HomeVisionStatement Of FaithArticlesPhoto GalleryEditor's NoteLinksContact

The Marriage Was

The LORD God said,
"It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a helper suitable for him."
Genesis 2:18

The origin of marriage is as ancient as Adam and Eve. It was instituted by God when He declared, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Gen. 2:18). So God created woman and brought her to man. On seeing the first and beautiful lady, Adam exclaimed, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Gen 2:23-24).

This union of a man and a woman as husband and wife becomes the foundation for a home and family. God's ideal is for a man to be the husband of one wife, and for the marriage to be a covenant relationship – a permanent partnership that cannot be broken.

As marriage is legislation by God Himself, His desire for His people is that they marry within the Body of believers. The New Testament does not contradict the teachings about marriage in the Old Testament. Jesus' first miracle occurred at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). Our Lord gave His blessing and sanction to the institution of marriage. The Law of God clearly states that an Israelite cannot marry a non-Israelite as they would be tempted to worship other gods (Exo. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:3-4). Likewise, the apostle Paul commanded the church at Corinth concerning marriage, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14).

Marriages between Israelites were guided and guarded by God’s Law. All incestuous relationships were outlawed (Lev. 18:6-8; 20:19-21). Priests were forbidden to marry prostitutes and divorced women (Lev. 21:7,13-14). Daughters who inherited their father's possessions had to marry within their tribes or face losing their inheritance (Num. 27:8; 36:2-4).

In Old Testament times, the parents chose the helpmate for their son. The primary reason for this was obvious. The Jewish people married at a very young age. By the New Testament times, the Jewish leaders decided to establish the minimum ages for marriages - 13 for boys and 12 for girls.

Their parents' choice was therefore a practical decision. As the bride became part of the extended family, the parents of the bridegroom would choose someone who would not only fit into their family but also work harmoniously with her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. Although the couple were married and became one flesh, they would remain under the authority of the bridegroom's father.

At times, some parents discussed with their children to see if they approved of the choice of mates being made for them. For example, Rebekah was asked if she wanted to marry Isaac (Gen. 24:58). Samson demanded a wife from the daughters of the Philistines. Although his parents protested initially, they finally conceded to complete the marriage contract for Samson (Judges 14:1-4).

If a young wife lost her husband in war or accident, she would remain within the extended family, and should wed to her brother-in-law or next of kin. This arrangement is known as the Levirate Marriage. It is the basis for the story and marriage of Ruth and Boaz (Deut. 25:5-10; Ruth 3:13; 4:1-12).

The concept of love is very different from what we know today. Although romance before marriage was not unknown in the Old Testament times, it did play a minor role in the life of teenagers of that era such as Jacob and Rachel. They loved the mate they married and not marry the person they loved. Love began at marriage. When Isaac married Rebekah, the Bible recorded that "she became his wife, and he loved her" (Gen. 24:67).

A number of marriage customs and procedures were involved in finalizing a marriage in Old Testament times. The first step was the agreement of a price of a bride to be given to the father of the girl. The payment was compensation for the loss of a worker. The sum was mutually agreed upon (Gen. 34:12; Ex. 22:16-17). It could consist of services instead of money, for example, Jacob agreed to work for seven years for Rachel (Gen. 29:18-20). The giving and receiving of money was probably accompanied by a written agreement. After this agreement was made, the couple was considered engaged.

In Biblical times, a betrothal for marriage was a binding agreement that set the young woman apart for the young man. The agreement could only be voided by death or divorce. No one could get out of the betrothal in any other way. When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he did not want to make a public example of her. Instead, he decided to divorce her secretly. However, he did not carry out the divorce when an angel of the Lord told him that the Baby to be born to Mary would be the Son of God (Matthew 1:18-25).

During the engagement period, the bridegroom had special privileges. If war was declared, he was exempt from military duty (Deut. 20:7). The bride was also protected by the Law. If another man raped her, the act was treated as adultery; and the offender was punished accordingly (Deut. 22:23-27). This was considered a more serious crime than the rape of a girl not yet betrothed (Deut. 22:28-29).

The length of engagement varied. Sometimes the couple was married the same day they were engaged. However, a period of time usually elapsed between the betrothal and the marriage ceremony. During this time the young man prepared a place in his father's house for his bride, while the bride prepared herself for married life.

The wedding day has, for both the bride and groom, all the sanctity and solemnity of Yom Kippur. The wedding day is a private Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, Day of Atonement. It is a fast day on which each person reviews in depth all of his past actions. Since on the day of one's wedding God forgives the bride and groom of all their previous transgressions, it is seen as a private Yom Kippur for the couple. They fast until the ceremony. They add Yom Kippur confessions to their afternoon prayers; recite the Book of Psalms, asking for forgiveness for the wrongdoings of their youth, committed knowingly or unknowingly, before starting their new life together.

Previously, each had been but half a person. Now, with the hour of marriage, they resume their original wholeness, a new and pure soul is again to be theirs. Standing together, their life destiny is set, all past reckoning erased.

The bridegroom, who dons a white robe, and the bride in her gown, is attired in white symbolizing angelic purity and freedom from sin. They pray that the Almighty would "open a new gate for us as the old gate is closed" so that their new life together evolves from a pure and fresh beginning. During each day of their marriage the bride and groom will strive to grow and adjust to each other in order to establish the foundation for a faithful Jewish home.

When the day for the wedding arrives, the bride puts on white robes (often richly embroidered), decks herself with jewels, fastens a bridal girdle about her waist, covers herself with a veil, and places a garland on her head. The bridegroom, dressed in his best clothes, with a handsome headdress on his head, sets out for the house of the bride's parents. He is accompanied by his friends, by musicians and singers, and by persons bearing torches if the procession moves at night.

The bridegroom receives his bride from her parents with their blessings and the good wishes of friends. Then he conducts the whole party back to his own house or his father's house with song, music, and dancing. On the way back they are joined by additional friends of the bride and bridegroom. A feast is served and celebrated with great joy and merrymaking.

In the evening the bride is escorted to the nuptial chamber by her parents, and the bridegroom by his companions or the bride's parents. Once at the bridegroom's house, the couple was ushered into a bridal chamber. The marriage was consummated through sexual union as the guests waited outside. Once that fact was announced, the wedding festivities continued, with guests dropping by for the wedding feast. Usually the wedding party lasted for 7 days. This is symbolic of the Feast of Tabernacles, following Yom Kippur, which is celebrated for 1 week (7days) as God dwells (tabernacles) with man.

The friend of the bridegroom is the "best man" in the wedding ceremony. He was the one who assisted the bridegroom in planning and arranging the marriage. He is a close companion of the bridegroom whom the bridegroom loves and trusts.

Please also read:
The Marriage Is
The Marriage To Come

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary