Do you ever stop to wonder why the Bible calls the Church (those believers who belong to Him) the Bride of Christ?
It is fascinating, to me, to study Jewish marriage customs in Biblical times. Especially since God designed human marriage to be a reflection of the relationship between Jesus and His people.
These customs shed an incredible amount of light on what Jesus has done for us, what He is doing for us now, and what He will do for us in the future.
This is EXCITING stuff!!!
I’m going to share 12 parts of the ancient Jewish wedding customs and how they relate to those of us who belong to Jesus. (And all who choose to receive His gift of salvation which you can do right now if you don’t know Him yet.)
1. The Father Chose the Bride for His Son
A young man’s father would select a bride for his son in another village. Sometimes he went himself, other times his most trusted servant went as his representative as a matchmaker. But the groom’s father had to approve of the choice of a bride.
Often, the marriage was arranged before the couple ever met.
For Believers in Christ – We Are Chosen by God
The Father chose us for Jesus.
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,” John 6:44
- “I have revealed Your name to those You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” John 17:6
2. The Groom Paid a Large Price for the Bride
Then the prospective groom visited the young woman’s home to present his offering of a valuable “bride price” or “mohar.” If the woman’s father was impressed with the man’s offer, he would allow his daughter to determine if she would consent or not.
The young man may give coins, jewels, clothes, camels, or other goods. Today, we think of an engagement ring.
The potential groom could pay more than the “going rate” for a bride price if he chose to. This showed the bride had great value and would be cherished supremely.
The “bride price,” in Galilee, went to the bride to provide for her in case something happened to her beloved.
Pagan nations didn’t value women/wives. A man could just take a woman and sleep with her and she became his wife. Many other cultures gave no rights to wives/women at all. There were no witnesses and not much permanence or sanctity about marriage.
Jesus Proposed Spiritual Marriage to Us
Jesus paid the greatest bride price ever – His very life. Then we each get to decide to accept Jesus’ proposal or reject His gift and offer of eternal life with Him knowing we are “bought with a price.”
If we accept His proposal, He will provide for us and we will go live with Him to know Him in full spiritual intimacy in the future.
If we reject His offer, there will be no covenant or provision from Him to us. We reject living with Him in heaven forever and choose separation from Him and His blessings.
- “The reason the Father loves Me is that I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18
- “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8
- “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Eph. 1:7
3. The Marriage Contract/Covenant
The couple signed a marriage contract (ketubah) where the groom agreed to provide financially for his bride-to-be and she was legally set free from her family (as her status changed) but she still lived there in her father’s house until the second part of the wedding.
The groom also paid the entire bride price and would say, “It is finished.” Or “paid in full.”
The bride agreed to yield her life to the groom and disclose the contents of her dowry. She agreed to keep herself for him, alone. She wore a veil to signify to all other men that she was unavailable. And, still a virgin, she kept herself completely sexually pure, reserved for her husband-to-be.
A covenant was binding, permanent, and sealed in blood. It gave the bride rights, security, protection, and provision.
Jesus Paid the Bride Price and Initiated the Marriage Covenant with Us
Jesus paid the bride price for us and said, “It is finished!” on the cross right before He died. Then we yield our lives to the Lordship of Christ, coming under His protection, provision, love, and guidance. We give all we have to Him. We agree to worship Him alone. We don’t cheat on Him spiritually with any other god or false religion.
God also provided a “ketubah” when He entered into the Old Covenant with Israel at Sinai after bringing them up out of Egypt where He detailed His provision and promises and their responsibilities.
They broke that covenant though He was faithful. So He created the New Covenant which is infinitely better through Jesus.
- “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
4. The Cup of the Covenant
The prospective groom poured a cup of wine (a Kiddush or “the cup of joy”) for his chosen young woman. If she drank from the cup with him, it meant she accepted his proposal of marriage.
Then the groom drinks from the cup as well, and says, “You are now consecrated to me. I will not drink of this cup again until I drink it anew with you in my father’s house.”
The blessing over a cup of wine happens before the betrothal ceremony and before the full bride price is paid. It happens in the bride’s home and signals the beginning of a “sanctification period” of being “set apart”.
