the Lord (1Cor7:35), and why there is no marriage in the resurrection (Mt22:30).

Becoming one flesh probably doesn't refer to how a child inherits DNA from both parents, because not all marriages result in children. It probably doesn't refer to an exchange of fluids during lovemaking, because a couple probably becomes one flesh even if they use a condom. It’s interesting though, that some articles on the internet say male DNA has been found in female brains, perhaps from the men she has made love to. (I've never seen an article that says female DNA has been found in men's brains; if that could happen men would be smarter.)

A man and a woman become one flesh by a single act of physical lovemaking. Whether in marriage by cleaving to a 'wife', "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave [hold] unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh," Genesis 2:22-24. Or outside of marriage by committing fornication, "Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh," 1Cor6:16. Becoming one flesh produces emotional effects and moral obligations. According to the Bible, there is no such thing as 'casual sex.'

Not only can a man and woman become one flesh, they can probably also stop being one flesh. When Jesus said, "What God has joined together let not man put asunder," Mt19:6, he was probably primarily talking about not sundering marriage by divorce, but probably also about not sundering a one flesh relationship via adultery.

Perhaps a woman is counted as one flesh with only the last man she made love to, whereas a man is counted as one flesh with all the women he was the last man a woman made love to. So the first time Jacob made love to Rachel, he became one flesh with Rachel; and the first time Jacob made love to Leah, he did not stop being one flesh with Rachel, but also became one flesh with Leah. If this were not the case there would be confusing situations where every time Jacob made love to Leah, Rachel would stop being one flesh with him though married to him, and every time he made love to Rachel, Leah would stop being one flesh with him though married to him.

Based on the foregoing, though marriage is the only proper venue for the one flesh relationship, there are periods of time when the two things exist independently. For example, Adam and Eve were one flesh before they were married, since Eve was taken out of Adam. Traditionally, men and women are married first via a wedding ceremony, and become one flesh soon afterwards at the consummation of the marriage. Also, unless the one flesh relationship was already broken via adultery, divorced couples continue to be one flesh after divorce until the woman commits fornication or remarries someone else.

Whenever the obligations of marriage and the one flesh relationship conflict, the obligations of marriage take precedence, since the one flesh relationship is only appropriate within marriage.

Unmarried Woman + Not One Flesh with Any Man

Chastity calls upon a single woman who is a virgin to remain a virgin until she marries, per 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

Unmarried Woman + One Flesh with Some Man

Chastity calls upon a single woman who has committed fornication to marry the man she is one flesh with if he is marriageable material, per Exodus 22:16, “if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.” However, to be practical, it’s probably often better to look at it as though the sin was already done by committing fornication in the first place rather than entering into life-long marital suffering.

Unmarried Woman + One Flesh with Her Husband

Marriage and chastity call upon a married woman to remain faithful to her husband alone per Romans 7:3, “if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.”

Unmarried Woman + One Flesh with Another Man

Marriage calls upon a married woman who has committed adultery and become one flesh with another man to forsake her new one flesh relationship and to reestablish it with her husband per Romans 7:3, “if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.”

Divorced Woman + One Flesh with Her Husband

Chastity calls upon a divorced woman who is still one flesh with her x-husband to reconcile with him or remain single, per Romans 7:3, ““if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress,” and per 1 Corinthians 7:11, “if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.”

Even if a divorced woman’s x-husband remarries, the Bible allows her to remarry him, but since modern society does not allow polygamy, reconciliation would probably no longer be practical. Also, as we’ll see in Matthew 5, Yeshua said an x-husband bears the guilt of the violation of her chastity when an innocent divorced wife remarries. And there are probably other circumstances which also make it impractical to wait for reconciliation. Marriage is God’s provision “to avoid fornication,” 1Cor7:2; so “if they cannot contain, let them marry,” 1Cor7:9.

Divorced Woman + One Flesh with Another Man

Chastity calls upon a divorced woman who is one flesh with another man, via adultery before her divorce or fornication after her divorce, to marry him if he is marriageable material, per Exodus 22:16, “if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.”

Biblically, they would marry even if he’s already married, but practically today, he will most likely need to send her away like Hagar (Gen21:14), for everyone's legal safety and welfare; and his sin of not marrying her will probably be laid mostly upon society's teachers and leaders.

Each instance of physical lovemaking outside of marriage is fornication, even if the man and woman are already one flesh through fornication, because physical intimacy is only appropriate within marriage.

Remarried + One Flesh with Her New Husband

Marriage and chastity call upon a remarried woman to remain faithful to her new husband, since he is now the only one she may make love to so long as they both live, per Romans 7:3, “if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.”

Rom7:3 - The NT Continues the OT Definition of Adultery

The Old Testament says remarriage defiles a woman because her chastity is violated. “If the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife, her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled,” Deut24:1-4. The Bible never says the reciprocal that remarriage defiles a man, like “his former wife, which he sent away, may not marry him again, after that he is defiled.”

The New Testament continues to uphold the difference between men and women in regards to chastity. Romans 7:2-3 says, "The woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth, … so then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress." But the New Testament never says the reciprocal, like “The man which hath a wife is bound by the law to his wife so long as she liveth, ... so then if, while his wife liveth, he is married to another woman, he shall be called an adulterer.” The chastity of a wife requires her to be one flesh with only one husband so long as they both live, but not so with husbands.

1 Corinthians 7:39 says the same thing. "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." The New Testament never says the reciprocal, like "the husband is bound by the law as long as his wife liveth; but if his wife be dead, he is at liberty to be married to whom he will" because a husband is already “at liberty to be married to whom he will” while being married to an existing wife even in the New Testament.

In the four passages on divorce in the gospels, Jesus taught a man who marries a divorced woman always commits adultery, because the marital status of the woman is relevant; but a woman who marries a divorced man never commits adultery, because the marital status of the man is irrelevant just as in the OT.

Mt5:32, “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery,” but never, “whosoever shall marry him that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Mt19:9, “Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery,” but never “whoso marrieth he which put her away doth commit adultery.”

Lu16:18, “Whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery,” but never, “whosoever marrieth him that put away his wife committeth adultery.”

We will also see that Jesus mentions an exception clause “saving for the cause of fornication,” Mt5:32, and “except it be for fornication,” Mt19:9, for when a husband divorces a wife; but never for when a wife divorces her husband, like in Mk10:12, “if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery [no exception clause].” A wife’s fornication affects her own one flesh relationship with her husband and the chastity of her own marriage; but a husband’s fornication, while painful, is a sin against the chastity and marriage of the other woman.

There’s no need for an exception clause to determine which party is guilty of adultery when a wife divorces her husband because a wife can’t “cause” her husband to commit adultery by divorcing him. A husband who divorces an innocent wife “causeth her to commit adultery,” Mt5:32, but the Bible never says the reciprocal that a wife who divorces an innocent husband “causeth him to commit adultery.”

In 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul was very careful to use an entirely different Greek word for "own" when he said, "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own ['heautou'] wife, and let every woman have her own ['idios'] husband." When Paul said "his own wife," he used 'heautou,' which means 'one's own reflexively and exclusively,' as in: "his own [heautou] life," Lu14:26; "his own [heautou] body," Rm4:19; "their own [heautou] dead," Gal6:4. A person's life and body are his exclusively, a family's dead relatives are theirs exclusively, and every wife a man has is his exclusively.

But when Paul said "her own husband", he used the Greek word 'idios' which means 'the one that pertains to you,' but can pertain to others also, as in: "his own [idios] generation," Acts 13:36;  "his own [idios] country," Jn4:44;  "his own [idios] language," Acts 2:6, "his own [idios] master," Rm14:4. Only one generation, homeland, native language, and master pertains to each person; but that generation, homeland, native language, and master can be pertain to others also, as one husband can pertain to more than one wife. Sarah is an example of a holy woman of old in subjection to her own [idios] husband who was also Hagar’s own [idios] husband. “After this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own [idios] husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord,” 1Pet3:5-6, as did Hagar also.

In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul says to wives, "Let not the wife depart from her husband,” and then he adds, “but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.” Paul also says of husbands, “and let not the husband put away his wife," but he can't also add like he did for the wife, "but and if he put away his wife, let him remain unmarried or be reconciled to his wife." He can’t tell a husband to remain unmarried after divorce because a husband may not be unmarried after divorce because he may be married to more than one wife at the time of the divorce, even in the New Testament; whereas a wife will always be "unmarried" after divorce.

Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Whoremongers are men who commit fornication with unmarried women, and adulterers are men who commit adultery with married women. The marital statuses of the men are not mentioned, because they are irrelevant for determining adultery in the NT as well as the OT.

The definition of adultery permitted polygamy in the Old Testament, and these verses show that the New Testament continues the Old Testament definition of adultery, and so the New Testament also continues to permit polygamy.

Mt5:28 - Adultery by Lusting After a Woman

Matthew 5-7 is the “sermon on the mount.” In these three chapters, Jesus did not contradict the Law, but gave it the full and proper interpretation it should always have had. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets,” Mt5:17. At this period of time in his ministry before his rejection in Matthew 11-12, and before his death and resurrection, he commended those who taught the Law. “Whosoever shall do and teach them [the commandments], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven,” Mt5:19.

But he corrected the Pharisee’s focus on the external technicalities of the Law. “I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Mt5:20. He taught that the Law also required inward righteousness in “the thoughts and intents [motives] of the heart," Heb4:12. He taught that all sins are ultimately sins of the heart, because that's where they start. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies," Mt15:19-20.

Before Paul believed on Yeshua, he thought he had, as a Pharisee, kept the first nine commandments because they talk about external things. But when he thought about the tenth commandment, which emphasizes the heart and says, "Thou shalt not covet," on the negative side; and by implication, "Be content," on the positive side; he realized he hadn't been able to keep the Law.  "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet ... I was alive without the law once: but when the [tenth] commandment came, sin revived, and I died. … O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me? … Jesus Christ." Rom7:7-25.

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught that calling someone an 'idiot,' for example, is the same 'kind' of sin as murder, and violated the sixth commandment. "Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment, and ... whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire," Mt5:21-22.

Every sin can be classified under one of the ten commandments, and Jesus said the ten commandments in turn can be summarized in two, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart [the first five]; … and … thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself [the last five]. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Mt22:37-40.

Matthew 5:27-28, "You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery [the seventh commandment]: but I say to you, that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Was Jesus here saying that even looking on your own wife with lust is adultery? No, because “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife,” Ex20:17. Someone has said “the man desires the woman, and woman desires the desire of the man.” In God's love-making manual in the Bible, Solomon's wife rejoices that "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me," Song7:10. Husbands are obligated to look with desire on their wives. So the "woman" referred to in Matthew 5:28 excludes one's own wife.

And the word "adultery" in Matthew 5:28 does not mean that the woman lusted after has to be a married or engaged woman for it to be adultery. All sins relating to immorality, whether internal or external, whether lust of action, whether fornication or adultery, can be grouped under the seventh commandment. Jesus taught that the seventh commandment is broken by more than just the technical commission of adultery according to ‘the letter of the law.’ All sins of immorality are the same 'kind' of sin as adultery, though they are not all of the same 'degree' or manifestation. So even lusting after a woman who is not your wife violates the seventh commandment to not commit adultery.

Mt5:32a - Adultery by Divorcing a Wife

Matthew 5:31-32a, "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you that, Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery."

Notice the man in this verse causes his wife to commit adultery by divorcing her, “whosoever shall put away his wife … causeth her to commit adultery.” We know the Biblical definition of adultery is “a man having physical relations with a married or engaged woman (other than his wife),” so how can divorcing her be adultery? Because a man can be guilty of adultery without technically committing adultery, like by lusting after a woman, as we just saw in Matthew 5:28. Now we see in Matthew 5:32 that a man can be guilty of adultery without technically committing adultery by endangering his wife’s chastity by divorcing her.

When a man marries, he becomes responsible to help his wife maintain her chastity. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish,” Eph5:25-27. A good husband doesn’t share his wife, “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. … Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love,” Prov5:15-19. A good husband helps his wife stay pure by providing for her marital needs. “To avoid fornication, … let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence. … The husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other … that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency,” 1Cor7:2-5. When a husband divorces his wife he removes the safe place for her to maintain her chastity that he committed to providing.

Attempted murder is just as bad as murder from the perspective of the person who commits it, though it’s not as bad for the intended victim. And reckless endangering is still a crime even if the endangered person escapes injury. Divorce endangers a woman to commit adultery via fornication or remarriage by removing her ability to perform her special ministry of chastity to give herself to only one man as long as they both live, unless she follows a path equivalent to perpetual widowhood.

So a husband does great harm to a wife when a he divorces her, and Jesus placed that harm under the seventh commandment to not commit adultery. Matthew 5:32 says her husband “causeth her to commit adultery.” It’s the person who causes something who bears the guilt; a person cannot be held responsible for something someone else caused.

The Jewish rabbis taught that as long as a husband gave his wife the writ of divorce required by Deuteronomy 24:1-4, he committed no sin by divorcing her. But Jesus corrected that misinterpretation of the Law, by saying, "but I say unto you," that when a husband divorces a wife, a great sin is committed by someone. Every time a husband divorces a wife, someone has committed adultery, either the husband by endangering her chastity or the woman herself and that’s why she’s being divorced. So the exception clause, "saving for the cause of fornication," is not there to provide a valid reason for divorce. It's there to determine which party to the divorce is guilty of adultery. (The ‘exception clause,' uses the word ‘fornication’ instead of ‘adultery’ so that lesser immoral actions than the actual act of adultery are included.)

A woman begins marriage determined to make love with only her husband so long as they both live. But if at some point after that she ends up one flesh with and married to another man while her x-husband still lives, by definition, adultery has taken place sometime between those two points in time. The question is, who is guilty of that adultery? Her x-husband bears the full guilt if he is the one who cruelly destroyed her hope for uninterrupted purity by “caus[ing] her to commit adultery,” Mt5:32, by divorcing her. He has done great harm to her by making it so the only way she can maintain her chastity is to stay single the rest of their lives, and Yeshua classified that harm as adultery. God lays the guilt of adultery on her husband at the time he divorces her and she can remarry knowing her husband bears the responsibility and guilt for what happened to her.

Mt5:32b - Adultery by Marrying a Divorced Woman

Matthew 5:32b, "And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

Because the marital status of a man is irrelevant, a woman who marries a divorced man never commits adultery, so long as she herself is single. The Bible never says "whosoever shall marry him that is divorced committeth adultery."

But the Bible always says, “whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” There is never an 'exception clause' for a man who marries a divorced woman. He violates her chastity when he becomes one flesh with her when they consummate her remarriage, unless he already violated her chastity by becoming one flesh with her by adultery or fornication before her remarriage.

But in Matthew 5:32a, Jesus laid down the principal that the guilt of adultery is sometimes laid on a person other than the one that technically commits it. A man who marries a divorced woman violates her chastity; but who is more responsible for that sin, the cruel x-husband who sent her away or the kind man who remarries her to provide care and safety from fornication? And responsibility and guilt might not always be allocated 100% to one person or another. God knows the effects of every action. He, like “the word of God, is … a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” Heb4:12.

A man considering dating a divorced woman should realize the only thing that can permanently prevent her from remarrying her x-husband is if she remarries someone else. If "she … go and be another man's wife, … her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife," Deut24:1-4. Even the remarriage of her x-husband doesn’t prevent her from remarrying him, since the Bible allows polygamy; but practically, it does prevent it, because of our society.

Mt5:32 - The ‘Invalid Divorce’ Misinterpretation

Matthew 5:31-32, "But I say unto you that, Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

The ‘invalid divorce’ misinterpretation of these verses has caused much harm over the centuries. The reasoning goes that the only way marrying a divorced woman could be adultery is if her divorce was invalid and she is still married to her x-husband. But marriage cannot survive divorce; the one flesh relationship is what can survive divorce. A woman is to make love to only the man that is her husband so long as they both live based on Romans 7:3, even if that man is her x-husband at the time of her remarriage.

If divorces for invalid reasons were not valid divorces, people through the ages would not know for sure whether or not they were divorced. The purpose of the writ of divorce was for the protection of divorced wives. As long as a woman had a writ, no one could question if she was free to remarry. "Let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, …. and when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife," Deut24:1-2.

The Talmud has a whole tractate in the Book of Women about what constitutes a valid writ of divorce. The tractate rightly focused on what makes a writ valid than on what the valid reasons for divorce are. I think the rabbis wrongly made the writ itself too complicated though. The husband is simply to write a writ and put it in his wife's hand. Any exceptions should only be for cases where this cannot be done, like if the husband is paralyzed or something.

In the Talmud, the rabbis decided a husband could optionally send the writ via a messenger, etc., which opened another set of complications. I think God wanted the husband to "put it in her hand," because seeing her face might make him change his mind. But even if the husband sent it by a messenger or something, once she has the document it should be unassailable so that everyone knows she is free to remarry as per the intention of the law. If prospective remarriage partners also had to analyze the validity of the reasons for divorce, the writs would be useless. It should be the same in our day; court issued divorce papers should be sufficient for us to acknowledge the parties are divorced in the sight of God.

Perhaps God intentionally left the Torah permission for men to divorce their wives open to various interpretations so it could regulate the actions of a whole spectrum of men, from the hardhearted to the very cruel. If "it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes," Deut24:1, seems to allow the husband a lot of flexibility in interpretation. If "because he hath found some uncleanness [‘ervat dabar,’ ‘nakedness thing’] in her," Deut24:1," refers only to sexual uncleanness as in Yeshua’s commentary “except it be for fornication,” Mt5:32;19:9, the writ should still be honored if a divorcing husband interpreted it to mean something less.

Those who believe a divorce for an invalid reason is not a valid divorce can't even agree among themselves what the valid reason is. Is it any kind of sexual sin, or adultery only, or fornication before engagement only, or incest only, etc.? Don't you think something so important and life changing as this would be stated more clearly if it could make the whole thing invalid?

Jesus recognized the reality of divorces and remarriages even when the wife was not guilty of fornication. "I say unto you, Whosoever shall PUT AWAY his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall MARRY another, committeth adultery: and whoso MARRIETH her which is PUT AWAY, doth commit adultery," Mt19:9.  He said they really "put away" and they really "marry.” If the divorce and remarriage weren't real in God's eyes, Jesus would have said something like " whosoever thinks he marries her he thinks is put away will actually be committing adultery."

Jesus did not tell the Samaritan woman at the well, "thou hast had one real husband, and the four thou hast had since then were not really husbands."  He said "thou hast had five husbands and he whom thou now hast is not your husband," Jn4:18, because she was just living with the man without marrying. And Jesus didn't tell her to go back to her first husband. He told her to stop sinning, which she could do by marrying the man she was living with.

An x-husband has no more legal relationship to a divorced woman than a dead husband does to a widow. “[For married women:] If a woman … vow a vow unto the Lord, … but if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed … of none effect. … [For widows and divorced women:] But every vow of a widow and of her that is divorced wherewith they have bound their souls shall stand against her,” Num30:3-9.

Men that teach that divorces for invalid reasons don't count teach exactly the opposite of what the Bible says. The Bible says "marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled," Heb13:4, but they say marriage is not honorable and the bed is not undefiled for those who remarry. The Bible says God "hateth putting away," Mal2:16, but they say God wants remarried people to divorce each other. The Bible says "if the latter husband … write her a bill of divorcement ... her former husband ... may not take her again to be his wife," but they say remarried couples should divorce and go back and remarry their previous spouses. The 'invalid divorce' teachers cause the same kind of harm as those that "depart from the faith ... forbidding to marry," 1Tim4:3.

