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Bible Prophecy Research 
Title: Marriage
Submitted by: research-bpr@philologos.org

Date: May, 1998
URL: http://philologos.org/bpr/files/m003.htm

Marriage

Revelation 19:4-9

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!" Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!" Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

See "Sketches of Jewish Social Life: Mothers, Daughters, and Wives in Israel (39k)

Please note references to weddings not being on feast-days, usual wedding day of virgins on Wednesdays, use of crowns, two witnesses, etc. which, along with bride and wormwood (among others) help explain the whole marriage aspect of the book of Revelation and the Bible as a whole.

The customs of the Hebrews and of oriental nations generally, in regard to the preliminaries of marriage as well as the ceremonies attending the rite itself, differ in many respects from those with which we are familiar. In the first place, the choice of the bride devolved not on the bridegroom himself, but on his relations or on a friend deputed by the bridegroom for this purpose. Thus Abraham sends Eliezer to find a suitable bride for his son Isaac, and the narrative of his mission affords one of the most charming pictures of patriarchal life (Gen 24); Hagar chooses a wife for Ishmael (Gen 21:21); Isaac directs Jacob in his choise (Gen 28:1); and Judah selects a wife for Er (Gen 38:6). It does not follow that the bridegroom's wishes were not consulted in this arrangement; on the contrary, the parents made proposals at the instigation of their sons in the instances of Shechem (Gen 34:4,8) and Samson (Judg 14:1-10). A marriage contracted without the parents' interference was likely to turn out, as in Esau's case, "a grief of mind" to them (Gen 26:35; 27:46). As a general rule the proposal originated with the family of the bridegroom: occasionally, when there was a difference of rank, this rule was reversed, and the bride was offered by her father, as by Jethro to Moses (Exo 2:21), by Caleb to Othniel (Josh 15:17) , and by Saul to David (1 Sam 18:27). The imaginary case of women soliciting husbands (Isa 4:1) was designed to convey to the mind a picture of the ravages of war, by which the greater part of the males had fallen. The consent of the maiden was sometimes asked (Gen 24:58); but this appears to have been subordinate to the previous consent of the father and the adult brothers (Gen 14:51; 34:11). Occasionally the whole business of selecting the wife was left in the hands of a friend, and hence the case might arise which is supposed by the Talmudists (Yebam. 2, #6,7), that a man might not be aware to which of two sisters he was betrothed. So in Egypt at the present day the choice of a wife is sometimes entrusted to a professional woman styled a khat'beh: and it is seldom that the bridegroom sees the features of his bride before the marriage has taken place.

The selection of the bride was followed by the espousal, which was not altogether like our "engagement," but was a formal proceeding, undertaken by a friend or legal representative on the part of the bridegroom, and by the parents on the part of the bride; it was confirmed by oaths, and accompanied with presents to the bride. Thus Eliezer, on behalf of Isaac, propitiaties the favor of Rebekah by presenting her in anticipation with a massive golden nose-ring and two bracelets; he then proceeds to treat with the parents, and having obtained their consent, he brings forth the more costly and formal presnts, "jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment," for the bride, and presents of less value for the mother and brothers (Gen 24:22,53). These presents were described by different terms, that to the bride by mohar * (AV "dowry"), and that to the relations by mattan **.

* The term mohar occurs only thrice in the Bible (Gen 34:12; Exo 22:17; 1 Sam 18:25). From the second of the three passages, compared with Deuteronomy 22:29, it has been inferred that the sum was in all cases paid to the father; but this inference is unfounded, because the sum to be paid according to that passage was not the proper mohar, but a sum "according to," i.e. equivalent to the mohar, and this, not as a price for the bride, but as a penalty for the offense committed. The origin of the term, and consequently its specific sense, is uncertain.

** The importance of presents at the time of betrothal appears from the application of the term aras, literally, "to make a present," in the special sense of "to betroth."

