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A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor uncover his father’s bed. (Deuteronomy 22:30)

Reading this in the 21st century, one might think that to point out something of this nature is unnecessary. However, God knows the heart of man which is why Scripture clearly states what is acceptable and what is forbidden where relationships are concerned (see Leviticus 18 — 20). In this verse, Moses takes aim at the heathen custom of taking a woman in the same way one might take any other possession, which is to say, without any proper boundaries. Furthermore, he reminds Israel that anyone who would “uncover his father’s bed” by having relations with his father’s wife will suffer dire consequences.

I say Moses “reminded” them because Jacob’s firstborn, Reuben, defiled his father’s marriage bed by having relations with Bilhah — thus he uncovered his father’s bed. As a consequence, he forfeited the birthright of the firstborn to Joseph. The Hebrew word כנף kenaf, translated here as “bed,” literally means wing or skirt referring, most likely, to the bedcover or bedskirt. Thus in Hebrew thought, “uncovering the bed (skirt)” is a euphemism for exposing or dishonoring marital relations which may include engaging in inappropriate relations. In our vernacular, it would be akin to “pulling back the covers” so everyone can see what no one should see.

That being understood, it is important to know that the word kanaf also refers to the edges or wings of a robe. There are some birds who, when they mate, shield each other with their wings. Therefore, if someone brought another under the cover of their robe (skirt), it was understood to mean they were offering protection. In some cases, to spread one’s robe over another was a pledge of marriage. So then, when Ruth went into Boaz at night, she said to him, “Spread your robe over your handmaid, because you are a redeeming kinsman” (Ruth 3:9). Ruth was compelling Boaz to place his robe over her as a token of marriage and make her his wife.

Why is this important to us, today? Because Messiah, our Kinsmen Redeemer, has spread His robe over us; He has brought us under His wings and into His household. In so doing, He has covered our shame with a robe of Righteousness, making it possible for us to receive the promises that are inherent in the birthright given to the firstborn. No longer are we exposed to the penalties of a fallen nature but are given access to wholeness, prosperity and protection. Thus it is written: “To you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His kenaf — wings” (Malachi 4:2).

Blessings and Shalom,  




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