God didn't command David to divorce Bathsheba even though he committed adultery with her and had her husband killed, because once they were married, regardless of the sordid, sinful path that led to that state, from that time on they were in an "honorable ... and undefiled" (Heb13:4) relationship.

The 'invalid divorce' teaching makes it better for people to have sinned than not to have sinned. If you commit adultery and your spouse divorces you then you can get remarried because the divorce counts; but if you don’t commit adultery and your spouse divorces you and remarries then you can never get remarried though you did nothing wrong. So, it’s better to have committed adultery. Most ‘invalid divorce’ teachers think this doesn’t sound fair so instead of helping the innocent spouse they make it equally bad on the guilty spouse and say a spouse that committed adultery can’t remarry even though the divorce counts. But Jesus didn’t say anything about this in the divorce and remarriage passages. This need to go beyond what the Bible says to try to make it fair is a clue that the whole interpretation is wrong. And their extra-Biblical addition still leaves the innocent divorced spouse hopeless for life through no fault of their own. Thankfully, probably few people actually follow this teaching even though they are taught it and believe it. Common sense is better than false teaching.

Some Bible teachers deny remarriage to the guilty party, not because the divorce is invalid, but because the guilty party has ‘unfinished moral business’ to do: repentence. Supposedly, if the guilty party repents, the spouse that divorced them is obligated to remarry them or it frees the repentant spouse to marry someone else. There isn’t really any of this in the divorce teachings of Jesus unless it’s hidden in verb tenses and passive or middle voiced participles and subjective conjunctions, or some such things. They need rely on external passages (like Jer3:1; Is50:1; Hos1-2, Mt1:19;18:15ff) to add this missing feature to Jesus’ teaching in the divorce passages. They may call the divorce a “disciplinary divorce,” intended to bring the parties back together after the repentance of the guilty party. However, divorcing is moving in the wrong direction for married couples. Separation, living apart, makes it more unlikely a couple will reconcile; and divorce probably makes it far more unlikely. God may have divorced the northern kingdom of Israel, but probably not the southern kingdom of Judah. In any case, only God can divorce with full confidence that all will be reconciled in the end. For men to do this to their wives is only to move further in the wrong direction. The saddest part is that some who teach ‘disciplinary divorce’ teach that it is mandatory rather than permissible. How unlike God who never gives up on his own such a mandatory divorce would be.

Mt19; Mk10 – There Are No Valid Reasons to Divorce a Wife

"The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Mt19:3.

In Matthew 19, and in Mark 10, the parallel passage, the Pharisees thought they could trap Jesus by asking him what the valid reasons for divorce are. They were asking what Moses meant by "some uncleanness" in Deuteronomy 24:1-2. "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement,” etc. If Jesus answered "some uncleanness" meant adultery, they would say, 'the penalty for adultery is death, not divorce.' But if Jesus answered it meant something less than adultery, they would say he was making light of the importance of marriage.

"He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Mt19:4-6,

Jesus' answer was that there are no acceptable reasons for divorce, neither adultery nor something less. The important thing to notice here is that he gave this answer and stopped talking. He had given his complete answer. He didn't need to mention any 'exception clause' for fornication. If the Pharisees had not gone on to ask another question, that would have been the end of the conversation. As mentioned above, the purpose of the exception clause is to determine how guilty a man is if he divorces his wife, and whether it’s the man or his wife that’s guilty of adultery, not to state an acceptable reason for divorce.

Mt19; Mk10 - It’s Never Right to Divorce a Wife

Matthew 19:7-8, "They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”

So the first topic in Matthew 19:3-6 was “what are the valid reasons for divorce,” and Jesus answered, “None.” The second question was, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" Jesus answered that God permitted divorce and required writs of divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts. God permitted divorce for the protection of women, because otherwise some cruel men would have done even worse things to their wives. He also required writs of divorce for the protection of divorced women so they could prove they were free and clear of all claims and available for a godly remarriage.

So at a minimum, every husband who divorces his wife is guilty of violating the sixth commandment by hardness of heart because as we saw in Matthew 5:21-22, “Thou shalt not kill,” Ex20:13, also means, “Thou shalt not hate.” A man who divorces his wife is minimally guilty of hardness of heart, hatred, lack of love, unkindness, unforgiveness, cruelty, violence, and of doing what God hates.

"The LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? ... And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously," Mal4:13-16.

But Jesus went on to say that any husband who divorces an innocent wife is also guilty of violating the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to put away your wives … and … whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, … committeth adultery.” This can happen in two ways: 1) by divorcing an innocent wife a husband endangers her chastity (Mt5:32), and 2) by divorcing an innocent wife and remarrying a husband does even worse than failing to continue to care for her after adding another wife (Mt19:9, Mk10:11, Lu16:18).

The ‘exception clause’ in Mt5:32 “saving for the cause of fornication,” and Mt19:9, “except it be for fornication,” is not there to provide a valid reason for divorce, but to determine the extent of the divorcing husband’s guilt. Is he guilty of violence only or of immorality also?

This interpretation of Matthew 19:3-9 that Jesus taught it’s never right for a man to divorce his wife is confirmed by the reaction of the disciples in the following verses 19:10-12, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry." Jesus agreed the standard is difficult, and requires the grace of God, but he said single people also need the grace of God to handle singleness. "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given, for there are some eunuchs," etc., Mt19:11.

This interpretation is also confirmed by 1 Corinthians 7 which provides a pretty thorough treatment of singleness, marriage, and divorce. That chapter tells married men it’s not ok to divorce a wife. “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, … let not the husband put away his wife,” 1Cor7:10-11. And, “if any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away,” 1Cor7:12. And, “Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed,” 1Cor7:27. That chapter does say it’s ok for a man or woman to remarry if an unbelieving spouse divorces them, but the believer is not to be the one doing the divorcing. “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases,” 1Cor7:15. There are no valid reasons for a man to divorce his wife listed in that chapter, but since polygamy is no longer permitted, society may bear the guilt if a man needs to divorce his wife for abandonment or some other reason today.

In Ezra 10, Ezra led the Israelites to divorce their foreign wives and children, but I believe they were wrong to do so. Nowhere does the Bible say they were right to do so. I think God recorded this event without comment as an exercise for us to realize they erred; like Jephthah killing his daughter so he wouldn't be guilty of breaking a foolish vow (Jdg11:30-40), or Israel nearly wiping out the tribe of Benjamin (Jdg19-21), or the drunken decision King Ahasuerus made to divorce Queen Vashti (Esth1), or the apostles going beyond their authority to choose Matthias as a replacement for Judas instead of waiting for Jesus to personally select Paul as he did later (Acts1:26; Gal1:1).

God's way is to never give up. Although God divorced the northern kingdom of Israel according to Jeremiah 3:8, he alone can divorce with the full assurance his wife will be restored to him in the end, and individuals from the northern kingdom did return and mix with the people of the restored southern kingdom of Judah. "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord. ... Return, O backsliding children, says the Lord; for I am married to you."

God told Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman who would have children from other men. He told him to love her unconditionally and win her heart in the end as a picture of God's unconditional acceptance of Israel and their eventual happy-ever-after marriage in the Messianic Kingdom.

"The Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim. ... She conceived, and bare a son. Then said God, Call his name Loammi [meaning 'not my people' because he wasn't Hosea's child]: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. ... Yet ... it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. ... Their mother hath played the harlot, ... I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her, ... and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. ... I will betroth thee unto me for ever," Hos1:2-10; 2:4-23.

No matter how much Israel sins, God will never forsake her, because his love and commitment to her is unconditional. That is God's nature. He never forsakes Israel no matter what they do, and if we want to be like him, we must never forsake our wives, no matter what they do. "Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD," Jer31:35-37.

Also, "Thus saith the Lord; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I cast away the seed of Jacob and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them," Jer33:25-26.   If we have the mind of his Holy Spirit within us, then we must love our wives like God loves Israel, with an unconditional and unending love.

Likewise, Christ would never divorce his espoused bride, the church. “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom8:38-39.

Marriage is so sacred to God that even when belief in Yeshua causes division with other family members, it is not to divide husband and wife. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household,” Mt10:35. And even though God took everything from Job, his property, his children, and his health, God wouldn’t take his wife from him.

Because the Bible permits polygamy, there is never a need for a husband to divorce a wife. Even if his wife were to abandon him, a husband could add a second wife without divorcing his first. However, because modern societies do not allow polygamy, there are probably circumstances today where a husband may need to divorce his wife, and though he will be guilty of hardness of heart, and though he will be guilty of adultery if she herself is not; hopefully God will transfer some or all of his guilt to the teachers and leaders of our society who oppose polygamy, because they are the ones that prevent the preservation of the chastity and welfare of a wife in such cases.

Mt19; Mk10, Lu16 - Adultery by Divorcing a Wife and Remarrying

"I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery," Mt19:9.

The only thing new in Matthew 19:9 compared to Matthew 5:32 is that a husband who divorces an innocent wife commits adultery, not only when he divorces, but also when he remarries. How can marrying an unmarried woman be adultery since the definition of adultery permits a man to have more than one wife?

The most popular and harmful explanation is that the divorce must have been invalid because supposedly there cannot be adultery without technically committing adultery. But for that interpretation to be correct, it would mean Jesus changed three things by merely saying, “and shall marry another committeth adultery,” Mt19:9.

1) Jesus would have changed writs of divorce to be of no value since only the reason for the divorce would matter. Jesus would not teach that because writs protected divorced women by providing them written proof of marital freedom so “she may go and be another man's wife,” Deut24:2. Also, there’s no need to assume a divorce has to be invalid for adultery to occur because we already saw a man can be guilty of adultery without technically committing adultery, by lusting per Matthew 5:28 or by divorcing per Matthew 5:32

2) Jesus would have changed the definition of adultery to one where the marital status of the man was relevant. But even Jesus couldn’t change the definition of adultery because it’s not an amoral thing, like dietary laws, that can change from age to age, as explained previously.

3) Jesus would have been forbidding polygamy from that time onward. But verses like “a pastor must be blameless, the husband of one wife,” 1Tim3:2, indicate polygamy continued within early church congregations, though it was not permitted for pastors and deacons.

If God had wanted start casting doubts on the validity of writs of divorce, and also change the definition of adultery, and also begin prohibiting polygamy, this would have been a very cryptic way to do so. Such a major change in people's lives would have merited a few explicit commandments. Also, Jesus recognized the validity of divorces even when they were not for fornication, because he doesn’t say, “Whoever thinks he divorces his wife, except it be for fornication, and thinks he marries another, actually commits adultery: and whoever thinks he marries her which he thinks is divorced actually commits adultery," Mt19:9.

We can understand how every husband who divorces his wife is guilty of breaking the sixth commandment by hardness of heart (Mt19:8). And we can understand how, if the wife herself is not already guilty of adultery, the husband who divorces her is guilty of endangering her chastity (Mt5:32). But perhaps we can also agree that some additional wrong is done to a divorced wife when she is not only cast away, but also replaced by another.

We don’t think it’s wrong for a person to take a second helping of food unless he throws away his first helping unnecessarily. To pledge to maintain the chastity of a second wife by marriage, and not maintain the chastity of the first also, is to denigrate the value and the importance of the chastity of the first; and to do so unnecessarily, since the Bible allows polygamy.

Also, if a man divorces his wife and then adds another, he violates Exodus 21:10, “If he take him another wife; her [the first wife’s] food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.” God sees through the outward form of a situation to the reality of it. The requirements of Exodus 21:10 cannot be circumvented by divorcing one’s wife and then claiming no ongoing responsibility for her.

The part about failure to provide food and raiment might seem more relevant to the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” Ex20:15. But perhaps all sins related to marriage, even economic ones, should be placed under the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” Ex20:14.

One part of Exodus 21:10 relates directly to the seventh commandment. Each of the ten commandments has both a negative and a positive aspect. The sixth commandment prohibits the negative aspects of murder (externally) and hatred (internally) and requires the positive aspects of giving (externally) and love (internally). The tenth commandment prohibits the negative aspects of lusting after things and requires the positive aspect of “Be content,” Heb13:5. And the seventh commandment prohibits adultery and immorality and requires the positive aspects of purity and “to avoid fornication, … let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence,” 1Cor7:2-3.

By not continuing to provide “her duty of marriage,” Ex21:10, to a first wife after taking a second, the remarrying husband commits adultery against the chastity of his first wife. His remarriage ensures he has no need of his divorced wife’s lovemaking at the same time he fails to provide for her need of such. To marry a second wife is not sin; but to divorce and marry a second wife is sin. For a husband to reduce the amount of lovemaking to his first wife by splitting his attention between her and a second wife is not sin, but to totally stop all attention to his first wife is sin.

This does not mean a divorced man should never remarry, because “to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife,” 1Cor7:2. It does mean the husband who divorces an innocent wife and remarries will be guilty of violating Exodus 21:10; but a lust-filled life is not an option. “It is better to marry than to burn [with lust], 1Cor7:9.

Mk10:12 - Adultery by Divorcing a Husband and Remarrying

"If a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery," Mk10:12. So far we've only looked at divorce from the man’s perspective because that’s primarily what the Bible does. Mark 10:12 is the only verse in the gospels about a wife divorcing her husband.

Most Bible teachers today teach we can just flip gender specific verses around and apply them to the other gender. They say you can flip “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery,” Mt19:9, to be, “Whosoever shall put away her husband, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.” You can’t flip verses like this any more than you can flip gender specific verses like “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church,” to be “Husbands, submit yourselves unto your own wives, as unto the Lord. For the wife is the head of the husband, even as the church is the head of Christ,” Eph5:22-24. Or any more than you can flip “If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish,” to be, “If she take her another husband; his food, his raiment, and his duty of marriage, shall she not diminish,” Ex21:10.

There is no exception clause, “except it be for fornication,” for when a woman divorces her husband. The Bible only says, “If a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery,” Mk10:12. Bible teachers today encourage precious and chaste women to violate their chastity, possibly for the first time ever in their lives, by telling them it’s perfectly fine for them to divorce their husbands for the cause of fornication, and remarry in contradiction to the word of God and the purity of women. Chastity is a special ministry of women. A man’s chastity is determined by the way he treats the chastity of women. If he does commit fornication or adultery, he causes his wife suffering, but the fornication or adultery is against the other woman, not his wife.

Another reason you can’t flip verses like Mt5:32, “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery,” to be “whosoever shall put away her husband, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth him to commit adultery,” is because a wife cannot cause her husband to commit adultery because men can’t actually commit adultery upon remarriage since only the marital status of the woman is relevant. A husband who divorces a wife “causeth her to commit adultery,” unless she already caused it herself.

Another error they make is to assume that if a husband divorces a guilty wife, she cannot remarry because it would be adultery. The Bible does not say that unless they can be sure “and whosoever shall marry her that is put away commits adultery” is referring to a guilty woman, because under their own logic, if she is connected to “except it be for fornication” in such a way that

The Bible does not say the innocent party can remarry. If their “invalid divorce” theory were correct it would mean an innocent party who was divorced by their spouse cannot remarry because the divorce is invalid. Only an innocent spouse who is also hardhearted enough to do the divorcing would ever be able to remarry. And the Bible does not say a guilty party cannot remarry. If the “whoever marries her that is put away commits adultery” only applies when the to the criteria of the exception clause, “except it be for fornication” is not met, because then the divorce is invalid, then the guilty wife would be free to remarry because the divorce is valid. But they think this unfair to an innocent divorced wife who can never remarry because the divorce is invalid, so they make up another criteria and say guilty parties can’t remarry either.

There is an even worse error Bible teachers make today because their having been raised in an egalitarian society makes them think you can flip gender specific verses. This error is worse because it doesn’t even exist when you flip the verse, but they just think it’s logical, so they teach it.

They reason that if a husband divorces an innocent wife, neither can ever remarry because the divorce doesn’t count; and if a wife divorces an innocent husband neither can ever remarry because the divorce doesn’t count. So only a husband who divorces a guilty wife or a wife who divorces a guilty husband can remarry. If your spouse divorces you, whether you’re guilty and they’re unwilling to forgive you or even if you’re innocent, you’re ruined for life. Also, they think that no one can marry anyone who’s been divorced by their spouse because either the divorced person was guilty or the divorce was invalid.

They reason that if a husband divorces an innocent wife neither can ever remarry since it would be adultery since the divorce doesn’t count. We saw that the divorce does count, but the remarriage of the wife always results in adultery, but the guilt of that adultery is borne by the husband. Then they reason that if a husband divorces a guilty wife, then he can remarry without being guilty of adultery, but that the guilty wife cannot remarry. The Bible never says a guilty party cannot remarry. Maybe they think it’s logical. Maybe they think it would be unfair to keep an innocent wife from remarrying because the divorce doesn’t count and then to let a guilty wife remarry because the divorce does count. But that’s man’s logic; it’s not stated anywhere and in fact is incorrect.

or he would be guilty of adultery, and a husband who divorces a guilty wife can remarry without being guilty of adultery. Then they assume an innocent wife he divorces cannot remarry because the divorce doesn’t count, and a they assume a guilty wife he divorces cannot get remarried because even though the divorce counts, she’s guilty and it wouldn’t be fair to let the guilty wife remarry but not let the innocent wife remarry. Then they flip this and say that also a wife who divorces an innocent husband cannot remarry or she would be guilty of adultery, and a wife who divorces a guilty husband can remarry without being guilty of adultery. Then they assume an innocent husband she divorces cannot remarry because the divorce doesn’t count, and a they assume a guilty husband she divorces cannot get remarried because even though the divorce counts, it wouldn’t be fair to let the guilty husband remarry but not let the innocent husband remarry. So only a husband who divorces a guilty wife or a wife who divorces a guilty husband can remarry. If your spouse divorces you, even if you’re innocent, you’re ruined for life.

 

and remarries is not guilty of adultery, so a husband who Then they flip it and assume a wife who divorces an innocent husband and remarries is guilty of adultery, and a wife who divorces a guilty husband and remarries is not guilty of adultery. Then they assume

There is no situation in which a divorced woman can remarry without adultery occurring. The New Testament is consistent that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery, no exceptions: Mt5:32, Mt19:9, Mk10:12, Lu16:18. If she’s innocent and her husband divorced her, her husband bears the guilt of her remarriage. If she’s guilty of fornication or she divorces her husband, she bears the guilt of her remarriage. It’s not possible for a woman to go from being one flesh with one man to being one flesh with another man while the previous one still lives without adultery occurring. If a husband becomes one flesh with a second woman while married to a first, rightfully via polygamy, or wrongfully via the sin of fornication or adultery, it does not break his one flesh relationship with his wife or free her to remarry.

So wives cannot be guilty of adultery by merely divorcing their spouses as husbands can be, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery,” Mt5:32, since a wife can’t endanger her husband to commit adultery by divorcing him. While the gospels say three times that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt5:32, Mt19:9, Lu16:18), they never say that whoever marries a divorced man commits adultery.

When a wife divorces her husband she endangers her own chastity, but since she is the one divorcing presumably she can also change her mind. She can avoid any violation of her chastity by remaining single or by reconciliation. "Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband," 1Cor7:10-11.

Also, I don’t think every wife who divorces her husband is necessarily guilty of the hardness of heart that every husband who divorces his wife is, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to put away your wives,” Mt19:8. Husbands have more influence on the tenor of their marriages. A good husband can graciously help a wife of poor character to improve, but even the best wife will suffer when married to an uncommitted, abusive husband, for example.

God puts the responsibility of holding the marriage together on the husband. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh," Gen2:24. It's the man that cleaves to his wife, and holds the couple together, not the other way around. And there cannot be responsibility without ability. When a husband is committed to holding the marriage together by loving his wife passionately, unselfishly, and unconditionally - when he is willing to climb mountains and swim oceans for her - there are few women that would not stay in that kind of a marriage.

The best a woman can do for her marriage is to make it as pleasant as possible for her husband by her quiet submission. "Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word [not by teaching or nagging or trying to change him] be won by the behavior of the wives; while they behold your chaste behavior coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands. Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord," 1Pet1:1-3. But no matter what a wife does, if the husband lacks a conscientious character and commitment, he may likely leave.

Although every divorced woman who remarries will be guilty of adultery at some point, and there is no exception clause as there is for when a husband divorces a wife, nevertheless Jesus established the principal in Matthew 5:32 that the guilt of one spouse’s adultery may be transferred to the other spouse. God probably considers how much guilt each person.

In Jewish tradition, women had no right to divorce their husbands. Instead, a woman could petition the courts to require her husband to divorce her if he failed to provide food, clothing, shelter, safety from abuse, physical love, and the possibility of children to support her in her old age, based on Exodus 21. "If a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out [free after six years] as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed. ... If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money," Ex21:2-11.

Perhaps the idea here is that a woman would not be made a household servant, versus a hired servant, unless the master planned to marry her or have his son marry her. If the master did not go through with the wedding, he had to let the maid be redeemed. If he did go through with the wedding, but later added another wife, like a free woman, he was not allowed to diminish the care of his first wife or she could force him to divorce her so she could become another man's wife. The rabbis reasoned that if a servant woman had those rights, how much more so did a free woman.

So perhaps a wife can divorce a husband for failure to provide and care for her and the guilt of the violation of her chastity upon remarriage will be laid upon her husband since he failed to provide and care for her.

 

 

 

Table of Gospel Passages on Divorce and Remarriage

The table on the next page summarizes the four passages on divorce and remarriage in the gospels.

 

Seven cases are presented:

Husband divorces guilty wife and she remarries

Husband divorces innocent wife and she remarries

Husband divorces guilty wife and both remarry

Husband divorces innocent wife and both remarry

Husband divorces wife and he remarries

Wife divorces husband and she remarries

Husband divorces wife and both remarry

 

In each case, the actual, technical adultery and violation of a wife’s chastity always occurs between the divorced woman and the man she remarries.

But when a husband divorces an innocent wife, the guilt of any future adultery of his wife is laid to this account at the time of the divorce, because he, “causeth her to commit adultery,” Mt5:32, by endangering her chastity.

And when a husband divorces an innocent wife and remarries, he is counted guilty of adultery at the time of his remarriage, by failing to continue to provide the physical care and conjugal rights for the preservation of the chastity of his wife after marrying another. “If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish,” Ex21:10.


Put this in 1 Cor 7?

While a divorced woman is still one flesh with her x-husband, chastity calls upon her to reconcile with him. But 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 may imply that a divorced woman is not required to remain unmarried after reconciliation becomes unfeasible. "Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband." If it had said, “let her be reconciled to her husband or remain unmarried,” it might indicate that if reconciliation fails only singleness is left. But by saying, “remain unmarried or be reconciled,” in that order, it may indicate that if reconciliation is no longer feasible, remarriage may be advisable. Besides that, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 is only talking about the case where the woman is the one who does the divorcing.

A godly woman may fight hard against a divorce before it happens, but afterwards it might be wisest for her to look at the divorce as freedom from an oppressive marriage rather than be too quick to reconcile; “let him write her a bill of divorcement … and when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife,” Deut24:1-2.

Paul specifically allowed a believer who was divorced by an unbeliever to remarry. “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace,” 1Cor7:15. So it’s not the case that remarriage is never permitted. And a believer who was divorced by another believer should probably also feel no bondage once there is little hope of reconciliation and a good remarriage.

Singleness is always preferable to marriage, but only for, "he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will," 1Cor7:37.  "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband," 1Cor7:2. Singleness is better than marriage ('remarriage' is just called 'marriage' in the Bible), but marriage is better than fornication. "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned," 1Cor7:27-28.

Don't you think Paul would have explicitly forbidden remarriage to those who are divorced in 1 Corinthians 7 if that was God's will? But forbidding remarriage would have gone against God's will to provide marriage, which is honorable and undefiled, to avoid fornication.

Once a woman’s chastity is violated by her becoming one flesh with a second husband, subsequent lovemaking with him can no longer violate her chastity. From that time on, the second husband is the one to whom Romans 7:1-4 applies, and now she must not have physical relations with anyone but him so long as they live. To divorce her second husband and go back to her first husband would be adultery, “her former husband … may not take her again,” Deut24:1-4. Once a person remarries, it's just as wrong for that marriage to end in divorce as for a previous marriage.

Incest may require a man and woman cease physical relations rather than marry. Paul told the Corinthian church they were guilty of condoning "fornication such as is not so much as named among Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife [his stepmother]," 1Cor5:1. The Law also forbade that relationship, "The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness," Lev18:8. Paul commanded the Corinthian church to disassociate themselves from that man. "I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral ... not even to eat with such a person, ... put away from yourselves the evil person," 1Cor5:11-12.

The Corinthian Church followed Paul's advice and the man repented; so Paul urged them to welcome him back. "This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him ... lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices," 2Cor2:6-11.

Remarriage was certainly more frequent in the early church than incest with a stepmother, but you never hear Paul telling the church to disassociate themselves from remarried people, which he would have commanded if it was adultery to remain remarried.

1Cor7 – Remarriage

In 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul says, "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband," 1Cor7:2. Some believers are so concerned about avoiding one act of adultery by remarriage, mostly because of the ‘invalid divorce’ misinterpretation, that they live an entire life of lust and fornication instead. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,” Heb13:4.

In 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, Paul says, “I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn [with lust].” I think the natural use of the word “unmarried” here includes divorced women. If Paul wanted to deny remarriage to divorced people, or to some subset of divorced people, 1 Corinthians 7 would have been the place to mention them.

In 1 Corinthians 7:13-15, Paul says, “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. … But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Paul says it’s ok for a believer to remarry if their unbelieving spouse divorces them, and the violation of the wife’s chastity at remarriage will be charged to the unbelieving divorcing spouse. This is another confirmation of the principle Jesus gave in Matthew 5:32, that God looks at the whole picture as to what part each person plays in causing a divorce, and adultery is sometimes laid to the account of someone other than the person who actually commits the adultery.

Eph5 - Why Only Men Can Have More Than One Spouse

Ephesians 5:21-6:9. "[ALL:] Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. [HUSBAND/WIFE RELATIONSHIP:] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. … [PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIP:] Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. … And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. [MASTER/ SERVANT RELATIONSHIP:] Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh. … And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven."

There are three parallel superior/inferior relationships listed in this passage, not superior/inferior in value, but in position and role: the Husband/Wife Relationship, the Parent/Child Relationship, and the Master/Servant Relationship. These same three relationships are repeated in the same order in Colossians 3:14-4:1.

"[ALL] Above all these things put on charity. … [HUSBAND/WIFE RELATIONSHIP:] Wives, submit to your own husbands. ... Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. [PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIP:] Children, obey your parents in all things. ... Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. [MASTER/SERVANT RELATIONSHIP:] Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh. ... Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair."

In all three relationships, the inferior position is mentioned first, and the superior position is mentioned second.  In all three relationships, there can only be one person in the superior role, but there can be more than one person in the inferior role. A father can have more than one child, but each child can have only one father; a master can have more than one servant, but each servant can have only one master; and a husband can have more than one wife, but each wife can have only one husband.

The reason there can be only one person in the superior role of each relationship is that, as Yeshua said, "no man can serve two masters," Mt6:24. A loving leader will look participatory rather than authoritarian since his goal is the welfare of those he leads, but to keep the relationship together in all situations only one person can have rightful authority. "Can two walk together except they be agreed," Amos3:3. If people walking together make their own decisions on which direction to go, they will end up walking alone.

A body can have more than one member, but it can only have one head. "He is the head of the body, the church," Col1:18. "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually," 1 Cor12:27. And a husband can have more than one wife, but a wife can only have one husband. "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and he is the savior of the body.”

If Christ can be one flesh with more than one believer at the same time, then a husband can be one flesh with more than one wife at the same time. “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh," Eph5:23-30.

These verses in Ephesians quote Genesis, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh," Gen2:24. How could an Old Testament verse teach polygamy was permitted in the Old Testament but not in the New Testament? No one in the Old Testament thought the “one flesh” of Genesis 2:24 taught against polygamy. And the verse was written by Moses, a polygamist, so the author certainly didn't intend it to prohibit polygamy. He should know what he meant by it better than we do.

A husband can be one flesh with more than one wife at the same time, just as God is one spirit with more than one of us at a time. You are one with God because you are in him and he is in you, and I am one with God because I am in him and he is in me. My being one with God does not hinder you from also being one with God. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me," Jn17:21.

Some people claim the Bible prohibits polygamy because God created only one wife for Adam. But how many wives should he have created for Adam to demonstrate that polygamy is permitted? If he created two wives for Adam, men would believe God requires them to marry exactly two, and that only one is not permitted. God created the perfect number of wives for Adam to show that monogamy is preferred but polygamy is permitted.

Also, God had other concerns in creating Eve than illustrating the number of wives a man is permitted to have. It is important that we all be descended from one man and one woman to demonstrate the brotherhood of men and so all men can be saved through one second Adam, for example. Even scientifically, mitochondrial DNA, the Eve gene, shows we are all descended from one created human couple, not from various gradual evolutionary sources. It was not necessary for God to create two women to show us he allows polygamy because he told us through the definition of adultery and the examples of the great men of God in the Bible.

Some people say the use of the definite article "the" and the singular noun "wife", as in "the husband is the head of the wife," Eph5:23, proves God's will is for monogamy only. But the previous verse, Eph5:22, said "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands." Does that mean marriage must be between multiple husbands and multiple wives as in polyamory? Phrases like “the woman” and “the man” in passages like "for as the woman [Eve] is of the man [Adam], even so is the man [all men except Adam] also by the woman," 1Cor11:12, mean all men are born of women, but says nothing about the number of male children each woman may have.

Matthew 10:24, "the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord," does not mean that Jesus had only one disciple. "The servant abideth not in the house for ever," Jn8:35, does not mean each household can have only one servant. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine," Jn15:4, does not mean that vines can have only one branch. "The brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child," Mt10:21, does not mean that brothers can have only one brother or fathers can have only one child.

If God had said, "Let each husband love his wives," men would have wrongly interpreted it to mean God requires polygamy rather than permits it. I guess he could have said, “Let each husband love his wife or wives,” but maybe that would underemphasize each husband’s one-on-one, unique relationship with each wife as though each were his only one. The man who had a thousand wives said, “There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her,” Song6:8-9.

Polygamous Families Have Lots of Problems

Some people say polygamous families in the Bible have so many problems it proves polygamy is against God's will. They say look at the rivalry between Sarah and Hagar, between Rachel and Leah, and between Hannah and Peninnah. It is true that polygamy creates some unique challenges, and polygamous families should share advice with each other. But most of the trouble in polygamous families comes from being families, not from being polygamous. Family life is usually messy.

It seems like polygamous families in the Bible have more trouble because, for the most part, they are the only ones we have much information about. It's like how Bible teachers usually portray the church of Corinth as the worst of all the churches because of the problems mentioned in 1st and 2nd Corinthians. But the Corinthian church is the only one whose meetings we get to sit in on. It would have been inappropriate for Paul to have aired the dirty laundry of the church in Rome in his letter to them about systematic theology or of the church in Ephesus in his letter to them about the mystery of Christ in heavenly places.

There is one monogamous family we know a lot about, that of Isaac and Rebekah; and it probably had more problems than any other in the Bible. Isaac showed favoritism towards Esau, and not for good reasons, while Rebekah favored Jacob. "Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison, but Rebekah loved Jacob," Gen25:28. Rebekah helped Jacob trick Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau, and when Esau found out, he decided to kill Jacob. Jacob fled to Haran and probably never saw his mother again during this lifetime. When Jacob returned to Canaan about twenty years later, he split his family into two groups so "if Esau come to the one company and smite it then the other company which is left shall escape," Gen32:8.

Some people say polygamy results in child brides and imprisoned women, and in some cults it does. We've all heard of teenage girls who were forced to marry the cult leaders and prevented from escaping to the outside world. But it's the forced marriages and imprisonment that are wrong, whether in monogamy or polygamy, and that should be litigated against, not polygamy itself. Both polygamy and monogamy are subject to abuse.

Is it really better for single mothers to be forced to raise their children alone because the law forbids them to marry a man who already has another wife? Under polygamy, all women who want to be married, can be married, and they are able to marry the best of the men, not the leftovers. Wars and a shorter life span for men always ensures there's more women than men available.

Even more significantly, not all men are marriage material. Women should have the option to skip over the crass, selfish men who are still children in men's bodies, and be able to marry a man who will love and care for them. With polygamy (actually polygyny), women are free to pick any man, even if he's already married; whereas men can only choose from among the single women.

It’s tragically sad that women often blame themselves for suffering which other people put on them. They are like abused children that need to understand not all parents are good, and the problem is with their moms and dads, not with themselves.

“I Need to Be in Love,” Carpenters

The hardest thing I've ever done
Is keep believing
There's someone in this crazy world for me …
My chance could come and I might never know

I used to say, no promises
Let's keep it simple
But freedom only helps you say goodbye …

I know I need to be in love
I know I've wasted too much time
I know I ask perfection of a quite imperfect world
And fool enough to think that's what I'll find

So here I am with pockets full of good intentions
But none of them will comfort me tonight
I'm wide awake at four a.m.
Without a friend in sight …

No, Karen Carpenter, it’s not your fault you’re alone. Your expectations are not unrealistically high. The problem is that society has been teaching men to be selfish and uncommitted, and it won’t allow women to become second wives to the ever shrinking supply of unselfish and committed men.

The Source of the Monogamy-Only Doctrine

We've seen the Bible does not condemn polygamy, so where does society’s "monogamy only" doctrine come from? The Western culture of the Greeks and Romans. prohibited polygamy centuries before Christianity. Only after the Roman emperor Constantine put a Christian veneer on the pagan religion of Roman and required everyone to follow the resulting Roman Catholic church did so-called 'Christianity' begin widespread prohibition of polygamy.

Columnist Michael E. Price posted an article on the Psychology Today website on Sep 09, 2011, entitled "Why We Think Monogamy Is Normal." He said, "Monogamy's spread in the West had something to do with the influence of Christianity, but not as much as you might expect. ... Socially imposed monogamy was first established in ancient Greece and Rome, centuries before Christianity even existed."

One of the big moral deficiencies of the "monogamy only" doctrine (or SIM, "Socially Imposed Monogamy," as the literature calls it), is that it always becomes "serial monogamy" in societies. Serial monogamy is like polygamy in that men marry more than one wife, but unlike polygamy in that the men divorce and remarry one wife after another rather than continuing to provide and care for a first wife after adding a second. There's an economic study called, "From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy," by David de la Croix and Fabio Mariani, 2015, in Review of Economic Studies, that shows there are even economic reasons for this progression in monogamous societies.

In "The History and Philosophy of Marriage," by James Campbell, 1869, he says, "The monogamy of the ancient Romans ... did not require their marriages to be permanent. Seduction, adultery, and whoredom were rather the rule than the exception among them; but marriage was for other and more important purposes than those of love. ... If a man could, at any time, form a new alliance which would give him more wealth or influence, he always felt himself at liberty to divorce his wife, and form that new alliance. ... Such were the frequency of their divorces, and the intricacy of their relationships caused by their numerous adoptions, that it has been almost impossible for the best historians and biographers to give us any intelligible account of their families." Campbell then went on to provide a sample of Roman monogamy via the six emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

46 BC Julias Caesar

Julias Caesar married a succession of four wives. He upgraded from his wealthy first wife, Cossutia, to marry Pompeia as soon as he attained some political influence at age eighteen. He divorced Pompeia because Marc Antony's son, Clodius, snuck into his home dressed as a woman to seduce her during a women's only religious event being held there. But as for Caesar himself, Suetonius says he committed adultery with many of the highest ranking ladies in Rome including Posthumia the wife of Servius Sulpitius, Lollia the wife of Aulus Gabinius, Tertullia the wife of Marcus Crassus, Mutia the wife of Pompey the Great, Eunoe the wife of Bogudes, Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, Servilia the mother of Marcus Brutus, and her daughter Tertia.

27 BC Augustus

Augustus was the son of Attia, the daughter of Julius Caesar's sister, Julia. He became emperor by defeating Pompey and Marc Antony after the assassination of Julias Caesar. He married a succession of four women. He divorced his third wife, Scribonia, on the day she gave birth to his only legitimate child, Julia; and he obtained his fourth wife, Livia, by making her husband, Tiberius Claudius Nero, divorce her, even though she had borne him two sons (including the next emperor, Tiberius) and was pregnant with his third child.

Augustus made his general, Agrippa, divorce his wife and marry Augustus' niece Marcella. Then after Marcella’s brother Marcellus died, who was married to Augustus’ daughter Julia; Augustus made Agrippa divorce his niece Marcella and marry his daughter Julia. After Agrippa himself died, he made his stepson Tiberius divorce Agrippa's daughter Vipsania and marry Julia.


 



 

Julia herself was so dissolute that eventually Augustus made Tiberius divorce her, and he banished her to the island of Pandateria. Marc Antony's son, Iullus, was executed as one of her lovers at that time. Augustus constantly employed men to pimp both married and unmarried women for him. He reportedly once took the wife of a dinner guest from beside her husband, raped her, and returned her visibly shaken before the meal was over.

14 AD Tiberius

Tiberius was of the Claudian family. He was not related by blood to Augustus, but he was his stepson (via his mother Livia, Augustus' wife), his son-in-law (via his wife Julia, Augustus' daughter), and his adopted son. The first thing Tiberius did when he came to power was to murder his wife Julia's son, Agrippa Posthumus, because Agrippa Posthumus was also an adopted son of Augustus.

Tiberius spent the last ten years of his twenty-three-year reign on the pleasure island of Capri where he lived in all manner of indescribable sexual uncleanness. While he was living at Capri, the head of his Praetorian Guard, Sejanus, who was the lover of Livilla, the wife of Tiberias' son Drusus, managed to get Drusus and others relatives of Tiberius murdered. Later, Tiberias retaliated and had Sejanus, Livillia, and the remainder of Julia's children killed, including the famous Agrippina and Julia the Younger, as well as many other nobility in a purge.

37 AD Caligula

Caligula, one of Julia's grandsons, was spared during Tiberias' purge, and spent the last six years of Tiberius' life living with him on Capri. He married a succession of four women. He also made his sister Drusilla's husband divorce her so he could live with her in incest. She died less than a year later so he built a temple for her worship and lived in incest with his other two sisters, Livilla and Agrippina, whom he also prostituted to his favorite male lovers.

Caligula obtained his second wife, Livia, by taking her from her wedding that he had been invited to. He divorced her three days later, but would not let her return to her fiancé. He obtained his third wife, Lollia, by ordering her husband, who was away with her in a foreign province, to divorce her and send her to him in Rome because he had heard people extol the beauty of her grandmother. He divorced her a year later to marry his pregnant mistress, Caesonia, who already had three illegitimate children from others.

