Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Marriage Part 2

With the Minnesota Pastor's Conference coming up November 10th, I thought I'd post a few things on marriage. It's pretty relevant to my life as well, as I am getting married in 59!!! days. The following is taken from Logos Bible Software (I have the Scholar's Library).

Marriage customs
The marriage customs of the Bible centre in the two events of betrothal and wedding.
a. Betrothal
In the Near East betrothal (Talmudic ’ērûsı̂n and qiddûšı̂n) is almost as binding as marriage itself. In the Bible the betrothed woman was sometimes called ‘wife’ and was under the same obligation of faithfulness (Gn. 29:21; Dt. 22:23–24; Mt. 1:18, 20), and the betrothed man was called ‘husband’ (Joel 1:8; Mt. 1:19). The Bible does not legislate for broken betrothals, but the Code of Hammurapi (§§ 159–160) stipulated that if the future husband broke the engagement the bride’s father retained the bride-gift; while if the father changed his mind he repaid double the amount of the gift (see also the Law codes of Lipit-Ishtar, 29, and Eshnunna, 25). Presumably there was some formal declaration, but the amount of publicity would depend on the bridegroom. Thus Joseph wished to dissolve the betrothal to Mary as quietly as possible (Mt. 1:19).

God’s love and faithfulness towards his people are pictured in terms of a betrothal in Ho. 2:19–20. The betrothal included the following steps:
(i) Choice of a spouse. Usually the parents of a young man chose his wife and arranged for the marriage, as Hagar did for Ishmael (Gn. 21:21) and Judah for Er (Gn. 38:6). Sometimes the young man did the choosing, and his parents the negotiating, as in the case of Shechem (Gn. 34:4, 8) and Samson (Jdg. 14:2). Rarely did a man marry against the wish of his parents, as did Esau (Gn. 26:34–35). The girl was sometimes asked whether she consented, as in the case of Rebekah (Gn. 24:58). Occasionally the girl’s parents chose a likely man to be her husband, as did Naomi (Ru. 3:1–2) and Saul (1 Sa.18:21).
(ii) Exchange of gifts. Three types of gifts are associated with betrothal in the Bible: 1. The mōhar, translated ‘marriage present’ in RSV and ‘dowry’ in AV (Gn. 34:12, for Dinah; Ex. 22:17, for a seduced maiden; 1 Sa. 18:25, for Michal). The mōhar is implied but not so named in such passages as Gn. 24:53, for Rebekah; 29:18, the 7 years’ service performed by Jacob for Rachel. Moses’ keeping of the sheep for his father-in-law may be interpreted in the same way (Ex. 3:1). This was a compensation gift from the bridegroom to the family of the bride, and it sealed the covenant and bound the two families together. Some scholars have considered the mōhar to be the price of the bride, but a wife was not bought like a slave. 2. The dowry. This was a gift to the bride or the groom from her father, sometimes consisting of servants (Gn. 24:59, 61, to Rebekah; 29:24, to Leah) or land (Jdg. 1:15, to Achsah; 1 Ki. 9:16, to Pharaoh’s daughter, the wife of Solomon), or other property (Tobit 8:21, to Tobias). 3. The bridegroom’s gift to the bride was sometimes jewellery and clothes, as those brought to Rebekah (Gn. 24:53). Biblical examples of oral contracts are Jacob’s offer of 7 years’ service to Laban (Gn. 29:18) and Shechem’s promise of gifts to the family of Dinah (Gn. 34:12). In TB a contract of betrothal is called šeṭar qiddûšı̂n (Moed Katan 18b) or šeṭar ’ērûsı̂n (Kiddushin 9a). In the Near East today the contributions of each family are fixed in a written engagement contract.

