(NOTE: This article is adapted from the Pillars of Zion series. You may download FREE the entire series at www.PillarsOfZion.com.)
The Jewish marriage parallels the New and Everlasting Covenant with astonishing similarity. Because the New and Everlasting Covenant is the first “pillar of Zion,” and because it is upon this foundational Covenant that a Zion life or a Zion marriage are established, we would be well served to become familiar with these ancient customs.
Last week, we learned that the Jewish marriage describes the beauty and loving nature of the New and Everlasting Covenant.
In this second segment of the four-part series, we will examine some of the rites associated with the Jewish betrothal that initiated the marriage and preceded the wedding.
Bought with a Price
When the marriage delegation, which included the groom, his father, friend(s) and witness(es), arrived at the bride’s home, the proposal ceremony began. First, the young man paid the girl’s father a “bride price.” There are several important symbolic parallels to our covenant with the Savior that are portrayed in the price that the bridegroom paid for the bride.
It meant a pledge of money given by the man to seal his offer to marry. This was not like buying a slave but was perceived as compensating the father for the great loss of his daughter and her contribution to the household. It recognized the care and diligence required to raise her to be a suitable wife. In addition, it also sealed a bond of alliance between the two families.[iv]
Importantly, the bride price “signified the transfer of authority from father to husband.”[vi] That is, when the bride gave her consent and entered into the marriage covenant, she agreed to fully belong to her husband, not as if she were a slave or property, but exclusive as would be a beloved eternal companion.
She was “bought with a price.”[vii] Now she was expected to shift her loyalty from her father to her husband and follow him in righteousness. Likewise, when we enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant with the Savior, we leave behind all other loyalties and affections and shift our devotion exclusively to him.
Of great significance was the amount of the bride price. A small amount suggested that her husband held her in low esteem and of little value. But if he paid a great deal for her in money or service, the implication was that he was acquiring something extremely valuable that required cherishing.[viii] Thus a bridegroom’s consecrating his all to “purchase” his bride would signify both immense sacrifice and unbounded love.
In his eyes, she would be of infinite worth. We recall that Jacob “served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.”[ix] When we consider the bride price, we cannot avoid the reference to the Savior who paid for us with his life and offers us all that he is and has. He bought us with “his own blood.”[x]
Although the bride’s father received the bride price, he returned most of it to his daughter. This became her dowry, which her husband could never access. It was her security, in case her husband died. Effectively, her father endowed her so that she might enter her new life and have adequate security to face with the uncertainties of that life.[xi] Thus, her security originated from the sacrifice of her husband and culminated in the generosity of her father.
Similarly, our Heavenly Father endows us with gifts of great value that ensure our future safety and security, and these gifts flow to us from the sacrifice of our beloved Bridegroom.
The Marriage Contract
In Jewish thought, all covenantal relationships were extremely serious. Often, only when they were sealed in blood did they became final and legally binding. The actual terms of the marriage covenant “were spelled out in a formal document called a ketubah…which stated the bride price…the promises and obligations of the groom and listed the rights of the bride. It signified a permanent covenant and an exclusive agreement.” The wording of an ancient ketubah might be representative:
Notice that the marriage contract was weighted in the bride’s favor. The groom listed “what he would do for her, what he would give her, and how he would care and provide for her.”[xii] While it is true that we agree “to take upon us the name of [the] Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments,”[xiii] it is also true that we sometimes forget how much the New and Everlasting Covenanted is weighted in our favor.
If we “receive” Jesus, we also receive all that Jesus inherits from his Father: “[the] Father's kingdom…therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.”[xiv] “They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.”[xv]
The marriage covenant was one of love, security and comforting assurance.The bridegroom listed promises to always take care of his wife with food, clothing, necessities, redemption and affectionate attention.