Much as we give an engagement ring to pledge our commitment to a future wife, a Jewish man in biblical days had his own way of showing his commitment to his future bride. A man would cover his bride with his garment, signifying his desire to enter into a covenant relationship with her and offer her his protection. It was a symbolic act recognizing the covenant conditions of the ordinance of marriage.
We see this practice at work in the story of Ruth in the Old Testament. After Ruth returned to Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, the older woman set into motion a plan to obtain a husband for Ruth and security for both her and her daughter-in-law. She instructed Ruth to visit a near kinsman, Boaz, on the threshing floor, and Ruth did as she was told. In Ruth 3:7–9, we read:
After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.” Boaz covered the young woman with his garment, and shortly thereafter he completed the necessary requirements to take Ruth as his wife.
Through the prophet Malachi, God said to the men of Israel and to us today that He hates divorce because it violently rips the covering from his covenant daughters: “ ‘For I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘and him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Mal. 2:16, NASB). Divorce breaks the covenant, and that is not something God takes lightly.
The word “treacherously” in the verse above is interesting in this context. It means “to pillage under the covering.” When men deal “treacherously” with their wives, they are wreaking havoc and destruction under the ruse of being the heads of their homes, and they are pillaging the hearts and lives of those they have sworn to protect. Yes, God hates divorce, for it takes a divine ordinance meant to provide covering and turns it into an act of violence. Don’t ever take that lightly, and never forget this next major point: Breaking the covenant conditions is to reject God’s plans.
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