Once the bride price is paid, they were legally “betrothed” which meant, essentially, they were legally married.To break the covenant after this would require a divorce. This is what Joseph considered doing when he discovered that Mary was pregnant. Only the groom could divorce the bride. The bride had no recourse to divorce.
A second blessing over a cup of wine happens during stage two of the Jewish wedding, the nuptials at the groom’s father’s house.
The Lord’s Supper Is Symbolic of Jesus’ Proposal of Spiritual Marriage to Us
This is the symbolism of Jesus offering the cup during the Lord’s Supper before His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. And, like a groom-to-be, He said He wouldn’t drink of the fruit of the vine again until He drinks the second cup of blessing with us at the wedding feast in His kingdom.
Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about our Bridegroom being faithful. He is completely faithful, loving, kind, and good. Always doing what is best for us. So there is no need to think about us divorcing Him. And as long as we receive Him and enter into this covenant with Him by faith, we don’t have to worry about Him abandoning us.
- “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” 1 Cor. 10:16
- “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” 1 Cor. 11:25
- Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matt. 26:26-29
5. The Symbol of Baptism
The bride and groom were each immersed in “living waters,” called a mikvah, as a ritual cleansing for purification and a sign that she was a new creation and her past was washed away during the betrothal period.
Jesus and His Bride Are Also Baptized
Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist when He was 30 in the Jordan River.
We are baptized with water after we accept Jesus’ proposal (to symbolize our death to sin and this world, our new spiritual birth, and our new cleansed and holy life) and, most importantly, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” Acts 2:38
- “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Rom. 6:4
6. The Groom Leaves to Prepare a Place for His Bride
The couple has the following conversation:
Groom: “I have to go. I’m going to prepare a bridal chamber for you at my father’s house.”
Bride: “Don’t go.”
Groom: “It is better for you that I go, but I will come back.”
Groom: “I do not know, nor the servant, only my father knows the day.”
Jesus and the Language of a Bridegroom
Jesus spoke with his disciples and had this same conversation in the language of a bridegroom to his beloved bride.
- “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. ” John 14:2-3
- But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7
7. The Betrothal Period
This period means “sanctified” or “set apart.” The bride was set apart for her groom and no longer available to other men. The groom would say, “You are consecrated to me.”
The groom would give a gift to his bride-to-be to show his love for her and to help her remember him during the time of separation.
The betrothal generally lasted 1-2 years during which time the bride and groom wouldn’t see each other. They were both busy getting ready for the marriage.
This period had to last at least nine months to ensure the bride was not already pregnant and to try to verify her sexual purity.
The Groom’s Responsibilities
The groom’s responsibility was to prepare a bridal chamber for the honeymoon at his father’s house and prepare a home for them to live in afterward. The bridal chamber had to be better than the bride’s family home where she had previously lived.
Sometimes the groom would leave a chaperone to look after the bride and help her get ready for marriage.
The groom also promised to provide for his bride financially while she still lived with her father.
The Bride’s Responsibilities
Meanwhile, the bride prepared her things to leave and kept herself pure for her husband-to-be. She also set herself apart from any relationship or thing that could cause any problems for her marriage covenant and made things right with her family members, preparing to say goodbye.
Another huge task for the bride during this time was to make her wedding garments painstakingly by hand. This would take many countless hours.
She focuses on living for her marriage covenant and preparing to be a good wife, devoting herself to her beloved and dreaming of their future life together.
Jesus is now preparing a place for us in heaven at His Father’s house. He is also providing for our needs while we are still here on earth. And He gave us the Holy Spirit as our chaperone and seal of His promise and covenant with us.
We are preparing our hearts for Jesus and setting ourselves apart for Jesus in our current betrothal period. As a gift for us, Jesus gave the Holy Spirit as a gift and chaperone.
During this time, we reveal our purity of faith and heart as we are tested by this separation. There is time for the fruit of our lives to develop.
And we will be clothed in “fine linen” which is our righteous acts. So right now, we are busy setting ourselves apart for Jesus, doing good deeds to wear as our wedding clothes, and preparing for our new home with Jesus.