Thus Shechem offers "never so much dowry and gift" (Gen 34:12), the former for the bride, the latter for the relations. It has been supposed indeed that the mohar was a price paid down to the father for the sale of his daughter. Such a custom undoubtedly prevails in certain parts of the East at the present day, but it does not appear to have been the case with free women in patriarchal times; for the daughters of Laban make it a matter of complaint that their father had bargained for the services of Jacob in exchange for their hands, just as if they were "strangers" (Gen 31:15); and the permission to sell a daughter was restricted to the case of a "servant" or secondary wife (Exo 21:7): nor does David, when complaining of the non-completion of Saul's bargain with him, use the expression "I bought for," but "I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines" (2 Sam 3:14). The expressions in Hosea 3:2, "So I bought her to me," and in Ruth 4:10, "Ruth have I purchased to be my wife," certainly appear to favor the opposite view; it should be observed, however, that in the former passage great doubt exists as to the correctness of the translation; * and that in the latter the case would not be conclusive, as Ruth might well be considered as included in the purchase of her property.

* The term used has a general sense "to make an agreement." The meaning of the verse appears to be this: the Prophet had previously married a wife, named Gomer, who had turned out unfaithful to him. He had separated from her; but he was ordered to renew his intimacy with her, and previous to doing this he places her on her probation, setting her apart for a time, and for her maintenance agreeing to give her fifteen pieces of silver, in addition to a certain amount of food.

It would undoubtedly be expected that the mohar should be proportioned to the position of the bride, and that a poor man could not on that account afford to marry a rich wife (1 Sam 18:23). Occasionally the bride received a dowry from her father, as instanced in the cases of Caleb's (Judg 1:15) and Pharaoh's (1 Kings 9:16) daughters. A "settlement," in the modern sense of the term, i.e. a written document securing property to the wife, did not come into use until the post-Babylonian period: the only instance we have of one is in Tobit 7:14, where it is described as an "instrument." The Talmudists styled it a ketubah, [a writing], and have laid down minute directions as to the disposal of the sum secured, in a treatise of the Mishna expressly on that subject, from which we extract the following particulars. The peculiarity of the Jewish ketubah consisted in this, that it was a definite sum, varying not according to the circumstances of the parties, but according to the state of the bride, whether she be a spinster, a widow, or a divorced woman; and further, that the dowry could not be claimed until the termination of the marriage by the death of the husband or by divorce, though advances might be made to the wife previously. Subsequently to betrothal a woman lost all power over her property, and it became vested in the husband, unless he had previously to marriage renounced his right to it. Stipulations were entered into for the increase of the ketubah, when the bride had a handsome allowance. The act of betrothal * was celebrated by a feast, and among the more modern Jews it is the custom in some parts for the bridegroom to place a ring on the bride's finger--a custom which also prevailed among the Romans.

* The technical term used by the Talmudists for betrothing was kiddushin..."to set apart." There is a treatise in the Mishna so entitled, in which various questions of casuistry of slight interest to us are discussed.

Some writers have endeavored to prove that the rings noticed in the OT (Exo 35:22; Isa 3:21) were nuptial rings, but there is not the slightest evidence of this. The ring was nevertheless regarded among the Hebrews as a token of fidelity (Gen 41:42), and of adoption into a family (Luke 15:22). According to Selden it was originally given as an equivalent for dowry money. Between the betrothal and the marriage an interval elapsed, varying from a few days in the patriarchal age (Gen 24:55), to a full year for virgins and a month for widows in later times. During this period the bride-elect lived with her friends, and all communication between herself and her future husband was carried on through the medium of a friend deputed for the purpose, termed the "friend of the bridegroom" (John 3:29). She was now virtually regarded as the wife of her future husband; for it was a maxim of the Jewish law that betrothal was of equal force with marriage. Hence faithlessness on her part was punishable with death (Deut 22:23,24), the husband having, however, the option of "putting her away" (Matt 1:19) by giving her a bill of divorcement, in case he did not wish to proceed to such an extreme punishment (Deut 24:1). False accusations on this ground were punished by a severe fine and the forfeiture of the right of divorce (Deut 22:13-19). The betrothed woman could not part with her property after betrothal, except in certain cases (Ketub. 8 #1): and, in short, the bond of matrimony was as fully entered into by betrothal, as with us by marriage.

