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Some brothers do not give their wives wedding papers. They offer various reasons for this, but as we will see, any brother who takes a wife needs to give her wedding papers (called a ketubah in Hebrew). And not only that, but the ketubah should be entered into the public record in the lands where they live (even if they live in the dispersion, under a Babylonian government).
Some brothers may wonder why we have to give our wives a ketubah when we live in the dispersion, seeing the governments we live under are Babylonian. Because this topic affects so many people, let us explore it here. Along the way we will see many things about the nature of Yahweh our Elohim, and what He expects of the brotherhood.
Feminists don’t like it, but Scripture calls for a patriarchal system in which the men lead, and the women support. The men are given the leadership and protector roles not only because they are stronger, but also because the man was created first. Only, when Yahweh saw that it was not good for the man to be alone, He sought a helper comparable (or corresponding) to him. Yahweh brought all manner of animals, but none was fit for the man (not even the trusty dog).
B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:18-24
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.
21 And Yahweh Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs [or sides], and closed up the flesh in its place.
22 Then the rib [or side] 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.
The word “rib” is the Hebrew word tsela (צלע), meaning a side.
OT:6763 tsela` (tsay-law’); or (feminine) tsal`ah (tsal-aw’); from OT:6760; a rib (as curved), literally (of the body) or figuratively (of a door, i.e. leaf); hence, a side, literally (of a person) or figuratively (of an object or the sky, i.e. quarter); architecturally, a (especially floor or ceiling) timber or plank (single or collective, i.e. a flooring):
Whether or not anything physical was removed, this may say that Yahweh took out Adam’s feminine side and made it into a whole other being, because it was needful to dedicate a whole other being to the things that women take care of. And yet now because there were two, there had to be some relationship order established between them. It is this relationship order that proves to be so difficult, but as believers in Yahweh’s word, we have to adhere to what His word has to say.
In Covenant Relationships and other places, we show that certain individuals are called to be celibate, so they can have more time to serve the kingdom (and that this sacrifice brings an extra reward). However, as good as the celibate calling is, Yeshua tells us that not all men are called to be celibate (Matthew 19:11-12). Rather, most of the brothers will take a wife. Yet, because a man has had his feminine side removed, when his wife is joined to him, the two should become united to such a degree that a man and his wife become “one flesh” (verse 24). We might also imagine molten metal being poured together and stirred. The two things become one such that it should not be possible to separate them, and that damage results if one tries.
Yet, because Scripture does not say that Adam gave his wife Havvah (“Eve”) a wedding certificate, some brothers say that we do not need to give our wives wedding certificates. However, as we will see, this is contrary to Yahweh’s example.
When brought our forefathers out of bondage in Egypt, we passed through the Sea of Reeds (or Red Sea) as a type of immersion. Then He brought us to Mount Sinai, where He gave us His Torah (Instructions) as a bridal covenant. Our fore-fathers committed to His covenant by promising to do all that Yahweh had said.
Shemote (Exodus) 24:3
3 So Moshe came and told the people all the words of Yahweh and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which Yahweh has said we will do.”
Then our forefathers vowed a second time, thus giving two witnesses to their bridal vows.
Shemote (Exodus) 24:7
7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that Yahweh has said we will do, and be obedient.”
Yahweh’s Torah serves as a public witness of the marital covenant that He made between Himself and His bride. Anyone who wants to be taken as part of Yahweh’s bride can purify himself by diligently seeking to obey the laws, statutes, ordinances, and judgments Yahweh prescribes in His Torah. However, as we show in other places, this can only be done by accepting His Son Yeshua as our personal Savior and being filled with His Spirit (to the extent that we obey it 24×7).
But someone will ask, “So what? Just because the Torah is a written record of Yahweh’s marriage to us, why does that mean we have to give a ketubah to our wives? Why can we not just take wives, as it was in the beginning?” And the answer to this is that not only do we need to obey Yahweh’s example, but also that the environment has changed. His bride is not going back to the Garden of Eden, but to a city, Renewed Jerusalem.
