Click here to join the effort!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
This relation is in a general way represented by several Hebrew words, the most distinctive of which are several forms of חָתִן, chathan', to give in marriage; Gr. γάμος, a wedding. It is very remarkable, however, as well as significant, that there is no single word in the whole Hebrew Scriptures for the estate of marriage, or to express the abstract idea of wedlock, matrimony, as the German Ehe does. It is only in the post-exilian period, when the laws of marriage had gradually developed themselves, that we meet with the abstract אישות and זווג— — ζεῦγος (Jebanoth, 6:5; Kiddushin, 1:2); the former denoting the legal, and the latter the natural side of matrimony. But even then no such definition of marriage is to be found in the Hebrew writings as we find in the Roman law, "Nuptiue sunt conjunctio maris et feminae et consortium omnis vite, divini et humani juris communicatio" (Dig. lib. xxiii, Titus 2, "De ritu nupt."). In the present article, which treats of marriage as found amongo the Hebrew race, we cover the entire field of matrimonial relations and ceremonies, both ancient and modern. (See WEDLOCK).
I. Origin, Primitive Relations, and General View of the Married State. —
1. The institution of marriage is founded on the requirements of man's nature, and dates from the time of his original creation. It may be said to have been ordained by God, in as far as man's nature was ordained by him; but its formal appointment was the work of man, and it has ever been in its essence. a natural and civil institution, though admitting of the infusion of a religious element into it. This view of marriage is exhibited in the historical account of its origin in the book of Genesis; the peculiar formation of man's nature is assigned to the Creator, who, seeing it "not good for man to be alone," determined to form an "help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18), and accordingly completed the work by the addition of the female to the male (Genesis 1:27). The necessity for this step appears from the words used in the declaration of the divine counsel. Man, as an intellectual and spiritual being, would not have been a worthy representative of the Deity on earth, so long as he lived in solitude, or in communion only with beings either high above him in the scale of creation, as angels, or far beneath him, as the beasts of the field. It was absolutely necessary, not only for his comfort and happiness, but still more for the perfection of the divine work, that he should have a "help meet for him," or, as the words more properly mean, "the exact counterpart of himself'" (עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ, Septuag. βοηθὸς κατ᾿ αὐτόν ; Vulg. adjutorium simile sibi, "a help meet for him") — a being capable of receiving and reflecting his thoughts and affections. No sooner was the formation of woman effected, than Adam recognized in that act the will of the Creator as to man's social condition, and immediately enunciated the important statement, to which his posterity might refer as the charter of marriage in all succeeding ages, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). From these words, coupled with the circumstances attendant on the formation of the first woman, we may evolve the following principles:
(1) The unity of man and wife, as implied in her being formed out of man, and as expressed in the words "one flesh;"
(2) the indissolubleness of the marriage bond, except on the strongest grounds (compare Matthew 19:9);
(3) monogamy, as the original law of marriage, resulting from there having been but one original couple, as is forcibly expressed in the subsequent reference to this passage by our Lord ("they twain," Matthew 19:5) and St. Paul ("two shall be one flesh," 1 Corinthians 6:16);
(4) the social equality of man and wife, as implied in the terms ish and ishshah, the one being the exact correlative of the other, as well as in the words "help meet for him;"
(5) the subordination of the wife to the husband, consequent upon her subsequent formation (1 Corinthians 11:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:13); and
(6) the respective duties of man and wife, as implied in the words "help meet for him."
2. The introduction of sin into the world modified to a certain extent the mutual relations of man and wife. As the blame of seduction to sin lay on the latter, the condition of subordination was turned into subjection, and it was said to her of her husband, "he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16)- a sentence which, regarded as a prediction, has been strikingly fulfilled in the position assigned to women in Oriental countries; but which, regarded as a rule of life, is fully sustained by the voice of nature and by the teaching of Christianity (1 Corinthians 14:34; Ephesians 5:22-23; Timothy 2:12). The evil effects of the fall were soon apparent in the corrupt usages of marriage: the unity of the bond was impaired by polygamy, which appears to have originated among the Cainites (Genesis 4:19); and its purity was deteriorated by the promiscuous intermarriage of the "sons of God" with the "daughters of men," i.e. of the Sethites With the Cainites, in the days preceding the flood (Genesis 6:2).
