Jesus in the Jewish Wedding: Marriage in the Bible and Ancient Marriage and Jewish Wedding Customs

Friends, so my last email about Jesus in the Jewish Wedding, I asked if you would please help me by coming over to my website, reading a chapter of the book’s text and commenting below the post. Well, a few of you did that. Many of you emailed me and a few of you private messaged me both on my website and on facebook. I’m grateful for the feedback and it will help me craft a much better story! So, let’s do it again!

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Marriage in the Bible and Ancient Marriage and Jewish Wedding Customs

 

The Following is an Outline of the Three Stage ritual of Bible Marriages

Introduction:

  1. Only when you understand the wedding customs of the Bible can you begin to appreciate the rich imagery of our salvation in Messiah and our marriage to Messiah as his virgin bride.
  2. The three “C’s” of bible weddings: Contract, Consummation, Celebration
    1. These same things exist today in modern marriages, the order and timing of each stage is different.
  3. Ancient Jewish weddings never involved a wedding ceremony like we see today with the bride walking down the aisle to be married in the synagogue.
    1. The “wedding ceremony” is something that did not develop for hundreds of years after Jesus rose from the dead.
    2. Modern Jewish weddings are as removed and different from the ancient Jewish marriage culture of the first century as Christian weddings are.
    3. If you want to understand the many metaphors, illustrations and figures of speech used by Jesus about “the wedding feast” and the church as the “bride of Messiah”, you must learn the ancient culture and forget everything you know about modern marriage ceremonies.
  4. There were three states of a marriage in the Bible:
    1. Stage 1: signing the “ketubbah” contract (Creating the marriage bond)
  5. The bride would chose her husband and her father would sign a legal contract with him called a “ketubbah”.
  6. Once this is signed the couple is 100% married but do not have sex yet.

iii.      Young children were often married, (arraigned marriage) but did not consummate until of age.

  1. Stage 2: The “chuppah”: sexual consummation.
  1. Up to 7 years later, the groom is able to raise the money as set out in the ketubbah contract and notifies the father of the bride, who then sets a date to consummate the marriage at the bride’s home.
  2. The bride waits with her maidens, for the arrival of the groom and his companions.

iii.      The couple enters the chuppah room and consummates the marriage while the companions of the bride and groom wait and celebrate outside or in the next room.

  1. The groom hands the bloodied “proof of virginity cloth” to the witnesses chosen by the bride’s parents, who then give it to the bride for safekeeping.
    1. Stage 3: The wedding feast
  2. After consummation, the entire wedding party enjoys a community wedding feast.
  3. At the conclusion of the wedding feast, the couple has completed the ancient ritual of marriage.
    1. There was no “wedding ceremony” in the synagogue in the first century, performed under a canopy where the bride and groom would hold hands and say, “I do” before an audience of friends and family. This didn’t develop for hundreds of years after Jesus died on the cross as the Passover lamb (as the bridegroom in the Passover wedding ceremony) for the sins of mankind.
  4. This ancient ritual is seen from the time of Isaac, right down to the first century:
    1. Rebekah contract: “But when food was set before him to eat, he said, “I will not eat until I have told my business.” And he said, “Speak on.”” (Genesis 24:33)
    2. Rebekah contract: ““Here is Rebekah before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord. The servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.” (Genesis 24:51–53)
    3. Rebekah consented: “And they said, “We will call the girl and consult her wishes.” Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.”” (Genesis 24:57–58)
    4. Rebekah consummation: “Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. She said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?” And the servant said, “He is my master.” Then she took her veil and covered herself. The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Genesis 24:64–67)
    5. “Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.” Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. “Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.” Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.” (Genesis 29:15–30)

 

 

The three stages of Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah: Gen 24
Contract (stage 1) Gen 24:33

Gen 24:51-53

Gen 24:57-58

An offer of marriage is proposed. The offer is accepted and Rebekah is married by contract. Gifts and money are given both to the bride and the parents of the bride. Notice that Rebekah was asked if she consented to the marriage.
Consummation (stage 2) Gen 24:64-67 Rebekah and Isaac go to the tent
Celebration (stage 3) No mention of wedding feast, but one likely happened.
The three stages of Jacob’s marriage to Leah: Gen 29
Contract (stage 1) Gen 29:15-20 Jacob contracts to work for 7 in advance before he gets the girl.
Consummation (stage 2) Gen 29:21-26 Jacob pays the dowry price of 7 years and takes Leah into the tent.
Celebration (stage 3) Gen 29:27-28 He completed the 7 day wedding feast with Leah
The three stages of Jacob’s marriage to Rachel: Gen 29
Contract (stage 1) Gen 29:27 Jacob contracts to work for 7 MORE years but gets to consummate the wedding at the before he pays the full dowry.
Consummation (stage 2) Gen 29:30 He took Leah into the tent at the beginning of the 7 day feast, then at the end of the 7 day feast he took Rachel into the tent.
Celebration (stage 3) Gen 29:27-28 The 7 day wedding feast was for both girls.