Hitgalut (Revelation) 21:2
2 Then I, Yochanan, saw the set-apart city, Renewed Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from Elohim, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The reason Adam did not need to give his wife a ketubah was that in the beginning there was no one else so see it. Yet city environments are filled with people. And not only are they filled with people, but the environment is typically much more fluid. People come and go all the time, and there can be so many people that things tend to become anonymous. Without the requirement of a written record, men and women can just live together in sin. Alternately, a husband can abandon his wife, or a wife can abandon her husband, and no one will know. But someone will ask, “So what? What makes a piece of paper so important? If a man and his wife do not get along, why can they not get a certificate of divorce, as Deuteronomy 24 says?” However, this is an abusive interpretation of Deuteronomy 24, which we will look at in just a moment.
In Scripture, men provide covering, and women receive covering. At least ideally, when a young girl is raised, her father is supposed to be in the home to provide her with love, protection, covering, and guidance. Then when she gets married, her covering transfers to her husband, who is likewise supposed to provide her with love, protection, covering, and guidance. No matter what happens, she remains under her husband’s covering unless or until she leaves him, and remarries, which Yeshua says is a sin. To see this, let us try reading Deuteronomy 24 carefully, understanding that Yahweh uses the word divorce more like what legal separation means today.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 24:1-4
1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some [sexual] uncleanness in her [i.e., adultery], and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,
2 when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife,
3 if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,
4 then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before Yahweh, and you shall not bring sin on the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance.”
In Covenant Relationships we explain that Yahweh has His laws, ordinances, statutes, and judgments. This is one of His judgments. Judgments are for when things have gone wrong, and the wife has left her husband. This is should not happen, because a husband and his wife are supposed to be one flesh. However, in real life, train wrecks happen, and we need to know how to make the best of such situations. And the judgment is that if the wife leaves her husband, she still remains under his cover unless she remarries. However, if she remarries (Yahweh forbid), she can never go back under her first husband’s covering. This is also why Yeshua answered the Pharisees (Orthodox Jews) the way He did.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 19:3-9
3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’
5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what Elohim has joined together, let not man separate.”
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moshe command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
8 He said to them, “Moshe, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
In other words, because men’s hearts are hard, we see “train wreck situations” in Israel. Sometimes men fail to love their wives, and wives sometimes fail to respect their husbands, and a separation occurs. Yet the wife remains under her husband’s covering unless she remarries (Yahweh forbid). Yet these things should not happen, because this is not the way Yahweh made us. This is not the pattern that He established, so we should not do these things. Thus, Yahweh’s judgment does not establish a precedent that divorce is acceptable.
Marriage is not easy, because husbands and wives are created as polar opposites, which attract. It is like the nuclear orbital tension between protons and electrons. Yet although there is nuclear tension, if everything goes the right way there can be positive results. Yet as with atoms and atom smashing, if things go the wrong way, the results can be disastrous. This is why Yahweh has set the maximum penalty for adultery under the Levitical order at death by stoning. Yet as we will see, this punishment is not mandatory, although it does illustrate the seriousness with which we are to take marital vows.
Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:10
10 “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.”
In contrast, in the dispersion, under the Melchizedekian order, we are not allowed to violate the laws of the nations in which we live.
Romim (Romans) 13:1-2
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from Elohim, and the authorities that exist are appointed by Elohim.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of Elohim, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Because most nations prohibit death by stoning, we are not allowed to apply the maximum penalty of death by stoning in the dispersion. Rather, we are only to put unrepentant sinners out of the assembly. This puts the evil out of the midst, while leaving the possibility of future repentance open.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:1-5
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife!
2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.
4 In the name of our Adon Yeshua Messiah, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Adon Yeshua Messiah,
5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of Yahweh Yeshua.
