We think about Scripture as the story of how Yahweh (Jehovah) sent His Son Yeshua (Jesus) to earth to give us eternal life, and it definitely is that. However, Scripture is also a grand drama about how Yahweh wants to select and then develop a few of us into a bride worthy of His Son. We know this is one of the main reasons Yahweh created mankind, because the Lamb’s (i.e., Yeshua’s) marriage is one of the culminating acts of Revelation.
Hitgalut (Revelation) 19:7-9
7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of Elohim.”
Interestingly, Isaiah tells us that Yeshua’s marriage in Revelation can also be known from the beginning.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 46:9-10
10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure’…”
But how can Yeshua’s marriage in Revelation be known from the beginning? To see it, first we must understand the ancient Hebrew marriage traditions. In later chapters we will see the prophetic fulfillment of these patterns.
Implied Prophecies in Ancient Hebrew Marriage
The Torah (the first five books of Moses) is thought to be prophetic because it establishes patterns that recur time and again throughout Scripture. The book of Genesis is thought to be especially prophetic because this is where the patterns are first established.
To see the patterns that foreshadow Yeshua’s marriage, first let us see how the Father Yahweh sought a helper for His “son” Adam whom He had created, but found none that was comparable (or fitting, or “meet”).
B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:18-20
18 And Yahweh Elohim said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
19 Out of the ground Yahweh Elohim formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
When no suitable helper could be found for Yahweh’s “son” Adam, Yahweh Elohim decided to make one for Adam, out of one of his ribs. (Note: in Hebrew, the word rib can also refer to a side, perhaps referring to Adam’s female side.)
B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:18-24
21 And Yahweh Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.
22 Then the rib which Yahweh Elohim had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
What this shows us is that our Father Yahweh chose a bride for Adam who was fitting or corresponding to him. And in the same way, we will see that in ancient times, Hebrew fathers arranged brides for their sons.
Phase One: Shiddukhin: Matchmaking
The first stage in Hebrew marriage is called shiddukhin (שִׁדּוּכִין). This is an Aramaic term for the matchmaking stage. (Ultra-Orthodox Jews often use Aramaic terms for marriage, because at least in their own minds they want to imitate Avraham, who came from Padan Aram, where Aramaic was spoken.) Non-ultra-Orthodox Jews often use the corresponding Hebrew term, shiddukhim (שִׁדּוּכִים). This refers not only to the making of the match, but to everything prior to the formal betrothal.
To understand why fathers would arrange brides for their sons, let us realize that life was much harder in ancient times. Most people did not live as long as they do today, and so children were often married soon after puberty. Further, when a couple got married, they did not usually move to a new house. Rather, when a man took a wife, he added a room on to his father’s house, and that is where he and his wife would live (together with their children). Because whole families would live together under the same roof, a marriage affected the whole family. Therefore, the decision as to whom the son should marry (and when) was not left to teenagers (who were still learning to control their hormones). Instead, since marriage impacted the whole family, the fathers arranged for their sons’ marriages (since they were the heads of their households).
Society and government were also tribal, and so, one’s position within the tribe was considered very important. Therefore, rather than marry for romantic love, families would often arrange marriages between their children to form strategic alliances between their clans (and such marriages were often arranged years in advance).
It is common today to ridicule arranged marriage, but it had its advantages. Rather than families being formed or destroyed on the basis of feelings or whims, it was understood that family relationships had to revolve around duty, honor, and responsibilities.
While marriages were often strategic, most parents did try to arrange marriages that they felt their children would be happy in. However, it was also understood that happiness in marriage was simply a matter of trying. Love was not seen as a ditch that people might fall into (or out of). Rather, love was seen as an action that two people could choose to take. It was understood that any marriage could be happy if the man chose to love his spouse as himself, and if the wife took care to respect her husband. Thus, happiness in marriage was seen as being a choice, rather than an accident. That is perhaps also why Shaul gives this advice in Ephesians 5:33.
Ephesim (Ephesians) 5:33
33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
The Shiddukh Between Yitzhak and Rivka
In ancient times, marriages were often contracted within the extended clan to avoid introducing strange worship into the household. Because such family alliances were considered important and strategic, the negotiations were typically handled between the heads of houses, but could also be arranged by their representatives. Most fathers tried to do the best for their daughters as they could. While the bride was not usually directly involved in the negotiation, after everything was settled, the parents “asked at the girl’s mouth” to see if she approved of the deal or not. She was not obligated to accept, and she had full veto power. She could say either yes, or no.
In the case of the marriage between Yitzhaq (Isaac) and Rivkah (Rebekah), Avraham had delayed finding a bride for Yitzhaq until he was old. Since there were no suitable brides for his son in the idolatrous land of Canaan, he sent his servant Eliezer in the matchmaking role, to take a bride for Yitzhaq from his extended family in Ur of the Chaldees.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 24:1-4
1 Now Avraham was old, well advanced in age; and Yahweh had blessed Avraham in all things.
2 So Avraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh,
3 and I will make you swear by Yahweh, the Elohim of heaven and the Elohim of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell;
4 but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
In those days, unless one was very rich, everyone in the family worked. Thus, when one took a wife for one’s son, one typically had to pay the father who lost a daughter, to compensate him for the loss of income that she would no longer produce. This was called the dowry, or bride price. In Hebrew, this is called mohar (מֹהַר).
