Dear Readers, Beloved of God,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! I pray you all are doing well and blessed of God. I had contemplated much about what my next teaching would entail and began to study and write notes. As I was making preparations, the Lord gently spoke into my heart, “continue to teach the truth through Jewish customs”.
Well, as I have stated before, it is right to go with God! His plans are better than mine and His Wisdom far surpasses that of my own. As I thought about my subject, it dawned on me to remember that Jesus is of Jewish descent, and therefore He taught and used analogies that would relate to the Jewish way of life. What an epiphany! Jesus thought and taught like a Jew! Knowing this surely brings His teachings into new light. One only needs a cursory study in Jewish customs and tradition. That is exactly what I did, and the results of my study reveal such eloquent beauty! God really has thought of everything!
With all that said, I am going to attempt a teaching concerning the Jewish wedding traditions (during biblical times), and how they relate to the individual believer and the church corporately. If the Holy Spirit will guide me, I promise you will not be disappointed. My findings truly are majestic and beautiful. I’m not what you would consider a “hopeless romantic”, but there is plenty of romance in this story. In fact, I believe that it far exceeds any “fairytale wedding” we could imagine or even hope for. God the Father has spared no expense or extravagance in providing a bride for His Son, Jesus.
We shall begin in our traditional manner:
Father, I humbly pray asking that You send Your Holy Spirit to help me teach. What I discovered in Your Holy Word and through the study of Jewish customs is simply beautiful. These “types and shadows” must be revealed to your people as it gives great hope and builds upon our faith. Help me Father to do justice to the beauty that is Yours. I also ask that you open the spiritual eyes and ears of the readers and bring them much revelation and understanding. I ask knowing only You can give these gifts. Thank you Father, in Jesus name I pray, ~Amen
Jewish Custom of Matrimony:
Obviously, wedding customs vary throughout the world and can even vary slightly within a specific country. In the United States a “norm” isn’t even recognizable anymore. We must also take into consideration the customs of the different religions of the world and the specific “legalities” within each sect. For purposes of our study, I only want to hone in on one specific tradition, that of the ancient Jew during the time of the Bible. Why? Jesus was born Jewish and He did things like a Jew! Understanding Jewish tradition brings so much revelation into God’s Word.
The Jews had their own peculiar ways of matrimony, based on the Old Covenant, and the Lord followed those traditions in choosing His bride. The Jews did not have “dating” or “courtship” as we traditionally understand those terms. Marriage for them was a practical legal matter established by contract and carried through by exacting procedure.
When the young man of Israel in Jesus’ time saw the girl he wanted (more like the girl his father told him he wanted), he would approach her with a marriage contract. He would come to her house with a covenant- a true legal agreement- giving the terms by which he would propose marriage. The most important consideration of the contract was the price the bridegroom would be willing to pay to marry this particular bride. Remember that in those days life was full of farming and heavy labor. A man with sons fared better because of the built-in workforce. A daughter was considered a liability instead of an asset. The loss of her father in the workforce was balanced at the time of her marriage. The bridegroom had to pay a “bride price” to his future father-in-law in order to marry the girl of his dreams.
The “bride price” is still utilized in some parts of the world today! Although it may seem a little archaic, it had some useful purposes. First of all, if the bridegroom was willing to hand over some hard earned cash for his bride, he was showing his love in a most tangible way. Secondly, it was a favor to his father-in-law to help him recover his losses in labor. The father of the bride was more or less paid back for his expenses and patience in raising a daughter finely fit for marriage. The price of the bride was no modest token, but was set so that the new bride would be costly to the groom- that was idea. There were no dilutions that the young man was getting something for nothing!
The contract was presented to the father of the bride, hence the betrothal, or Hebrew, “Ketubah”. He in turn discussed the matter with his daughter. She was under no obligation to accept the contract or the potential groom, as she did have a choice to accept or not. She had to give her seal of approval with the proverbial “I do”!
If all parties were in agreement with the terms and conditions of the contract they entered into the “covenant”. A cup of wine was then shared between the bride and groom to seal the agreed upon “marriage covenant.” This was known as the “cup of the covenant”, and signified the bridegroom’s willingness to sacrifice for this bride. It would be many months before the two shared their second cup of wine during the marriage ceremony.
The groom then presented the bride with gifts. These would include costly spices, perfumes, jewelry, and like items. The items that were given as gifts varied, but needless to say they were exotic and costly. The young groom wanted to show his love, affection, and loyalty to his new bride.