Consider also that marriage is a three-way covenant made between the husband, the wife, and Yahweh Elohim. Because the husband and the wife take their vows before Yahweh, they may not voluntarily terminate their marriage, because neither Yahweh nor His Son agree to permanent divorce (as the Pharisees define it). Instead, perhaps precisely because marriage is such a great source of spiritual refinement, Yahweh expects us to keep our marital vows. That may be why the only way out He allows is either through the death of one of the parties, or if the wife remarries (in which case she suffers the consequences).
So, if we understand that marriage is supposed to be hard, and that breaking the marital vow carries the maximum of the death penalty under the Levitical order, now let us consider that even under the Levitical order, death by stoning is not required. We know this because Yeshua’s earthly father Yosef did not want to stone Miriam when she was found to be pregnant. Rather, he thought to put her away secretly, because he was a just (or righteous, or compassionate) man.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 1:18-19
18 Now the birth of Yeshua Messiah was as follows: After His mother Miriam was betrothed to Yosef, before they came together, she was found with child of the Set-apart Spirit.
19 Then Yosef her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
And not only do we have Yosef’s righteous example, we also have Hoshea’s example. Yahweh told Hoshea to take a harlot for a wife, symbolic of how Ephraim keeps spiritually adulterating away from Him.
Hoshea (Hosea) 1:2
2 When Yahweh began to speak by Hoshea, Yahweh said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from Yahweh.”
Then when Hoshea’s wife sold herself into prostitution, Yahweh told Hoshea to love her. So, Hoshea went and bought her out of prostitution. Yet even though it cost him, he stayed faithful to her, and loved her, just as Yahweh is faithful to His people, and loves them despite all they put Him through.
Hoshea (Hosea) 3:1-3
1 Then Yahweh said to me, “Go again, love a woman [his wife Gomer] who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of Yahweh for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”
2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.
3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man — so, too, will I be toward you.”
Hoshea was a prophet, and so (by definition) he was filled with Yahweh’s Spirit. Yet we are commanded to be filled with Yeshua’s Spirit (which is the same Spirit). So, if we have Yeshua’s Spirit, and our bride runs away from us (Yahweh forbid), then we will want to pursue her, and win her back to us, just as Yahweh’s Spirit led Hosea to do. And if we are not eager to win our bride back to us, or if we don’t love her as one flesh, then (by definition), we do not yet have Yahweh-Yeshua’s Spirit (and we need to beg for it continually until we receive it).
So now that we have seen Yosef’s example, and also Hoshea’s example, let us consider Yahweh’s example. Yahweh has a bride named Ephraim who keeps sinning against Him and committing spiritual adultery. Because she is so bad, He has every right to destroy her, and yet He does not. Rather, He only gave her a certificate of divorce (i.e., legal separation) until He is able to woo her back to Him.
Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 3:1
1 “They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says Yahweh.
We know Yahweh defines divorce like legal separation is defined today, because even though verse 8 tells us that Yahweh gave Ephraim a certificate of divorce, in verse 14 He says He is still married to her.
Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 3:8-14
8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.
9 So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed [spiritual] adultery with stones and trees.
10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says Yahweh.
11 Then Yahweh said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.
12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says Yahweh; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says Yahweh; ‘I will not remain angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against Yahweh your Elohim, And have scattered your charms To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says Yahweh.”
14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says Yahweh; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Tzion.”
When Yahweh gave Ephraim a certificate of divorce, He no longer provided covering for her (because that is what legal separation means, is that He is no longer legally liable for her). However, because Ephraim never technically remarried, Yahweh still tries to draw her back to Him, so that He can bring her back under His covering once again.
But what if there had been no written record in the Torah of our marriage to Yahweh at Mount Sinai? Is it possible that Yahweh could have just let Ephraim go, without ever trying to woo her back? Thankfully the answer is no, because that is not how contract law works.
