In my last post (Marriage, yep marriage) I wrote briefly how marriage was specifically designed by God for a purpose. The purpose of marriage between a man and a woman is that it is to be a testimony and a prophetic signpost in order to point the way to Christ and His Bride – the Church.
In this post we will look at Jewish marriage customs. Why? Because I believe that as followers of Jesus Christ in this post-modern age it is easy to miss the beauty and significance of the eternal truths displayed in Jewish marriage. Jesus Christ’s words and actions take on greater meaning when we understand the culture of Christ’s day. I believe it will be beneficial to us, as His Bride, to understand the nature of our covenant relationship with Him, the importance of His promises made to us and to understand the true beauty of marriage.. It is my hope that through this we will get a glimpse of the eternal significance of marriage and the hope that we have in Christ, as His Church….
One day a young man comes to her home. He has travelled all the way from his father’s house in order to ask for her hand in marriage. The young man brings three important things with him:
- a large amount of money,
- a skin of wine and
- a betrothal contract, called a Shitre Erusin.
The young woman’s father goes with the young man into a private room and they discuss the price that must be paid by the young man in order to purchase his prospective bride (the mohar). Once the bride-price is agreed upon, the young man must pay the price in full to the father for the marriage covenant to be established.
A glass of wine is poured.
It is at this point that the young woman is invited into the room. She sees the young man who has come all this way for her. Perhaps it may be the first time she has met him, perhaps they have known each other for a long time. In any case, the terms of the marriage covenant are explained to her and her father asks for her consent to the marriage. If she approves and consents to the marriage she drinks from the glass of wine that has been poured. As a symbol of the covenant relationship that has been instituted, the young man also drinks from the same cup of wine, over which a betrothal benediction has been spoken.
The young couple are now considered husband and wife, although their status is betrothed, rather than that of fully married. By her partaking of the wine, the young lady is now wholly set apart, sanctified or consecrated, for her husband and exclusively committed to this young man. She has willingly entered into a legal contract with him and now it’s only a divorce that can dissolve the union.
The young man now prepares to depart from her home. He is going away, back to his father’s house, to prepare a place for her, his bride. As he gets ready to leave he notices the sadness of his young bride at his departure and he thus makes her this promise:
“In my father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Comforted by the promise of her betrothed, she watches him depart, knowing that he will return for her, just as he said he would. She keeps herself busy preparing for his return, even though she does not know exactly when that will be. The fact that she has been bought with a price and that she is now no longer her own, brings her great comfort for it gives her the assurance, along with his promise, that he will return for her.
And so, day by day she watches for his return. She knows that she must be ready to go at any given moment. As she waits for her wedding day, it brings her great joy to learn how to live as a wife and mother in Israel and to put together her wedding clothes and linens.
Her betrothed, meanwhile, has not forgotten his bride and is busy preparing for her a place. He wants his bride to be happy and so sets about building and organizing her living arrangements in his home. He also does not know when the day of the wedding will take place. In fact, no one knows the day except his father. His father will only give permission for him to go and collect his bride when he is fully satisfied with the living arrangements made by his son.
When the time comes, the father gives permission to his son, and the betrothed takes three days to prepare before he begins his journey to go and collect his bride. He brings with him two of his closest friends and other male escorts. This would usually take place at night and a torch light procession is made to the young lady’s home.
The groom’s arrival is preceded by a loud shout and the blowing of a trumpet (shofar) in order to alert his bride that he is on his way. Her heart leaps for joy at the sound. She knows that her faithful waiting and watching for him has not been in vain. He is returning for her as he had promised.
She is taken, along with her female attendants, back with him to his father’s house. There the wedding guests are already assembled in expectation of the wedding ceremony. At the ceremony another contract, the Ketubah, which contains the promises made to the bride by the groom, is witnessed by the two friends of the bridegroom and then given to her parents. During this whole process she remains veiled.
Next, the bride and groom are escorted to the bridal chamber, (huppah), where her groom gives her some gifts. The following seven days are spent together in the huppah as the friend of the groom stands outside the door. He waits for the groom to relate to him the news of the consummation of the marriage. At the announcement of the consummation to the wedding guests, there takes place feasting and joy for seven days. At the completion of the “seven days of the huppah”, the groom brings out his bride, finally with veil removed. Now all can see his bride as they join in the wedding feast.
“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32)
Next time, the explanation of this analogy in Marriage and the Church