“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.”
(Proverbs 24:30 – 31)
As I said, chastity does not only have to do with sexual purity but that it has to do with everything that shows a sense of commitment to one’s spouse. I shall now talk about a spouse as a seal and a covering.
Proverbs 24:30 – 31 tells us of a lazy man who is void of understanding. His vineyard was therefore covered with thorns, nettles, etc., and the stone wall was broken down. I liken this vineyard to a matrimonial home. The things I want to talk about I liken to as the stone wall meant to protect the vineyard. Without these things the matrimonial home would be trampled easily upon. It takes a person void of understanding to throw these things off. The covering and the seals I shall present here are a stonewall to matrimonial bliss.
—The Covering Of The Eyes—
“And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.”
First we shall look at marriage as covering of the eyes. In the text above we find an admonition from one who we can say is not a believer, yet how right is that adminition. Abimelech had taken Sarah to himself thinking she was merely a sister to Abraham not knowing she was also his wife. God punished his household for his actions. He pleaded to God and God asked him to return Sarah to her husband. It was when he returned her that he gave her this admonition.
A spouse should be taken as a covering to the eye. Not that one should cover the eye because of their spouse but that the spouse should themselves be the covering with which one covers the eyes. What does this mean? The moment one says “I do” he or she should stop seeing other people so much as to notice their features, merits, qualities, etc. The only person that should be seen this way is their spouse.
It is sad to see people who after marriage would still be seeing other people and be attracted to them. For example a married woman watching a television program in which a man is talking and saying, “wow, this man is handsome. He’s well built. He’s just unique.” But why should this be? This happens especially to celebrities and famous people. I remember hearing of one very handsome president, in those years when there was no television, that whenever he’s passing by a road, women would leave their homes and line up by the road just to look at the handsome president. I heard of another famous and handsome celebrity that women threw their wedding rings at his feet saying [paraphrased] that they despise their marriage for his sake. Such women have no covering of the eyes. Such actions is a dishonour to their spouses. Once a person gets married, all other people should be seen as, “just another person.”
Sometimes married men also go eyeing other women. These things ought not to be so. Sometimes, people attribute these things to be a natural cause of being familiar to one’s spouse and for this reason one get’s bored of his own spouse and looks for something new. Whatever the cause, desiring anything that should be sought for from one’s spouse from another is an act of unchastity.
I have seen women who are always dull and moody when in the company of their husbands, but when this other guy, richer than their husband, taller than him, more handsome than him, having a sweeter ascent than him, comes around, she suddenly becomes lively, excited and begins to fly all around the place. They evidently delight more in another man than in their own spouses. It is bad enough to merely delight in another man, to delight in him more than one’s own spouse is evil. Such have no covering of the eyes.
All these things ought not to be. The admonition or “marriage counselling” of Abimelech holds true today as when he gave it to Sarah. Chastity requires that every married couple have their spouse as a covering of the eyes.
—The Seal Of The Heart And Arms—
“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.”
(Song of Solomon 8:6)
Next I’d like to talk about setting the spouse as a seal upon the heart. Just like the covering of the eyes, setting one’s spouse as a seal of the heart is also a mark of chastity, and all that was said about the covering of the eyes applies here too. But setting a spouse as a seal upon the heart is not just about the vision of the eye but goes beyond that to mean the feeling of affection in the heart. It is a mark of chastity not to allow anyone else get even a little of the affections of one’s heart. It is also a mark of chastity of not allowing any of the affections one has for his spouse to diminish in any way. Having a seal on something is to prevent the coming into or the going out of anything from that which is sealed. For this reason the affection one has for his/her spouse should (by means of that seal) be prevented from leaking out thereby causing it to diminish. So also must affection for another should (by means of that seal) be prevented from leaking in. Failure to have one’s spouse as a seal upon the heart must result in a leaking in both directions (in and out).
Now I shall talk about the seal to the arm. When the verse goes on to talk about setting the spouse as a seal to the arm it is referring to a physical aspect of chastity. The arm is that with which you embrace. It is sad that many people have loose arms today. They can embrace anyone’s wife in the name of friendliness and being social. I once saw a man come from behind a woman and threw his arm round her neck saying, “my friend.” I was shocked and so was she. She seemed to have caught cold on the spot.
It is sadder to see people embracing other people’s spouses as a form of formality. When you go to some occasion, you’d see people (probably the hosts or something) line up and the guests would go from person embracing and pecking. We also see instances when people go to a ball and a man would take another man’s spouse in his arm and they’d dance together. I believe such people don’t have a seal on their arms. Their arms are loose. It is not being social, it is being unchaste.