3. For the history of marriage in the later ages. see below. One question may properly be considered here, i.e. celibacy. Shortly before the Christian sera an important change took place in the views entertained on the question of marriage as affecting the spiritual and intellectual parts of man's nature. Throughout the Old Testament period marriage was regarded as the indispensable duty of every man, nor was it surmised that there existed in it any drawback to the attainment of the highest degree of holiness. In the interval that elapsed between the Old and New Testament periods, a spirit of asceticism had been evolved, probably in antagonism to the foreign notions with which the Jews were brought into close and painful contact. The Essenes were the first to propound any doubts as to the propriety of marriage; some of them avoided it altogether, others availed themselves of it under restrictions (Josephus, War, 2:8, § 2, 13). Similar views were adopted by the Therapeutae, and at a later period by the Gnostics (Burton's Lectures, 1:214); thence they passed into the Christian Church, forming one of the distinctive tenets of the Encratites (Burton, 2:161), and finally developing into the system of Monachism. The philosophical tenets on which the prohibition of marriage was based are generally condemned in Colossians 2:16-23, and specifically in 1 Timothy 4:3. The general propriety of marriage is enforced on numerous occasions, and abstinence from it is commended only in cases where it was rendered expedient by the calls of duty (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:8; 1 Corinthians 7:26). With regard to remarriage after the death of one of the parties, the Jews, in common with other nations, regarded abstinence from it, particularly in the case of a widow, laudable, and a sign of holiness (Luke 2:36; Luke 2:7; Josephus, Ant. 17:13, 4; 18:6, 6); but it is clear, from the example of Josephus (Vit. 76), that there was no prohibition even in the case of a priest. In the Apostolic Church remarriage was regarded as occasionally undesirable (1 Corinthians 7:40), and as an absolute disqualification for holy functions, whether in a man or woman (1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:9); at the same time it is recommended in the case of young widows (1 Timothy 5:14).
II. Mode of selecting a Bride, Betrothal, and Marriage price. —
1. Imitating the example of the Father of the Universe, who provided the man he made with a wife, fathers from the beginning considered it both their duty and prerogative to find or select wives for their sons (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 38:6). In the absence of the father, the selection devolved upon the mother (Genesis 21:21). Even in cases where the wishes of the son were consulted, the proposals were made by the father (Genesis 34:4; Genesis 34:8); and the violation of this parental prerogative on the part of the son was "a grief of mind" to the father (Genesis 26:35). The proposals were generally made by the parents of the young man, except when there was a difference of rank; in such a case the negotiations proceeded from the father of the maiden (Exodus 2:21), and when accepted by the parents on both sides, sometimes also consulting the opinion of the adult brothers of the maiden (Genesis 24:51; Genesis 34:11), the matter was considered as settled without requiring the consent of the bride. The case of Rebekah (Genesis 24:58) forms no exception to this general practice, inasmuch as the alliance had already been concluded between Eleazar and Laban, and the question put to her afterwards was to consult her opinion, not about it, but about the time of her departure. Before, however, the marriage contract was finally concluded, a price (מהר ) was stipulated for, which the young man had to pay to the father of the maiden (Genesis 31:15; Genesis 34:12), besides giving presents (מתן ) to her relations (Genesis 24:53; Genesis 34:12). This marriage-price was regarded as a compensation due to the parents for the loss of service which they sustained by the departure of their daughter, as well as for the trouble and expense which they incurred in her education. Hence, if the proffered young man had not the requisite compensation, he was obliged to make it up in service (Genesis 29:20; Exodus 2:21; Exodus 3:1). Some, indeed, deny that a price had to be paid down to the father for parting with his daughter, and appeal for support to Genesis 31:15, where, according to them, "the daughters of Laban make it a matter of complaint, that their father bargained for the services of Jacob in exchange for their hands, just as if they were strangers;" thus showing that the sale of daughters was regarded as an unjust act and a matter of complaint (Saalschutz, Das Mosaische Recht. p. 733). But, on a closer inspection of the passage in question, it will be seen that Rachel and Leah do not at all complain of any indignity heaped on them by being sold just as if they were strangers, but, on the contrary, mention the sale to corroborate their statement that they are no longer their father's property, have no more any portion in his possession, and are now regarded by him as strangers, since, according to the usual custom, they have been duly sold to their husband, and hence agree with the latter that it is time for them to depart. Besides, the marriage-price is distinctly mentioned in other passages of Scripture (Exodus 22:15-16; 1 Samuel 18:23; 1 Samuel 18:25; Ruth 4:10; Hosea 3:2), and was commonly demanded by the nations of antiquity; as the Babylonians (Herod. 1:196); Assyrians (Elian, V. H. 4:1; Strabo, 16:745); the ancient Greeks (Odyss. 8:318 sq.; Arist. Polit. 2:8; Pausan. 3:12, 2); the Germans (Tacitus, Germ. 18), and still obtains in the East to the present day. In fact, it could not be otherwise where polygamy was practiced. As the number of maidens was under such circumstances less than that of wooers, it called forth competition, and it was but natural that he who offered the highest marriage-price obtained the damsel. There was therefore no fixed marriage-price; it varied according to circumstances. We meet with no dowry given with the bride by her father during the patriarchal age, except a maid-servant (Genesis 24:61; Genesis 29:24; Genesis 29:29).
