Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
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Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife In Biblical Theology, Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans (1996). 200 pages, paper, $18.00.
The purpose of this fine book by Ortlund, who teaches Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is to explore the metaphor of God’s marriage to His covenant people, and their unfaithfulness to Him as “whoredom.” Although this is not simply a word study of the Hebrew root znh (“to commit fornication, to be a harlot”), this is the controlling idea. Actually, since he acknowledges, rightly in my judgment, that the root designates “illegitimate sexual involvement, the dark reversal of the marital ideal” (p. 26), perhaps “sexual impurity” or “adultery” would be a more apt (but less arresting) title, since no commercial associations belong to the Hebrew word as such.
The first chapter, “In the Beginning: Human Marriage as ‘One Flesh,’“ lays the foundation for the study by treating Genesis 2:18–24. He sums up:
Human marriage is premised in the making of the woman out of the very flesh of the man, so that the bond of marriage reunites what was originally and literally one flesh. All other
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relational claims must yield to the primacy of marital union. It requires an exclusive, lifelong bonding of one man with one woman in one life fully shared. It erects barriers around the man and woman, and it destroys all barriers between the man and the woman. God so joins them together that they belong fully to one another, and to one another only (p. 23).
This is well put, and I hope he writes to apply it in an exploration of human marriage; but in any case we can see that for God to use this as an image of His relationship to His people shows, not only the outrage of unfaithfulness (“whoredom”), but also the ecstasy of faithful adherence (“destroys all barriers”).
Chapter two is titled “Playing the Harlot.” Here Ortlund considers the employment of the metaphor in the Pentateuch and Judges, which lays the foundation for the rest of the Bible. He concludes, “the clearest marital images early in the story of the covenanted people are Israel’s whoredom and Yahweh’s jealousy in return. From the beginning, the marriage was strained. That tension will break out into open conflict in the prophetic literature” (p. 45).
The topic of chapter 3, “Committing Great Harlotry,” is the use of the metaphors in Hosea, especially Hosea 1–3, which are based on Hosea’s own experience as a cuckolded husband. Ortlund gives...
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