If the family had wealth, it was also customary to give gifts to the bride, to win her favor (so that she would say yes). In Hebrew, such bridal gifts are called simply mattan (מַתָּן), meaning gifts.
Because Avraham was a wealthy man, he sent his servant Eliezer with ample mohar and mattan, to win the family’s favor.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 24:10
10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Eliezer did not choose a bride for Yitzhak of his own volition. Rather, he prayed, and sought Elohim’s direction and guidance in whom to pick for his master’s son.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 24:12-14
12 Then he said, “O Yahweh Elohim of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.
13 Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water.
14 Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’ — let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
Once the Spirit had successfully identified the bride to Eliezer, Eliezer began attempting to win her favor, by giving her mattan (gifts).
B’reisheet (Genesis) 24:22-23
22 So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold,
23 and said, “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?”
Eliezer later gave Rivkah more mattan, and also gave precious things to her family as mohar, to compensate her family for the loss of their daughter (i.e., so they would agree to let her go).
B’reisheet (Genesis) 24:53
53 Then the servant brought out jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rivkah. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.
The men handled the negotiations, but after everything was settled, they asked the bride if she agreed to the deal by “asking at her mouth” (verse 57).
B’reisheet (Genesis) 24:56-58
56 And he said to them, “Do not hinder me, since Yahweh has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.”
57 So they said, “We will call the young woman and ask at her mouth.”
58 Then they called Rivkah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.”
Other Examples of Mohar and Mattan
Avraham’s purpose in giving mohar and mattan was not to purchase Rivkah per se, but rather to find favor with her and her family. The deal involved respect.
In contrast, Shekhem had raped Dinah in Genesis 34, and then afterward asked for her hand in marriage. He said Dinah’s father and brothers could ask him “ever so much mohar and mattan”, so long as he could find favor in their eyes. Only, he would never find favor in her brothers’ eyes no matter how much mohar and mattan there was, because Shekhem had treated their sister shamefully. What this shows us is that while mohar and mattan were often given in money, the point was not money, but showing respect so as to find favor with the family.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 34:11-13
11 Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give.
12 Ask me ever so much mohar and mattan, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife.”
13 But the sons of Yaakov answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.
Also, mohar was not always paid in silver or gold, but could be paid in trade, or in service. For example, when Yaakov (Jacob) fled from his brother Esau, he did not have any money, so he agreed to work for Laban for seven-years, to compensate Laban’s family on their loss of whatever income Rachel would have brought to the family.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 29:18
18 Now Yaakov loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”
Then after Laban deceived him by substituting Leah for Rachel, Yaakov agreed to work for another seven years, to pay the mohar for Rachel (again).
B’reisheet (Genesis) 29:27-28
27 “Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”
28 Then Yaakov did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also.
The Role of the Parents as Negotiators
Again, since the groom and bride would normally dwell at home under the father’s roof, the father was normally the one to handle the negotiations. However, the son could also request that his father negotiate for a specific bride. For example, Shechem asked his father Hamor to get Dinah for him, as a wife.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 34:4
4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”
Also, in Judges 14:1-5 we see that Shimshon (Samson) did not simply take his own bride. Rather, he asked his parents to take her for him.
Shophetim (Judges) 14:1-5a
1 Now Shimshon went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines.
2 So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”
3 Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Shimshon said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”
4 But his father and mother did not know that it was of Yahweh — that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
5a So Shimshon went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah…
In Yaakov’s case, the reason Yaakov took a bride for himself was that his father Yitzhak told him to do so. The distance between Padan Aram and the land of Israel was too great for Yitzhak to be involved, and Yaakov would also not be dwelling immediately under his roof. So, for that reason, Yitzhak effectively told Yaakov to act as his (Yitzhak’s) agent.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 27:46-28:2
46 And Rivka said to Yithzak, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Yaakov takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
1 Then Yitzhak called Yaakov and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.
2 Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.
The Trend: Courtship Grows Longer
In the beginning, marriages happened quickly. Yahweh caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and when Adam woke up, he had a helpmate.
Although not quite as fast, Eliezer arranged the marriage between Yitzhak and Rivkah in two days (and then there was only a few weeks’ travel until the bride was united with the groom).
In later years, marriage negotiations often took months, or even years. In many cases (and especially with kings) the negotiations might begin while the future groom and his bride were still children.
By Yeshua’s time, normal shiddukhin might last from a few months, up to a year. During this time, the partners did not see each other (or if they did see each other, they were heavily chaperoned). Partners were thought to be in the shiddukhin phase until there was an official betrothal. This betrothal was called erusin, and we will discuss it in the next section.