2. The Mosaic enactments introduced no changes into these usages. The father's power over the child in matters of marriage continued paramount, and he could give his children to any one he pleased without asking their consent. Thus Caleb offers his daughter Achsah (Joshua 15:16-17) as wife to any one who will conquer Kirjath-sepher (Judges 1:12). Saul promises his daughter to him who shall kill the Philistine, and barters his daughter Michal for the prepuces of a hundred slain Philistines (1 Samuel 17:26-27; 1 Samuel 18:25-27); and Ibzan takes thirty wives for his thirty sons (Judges 12:9). The imaginary case of women soliciting husbands (Isaiah 4:1) was designed to convey to the mind a picture of the ravages of war, by which the greater part of the males had fallen. A judicial marriage-price (הבתולה מהר ) was now introduced, which was fixed at fifty silver shekels (Exodus 12:16, with Deuteronomy 22:29), being the highest rate of a servant (Leviticus 27:3), so that one had to pay as much for a wife as for a bondwoman. When the father of the maiden was rich and did not want the marriage-price (אין חפוֹ במהר ), he expected some service by way of compensation for giving away his daughter (1 Samuel 18:25). As soon as the bargain was concluded, and the marriage- price paid, or the required service rendered, the maiden was regarded as betrothed to her wooer, and as sacredly belonging to him. In fact, she was legally treated as a married wontan ( אשת איש ); she could not be separated from her intended husband without a bill of divorce, and the same law was applicable to her as to married people. If she was persuaded to criminal conduct between the espousals and the bringing her home to her husband's house, both she and her seducer were publicly stoned to death; and if she was violated, the culprit suffered capital punishment (Deuteronomy 22:23-27, with Deuteronomy 22:22; and Leviticus 20:10). With such sacredness was betrothal regarded, that even if a bondmaid who was bought with the intention of ultimately becoming a secondary wife (Exodus 21:7-11), was guilty of unchastity prior to her entering into that state, both she and her seducer were scourged, while the latter was also obliged to bring a sin-offering, and. the priest had to pray for the forgiveness of his sin (Leviticus 19:20-22). Every betrothed man was by the Mosaic law exempt from military service (Deuteronomy 20:7).
3. In the post-exilian period, as long as the children were minors-which in the case of a son was up to thirteen, and a daughter to twelve years of age- the parents could betroth them to any one they chose; but when they became of age their consent was required (Maimonides, Hilchoth Ishuth, 3:11, 12). Occasionally the whole business of selecting the wife was left in the hands of a friend, and hence the case might arise which is supposed by the Talmudists (Yebam. 2, § 6, 7), that a man might not be aware to which of two sisters he was betrothed. So in Egypt at the present day the choice of a wife is sometimes entrusted to a professional woman styled a khat'beh; and it is seldom that the bridegroom sees the features of his bride before the marriage has taken place (Lane, 1:209-211). It not unfrequently happened, however, that the selection of partners for life was made by the young people themselves. For this, the ceremonies connected with the celebration of the festivals in the Temple afforded an excellent opportunity, as may be gathered from the following remark in the Mishna: "R. Simeon ben-Gamaliel says. There were never more joyous festivals in Israel than the 15th of Ab and the Day of Atonement. On these the maidens of Jerusalem used to come out dressed in white garments, which they borrowed, in order not to shame those who had none of their own, and which they had immersed [for fear of being polluted]. Thus arrayed, these maidens of Jerusalem went out and danced in the vineyards, singing, Young man, lift up thine eyes, and see whom thou art about to choose; fix not thine eye upon beauty, but look rather to a pious family; for gracefulness is deceit, and beauty is vanity, but the woman that fears the Lord, she is worthy of praise" (Megilla, 4:8). Having made his choice, the young man or his father informed the maiden's father of it, whereupon the young people were legally betrothed. The betrothal was celebrated by a feast made in the house of the bride (Jebamnoth, 43 a; Taanith, 26 b; Pessachil, 49 a; Kiddushin, 45 b), and is called קידושוֹן, made sacred, for by it the bride was made sacred to her bridegroom, and was not to be touched by any one else. It is also called אירסין, which may be from ארש איס, to betroth. For a betrothal to be legal, it has to be effected in one of the following three modes:
(1.) By money, or money's worth, which, according to the school of Shammai, must be a denar (דיני ) = 90 grains of pure gold, or, according to the school of Hillel, a perutah (פרוטה ) = half a grain of pure silver, and which is to be given to the maiden, or, if she is a minor, to her father, as betrothal price (כס קידושין );
(2.) By letter or contract (שטר אירוסין ), which the young man, either in person or through a proxy, has to give to the maiden, or to her father when she is a minor; or,
(3.) By cohabitations (ביאה, usus), when the young man and maiden, having pronounced the betrothal formula in the presence of two witnesses, retire into a separate room. This. however, is considered immodest, and the man is scourged (Kiddushin, 12 b). The legal formula to be pronounced is, "Behold, thou art betrothed or sanctified to me (את מקודשת לי כדת משה וישראל הנה ), according to the law of Moses and Israel" (Kiddushin, 1:1; 4:9; Tosiftha Kethuboth, 4; Kethuboth, 4:8; Maimonides, Hilchoth Ishuth, 3; Eben in Ezer, 32). Though betrothment, as we have seen before, was the beginning of marriage itself, and, like it, could only be broken off by a regular bill of divorcement (גט ), yet twelve months were generally allowed to intervene between it and actual marriage (חופה ) in the case of a maiden, to prepare her outfit, and thirty days in the case of a widow (Kethuboth, 57 a). The intercourse of the betrothed during this period was regulated by the customs of the different towns (Mishna, Kethuboth, v. 2). When this more solemn betrothment (קידושין ) was afterwards united with the marriage ceremony (חופה ), engagements (שדוכין ) more in our sense of the word took its place. Its nature and obligation will best be understood by perusing the contents of the contract (תנאים ) which is made and signed by the parties, and which is as follows: "May he who declares the end from the beginning give stability to the words of this contract, and to the covenant made between these two parties: namely, between A, bachelor, with the consent of his father B, and C, who is proxy for his daughter D, spinster. The said A, bachelor, engages, under happy auspices, to take the afore-mentioned D, spinster, by marriage and betrothal (חופה וקידושין ), according to the law of Moses and Israel. These henceforth are not to conceal anything from each other appertaining to money or goods, but to have equal power over their property.