Caligula held feasts for high ranking men and their wives, and would pick one of them to be sent to his bedroom at the end of the meal. He also opened a brothel in the palace to supplement the royal income and filled it with high-ranking, married and single, noble women to serve as prostitutes. After only four years of rule, he and his family were assassinated.

41 AD Claudius

Claudius was Caligula's uncle. He married six times. When he became emperor, he divorced his fourth wife to marry his pregnant mistress, Messalina, who has been called the Roman Jezebel for her lust and cruelty. She committed adultery with many chief officers, and forced many respectable married women to prostitute themselves. Eventually, she plotted with one of her lovers to kill Claudius, and was discovered and executed.

Next Claudius forced the senate to legalize marriages between uncles and nieces so he could marry his niece Agrippina the Younger. Agrippina then made the fiancé of Claudius' daughter Octavia divorce her, so she could marry her to her own son Nero from a previous marriage to Gnaeus. Agrippina also got Claudius to adopt Nero, and then poisoned Claudius, making her son Nero emperor.

54 AD Nero

After Nero became emperor, he developed a passion for an Asian freed-woman named Acte. Agrippina thought this might weaken her motherly influence, so she threatened her son Nero that if didn’t stop seeing Acte, she would use her influence as daughter of the beloved general Germanicus, to have the army put Claudius' son Britaniccus into power. Instead, Nero had Britaniccus poisoned. Next Nero became infatuated with Poppaea, whose husband was away as governor of Portugal. Agrippina complained so much about this new threat to her influence that Nero decided to have his mother killed. First he sent her to sea in a ship that was designed to fall apart, but she survived the shipwreck. Then he sent assassins to her apartment who killed her.

Nero then divorced Octavia and married Poppaea, but he feared the complaints of the people, so he divorced Poppaea and married Octavia again. After obtaining false witnesses that Octavia had committed adultery, he divorced her again, and had her banished to the island of Pandataria, where he had her killed and her head sent to Poppaea. He married Poppaea again, who bore him his only child, a daughter, who lived only lived a few months.

The following year Nero (it is suspected) burned Rome, with great loss of life in the narrow, twisting streets and fast spreading flames, and then blamed the fire on the Christians and began a horrid persecution of them. Poppaea died when Nero kicked her in the stomach in a fit of rage while she was in a late stage of pregnancy. Nero then had the husband of Statilia Messilina killed so he could marry her. He soon divorced her, and successively married two men. He committed suicide after ruling for fourteen years, and the Julio-Claudian dynasty (thankfully) came to an end.

So which was godlier, the monogamy of the Roman Emperors, or the polygamy of the Israelite kings? Israel's law required a man to add a second wife, if need be, rather than divorce his first wife. You might think the modern prohibition against polygamy comes from Jesus' teaching about divorce, but modern Bible teachers would not be so quick to interpret Jesus' words as prohibiting polygamy if they were not already indoctrinated by thousands of years of Roman culture.

Single mother households are plentiful in the West because Western societies see nothing wrong with a man having physical relations with an unlimited number of women so long as he does not commit to them, marry them, and provide for them (at which point it becomes bigamy). The world also hates polygamy, at least in its normal form of polygyny, because it hates patriarchy and all authority structures. It's part of the "mystery of lawlessness," 2Thes2:7 ASV, at work in preparation for the dictatorship of the anti-Christ; and Bible teachers go right along with the world's egalitarian culture instead of rebuking our culture by the Bible.

Practical Considerations About Polygamy

Just because polygamy isn't immoral, doesn't mean it's practical. As sinful men, we cannot care adequately even for one woman to the extent each deserves our attention. There are significant challenges for anyone who thinks their situation might call for a polygamous solution. Godly Christians in polygamous marriages are available online to talk to about how they navigate daily life in modern society.

Just because the Bible permits polygamy doesn’t mean the cultural and legal risks can be ignored. "We ought to obey God rather than men," Acts5:29; but be we are also to be "wise as serpents, harmless as doves." If you marry a second wife to protect and provide for her and to maintain her chastity, and you end up in jail because of it, then you end up harming even your first wife.

If a couple in China breaks the law to try to save their child from a state-ordered abortion, the Bible supports their decision. But even Moses parents could only hide him for a while before they put him in a homemade boat on the Nile and hoped for a miracle, which God provided when Pharaoh's daughter found and adopted him, Ex2:1-10. Polygamy is illegal in all Western countries; and the world vehemently hates polygyny because of its hatred of Biblical patriarchy and all authority structures.

Because Bible teachers interpret the Bible according to our modern culture instead of according to the text of the Bible alone, even a godly wife will usually think polygamy is sinful and will not accept a second wife into the family. If you lose your first wife because you tried to obey the Bible, then you've done worse than just following our culture.

It broke Abraham's heart to send Hagar and Ishmael away at the insistence of Sarah, and I think he would have provided them more than bread and a bottle of water if he hadn't had God's assurance of their safety. "The thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman. ... Of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation. ... And Abraham ... took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba," Gen21:11-14.

Unfortunately, other women aren’t guaranteed the miraculous preservation Hagar received, but many may have to be sent away like Hagar was because of this cruel, heartless world we live in. Only the return of the Lord to establish the Messianic Kingdom can bring relief to the vulnerable of this world.

In a perfect world, we probably wouldn’t need polygamy. God's marriage with Israel and Judah occurred because the kingdom split in two after Solomon - not something that happens frequently. Jacob's marriage with Leah and Rachel occurred when the wrong bride was slipped into the dark bedroom, which also doesn't happen frequently. When fornication occurs, ideally there would be a marriage even if the man is already married, but fornication shouldn't happen in the first place.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn't write about polygamy to promote it, but because the cultural perspectives of modern Bible teachers have skewed their interpretations of scripture away from what would otherwise be obvious in the Bible. Every misinterpretation of scripture causes significant harm to people, and so we need to reconsider this topic today regardless of the risks and difficulties. Teachers that don't understand that the Biblical definition of adultery allows polygamy cannot rightly understand Jesus' teachings on divorce and remarriage, and untold suffering has been inflicted on conscientious believers because of misinterpretations about these issues.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 – Submission: The Headcovering and Lord's Supper Ordinances of 1 Corinthians 11

The Structure of 1 Corinthians 11

"Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you," 1Cor11:2.  "Now ... I praise you not, that ye come together ... not to eat the Lord's supper [but your own suppers]," 1Cor11:17-20.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul used the word "Now" to introduce new topics. For example, 1Cor7:1, "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me." 1Cor8:1, "Now as touching things offered unto idols." 1Cor12:1, "Now concerning spiritual gifts." 1Cor15:1, "Moreover (Greek, 'Now'), brethren, I declare unto you the gospel." 1Cor16:1, "Now concerning the collection for the saints." 1 Corinthians Chapter 11 should start in verse 2, "Now I praise you, brethren, that ... you keep the ordinances."

1 Corinthians Chapter 11 is divided into two halves by the phrases, "I praise you" in verse 2, and "I praise you not" in verse 17. The first half of the chapter is about the Headcovering ordinance, "having his head covered," 1Cor11:4; and the second half is about the Lord's Supper ordinance, "when ye come together ... to eat the Lord's Supper," 1Cor11:20. Paul praised the Corinthian church that they were doing a good job keeping the Headcovering ordinance, but he started scolding them in verse 17 that they were not doing a good job as to how they observed the Lord's Supper.

The incorrect interpretations of the first half of 1 Corinthians 11 say that Paul was scolding the Corinthian sisters for not wearing headcoverings or for having short hair, but these interpretations are incorrect because Paul is praising, not scolding, the Corinthians in the first half of the chapter.

Bible teachers love to talk about how bad the church at Corinth was, but Paul praised the Corinthians that they remembered him in all things. The letter to the Corinthians is a letter about the local church, and local churches are messy. The epistle to the Romans is about the systematic theology of salvation, and the book of Ephesians is about the mystery of the universal church. It would be out of place to discuss church problems in those letters, but if Paul had discussed church problems in those letters we might think those churches were pretty bad too. If Paul had written a letter to your local assembly, the letter to the Corinthians might pale in comparison.

Also, since the two halves of chapter 11 are joined together by the phases "I praise you" (v. 2) and "I praise you not" (v. 17), we can assume the Headcovering ordinance, like the Lord's Supper ordinance, is to be observed "when ye come together in the church," 1Cor11:18. 1 Corinthians 11:2 begins a major section in the book of 1 Corinthians about church meeting issues that include 1) Chapter 11 about "The Ordinances" and 2) Chapters 12-14 about "Spiritual Gifts." 1Cor12:1, "Now concerning spiritual gifts." 1Cor14:23, "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues." The Headcovering ordinance is about how women are to dress in church meetings, not about how they are to dress or wear their hair in society.

Apostolic Ordinances

"Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you," 1Cor11:2.

The Headcovering and Lord's Supper ordinances of 1Corinthians 11 were part of the "all things" (11:2) that Paul had taught the Corinthians, and that he taught every church. "For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, ... who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church," 1Cor4:17. Therefore, neither the Headcovering nor the Lord's Supper ordinances are about cultural things local to Corinth at that time, but are applicable to "every church," (4:17) in every age.

The words "ordinances" and "delivered" in verse 2 are the noun and verb forms of the same Greek word, meaning to 'transmit', or 'deliver.' Verse 2 could be translated "ye ... keep the deliveries, as I delivered them to you." The verb form is also used regarding the Lord's Supper in verse 23, "for I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered [ordinanced] unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread ...." The verb form is also used regarding the gospel in chapter 15, "I declare unto you the gospel ... for I delivered [ordinanced, transmitted] unto you first of all that which I also received," 1Cor15:1-3.

These are all apostolic ordinances that the apostles received directly from the Lord and delivered to the churches. The word "apostle" is a transliteration of the Greek word meaning "representative" or "messenger." Sometimes a church like the church of Antioch would send out messengers to help other churches, "they are the messengers ['apostolos'] of the churches," 2Cor8:23. But Paul was not only an apostle of the church of Antioch, but he was also an apostle of Jesus Christ having been chosen directly by Jesus Christ as his representative. "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ," Gal1:1. There were only twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, and as his representatives they had his authority.

The other eleven apostles probably received these ordinances during the time they spent with the Lord in Galilee after his resurrection, when he "through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen, ... being seen of them forty days," Acts1:2-3. Paul received these ordinances directly from the resurrected Lord, probably when he "went into Arabia" (Gal1:17) shortly after his conversion. "And last of all, he [Jesus] was seen of me also, as one born out of due time," 1Cor15:8.

Paul said of the gospel, "the gospel which was preached of me is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ,"Gal1:12. He probably received knowledge of the Headcovering ordinance, and the Lord's Supper ordinance directly from the Lord during that same period that he was taught the fullness of the gospel. Paul delivered these apostolic transmissions to the Corinthians when he founded the church as recorded in Acts 18, "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; ... and he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them," Acts18:1,11.

So the Headcovering ordinance is no more about some cultural practice, like the hair length of temple prostitutes in Corinth, than the Lord's Supper or the gospel are. The Headcovering, the Lord's Supper, and the gospel are all apostolic ordinances, received directly from the Lord and transmitted to the churches.

The Authority of Men

"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God," 1Cor11:3.

The word "but" in verse 3 does not indicate that Paul is ceasing to praise the Corinthians at this point, because he does not stop praising them until verse 17 when he says, "Now ... I praise you not." What Paul is saying in verse 3 is that, even though the Corinthians are keeping the Headcovering ordinance correctly, and even though he has nothing but praise for them about it, he wants them to "know," (1Cor11:3), more about it, so they will gain even more benefit of its observance. Today, many churches share a brief meditation about the meaning of the Lord's Supper before or during its observance, so that people understand it's symbolism. Occasional meditations on the meaning of the Headcovering ordinance are important for the same reason.

Verse 3 describes the chain of command from God - to Christ - to Man - to Woman. God has placed man in the position of authority directly under Christ. One must be under authority to be in authority, as the Roman Centurion understood: "I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it," Mt8:9.

The Greek word translated "man" in verse 3 can mean either 'male' or 'husband'. We know it means 'male' in this passage because if it were consistently translated as 'husband', some verses would not make sense. Like verse 12, "for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman" means that all 'males' are born of 'females,' not that all 'husbands' are born of 'wives'. Even bachelors are born of women; and not all mothers are married; but all males are born of females. And "if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him," 1Cor11:14, does not mean that having long hair is shameful for husbands, but not for bachelors.

But the startling word of verse 3 is the word "every," "the head of every man is Christ." In this authority structure in the physical realm, Christ is the head of every male, even unsaved males; and he is not the direct head of any females, even saved females. In the spiritual realm, both males and females "speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ," Eph4:15. We know this headship of Christ over males exists only in the physical realm, because in the spiritual realm, "there is neither male nor female,"Gal3:28. But there certainly are males and females in the physical realm, or homosexuality would not be wrong.

In Israel, even ungodly males, like Caiaphas, Mt26:57-65, were able to be priests; but not even godly females were able to be priests.  And in the church, even ungodly males, like Judas, Mt10:4, could be apostles; but not even godly females could be apostles. By the chain of command of verse 3, we can see that God has appointed that men are to rule in the home, the church, and society.

HOME: "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, ... therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing," Eph5:23-24. It is true that Ephesians 5:21 says we are all to be "submitting yourselves to one another," but the way we submit must be different according to our roles. The husband submits by sacrificing his own welfare for the wife, whereas the wife submits by sacrificing her will for her husband. "Wives, submit ... husbands, love," Eph5:22,25. It would be no more appropriate for a husband to submit to his wife by submission and obedience than it would be for Christ to submit to the church by submission and obedience. By the way, wives are never commanded to love their husbands, but only to "be 'affectionate' (Greek) to their husbands," Titus2:4.

CHURCH: Only males can be pastors and deacons. "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ... that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" 1Tim3:1-5. "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well,"1Tim3:8-12. The KJV is correct to 'translate' Romans16:1 to read "Phebe our sister, which is a 'servant' of the church" instead of 'transliterating' it to read 'deaconess,' since deacons must be males.

SOCIETY: Deborah was a prophetess that judged Israel, but she made her prophecies in private under a palm tree while Barak lead the armies, Jdg4:4-5:31. God says that when women teach or rule, society suffers. "The LORD of hosts doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah ... the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. ... As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths," Is3:1-12.

Even a good woman in public office would do more harm than good because of the example it would set. "Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command ..., therefore was the king very wroth, ... then the king said to the wise men ... what shall we do ... and Memucan answered ... this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes. ... Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. ... Let there go a royal commandment ... that Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. And … all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. And the saying pleased the king and ... he sent letters into all the king's provinces, … that every man should bear rule in his own house ... After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti," Esth1:12-2:1. The king was wrong to act hastily in his "wrath" and was wrong in his treatment of Vashti, but his "wise men" were right in their philosophy of male leadership, and I think the Bible shows support by recording so much detail.

Contrast Vashti with her replacement, Queen Esther. "Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, … who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity. … And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter … And the king [Ahasuerus] loved Esther above all the women, and ... he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. … Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him," Est2:5-7,17,20. Esther had not only become married, but had also become queen of the Persian empire, and yet she still rendered submission and obedience, to the extent it did not conflict with her husband, to her adopted father.

The Submission of Women

"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God," 1Cor11:3.2.

There is a layer of authority between Christ and woman in the chain of command: God - Christ - Man - Woman. How can this be when we know "there is one mediator between God and men ['people' in Greek], the man ['person' in Greek] Christ Jesus," 1Tim2:5? The answer is that 1 Timothy 2:5 is talking about salvation and spiritual things, "God our Savior desires all men ['people' in Greek] to be saved ... for there is one mediator,"1Tim2:5. But the chain of command is talking about the offices that man, woman, and Christ hold in the physical realm.

The Greek word translated "woman" in verse 3 can mean either 'female' or 'wife'. We know that it means 'female' in this passage because if we consistently translated it as 'wife', some verses would not make sense. "As the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman," 1Cor11:12, means all men are born of women, not that all men are born of wives. 'Male' is the head of 'female' whether a woman ever marries or not, because all women have 3 special ministries in their roles as women: modest dress, quietness, and submission.

HOME: Peter covered the 3 ministries of women as they relate to the home in 1 Peter 3. "Likewise, ye wives ... (Modest Dress:) whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, (Quietness:) even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, (Submission:) being in subjection to their own husbands: even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord," 1Pet3:1-6. Sarah thought of her husband as her lord. Her thoughts are recorded in Gen18:12, "Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord [Abraham] being old also?"

God speaks despairingly of showiness and excess in women's dress. "In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails," Is3:18-23.

The quietness and submission aspects in this 1 Peter passage also mean that wives are not allowed to teach their husbands. "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [from French 'conversari,' meaning conduct, not words] of the wives; while they behold [not hear] your chaste conversation coupled with fear," 1Pet3:1-2. Some Catholic monks so valued the virtue of quietness that they took vows of silence. They were wrong to do so however, because this ministry (in a less extreme form) belongs to women, not men.

CHURCH: Paul covered the 3 ministries of women as they relate to the church in 1 Corinthians. "Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth (Modest Dress:) with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head ... let her be covered,"1Cor11:5-6. "Let your women (Quietness:) keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; (Submission:) but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law," 1Cor14:34.

The quietness and submission aspects also prohibit women from teaching in the church. God has approved no women as Bible teachers, even for other women. Titus 2:4-5 is the only reference to teaching responsibilities for women. "The aged women," Titus2:3, all of them, not just certain ones that are 'teachers,' are to "teach the young women," Titus2:4. If every older woman should teach, then no older woman has an office of teaching. And the older women are not to be Bible teachers, per se, but "teachers of good things," Titus2:3; specifically, of the special ministries of women "to be sober, to be affectionate (Greek) towards their husbands, to be affectionate (Greek) towards their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands,"Titus2:4-5.

Priscilla had a part, along with her husband Aquila, in clarifying some things to Apollos, but "they took him unto them," Acts18:26, speaking with him in the privacy of their home. Women are an invaluable asset in private discussions about even the heaviest topics and even in mixed groups, but they are not to be Bible teachers of even all-female groups. The women, as much as the men, need the teaching of the men God has provided by his grace to teach the church. The women should not be separated out to sit under women teachers. "And he gave some ... teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," Eph4:11-12.

SOCIETY: Paul covered the 3 ministries of women as they relate to society in 1 Timothy 2. All of 1 Timothy 2 describes how we should behave in society. Paul does start talking about our roles in the church until 1 Timothy 3:1, "If a man desire the office of a bishop," etc.

1 Timothy chapter 3 has 3 parts:

1) All People in 1Timothy 2:1-7. God's desires that, "prayers... be made for all people (Greek), ... who will have all people (Greek) to be saved." Salvation is God's desire for people everywhere, not just in church.

2) Men in 1Timothy 2:8: "I will therefore that men ('males' in Greek) pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands." Males are not permitted to be silent. Public prayer is God's will for males, but not females, "everywhere," not just in church.

3) Women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. "In like manner also, (Modest Dress:) that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls,or costly array; but, which becometh women professing godliness, with good works. (Quietness:) Let the woman learn in silence (Submission:) with all subjection," 1Tim2:9-11.

God desires modesty, quietness, and submission for women in every place, not just in church. The quietness and submission aspects also mean that a woman cannot teach men even in secular society, "but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence," 1Tim2:12. Women are to do "good works," 1Tim2:10, everywhere, not just in church. And women are not permitted to "teach, nor to usurp authority over the man,"1Tim2:12, anywhere, not just in church.

