Friday, March 1, 2013

The Bride of Christ and the Historical Jewish Marriage Significance

Wedding Rings
Image Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons
Often we hear “we are the bride of Christ”. Or “He will come back for a church/bride without spot or blemish.”. But what does that mean?

I would like to look deeper into this with you. But first, we must agree on some basic biblical truths:
  • Jesus Christ is the bridegroom of His Ecclesia (church) (2 Corinthians 11:2) 
  • The bible is true, without error, and used for correction and instruction (2 Tim 3:16-17)
Jesus told many parables regarding marriage during His time on earth. There are also that are foreshadowed and foretold in the old and new testament, respectively. But just reading them does the importance of the matter no justice. You have to know the historical background of the Jewish customs of marriage to fully understand. And, that is where I’d like to start, and “marry” the two (ha! Pun intended).

This historical Jewish marriage tradition was much more elaborate than how we in our “world” get married today. There were so many things to do, plans to make, payments and arrangements to confirm. But it all served a purpose. Now, let’s look at the steps that it took to get married, and how it correlates to the teachings of the Bridegroom/bride of Christ. For the Jewish tradition, we can look at Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah in the Old Testament in Genesis 24. Point to remember, Abraham’s servant is working on his behalf, as at this time, Abraham was too old to accomplish his responsibilities.

First the Shiddukhin or the match-up (Gen 24:50-51, context v1-51): The marriage was not the idea of the man and woman to be married like how it is now. It was arranged between families, often the fathers. However, sometimes the bridegroom did get to choose if He saw a bride that he liked and sometimes even loved. And marrying outside of your particular “kind” was taboo.

This should ring a couple of bells –  God draws and chooses the bride. Jesus being the bridegroom will only “marry” His “kind”.

Eph 1:4 (NLT) Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

John 6:37 (NLT) However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.

1 Peter 1:13-16 - 13So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”[c]

Second came the Eyrusin or “Betrothal”. A part of the betrothal was called the Kiddushin, which meant “set apart”. The Kiddushin or Betrothal is kind of like our “engagement” now days but the commitment is MUCH stronger, and much more meaningful. To be betrothed, was a covenant between the bridegroom and the bride to be to be set apart for each other and no one else. This is something that the bridegroom would initiate by leaving his father’s house to go to the bride. He would then ask the bride to be his, and the bride had to choose to accept. In this covenant, the bride (once approached) would agree to belong to the bridegroom, she wouldn’t give her heart to another. That covenant sealed the deal. In a sense, without all the pomp, they were already married. The only way the bridegroom  could get out of the covenant would be to “divorce” out of the covenant (Deut 24:1-4).

One of the major things that went on during the betrothal and before the bridegroom asked for the brides hand of marriage was the “Mohar” negotiation. The young woman was very valuable to her family. She often helped cook, clean etc around the home. To lose her, was a huge blow to the family. In order to make a fair “exchange” she had to be “paid for”. The payment that the young man’s father would make was called the “mohar”. Although the mohar went to the father of the bride, it really belonged to her.

How does this part relate to the bride of Christ? Let’s look at some scripture:

John 6:38-40 38For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Here we see all three parts of the betrothal. Jesus leaves His home (coming down from Heaven) to come to the brides home (earth). His Father makes the arrangement (His will that none be lost). And the bride chooses to accept (all who believe).  Let’s look at another passage. Also to note, just like it was only the privilege of the bridegroom to break the covenant, so it is with the Father. He is the only one that will be able to break that covenant, but He is not a God of divorce. Thus, the promise of the Bride to His Son forever (eternal life).

Because of our sinful nature, we once belonged to a father. A vicious, brutal, murderous father. And we were VERY important to our father as we opened doors for him to hold on to more and more of his children.

John 8:43-45 43Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!

Romans 1:32 (context v18-32) - They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

The Father would need to pay a ransom to buy us from our father. It would cost a lot to let us go, and that is the price, the “mohar” that the bridegroom had to pay.

1 Peter 1:18-20 18For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Philippians 2:7-8 (KJV) 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  ***the “even” is very significant. Jesus just didn’t die. He didn’t get shot or stabbed for us. He died on a cross. That is important because dying on a cross was one of the most dishonorable way to die. Criminals died that way. Yet, the one who had committed no sin paid that price, to buy us back from our father so that we can be one with Him and His Father.****

So, after the betrothal and Mohar was paid, in my research, there were two things that happened.

The bridegroom and bride would both drink wine from the betrothal cup (much like our communion as found in Luke 22:18-20). And they would also exchange things (rings, gifts etc.)

They both would participate in the Mikveh - or Ritual Immersion signifying the spiritual cleansing of them both (much like our baptism into the faith Matt 28:19).

After these were complete, the customary next step would be for the son to leave. But, before he did, he would give his bride-to-be a small gift. This gift would be what she would keep to remind her of the commitment as well as remind her of him and his love for her until he returned. This gift was called the “Mantan”.

Christ’s Bride’s Mantan is this:

John 16:5-8 5But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate[a] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” **The Advocate is another translation in the NLT for The Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13-14 13And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own[a] by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

During the time that the bridegroom is gone (the separation period), the bride would prepare herself for his return, and he would go to his father’s home and prepare a space for he and his bride to live. In biblical times, the bridegroom didn’t build a brand new home. Instead, he would build new rooms on to the already existing home of his father. After the father was satisfied that the living quarters were complete, the bridegroom was then able to go get his bride.

This also reflects what Christ said:

John 14:1-3 1“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

Or, the more popular version (KJV): 1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In 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. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

As far as the bride becoming ready:

Revelations 19:7-8 7Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him.For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.

Eph 5:25-27 - 25For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[a] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

Once the separation was over, and the father deemed the preparations to be in order for the bride to come. This would begin the “Nissuin” – or the wedding ceremony. The special thing about this in biblical times is that it came after much anticipation. Most separations lasted about a year. The bride knew that her bridegroom would be coming, but not the exact time or day. For this reason, she stayed ready, expecting his return at any moment. Usually, as the bridegroom approached the home of the bride, there would be a loud shout or announcement of his coming. This was done by one of his groomsmen. As he shouted through the streets a great crowd would follow, all shouting. Once he arrived for his bride, they once again drank from the cup, said their vows, and a huge celebratory banquet would ensue.

Matt 24:36-37 36“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. [a] Only the Father knows. 37“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day.

Matt 25:13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. (in context Matt 25:1-13).

Christ’s Return and wedding:

1 Thess 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died[a] will rise from their graves.

Rev 19:7-9 7Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”


+Deidra Hall
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For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deut 20:4  Translation: We never lose!!

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