We now come to the wedding itself; and in this the most observable point is, that there were no definite religious ceremonies connected with it. *

* It is worthy of observation that there is no term in the Hebrew language to express the ceremony of marriage. The substantive chatunnah occurs but once, and then in connection with the day (Cant 3:11). The word "wedding" does not occur at all in the A. V. of the Old Testament.

It is probable, indeed, that some formal ratification of the espousal with an oath took place, as implied in some allusions to marriage (Ez 16:8; Mal 2:14), particularly in the expression, "the covenant of her God" (Pro 2:17), as applied to the marriage bond, and that a blessing was pronounced (Gen 24:60; Ruth 4:11,12) sometimes by the parents (Tobit 7:13). But the essence of the marriage ceremony consisted in the removal of the bride from her father's house to that of the bridegroom or his father. *

* There seems indeed to be a literal truth in the Hebrew expression "to take" a wife (Num 12:1; 1 Chron 2:21); for the ceremony appears to have mainly consisted in the taking. Among the modern Arabs the same custom prevails, the capture and removal of the bride being effected with a considerable show of violence.

The bridegroom prepared himself for the occasion by putting on a festive dress, and especially by placing on his head the handsome turban described by the term peer (Isa 61:10; A. V. "ornaments"), and a nuptial crown or garland * (Cant 3:11): he was redolent of myrrh and frankincense and "all powders of the merchant" (Cant 3:6).

* The bridegroom's crown was made of various materials (gold or silver, roses, myrtle, or olive), according to his circumstances. The use of the crown at marriages was familiar both to the Greeks and Romans.

The bride prepared herself for the ceremony by taking a bath, generally on the day preceding the wedding. This was probably in ancient as in modern times a formal proceeding, accompanied with considerable pomp. The notices of it in the Bible are so few as to have escaped general observation (Ruth 3:3; Ez 23:40; Eph 5:26,27); but the passages cited establish the antiquity of the custom, and the expressions in the last ("having purified her by the laver of water," "not having spot") have evident reference to it. A similar custom prevailed among the Greeks. The distinctive feature of the bride's attire was the tsa'iph, * or "veil" -- a light robe of ample dimensions, which covered not only the face but the whole person (Gen 24:65; comp. 38:14,15).

* The use of the veil was not peculiar to the Hebrews. It was customary among the Greeks and Romans; and among the latter it gave rise to the expression nubo, literally "to veil," and hence to our word "nuptial." It is still used by the Jews. The modern Egyptians envelope the bride in an ample shawl, which perhaps more than anything else resembles the Hebrew tzaiph.

This was regarded as the symbol of her submission to her husband, and hence in 1 Corinthians 11:10, the veil is apparently described under the term "authority." She also wore a peculiar girdle, named kishshurim, * the "attire" (A. V.), which no bride could forget (Jer 2:32); and her head was crowned with a chaplet, which was agains so distinctive of the bride, that the Hebrew term callah, ** "bride," originated from it.

* Some difference of opinion exists as to this term. The girdle was an important article of the bride's dress among the Romans.

** The bride's crown was either of gold or gilded. The use of it was interdicted after the destruction of the second Temple, as a token of humiliation.

If the bride were a virgin, she wore her hair flowing. Her robes were white (Rev 19:8), and sometimes embroidered with gold thread (Psa 45:13,14), and covered with perfumes (Psa 45:8): she was further decked out with jewels (Isa 49:18; 61:10; Rev 21:2). When the fixed hour arrived, which was generally late in the evening, the bridegroom set forth from his house, attended by his groomsmen, termed in Hebrew mere'im * (A. V. "companions; Judg 14:11), preceded by a band of musicians or singers (Gen 31:27; Jer 7:34; 16:9), and accompanied by persons bearing flambeaux ** (Matt 25:7; compare Jer 25:10; Rev 18:23, "the light of a candle").