Authority Structures in the Godhead

"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God," 1Cor11:3.2.

The office of Christ shows that authority structures are good, because they exist even in the Godhead. This is the ultimate argument against every egalitarian opposition to authority structures.

Authority structures are always comprised of one superior and one or more inferiors (inferior in position, not value), whether we are talking about God and Christ, Christ and the church, man and woman, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters (employers) and servants (employees), or governments and the governed (Eph5:22-29, Col3:18-4:1, 1Pet2:13-3:7). The basic duties are the same for all superiors and all inferiors. A superior is responsible to lead, love, give, speak, teach, command, and send, for example; while an inferior is responsible to follow, submit, receive, listen, learn, obey, and go, for example.

In value and essence, Christ is equal to God the Father in every way. Jesus, "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God," Phil2:6. But externally, and in position, Jesus functions in the role that a son does to a father. The Father gives, the Son receives, "so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself," Jn5:26. The Father teaches; the Son learns, "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me," Jn8:28. The Father sends; the Son goes, "he that sent me is with me," Jn8:28. The Father commands; the Son obeys, "I do always those things that please him," Jn8:29.

From eternity past, Christ functioned as the Son of God. Rm1:3-4, "his Son... which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness." Who was it that was made of the seed of David and became flesh? It was the person who already was "his Son" as the beginning of the verse states. Also, he had to be "made" "of the seed of David according to the flesh", but he only had to be "declared" "to be the Son of God" that he already was from eternity past. And for eternity future, Christ will remain in an inferior position to the Father. "And when all things shall be subdued unto him [the Son], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [God] that put all things under him [the Son], that God may be all in all," 1Cor15:28.

Likewise, woman's subordination to man did not begin at the fall when God said "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," Gen3:16, anymore than man's labor began at the fall when God said "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,"Gen3:19. Man started laboring when God first created him and "put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it," Gen2:8; and woman was created as "an help," Gen2:18, for Adam when she was created. What changed at the fall was that man's labor and woman's subordination to man became wearisome instead of always being easy and delightful as it was before sin entered the world at the fall.

And woman's submission to man, like Christ's submission to the Father, will not end at Christ's return. That's why only males will be in leadership positions in the Messianic Kingdom. The 12 apostles (all males) will "sit upon twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel," Mt19:28; Israel will "serve ... David [a male] their king, whom I will raise up [resurrect] unto them," Jer30:9; the priests in the millennial temple, "the sons [male] of Zadok ... shall enter into my sanctuary ... to minister unto me," Ez44:15-16. Women will not receive any cities to rule during the Messianic Kingdom as a reward for faithful service during this present time, as some men will, "thou good servant ... have thou authority over ten cities," Lk19:17. But women's rewards will be just as rewarding, like eternal glory, recognition, and opportunities for service.

This is not to say that any specific male-female relationships, like a husband and wife relationship, will continue forever because, "in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage," Mt22:23-33. A husband's authority ends at death, "for the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband [only] so long as he liveth," Rm7:2.

The Goodness of Authority Structures

Modern men deride authority and inequality; but inequality is essential for unity. Without inequality, there can be no unity, for each person would wander his own way. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Amos3:3. Someone has to give up the direction he wants to go, or soon both will be walking alone. A woman, in submission, chooses to follow the man; the man, in love and self-sacrifice, chooses to lead in the direction that is best for the welfare of the woman rather than that which is best for himself.

Before the creation of all created things, "The Word was with God," Jn1:1, in perfect harmony and unity. "I and my Father are one,"Jn10:30. The Son is always metaphorically "in the bosom of the Father," Jn1:18. Perfect unity can only exist where there is a superior who loves with perfect unselfishness, and an inferior who submits in perfect obedience, as within the Godhead.

Vertical relationships, not horizontal ones, bind people together. We are one with each other in the church only because we are all in Christ our Lord. Until the Lord returns, authority relationships will be susceptible to abuse; but the problem is not with authority relationships, but rather with our sin and weakness. Authority relationships will not be removed in the future, but the sin and weakness will be removed, and then such inequalities will be blessed indeed, as they are now within the Godhead.

The Lord gave the church the Headcovering ordinance to help preserve the church in this age when, "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,"2Thes2:7. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy," 2Tim3:1-2.

Authority relationships exist in the physical or external realm, not the spiritual. God said a husband and wife are "one flesh," Eph5:31; not 'one spirit'. Physical things are important; though not as important as spiritual things. "The time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not," 1Cor7:30.

There is no spiritual advantage to being placed in a superior or inferior position. More authority means more responsibility. It is how we use the vessels, whether weaker or stronger; and the offices, whether higher or lower; that we have been placed in, that is important and that determines eternal rewards. "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it," 1Cor7:20-21. Paul did not deserve to be an apostle; God picked him by grace (1Tim1:15; 1Cor15:10). Are we envious of the Apostle Paul because he is an apostle and we are not?

Most things in this life, like washing a pot, are neither moral nor immoral, but amoral and neutral. However, when we perform a work, like washing a pot, in submission to authority, we are not only washing a pot, but also obeying the word of God to submit to authority. We receive no reward for washing the pot, because it just gets dirty again, (as the book of Ecclesiastes teaches us, "all is vanity"), but at the same time, obeying the word of God to submit to authority is a spiritual act, that produces eternal rewards. So being under authority gives us a chance to turn amoral, neutral works, that would pass away, into spiritual works, that will last forever, and "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Women can "rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in all things give thanks," 1Thes5:16-18, just as well as men, and these are the kinds of things that really matter. Women have performed some of the greatest spiritual works that have ever been done. Only a woman believed Jesus when he said he was going to die, and she anointed him for his burial. "For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her," Mt26:12-13.

And only a woman was given the privilege of, not merely being the first to see Jesus after his resurrection, but to see him before he even ascended to the Father to offer his blood in the heavenly tabernacle. "Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her," Jn20:16-18.

Men Cannot Have Anything On Their Heads During Meetings

In verses 2 and 3, we've looked at the philosophical basis that underlies the Headcovering Ordinance. We've seen the goodness of authority structures, even within the Godhead, and considered the unique roles of men and women in the chain-of-command from God, to Christ, to man, to woman. And we saw that the reception and practice of the observance is part of the church's submission to apostolic authority. Now we are ready to consider how to actually practice the observance in verses 4 to 6.

"Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not <covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered," 1Cor11:4-6.

The headcovering garment symbolizes the position of man and woman in the chain of command of verse 3: God – Christ – Man – Woman. During the church meeting, women wear a physical garment to symbolize their position in the chain of command. The prayer and prophesy parts of the church meeting are specifically mentioned in verses 4 and 5 because they are the activities that seem to violate the position of women in the chain-of-command. When we pray, we pray directly to the Father; and when people prophesy, they receive prophesy directly from God. The Headcovering observance reminds the church that, although women pray directly to God, and receive prophesy directly from God, we still recognize and honor the chain of command which God has ordained.

Prayer is man talking to God, and prophecy is God talking to man. Or we could say, prayer is man representing man to God, and prophecy is man representing God to man. Both prayer and prophecy involve authority. Christ granted all Christians authority to pray in his name. "In that day ... whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you; hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name,"Jn16:23-24.

By the way, here we see that we pray to the Father in Jesus name. We do not pray to Christ. I cannot find a single instance in the New Testament of anyone praying to Christ. Jesus taught us to say "Our Father ...," Mt6:9. "Seeing that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, ... let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,"Heb4:16. We don't pray to, but rather through, a high priest.

Christ gave some Christians authority to prophesy. "When he ascended up on high, he ... gave gifts unto men, ... and he gave some ... prophets,"Eph4:8-11. Prophecy is always direct divine revelation, and is equally authoritative with scripture. The issue is not 'foretelling' vs. 'forth telling,' but rather direct revelation vs. commentary. We are not talking about mere preaching or teaching here. People that preach or teach are called "evangelists, ... pastors and teachers," Eph4:11, not prophets. We are not talking about merely expounding on scripture, but of speaking with authority equal to scripture, "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes," Mt7:29.

Prayer is the humblest and most widespread of authorities given to people; it's been given to all. Prophecy is the greatest (besides being an apostle of Christ) and rarest of authorities given to people; it was given to only a few, "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, ... diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?... Do all speak with tongues? ... But covet earnestly the best gifts,"1Cor12:30.

"Having his head covered,"1Cor11:4. The word "covered" is not in the Greek of verse 4 about men. Verse 4 has only the Greek word "kata," meaning "down upon."  "Kata" is used in the passage where Mary of Bethany came to Jesus with the alabaster box of ointment and "poured it on ['kata'] his head," Mk14:3. A literal translation of verse 4 would be "having upon his head," but we need to add the word "anything" or "something" to make it proper English; "having anything upon his head," or as the NASV translates it, having "something on his head."

According to verse 4, a man must not have 'anything' on his head; merely not 'covering' his head would still be a violation. Wearing even a small kippah or skullcap, as our dear Messianic Jewish brethren do, is prohibited. On the other hand, men can have their own hair on their heads, because hair is part of the head. Some Catholic monks went so far as to shave a circle of hair off the top of their heads to avoid having anything on their heads, but if verse 4 was talking about hair, men would be required to shave all the hair off their heads, because they are not permitted to have anything on their heads during the observance.

So we see already that this chapter is not about hair. It would not be much of a church meeting observance if men always had shaved heads and then just came to meetings that way. We also see this chapter is not about forbidding women to look like Corinthian temple prostitutes, as some have supposed, because Paul deals with the men and their part in the observance first, not the women.

"Dishonoureth his head,"1Cor11:4. There is a certain amount honor that rightly accompanies authority, "thou ... hast crowned him with glory and honour, thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things under his feet," Ps8:5-6. But if Christ has appointed you to a position of authority, it is not humility, but rather dishonor, to deny it. For a man to have anything on his head during the Headcovering observance would be to symbolize that males are not in authority directly under Christ.

Men are to be the leaders in the church. The burden of the ministry rests on them. Some of them do not want to step forward and "pray everywhere lifting up holy hands," 1Tim2:8, but they must do so anyway. Some may wish they had the ministry of silence that women have, but they must speak out. God has given them authority, and authority always carries responsibility.

Men cannot avoid responsibility by pretending they don't have authority. "He which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant," Mt25:24-26.

We've all heard it said that women have to take on church ministries, because the men aren't doing them. This does more harm than good, because then the men feel even less need to step forward and do the work. The bare heads of the men during the Headcovering ordinance proclaim 'the buck stops here'.

There is nothing inherently dishonorable about a man praying with something on his head. Before the Headcovering ordinance was delivered to the church, the high priest had to wear a miter and all the other priests had to wear bonnets when they ministered in the tabernacle and temple. "Thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen [for Aaron the high priest] ... and for Aaron's sons thou shalt make ... bonnets," Ex28:39-40.

The 24 elders of Revelation 4 may indicate church men who will continue to remove their crowns whenever there is a worship service in heaven. "When [at certain times] those beasts [Cherubim] give glory and honor and thanks to him ... the four and twenty elders fall down before him ... and worship him ... and cast their crowns before the throne," Rev4:9-11.

But when the Lord returns, the Headcovering ordinance, like the Lord's Supper ordinance, will end, "ye do show the Lord's death, till he come," 1Cor11:26. In the Messianic Kingdom, the priests will again cover their heads when they minister. "But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, ... shall enter into my sanctuary, ... they shall have linen bonnets upon their heads," Ez44:15-18.

Things that are inherently wrong, like pride and theft, are wrong in every time and place. Other things, which are external in nature, like dietary regulations, are wrong only during the time and for the people that God prohibits them. God told Adam that he could eat only plants, "I have given you every herb ... for meat [KJV meaning 'food']," Gen1:29; then he told Noah he could eat meat, "every moving thing that liveth shall be meat [KJV meaning 'food'] for you," Gen9:3; then he told Moses he could eat only some meats, "these are the beasts which ye shall eat," Lev11; then he cleansed all meats, "thus he declared all foods clean," Mk7:19 ASV; then he told the church there are some things we can't eat, "abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled," Acts15:29; 21:25.

If these things were inherently wrong in and of themselves, the commands couldn't change. The Headcovering ordinance is an external requirement that had a definite starting point at the creation of the church, that will have a definite ending point at the Lord's return, and that is only applicable to the church during this time. Only during the Headcovering observance is it wrong for males to have anything on their heads, even while praying.

Women Must Have Their Heads Covered During Meetings

"Every man praying or prophesying, having anything on his head, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered," 1Cor11:4-6.

When verse 5 says that a woman's head must not be "uncovered," the word "uncovered" actually is in the Greek. If a woman's head ('kephalee' in Greek, not face 'prosopon,') is anything less than covered, the commandment is violated. Wearing a little hat or doily will not qualify.

Women did not lead in prayer publicly, in church, or anywhere else, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, ... in like manner also, that women ... be in silence,"1Tim1:8-12. But women do pray along silently with everyone else who is not leading in prayer at the moment.

And women did not prophesy aloud in church, "for ye may all prophesy one by one, ... let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak," 1Cor14:31,34. But female prophets prophesied silently to themselves during church meetings, just as male prophets did whenever it was inappropriate for them to speak, "if any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace ... The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets," 1Cor14:32.

Tongues was also prophesy, receiving revelation directly from God; but it was a less desirable gift than prophecy because it needed a second person, an interpreter, to be of any value. "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue ... no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort," 1Cor14:1-3.

The word "mysteries," in Greek, "in the spirit he speaketh mysteries," does not mean things difficult to understand, but things previously not revealed, now revealed. The church at the time of the apostles did not have the whole New Testament, but God provided the assemblies oral revelation during their meetings via spiritual gifts. But for tongues, like for prophesy, it was common for men to have to speak silently to themselves, and it was always the case for women. "If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God," 1Cor:14:27-28.

By the way, 1 Corinthians 11-14 shows that early church meetings were heavily participatory. "When ye come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation." 1Cor14:26. You can't have a healthy body if the members of the body aren't permitted to exercise their ministries to each other. The early church meetings were like current day Plymouth Brethren meetings, except that the early church didn't restrict participants to sharing only about the Lord's Supper, as the Plymouth Brethren do today.

Also, the early church met in houses. House churches today are usually very participatory, but they often do worse than non-participatory churches by abandoning the role of teachers. I'm sure when Paul taught all night at Troas (Acts 20) he wasn't just asking everyone what they thought. Frank Viola does great harm to house churches because he teaches people to abandon the authority structures that the Headcovering Ordinance says are good, and because he makes the non-born again mysticism of 'the Christ within' inseparable from 'organic church.' This is the same 'light within' that the Quakers chose over the 'light without,' meaning the Bible, and it lead Quakers to where they don't even believe that God, per se, exists today.

Women sometimes did prophesy aloud in the Bible, but only in private. Elizabeth prophesied "with a loud voice", but it was in the privacy of her home. "Mary ... entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth, and ... Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and she spake out with a loud voice," Lk1:39-42. Anna was "a prophetess," that spent her time in the temple, but there is no record she prophesied publicly, and even Simeon's prophecy may have been heard by only Joseph and Mary (Lk2:25-38). Philip, the evangelist, had four daughters "which did prophesy," Acts21:9, but there is no indication they prophesied publicly. While Paul and his fellow travelers were staying at Philip's house, Agabus came down from Judaea to prophesy regarding Paul's imminent capture in Jerusalem, when it would have been more convenient to have one of the host's daughters do it if it had been appropriate (Acts21:10-11).

Because the Headcovering ordinance is a church meeting observance, like the Lord's Supper, men don't have to remove their hats and women don't have to cover their heads when they pray at home; and women don't have to wear headcoverings in public all the time. If the New Testament wanted women to wear headcoverings all the time in public, it would have been mentioned specifically in the I Timothy 2:9-15 passage about women's dress in society. Also, it wouldn't be a much of a church observance for women to just continue wearing headcoverings when they come to meetings, but the connection with the Lord's Supper observance in this same chapter shows it is church meeting observance.

"With her head uncovered,"1Cor11:5. It is common for Bible teachers to interpret the word "uncovered" in verse 5 as meaning to have short hair. The Greek word translated 'uncovered' is 'a - kata - kalupto,' literally 'not - down upon - covered.' The noun form of "kalupto," is "kaluma." A 'kaluma' ('covering') is a "veil," 2Cor3:13; an 'epi - kaluma' ('over - covering') is a "cloak," 1Pet2:16; a 'peri - kalupto' ('around - covering') is a "blindfold," Lk22:64; and thus a 'kata - kalupto' ('down upon - covering') is a pretty good description of a headcovering garment.

If I said to you, "Please uncover your head" would you think I wanted you to get a haircut? The New Testament seems to consider hair as part of our heads. "The very hairs 'of' your head are numbered,"Mt10:30, not the hairs 'on' your head. If Paul wanted to talk about whether or not a person had long hair he could have used the Greek word "komao," meaning "long hair," as in verses 14 and 15. Also, as we said when discussing verse 4, if this passage were about hair length, men could not have any hair on their heads at all.

Another problem with the hair-length interpretation, is that verses 4 and 5 talk about prayer and prophecy, which happen at certain times; and the Headcovering   observance is for the church meetings which include prayer and prophesy and everything in between, but proper hair length is required at all times. You can't change it just for times of prayer and prophesy, or just for church meetings. The purpose of the Headcovering ordinance is to symbolize male authority by doing something symbolic, just like we symbolize something for the Lord's Supper. Everyone just continuing to wear their hair the way they always do would not be a good way to symbolize anything during church meetings.

"Dishonoureth her head,"1Cor11:5. It is a shame for any person to portray themselves as holding a higher office than they actually hold. "When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room," Lk14:8-9. "The great whore ... hath glorified herself, ... for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, ... and shall see no sorrow," Rev17:1;18:7.

When women cover their heads in church, they put the men on the spot. "You men are the ones that must lead the church into the work. Look at our covered heads: you are responsible for our welfare, too. You must "stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong," 1Cor16:13. "Awake out of sleep ... the night is far spent, the day is at hand," Rm14:11-12." Men need to be exercised by such responsibilities in order to mature into what God created men to be.

"For that is even all one as if she were shaven, for if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.,"1Cor11:5b-6. Paul puts a little extra pressure on the women here because it's mainly the women that perform the Headcovering ordinance. The men are only supposed to 'not' do something.

It's also a word of encouragement to the women to know they are pleasing the Lord by this service to Him. It's natural for women to have a special concern about their appearance, since modest dress is one of their three special ministries. "God looketh on the heart," 1Sam16:7; but God also sees the outward appearance, especially when it represents obedience or disobedience of the heart.

What good is it for a woman to spend time fixing her hair before church meeting, if she looks bald to God anyway? As she pictures herself as standing before the throne in God's presence while singing praises to God, if the headcovering is absent, let her add her own baldness to the picture, but if the headcovering is present, let her realize that God is pleased with the beauty of her obedience.

Creation Testimony #1 (Gen 1:26): Woman is the Glory of Man

So we've covered the philosophical basis of the Headcovering in verses 2-3, the details of how to practice the observance in verses 4-6; and now in verses 7-9 Paul provides three witnesses from the book of Genesis that testify as to the appropriateness of the role of woman and the Headcovering ordinance.

"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man," 1Cor11:7.

Continuing the idea of the indirectness of the line of command from God to woman, with man in between, Paul brings in three testimonies from the Genesis account of the creation of woman. The first one, 1 Corinthians 11:7 refers back to Genesis1:26-28, during the sixth day of creation, where God said "Let us make man in our image."