 

  1. Stage one: the signing of the legal document called, the “ketubbah”
  2. The ketubbah (plural is ketubbot) was a legally binding document whose primary purpose was to protect the bride, even though she did not even sign it. The father of the bride would use his wisdom to look out for the best interests of his daughter.
    1. The bride was seen as being completely under her father’s control.
    2. For example, if a man sleeps with a virgin, they generally got married, but her father had to consent.
    3. “So then both he [father of the bride] who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.” (1 Corinthians 7:38)
  3. The groom and the father of the bride would negotiate a legal document with conditions that clearly laid out:
    1. The “Dowry”: money to be paid to the father by the groom: “Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.” (Genesis 34:12)
    2. The “Bride Price”: The bride price was usually set at 50 shekels of silver and was a cash penalty for divorce without cause or taking a second wife without consent and permission of the bride and/or her father. (Polygamy was rare at the time of Messiah)
    3. The bride’s Estate Inventory: An accounting of assets (cash, property, livestock, businesses etc.) the bride contributed to the new husband’s estate when she married him.
  4. The First stage of a Jewish marriage, (the signing of the “ketubbah”) is the last stage of modern weddings (the signing of the marriage license that you buy at city hall).
    1. Since Jewish marriages were sealed when the father of the bride and the groom signed the “ketubbah”, with or without the consent or knowledge of the bride, the “dating” (get to know you stage) began after they were “married”.
    2. Just like today’s legal documents, the ketubah was signed in triplicate where the father, the groom each got a copy and a third one was “filed” with the court (synagogue) with a seal to be broken only by a judge.
    3. Many copies of ancient Ketubboth have been unearthed through archeology.
  5. Confusion over Jewish Betrothal: When the groom and the father of the bride signed the ketubbah, the couple was 100% legally married.
    1. The couple was legally married, but sexual co-habitation has not yet begun until stage two up to seven years later.
    2. This is seen in the fact that although Mary and Joseph were betrothed, they had never had sex, even though they were 100% legally married.
    3. Although called betrothal, it was not equivalent to our modern engagement today, which is nothing more than “monogamous promise dating” with no legal consequences if broken.
  6. Once signed, a legal divorce was required to dissolve the “betrothal”.
  7. Child brides were cultural norms in both Israeli and Arabic cultures:
    1. Josephus tells of several instances where children were married, sometimes for political advantage:
      1. “This Sylleus, upon some occasion coming to Herod, and supping with him, saw Salome, and set his heart upon her; and understanding that she was a widow, he discoursed with her. (222) Now because Salome was at this time less in favor with her brother, she looked upon Sylleus with some passion, and was very earnest to be married to him; and on the days following there appeared many, and those very great, indications of their agreement together. (223) Now the women carried this news to the king, and laughed at the indecency of it; whereupon Herod inquired about it further of Pheroras, and desired him to observe them at supper, how their behavior was one towards another; who told him, that by signals which came from their heads and their eyes, they both were evidently in love. (224) After this, Sylleus the Arabian being suspected, went away, but came again in two or three months afterwards, as it were on that very design, and spake to Herod about it, and desired that Salome might be given him to wife; for that his affinity might not be disadvantageous to his affairs, by a union with Arabia, the government of which country was already in effect under his power, and more evidently would be his hereafter. (225) Accordingly, when Herod discoursed with his sister about it, and asked her whether she were disposed to this match, she immediately agreed to it; but when Sylleus was desired to come over to the Jewish religion, and then he should marry her, and that it was impossible to do it on any other terms, he could not bear that proposal, and went his way; for he said, that if he should do so, he should be stoned by the Arabs. (226) Then did Pheroras reproach Salome for her incontinency, as did the women much more; and said that Sylleus had debauched her. (227) As for that damsel which the king had betrothed to his brother Pheroras, but he had not taken her, as I have before related, because he was enamored of his former wife, Salome desired of Herod she might be given to her son by Costobarus; (228) which match he was very willing to, but was dissuaded from it by Pheroras, who pleaded, that this young man would not be kind to her since her father had been slain by him, and that it was more just that his son, who was to be his successor in the tetrarchy, should have her; so he begged his pardon, and persuaded him to do so. Accordingly the damsel, upon this change of her espousals, was disposed of to this young man, the son of Pheroras, the king giving for her portion a hundred talents.” (Josephus, Antiquities 16.221–228)