* Winer identifies the "children of the bridechamber" with the shoshbenim of the Talmudists. But the former were the attendants on the bridegroom alone, while the shoshbenim were two persons selected on the day of the marriage to represent the interests of bride and bridegroom, apparently with a special view to any possible litigation that might subsequently arise on the subject noticed in Deuteronomy 22:15-21.

** The lamps described in Matthew 25:7 would be small hand-lamps. Without them none could join the procession.

Having reached the house of the bride, who with her maidens anxiously expected his arrival (Matt 25:6), he conducted the whole party back to his own or his father's * house, with every demonstration of gladness ** (Psa 45:15).

* The bride was said to "go to" the house of her husband (Josh 15:18; Judg 1:14); an expression which is worthy of notice, inasmuch as it has not been rightly understood in Daniel 11:6, where "they that brought her" is an expression for husband. The bringing home of the bride was regarded in the later days of the Roman empire as one of the most important parts of the marriage ceremony.

** From the joyous sounds used on these occasions the term halal is applied in the sense of marrying in Psalm 78:63; A. V. "Their maidens were not given to marriage," literally, "were not praised," as in the margin...The noise in the streets, attendant on an oriental wedding, is excessive, and enables us to understand the allusions in Jeremiah to the "voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride."

On their way back they were joined by a party of maidens, friends of the bride and bridegroom, who were in waiting to catch the procession as it passed (Matt 25:6). The inhabitants of the place pressed out into the streets to watch the procession (Cant 3:11). At the house a feast was prepared, to which all the friends and neighbors were invited (Gen 29:22, Matt 22:1-10; Luke 14:8; John 2:2), and the festivities were protraced for seven, or even fourteen days (Judg 14:12). The guests were provided by the host with fitting robes (Matt 22:11), and the feast was enlivened with riddles (Judg 14:12) and other amusements. The bridegroom now entered into direct communication with the bride, and the joy of the friend was "fulfilled" at hearing the voice of the bridegroom (John 3:29) conversing with her, which he regarded as a satisfactory testimony of the success of his share in the work. In the case of a virgin, parched corn was distributed among the guests, the significance of which is not apparent; the custom bears some resemblance to the distribution of the mustaceum among the guests at a Roman wedding. The modern Jews have a custom of shatering glasses or vessels, by dashing them to the ground. The last act in the ceremonial was the conducting of the bride to the bridal chamber, cheder (Judg 15:1; Joel 2:16), where a canopy, named chuppah was prepared (Psa 19:5; Joel 2:16). The bride was still completely veiled, so that the deception practiced on Jacob (Gen 29:25) was very possible. If proof could be subsequently adduced that the bride had not preserved her maiden purity, the case was investigated; and, if she was convicted, she was stoned to death before her father's house (Deut 22:13-21). A newly married man was exempt from millitary service, or from any public business which might draw him away from his home, for the space of a year (Deut 24:5): a similar privilege was granted to him who was betrothed (Deut 20:7).

Hitherto we have described the usages of marriage as well as they can be ascertained from the Bible itself.

(Dr. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, 1872)

A young man went to the home of his potential bride-to-be. He carried three things with him: a large sum of money in order to pay the price for his bride, a betrothal contract called a Shitre Erusin, and a skin of wine. Of course, anyone arriving with these things would immediately be under suspicion. The man approached the girl's father and older brothers. The contract was laid out, and the bride-price was discussed. Finally, a glass of wine was poured. If the father approved, then the maiden was called in. If she also approved, then she would drink the wine. In doing so, she committed herself to this man, agreeing to follow the contract that now was a legal document between the two. They would be called husband and wife at this time, and their union could only be dissolved by a divorce. However, their status was that of betrothed, rather than that of fully married.

