Today, of course, parents do not formally choose their child’s mate, but the similarity to the ancient custom is clear: Parents have the responsibility to introduce their children to Christ. Fathers, by virtue of their holding the priesthood, have the responsibility to take their children into the waters of baptism and help them to enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant with Jesus. Now the children are given over or married to Christ by Covenant, and taking upon them his name, they begin a relationship with him that will end up in the mansions of his Father.[xxi]
Love for each other was expected to be cultivated after the marriage, not necessarily before.[xxii] We note that after Isaac married Rebekah he grew in his love for her.[xxiii] This reversal of order might seem strange to us, but the implication is intriguing: Covenant people grow together in love as they remain true to each other. When we enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant, we do so without a full appreciation for or love of the Lord.
These things take time. But as we live together in the Covenant and as we have experience with the Lord, we grow to love him more and more. “The Semitic root word for ‘love’ is haw or hav. It means ‘to warm’ or ‘to kindle,’ ‘to set on fire.’”[xxiv] Over time, our love for the Bridegroom grows from an ember to a blazing fire until love becomes as perfect as the God of love,[xxv] who “dwells in everlasting burnings.”[xxvi]
Requirements to Legalize the Covenant
The marriage covenant “had serious implications. There were three parts that were vital to a completed marriage contract in Biblical times. These were money, writ, and sexual relations. All three of these conditions had to be met for a marriage to be recognized as legal.”
The groom was expected to pay a bride price for his beloved. Then he was to offer her a marriage contract, a writ or ketuba, whereby he consecrated himself to his bride. Finally, the marriage had to be consummated; that is, he must know his wife through sexual relations. This last condition fulfilled the requirement that blood be shed to complete the covenant.[xxvii]
Thus, in both marriage and in the New and Everlasting Covenant, we (the bride) are:
When we consider these conditions, we begin to understand the price that Jesus was willing to pay to draw us to him, redeem us and secure our eternal affections. Marvin Wilson wrote:
“…the joining of a man and a woman is a reenactment or replica of God’s eternal covenant relation to his chosen. To understand Biblical marriage is to understand the Biblical concept of covenant. In Hebrew ‘to make a covenant’ is literally ‘to cut a covenant’….The shedding of blood dramatically ratified and sealed the covenant (Genesis 15:9-18; Jeremiah 34:18-20). If one attempted to break the covenant, the blood served as a powerful visual lesson that one’s own blood would be shed. In brief, it was a solemn oath to be kept on pain of death. It was thus inviolable and irrevocable.”[xxxi]
Initiating the Marriage Proposal
The bridegroom initiated the process of offering the covenant of marriage to the bride. When we consider this action in light of the New and Everlasting Covenant, we see something tender and loving about the character of the Savior. We are immediately impressed by the fact that he, not us, invites us into the New and Everlasting Covenant. Clearly, “we love Him because he loved us first.”[xxxii]
When we are baptized, we often miss the fact that Jesus was the one who reached out to us and bade us enter into an eternal covenantal relationship with him. We sometimes mistakenly think that we were the ones who instigated the process, but according to the Jewish marriage tradition, that is not true.
In advance of every baptism is Jesus’ implied invitation. This fact speaks to his adoring love for us. He is the Bridegroom and we are his potential bride. He is the one who begins the covenant-making process. He does this through the Holy Ghost and through his authorized representatives: fathers, Home Teachers, bishops or missionaries.
The occasion of the marriage proposal often happened at the harvest season, suggesting a bounteous relationship and a fruitful future.[xxxiii] Likewise, when we join with the Lord in the Covenant, we glorify both him and his Father and we “bear much fruit” together.[xxxiv] The proposal procedure began by the bridegroom’s going to the house of the bride. He was accompanied by his father or a close friend(s).
We immediately envision a small entourage, a companionship, two or more witnesses like missionary companions, on an important mission to convey an invitation of infinite worth to the intended bride.
In her presence, the bridegroom would make the covenantal offer while his friend(s) would support him and bear witness of the event. This was the beginning of holiness, for truly, upon her acceptance of the marriage covenant, the bride would effectively ascribe holiness unto the Lord,[xxxv] her new husband.
Donna Nielsen wrote: “The collective term for all that broadly comprises a Jewish marriage is Kiddushin, which literally means ‘sanctities.’ This concept includes the ideas of being devoted irrevocably, being sanctified and set apart, and being consecrated.”[xxxvi] Clearly, the Jewish marriage is the perfect metaphor for the New and Everlasting Covenant.
Entering into the Covenant
The Bridegroom’s proposal to us includes sacred rituals that consecrate him to us (the bride), and our accepting his proposal consecrates us to him. We hear overtures of the Law of Consecration in this. Other symbolisms of the New and Everlasting Covenant become evident as the betrothal ceremony unfolds. In the Jewish marriage, the groom offered the bride’s father a bride price—she was “bought with a price.”[xxxvii]
Then the bridegroom presented his potential bride a written covenant of marriage that he had prepared.