The word "image" there in the Hebrew is usually used to refer to a molten image, like the one in Daniel 3. The Greek word for "image" in 1 Corinthians 11:7 can also be used of a molten image, like in Revelation chapter 13. In Matthew 22:20, it is used of the picture on a coin, "Whose is this image and superscription?" It refers to an external appearance. In external appearance, males look like God, and females don't. I don't think any females will be offended if you tell them they didn't look like a male.

In Genesis1:26, God says he will create males in his image, but he is careful to avoid saying he will create females in his image. "And God said, Let us make man [singular, man alone] in our image, after our likeness: and let them [plural, man and woman] have dominion." The same is true for Genesis 1:27, "So God created man [singular, man alone] in his own image, in the image of God created he him [singular, man alone], male and female created he them [plural, man and woman].

External  appearance is relatively unimportant, as are authority relationships. Whether someone is in a superior or inferior authority position in the physical realm, means little because both can and are required to "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks," 1Thes5:16-18. Spiritually, men and women are identical.

God is always male in the Bible. He is our heavenly Father, not our heavenly mother. Christ is male. He is the Son of God, the Son of Abraham, and the Son of David. The angels are all male. They were often mistaken for young men, never for young women, when they appeared.

The testimony of Genesis 1:26-28 is that the pattern of woman's creation is indirect. God used another layer in creating her. Man is the "glory of God, but the woman is the glory [not the 'image'] of man." Through the Headcovering observance, the church recognizes and proclaims the appropriateness of God's plan for man, woman, and all authority relationships.

Both man and woman share in the glory of man's dominion over the rest of the earth. "God said ... let them [plural, man and woman] have dominion." "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? ... For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: ... the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea," Ps8:4-8.

Creation Testimony #2 (Gen 2:23): Woman is of Man

"For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man," 1Cor11:8.

The key word in this verse is the word "of," or "out of" in Greek. 1 Corinthians 11:8 refers back to Genesis 2:21-23, again concerning the indirect manner of woman's creation. "Adam said, This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken 'out of' Man," Gen2:23.

Woman's creation was unique out of all that God created. The angels were created directly by God, "who maketh his angels spirits," Heb1:7. The animals were formed out of the ground. "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air," Gen2:19. Adam's body was formed of the dust of the ground, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground," Gen2:7. But, Mrs. Adam ("he ... called their name Adam," Gen5:2), was made completely out of a piece of Adam. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man," Gen2:21-22.

God could have made Eve directly from the dust of the ground, as he had made Adam, or he could have created each person directly, as he did the myriad of angels. God made woman out of man so that authority structures would be created, because inequalities are essential for unity, and "it is not good that man should be alone," Gen2:18. This doesn't mean that everyone should marry, but rather that God saw the need for everyone to be born into authority structures in family relationships, extended families, churches, neighborhoods, countries, etc.

Philosophically, the source of something is greater than that which comes from it; that which is existed earlier is greater than that which comes after it. John pointed to the preexistence of Jesus as proof of his superiority, "after me [in time] cometh a man which is preferred before me [in prestige]: for he was before me [in time]," Jn1:30. Jesus is lower in rank than the Father, because he is 'of' the Father; the Father is not 'of' the Son, "I came forth from the Father," Jn16:28. The Bible says that "we are 'of' God," 1Jn4:6; but it would be incorrect to say that God is 'of' us. If Jesus had really been merely of David, instead of being the preexistent Son of God, he could not have authority over David. "If David then call him [the Messiah] Lord [in Ps110:1], how is he his son?" Mt22:45. So, again, the manner of woman's creation testifies to the appropriateness of the Headcovering observance and the authority structure it symbolizes.

Creation Testimony #3 (Gen 2:20): Woman is for Man

"Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man," 1Cor11:9.

Man was created for a purpose, and then woman was created to help man fulfill man's purpose. The key word in this verse is the word "for." 1 Corinthians 11:9 refers back to Genesis 2:20, "there was not found an help meet 'for' him." Woman was made to be man's helper, not his leader or teacher. This word "help" is the best description of the special roles of women in the home, the church, and society.

And purpose is important in determining rank. "The Sabbath was made 'for' man, and not man 'for' the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath," Mk2:27-28.

Genesis 2:20, "There was not found an help meet for him," does not mean that unmarried women do not fulfill the purpose of Eve's creation. Far from it! Paul said that if a person has enough self-control to avoid fornication, he can serve the Lord better by remaining single. "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. ... But every man hath his proper gift of God, ... The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but ... that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction," 1Cor7:1-40.

If a woman remains single, she fulfills her role as helper in her extended family, in the church, and in society even better; but both married and unmarried woman can serve. Women helped Jesus. "Certain women ... Mary called Magdalene, ... and Joanna ... and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him [Jesus] of their substance," Lk8:2-3. Paul's first convert in Macedonia was a woman named Lydia, who then gave lodging to the missionaries, "when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us," Acts16:15. In Corinth, Priscilla provided Paul lodging while he started the church there. "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila ... with his wife Priscilla, ... and because he was of the same craft, he abode with them," Acts18:1-3.

It's a lot of work, and a lot of interruption to the family routine, for a woman to have guests stay in her house; but it can also be a great spiritual service to God. Of course, women should not jeopardize their safety or propriety to do this service. Priscilla and Aquila also helped Paul by risking their lives for him at some point. And in Rome, they helped the church by hosting church meetings. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks, unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house," Rm16:3-5. Hosting church gatherings involves a lot of sacrifice by the hostess and her family.

Paul asked the church in Rome to help Phebe with the secular business she had in Rome, and described her as "a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea [Corinth's eastern seaport], ... for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself," Rm16:1-2. Also, in Rome, was "Mary, who bestowed much labour on us," Rm16:6; and "the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord," Rm16:12.

In Joppa, there was "a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did." When she became sick and died, the disciples sent for Peter who "when he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them," Acts9:36-42. And God allowed Peter to resurrect her back to life.

In 1 Timothy 5:9-10, Paul said, "Let not a widow be taken into the number [to receive financial support from the church] under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work."

The Headcovering observance symbolizes this indirect, subordinate role of women as helpers; a role which women were created for, which they excel at, which is extremely needful, and which they enjoy. The home, the church, and society should provide women a safe sphere in which to do this work, and recognize the value of it rather than teaching that only leadership is of value.

Notice that verses 7-9 all refer back to the account of the creation of woman on the sixth day. The Sabbath was given to Israel, and only Israel, to commemorate God's rest on the seventh day of creation. "The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath ... for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed," Ex31:16-17. The Headcovering ordinance was given to the church, and only the church, the Bride of Christ, to commemorate the creation of woman on the sixth day of creation.

The Sabbath ordinance was given to Israel around the time of the nation's birth to commemorate its rest from Egyptian slavery. "Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out ... therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day," Deut5:15. Likewise, the Headcovering ordinance was given to the church around the time of its creation at Pentecost, to commemorate its creation as the Bride of Christ, taken out of the body of Christ by his death and resurrection. Adam said Eve was, "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," Gen2:23. Paul said "we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones," Eph5:30. Just as the Lord's Supper is a memorial to the historical event of the Lord's death and resurrection and looks forward to his return; so the Headcovering is a memorial to the creation of his bride out of his own body which he gave for her on the cross, and looks forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Notice also in these verses, and in the chapter as a whole, Paul does not give a single cultural reason as to why the church should observe the Headcovering ordinance. Verse 3 gives the reason that man's headship over woman is like the eternal headship of God the Father over God the Son. Verses 7 to 9 are all based on the historical event of woman's creation - and that historical event does not change regardless of the culture or time period you live in.

Interpreters of 1 Corinthians 11 site all kinds of different stories about female Corinthian temple prostitutes that had short hair, or didn't wear headcoverings, or didn't wear veils. But the admonitions of this chapter are first of all to men, "every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered," 1Cor11:4. Were there also male Corinthian temple prostitutes that had long hair, or wore hoods, or wore veils? Why are there so many different theories about what particular Corinthian custom Paul is supposedly condemning in 1 Corinthians 11 if secular history is reliable?

But secular history is not reliable. God would not give us scripture that was dependent on secular history to be able to understand it. What about cultures that didn't have access to Greek or Roman history for centuries; how would they understand 1 Corinthians if it's interpretation is dependent on secular history? God did not even preserve the writings of the so-called church fathers. They were preserved by the apostate Roman Catholic Church, and I'm sure they preserved only the worst of the early writings and destroyed the best.

God preserves only his word. "His truth endureth unto all generations," Ps100:5. We can correctly interpret this chapter without any knowledge of Corinthian history, because none of the arguments in the chapter are cultural. They are all based on the order of creation in Genesis and the principles of authority, as we have seen.

The Testimony to the Angels

"For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels," 1Cor11:10.

The word "power" in the King James version has the meaning of our word "authority" today. Instead of saying the woman ought "to have the headcovering on her head" Paul says the woman ought "to have authority on her head."  He uses the word 'authority' in place of the word 'headcovering' here, because that's exactly what the headcovering symbolizes: the authority of man over woman in the order of God's creation.

The headcovering garment is the physical symbol of the Headcovering Ordinance just as the bread and wine are the physical symbols of the Lord's Supper. Both ordinances require a physical symbol that people can exercise their wills to use during a specific period of time to symbolize their truths. A garment that can be put on or taken off at will meets these criteria, as well as the bread and wine, but proper hair length does not.

It is not only people who learn from the Headcovering observance; angels also learn by watching the church. "God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God," Eph3:9-10. What a testimony to angels that frail men can be so transformed by the work of Christ that the Bride of Christ would regularly signify her hearty acceptance of authority, while the painted-faced Jezebel of the world mimics the prideful rebellion of Satan himself. Physical things can be significant symbols to angels, like the blood on the Israelites' doorways, when the Lord passed through Egypt to smite the firstborn sons (Ex12:21-23).

Angels' are very interested in authority and the chain of command. They were created for service. "Who maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flame of fire," Heb1:7. The "principalities and powers [authorities] in high places," Eph6:12, that we wrestle against are fallen angels. And angels are very interested in things relating to the creation of man and woman. They were there when God "laid the foundations of the earth ... when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God [the angels, which are all male] shouted for joy," Job38:4,7.

Some interpreters have speculated that women are supposed to wear headcoverings in church meetings to keep angels from lusting over their hair. This is one of the most ridiculous interpretations of any scripture. Angels aren't tempted by the kinds of things men are, but rather by things having to do with authority. When Satan and his angels fell, their sin was that of rebellion against God. Angels are interested in promoting false doctrine and warring against God's authority, not in fleshly sins, except as a tool. "The LORD God said unto the serpent, ... I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed," Gen3:15. Jesus didn't have an earthly father, and neither will the Antichrist. Satan will impregnate a woman to produce an imitation of Christ to deceive mankind, but not because of lust. If angels were tempted to lust after women, they could use their invisibility to go around and peek at more than women's hairstyles.

Angels are present at church meetings during the Headcovering observance. Nations have both good angels and bad angels assigned to them, which war against each other. "Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel ... thy words were heard ... but the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me ... there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince," Dan10:12-13, 21. Churches also have angels assigned to them. "Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write ...," Rev2:1. And the guardian angel of every child in the church meeting is watching also. "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven," Mt18:10. And since angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them who shall be heirs of salvation,"Heb1:14, don't you think some are around during church meetings?

Angels are sometimes called 'watchers.' Angels watched the Lord's ministry. "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory," 1Tim3:16. Angels watched the apostles' ministries. "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men," 1Cor4:9. Angels watch pastors' ministries. "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another," 1Tim5:21. And angels watch the women's ministry of the Headcovering observance in the church, and so one reason we do it is "because of the angels,"1Cor11:9.

Mutual Dependence

"Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman: but all things of God,"1Cor11:11-12.

Paul has been teaching the principle of male authority, but he knows that such teaching is vulnerable to abuse by sinful men, and so he tempers that side of the teaching with the admonition of these verses. Men and women are not only equal in the spiritual realm, but as Paul shows in these verses, even in the physical realm, God created mutual interdependence along with the inequalities. Therefore men should not think of themselves too highly, or use their rightful authority as a cloak for their own selfishness or meanness.

Every person except Adam and Eve have been dependent on women for their existence. Eve came into existence by means of Adam's rib, but since that time, every man, including the Savior, came into the world through women. The role of childbearing is the salvation; not spiritually, but physically, of women in the world. "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith, and charity, and holiness with sobriety," 1Tim2:13-15. This is not to say that any particular woman must give birth in order to obtain this benefit. God has ordained that we come into the world through mothers so that the status of all women is improved. This way men are taught to treat all women with respect, "the elder women as mothers; the younger women as sisters, with all purity," 1Tim4:2.

Ultimately, both men and women were and are dependent only on God for existence. Adam merely slept, but God made Eve. Women suffer through labor, but God fashions the bones, veins, and ligaments of children in the womb. "Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb, ... I am fearfully and wonderfully made," Ps139:14. "He ... made us, and not we ourselves,"Ps100:3. And we are not only made 'of' him, meaning he is our source, but we are made 'for' him, for his purpose. "Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever," Rm11:36. Let all males remember this as they exercise their duties and responsibilities of authority, in humility, and love, and in fear of him to whom they must someday give an account.

The Testimony of Nature

It is not only the book of Genesis that testifies as to the appropriateness of the Headcovering Ordinance, but even nature, apart from the Bible.

"Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering, " 1Cor11:13-15.

Both long hair and headcovering garments on women are not merely right, but also beautiful. Nature witnesses to the appropriateness of the headcovering garment by naturally giving women long hair that looks like they are already wearing headcovering garments.

"Judge in yourselves: is it comely," 1Cor11:13. It's a beautiful sight to those who value submission and obedience, to see the women of the congregation with covered heads, in lowliness of mind, like the Lord, "who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant,"Phil3:6-7. It is hard for a believing husband to be bitter against a wife he sees wearing the symbol of her submission, "husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them," Col3:19. It is hard for the men of the congregation not to feel the weight of their responsibility or fail to rededicate themselves to honor, protect, and rightly lead the women of the church, when they see them so adorned.

"Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him?" 1Cor11:14. Because men's individual hairs generally are thicker than women's, their hair looks better short, which is nature's witness to the appropriateness of men's heads being uncovered during the Headcovering observance. Even though this passage is not about hair length, this part of the passage is authoritative for all who would go against nature as regards hair length.

David's rebellious son Absalom cut his hair only "at every year's end" 2Sam14:26; and his attempt to overthrow his father ended ignominiously when he was caught in battle as his "mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak" 2Sam18:9. Men, like Samson, who took the Nazarite vow had long hair, but they were exceptions, and were not allowed to drink wine, or eat grapes, or go to funerals either (Num6:1-8). The priests in the millennial temple will not be permitted to "shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads [trim their hair short]," Ez44:20.

"But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her," 1Cor11:15. Long hair has always been a glory to women. In the Song of Solomon, the King compares looking at his wife's hair to the beauty of watching a flock of goats lazily wend their way down the side of distant Mount Gilead on a warm evening. "Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead," Song4:1, Song6:5. He also compared burying his fingers in her hair to being in a palace gallery surrounded by luxurious, flowing, purple curtains. "And the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries. How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights,"Song7:5-6.

How long is long? Mary of Bethany's hair was long enough that she could anoint the feet of Jesus with costly spikenard for his burial, and wipe "his feet with her hair," Jn12:3. Also, notice that once the text mentions that woman's hair is a glory to her, it never says she should cover it to avoid distracting from the glory of the men in the church. This interpretation is as humorous as the one about covering it to keep angels from lusting.

"For her hair is given her for a covering," 1Cor11:15. The word 'covering' here ('periboleo' in Greek) is translated 'vesture' in Hebrews 1:12. Women with long hair look like they are wearing headcovering garments, and most women have naturally looked this way through all ages and cultures. This is a witness to the appropriateness of the headcovering garment as a symbol of the Headcovering observance. It also means that a headcovering garment should look like long hair. It should be a shawl or a scarf; not a hat or doily.

Power Hungry Opposition

"But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God," 1Cor11:16. The word translated "contentious" is the Greek word 'philo-neikos'. 'Philo' means 'love of,' and 'neikos' means strife and is related to 'nekos' meaning 'conquest'. I think it carries our concept of the 'love of power'.

The only other place this word appears in the New Testament is in Luke 22. "And there was also a strife ['philoneikos'] among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel," Lk22:24-30. In Luke 22, the apostles were behaving in a power-hungry way,because they didn't yet understand authority.

The Headcovering ordinance helps us understand authority as Jesus taught it in Luke 22. Jesus did not say authority structures are bad. He remained the Master with all authority even while he acted as a servant. And though he told the apostles to behave as servants he gave them all authority as his representatives during that time, and also in the future Messianic Kingdom they will "sit on thrones judging." As we saw from verse 3 at the beginning of this chapter, even in the Godhead, "the head of Christ is God." God does not remove authority structures, as the world tries to do, but rather he teaches those in the superior positions to love and serve unselfishly. Those who rightfully serve in positions of authority have to suffer more and make greater sacrifices than those who are under their authority. Godly leaders labor in their positions for the sake of those under their charge, not to exploit them.

Everyone except God the Father is under someone's authority. A good heart is glad to serve without envy of others' positions. I believe most women really like their place in God's order. They like to help; but they like to be loved and appreciated and respected as well. It bothers me when I hear people criticize or ridicule 'women's libbers'. It is the Bible teachers who keep sliding along with the culture of our time in their interpretations of scripture, and the male philosophers of this world that have led women into what is called the women's liberation movement. Women follow faithfully and conscientiously in whatever direction men lead them.

The world claims the church doesn't value women. Actually, the church values women as women. The church understands there is no stigma to subordinate positions; otherwise we could not be content in our subordinate positions to God. The world despises women's natural role, and esteems the subordinate positions they were created for as being worthless. The world vehemently hates anything that has any hint of patriarchy or God-ordained authority structures and so it vehemently hates the vision of a church meeting full of godly, submissive women wearing headcoverings. It is part of "the mystery of lawlessness [ASV]" that "doth already work," 1Thes2:7. The Amplified Version says, "The mystery of rebellion against divine authority and the coming reign of lawlessness is already at work," 1Thes2:7.

If the Bible is true, then women are weaker than men. "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered," 1Pet3:7. Is it really kind to give those who are weaker the right to compete on an equal footing with those who are stronger? No more restrictions on one hand, but no more protection or preference on the other? If it's 'every man for himself' then men will no longer give women special preferences; and women, because they are the weaker vessels, will be at a great disadvantage in the world.

Much suffering has resulted from society's disregard of the role of women. Many men today give their wives the 'right' to be separated from their children and to work at the office or factory all day and to do most of the housework at night, and then men feel no obligation to stay married to them because everything's 50-50. Men who push for 'equality' for women do not do so because they care about women, but because they want to escape their own obligations to care for their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters, and to escape from being under any authority themselves.

"But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God," 1Cor11:16. The Headcovering  observance, and the doctrine of submission taught by it, is certainly subject to abuse because of the sinfulness of people. But a godly man will be humbled by the responsibilities he learns from the observance, rather than be emboldened to treat women ungraciously. It is important that we not only keep the observance, but also instruct the saints as to its proper meaning, as Paul did starting in verse 3. "I praise you that you ... keep the ordinances ... but I would have you know ... ," 1Cor11:3. Paul said that neither the apostles, nor any of the churches, taught or practiced the Headcovering observance in a contentious ['power-hungry'] way that would lord it over women. This also means that all the churches at that time were keeping the Headcovering ordinance, and so should we today.