Moreover, B, the said father of the bridegroom, is to dress his son in goodly apparel before the marriage, and to give the sum of... . in cash; whilst C, father of the said bride, is to give his daughter before the marriage a dowry in cash to the amount of... as well as jewelery to the amount of . . to dress her in goodly apparel corresponding to the dowry, to give her an outfit, and the bridegroom the Talith (עלית ), i.e. the fringed wrapper used at prayer, (See FRINGE), and Kittel (קיטל ), i e. the white burial garment, in harmony with his position and in proportion to the dowry. The marriage is to be (D.V.) on the... in the place... at the expense of the said C, the bride's father, and, if agreed to by both parties, may take place within the specified period. Now the two parties have pledged themselves to all this, and have taken upon themselves by an oath to abide by it, oil the penalty of the great anathema, and at the peril of forfeiting half the dowry; but the forfeit is not to absolve from the anathema, nor is the anathema to absolve from the forfeit. The said father of the bride also undertakes to board at his table the newly-married couple for the space of... and furnish them with lodgings for the space of... The surety on the part of the bridegroom is E, sol of F; and on the part of the bride, G, sol of H. The two bridal parties, however, guarantee that these sureties shall not suffer thereby. Further, C, the said father of the bride, is to give his daughter an assurance letter, that, in the event of his death, she is to get half the inheritance of a son (שטר חצי זכר); whilst the bridegroom pledges himself to get his brothers, in the event of his dying without issue, to give her a Chalizuh document [for which see below], without any compensation. But if there should be dispute or delay on the subject, which God forbid, the decision is to be left to the Jewish congregation. We have taken all this in possession from the party and sureties, for the benefit of the other parties, so that everything aforementioned may be observed, with the usual witness which qualified us to take care of it. Done this day... Everything must be observed and kept. (Signed)... (Comp. Nachlas Shiva, 9 b). This contract, which is written in Rabbinic Hebrew, is used by all orthodox Jews to the present day.
III. Marriage Ceremonies. —
1. In the pre-Mosaic period, when the proposals were accepted, and the marriage-price (מהר ), as well as the sundry other gifts (מתן ), were duly distributed, the bridegroom (חתן ) could at once remove the bride (כלה ) from her father's house to his own house, and this removal of the maiden, under the benedictions of her family, but without any definite religious ceremony whatever, and cohabitation, consummated and expressed marriage ( לקח אשה). Thus we are told that Isaac, when meeting Eleazar and Rebekah in the field, as soon as he was informed bv the former of what had transpired, took Rebekah to the tent of his departed mother, and this without further ceremony constituted the marriage, and she thereby became his wife (ותחי לו לאשה, Genesis 24:63-67). Under more ordinary circumstances, however, when the bride had not at once to quit her parental roof under the protection of a friend, as in the case just mentioned, but where the marriage took place in the house of the bride's parents, it was celebrated by a feast, to which all the friends and neighbors were invited, and which lasted seven days (Genesis 29:22; Genesis 29:27). On the day of the marriage, the bride was conducted to her future husband veiled, or, more properly, in an outdoor wrapper or shawl (צעי ), which nearly enveloped her whole form, so that it was impossible to recognize the person, thus accounting for the deception practiced on Jacob (Genesis 24:65; Genesis 29:23) and on Judah (Genesis 38:14).
