The Jewish Wedding and Jesus – To Know and Be Known

The Jewish Wedding and Jesus – To Know and Be Known

The Jewish Wedding – To Know and Be Known.

“The Israelites, groaning in their slavery, cried out for help and from the depths of their slavery their cry came up to God. God heard their groaning; God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the Israelites, and God knew them.” (Exodus 2:25).

“Yahweh Lord then said to Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying for help on account of their taskmasters. for I know their pain.” (Exodus 3:7).

In any marriage, Jewish or otherwise, the most intimate experience of unity between husband and wife is the act of sexual relations. God blessed it and called it the experience of becoming one flesh. The Hebrew word for used for intimate marital relations was “yada,” which means to “know.” In the Hebrew mind, to know is a relationship word, a word that implies profound personal experience. Adam “knew” Eve and she became pregnant with Cain (Gen. 4:1); Hannah and her husband “knew’ each other, and she became pregnant with Samuel (1 Samuel 1 :19); the warped, depraved men of Sodom wanted to “know” the visiting angels that appeared to be men, a gang rape in the making (Gen. 19:5). In those passages and many others, the word “yada” was used for “know.” In the Hebrew Bible, “knowing” was a polite euphemism for love-making between husband and wife. Using the word yada was the most powerful way they could think of to describe the sexual act.

The Jewish way of knowing was obviously much more than a mental activity. It was more than to comprehend or understand something, more than learning information and facts. Yada implies an intimate knowledge, a deep personal union, a personal experience with someone, with the truth. In the Hebrew mind, we don’t really know something until it becomes a part of us, something that changes us in some way. To know is to be able to live it out, to experience participation with that which is known. To know is to experience someone or something in a profoundly personal way.

So when God claims to “know” someone, it is not just God’s mind taking note of something. It is not just God’s intellect at work. When God saw the Israelites and “knew’ them in Ex. 2:25, God experienced the Israelites at a deep, visceral level. God was experiencing the Israelites intimately, having deep relations with them. When God told Moses He “knew’ their pain in Ex. 3:7, God was deeply experiencing their pain along with them. He was personally bearing the yoke with the Israelites. As Isaiah recounted in reference to God’s relationship with the Israelites, “In all their affliction, He too was afflicted.” (Is. 63:9). When David rejoices in the fact that the Lord “knew” him in Ps. 139:1-2, David understood that God didn’t merely know of him. David understood that God knew him intimately, that God was literally his bosom friend. David understood that God knew him completely, a spiritual version of physical relations. David used the word yada as his best way to describe the relationship between him and God, because yada implied union and the idea of a “one-flesh” bond. In this case, of course, it is a “one-spirit” bond.

Jesus, being fully Jewish, continued with this Hebrew way of thinking. Near the close of his Sermon on the Mount, He offered a short imaginary anecdote about the Last Day. Many will come to Him, He says, expecting the gates to open for them, because they said “Lord, “Lord,” because of their prophecies said in His name, driving out demons and performing many miracles in the name of Jesus. What was Jesus’ response? He told them in no uncertain terms, “Depart from me! I never knew you!” (Matt. 7:23). Miracles and mighty works and the spiritually correct God-talk are all secondary in Christ’s mind. He wants instead to first “know’ us, to have a spiritual union with each of us, to have spiritual relations with us at a deep, personal, intimate level. Jesus wants more than anything else to truly “know” us. He said as much in His discussion of being the Good Shepherd in John 10:14-15, I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

A spiritual relationship with God seems best understood in the context of “knowing” in the biblical sense, a deep union with spiritual relations between God and the believer. In the same way that Adam and Eve “knew” each other physically, God wants to “know” us spiritually, and for us to know Him at that same level. To walk with the Lord is to experience spiritual relations with Him.