A Jewish 12 Step Program
The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done
[is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun.
Moses was given examples and patterns
in the Mount. It’s clear from study that we are only given a portion of the
instructions he received.
Behold, I and the children whom the LORD
hath given me [are] for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts,
which dwelleth in mount Zion.
It sounds like their actions,
traditions, and lifestyles are for signs, which in turn are for our
Rom 9:4 Who are Israelites; to
whom [pertaineth] the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving
of the law, and the service [of God], and the promises;
God gave the law, the service and the promises to Israel:
Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses
thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and
of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat, 1Ch 28:12 And
the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the
LORD, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of
God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things:
1Ch 28:13 Also for the courses of the priests and the Levites, and for all the
work of the service of the house of the LORD, and for all the vessels of service
in the house of the LORD. 1Ch 28:14 [He gave] of gold by weight for [things] of
gold, for all instruments of all manner of service; [silver also] for all
instruments of silver by weight, for all instruments of every kind of service:
While is it clear from
these scriptures that temple service by the priests were divine and from God,
much of our understanding of how these services were accomplished does not come
from the Bible. The courses of the priests alone were incredibly detailed, as
were the daily temple lotteries to determine assignments. So much detail was
required in the Temple service, yet the scriptures don’t give us a step by step
description. We know few particulars about the mixing of incense, the continual
fires, the detailed clothing, the inner workings of the sacrificial operations,
or how to manage the exhaustive cleaning which must have been accomplished
several times daily. These instructions and specifics came through oral
tradition, which in turn was later written in the Talmud.
While we would never
desire to add to or take away from God’s word, and we make it clear His word is
complete and perfect without our drawing on outside sources, it does help those
of us 2000 years removed to understand what the everyday Jew knew about customs
We speculate that God,
who instituted the covenant of marriage, gave Moses some essential details about
the process which were not penned down in the Old Testament. Yet among the Jews
the traditions of the ancient wedding are long standing. With a little
research, we can find the fine points in the oral and written customs. How do
they stack up with thus sayeth the Lord?
Let’s examine the
Jewish rituals and test whether those things are in agreement with scripture, in
order to paint a more complete picture for our understanding. As long as the
tradition does no harm or contradicts scripture…
Having set those ground
rules, let’s look at marriage in the days before Christ.
Marriage today is
pretty easy for a man. In our society, he puts on the clothing his bride has
approved, meets with his friends and shows up, hopefully, on time at the
Church. The responsibility for every minute detail, every step, every nuance,
fine-tuning, adjusting and re-adjusting until the event is complete falls to the
Bride. She organizes particulars, correcting and compromising to make the day a
shining memorial to her many months of planning.
But historically, the
brunt of the work and details fell upon men.
Before the law and
traditions were established, we can see the example of Abraham, (Genesis 24:2-4;
15:2) sending his steward, Eliezer, to seek a wife for Issac. In this picture,
Abraham is a type of God; Eliezer represents the Holy Spirit, Issac is a picture
of Christ and Rebekah, the bride.
By the time of Christ,
the steps for the marriage and wedding had been well established. For fathers,
finding a future son or daughter-in- law was the side business at the time of
the big feasts.
When not involved in
worship, fathers with age appropriate children would gather in Jerusalem at the
marketplace. It was their opportunity to meet others and begin to negotiate
marriages--which were then handled by legal contracts between fathers. Each was
trying to trade up – to improve the family’s lot by marriage.
The Ancient Jewish Wedding
God ordained and established marriage
and its divine sanctity in Genesis when He brought Adam and Eve together to
become one flesh (Genesis 2:21-24).
The law was our schoolmaster to bring
us to Christ. The wedding customs, service, and particulars God gave to the
Jewish people also teach us much about Christ and the church.
Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the
oracles of God.
Who are Israelites; to whom [pertaineth] the adoption, and the glory,
and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service [of God],
and the promises;
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an
holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]:
Col 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of
The wedding ceremony consisted of 10 to
14 steps, depending upon which historian one consults and where they decide to
break their paragraphs. Twelve steps make for a catchy title.