2. With regard to age, no restriction is pronounced in the Bible. Early marriage is spoken of with approval in several passages: (Proverbs 2:17; Proverbs 5:18; Isaiah 62:5), and in reducing this general statement to the more definite one of years, we must take into account the very early age at which persons arrive at puberty in Oriental countries. In modern Egypt marriage takes place in general before the bride has attained the age of sixteen frequently when she is twelve or thirteen, and occasionally when she is only ten (Lane, 1:208). The Mosaic law prescribes no civil or religious forms for the celebration of marriage. The contract or promise made at the payment of the marriage-price, or when the service which was required in its stead was rendered, constituted the solemn bond which henceforth united the espoused parties, as is evident from the fact pointed out in the preceding sections, that a betrothed maiden was both called a married woman, and was legally treated as such. There can, however, be no doubt that the ancient custom of celebrating the consummation of the marriage by a feast, which lasted seven days (Genesis 29:22; Genesis 29:27), must have becbme pretty general by this time. Thus we are told that when Samson went to Timnath to take his wife, he made there a feast, which continued for seven days, according to the usage of young men on such occasions (כי כן יעשַו הבחורים ), that the parents of the bride invited thirty young men (υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος, Matthew 9:15) to honor his nuptials, and that to relieve their entertainment, Samson, in harmony with the prevailing custom among the nations of antiquity, proposed enigmas (Judges 14:10-18). We afterwards find that the bridal pair were adorned with nuptial crowns (Song of Solomon 3:11; Isaiah 61:10) made of various materials — gold, silver, myrtle, or olive — varying in costliness according to the circumstances of the parties (Mishna, Sota, 9:14; Gesmara, 49 a and b; Selden, Ux. Ebr. 2:15), and that the bride especially wore gorgeous apparel, and a peculiar girdle (Psalms 45:13-14; Isaiah 49:18; Jeremiah 2:12), whence in fact she derived her name Kallah (כלה ), which signifies the ornamented, the adorned. Thus attired, the bridegroom and bride were led in joyous procession through the streets, accompanied by bands of singers and musicians (Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 25:10; Jeremiah 33:11), and saluted by the greetings of the maidens of the place, who manifested the liveliest interest in the nuptial train (Song of Solomon 3:11), to the house of the bridegroom or that of his father. Here the feast was prepared, to which all the friends and the neighbors were invited, and at which most probably that sacred covenant was concluded which came into vogue during the post-Mosaic period (Proverbs 2:17; Ezekiel 16:8; Malachi 2:14). The bride, thickly veiled, was then conducted to the (חדר ) bridal chamber (Genesis 29:23; Judges 15:11; Joel 2:6), where a nuptial couch (חפה ) was prepared (Psalms 19:5; Joel 2:16) in such a manner as to afford facility for ascertaining the following morning whether she had preserved her maiden purity; for in the absence of the signa virginitafis she was stoned to death before her father's house (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
3. In the period after the exile the proper age for marriage is fixed in the Mishna at eighteen (Aboth, v. 31), and though, for the sake of preserving morality, puberty was regarded as the desirable age, yet men generally married when they were seventeen (Jebaumoth, 62; Kiddushin, 29). The Talmudists forbade marriage in the case of a man under thirteen years and a day, and in the case of a woman under twelve years and a day (Buxtorf, Syznagog. cap. 7, p. 143). The day originally fixed for marriage was Wednesday for maidens and Friday for widows (Mishna, Kethuboth, 1:1). But the Talmud already partially discarded this arrangement (Gemara, ibid. 3 a), and in the Middle Ages it became quite obsolete (Eben Ha-Ezar, lxv). The primitive practice of the sages, however, has been resumed among the orthodox Jews in Russia, Poland, etc. The wedding-feast was celebrated in the house of the bridegroom (Kethuboth, 8 a, 10 a), and in the evening, for the bridal pair fasted all day, since on it, as on the day of atonement, they confessed their sins, and their transgressions were forgiven. On the day of the wedding, the bride, with her hair flowing, and a myrtle wreath on her head (if she was a maiden, Mishna, Kethuboth, 2:1), was conducted, with music, singing, and dancing, to the house of the bridegroom by her relations and friends, who were adorned with chaplets of myrtle, and carried palm branches in their hands (Kethuboth, 16,17; Sabbath, 110 a; Sota, 49 b).
The streets through which the nuptial procession passed were lined with the daughters of Israel, who greeted the joyous train, and scattered before them cakes and roasted ears of wheat, while fountains freely poured forth wine (Kethuboth, 15 b; Berachoth, 50 b). Having reached the house, the bridegroom, accompanied by the groomsmen, met the bride, took her by the hand, and led her to the threshold. The Kethubah (כתובה ) — donatio propter or ante nuptias, or the marriage-settlement, alluded to in the book of Tobit (Tobit 7:15), was then written, which in the case of a maiden always promises 200, and in the case of a widow 100 denar (each denar being equal to 90 grains of pure gold), whether the parties are rich or poor (Mishna, Kethuboth, Tobit 1:2), though it may be enlarged by a special covenant (תוספות כתובה ). The dowry could not be claimed until the termination of the marriage by the death of the husband or by divorce (ibid. v. 1), though advances might be made to the wife previously (9:8). Subsequently to betrothal a woman lost all power over her property, and it became vested in the husband, unless he had previously to marriage renounced his right to it (Tobit 8:1; Tobit 9:1). The marriage must not be celebrated before this settlement is written (Balbs Kama, 89). The wording of this instrument has undergone various changes in the course of time (Kethuboth, 82 b).
