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  • Writer's pictureMichael Filipek

Prophetic Mysteries of the Ancient Hebrew Wedding (Part 1)

Updated: Jan 27


Prophetic Mysteries of the Ancient Hebrew Wedding

It may startle you to discover the treasures hidden in the wedding rituals of the ancient Hebrews, which God instituted. It is astonishing to recognize that everything that God has said about His marriage to His bride, the Church, was anticipated thousands of years earlier in the institution of these customs. That fact is a profound piece of evidence that the author of the Bible is not bound to the constraints of time as we are. Rather, it is profound proof of His reality, and demonstrates His origin to be from outside of time.


These insights we will examine also demonstrate the integration of the Bible, which is another proof that demonstrates its Author to be from outside time. Because the Bible is composed of sixty-six books, written by over forty authors who mostly didn’t know each other, over an almost two thousand-year time span, to then discover that it is thoroughly integrated down to the subtle nuances is a proof of its extra-dimensional origin. Furthermore, the fact that its human authors could not have understood the true depth of meaning behind the “types and shadows” embedded into their inspired writings is a fact that echoes its inspiration from outside time.


This content of this multi-part article series should continue to amaze you concerning God’s precision in that regard. Not only does this provide a profound awareness regarding our prophetic perspective, but it also demonstrates the incredible love and affection with which God views us. At face value, most of these insights are not obvious to the modern reader. However, by becoming in touch with the Hebraic roots of the Bible, we can better comprehend the depth of anticipatory design embedded into both the Biblical record and the ancient Hebrew culture.


All through the Gospels, Jesus relied on the ancient Jewish wedding pattern for many of His parables (Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13), climaxing in His Bridegroom’s promise in the Upper Room in John 14. We will explore these references within this study in order to recognize the full importance of these allusions. Unfortunately, many of us miss seeing the full depth of meaning by our modern unfamiliarity with the model of ancient Jewish wedding rituals.


The Hebrew wedding involved a number of important rituals typologically correlating with the marriage of Christ and the Church. We will investigate seventeen of them in these articles. The following are not necessarily in strict order, yet they follow the general process of the ancient Hebrew wedding. Let’s begin to examine these astonishing parallels.


1.) Erusin - Betrothal


The first step in a Hebrew marriage was betrothal (erusin). [1] Betrothal involved the establishment of an engagement covenant (te’naim), leading up to the marriage covenant (ketubah), as initiated by a prospective bridegroom (chatan). The ketubah is the final document that stipulates all expectations and conditions for the marriage between the husband and wife. [2] Jesus explicitly refers to Himself as the Bridegroom in the following passage in Mark.


And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. -Mark 2:18-20

So, Jesus identifies Himself as the Bridegroom. The following verse tells us that, like every Jewish bridegroom, Jesus came from His Father’s house and travelled to the home of his bride (kallah).


I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: -John 16:28a

So, Jesus emphasized that He as the Bridegroom had come to earth, from His Father’s house, to find Himself a bride. We see from the above passage in Mark, and others, that He makes it clear He will at some point leave, and later return for His bride, as was the normal betrothal custom. It was normal for the bridegroom to often take the initiative in establishing a marriage covenant.


Key Parallel:


  • In ancient Jewish culture, in order to initiate betrothal, the prospective bridegroom would travel from his father’s house to the house of the prospective bride.

  • In like manner, Jesus left His Father’s house in heaven and “travelled” to earth (through the Incarnation), the home of His prospective bride, the Church.

2.) The Mohar – The Bride Price


Upon arrival at the home of the young woman, the prospective bridegroom would negotiate with the woman’s father as to the bride price (mohar – Strong’s # H4119) he must pay to “purchase” his bride, as was the custom (Genesis 24:53; 34:12; Exodus 22:15-16; 1 Samuel 18:25; Hosea 3:2). [3] On a practical level, since the Father was losing a valuable member of his household (the bride), and had spent considerably to raise, feed, and house her since she was young, the mohar paid to the father was to help compensate him for these costs.


Jesus understood – because as God, He established this tradition – that He could not simply obtain a wife without paying a price (a mohar) for His bride. The necessity of a mohar is one of the most overlooked reasons for His death. You must recognize that He died not only to be free from the law of marriage with Israel, but He died also in order to present a mohar to His bride, the Church.

In order to understand this, you must recognize that you as a believer have been purchased (redeemed), as the aforementioned passage in Ephesians 1 describes.


Until the redemption of the purchased possession [referring to us as Christians] …. -Ephesians 1:14

So, as the bride, Christ has purchased us. We will discuss shortly what He used to pay for, or redeem us. But to understand the true depths of this, you need to see this from the cultural aspects of that time. In the ancient customs, it was not only necessary to simply present a mohar to the woman’s father, but you had to present a suitable mohar according to the woman’s social status (1 Samuel 18:23).


For example, if you were marrying a commoner or a peasant woman, you may present sheep and chickens and goats to her father in order to demonstrate to him that you are capable of providing for her on the level in which she is used to living. However, if you were marrying royalty, you would present gifts such as silver and gold and costly garments. But yet, if you were marrying distinct royalty, in which the woman was able to trace her royal lineage back a certain number of generations, you may be required to present exotic gifts from around the world. You must meet her on her social level. [4] In order to properly understand the cross, you must recognize that the cross was meant to express to you your social status from God’s viewpoint.


Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed [purchased] with corruptible things, as silver and gold… -1 Peter 1:18

Jesus made it clear to you that the objects normally given to earthly royalty as a mohar were far beneath what He considers your status to be. Peter implies in Verse 18 that even valuable earthly items such as silver and gold would actually be an insult to present to His bride.


