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Biblical Marriage

Some time ago, I was asked if I had any information on the Biblical Jewish marriage ceremony. I had collected a lot of information in my head, on VCR tapes, audio tapes by others, magazine articles, etc., but really didn't have much in any shape to share with others. So, I sent what I had written down though it wasn't very much. But the thought stayed with me, "I really ought to dig into this subject and share what I can find with you."

So today I want to at least begin to discuss the subject of marriage according to the Bible.

I. There are three parts of a Biblical marriage: The match, the betrothal period, and the culmination or consummation.

The match was usually arranged by outsiders, usually the fathers of the bride and groom. Sometimes the wishes of the bride and groom were considered by the fathers, but it was not necessarily binding on them. In fact, it was not terribly uncommon for the fathers to arrange a match for a couple who did not even know each other. This was evidenced by the match between Isaac and Rebekah.

(Gen 24:4 NKJV) [Abraham speaking to his servant]: "but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac."

Sometimes the couple was recommended by a matchmaker. It is important to remember that the bride and groom were under the authority of their fathers.

Thirteen was the legal age for marriage but most marriages occurred when the groom was between sixteen and twenty. That seems very young to us today but we must remember that there were strong family ties where the father continued to be a strong influence to his greater family. In addition, marrying young had the advantage of reducing the temptation of premarital sex.

An integral part of the match was the contract or covenant. The young man had to go to the father of the young lady and ask for her. She may or may not have been present during their discussions. The prospective bride's father could then demand to see a written agreement as to how much money the prospective groom would give him to support the bride in case the marriage ended in divorce. In case the groom was poor, he might only be able to give the bride's father a promise to pay. Sometimes the groom also had to pay the bride's mother an amount to pay her for the loss of labor supplied by the bride. At any rate, once the agreement was made between the groom and the bride's father, a cup of wine was placed in front of the bride and groom. If the bride agreed to marry the groom, she would drink from the cup. If she chose not to marry him, she would not drink from it. Following her drinking from the cup, the groom would drink from his cup to finalize the contract. After both had drunk from the cup, they were considered betrothed and could only cancel the contract via a written divorce. They were essentially married after acceptance of the cup or cups, but they could not co-habit.

Now begins about a one year period of betrothal. The bride would not go out in public without covering her face with a veil, showing she was taken, and hiding her identity from the world. During this period she began preparing herself for the marriage. This preparation stressed the purifying of her body, clothes and thoughts. Esther 2 gives us a partial view of this process:

(Est 2:1-4 NKJV) After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. {2} Then the king's servants who attended him said: "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king; {3} "and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women's quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them. {4} "Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This thing pleased the king, and he did so.

The groom left to prepare a place for them to spend their first seven days and nights together. The place could be located near his father's house or, if he were poor, even his own room at his father's house. Wherever it was, it was the groom's responsibility to prepare it and his father's responsibility to see that it was done correctly, in a manner befitting the bride. Such things as hunting trophies would not be acceptable. The period of betrothal, while the groom prepared the room, would typically last a year, sometimes longer. During that time, the bride and groom would not be together, and certainly would not cohabit. In addition, the groom was exempt from outside responsibilities. When his father had decided the room and the groom were ready, the father would tell the groom it was time to go get his bride.

With the father's instruction to go and get his bride, the groom and his best man or witness (called the representative of Elijah) and friends went to the home of the bride, usually at night. Once they were within hailing distance, a shout was made announcing the arrival of the groom. The bride and her maids (the so-called bride's maid or witness was called the representative of Moses) grabbed what they needed to take with them.

The bride's father looked the other way as the groom left with his daughter. The bride and groom stopped briefly with the groom's father to read and sign the wedding contract and receive council from the father, then went directly to the room he had prepared.

In those days, the Bridegroom was assisted by two attendants who were also witnesses to the marriage. One of the witnesses represented Moshe, the other represented Elijah. The witness representing Moshe provided assistance to the Bride by telling her about when the Bridegroom would appear, while the one representing Elijah provided assistance to the Bridegroom.

