With My Body I Thee Worship

In the old Book of Common Prayer marriage liturgy, the man says these words as he places a ring on his wife’s finger: “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, with all my worldly goods I thee endow.”

That “I thee worship” jars. But it has biblical precedent. In his last speech of self-defense before his friends, Job insists on his sexual purity, and pronounces a eye-for-eye curse on himself: “If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or I have lurked at my neighbor’s doorway, may my wife grind for another, and let others kneel over her” (vv. 9-10). “Grinding” at a millstone has sexual connotations elsewhere (Isaiah 47:1-3), and here in Job it is combined with a literal reference to the man’s posture during intercourse.

Elsewhere, “bow” ( kara’ ) is an act of reverence and respect, whether toward human beings (e.g., 2 Kings 1:13) or toward God and His Messiah (1 Kings 8:54; 2 Chronicles 7:3; Psalm 22:29; 72:9) or idols (1 Kings 19:18). The latter passage is particularly revealing, since it speaks not only of bowing to Baal but of “kissing” him.

Bowing and kissing appear in both liturgical and sexual settings in Scripture. As the prayer book implies, worship is a kind of loving-making and love-making a sort of worship. In both cases, there is to be only one object of veneration.

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