Divisions at the Lord's Supper

"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be manifest among you," 1Cor11:17-19.

The Corinthians were worse off for going to church meetings than if they had all stayed home. First of all, there were the divisions Paul said he heard about in chapters 1 - 4. "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them of the house of Cloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul," 1Cor1:11-13. What's wrong with saying, "I am of Christ?" That's the worst of all for we ought to say, "We are all of Christ," all that are born again believers that is, not just my group.

Secondly, there divisions because there were heresies where some men wanted to be "approved," 1Cor11:19, held in esteem, by their own group of followers. If these men had learned the lessons of the Headcovering ordinance, they would not have been seeking preeminence.

Their Own Suppers

"When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not," 1Cor11:20-22.

All the early churches ate the Lord's Supper as full meal at their church meetings. The word translated 'supper' in 1 Corinthians 11 means the chief meal of the day, usually taken in the evening. It is sometimes translated as 'feast' in the New Testament. The same Greek word is used to refer to the "marriage 'supper' of the Lamb," Rev19:17. I hope they serve us more than a thimble of grape juice and a cracker at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The phrase 'breaking of bread' often refers to the Lord's Supper. "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers ... and they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart," Acts2:42,46. Likewise in Acts 20, "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ...when he therefore ... had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed," Acts20:7,11. Jude and Peter said, "For there are certain men crept in unawares ... these are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear," Jude1:4,12; and, "spots they are and blemishes ... while they feast with you," 2Pet2:13. Would Jude and Peter be able to refer to the Lord's Supper at your gatherings as a 'feast'?

The problem with the Corinthians' observance of the Lord's Supper was that they misbehaved at the meal. Some were gluttonous and even drunken. Those that were wealthy enough brought an abundant amount of food and wine to the meal for the people sitting at their tables; while the poorer brethren, "them that have not," 1Cor11:22, went "hungry," 1Cor11:21. They also started eating as soon as the brethren in their clique were ready, rather than waiting for everyone to begin the meal together. "Everyone taketh before other his own supper,"1Cor11:21-22. Individuals were so focused on eating their own suppers, and so ignored the symbolic meaning of the meal, that the time didn't even count as the Lord's Supper but counted as their own supper. "This is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in eating, everyone taketh before other his own supper," 1Cor11:21-22.

We are not to show favoritism. Paul charged Timothy to lead and serve the church without, "preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality," 1Tim5:21. James said it is wrong to treat people in the meetings "with respect of persons, for if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool [since the early churches always met in houses], are ye not then partial?" James2:1-13.

In Luke 14, while sitting at a meal, Jesus gave three different parables about meals. One of them talked about our attitudes towards the poor and handicapped. "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just," Lk14:12-14.

We are not to prefer one person before another, but we are to prefer others before ourselves. "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another," Rm12:10. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves," Phil2:3. The Corinthians suppers which should have been "feasts of charity [KJV for 'love']," Jude1:12, and unity, were tools of unkindness and division. Paul said, "Shall I praise you in this" kind of keeping of the Lord's Supper? "I praise you not," vs22.

The Symbolism of the Lord's Supper

"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped,saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come," 1Cor11:23-26.

The main point, mentioned twice is this passage, is that the purpose of the observance is to remember our Lord Yeshua. We use the symbols of the bread and cup to remember him. It does not explicitly say so in this passage, but I believe the bread we use to symbolize his body should be unleavened. Spiritual things are more important than physical things, but if God tells the church to symbolize something spiritual through something physical, then the physical item we use for the symbolism is important.

Leaven is consistently used as a symbol of sin and false doctrine in the Bible. We know that the bread Jesus held up when he said, "this is my body," was unleavened because the last supper was a Passover meal. "Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover?" Mt26:17. Even though Paul did not say, "as often as ye eat this 'unleavened' bread" in verse 26, we know he explained the Jewish feasts and their symbolism to the Corinthians while he was with them because he refers to them in 1 Corinthians.

God gave seven feasts to Israel in two groups; the four spring feasts represent the first coming of Christ, and the three fall feasts represent the second coming of Christ. The first four feasts representing Christ's first coming all have some relationship to leaven, and all four were mentioned in 1 Corinthians.

First comes Passover on the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar. "Your lamb shall be without blemish ... and they shall eat the flesh that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread," Ex12:5,8. "Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the feast of the Passover be left unto the morning," Ex34:25. Jesus fulfilled this feast to the letter by dying on the cross the very hour that the Passover lamb was offered by the priests in the temple (which is different from the lamb eaten in homes the night before). Passover was mentioned in 1Cor5:7, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us."

Then comes the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th through the 22nd. "And on the fifteenth day of the same month at even is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days must ye eat unleavened bread,"Lev23:6. "Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses," Ex12:19. This feast was a symbol of Christ's offering his sinless blood in the heavenly tabernacle. That is why Mary could not touch him immediately after the resurrection. "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father," Jn20:17.

Moses patterned the tabernacle on earth after the real tabernacle in heaven which God showed him. The tabernacle Moses made was purified with animal blood, but Jesus purified the "true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched,"Heb8:2, in heaven with his own blood. "It was therefore necessary that the patterns [on earth] of things in the heavens should be purified with these [the blood of calves and goats]; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands," Heb9:23-24. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:8, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

The third spring feast is the Feast of Firstfruits. The numerical day of the month changed from year to year, but the day of the week was essential. It had to be observed on the Sunday after Passover, which always fell on a day during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. "And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it," Lev23:11. This feast was fulfilled by the resurrection of Christ, the firstfruits from the dead, on the very day this feast was being observed in Israel. The Feast of Firstfruits was mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept, ... but every man in his own order, Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."

The fourth spring feast is the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost. It occurred fifty days after firstfruits. Leaven was also conspicuous in this feast, not by its absence, but because it was required. "Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD," Lev23:17. This feast symbolized the birth of the church which is made up of sinful men redeemed from among Jews and Gentiles, the two loaves. The Feast of Weeks was mentioned in 1Cor16:8, "But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost."

The three fall feasts that will be fulfilled by the second coming are: Rosh Hashanah (New Year's Day, Feast of  Trumpets), when the rapture, or catching away of the church will occur, (1Cor15:52) (we don't know the specific day because we don't know which year); Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), which represents the 7-year tribulation period which will start on Yom Kippur when Israel makes a treaty with the Antichrist; and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), which represents the Messianic Kingdom, which will start on Sukkot right after the tribulation period.

Leaven consistently represents sin and false doctrine in the Bible. Three groups opposed Jesus and eventually delivered him to Pilate: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. In Mt16:6, Jesus said, "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees"; and in Mk8:15 he warns of the "leaven of Herod." "Then understood they how that he bade them not beware the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees," Mt16:12.

Two characteristics make leaven an excellent symbol of sin and false doctrine. First, leaven is pervasive. If you put a little leaven in one part of some dough, pretty soon the thing the whole thing becomes leavened, and sin in a group is pervasive. "That he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you ... know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," 1Cor5:2,6. False doctrine is also pervasive. Matthew 13 says that false doctrine will dominate the earth by the time Christ returns to set up the Messianic Kingdom, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman [who is not supposed to be teaching] took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened," Mt13:33. (If you think the seven parables of Matthew 13 are all about good things, remember that after the abnormal growth of the mustard seed, birds lodge in its branches, and the birds were interpreted by the first parable to be "the wicked one," Mt13:19.)

Secondly, leaven is old. "Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a new lump," 1Cor5:7. Yeast is comprised of one-celled fungi that reproduce by budding or splitting, rather than by dying and germinating. The yeast in the bread we eat comes from other living yeast in an unbroken chain back to Eden. In contrast, the wheat in the bread got here by a life and death purification cycle. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit," Jn12:24. For Christ to qualify to be a sacrifice for sin he could not himself inherit the sin of Adam as we did (Rm5:12). He had to be the virgin-born seed of the woman (Gen3:15), not of man.

Leavened bread is a very poor symbol to use for Christ, "who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God," Heb9:14. Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices, but Old Testament sacrifices couldn't include leaven. "No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto the LORD shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the LORD made by fire," Lev3:11. God has given the church very few physical symbols, compared to Israel, so we should be faithful in the few we have been given. In symbols, the external details really matter because symbols are externals. We should never symbolize our Lord as having sin, and I believe that is what we do if we use leavened bread at the Lord's Supper.

If we are going to perform an observance God has commanded us to perform, we ought to perform it the way he told us to perform it. "Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD," Num3:4. Saul obeyed God, but not the way he was commanded, and it cost him his throne. "Saul said ... I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears ... Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king,"1Sam15:13-23.

Personally, I don't feel as strongly about our modern custom of using grape juice instead of wine. At least it's still 'the fruit of the vine,' and it doesn't symbolize our Lord as having sin, like leavened bread does. But, Biblically, it is more correct to use wine. Psalm 104:14-15 says God brings, "forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man." I don't think anyone's heart gets made especially glad from drinking grape juice. Some people in our society today don't know how to drink wine without abusing it, so probably grape juice should also be provided for those who want to avoid wine. Some people say that the wine back then was mingled with water to weaken it. Fine, mix it with some water then, but don't be unwilling to drink wine because of Baptist, and other, customs of men that contradict the word of God.

The Improper Observance of the Lord's Supper

"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world," 1Cor11:27-32.

In most church meetings today, these verses are used to say Christians should confess their sins before they partake of the Lord's Supper. However, in context, the eating and drinking "unworthily" means to eat and drink 'in an unworthy manner,' like being disrespectful towards the poor, and forgetting the purpose of the meal. It doesn't mean to eat and drink with 'unconfessed sin'.

The only passage in the New Testament that seems to imply Christians ought to enumerate their sins to God is 1 John 1:9, but one of the purposes of that book was to help us know who are Christians and who aren't. "These things have I written unto you ... that ye may know that ye have eternal life," 1Jn5:13. 1 John 1:8 says you can know someone is not a Christian if they are self-righteous, "if we say that we have no sin." 1 John 1:9 says you can know someone is a Christian if they admit they are a sinner and trust in Christ's righteousness, "if we confess our sins."

"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican, ... the publican ... smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other," Lk18:14. All unbelievers are self-righteous and trust in their own righteousness, while all believers agree with God (confess) that they are sinners, and trust in God's provision of "the righteousness of God," Rm1:16. (More information on 1 John 1:9 in its context is available in my book Matthew/Romans, a set of expository Bible surveys.)

All our sins, even the ones we haven't committed yet, were future to Christ when he died for them, and all our sins were forgiven when we believed on him, even the ones we haven't committed yet. We are counted as, and will always be counted as, perfectly righteous in Christ. If we have to confess our sins to be clean enough to observe the Lord's Supper, then we can never be clean enough, because we can't even confess all the sins we are aware of. It's sad that the observance to remember the Lord's substitutionary death that washed away all our sins, is used to teach people they need to take additional steps to be clean, when one of the first things we should learn as believers, is that our sins are already forgiven. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake," 1Jn2:12.

The word "damnation" in verse 29, should be translated "judgment," because it refers to the physical judgment described in the next verse, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep," 1Cor11:29-30. Many Christians were sick and many died in Corinth because of the physical judgment they experienced because they improperly observed the Lord's Supper, not because they ate it with 'unconfessed sin'.

But how is your assembly's manner of keeping the Lord's Supper? We should call it the Lord's breakfast, because we eat it in the morning. We should call it the Lord's snack, because it's smaller than hors d'oeuvres. We don't have problems of gluttony or drunkenness at our Lord's Suppers because we have gotten rid of both the supper and the wine. Paul could write to us, "When ye come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For a cracker and a thimble of grape juice are no supper." Of course a full meal is more inconvenient than passing around tiny plastic cups, and nowadays, we generally don't want to be inconvenienced by spending too much time gathering with the brethren.

The Proper Observance of the Lord's Supper

"Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation."

Paul is simply telling them to fix the one specific problem this passage mentions: "in eating every one taketh before other his own supper," 1Cor11:21. To fix that they should "tarry one for another,"1Cor11:33. He did not tell them to stop having a full meal, the solution we have adopted today.

If the Corinthians had the teaching portion of their meeting first, like Paul did in Troas, that might have solved the problem. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ... and continued his speech unto midnight. ... When he therefore ... had broken bread, and eaten, and talked along while, even till break of day, so he departed," Acts20:7-12.

Biblically, the first day of the week, Sunday, starts at sundown Saturday evening. Biblically, all days start in the evening and end the next afternoon, "The evening and the morning were the first day," Gen1:5. So the Acts 20 passage shows it was common for churches to meet on Saturday nights. The Troas meeting could not have started Sunday morning and have Paul preach all the way to midnight and then through till Monday morning. So if the Corinthians also met on Saturday evenings, and some people were too hungry to wait for everyone to arrive before they started eating the Lord's Supper, they could eat a little at home before they went to the meeting. "If any man hunger, let him eat at home," 1Cor11:34.

The Corinthians experienced the physical judgments of weakness, sickness, and death for the way they kept the Lord's Supper. We are probably experiencing some of the same things today for having completely thrown out the "supper," 1Cor11:20, part of it? And if the improper observance of the Lord's Supper ordinance exposes a congregation to physical judgment, what about complete non-observance of the Headcovering ordinance? The Lord has given us only two church meeting observances. You that are elders ought to restore the proper obedience of these ordinances to your assemblies, to help ensure "that ye come not together unto condemnation," 1Cor11:34.

The Rest

"And the rest will I set in order when I come," 1Cor11:34.

The last phrase of verse 34 ends the second half of the chapter on the Lord's Supper, and also ends the whole chapter on the church meeting ordinances. Paul told the Corinthians they were doing a good job keeping the Headcovering ordinance, but he wanted them to have a fuller understanding of its meaning. He said they were not doing a good job in the way they kept the Lord's Supper ordinance, and then he closed by telling them there were more things he would correct when he returned to them. What else would Paul need to "set in order," 1Cor11:34, in your church meetings if he were to visit nowadays?

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Affection: Annotated Song of Songs

1:1 The song of songs, which is Solomon's.

ACT I - ARRIVAL AT THE PALACE (1:2-2:7)

Act I, Scene 1 - Introducing the Play

Shulamith

[narrating to the audience]

2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth ...

[narrating regarding Solomon]

For your love is better than wine.
3 Because of the fragrance of your good ointments,
Your name is ointment poured forth;
Therefore the virgins love you.
4 Draw me away!

(Shulamith likes Solomon because he has a good 'name,' a good reputation and a good character. He treats waiters and waitresses with respect, for example.)

The Daughters of Jerusalem

[Narrating regarding Solomon]

We will run after you [masc. sing.]!

Act I, Scene 2 - In the Throne Room

Shulamith

[narrating the scene]

The king has brought me into his chambers.
The Daughters of Jerusalem

[to Solomon]

We will be glad and rejoice in you [masc. sing.];
we will remember your [masc. sing] love more than wine.

Shulamith

(Shulamith is very nervous when she, a working country girl tanned by the sun, is first brought to the palace and introduced to the women of the court. She is worried they may not accept her.)

[narrating her thoughts about Solomon]

Rightly do they love you.

[to the Daughters]

5 I am dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon.
6 Do not look upon me, because I am dark,
Because the sun has tanned me.
My mother's sons were angry with me;
They made me the keeper of the vineyards,
But my own vineyard I have not kept.

(Shulamith wants to know Solomon's schedule and the proper times he will have available for her. As king of Israel, he's a busy man with a lot of responsibilities, and she doesn't want to be chasing him around or interrupting him during government business.)

[to Solomon]

7 Tell me, O you whom I love,
Where you feed your flock,
Where you make it rest at noon.
For why should I be as one who veils herself  [or 'wanders']
By the flocks of your companions?

The Daughters of Jerusalem

(The women of the court are not very kind in their first interaction with Shulamith.  They are leaving it up to her to prove herself to them.)

 [to Shulamith]

8 If you do not know, O fairest among women,
Follow in the footsteps of the flock,
And feed your little goats
Beside the shepherds' tents.

Solomon

(Solomon is sensitive to Shulamith's situation and publicly stands up for her and thereby wins over the support of the women of the court for her.)

 [to Shulamith]

9 I have compared you, my love,
To my filly among Pharaoh's chariots.
10 Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with chains of gold.

The Daughters of Jerusalem

[to Shulamith]

11 We will make you [fem. sing.] ornaments of gold
With studs of silver.

Act I, Scene 3 - At the Welcoming Banquet

Shulamith

(Shulamith notices the fragrance from her necklace that has a container of myrrh that dangles between her breasts, and she looks forward to the night when Solomon will be like that to her.)

 [narrating the scene]

12 While the king is at his table,
My spikenard sends forth its fragrance.

 [her thoughts]

13 A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me,
That lies all night between my breasts.
14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms
In the vineyards of En Gedi.

Henna Blossoms and Henna Dye Hand Painting

  

The En Gedi Oasis Along The Dead Sea

Act I, Scene 4 - The Picnic

Solomon

[to Shulamith]

15 Behold, you are fair,my love!
Behold, you are fair!
You have dove's eyes.

Shulamith

[to Solomon]

16 Behold, you are handsome, my beloved!
Yes, pleasant!

 (Shulamith begins playing and pretending they are in a house made of the grass and trees around them.)

 [to Solomon]

Also our bed is green.
17 The beams of our houses are cedar,
And our rafters of fir.

 (She compares herself to a humble, common meadow wild-flower.)

 [to Solomon]

2:1 I am the rose of Sharon [see #38 on map below],
And the lily of the valleys.

Rose of Sharons

Solomon

(Solomon does not deny the truth of her humble origins, but he won't let her speak lowly of herself.)

 [to Shulamith]

2 Like a lily among thorns,
So is my love among the daughters.

Shulamith

(Shulamith returns his compliment. She compares him to a fruit tree among the non-fruit trees because he provides for her and shelters her. He is a safe place for her, free of criticism.)

 [to Solomon]

3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down in his shade with great delight,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Act 1, Scene 5 - The Second Banquet

Shulamith

[narrating the scene]

4 He brought me to the banqueting house,
And his banner over me was love.

 [in her thoughts, to Solomon as she watches him across the tables]

5 Sustain me with cakes of raisins,
Refresh me with apples,
For I am lovesick.

 [she imagines the future]

6 His left hand is under my head,
And his right hand embraces me.

 (Having just mentioned the pain of waiting, and having just imagined the time when they will be married and able to express themselves to each other physically, Shulamith gives the first warning which is repeated over and over in this book, and one of its main themes; that unmarried couples must be very careful not to have any physical contact that could arouse physical desires before the wedding night!)

Warning

[to the Daughters of Jerusalem]

7 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the does of the field,
Do not stir up nor awaken love
Until it pleases [until the proper time, which is the wedding night].

ACT II – THE ENGAGEMENT PERIOD (2:8-3:6)

Act II, Scene 1 – Solomon Arrives for an Outing

Shulamith

[narrating the scene as Solomon arrives at her apartment in the palace and peeks through the lattice in his eagerness to see her]

8 The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Behold, he stands behind our wall;
He is looking through the windows,
Gazing through the lattice.
10 My beloved spoke, and said to me:

Solomon

[to Shulamith]

"Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
11 For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!

Act II, Scene 2 – At the Mountains

Solomon

[to Shulamith]

14 "O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the cliff,
Let me see your face,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your face is lovely."

