Jewish Weddings and Prophetic Parallels

First-century Jewish courtship and betrothal customs form an interesting picture of Christ’s work and promises to the church.

The first thing a suitor would do would be to approach the Father of the bride to determine a suitable bride price, the dowry or “mohar.” 

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:18-191 Peter 1:18-19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:  

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Once the price and any other conditions of betrothal were agreed upon between the father and the suitor, the conditions were written into a covenant – the “ketubah.”

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24Hebrews 12:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. covenant: or, testament  

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The bride, meanwhile, must be ritually cleansed by immersion in a pool of running water called a “Mikvah.”

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.  And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. (Mark 1:4-5Mark 1:4-5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. for: or, unto 5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.  

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Afterwards, the bride would enter the room, where the groom offered her a cup of wine. If she drank the wine, it was an acceptance of the proposal.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.’ (Luke 22:20Luke 22:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.  

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(note: “Testament” in Greek is “diatheke,” meaning “specifically, a contract.” Strong’s Greek 1242)

The groom then left the bride with a token gift.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (John 14:16John 14:16
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  

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In the presence of the Father, the groom declared himself betrothed to the bride and promised to return for her.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:18John 14:18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. comfortless: or, orphans  

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he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5Hebrews 13:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  

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The ketubah and earnest gifts were left in the bride’s possession.

…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14Ephesians 1:13-14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.  

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Meanwhile, the groom would return to his Father’s house to build the bridal chamber.

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 14:2-3John 14:2-3
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 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. 3 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.  

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I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. (John 16:28John 16:28
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.  

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Normally this preparation would take at least a year. During this time, the bride wore a veil to indicate to the outside world that she was betrothed. Along with her regular daily duties, the bride and her handmaidens were to prepare the wedding gown and eagerly await the groom’s return.

Matt 25:1-13Matt 25:1-13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

25 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. gone out: or, going out 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.  

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the Parable of the Ten Virgins

The trouble was, nobody knew when the groom was going to return!

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Matt: 25-13

The reason for this is because the groom was not allowed to gather his wife to himself until his Father declared the work on the chamber completed and sufficient!!

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Matt 24:36Matt 24:36
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.  

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Once the Father was satisfied, the groom was off with all haste – usually at night.

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:21 Thess. 5:2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  

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The groom and his groomsmen would walk through the town to the house of his betrothed, while the groomsmen all called out: “The bridegroom is coming!!”

He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’, as said the prophet Esaias.” (John 1:23John 1:23
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.  

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The bride would hear the calls and frantically rush to prepare herself for the arrival of her groom, then she and her bridesmaids must go out to meet him.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Cor. 6:172 Cor. 6:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  

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For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16-171 Thess 4:16-17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  

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The groom would then lead the bridal party to his Father’s house for the wedding ceremony.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Eph. 4:8Eph. 4:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. captivity...: or, a multitude of captives  

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Those invited guests who wish to enter the Father’s house must first be ceremonially cleansed.

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. (John 2:6John 2:6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.  

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And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.  (Luke 5:12-13Luke 5:12-13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.  

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Only invited guests were allowed to attend, and the occasion was formal dress.

And when the King came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And He saith unto him, “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then said the King to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:11-14Matt 22:11-14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.  

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After completion of the short ceremony declaring them husband and wife, the bride and groom departed into the wedding chamber. Only inside the chamber would the bride remove her veil and the couple would consummate the union fully.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor. 13:121 Cor. 13:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. darkly: Gr. in a riddle  

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Afterwards, the groom announced the consummation to His best man, who then would declare it to the entire wedding party.

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. (John 3:29John 3:29
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.  

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And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 11:15Rev. 11:15
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.  

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The feast would then continue seven days, during which the entire party stayed secluded inside the Father’s house, celebrating with the guests. At the end of the seven days, the groom would throw open the gates and present his wife, unveiled, to the entire world.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Rev. 19:7-8Rev. 19:7-8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. white: or, bright  

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Behold! He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Rev. 1:7Rev. 1:7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.  

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During the festival of Sukkot, God’s people are made to dwell in tents so that

your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I AM the LORD your God.” (Lev. 23:43Lev. 23:43
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.  

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In other words, they are to dwell in the tabernacles so that they and their descendants will remember God’s redemptive work on their behalf.

So also are we to remember. Our houses are but straw and stubble – wood and husks – hung with fruits that perish and treasures that fade with the season. We have but to lay back in stillness and peer through the holes in the roof to see the stars above us and realize our insignificance:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that Thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:3-4Psalm 8:3-4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  

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Remember that our groom is busy at His Father’s house, preparing our tabernacle under the Father’s watchful eye –  with fruits that do not spoil, treasures that do not rust – a chamber into which we enter because of God’s redemptive work in purchasing a bride for His Son which He shall be overjoyed to present spotless and pure to His Father!!

Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

To the only wise God our Saviour, [be] glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen!” (Jude 1:24-25Jude 1:24-25
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.  

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