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Dictionary of Bible Themes – 5654 betrothal
5654 betrothal

5654 betrothal

The period of engagement preceding marriage; betrothal was a binding contract established between two families and sealed by the exchange of gifts. During this period the couple did not live together; sexual relations with each other at this stage was regarded as equivalent to adultery. Betrothal describes the relationship between God and his people and between Jesus Christ and the church.

Betrothal and the choice of a spouse

Wives were often chosen by parents for their sons Ge 21:21 It was usual practice for the groom’s parents to choose his wife and arrange the wedding. See also Ge 24:4; Ge 38:6

Suitable husbands were sought by parents for their daughters Ru 3:1-4 Naomi, in the role of parent, assumes responsibility to find a husband for Ruth. See also Jdg 1:12-13; 1Sa 18:17,21

Betrothal following the couple’s wishes Jdg 14:1-4 Sometimes the man chose a prospective bride and his parents negotiated the marriage. See also Ge 34:1-4; Ge 24:57-58; Ge 26:34-35 Esau chose a bride against his parents’wishes.

Betrothal preceded marriage

Ge 29:21; Dt 20:7 A betrothed soldier was exempted from military service until after his marriage; Mt 1:24; 1Co 7:36-38

An exchange of gifts accompanyed betrothal

The bride-price Ge 34:11-12 This gift, which was given by the groom to the bride’s family as compensation, sealed the marriage contract. See also Ge 24:53; Ge 29:18,27; Ex 22:16-17; Dt 22:28-29; 2Sa 3:14

The dowry 1Ki 9:16 The dowry was a gift from the bride’s father to the bride and/or groom. Servants were given to the bride as a dowry: Ge 24:59; Ge 29:24,29
Jdg 1:14-15

Betrothal was treated as marriage

Dt 22:23-24 Though there were no sexual relations within the betrothal period, the commitment was regarded almost as seriously as marriage and infidelity of a betrothed partner was treated as adultery. See also Ge 19:14 The men betrothed to Lot’s daughters are described as his “sons-in-law”; Mt 1:18-20 Mary’s pregnancy during betrothal left her open to the charge and consequences of unfaithfulness.

Betrothal portrays the relationship between God and his people

Hos 2:19-20; 2Co 11:2 See also Jn 3:29; Eph 5:25-27; Rev 19:7-9; Rev 21:2

See also

5710marriage, customs
6236sexual sin

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