The form in which it is given in the Talmud, by Maimonides, etc., is as follows: "Upon the fourth day of the week, on the... of the month, in the year... of the creation of the world, according to the computation adopted in this place, A, son of B, said to C, spinster, daughter of E, ‘ Be thou my wife according to the law of Moses and Israel, and I will work for thee, honor thee, maintain thee, and provide for thee according to the custom of Jewish husbands, who work for their wives, honor them, maintain them, and provide for them honestly; I also give thee the dowry of thy virginity, 200 silver Sus, which belong to thee by the law, as well as thy food, thy apparel, and whatsoever is required for thy maintenance, and I will go in to thee according to the custom of the whole earth.' And C, the spinster, consented. and became his wife. The dowry which she brought him from the house of her father, in silver, gold, and ornaments, as well as in apparel, domestic utensils, and bedding, amounts to... pure silver, and A, the bridegroom, has consented to add to it from his own property the same sum; and the bridegroom said thus: ‘ I undertake for myself and my heirs after me the security for this Kethiubah, this dowry and this addition, so that the same shall be paid from the best and most choice of my possessions which I have under the whole heaven, which I have acquired or shall acquire in real or personal property. All this property is to be mortgaged and pledged, yea, even the coat which I have on is to go in order to pay this Kethubah, this down and this addition, from this day to all eternity.' And the surety of this Kethubah, this dowry and this addition, A, the bridegroom, has undertaken in the strictness of all the Kethubahs and supplement instruments usual among the daughters of Israel, and which are written according to the order of our sages of blessed memory, not after the manner of a mere visionary promise or empty formula. We have taken possession of it from A, the bridegroom, and given it to C, spinster, daughter of E, according to all that is written and explained above, by means of such a garment as is legal in the taking of possession. All this yea and amen. (Signed) . . ."Comp. Maimonides, Jud Ha-Chazaka Hilchoth Jebum Ve-Cheliza, 4:33. Among the more modern Jews it is the custom in some parts for the bridegroom to place a ring on the bride's finger (Picart, 1:239)-a custom which also prevailed among the Romans (Smith, Dict. of Ant. p. 604). Some writers have endeavored to prove that the rings noticed in the O.T. (Exodus 35:22; Isaiah 3:21) were nuptial rings, but there is not the slightest evidence of this. The ring was nevertheless regarded among the Hebrews as a token of fidelity (Genesis 41:42), and of adoption into a family (Luke 15:22). According to Selden it was originally given as an equivalent for dowry- money (Uxor Ebraic. 2:14). After the document was handed over to the bride, crowns, varying in expense according to the circumstances of the parties, were placed upon the heads of the bridal pair (Sota, 49 a, b), and they, with their relations and friends, sat down to a sumptuous repast; the marriage-feast was enlivened by the guests, who sang various songs and asked each other amusing riddles (Berachoth, 31 a; Nedarinim, 51 a), parched corn was distributed among the guests if the bride was a virgin (Keth. ii), and when the meal was concluded with customary prayer of thanksgiving, the bridegroom supplemented it with pronouncing over a cup of wine the seven nuptial benedictions (שבע ברכות ) in the presence of at least ten persons (Kethuboth, 7 b), which gave the last religious consecration to the marriage-covenant, and which are as follows:
1. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast created everything for thy glory."
2. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast created man."
3. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast created man in thine image, in the image of the likeness of thy own form, and hast prepared for him, in himself, a building for the perpetuity of the species. Blessed art thou, O Lord, the creator of man."
4. "The barren woman shall rejoice exceedingly, and shout for joy when her children are gathered around her in delight. Blessed art thou, O Lord, "who rejoicest Zion in her children."
5. "Make this loving pair to rejoice exceedingly, as thou hast made thy creature rejoice in the Garden of Eden in the beginning. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who rejoicest the bridegroom and the bride."
6. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe. who hast ordained joy and gladness, bride and bridegroom, delight and song, pleasure and intimacy, love and friendship, peace and concord; speedily, O Lord our God, let there be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of jubilant bridegrooms under their canopies, and of the young men at the nuptial feast playing music. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who makest the bridegroom rejoice with his bride."
7. "Remove all suffering and anger; then will the dumlb be heard in song; lead us in the paths of righteousness, listen to the benedictions of the children of Jeshurun! With the permission of our seniors and rabbins, and my masters, let us bless our God in whose dwelling is joy, and of whose bounties we have partaken!" to which the guests respond, "Blessed be our God, in whose dwelling is joy, of whose bounties we have partaken, and by whose goodness we live;" and he then answers, "Then let us bless our God, in whose dwelling is joy, of whose bounties we have partaken, and by whose goodness we live" (Kethuboth, 7 b, 8). The married couple were then conducted to an elaborately-ornamented nuptial chamber (חופה, where the bridal couch (thalamus) was carefully prepared; and at the production of the linteum vilrinitatis the following morning (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), which was anxiously awaited, the following benediction was pronounced by the bridegroom: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast placed a nut in paradise, the rose of the valleys-a stranger must not rule over this sealed fountain; this is why the hind of love has preserved the holy seed in purity, and has not broken the compact. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast chosen Abraham and his seed after him!" (see Halachoth Gedoloth, ed. Vienna, 51 [comp. Pliny, Hist. Nat. 15:24], where an explanation will be found of the use of אגוז nut, in this connection). Festivities continued for seven days (Kethuboth, 7 a).