In contract law, when two parties agree to a deal, it is called a “meeting of the minds.” Then, after there is a meeting of the minds, something valuable is exchanged (whether money, or property, or services). This is called an “exchange of consideration” (i.e., an exchange of something that is considered to be valuable). With a meeting of the minds and an exchange of consideration, the contract is legally established.
However, as we said earlier, a marriage vow is not a simple two-way contract. Rather, a marital vow is a three-way covenant between a husband, his wife, and Yahweh Elohim. Marriage will mean that the couple will take their focus off of Him more, but the valuable thing He gets in exchange is that the husband and his wife are supposed to train up children to worship and obey Him. Therefore, when a husband and wife agree to marry, and they are intimate, the marital covenant is lawfully established for the life of the parties. At that point, all that remains is to establish a written record as a good public witness (just as the Torah serves as a good witness).
Now, while the husband and wife should ideally both be virgins, a lack of virginity does not invalidate the marital covenant if it was known beforehand that the parties were not virgins. (This is because marriage has more to do with the agreement to raise up children to serve Yahweh than it does with the loss of virginity.) However, this also does not change the fact that Yahweh expects the elders of Israel to maintain sexual purity within the camp.
The rules for sexual purity are different for men and women, but both men and women have rules they need to abide. When we are under a Levitical order, a man who wants to get out of his marriage by lying about his wife’s virginity is to be beaten until he repents. He is also fined heavily and is made to fulfill his vow. (He does not need to be a virgin because in the Levitical order, men are not necessarily restricted to only one wife, although it is clearly best.) A woman who commits adultery against her vow is liable to be stoned to death. (Contrary to popular myth, this is the same as the punishment for men, as we saw earlier in Leviticus 20:10, above.)
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 22:13-21
13 “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her [as opposed to loving her],
14 and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says [for example], ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’
15 then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate [to prove he is trying to get out of his vow].
16 And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her [instead of loving her, as he vowed].
17 Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
18 Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him [i.e., beat him until he repents];
19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.
20 “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman,
21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.”
Depending on who does the math, 100 shekels of silver was a little more than a year’s wages in Torah times. And since the virgin had been deflowered, it did not make sense to kill her husband for lying, as he was to be her means of support. Rather, what the Torah calls for is to beat that man until he realizes that it is his duty to love his wife as he loves himself, such that he no longer seeks to get out of his vow to love, honor, and cherish his wife until death parts them.
What we need to realize here is that while the elders of a town in ancient agricultural Israel may have known all of the inhabitants of that town, still they found it needful for a husband to give his wife a written ketubah. In contrast, today most of us live in larger cities, where it is not possible to know everyone in the same way. If a ketubah was needed even in ancient Israel to establish the marital status of people in the community, why would it not be necessary today?
But even with a written ketubah that is registered with the government, still we need to know what to do with it. Men send their wives away every day. Women run from their husbands. The spiritual elders and teachers who ought to be teaching and enforcing Yahweh’s precepts are often the very ones violating them, and teaching others to do the same. Have these spiritual elders and teachers thought to take Yeshua’s words to heart?
Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:19-20
19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The scribes (Karaites) and the Pharisees (Orthodox) teach that it is just fine to get a divorce “for any reason.” Many Messianic teachers do the same. Teacher after teacher divorces his wife, and yet he continues to teach, and the people seem think nothing is wrong.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 15:14
14 “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
The purpose of a wedding ceremony is to announce the union of a man and his wife to the community, so the community can know they are married, and treat them accordingly. The purpose of a ketubah is the same. Both of these things give the spiritual elders and the brothers in the community the information they need to make sure that the evil is put out of the midst, so that the women and children are not negatively impacted, and the leaven of the scribes and the Pharisees does not take hold in our ranks. This is what Yahweh expects of the brothers.
Yahweh’s Torah also serves to announce the union of Elohim and man to the global community, so that the world can know we are His. But if we are His, then we have to follow His example, and do the things that His Torah calls for us to do. One of those things is to give our wives a written ketubah, and another is to enforce sexual purity in our midst.
He who has ears, let him hear.