After the wine had been drunk, the man made the statement that he would go to his father's house and prepare a place for her. This place is known as chadar (chamber), sometimes referred to as chupah (or honeymoon bed with a canopy). From the time that the Shitre Erusin was ratified, the young woman was consecrated, kiddushin - set apart to her husband. She has been bought with a price.

She must spend her time preparing to live as a wife and mother in Israel. Her days of waiting for her wedding are spent in learning how to please her husband.

Meanwhile, the young man returned to his father's home, and the chadar goes under construction. - The young Jewish bridegroom would make the following speech as he was leaving:

John 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

The room is provided with every comfort, as they will retire here for one week following their wedding cremony.

The young man, if asked when the day of his wedding will be, replies, "No man knows except my father." In Israel the father had to be satisfied that every preparation had been made by his son before he gave him permission to go and get his bride.

The groom secured two close friends to assist him in securing his bride and during the actual ceremony. These two are known as "the friends of the bridegroom." They functioned as the two witnesses required for a Jewish wedding. One of them was to assist the bride, and to lead her to the ceremony, while the other was stationed with the groom. He performed a special task when the couple retired into the chadar after the ceremony.

During the ceremony, known as Kiddushin, a second contract was brought forth called a Ketubah. This marriage contract was witnessed by the friends of the bridegroom and turned over to the parents of the bride. It contained the promises that the groom pledged to his wife. The ceremony was very much like the Jewish wedding of today. As at all weddings, focus was centered on the bride and groom. For this one day they were looked at as king and queen. Every effort was taken, and every possible expense was made to insure their joy. On this day, tradition says, their sins are forgiven. They stand pure, without spot or blemish as they are united.

Following the ceremony, the bride and groom entered the chadar. Here the groom gave gifts to the bride.

The couple spent seven days under the chupah, or litterally in the chamber. The friend of the bridegroom stood at the door. All the guests of the wedding assembled outside, waiting for the friend of the bridegroom to announce the consummation of the marriage, which was related to him by the groom:

At this signal, great rejoicing broke forth in a week long celebration, until the two emerged from the chupah to begin the actual wedding feast.

Even as the first trump (shofar) announced the betrothal, so the last trump announced the wedding.

Before the wedding the groom required three days to prepare, according to the encyclopedia Judaica.

(A Jewish Wedding, Greg Killian, http://members.aol.com/gkilli/home/ )

The bride was to be ready and waiting for the groom could come at any time (usually around one year waiting period) after the bethrothal. This usually happened at night (this was an important part of the custom)--therefore the groom came "like a thief in the night" to steal away the bride. Jewish girls would make sure they were prepared every night before they went to bed, making sure they had enough oil in their lamps, etc. Now, before the groom got too close to the girl's home, he would give a shout, so that everyone in the house would know that he wasn't a real thief, although he had quite an entourage so I can't imagine they were too quiet, and the bride went immediately to be with him.

The difference of some customs of the Galileans from those of Judea.

"Rabbi Judah saith, In Judea they made inquiry concerning the bridegroom and bride three days before the wedding: but in Galilee they did not so. In Judea they allowed the bridegroom and bride private company one hour before the wedding; but they did not so in Galilee. It was a custom in Judea that the married persons should have two friends, one of the family of the bridegroom, and the other of the family of the bride: but it was not so in Galilee. In Judea those friends slept in the same place where the bridegroom and bride slept: but in Galilee it was not so," &c.

(A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, John Lightfoot)

Marriages are called by the Rabbins receivings, &c. the introducing of the bride, namely, into the house of her husband. There were no marriages but of such as had been before betrothed; and, after the betrothing, the bridegroom might not lie with the bride in his father-in-law's house before he had brought her to his own. That 'bringing' of her was the consummation of the marriage.

[And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.--John 14:3

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.--2 Corinthians 6:17]

(A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, John Lightfoot)

See also The Bride

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