So then, what did He use to purchase us? In order to express to us how unique and special we are to Him, He came up with something to present as a mohar that was unique only to Him. Something nobody else would be able to duplicate, which would express to us our true status in His eyes. The following verse (Verse 19), tells us:


But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: -1 Peter 1:19

So, we understand that what He devised as a mohar for the Church was His own precious, sinless blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot! It was because of this purchased price, that Paul wrote the following to the Church.


Know ye not that … ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. -1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Key Parallel:


  • The prospective bridegroom would negotiate a mohar to pay the bride’s father in order to establish a marriage covenant whereby the woman would become his betrothed. The value of the mohar would be on par with the social status that the woman had.

  • Jesus, through His death on the cross, paid the mohar that was needed (His own sinless blood) in order to atone for the sins of all mankind that began with Adam. He thereby purchased the Church as His betrothed with a mohar of incomparable value, indicating to her the true social status that she possesses in His sight.


3.) Shiluhin – The Dowry


A dowry (shiluhin, or in later Talmudic terms, nedunya or nadan) is a transfer of parental property, gifts or money at the marriage of a daughter. A dowry contrasts with the related concept of a bride price or mohar. While a bride price or mohar is a payment by the groom to the bride’s parents, a dowry is the gift of wealth transferred from the bride’s family down to the bride. She would bring this gift with her into her new marriage. In other words, it was a wedding gift from the father to his daughter, the bride. [5] Upon leaving her father, the daughter received this shiluhin as a parting gift. This concept is mentioned in passages such as Genesis 24:59, 29:24, 29, and 1 Kings 9:16.


In light of this definition of a dowry, consider the following passages, which seem to describe the Holy Spirit as the “dowry” being given to us from the Father.


And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. -John 14:16-18, 26
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you [speaking of the Holy Spirit]: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. -Luke 24:49

The Holy Spirit endowment is comparable to the modern practice of the bridegroom giving the bride an engagement ring as a type of down payment on the wedding. But in terms of the ancient Hebrew wedding practices, the Holy Spirit seems to also parallel the concept of the dowry, being that it comes from the Father and is given to the bride.


Key Parallel:


  • The father would present to his daughter, the bride, a dowry of value that she would bring with her into the marriage.

  • The Father, God presented the Holy Spirit to the bride as a dowry that would seal her until the time of her redemption.

4.) Shiddukhin – The Proposal


Shiddukhin can be defined as the early stage of the marriage process in which the man and woman consensually promise to marry each other in the future. [6] The Talmud refers to the marriage proposal as shiddukhin. [7]


In ancient times, much of the negotiation of the ketubah was between the prospective bridegroom and the woman’s father. However, this could not be completed without the woman’s willing consent. The bridegroom would have to approach the woman in order to gain her agreement to marry. The betrothal could not be complete without the woman’s consent. [8]


And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. -Genesis 24:58

As became customary, the man would pass a cup of wine to the woman, symbolizing covenant agreement. If the woman did not pick up the cup and drink, she was refusing him. But if she picked up the cup and drank from it, she was accepting his marriage proposal. [9] [10] After the bride accepted, the family would partake in a festive meal in celebration of the covenanted marriage. [11]


Acceptance of the marriage to Jesus is a decision that can only be done with one’s willing consent. And just like the bride did not initially choose the groom, we did not choose Christ.


Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you… -John 15:16a

So, like the ancient Hebrew brides, we simply consented to the marriage proposal. Regarding the drinking of the cup and the celebratory meal, let’s understand Jesus at the Last Supper speaking to His disciples.


After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. -1 Corinthians 11:25-26

In other words, Jesus was assuming the position of a Bridegroom, telling His bride-to-be that by the drinking of the cup, she is agreeing to His marriage proposal. He establishes this tradition of the Lord’s Supper meal to commemorate and celebrate the marriage. And just as the earthly bridegroom would leave after the bride’s agreement, in order to go prepare a place for her, and then later return, our heavenly Bridegroom instructed us to do this in remembrance of Him until He returns for us. So, you should recognize that participation in the tradition we call “communion” is in actuality a symbol of the acceptance of the marriage covenant with Jesus.


Key Parallel:


  • The ancient Jewish bridegrooms would obtain marital consent from the bride through the partaking of a drink of wine. The family would then celebrate the agreement with a festive meal. She did not choose him; he chose her, and she agreed.

  • Jesus established the tradition of the Lord’s Supper for His bride the Church, indicating to her that through the drinking of the cup of wine, and the eating of the bread, she is commemorating her agreement to His marriage proposal. We did not choose Him; He chose us, and we agreed.


 

[1] The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Isaac Landman, New York: Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Co. Inc., 1948, pp. 7, 372.

[2] David R. Mace, Hebrew Marriage, New York: Philosophical Library, 1953, p. 167.

[3] The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 372.

[4] Merrill Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Art. “Marriage – Marriage Customs,” ed. R.K. Harrison, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1988, p. 818.

[5] Louis Ginzberg and Julius H. Greenstone, Jewish Encyclopedia, entry “Dowry,” JewishEncyclopedia.com. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5297-dowry - Retrieved 3/10/18)

[6] Batsheva Sherman, “Marriage in Halakhic Judaism” Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, Dec. 31, 1999, Jewish Women’s Archive. (https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/marriage - Retrieved 5/10/18)

[7] Aryeh Kaplan, Made in Heaven: A Jewish Wedding Guide, Brooklyn, NY: Moznaim Pub., 1983, p. 22.

[8] Ibid., p. 22-23.

[9] The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 373.

[10] Avi Ben Mordechai, Signs in the Heavens, Millennium 7000 Communications, Int’l, 1996, p. 269.

[11] Ibid., p. 273.

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