Feature: Sarah and Abraham, Rachel and Jacob, Ruth and Boaz
Were they written in the Bible as love stories leading Christians to acceptable ways of courtship and happy marriages? There are principles that canbe learned from their relationships, as recorded, but to read them as doctrine for love, courtship and marriage is totally wrong.
Take the case of Sarah and Abraham. God promised them a child "as many as the stars". Culturally, an heir must be born to the couple with the patriarchal status of Abraham but Sarah’s fertility appeared problematic. Almost a hundred years old, understandably, giving birth to child is impossible but the thought of a providential promise and social pressure must have forced Sarah to consent "an indecent proposal" by allowing Abraham to a sexual relationship with a concubine, Hagar. So, Ishmael was born and miraculously, Isaac to Sarah herself.
This is rather strange unless perversion was acceptable then. Sarah and Abraham succumbed to social pressure and took a surrogate sexual partner to alleviate stigma Think of the social, psychological and legal complications if this relational pattern is followed today. Definitely, the relationship of Sarah and Abraham is not a model to be followed.
Numerous chapters later, we encounter the love story of Jacob and Rachel which some authors described as "great". How can this be?
Jacob, the deceiver, must escape the wrath of his brother Esau and proceeded to a far place in Haran. Upon arrival, he stopped at a well where a beautiful lady named Rachel was waiting for assistance to uncover the heavy stoned covering. Without question, Jacob impressed her by uncovering the well, kissed her and cried. Could this be seduction through "crocodile tears" of a first degree cousin? Is this allowed in ancient Jewish culture? No courtship was engaged by Jacob at all.
The hurriedly done intimacy with Rachel did not worked well. Laban the father intervened by exacting seven years of labor as a bride price. Being truthful to the seven years condition, Laban outwitted Jacob by forcing Rachel’s older sister Leah to sleep with Jacob instead of Rachel; Jacob was disappointed, of course. Perhaps, Jacob’s persistence in his love for Rachel is worth emulating because another seven years was exacted. Marriage was granted after fourteen years of labor.
Sounds persistent as a true lover but Jacob married Rachel under a polygamous arrangement. Leah remained a wife at the same time Rachel was Jacob’s true love and re-married. How will contemporary society make sense out of this arrangement?
In the case of Ruth and Boaz, it was founded on Boaz’ being a kinsman. Men of good standing are obliged to marry a relative under financial distress. Ruth and mother in law Naomi evidently were in poverty situation and Boaz understood them. Ruth, however, is not a Jew and logically is not Boaz’ relative. Naomi must have understood the flimsiness of their cause so she told Ruth to enter Boaz’ storage quarter and with no other reason but seduced him. Is there any other reasons? Ruth as a non-Jewish Moabite perhaps can take this arrangement to ensure the sealing of her marriage to Boaz. Is this not fornication? Boaz did not succumb to the temptation, though.