Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jewish Wedding customs.

The Jewish wedding is one of the cornerstones of scripture. During the first century the Jewish wedding customs were long recognized as a pattern for the redemption. of mankind.

This is rather hard to miss, particularly when John refer specifically to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'" (Revelation 19:9) Because we live in the modern western world we do not fully catch the significance of the ancient Jewish marriage customs and how Paul used them in parallel to the marriage of the first century Church. Jesus and Paul payed meticulous attention to details as they use the Jewish marriage customs in scripture. Ever Christian should have a good book on ancient Jewish customs because they are often uses in the Bible.

As we examine those marriage customs we must pay particular attention to what Paul says in his letters to the first century Church. Please keep in mind that this status is just a general look into the rituals and not all of the rituals and customs of the Jewish wedding.

The first stage of an ancient Jewish marriage involved the prospective bridegroom visiting the father of the prospective bride. First, he would state to the father his desire for the fathers daughter, and ask for her hand in marriage. If the father agreed to the match he would then begin to negotiate a price to be paid for the future bride. If the father and the bridegroom agreed on a price, then the groom would pay, thus establishing that the marriage would take place and the bride would be his. We see the bride-price in the Old Testament, for example it's mentioned in Exodus 22:16-17 "If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. "If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.

God later used this to convey a greater spiritual meaning. We see a parallel in scripture where Jesus paid bride-price for the church with His death on the cross. Paul writes to the Church at Corinth. For you were (bought at a price); therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Corinthians 16:20) The greater his desire for the bride the greater the price he will be willing to pay for her. Jesus paid the ultimate bride-price on the cross.

Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was established, and the young man and woman were regarded as future husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was (set apart) exclusively for her bridegroom. This is the period of time that she is observed for her purity. Paul writes to the Ephesians ''that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.'' ( Ephesians 5:26-27)

This is also the period of time that the bride is being trained and prepared to take on the role of a wife and she prepares herself to be a fitting bride for her mate. When that day comes she will be presented as pure virgin to Christ. Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus around 55 A.D. to the church at Corinth. This was near the end of Paul's three-year ministry in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. He notes that he plans to visit the Corinthians soon although as we see in 2 Corinthians, a letter written later in the same year, Paul did not make that planned visit.

Notice what Paul writes to the saints in Corinth 2 Corinthians 11:2 NIV I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. (I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him). The NLT reads, For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. (I promised you as a pure bride to one husband Christ). Could anything be more clear? We can see by the language used in scripture that Paul is preparing the first century saints for the role of a wife? Paul was the wedding planner and trainer who prepared the bride (the first century church) for her husband Christ.

As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride drank from a cup of wine over which the betrothal had been pronounced. Jesus speaking to his disciples Matthew 26:27-28 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

After the marriage covenant was established, the groom left his bride at her home and returned to his father's house, where he remained separated from his bride. During this period of separation, the groom prepared a dwelling place in his father's house to which he would later bring his bride. We see this parallel of scripture Jesus said to the disciples. In 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). (John 14:2)

At the end of the period of separation, the bridegroom came - usually (at night) to take his bride to live with him. We see this parallel in Thessalonians 5:2 ; 2 Peter 3:10. The groom, the best man, and other male escorts went to meet the bridegroom with lite torches and left the father's house and conducted a torch-light procession to the home of the bride. Jesus uses this same parallel in Matthew 25:1 "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

Although the bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the time of his coming. As a result, the groom's arrival was preceded by a shout, which announced his departure to be gathered with him. Those on the street, ...knowing that a groom was coming to claim his bride, would begin to shout out 'Behold the bridegroom comes! Behold the bridegroom comes !'. We see in scripture references to both the shouting and the shofar blast taking place as Christ the bridegroom comes for his bride.
(1 Thessalonians 4:1617)

After the groom received his bride, together with her female attendants, the enlarged wedding party returned from the bride's home to the groom's father's house, where the wedding guests had assembled. Jesus uses this must read parallel in (Matthew 22:1-10)

Shortly after their arrival, the bride and groom were escorted by the other members of the wedding party to the bridal chamber (huppah). Prior to entering the chamber, the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. While the groomsmen and bridesmaids waited outside, the bride and groom entered the bridal chamber alone. There, in the privacy they entered into physical union for the first time, thereby consummating the marriage that had been covenanted approximately one year earlier.

After the marriage was consummated, the groom came out of the bridal chamber and announced the consummation of the marriage to the members of the wedding party waiting outside. Then, as the groom went back to his bride in the chamber, the members of the wedding party returned to the wedding guests and announced the consummation of the marriage. The couple would then leave the banquet hall and begin their new life together, going to the place the groom had prepared for his new bride. John 14:3... I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Every Jewish Christian living in the first century that was remotely familiar with their ancient Jewish marriage customs understood the parallels were about them.