      2. (12) Now Herod brought up his sons’ children with great care; for Alexander had two sons by Glaphyra; and Aristobulus had three sons by Bernice, Salome’s daughter, and two daughters; (13) and as his friends were once with him, he presented the children before them; and deploring the hard fortune of his own sons, he prayed that no such ill fortune should befall these who were their children, but that they might improve in virtue, and obtain what they justly deserved and might make him amends for his care of their education. (14) He also caused them to be betrothed against they should come to the proper age of marriage; the elder of Alexander’s sons to Pheroras’s daughter, and Antipater’s daughter to Aristobulus’s eldest son. He also allotted one of Aristobulus’s daughters to Antipater’s son, and Aristobulus’s other daughter to Herod, a son of his own, who was born to him by the high priest’s daughter; for it is the ancient practice among us to have many wives at the same time. (15) Now, the king made those espousals for the children, out of commiseration of them now they were fatherless, as endeavoring to render Antipater kind to them by these intermarriages. (16) But Antipater did not fail to bear the same temper of mind to his brother’s children which he had borne to his brothers themselves; and his father’s concern about them provoked his indignation against them upon his supposal, that they would become greater than ever his brothers had been: while Archelaus, a king, would support his daughter’s sons, and Pheroras, a tetrarch, would accept of one of the daughters as a wife to his son. (17) What provoked him also was this, that all the multitude would so commiserate these fatherless children, and so hate him [for making them fatherless], that all would come out, since they were no strangers to his vile disposition towards his brethren. He contrived, therefore, to overturn his father’s settlements, as thinking it a terrible thing that they should be so related to him and be so powerful withal. (18) So Herod yielded to him, and changed his resolution at his entreaty; and the determination now was, that Antipater himself should marry Aristobulus’s daughter, and Antipater’s son should marry Pheroras’s daughter. So the espousals for the marriages were changed after this manner, even without the king’s real approbation. (Josephus, Antiquities 17.12-18)
      3. (556) Accordingly, Herod got together his kindred and friends, and set before them the children, and with his eyes full of tears, said thus to them: “It was an unlucky fate that took away from me these children’s fathers, which children are recommended to me by that natural commiseration which their orphan condition requires; however, I will endeavor, though I have been a most unfortunate father, to appear a better grandfather, and to leave these children such curators after myself as are dearest to me. (557) I therefore betroth thy daughter, Pheroras to the eldest of these brethren, the children of Alexander, that thou mayest be obliged to take care of them. I also betroth to thy son, Antipater, the daughter of Aristobulus; be thou therefore a father to that orphan; and my son Herod [Philip] shall have her sister, whose grandfather, by the mother’s side, was high priest. (558) And let every one that loves me be of my sentiments in these dispositions, whom none that hath an affection for me will abrogate. And I pray God that he will join these children together in marriage, to the advantage of my kingdom, and of my posterity; and may he look down with eyes more serene upon them than he looked upon their fathers!”
      4. (559) While he spake these words, he wept, and joined the children’s right hands together: after which he embraced them every one after an affectionate manner, and dismissed the assembly. Upon this Antipater was in great disorder immediately, and lamented publicly at what was done; for he supposed that this dignity, which was conferred on these orphans, was for his own destruction, even in his father’s lifetime, and that he should run another risk of losing the government if Alexander’s sons should have both Archelaus [a king], and Pheroras a tetrarch, to support him. (560) He also considered how he was himself hated by the nation, and how they pitied these orphans; how great affection the Jews bare to those brethren of his when they were alive, and how gladly they remembered them, now they had perished by his means. So he resolved by all the ways possible to get these espousals dissolved. (Josephus, Wars 1.555–560)
    2. Muhammad, the inventor of Islam, married Ayesha or Aisha at age 6 but waited 3 years to consummate the marriage when she was nine years old. (recorded in several Hadiths)
    3. Today in Saudi Arabia, the home country of Islam, child brides as young as one year old are permitted as long as the girl is not consummated until she is older.  Notice the language of “marriage contract” is exactly what we see in the Bible.
    4. News report that speaks of stage 1 Contract with a delay for stage 2 Consummation: “Saudi Marriage Official Says 1-Year-Old Brides OK: Call it marriage, Islamic style. Saudi marriage officiant Dr. Ahmad al-Mu’bi told Lebanese television viewers last week that it’s permissible for girls as young as 1 to marry — as long as sex is postponed. Al-Mu’bi’s remarkable comments also included an explanation that “there is no minimal age for entering marriage.” “You can have a marriage contract even with a 1-year-old girl, not to mention a girl of 9, 7 or 8,” he said. “But is the girl ready for sex or not?” What is the appropriate age for sex for the first time? This varies according to environment and tradition,” al-Mu’bi said in an interview with LBC-TV.” (Fox News, Wednesday, June 25, 2008)

 

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TOV Rose is the author of several books, including The New Messianic Version of the Bible; The Book of GOD: For Men; The Spiritual Roots of Disease, The Book of GOD: Genesis Unbound; The Paranormal Seams of the Hebrew Bible, The Fall of the American Babylon and more.

Tov is a Conference Speaker, Author, Bible Teacher, Chaplain, Performer and Pastor. For more than two decades he has been active working with people to help them better understand the nature and person God.

When not writing books and all those other things, he enjoys quiet times at home with his wife, children and praying together with a group of grandmothers who have the uncanny knack of being able to bend God’s ear.

Specializing in teaching the deeper things of God, TOV has a reputation for teaching solid Bible foundations and difficult to understand Biblical concepts in a compassionate simple manner that anyone can understand. He is not one to shy away difficult and taboo subjects.

TOV guests on radio programs, television shows and speaks at conferences, seminars, in local congregations and other venues.