I watched a funny video about Joe Bidden at the time when he declared his interest to run in the 2020 US presidential election in which Hilary Clinton met him coming from a plane or something. She opened her arms wide to embrace the man and as she did so he caught her. I say caught because what ensued was more than a greeting. He caught her and wouldn’t let her go even when she evidently wished he’d let go. He held her fast smiling down at her. It was such a funny sight to behold but sad when you consider the fact that she’s someone else’s wife. The embrace she went for was a formal greeting according to what many call western cultures but in the same culture what Bidden did was inappropriate and even disrespectful. But that is where I get confused. To them it is not the embracing that is wrong but the duration of embracing that is wrong. If it be wrong for a man to embrace a woman who is not his spouse for longer period of time, so why is it not wrong to embrace at all? I think there’s something quite faulty with the reasoning that draws such a conclusion.
It is not just in the West that such things happen. When people feel that they are attractive, they want people to see it. If your wife is attracted to you it doesn’t mean you’re attractive so taking photos embracing other women and having other women embrace makes them feel others would see them as attractive. I once saw a post by a prominent preacher here in Nigeria on Facebook in which he held a woman by the waist after an interview for a photo. The photo got some comments from very few people showing disapproval at the way he held the lady. He was married with kids but the lady was single. In his explanation he gave in trying to justify the photo he said the way he held the lady meant nothing and that there’s nothing between them. To prove that there was nothing between them he said that the lady is even engaged and is preparing to get married. I was disappointed at such a bad way to justify what is clearly wrong and has attracted disapproving comments. I replied to his comment saying, “if I were her fiancé and I saw this photo it could mean the end of marriage plans.” He blocked me. I do not judge him, I don’t know whether there was really anything between them and I’m almost convinced that there was nothing, but such embrace is unchaste. Christian men ought not to have such loose arms. Our arms ought to be sealed having our spouses as the seal.
People ought to keep their hands away from the opposite sex who are not their spouses. It is not for nought that the Bible clearly says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” (1 Corinthians 7:1). That is not talking about sexual intercourse, neither is it about embracing, nor is it even referring to a handshake, but touch. It is good not even to touch not to talk of embracing. The next verse goes, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2). In other words, let nobody touch anybody of the opposite sex except his own spouse. This is the true Christian rule. Cultures that teach otherwise are anti-Christian. Cultures that say it is social to live contrary to this rule have nothing in common with the Christian faith in this regard.
Now, it says “it is good not to touch…” doesn’t mean it is bad lest we think that if a man touch a woman accidentally he has sinned. Neither does it mean then that men, for example, should not baptise women and that women should be baptised by women. Rather since it is good not to touch a woman, we must avoid it as much as possible. Should it ever happen it should be because it is expedient and for a noble reason. It shouldn’t be on grounds of saying hi, formality, etc.
Let the world do what they like, Christian couples ought to set their spouses as a seal to their arms. It is not jus anybody you embrace. Christian couples ought not to embrace anyone of the opposite sex except their own spouse and children. Chastity demands that you keep your arms to yourself. As an act of conjugal commitment, let not our hearts and arms be loose. Let them be sealed with our spouses.
Avoiding The Provocation of Jealousy
“”… love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave…”
(Song of Solomon 8:6)
Now I wish to talk on the outward demonstrations of what these covering and seals are supposed to avoid; jealousy. We shall continue from the verse we’ve dwelt upon above (Song of Solomon 8:6). Why did the speaker say that his/her spouse should set himself/herself as a seal to the heart and arm? It explains “[because] jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.” (Song of Solomon 8:6). All these acts of conjugal commitment portrayed as a covering and a seal are for the purpose of keeping from stirring jealousy. Chastity demands that we are committed to never stirring the jealousy of him/her whom our souls loveth.
I don’t know how true this is, but I heard that some people enjoy making their spouse jealous. They claim that when they act certain ways that could stir jealousy and it results in their spouse ranting and tearing down the house, it means their spouse loves them and by this they could determine just how much they’re loved. Others take pleasure in seeing others feel jealous about them. Both these are dangerous things to do and are an evil view to hold. Jealousy is cruel and can be used as a means to know just how much you’re loved. It is good enough to know that someone loves you enough to say to you alone (among all the people in this wide world), “I do.” That should suffice. If that is not enough to tell you how much you’re loved then nothing will. Inflicting something as cruel as jealousy on a spouse for any reason is evil.
