Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. 200 pp. $18.00.
This volume appears within the series New Studies in Biblical Theology, edited by D. A. Carson. Ortlund contributes to the discussion of a prominent biblical theme that was until recently fading from the theological landscape. His study is prompted by the 1993 monograph of Nelly Stienstra entitled YHWH is the Husband of His People. If these two works are any indication, it appears that scholars are beginning to rediscover a neglected message which begins quietly in the Pentateuch, reaches its forte in the prophets, and continues with clear echoes in the teaching of the apostles. According to Ortlund, “That message proclaims that, if Yahweh is the husband of his people, then their lapses from faithfulness to him may properly be regarded as the moral equivalent to whoredom” (p. 8). It is the examination of this “spiritual adultery,” from Genesis to Revelation, that distinguishes Ortlund’s book. He does not claim for this theme more than the biblical witness permits; it is not somehow a key to all of theology. Instead “spiritual harlotry” is merely one thread in the larger tapestry of biblical theology. Nevertheless, it is an important thread for the modern church - standing as it does among the neglected themes of Scripture. It is in such overlooked theological strands “that we most urgently need to hear the Word of God again” (p. 176). In filling this lacuna Ortlund has produced a work that is as challenging as it is timely.
Chapter 1 (“In the beginning: human marriage as ‘one flesh’”) begins with the assumption that the biblical presentation of God’s people-as-harlot is only apprehended rightly when God’s intention for marriage is rightly understood. Ortlund therefore starts with an exposition of Gen 2:23–25. The union between man and woman in marriage is a “one flesh” relationship so that “the bond of marriage reunites what was originally and literally one flesh” (p. 23). This “oneness” highlights a relationship with no earthly parallel. The fact that it is a relationship bonded in one flesh reflects its temporal and non-ultimate nature. Unlike any other creature - including man - woman was created not from the ground but from human flesh “putting her alone at the man’s level” (p. 19). The identity of man as אישׁ and the woman as אשׁה reveals their “same but different” companionship as well as the superiority of the woman over all other creatures the man has named. Man is required to leave his parents and to cling to his wife in the creation of the new life which marriage entails (p. 22). So profound is this new union that it ...
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