1. The selection of the bride.
The bride was usually chosen by the
father of the bridegroom (as the elect were chosen by God.) (John 15:16)
Consider how different
than our practices today: Rebekah consented to marry Isaac before she ever met
him. Today, we become the bride of Christ even though we have never seen Him.
1st Peter 1:8, Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him]
not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
2. A bride price was established.
A price would have to be paid for the
bride. Jesus, being our bridegroom, paid the ultimate high price for His bride,
the Elect. Jesus considered the price He had to pay for His bride before His
death as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Christ was agreeing to the terms in the
garden. The bride price was His life.
3. The bride and groom are betrothed
to each other.
Betrothal is similar to
our engagement in the marriage process, except this process legally binds the
bride and the groom together in a marriage contract; they will not yet
physically live together. This is how the Angel referred to Mary as Joseph’s
wife, even before they had come together as we understand it.
In the Old Testament,
God betrothed Himself to Israel at Mount Sinai (Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 2:19-20).
That which is written – the Marriage
All the details and
promises are spelled out in a contract form. It declares clearly the bride
price, the groom’s promises and the rights of the bride. The groom would promise
to work for her, to honor, support, and maintain her in truth, to provide food,
clothing and necessities, and to live together with her as husband and wife. The
Jews considered the contract the unalienable right of the bride. The contract
must be executed and signed prior to the wedding ceremony.
The Bible is the
believer's contract. All the promises that God provided for his children
in Christ are legally ours, as we see in 2 Corinthians 1:20, For all the
promises of God in him [are] yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I
remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals,
when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land [that was] not
5. The bride gives her
consent. God betrothed Himself to Israel at Mount
Sinai as stated in Jeremiah 2:2.
Israel consented to the marriage
proposal from God and said, "I do."
And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all
the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All
the words which the LORD hath said will we do.
6. Gifts were given
to the bride and the "cup of the covenant" was shared between the bride and the
The rite of betrothal
is completed when the groom gives something of value to the bride and she
accepts it. Most often today a ring is used. When the groom places the ring on
the bride's finger, the rite of betrothal is completed. This completed rite is
known in Hebrew as kiddushin, meaning "sanctification."
The gifts to the bride
represent love, commitment, and loyalty. The gift God gives is the Holy Spirit
(John 14:26; 15:26-27; Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22). When Christ ascended
to Heaven, He gave gifts to men (Ephesians 4:7-8). These gifts included
righteousness (Romans 5:17-18), eternal life (Romans 6:23), grace (Romans 5:12,
14-15), faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and other spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1,
4) as well as the gifts of helps and administration (1 Corinthians 12:28).
At this time the cup of
the covenant is shared and sealed between the bride and the groom with the
drinking of wine. In doing so, the couple drinks from a common cup. The cup is
first given to the groom to sip, and then is given to the bride. This cup, known
as the cup of the covenant, is spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-33, as it is written:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
that 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 bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My
covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: but
this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After
those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write
it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah
Christ, in Luke 22:20.
Mat 26:29 But I say unto you, I
will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when
I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
7. The bride had a mikvah
(full water immersion), a ritual cleansing.
is a Hebrew word meaning "pool" or "body of water." Mikvah is a ceremonial act
of purification by the immersion in water. It indicates a separation from a
former way to a new way. In marriage, it represents leaving an old life for a
new life with your spouse (Genesis 2:23-24; Ephesians 5:31). According to the
Jews, immersing in the mikvah constituted spiritual rebirth. The Jews
believed a mikvah had the power to change a person completely.
Concerning the marriage
to Israel at Mount Sinai, God said in Ezekiel 16:8-9, as it is written, "...I
sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee... and thou becamest
Mine. Then washed I thee with water...."
8. The bridegroom
departed, going back to his father's house to make ready.
At this point, the
bridegroom leaves for his father's house to prepare the bridal chamber for his
bride. It was understood to be the man's duty to go to be with his father, build
a house, (or add a room to the family home – a bridal chamber) and prepare for
the eventual wedding. Before he goes, however, he makes a statement to the
bride. "I go to prepare a place for you; if I go, I will return again unto you."