b. Wedding ceremonies
An important feature of many of these ceremonies was the public acknowledgment of the marital relationship. It is to be understood that not all of the following steps were taken at all weddings.
(i) Garments of bride and groom. The bride sometimes wore embroidered garments (Ps. 45:13–14), jewels (Is. 61:10), a special girdle or ‘attire’ (Je. 2:32) and a veil (Gn. 24:65). Among the adornments of the groom might be a garland (Is. 61:10). Eph. 5:27; Rev. 19:8; 21:2 refer figuratively to the white garments of the church as the Bride of Christ.
(ii) Bridesmaids and friends. Ps. 45:14 speaks of bridesmaids for a royal bride, and we assume that lesser brides had their bridesmaids also. Certainly the bridegroom had his group of companions (Jdg. 14:11). One of these corresponded to the best man at our weddings, and is called ‘companion’ in Jdg. 14:20; 15:2, and ‘the friend of the bridegroom’ in Jn. 3:29. He may be the same as ‘the steward (AV ‘governor’) of the feast’ in Jn. 2:8–9.
(iii) The procession. In the evening of the day fixed for the marriage the bridegroom and his friends went in procession to the bride’s house. The wedding supper could be held there: sometimes circumstances compelled this (Gn. 29:22; Jdg. 14), but it may have been fairly common, since the parable of the Ten Virgins in Mt. 25:1–13 is most easily interpreted of the bridegroom going to the bride’s house for the supper. One would, however, expect that more usually the bridegroom escorted the bride back to his own or his parents’ home for the supper, though the only references to this in Scripture are in Ps. 45:14f.; Mt. 22:1–14 (royal weddings), and probably in Jn. 2:9f.
The procession might be accompanied by singing, music and dancing (Je. 7:34; 1 Macc. 9:39), and by lamps if at night (Mt. 25:7).
(iv) The marriage feast. This was usually held at the house of the groom (Mt. 22:1–10; Jn. 2:9) and often at night (Mt. 22:13; 25:6). Many relatives and friends attended; so the wine might well run out (Jn. 2:3). A steward or friend supervised the feast (Jn. 2:9–10). To refuse an invitation to the wedding feast was an insult (Mt. 22:7). The guests were expected to wear festive clothes (Mt. 22:11–12). In special circumstances the feast could be held in the bride’s home (Gn. 29:22; Tobit 8:19) The glorious gathering of Christ and his saints in heaven is figuratively called ‘the marriage supper of the Lamb’ (Rev. 19:9).
(v) Covering the bride. In two cases in the OT (Ru. 3:9; Ezk. 16:8) the man covers the woman with his skirt, perhaps a sign that he takes her under his protection. D. R. Mace follows J. L. Burckhardt (Notes on the Bedouin, 1830, p. 264) in saying that in Arab weddings this is done by one of the bridegroom’s relations. J. Eisler, in Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt, 1910, says that among the bedouin the bridegroom covers the bride with a special cloak, using the words, ‘From now on, nobody but myself shall cover thee.’ The Bible references suggest that the second custom was followed.
(vi) Blessing. Parents and friends blessed the couple and wished them well (Gn. 24:60; Ru. 4:11; Tobit 7:13).
(vii) Covenant. Another religious element was the covenant of faithfulness which is implied in Pr. 2:17; Ezk. 16:8; Mal. 2:14. According to Tobit 7:14, the father of the bride drew up a written marriage contract, which in the Mishnah is called keṯûḇâ.
(viii) Bridechamber. A nuptial chamber was specially prepared (Tobit 7:16). The Heb. name for this room is ḥuppâ (Ps. 19:5; Joel 2:16), originally a canopy or tent, and the Gk. word is nymphōn (Mk. 2:19). The word ḥuppâ is still used among Jews today of the canopy under which the bride and bridegroom sit or stand during the wedding ceremony.
(ix) Consummation. The bride and groom were escorted to this room, often by the parents (Gn. 29:23; Tobit 7:16–17; 8:1). Before coming together, for which the Heb. uses the idiom ‘to know’, prayer was offered by husband and wife (Tobit 8:4).
(x) Proof of virginity. A blood-stained cloth or chemise was exhibited as a proof of the bride’s virginity (Dt. 22:13–21). This custom continues in some places in the Near East.
(xi) Festivities. The wedding festivities continued for a week (Gn. 29:27, Jacob and Leah) or sometimes 2 weeks (Tobit 8:20, Tobias and Sarah). These celebrations were marked by music (Pss. 45; 78:63) and by joking like Samson’s riddles (Jdg. 14:12–18). Some interpret Canticles in the light of a custom among Syrian peasants of calling the groom and bride ‘king’ and ‘queen’ during the festivities after the wedding and of praising them with songs.

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