Jewish Weddings
as Described in the Gospels


In the New Testament, Jesus referred to weddings in a number of His parables. Thankfully, Chuck Missler of Koinonia House has a briefing package entitled "The Rapture". Among other things, this briefing package summarizes the customs involved in a Biblical Jewish wedding. Here is the summarization, as taken from Chuck Missler's "The Rapture" briefing package:

The first step, the ketubah, or betrothal(12), was the establishment of the marriage covenant, usually when the prospective bridegroom took the initiative(13), negotiating the price (mohair) he must pay to purchase her(14).

Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was established, and the young man and woman were regarded as husband and wife(15). From that moment on, the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified - set apart - exclusively for her bridegroom(16). As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride drank from a cup of wine over which the betrothal had been pronounced(17).

After the marriage covenant was established, the groom left his bride at her home and returned to his father's house, where he remained separated from his bride for approximately 12 months(18). This afforded the bride the time to gather her trousseau and prepare for married life(19). During this period of separation, the groom prepared a dwelling place in his father's house, to which he would later bring his bride.

At the end of the period of separation, the bridegroom came - usually at night - to take his bride to live with him. The groom, the best man, and other male escorts left the father's house and conducted a torch-light procession to the home of the bride(20). Although the bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the time of his coming(21). As a result, the groom's arrival was preceded by a shout(22), which announced her imminent departure to be gathered with him.

After the groom received his bride, together with her female attendants, the enlarged wedding party returned from the bride's home to the groom's father's house(23), where the wedding guests had assembled.

Shortly after their arrival, the bride and groom were escorted by the other members of the wedding party to the bridal chamber (huppah). Prior to entering the chamber, the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face(24). While the groomsmen and bridesmaids waited outside, the bride and groom entered the bridal chamber alone. There, in the privacy of that place, they entered into physical union for the first time, thereby consummating the marriage that had been covenanted approximately one year earlier(25).

After the marriage was consummated, the groom came out of the bridal chamber and announced the consummation of the marriage to the members of the wedding party waiting outside(26). Then, as the groom went back to his bride in the chamber, the members of the wedding party returned to the wedding guests and announced the consummation of the marriage(27). Upon receiving the good news, the wedding guests remained in the groom's father's house for the next seven days, celebrating with a great wedding feast(28).

During the seven days of the wedding feast, the bride and groom remained hidden in the bridal chamber(29) (Genesis 29:21-23, 27-28) for the seven days of the huppah (30). Afterwards, the groom came out of hiding, bringing his bride with him, but with her veil removed, so that everyone could see her.

12. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Issac Landman ed., Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Co., Inc. New York, 1948, 7 272
13. David R. Mace, Hebrew Marriage, Philosophical Library, New York, 1953, p.167.
14. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p.372.
15. The Jewish Encyclopedia, Isidore Singer ed., Funk and Wagnals Company, New York, 1907, III, pp.126, 127, Cf. Mal 2:14; Mt 1:18-19.
16. George F. Moore, Judaism, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1946 II, p.121.
17. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p.373.
18. Ibid., p.372
19. Ibid
20. The Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr ed., Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI, 1957 III, p.1998
21. Emma Williams Gill, Home Life in the Bible Broadman Press, Nashville TN, 1936m p.20.
22. James Neil, Everyday Life in the Holy Land, Cassell and compan, Limited, New York, 1913, p.251.
23. J. Jeremias, Theological Dictionary of the New Testiment, Vol IV, ed. By Gerhard Kittel, trans. And ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI., 1967 p.1100
24. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Issac Landman, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Co., Inc. New York, 1948, 10, 399.
25. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p.373
26. Cf. Ps 19:5; John 3:29
27. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p.5 504
28. Ibid
29. Ibid
30. Ibid

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Knowing the Jewish wedding ceremony background makes a number of New Testament sections easier to understand. The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-12), Parable of the Wedding Guests (Matthew 9:14-15), and Parable of the Marriage Feast (22:1-14) along with scriptures that portray the Church as the Bride of Christ (as is stated in Ephesians, Genesis, Romans, 2nd Corinthians, James, and John) are all much clearer.

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