This sharing of duties was based on the fact that it was Moshe who led the first Bride, the children of Israel, through the wilderness and right up to the wedding chamber at Mount Sinai. Then, after the wedding, he went on to lead the Bride to the door of their new home, the promised land of Canaan.

On the other hand, the original Elijah provided witness for God against the evil of his day, especially that of King Ahab and his wicked queen Jezebel. The second Elijah was, of course, John the Baptist (Yochanan the Immerser) who proclaimed the arrival of the Messiah, and called the people to repentance. He also proclaimed himself to be the friend of the Bridegroom, a Hebrew idiom for the 'Elijah' attendant at a wedding.

A great deal of noise was generated by all this so that everyone in the community knew a wedding was taking place and, of course, everyone was invited to the wedding.

The consummation. The wedding couple spent the next seven days in the room while the wedding guests celebrated outside. The best man stationed himself outside the door of the room in order to pass whatever was needed into or out of the room, like food and water, etc. When the marriage was consummated, it was announced to the wedding guests who then began a celebration. At this time the sheets where passed outside to be taken to the bride's father in case proof was ever needed that the bride had been a virgin.

When the new couple finally came out seven days later, they sat beneath a canopy while the wedding banquet was conducted. The pure joy of the groom can be seen in Psalms 19:

(Psa 19:1, 4-5 NKJV) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. . . . {4} Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, {5} Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.

Notice that the sun is like the bridegroom, not the other way around. He was very alive and radiant, exhibiting pure joy.

In present day marriages, the rabbi is asked to ask a special blessing on the marriage at this point. Finally, the young couple move to their new house where they will take up permanent residence. During this time the groom was given special allowance to enable him to enjoy one year's pleasure with his new wife. You might remember Deut 24:5.

(Deu 24:5 NKJV) "When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.

II. So much for the description of the Jewish wedding. But these three basic parts of the Jewish wedding form the basis for many, many events, both past and future in the Bible. It is to these events that I want to address the rest of this sermon. Let me again list the three basic parts of the Jewish marriage: The match, the betrothal period, and the consummation or culmination. We will be referring to them over and over for the rest of this sermon.

Let's start in the back of the Bible. Please turn to Revelation 19.

(Rev 19:1-9 NKJV) After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! {2} "For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." {3} Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!" {4} And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, "Amen! Alleluia!" {5} Then a voice came from the throne, saying, "Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!" {6} And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! {7} "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." {8} And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. {9} Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."

Yes, his wife has made herself ready for the marriage apparently to be held in heaven: Fine linen reflecting the righteous acts of the saints. Who is His wife? Please turn to 2 Corinthians 11 where Paul is talking to, first of all the Corinthians, but also to all the saints.

(2 Cor 11:2 NKJV) For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Now let's turn to John 3.

(John 3:25-35 NKJV) Then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification. {26} And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified; behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!" {27} John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. {28} "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' {29} "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. {30} "He must increase, but I must decrease. {31} "He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. {32} "And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. {33} "He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. {34} "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. {35} "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.

Yes, Christ has the bride. But how do we know who the bride is? Let's turn to Ephesians 5 to find out.

(Eph 5:22-32 NKJV) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. {23} For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. {24} Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. {25} Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, {26} that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, {27} that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. {28} So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. {29} For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. {30} For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. {31} "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." {32} This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Yes, these verses describe how we should treat our spouses, but they also describe the relationship of Christ and the church, His bride.

Now I want to take you through some scriptures which allude to the three basic steps of the old Jewish wedding we first talked about as they apply to Christ and the Church today.

First, let's look at the match arranged by the Son's Father.

(John 17 NKJV) Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, {2} "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. {3} "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. {4} "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. {5} "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. {6} "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. {7} "Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. {8} "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. {9} "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. {10} "And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. {11} "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. {12} "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. {13} "But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. {14} "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. {15} "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. {16} "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. {17} "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. {18} "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. {19} "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. {20} "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; {21} "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. {22} "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: {23} "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. {24} "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. {25} "O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. {26} "And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

In terms of a match, what do these words of Christ teach us? They teach us that the Father has chosen a bride (the Church - the assembled saints) for Christ, the bridegroom. They also state that Christ returned to his Father while his bride remained in the world.