There was something I read in the Bible that suggested to me the evil of jealousy. In the part of the Law known as “laws of jealousies,” which can be found in Numbers 5:11-31, we can see a very detailed judgment which we shall consider here. I should have quoted the full text but it is 21 verses long so I shall just summarise it here. However it is good for people to read it carefully on their own.
First thing to point out is that the law states when it is to be applied with these words, “And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled.” (Numbers 5:14). The condition is if the spirit of jealousy come upon a man. Whether his wife be guilty of actual adultery or not. So far he feels jealous concerning his wife the law is to be applied.
So what does the law says? When the man is jealous he is to take his wife to the priest who is to make stand before the Lord, he is to uncover her hair (which is a reproachful thing), and make her drink a bitter water into which he has put the dust of the ground. He shall also pronounce a curse, write it in a book, blot it out with the bitter water and cause her to drink it both before and after he offers the sacrifice of jealousy. If the woman be then guilty of adultery, she shall be affected by the curse. If she is not guilty of adultery she shall be free from the curse.
This is quite an ordeal to go through just for making one’s spouse feel jealous. Something that may have not even been deliberate. I had thought that if she was not guilty of adultery and the man made her pass through this then he ought to be punished for making his wife go through such an ordeal. But while I wondered I read the following words, “This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.” (Numbers 5:29 – 31). My main interest is in these words, “Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.” Whether or not she is guilty of adultery the man shall be guiltless from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity whether or not she be guilty of actual adultery. This was very contrary to what I had expected, but I realised something new about jealousy.
I am not saying we should be pursuing the punishment of those who make us feel jealous, should this happen, but this teaches us that, according to the Law, it is a woman’s responsibility to conduct herself in a way that should not in any way stir up jealousy in her husband. Failure to keep him from being jealous is iniquity only with a less punishment. Now the ordeal she goes through required of the Law and the curse are two category of punishments. The ordeal alone was a punishment for provoking the jealousy of a husband or not being cautious enough to avoid provoking it, while the ordeal and the curse are for those who are actually guilty. This teaches us that women ought to be careful how they conduct themselves and be circumspect.
As for men, they ought also to be careful how they conduct themselves. We ought to treat others the way we want them to treat us. If we don’t want to be inflicted with the cruel infliction of jealousy, so must we avoid it by all means. Love demands that we seek the best of him/her whom we love. Stirring jealousy is cruel and is a great a evil second only to actual adultery. For this reason we must avoid stirring jealousy by all means.
We should note that in these verses that present us with the coverings (Genesis 20:16) and the seals (Song of Solomon 8:6) it is the spouses themselves that are to be the coverings and the seals. Not that one should go look for something with which to cover their eyes or something else with which to seal the heart and arms. But their very spouses should be this covering and seal. In Genesis 20:16 Abimelech told Sarah, “HE is to thee a covering of the eyes,” not “cover your eyes with something for his sake.” Song of Solomon 8:6 says, “Set ME as a seal,” not, “for my sake go get a seal.” So the very spouse is to be a seal. What does this inform us about? As a covering and as a seal you are to bear him/her to whom you’re married upon your heart and upon your arm everywhere you go. You are to be ever conscious of them even in their absence. You are to conduct yourself as though they were there with you thinking, “if he/she were here could my actions or intended actions provoke his/her jealousy?” Give that question a honest answer and act accordingly. Be ever conscious of your spouse and be committed to conducting yourself in ways that is to their best interest and well being. Both emotionally, psychologically, health wise, and other wise.
Avoiding the provocation of jealousy requires outward demonstrations of the inward chaste feelings. Both the covering and seals are inward feelings that one’s spouse may not see. A person can pretend not to be chaste, but what good does it do to merely feel it and not show it? So we must show outward cautions to reflect the inward feelings of chastity. It is by such outward expressions of covering to our eyes and seals to our hearts and arms that we could avoid stirring jealousies in our spouses.
These are the stone walls to our vineyard. By vineyard I mean matrimonial bliss. Showing lack of commitment to these things is laziness and lack of understanding. Such is sure to ruin our matrimonial bliss. May God help us all to be passionately committed to our spouses and be a people of understanding in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Prayer: Dear Father and Lord, help us your children not to take the issue of chastity as a light matter like the world about us. Help us to be committed to our spouses. Teach us to have our spouses as a covering to our eyes and a seal to our hearts and arms. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.