There are many love stories in the Bible. Isaac’s love for Rebecca may be the first to come to mind. He was sent forth by his father Abraham to find a wife. Rebecca appears and draws water for him and his camels. After receiving permission from Rebecca’s father and brother, this arranged marriage is greeted with Rebecca’s consent. They go on to have twin boys, Jacob and Esau.
Jacob and Rachel’s relationship was not so easy. Jacob saw a shepherdess at a well. Her name was Rachel. Jacob fell in love with her and promised to work seven years for her father Laban in order to receive his permission to marry Rachel. As it happened, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah, Rachel’s elder sister. So Jacob had to work another seven years in order to make Rachel his bride. In Hebrew Bible days men could have more than one wife. King David had at least eight wives who are named, and his son, Solomon, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Our preference these days in the western world is to have one wife at a time.
Thinking of David, there is his scandalous love affair with Bathsheba. David saw Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop and gave into his temptation. When she became pregnant David had to think of a way to get rid of her husband, Uriah. So he ordered Uriah into the front lines of battle where he was killed. David was then free to marry Bathsheba. Although they lost their first child, Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon through whom Jesus’ lineage to King David is traced.
A love story that is sometimes overlooked is David and Jonathan’s deep love for each other. The traditional interpretation has them forming a political covenant and a close, non-sexual friendship. We read in Second Samuel David’s great distress at the death of Jonathan, whom he calls his brother. “Greatly beloved were you to me,” he says. “Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”
Some scholars today believe that Jonathan and David were lovers based on the way the story is presented and on the Hebrew words used to describe their relationship. The actual nature of their relationship may continue to entertain speculation, but their love for each other is not in question. It is another of the rich love stories of the Bible.
These love stories uphold the deepest message of the Bible. The Bible is ultimately the story of love. In both the old and new testaments we learn that we are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Paul upholds this virtue when he wrote that the greatest gift is love, surpassing faith and hope.
In our personal lives most of us have discovered that love is what gives our lives meaning and joy. In the intimacy of relationships we get a glimpse of the deep love that God has for each of us. Intimacy with God is often learned through intimacy with another person. It can be the most cherished gift in a marriage or committed relationship.
The greatest love story of all, of course, is God’s love for us expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” It is no wonder that John 3:16 and succeeding verses have become a beloved passage of scripture. The story is not about God’s desire to torture us in hell, but to love us in all things and to grant us the joy of discovering what love can mean in our relationships with one another. God cherishes our love stories and seeks to embrace us every moment of our lives.