(Eph 1:3-7 NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, {4} just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, {5} having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, {6} to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. {7} In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

So the Father has predetermined that His church will be accepted by Christ as His Beloved by giving His life for the perfection of His bride.

(John 10:27-30 NKJV) "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. {28} "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. {29} "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. {30} "I and My Father are one."

No one will be seduced by another lover as were the Israelites by the golden calf.

Now let's look at the betrothal. This is an agreement between the father of the bride and the groom. The betrothed includes a bride's price. The bride's price is what Christ paid for His bride - His life. They were fully married but could not come together, just as His saints, the Church, and Christ are betrothed now but can not come together yet.. The bride (i.e. the saints) has veiled herself, hidden and unknown by the world.

(2 Cor 4:3-4 NKJV) But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, {4} whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
(Eph 2:1-7 NKJV) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, {2} in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, {3} among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. {4} But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, {5} even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), {6} and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, {7} that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Yes, God will bless the bride of Christ, probably beginning with a wedding in Heaven.

But Christ, the groom, was tempted by the offer of another bride, the world.

(Mat 4:1 NKJV) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
(Verse 8) Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. {9} And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."

Yes, Satan, the god of this world, promised Christ the world if He would just worship Satan instead of His Father. Christ chose to honor the contract with His bride, the saints.

(1 Pet 1:17-19 NKJV) And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; {18} knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, {19} but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

We, the bride, must spend our time preparing for the return of the bridegroom. We must purify ourselves so that we can be spotless and without blemish at His return. The blood of Christ will remove our errors.

(Mat 4:17 NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Jesus was beginning to assemble the citizens of that kingdom.

The return of the bridegroom can happen anytime, whenever the Father is ready for it to happen.

(Heb 10:8-9 NKJV) Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), {9} then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second.

Christ has cleared all the obstacles to our being accepted by the Father.

(Mat 13:24-30 NKJV) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; {25} "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares [i.e. noxious weed seeds] among the wheat and went his way. {26} "But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. {27} "So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' {28} "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' {29} "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. {30} 'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."' "

There will be many who may seem like they have been planted by Christ but who were really planted into the church by Satan, the enemy. They will remain in the church until the bridegroom is ready. To remove them too early could discourage or upset the selected ones, thereby harming or threatening them. This is a lesson for those who are concerned about the actions of others in the church. At the proper time, the tares will be removed and the bride will be spotless.

Part of the waiting period is when the groom prepares the chamber. The bride remains in her father's house. The bride and groom do not see each other until the night of the wedding. Oh, how much better off the world would be if it practiced this now.

(John 14:1-4 NKJV) "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. {2} "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. {3} "And 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. {4} "And where I go you know, and the way you know."
(Acts 1:9-11 NKJV) Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. {10} And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, {11} who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

He left his bride behind but will return to claim her.

The consummation or culmination has not occurred yet. The groom has not returned for His bride yet. The bride is still betrothed and still waiting. Paul seems to give assurance to the bride in Hebrews 10.

(Heb 10:35-39 NKJV) Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. {36} For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: {37} "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. {38} Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." {39} But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

Finally, in Jeremiah, God talks not only about a future marriage covenant with saints from the house of Israel and Judah, but also about past marriage covenants. Let's look at that.

(Jer 31:31-33 NKJV) "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; {32} "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. {33} "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
(Jer 3:14-20 NKJV) "Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. {15} "And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. {16} "Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days," says the LORD, "that they will say no more, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. {17} "At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. {18} "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers. {19} "But I said: 'How can I put you among the children And give you a pleasant land, A beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?' "And I said: 'You shall call Me, "My Father," And not turn away from Me.' {20} Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, So have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel," says the LORD.

In conclusion, please keep the three stages of Biblical marriage in mind which we have discussed; the match, the betrothal period, and the culmination or consummation and be able to relate these three stages of Biblical marriage to Christ's marriage with the Saints.

Much of this sermon was was used with permission from an article in Hebrew Roots.

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell
26 October 2013
Copyright 2013, Wayne Bedwell

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