The Jewish wedding customs so perfectly illustrate our relationship to Christ and once-veiled truths become all the more clearer to our understanding. When God speaks to us saying, “I will betroth you to Me forever,” —Hosea 2:19-20, we have a deeper appreciation of what this means.
The Bride Price
In ancient Israel, the father of the groom would negotiate a bride price to be paid to the father of the bride, usually representing something of great value.
The price that was paid to secure God’s people as His bride was the precious life blood of Jesus. Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25) It is sometimes difficult to fathom the depth and degree of God’s love, that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” —Romans 5:8. “For you were bought with a price.” —1 Corinthians 6:20 At Calvary, there took place the transference of a heavenly exchange – His death for our life. We do not want to be in danger, according to the writer of Hebrews, of counting the blood of the covenant a common thing. (Hebrew 10:29)
It is the power of redemption, and the act of having been purchased by Him, that defines who we are and whose we are. We belong to Him and submit to His ownership. Let’s recall that we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb, without blemish and without spot.” —1 Peter 1:18-19
A written contract, called the Ketubah, was drawn up to include the bride price, the rights of the bride, and the promises of the groom.
We have a covenant with our Bridegroom, written in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible outlines thousands of promises that God desires to fulfill in our lives as we believe what He has said. Personally, I have never counted, but some sources say there are over 5000 promises in the Bible. His Word also sets forth our rights and privileges. We are entitled to all that He said we could have. It is by these great and precious promises that we become partakers of His divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)
God gave His everlasting covenant to His people out of an act of divine love and grace and it only by our love in response that it can be kept. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep My commandments.” —John 14:15
The promises of God are yes and amen. (1Corinthians 1:20) Within that declaration is the assurance that every single one of God’s promises will come to pass. However, with every promise comes a condition, whether stated or implied, of simply believing. Are we fully convinced that He is able to perform what He has promised? (Romans 4:21)
Cup of Wine
At this time, a cup of wine, the cup of the covenant, is shared between the bride and groom to seal the covenant.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband and a father to them, says the Lord.” —Jeremiah 31:31-32
“Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” —Matthew 26:27-28
As Jesus lifted up the cup, it foreshadowed that he would be lifted up on the cross. Not only is the wine symbolic of Christ’s blood, it further indicates a radiant joy that comes from being in union and communion with Him, the wine that gladdens the heart of man (Psalm 104:15). “Your love is better than wine.” —Song of Solomon 1:2
Gifts to the Bride
Gifts were given to the bride and would serve as a reminder of the bridegroom’s promise to return for her. Today the usual expression from the bride to the groom is the ring.
The gifts that Christ has given His bride are representative of the Holy Spirit and all that He has to offer. “When he ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” —Ephesians 4:8. We are told to desire spiritual gifts and that every good and perfect gift is from above. He has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22).
The bride would undergo a ritual cleansing, known as a mikvah (or mikveh), which is the same word used for baptism. It was symbolic of leaving her old life behind to embark on a new journey, in a new relationship, with a new beginning to start a new family, and take on a new name and a new life. Many Jewish brides today participate in the mikvah to prepare for the state of becoming one.
Water is often synonymous with life because our very existence depends upon it. I found further evidence of water linked with life using a system known as gematria, which assigns a numerical value to the Hebrew alphabet. The molecular weight of water (H2O) is 18. There are two Hebrew letters which add up to18 and form the Hebrew word “chai.” Chai means life! (That science stuff sure stretches my brain!)
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death…even so we also should walk in newness of life.” —Romans 6:4
The Long Wait
Although the couple is legally bound together, it is at this point that the Bridegroom will leave for His father’s house and the period of betrothal continues until He returns to fetch His bride. What happens in the meantime during this separation? Is there a purpose for this waiting between the time of the betrothal