This is the same statement Christ made in John:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye
believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many
mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare
a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come
again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be
also. (John 14:1-3).
Did the Apostles and disciples understand
the symbolism when Christ made statements like this?
9. The bride was
consecrated and set apart for a period of time while the bridegroom was away
building the house.
From the time of the
separation, until the return of the bridegroom, tradition says nine months to a
year was about the average time. It took this long for some young men to take
on a task of this magnitude. He could be as young as fourteen, and not yet
skilled with tools and carpentry. But it was primarily his responsibility to
complete the task successfully.
Before the bridegroom
could go and get the bride, the groom's father had to be satisfied with the
son’s preparation work. Only then could he give permission to the son to go and
get the bride. In other words, while the bridegroom was working on the bridal
chamber, it was the father who at some time would declare the bridal chamber
complete and send him to retrieve his bride. This reference of Christ in Mark
13:32-37 should be familiar: No man knows the day or the hour, but the
Since it was the Father
whose final approval of the chambers set the timing of the wedding, "only the
Father knew" when the Groom would return to get his bride.
Often the bride and
groom lived in the same community, and as the work on the bride chamber neared
completion, word would reach the bride. Careful to watch the signs and the
seasons, she then would anticipate the arrival of the groom and begin to make
ready. The excitement level would indicate to all it was no longer a matter of
months or weeks, but now days.
Tradition says most
weddings took place on Tuesdays, because the Sanhedrin court would meet on
Thursday. The reasoning being if a man found his bride less than he expected in
the way of purity, he would be able to immediately seek recourse from the high
bride knows the groom can now return at any time. The custom is to come around
midnight, so the bride would gather her female attendants – her bridal virgins,
to keep her company and wait with her until the groom came for her. They
watched from sundown to after midnight nightly, so naturally, they required
lamps and oil for the waiting in dark of night.
Christ referred to this
in Mark 13:32-37 and Matthew 25:1-13. While waiting for her bridegroom to come,
the bride had to have thought to herself, "Is he really coming back for me? Will
he keep his word?" The Apostle addressed this concern for God’s children in 2
10. The bridegroom
would return with a shout, "Behold, the bridegroom comes" and the sound of the
ram's horn (shofar) would be blown.
bridegroom comes with his wedding party. As he got close to the awaiting Bride,
the friend of the groom would run ahead and shout the pending arrival (Matthew
25:6) and blow the shofar (trumpet) (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
John the Baptist called
himself the friend of the bridegroom and fulfilled the role tradition and
scripture had for him. (John 3:29)
Upon hearing the shout
and the trumpet, the father of the bride would come out to meet the coming
party, verifying for himself the groom is the correct man, and then disappear
into the darkness, so as not to witness his daughter stolen from his home.
11. He would abduct his bride,
usually in the middle of the night, to go to the bridal chamber where the
marriage would be consummated.
After the father has
departed, the groom continues the procession, takes the Bride and leads the
entire cloud of witnesses in the opposite direction toward the bridal
chamber. The bride and groom will go to the wedding chamber, where the marriage
will be consummated. This is the full marriage. They will stay in that wedding
chamber for seven days, or a week. At the end of the seven days, the bride and
groom will come out from the wedding chamber. Joel 2:16.
12. Finally, there would be a
marriage supper for all the guests invited by the father of
When the bride and the
groom go into the wedding chamber, the friend of the groom stood outside the
door, awaiting his last official act. The assembled guests awaited the
announcement of consummation of the marriage, made by the friend as soon as word
was relayed to him by the groom. John the Baptist referred to this in John 3:29.
At this signal, great rejoicing broke forth. The marriage was consummated on the
first night (Genesis 29:23). The linen from this night was preserved as proof of
the bride's virginity (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
On the wedding day, the bridegroom is
seen as a king and the bride as a queen.
The first recorded
miracle of Jesus took place at a wedding. If we examine closely the scriptures,
we can see the importance of the actions and statements Jesus made while in His
earthly ministry. All was done with a purpose. God give us the ability to see
the rich threads of patterns throughout His written word.
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a
certain king, which made a marriage for his son…
Bro. Royce Ellis