As important religious questions had to be put to the bridal pair which required a learned man to do (Gitrit, 6; Kiddushin, 6, 13), it was afterwards resolved that the marriage-ceremony should be performed by a rabbi, and it is celebrated in the following manner: A beautifully- embroidered silk or velvet canopy, about three or four yards square, supported by four long poles, is held by four men out of doors on the day of the wedding. Under this chupash (חופה ), which represents the ancient bridal chamber, the bridegroom is led by his male friends, preceded by a band of music, and welcomed by the joyous spectators with the exclamation, Blessed is he who is now come! (ברוהִבא ); the bride, with her face veiled (nuptiae), is then brought to him by her female friends and led three times round the bridegroom, in accordance, as they say, with the remark of Jeremiah, "The woman shall compass the man" (Jeremiah 31:22), when he takes her round once amid the congratulations of the bystanders, and then places her at his right hand (Psalms 45:10), both standing with their faces to the south and their backs to the north. The rabbi then covers the bridal pair with the Talith, or fringed wrapper, which the bridegroom has on (comp. Ruth 3:19; Ezekiel 16:8), joins their hands together, and pronounces over a cup of wine the benediction of affiance (ברכת ארוסין ), which is as follows: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast created the fruit of the vine.
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast sanctified us with thy commandments, and hast forbidden to us consanguinity, and hast prohibited us the betrothed, but hast permitted us those whom we take by marriage and betrothal. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast sanctified thy people Israel by betrothal and marriage" (Kethuboth, 7 a). Whereupon the bridegroom and bride taste of the cup of blessing, and the former produces a plain gold ring, and, in the presence of all the party, puts it on the bride's finger, saying, "Behold, thou art consecrated unto me with this ring according to the rites of Moses and Israel!" The rabbi then reads aloud, in the presence of appointed witnesses, the Kethubah, or the marriage-settlement, which is written in Syro- Chaldaic, and concludes by pronouncing over another cup of wine the seven benedictions (שבע ברכות ), which the bridegroom in ancient times, before the ceremony of marriage became a public act and was delegated to the spiritual head, used to pronounce himself at the end of the meal. The bridegroom and bride taste again of this cup of blessing, and when the glass is emptied it is put oln the ground, and the bridegroom breaks it with his foot, as a symbol to remind them in the midst of their joys that just as this glass is destroyed, so Jerusalem is destroyed and trodden down under the foot of the Gentiles. With this the ceremony is concluded, amid the shouts, May you be happy! (מזל טוב ). (See WEDDING).
IV. Polygamy and Concubinage. — Though the history of the protoplasts — in which we are told that God in the beginning created a single pair, one of each sex — seems to exhibit a standard for monogamy, yet the Scriptures record that from the remotest periods men had simultaneously several wives, occupying either coordinate or subordinate positions. Against the opinion that Lamech, sixth in descent from Adam through Cain, introduced polygamy-based on the circumstance that he is the first who is recorded as having married two wives (Genesis 4:19) — is to be urged that (1.) Lamech is the first whose marriage or taking of a wife is recorded, and consequently it is impossible to say how many wives his five progenitors had;
(2.) The mention of Lamech's two wives is incidental, and is entirely owing to the fact that the sacred historian had to notice the useful inventions made by their respective sons Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain, as well as to give the oldest piece of rhythmical composition which was addressed to the wives, celebrating one of these inventions; and
(3.) If polygamy had been for the first time introduced by Lamech, the sacred writer would have as distinctly mentioned it as he mentions the things which were first introduced by Lamech's sons. The manner in which Sarah urges Abraham to take her servant Hagar, and the fact that Sarah herself gives the maiden to her own husband (לאשה ) to be his wife, the readiness with which the patriarch accepts the proposal (Genesis 16:1-4), unquestionably show that it was a common custom to have one or more secondary wives. In fact, it is distinctly mentioned that Nahor, Abraham's own brother, who had eight sons by Milcah, his principal wife, and consequently did not require another wife for the purpose of securing progeny, had nevertheless a secondary wife (פלגש ), by whom he had four sons (Genesis 22:21-24). Besides, it is now pretty generally admitted that Genesis 25:1 describes Abraham himself to have taken another or secondary wife in the lifetime of Sarah, in addition to Hagar, who was given to him by his principal wife, as is evident from Genesis 25:6; 1 Chronicles 1:32, and that he could not have taken her for the sake of obtaining an heir. If any more proof be wanted for the prevalence of polygamy in the patriarchal age, we refer to Esau, who, to please his father, married his cousin Mahalath in addition to the several wives whom he had (Genesis 28:8-9); and to Jacob, who had not the slightest scruple to marry two sisters, and take two half-wives at the same time (Genesis 29:23-30; Genesis 30:4; Genesis 30:9), which would be unaccountable on the supposition that polygamy was something strange. Though sacred history is silent about the number of wives of the twelve patriarchs, yet there can be little doubt that the large number of children and grandchildren which Benjamin had at so early an age (Genesis 46:21; Numbers 26:38-41; 1 Chronicles 7:6-12; 1 Chronicles 8:1), must have been the result of polygamy; and that Simeon, at all events, had more than one wife (Exodus 6:15). The extraordinary rate at which the Jews increased in Egypt implies that they practiced polygamy during their bondage. This is, moreover, corroborated by the incidental notice that Asher, Judah's grandson, had two wives (1 Chronicles 4:5 with 2:24); that Caleb, Judah's great-grandson, had three principal and two subordinate wives (1 Chronicles 2:9; 1 Chronicles 2:18; 1 Chronicles 2:42; 1 Chronicles 2:46; 1 Chronicles 2:48); that Aharaim, probably Benjamin's great-grandson, had three wives (1 Chronicles 8:8-11); and that Moses had two wives (Exodus 2:21; Numbers 12:1); as well as by the fact that the Mosaic legislation assumes the existence of polygamy (Leviticus 13:14; Deuteronomy 25:5). Still, the theory of monogamy seems to be exhibited in the case of Noah and his three sons (Genesis 6:18; Genesis 7:7; Genesis 7:13; Genesis 8:16), of Aaron, and of Eleazar.