 (They've made it this far and they mutually decide to be diligent to make sure nothing prevents them from reaching the wedding day.)

Warning

[summing up their conversation among the vineyards]

15 Catch us the foxes,
The little foxes that spoil the vines,
For our vines have tender grapes.

Shulamith

[her thoughts]

16 My beloved is mine, and I am his.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.

 (Feeding his flock among the lilies shows that she appreciates that Solomon, though strong, is a kind, peaceful, refined man that appreciates beauty and sentimental things. No beer-drinking couch potato here!)

[her wish for the future]

17 Until the day breaks
And the shadows flee away,
Turn, my beloved,
And be like a gazelle
Or a young stag
Upon the mountains of Bether
[meaning 'mountains of separation', ie. her breasts].

Act II, Scene 3 - A Separation Dream

Shulamith

(Subconsciously worried that something might go wrong and prevent the wedding from taking place, Shulamith's anxiety causes her to have a separation dream.)

 [narrating a separation dream]

3:1 By night on my bed I sought the one I love;
I sought him, but I did not find him.
2 "I will rise now," I said,
"And go about the city;
In the streets and in the squares
I will seek the one I love."
I sought him, but I did not find him.
3 The watchmen who go about the city found me;
I said, "Have you seen the one I love?"
4 Scarcely had I passed by them,
When I found the one I love.
I held him and would not let him go,
Until I had brought him to the house of my mother,
And into the chamber of her who conceived me.

 (This is how Isaac and Rebekah were married. "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death," Gen24:67.)

Warning

[to the Daughters]

5 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the does of the field,
Do not stir up nor awaken love
Until it pleases.

ACT III – THE WEDDING (3:6-5:1)

Act III, Scene 1 - The Wedding Procession

Shulamith

[narrating the scene]

6 Who is this coming out of the wilderness
Like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
With all the merchant's fragrant powders?
7 Behold, it is Solomon's couch,
With sixty valiant men around it,
Of the valiant of Israel.
8 They all hold swords,
Being expert in war.
Every man has his sword on his thigh
Because of fear in the night.
9 Of the wood of Lebanon
Solomon the King
Made himself a palanquin [a portable enclosed chair carried by men]:
10 He made its pillars of silver,
Its support of gold,
Its seat of purple,
Its interior paved with love
By the daughters of Jerusalem.
11 Go forth, O daughters of Zion,
And see King Solomon with the crown
With which his mother crowned him
On the day of his wedding,
The day of the gladness of his heart.

Act III, Scene 2 - The Wedding Night

Solomon

[to Shulamith]

4:1 Behold, you are fair, my love!
Behold, you are fair!
You have dove's eyes behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats,
Going down from Mount Gilead.

 (Solomon is not telling her she has goat-like hair. He is telling her that her wavy hair gives him the same feeling he has on a warm lazy evening with the smells of summer in the air as he watches the flocks on distant Mount Gilead wend their ways down the mountain. He saw scenes like this while visiting Shulamith's hometown since she was from the area of Mahanaim near Mount Gilead, so this would evoke fond memories for Shulamith.)

2 Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep
Which have come up from the washing,
Every one of which bears twins,
And none is barren among them.

 (Again, Solomon is not saying that it's nice she is not missing a lot of teeth. He is saying that the sight of her teeth, as he and she smile and laugh together, gives him the same kind of happy feeling he gets when he watches the sheep and lambs coming up out of the water and jumping about, etc. These kinds of compliments include the feelings, looks, smells, sounds, memories, etc. that they evoke.)

 (It should also be noted at this point that the Song of Solomon is not only a romance, engagement, and marriage manual, but also a manual of physical lovemaking. So when you read these compliments, they are not just verbal compliments. Solomon is giving physical attention to the area that he is talking about. In this passage, he started with Shulamith's hair and face and then works his way down complimenting, caressing, kissing, etc.)

3 Your lips are like a strand of scarlet,
And your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
Are like a piece of pomegranate.
4 Your neck is like the tower of David,
Built for an armory,
On which hang a thousand bucklers,
All shields of mighty men.
5 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle,
Which feed among the lilies.

 (In the previous verse, Solomon is caressing her breasts gently with feather-touches like he would pet two fawns. In the next verse he arrives at "the hill, or mound, of frankincense." Since her breasts were the "mountains of separation" and he is working down her body from there, you can figure out for yourself what the "mound of frankincense" refers to.)

6 Until the day breaks
And the shadows flee away,
I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh
And to the hill of frankincense.

 (At this point, Solomon pauses. He is waiting for Shulamith to become as aroused as he is.)

7 You are all fair, my love,
And there is no spot in you.

 (He tells her to put her worries behind her and concentrate on their enjoyment of each other.)

8 Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse,
With me from Lebanon.
Look from the top of Amana,
From the top of Senir and Hermon,
From the lions' dens,
From the mountains of the leopards.

 (Notice Solomon's love making involves verbal expressions and is not all silent touching. He doesn't 'talk dirty' or mean or crass like is popular in our culture, but is gentle and complimentary and expresses his love and feelings and enjoyment.)

9 You have ravished my heart,
My sister, my spouse;
You have ravished my heart
With one look of your eyes,
With one link of your necklace.
10 How fair is your love,
My sister, my spouse!
How much better than wine is your love,
And the scent of your perfumes
Than all spices!

 (Whereas earlier Solomon gently kissed her "lips like a strand of scarlet", now he more passionately 'french' or deep kisses her mouth to reach the tastes of 'honey and milk' under her tongue.)

11 Your lips, O my spouse,
Drip as the honeycomb;
Honey and milk are under your tongue;
And the fragrance of your garments
Is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

 (Now Solomon is waiting for Shulamith to be ready to open her "garden enclosed.")

12 A garden enclosed
Is my sister, my spouse,
A spring shut up,
A fountain sealed.
13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
With pleasant fruits,

 (Solomon is becoming quite passionate while waiting and starting to mix his metaphors in his urgency.)

Fragrant henna with spikenard,
14 Spikenard and saffron,
Calamus and cinnamon,
With all trees of frankincense,
Myrrh and aloes,
With all the chief spices—
15 A fountain of gardens,
A well of living waters,
And streams from Lebanon.

Shulamith

(Finally Shulamith is ready also.)

 [in Solomon's hearing]

16 Awake, O north wind,
And come, O south!
Blow upon my garden,
That its spices may flow out.
Let my beloved come to his garden
And eat its pleasant fruits.

 (A curtain discreetly descends to hide the couple at this time.)

Solomon

(Solomon doesn't immediately roll over and go to sleep, but continues to give Shulamith some attention after making love and expresses his satisfaction.)

 [to a sleepy Shulamith]

5:1 I have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse;
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice;
I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;
I have drunk my wine with my milk.

[CENTRAL VERSE - CHIASM]

(The following verse is at the center of the book and forms a chiasm where the same sections follow after in reverse order as the sections that came before. This verse portrays God as the creator of physical lovemaking and as deriving pleasure from seeing them happy and satisfied thereby.)

God

[to the couple]

Eat, O friends!
Drink, yes, drink deeply,
O beloved ones!

ACT IV – MARRIED LIFE (5:2-7:10)

Act IV, Scene 1 - At Shulamith's Room

Shulamith

(Shulamith has gone to bed and is falling asleep.)

 [narrating the scene]

2 I sleep, but my heart is awake;
It is the voice of my beloved!
He knocks, saying,

Solomon

(Solomon unexpectedly had some time freed up from a cancelled trip or something, and with great happiness he runs to Shulamith's room to spend the time with her.)

 [to Shulamith]

"Open for me, my sister, my love,
My dove, my perfect one;
For my head is covered with dew,
My locks with the drops of the night."

Shulamith

(But Shulamith is not immediately thrilled with his arrival. Why didn't he tell her he was coming? She's sleepy and in bed already.)

 [to Solomon]

3 I have taken off my robe;
How can I put it on again?
I have washed my feet;
How can I defile them?

 (After some delay, she realizes the situation and is happy that they will have some time together, so she puts on some perfume and goes to the door.)

4 My beloved put his hand
By the latch of the door,
And my heart yearned for him.
5 I arose to open for my beloved,
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
My fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the lock.

 (But Solomon was offended by her first response. He was so happy to be able to spend the time with her and she apparently did not feel the same way, so instead of being understanding and patient, he was offended and left.)

6 I opened for my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and was gone.
My heart leaped up when he spoke.
I sought him, but I could not find him;
I called him, but he gave me no answer.

 (Shulamith goes back to bed and has another anxiety dream.)

7 The watchmen who went about the city found me.
They struck me, they wounded me;
The keepers of the walls
Took my veil away from me.

 [narrating to the Daughters]

8 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved,
That you tell him I am lovesick!
The Daughters of Jerusalem
[narrating to Shulamith]
9 What is your beloved
More than another beloved,
O fairest among women?
What is your beloved
More than another beloved,
That you so charge us?

Shulamith

(This is a description of Shulamith's enjoyment of Solomon's physique, but it is also a set of love making instructions for when the woman takes the initiative. Here Shulamith starts at Solomon's head and works down. Again, she is caressing and kissing as well as complimenting.)

 [narrating to the Daughters]

10 My beloved is white and ruddy,
Chief among ten thousand.
11 His head is like the finest gold;
His locks are wavy,
And black as a raven.
12 His eyes are like doves
By the rivers of waters,
Washed with milk,
And fitly set.
13 His cheeks are like a bed of spices,
Banks of scented herbs.
His lips are lilies,
Dripping liquid myrrh.
14 His hands are rods of gold
Set with beryl.
His body is carved ivory
Inlaid with sapphires.
15 His legs are pillars of marble
Set on bases of fine gold.
His countenance is like Lebanon,
Excellent as the cedars.
16 His mouth is most sweet,
Yes, he is altogether lovely.

 (Though they are lovers, they are also friends.)

This is my beloved,
And this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem!

Act IV, Scene 2 - At Solomon's Garden

The Daughters of Jerusalem

[narrating to Shulamith]

6:1 Where has your beloved gone,
O fairest among women?
Where has your beloved turned aside,
That we may seek him with you?

Shulamith

(Shulamith knows where Solomon goes when he's upset. He's in his garden and she takes the initiative and goes to him. Once again she points out his gentleness and refinement and sensitivity.)

 [narrating to the Daughters]

2 My beloved has gone to his garden,
To the beds of spices,
To feed his flock in the gardens,
And to gather lilies.
3 I am my beloved's,
And my beloved is mine.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.

Solomon

(Solomon doesn't hold a grudge. When he sees Shulamith coming he doesn't make some snide remark. He would have taken the initiative to make up but he is happy to see her coming to him and immediately welcomes and praises her. Some of his praises to her are the same as on their wedding night and he is still as passionate for her as ever.)

 [to Shulamith]

4 O my love, you are as beautiful as Tirzah,
Lovely as Jerusalem,
Awesome as an army with banners!
5 Turn your eyes away from me,
For they have overcome me.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
Going down from Gilead.
6 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep
Which have come up from the washing;
Every one bears twins,
And none is barren among them.
7 Like a piece of pomegranate
Are your temples behind your veil.

 (Shulamith is wife number sixty or less of Solomon, who eventually was married to a thousand wives/concubines.)

8 There are sixty queens
And eighty concubines,
And virgins without number.
9 My dove, my perfect one,
Is the only one,
The only one of her mother,
The favorite of the one who bore her.
The daughters saw her
And called her blessed,
The queens and the concubines,
And they praised her.
10 Who is she who looks forth as the morning,
Fair as the moon,
Clear as the sun,
Awesome as an army with banners?

Shulamith

[narrating how she met Solomon]

11 I went down to the garden of nuts
To see the verdure of the valley,
To see whether the vine had budded
And the pomegranates had bloomed.
12 Before I was even aware,
My soul had made me
As the chariots of my noble people [Hebrew 'Ammi Nadib'].

Act IV, Scene 3 - Back at Shulamith's Room

The Daughters of Jerusalem

(Everyone is happy the couple made up.)

 [narrating to Shulamith]

13 Return, return, O Shulamite;
Return, return, that we may look upon you!

(Shulamith is the feminine form of Solomon meaning 'peace'. Below are the Hebrew and English-ized versions of their names, so her name may actually have been something else.)

Shulamith

(Mahanaim is the town that Shulamith is from. It's a place east of Jordan near the Jabbok River in Gilead, #16 on the map at the end of the chapter. 'Mahanaim' means "two camps" or "two hosts." It was so named by Jacob because God's host of angels met Jacob's host there, and also Jacob divided his family into two hosts because of fear of Esau, Gen32:1-10.)

 [narrating to the Daughters - Shulamith dances for Solomon]

What would you see in Shulamith —
As it were, the dance of the Mahanaim

Solomon

(The love making after making up. For the love making manual part of this section, Solomon begins at her feet and works upwards.)

 [to Shulamith]

7:1 How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
O prince's daughter!
The curves of your thighs are like jewels,
The work of the hands of a skillful workman.
2 Your navel is a rounded goblet;
It lacks no blended [intoxicating] beverage.
Your waist is a heap of wheat
Set about with lilies.
3 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle.
4 Your neck is like an ivory tower,
Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon
By the gate of Bath Rabbim.
Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon
Which looks toward Damascus.
5 Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel,

 (Her hair entangles Solomon's fingers and holds him like a purple curtained gallery does during the presentation of music or a play. How difficult it is for one army to conquer another and put its king in shackles, but the strands of her hair holds him, the king of Israel, captive.)

And the hair of your head is like purple;
A king is held captive by your tresses.

6 How fair and how pleasant you are,
O love, with your delights!
7 This stature of yours is like a palm tree,
And your breasts like its clusters.
8 I said, "I will go up to the palm tree,
I will take hold of its branches."

 (In verse 3 above, like back in 4:5, Solomon again gently caressed her breasts, but now he is going to passionately squeeze them.)

Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
The fragrance of your breath like apples,

 (In a previous chapter Solomon french kissed under her tongue for the taste of honey and milk, but now he will french kiss the roof of her mouth for the taste and effect of wine.)

9 And the roof of your mouth like the best wine.

Shulamith

(Shulamith is also ready.)

 [to Solomon]

The wine which goes down smoothly for my beloved,

 (And they make love and fall asleep again.)

Moving gently the lips of sleepers.

 (Someone has said, "The woman is the desire of the man, and to be desired is the desire of the woman.")

10 I am my beloved's,
And his desire is toward me.

ACT V – VISIT TO SHULAMITH'S HOMETOWN (7:11-8:4)

Act V, Scene 1 - Arrival at Mahanaim

 (Shulamith and Solomon take a trip to Mahanaim where Shulamith grew up. She joyfully shows him around the places she is so familiar with, and they visit her relatives.)

Shulamith

[to Solomon]

11 Come, my beloved,
Let us go forth to the field;
Let us lodge in the villages.
12 Let us get up early to the vineyards;
Let us see if the vine has budded,
Whether the grape blossoms are open,
And the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love.
13 The mandrakes give off a fragrance,
And at our gates are pleasant fruits,
All manner, new and old,
Which I have laid up for you, my beloved.

 (Shulamith imagines how great it would have been to have grown up with Solomon during her childhood years.)

 [to Solomon]

8:1 Oh, that you were like my brother,
Who nursed at my mother's breasts!
If  I should find you outside,
I would kiss you;
I would not be despised.
2 I would lead you and bring you
Into the house of my mother,
She who used to instruct me.
I would cause you to drink of spiced wine,
Of the juice of my pomegranate.

Act V, Scene 2 - Staying Overnight in Mahanaim

Shulamith

(Shulamith is happy she doesn't have to imagine now, because her and Solomon are together and he is holding her. This verse is also part of the love making manual as it presents a good position to cuddle, etc.)

 [narrating the scene]

3 His left hand is under my head,
And his right hand embraces me.

(Once again, Shulamith warns against getting physical before marriage. Aroused passions cloud one's judgment and put the obtaining of a good and lasting marriage at risk.)

Warning

4 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not stir up nor awaken love
Until it pleases.

Act V, Scene 3 – Visit to Where They First Met

Shulamith

[narrating the scene]

5 Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
Leaning upon her beloved?

Solomon

(Here is another reference to the provisions and shelter of the apple tree. Solomon speaks of Shulamith having been protected and provided for throughout her life to maintain her chastity, honor, and safety. First she was loved and protected by her own family and then Solomon was careful to treat her properly and safety throughout their courtship and engagement. Solomon did not believe in breaking women's hearts or selfishly using and then leaving them.)

[to Shulamith]

5b I awakened you under the apple tree.
There your mother brought you forth;
There she who bore you brought you forth.

Shulamith

[to Solomon]

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;

A Warning to Be Faithful in Engagement and Marriage

[to the audience]

For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave [sheol, hell];
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame [Literally, A flame of Jehovah].
7 Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.

Shulamith's Brothers

(Shulamith was protected by her brothers before she met Solomon. Probably her father died while she was young. Her brothers decided that if Shulamith was too shy to meet people ("a wall") they would help her safely do so; but if she was too open and vulnerable ("a door") they would filter her potential suitors and restrict access to her.)

 [to each other and the audience]

8 We have a little sister,
And she has no breasts.
What shall we do for our sister
In the day when she is spoken for?
9 If she is a wall,
We will build upon her
A battlement of silver;
And if she is a door,
We will enclose her
With boards of cedar.

Shulamith

(Shulamith was not shy, and she was not weak or too open. The time of uncertainty and risk while she was single turned to a time of peace because she was blessed to be chosen by good man, unlike many men that make marriage worse than singleness for their wives.)

[to her brothers and the audience]

10 I am a wall,
And my breasts like towers;
Then I became in his eyes
As one who found peace.

 (Shulamith tells how she met Solomon while she was working in the vineyards that her brothers leased from Solomon for 1000 silver coins per year. As she said back in 1:6, "The sun has tanned me. My mother's sons ... made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept." Baal Ammon would have been near Mahanaim where the tribe of Gad settled because the country of Ammon was near Mahanaim. Today, the whole area is Jordan with it's capital in Amman, Jordon.)

 [narrating to the audience]

11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baal Hamon [Baal Ammon];
He leased the vineyard to keepers;
Everyone was to bring for its fruit
A thousand silver coins.

 [to Solomon]

(Solomon gets the full benefit, 1000, of Shulamith and her physical love, but she asks that her brothers will be granted a stipend of 200 per year in appreciation of their care and protection of Shulamith in the past which made it possible for Shulamith and Solomon to be together now.)

12 My own vineyard is before me.
You, O Solomon, may have a thousand,
And those who tend its fruit two hundred.

Act V, Scene 4 – Concluding the Play

Solomon

(Solomon loves his country girl. He loves to see her, talk with her, and hear the sound of her voice. He does not say that she talks too much like people today say. He wants to spend as much time as possible with her. Having a husband that talks with her is as important to a woman as having a woman that makes love with him is to a man.)

 [to Shulamith]

13 You who dwell in the gardens,
The companions listen for your voice —
Let me hear it!

Shulamith

(Shulamith appreciates all Solomon's attention, and looks forward to his joyful physical enjoyment of her. As the New Testament admonishes, in less poetic terms, "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency," 1Cor7:2-5.)

 [to Solomon]

14 Make haste, my beloved,
And be like a gazelle
Or a young stag
On the mountains of spices.


 

 


 

 


Back Cover Painting

Jacob and Rachel by William Dyce, 1853

 

"Jacob … came into the land of the people of the east. ... Rachel came with her father's sheep; for she kept them. ... When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, ... Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. ... Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. ... And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? … And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid," Gen29:1-29.