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Dictionary of Bible Themes – 5710 marriage, customs concerning
5710 marriage, customs concerning

5710 marriage, customs concerning

Marriage between two individuals united their families and involved the whole community. Parents, particularly fathers, took an active part in selecting partners for their children. There was often a long period of betrothal; wedding celebrations were usually elaborate and might last a week or more.

The choice of a marriage partner

Parents usually chose a suitable partner Ge 38:6 See also Ge 24:2-4; Ge 21:21 Occasionally mothers made the wedding arrangements.

The wishes of the couple Ge 24:57-58 Rebekah is consulted about her proposed marriage to Isaac. See also Ge 34:4,8-9; Jdg 14:2; 1Sa 18:20

The bride-price

Daughters were “given” by their fathers Ge 29:28; Ex 2:21; 1Sa 18:21

Fathers often received payment Ge 29:18; Ge 34:12 See also Ge 29:30; Ex 22:16-17; Dt 22:28-29; 1Sa 18:17,27

Daughters were given as a reward Jdg 1:12-13 pp Jos 15:16-17 See also 1Sa 18:25

The exchange of wedding gifts

Gifts from the bridegroom’s family Ge 24:53

Gifts from the bride’s father Servants given to the bride as a dowry: Ge 24:59; Ge 29:24,29 Cities and land given as a dowry: Jdg 1:14-15 pp Jos 15:18-19; 1Ki 9:16

The period of betrothal

Betrothal followed payment of the bride-price 2Sa 3:14 See also Ge 29:19-20 Jacob worked for Laban during his period of betrothal to Rachel.

A betrothed couple were regarded as husband and wife Ge 19:14; Dt 22:23-24 Unfaithfulness during the period of betrothal is treated as adultery; Mt 1:18-20 Divorce is required to break a betrothal.

Sexual relationships took place only after the wedding Ge 29:21 Betrothed women were referred to as virgins: Joel 1:8; Lk 1:27
Mt 1:25; 1Co 7:36-38

Soldiers and marriage

Dt 20:7 Engaged soldiers were to marry before going into battle; Dt 24:5 Recently married soldiers were exempted from military service for a year.

The wedding celebrations

The bride wore an elaborate dress and jewellery Eze 16:9-13 An allegorical description of God dressing Jerusalem as a bride. See also Ps 45:13; Isa 61:10; Jer 2:32; Rev 21:2

Attendants on the bride and groom Ps 45:14; Jn 3:29 See also Jdg 14:11,20; Mt 9:15 pp Mk 2:19 pp Lk 5:34; Mt 25:1-10

The wedding banquet Ge 29:22; Jdg 14:10; Mt 22:2; Rev 19:9

Wedding festivities Ps 78:63; Isa 62:5; Jer 7:34; Jer 33:11

The invitation to a wedding Mt 22:3-4 Invited guests were called when the feast was ready. It was an insult to the host to refuse to attend: Mt 22:5-7; Lk 14:18-21
Mt 22:11-12 Guests were expected to dress appropriately.

See also


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