In judging of this period we must take into regard the following considerations:
(1.) The principle of monogamy was retained, even in the practice of polygamy, by the distinction made between the chief or original wife and the secondary wives, or, as the A.V. terms them, "concubines"-a term which is objectionable, inasmuch as it conveys to us the notion of an illicit and unrecognised position, whereas the secondary wife was regarded by the Hebrews as a wife, and her rights were secured by law. The position of the Hebrew concubine may be compared with that of the concubine of the early Christian Church, the sole distinction between her and the wife consisting in this, that the marriage was not in accordance with the civil law: in the eye of the Church the marriage was perfectly valid (Bingham, Ant. 11:5, §11). It is worthy of notice that the term pillegesh (פַּלֶּגֶשׁ; A.V. "concubine") nowhere occurs in the Mosaic law. The terms used are either "wife" (Deuteronomy 21:15) or "maid-servant" (Exodus 21:7); the latter applying to a purchased wife.
(2.) The motive which led to polygamy was that absorbing desire of progeny which is prevalent throughout Eastern countries, and was especially powerful among the Hebrews.
(3.) The power of a parent over his child, and of a master over his slave (the postestas patsiea and domestica of the Romans), was paramount even in matters of marriage, and led in many cases to phases of polygamy that are otherwise quite unintelligible, as, for instance, to the cases where it was adopted by the husband at the request of his wife, under the idea that children born to a slave were in the eye of the law the children of the mistress (Genesis 16:3; Genesis 30:4; Genesis 30:9); or, again, to cases where it was adopted at the instance of the father (Genesis 29:23; Genesis 29:28; Exodus 21:9-10). It must be allowed that polygamy, thus legalized and systematized, justified to a certain extent by the motive, and entered into, not only without offense to, but actually at the suggestion of those who, according to our notions, would feel most deeply injured by it, is a very different thing from what polygamy would be in our own state of society.
2. In the case of polygamy, as in that of other national customs, the Mosaic law adheres to the established usage. Hence there is not only no express statute to prohibit polygamy, which was previously held lawful, but the Mosaic law presupposes its existence and practice, bases its legislation thereupon, and thus authorizes it, as is evident from the following enactments:
1. It is ordained that a king "shall not multiply wives unto himself' (Deuteronomy 17:17), which, as bishop Patrick rightly remarks, "is not a prohibition to take more wives than one, but not to have an excessive number, after the manner of Eastern kings, whom Solomon seems to have imitated;" thus, in fact, legalizing a moderate number. The Mishna (Sanhedrin, 2:4), the Talmud (Babylon Sanhedrin, 21 a), Rashi (on Deuteronomy 17:17), etc., in harmony with ancient tradition, regard eighteen wives, including half' wives, as a moderate number, and as not violating the injunction contained in the expression "multiply."
2. The law enacts that a man is not to marry his wife's sister to vex her while she lives (Leviticus 18:18), which, as the same prelate justly urges, manifestly means "that though two wives at a time, or more, were permitted in those days, no man should take two sisters (as Jacob had formerly done) begotten of the same father or born of the same mother;" or, in other words, a man is at liberty to take another wife besides the first, and during her lifetime, provided only they are not sisters.
3. The law of primogeniture (Deuteronomy 21:15-17) actually presupposes the case of a man having two wives, one beloved and the other not, as it was with Jacob and his two wives, and ordains that if the one less beloved is the mother of his first-born, the husband is not to transfer the right of primogeniture to the son of his favorite wife, but is to acknowledge him as first-born who is actually Song of Solomon
4. Exodus 21:9-10, permits a father who had given his son a bondwoman for a wife, to give him a second wife of freer birth, and prescribes how the first is then to be treated — that she is to have alimony, clothes, and the conjugal duty; and
5. Deuteronomy 25:5 expressly enjoins that a man though having a wife already, is t
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Marriage'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/marriage.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29