The Bible is filled with stories of passion. Some of its stories portray bravery and treachery; others depict loyalty and love.
In honor of Valentine’s Day – a day for romance that takes its name from a saint reputed to have been imprisoned for marrying lovers whose unions were outlawed – we asked several local religious leaders to name their favorite love stories from scripture.
Their favorites varied. But whether they turned to the Old Testament or the New Testament, they found stories expressing romantic love.
Here are the ones they chose.
Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz of Congregation Or Hadash turned to the story of Isaac and Rebecca, found in the book of Genesis. She listed several reasons for choosing the story, including that it was the first time in the Bible the word “love” was used to describe a man’s affection for a woman.
She also gave a personal reason for choosing the story of Rebecca and Isaac. Her parents were named Esther Rebecca and Isaac, she said, “and they have been married for 52 years.” Bortz called her parents’ marriage “a wonderful partnership.”
Also, her father’s mother, she said, was named Sarah, the same as Isaac’s mother in the Biblical stories. “So it’s all running in the family,” she said. “That, and the fact that the woman was extremely independent, like my mother is, and like they taught me to be.”
Here’s Rebecca and Isaac’s story: Abraham was looking for a wife for his son, Isaac, and sent a servant looking for a suitable prospect. The servant stood next to a well in Abraham’s home country and prayed that a maiden would offer him a drink and also offer to water his camels. Rebecca immediately appeared and offered to do just that.
Rebecca agreed to accompany the servant’s party to Abraham’s home. As they approached, Rebecca saw Isaac in the fields preparing to pray. When she heard that the man she saw was to be her husband, she covered herself with a veil. Isaac took her into his late mother’s tent and married her and, the Bible says, “he loved her.”
Rev. Jim Duffy of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church chose the story found in Genesis of Jacob and Rachel. The story reveals true love in sacrifice, he said, and demonstrates Jacob’s faith.
Here’s Jacob and Rachel’s story: Jacob fell for Rachel and agreed to work seven years for her father in return for her hand in marriage. But when the bride was presented to Jacob, she was veiled. Jacob did not realize that Rachel’s older sister, Leah, had been substituted for Rachel and he fell for the trick, marrying Leah.
When Jacob confronted Rachel’s father, he said it was proper that the older sister should marry first. Jacob agreed to work for Rachel’s father for another seven years in order to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage. The second time proved the charm. He married the sister he was after.
Dr. Charles Qualls, associate pastor at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, turned to the story of Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus.
“You kind of piece their story together by looking at the four Gospel accounts,” said Qualls, who serves as Second-Ponce’s associate pastor for pastoral care, and counsels married couples and divorcees.
What he finds in the story of Joseph and Mary is trust. Although there is little written about Jesus’ father in the Bible, Qualls says there’s enough to realize he was “a pretty determined, pretty decent guy.”
“The more convenient and the safer thing for him to do would have been to break off the engagement because she was pregnant. But we know that they went on to have a pretty complete family,” Qualls said. “You see mentions of the siblings of Jesus. Jesus was brought up in the carpentry trade, according to tradition. He would have learned that at his father’s side. You’ve got this clear picture of a family life that grows up due to sheer determination and trust.”
Joseph and Mary’s story: Joseph and Mary were betrothed when they traveled to Bethlehem to be counted in the Roman census. While there, Mary gave birth to Jesus. An angel told Joseph that Jesus was in danger from King Herod. The family fled to Egypt. They returned after Herod’s death and settled in Nazareth.
Rev. Will Zant, pastor of the North Springs United Methodist Church, first thought of words from the New Testament, in the Book of John. He often quotes these words in weddings, he said. “It’s just a beautiful testament about the word ‘love,’” he said. “We love one another because God’s essence is love. That’s a reminder to me … that our lives should be the same.”
He also singled out the story of Ruth from the Old Testament. “It’s a story about how a woman who lost her husband remains faithful to her mother-in-law,” he said. “Her devotion eventually helps her find another husband. I just love that story.”
Here’s Ruth’s story: Ruth’s husband died. When her widowed mother-in-law decided to return to her homeland, Ruth went with her. “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge” Ruth said. “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
Once there, Ruth set to work in the fields, where she met Boaz. Boaz agreed to marry her, but another man had first claim on her. After the other man relinquished his right to marry Ruth, Boaz and Ruth were able to marry.