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Bible Dictionaries

People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Marriage. The institution of marriage dates from the time of man's original creation. Genesis 2:18-25. The marriage bond is not to be dissolved except on the strongest grounds. Comp. Matthew 19:9. On the relation of the wife to the husband, see 1 Corinthians 11:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:13. In the patriarchal age polygamy prevailed. Genesis 16:4; Genesis 25:1; Genesis 25:6; Genesis 28:9; Genesis 29:23; Genesis 29:28; 1 Chronicles 7:14. Divorce also prevailed in the patriarchal age, though but one instance of it is recorded. Genesis 21:14. The Mosaic law discouraged polygamy, restricted divorce, and aimed to enforce purity of life. It was the best civil law possible at the time, and sought to bring the people up to the pure standard of the moral law. Our Lord and his apostles re-established the integrity and sanctity of marriage, Matthew 19:4-5; Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9; Romans 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, and enforced moral purity, Hebrews 13:1-25; Hebrews 4:1-16, etc., especially by the formal condemnation of fornication. Acts 15:20. In the Hebrew commonwealth an Israelite and a non-Israelite were not allowed to marry, except in a few special cases, and Israelites closely related could not marry. See Leviticus 18:6-18, and for exceptions, Deuteronomy 25:5-9. The law which regulates this exception has been named the "levirate" law, from the Latin levir, "brother-in-law." The choice of the bride devolved not on the bridegroom himself, but on his relations or on a mend deputed for this purpose. The consent of the maiden was sometimes asked, Genesis 24:58; but this appears to have been subordinate to the previous consent of the father and the adult brothers. Genesis 24:51; Genesis 34:11. The act of betrothal was celebrated by a feast, and among the more modern Jews it is the custom in some parts for the bridegroom to place a ring on the bride's finger. The ring was regarded among the Hebrews as a token of fidelity, Genesis 41:42, and of adoption into a family. Luke 15:22. During the interval between betrothal and marriage, the bride lived with her friends; her communications with her future husband were carried on through a friend deputed for the purpose, termed the "friend of the bridegroom." John 3:29. She was regarded as the wife of her future husband; hence faithlessness on her part was punishable with death, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, the husband having, however, the option of "putting her away." Deuteronomy 24:1; Matthew 1:19. At the marriage ceremony the bride removed from her father's house to that of the bridegroom or bis father. The bridegroom prepared himself for the occasion by putting on a festival dress, and especially by placing on his head a handsome nuptial turban. Psalms 45:8; Song of Solomon 4:10-11. The bride was veiled. Her robes were white, Revelation 19:8, and sometimes embroidered with gold thread, Psalms 45:13-14, and covered with perfumes, Psalms 45:8; she was further decked out with jewels. Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 21:2. When the fixed hour arrived, which was generally late in the evening, the bridegroom set forth from his house attended by his groomsmen (A. V." companions," Judges 14:11; "children of the bride-chamber," Matthew 9:15), preceded by a band of musicians or singers, Genesis 31:27; Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9, and accompanied by persons bearing flambeaux, Jeremiah 25:10; 2 Esdras 10:2; Matthew 25:7; Revelation 18:23, and took the bride with the friends to his own house. At the house a feast was prepared, to which all the friends and neighbors were invited, Genesis 29:22; Matthew 22:1-10; Luke 14:8; John 2:2, and the festivities were protracted for seven or even fourteen days. Judges 14:12; Tobit 8:19. The guests were sometimes furnished with fitting robes, Matthew 22:11, and the feast was enlivened with riddles, Judges 14:12, and other amusements. The last act in the ceremonial was the conducting of the bride to the bridal chamber, Judges 15:1; Joel 2:16, where a canopy was prepared. Psalms 19:5; Joel 2:16. The bride was still completely veiled, so that the deception practiced on Jacob, Genesis 29:23, was not difficult. A newly married man was exempt from military service, or from any public business which might draw him away from his home, for the space of a year, Deuteronomy 24:5; a similar privilege was granted to him who was betrothed. Deuteronomy 20:7.

The conditions of married life.—The wife appears to have taken her part in family affairs, and even to have enjoyed a considerable amount of independence. Judges 4:18; 1 Samuel 25:14; 2 Kings 4:8, etc. In the New Testament the mutual relations of husband and wife are a subject of frequent exhortation. Ephesians 5:22; Ephesians 5:33; Colossians 3:18-19; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7. The duties of the wife in the Hebrew household were multifarious, Genesis 18:6; 2 Samuel 13:8, the distribution of food, Proverbs 31:15, the manufacture of the clothing, Proverbs 31:13; Proverbs 31:21-22; and the legal rights of the wife are noticed in Exodus 21:10, under the three heads of food, raiment, and duty of marriage or conjugal right. Marriage is used to illustrate the spiritual relationship between God and his people. Isaiah 54:6; Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:19. In the New Testament the image of the bridegroom is transferred from Jehovah to Christ, Matthew 9:15; John 3:29, and that of the bride to the church. 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2. 9. For full account, see Bissell's Biblical Antiquities.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Marriage'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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