With his newly accepted covenant and excitement in his heart, it was time for the groom to depart. The marriage would not take place immediately. There was still a pressing matter to be handled. The groom departed to return to his father’s house telling his bride, “I go to prepare a place for you”. Tradition was such that the groom would go to prepare the “wedding chamber” within his father’s home or a separate building on his father’s property. The groom could be gone as long as twelve months before returning for his bride. One thing was certain though, he would return, he paid the price!
During this time of separation, obviously the bride waited on the return of her groom. Waiting was only part of what she had left to do. There was still the matter of her preparation. The bride to be would immerse herself in water to prepare her physically and spiritually for the wedding ceremony. In Hebrew this was called “Mikvah”, meaning “pool of living water”. This represented her separation from the old life and entry into the new life. She also had to make ready an oil lamp in case her groom returned in the darkness of night. This also included her “bridesmaids” and others in the wedding party from her side of the family. She had to be ready to travel at a moment’s notice!
The consecrated bride eagerly awaited the return of her groom. The longer he delayed the harder it was to withstand the temptation to think that he would not return for her. Nevertheless, she had to be ready at all times for the promised return of her groom. During this time of waiting the bride was truly a “lady in waiting”. She was referred to as “consecrated”, “set apart”, and “bought with a price.”
The “consecrated” bride would wear a veil whenever she stepped out of her house. This was done to show other young men that she was spoken for and unapproachable with other contracts. She was to wait for the one who had paid the price for her!
Tradition held that it was the groom’s father’s decision as to when he would return for his bride. Obviously, if left to the groom in his excitement and anticipation, he would throw together a “modest” structure and go get his girl! His father made sure that the matter was tended to properly and a suitable structure prepared.
Finally, the chamber would be ready and the groom’s father told him to return for his bride. He and the young men to accompany him would set out in the night making every attempt to completely surprise the bride. Here, we find an extremely “romantic” piece of the wedding customs puzzle! All Jewish brides were “stolen!” The Jews had a unique understanding of a women’s heart. It was such a thrill for her to be “abducted” and carried off into the bliss of night. Not by a stranger, but by the very one that loved her and had paid a price for her!
The groom would try to come at midnight while the bride was sleeping, but could not just rush in on her. After all, her face may be covered in night cream or her hair in rollers! The groom and the excited party of young men were obliged to give her “warning.” Usually someone in the wedding party would give out a “shout!” When the bride heard that shout, she knew her groom would arrive momentarily! And so it was that the young men would charge in, grab the girls and make off with them. The wedding party would be off on their journey in returning to the groom’s father’s house.
People in the village of the bride, might have been awakened by the excited voices of the wedding party carrying the oil lamps through the streets. This is how they knew a wedding was taking place! The onlookers would not know who the bride was as she would still be wearing a veil. But she would be returning through those same streets with her groom a week later, without the veil, and the people would then know who it was that had gotten married.
When the wedding party had reached the house of the groom’s father, the bride and groom would enter their “chamber” and shut the door. No one else entered this place. In Hebrew, this “chamber” was called “Huppah”, meaning “room or covering”, and known as a Jewish wedding canopy. The bride and groom would remain in the “Huppah” for seven days. Meanwhile, the father of the groom assembled the wedding guests and prepared to celebrate the new marriage. Jewish law provided that the bride and groom “become one” before the marriage would be recognized.
A friend of the bridegroom would stand close to the door of the wedding chamber waiting to hear the groom’s voice. When the marriage was consummated, the bridegroom would alert his friend who would announce the good news to the wedding guests.
The bride and groom would then make their long awaited appearance to the cheers and excitement of the wedding guests. There was no longer a need for the bride to be veiled, as she was now a married woman. It was now time for the marriage supper. A joyous meal with music and dancing to honor the new couple!
After the marriage supper, the bride and groom would depart, leaving the groom’s father’s house, and going to their own house. A house and home that had been prepared for them by the bridegroom! And that was a complete Jewish wedding during the time of Jesus in all its beauty and wonder!
Come back for part two of this study! We will really engage in the symbolism and beauty of this teaching, as we examine the relationship with our Bridegroom, Jesus, His Father making preparations, and the marriage that will surpass all marriages!
Until we meet again Beloved of God, I pray for continued courtship with the one TRUE love of our hearts!