- It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. Rev. 19:8
- “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:10
8. The Uncertain Waiting Period
The bride knew that her groom would come back in about a year or two but didn’t know what day or hour he would return. He could come a bit sooner than a year or any time after that. So she had to keep her lamp burning and be ready at any time.
Note: The man could divorce the woman during this time if the woman was found to be unfaithful.
We Must Always Be Ready
Jesus told us to be ready at any time for His imminent surprise return. He has also promises us that He will never leave us or forsake us. Nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35-39).
- “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matt. 24:26
- “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matt. 25:13
- “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:40
9. The Snatching Away or Catching Up of the Bride at Night
Only the father had the authority to decide when the bridal chamber was ready and then he would tell his son to go get his bride.
The groom and his friends would go to the bride’s village and one friend would go on ahead and shout, “Behold, the bridegroom comes!” and blast a trumpet to alert the bride and her entourage that the bridegroom was coming to get her. This often happened around midnight.
You can read a bit about this practice in the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25:1-13.
- “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” Matt. 25:6
The groom’s friends would go into the bride’s house and “snatch away” the bride, lifting her up onto an aperion they held on their shoulders with poles.
They carried her to the groom’s home for the consummation of the marriage or the “elevation.”
The Rapture of the Church as the Bride of Christ
This, of course, perfectly pictures the rapture (or “catching up” of the Bride of Christ from her home on earth at “the midnight cry” when “the last trump sounds” at a time she is not expecting. She will be carried from earth to be with Jesus at His Father’s house in the place He has prepared.
- “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:16-17
10. The Seven Days Hidden Away at the Father’s House
The couple stayed hidden together in the bridal chamber for a honeymoon for 7 days and consummated the union. This was also called, “The Week of the Bride.”
The 7-Year Tribulation Period on Earth with the Church in Heaven
The Bride of Christ will be hidden with Jesus in heaven, His Father’s house, for the 7-year period, the “70th week of Daniel” which is the “time of Jacob’s trouble” on earth. During that time, we will become one with Him spiritually.
- “He (the Antichrist in the 70th week of Daniel) will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Dan. 9:27
- “Since you (the church) have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial (the Tribulation) that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” Rev. 3:10
11. The Public Marriage Feast
Then they appeared publicly together as man and wife (with her unveiled) to celebrate with friends and family and partake in a great feast where they share the second cup of wine and blessing together. Their marriage covenant is sealed forever.
The Marriage Feast of the Lamb
Jesus will publicly appear before the world with His bride at the Second Coming of Christ. He comes on a white horse in the clouds and defeats the armies of the Antichrist that come against Israel in the valley of Megiddo (or Armageddon). At that time, He will set up His glorious kingdom on earth and reign for 1000 years with His bride.
This is what the Jews were expecting the first time He came because the prophecies about the first and second coming were together in the Old Testament. They mostly just noticed the great king part. Not the suffering servant part.
They wanted a great military conqueror and king who would save them from Rome and who would be an earthly ruler. That is not what Jesus came to do the first time. The first visit was for paying the bride price. The second time He comes as the Conquering King when Israel finally recognizes Jesus as their long awaited Messiah and King.
Armageddon on Earth
- “For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Rev. 16:14,16
- “Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Megiddo); for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” Joel 3:12-13
- “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” Rev. 17:14
- And I saw the beast (Antichrist) and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse,” Rev. 19:19-21
The Millennial Kingdom on Earth
- “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’” Rev. 11:15
- “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” Rev. 19:9
- “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Rev. 20:4
12. A New Forever Home
After the great celebration, the groom takes his bride to the new home he has prepared for her and they live there together.
Jesus Gives His Bride a Forever Home
After the Millennial Reign and one more battle with Satan and rebellious people, The Lord will reveal the new heavens and the new earth. The new Jerusalem will descend looking like a bride ready for her husband.
Then God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and make all things new.
Jesus removes all the old things and replaces them with something much more spectacular as our forever home with Him.
- “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” Isa. 65:17
- “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Rev. 21:2
- “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Rev. 21:3
What are your thoughts as you read this? I hope it is a great encouragement and faith-builder.
Anything you’d like to share with us?
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Rev. 22:17
Much love, dear sisters!