THE PROPHETIC SYMBOLISM OF JEWISH MARRIAGE CUSTOMS.
There are so many prophetic verses in the Bible, both in the Old and
New Testaments which speak of the coming wedding of the lamb (Jesus)
and His bride (the church). To understand these verses more fully, and
to take in their deep significance and meaning, I set out to learn all
that I could about ancient Jewish marriage customs and how these
customs fitted in with the various Bible verses. I was amazed and
excited by what I found.....
'The Spirit and the Bride say "Come !".
Everyone who hears this should say "Come !". If you are thirsty, come !
If you want life-giving water, come and take it. It's free !'. Revelation
WHY HE IS COMING FOR A BRIDE.
Think about this....in the Bible the church is described as many things; 'the body', 'an army', 'a temple', to name a few. But the scriptures about the Lord's return speak clearly of Him returning to claim not a body, not an army, not a temple, but to claim a bride for Himself. This speaks to us of the Lord's great desire for intimacy and friendship with us, and of course His great passion and love for us as His church. Afterall, there is no relationship here are on earth that is closer, and more intimate than that of a marriage. That's why the Lord uses a wedding and marriage to descibe His love for the church. And that's why He wants to return for a bride to be His own.
The first stage of an ancient Jewish marriage involved the prospective bridegroom visiting the father of the prospective bride. First, he would state to the father his desire for the fathers daughter, and ask for her hand in marriage. If the father agreed with the match he would then begin to negotiate a price to be paid for the future bride. If the father and the bridegroom agreed a price, then the groom would pay, thus establishing that the marriage would take place and the bride would be his. We see the bride-price in the Old Testament, for example it's mentioned in Exodus 22:16. We see a parallel in scripture where the bride-price that Jesus paid for the church was His death on the cross. Look at 1 Cor 6:19-20...
'You are not your own. YOU WERE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE'.
To us as Westerners this buying of brides may seem odd, or even offensive. But think of it this way; the desire of the groom for the bride is portrayed in the bride-price. The greater his desire for the bride the greater the price he will be willing to pay for her. This speaks of the great desire that Jesus has for the bride, and for us individually, as He paid the ultimate bride-price on the cross. This is mentioned in Eph 5:25...
'A husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church and GAVE HIS LIFE FOR IT'.
ESTABLISHING THE MARRIAGE COVENANT.
After the bride-price had been negotiated, the marriage covenant would be made. This was done by the bride and groom drinking wine from the same cup as a symbol of the marriage covenant. Once this act had taken place the couple were considered legally married under Jewish Law, but they did not consummate the marriage, or begin their life together yet. We see the marriage covenant of the Lamb, Jesus, and His bride, the church, outlined in 1 Cor 11:25...
'This cup is the NEW COVENANT in my blood'.
We can see that the act of communion is also a prophetic act declaring that we as a church are the bride of Christ !
THE GROOM LEAVES TO MAKE A NEW HOME.
At this point the groom would leave the bride at her fathers house. Their life together would not begin as yet. The groom would go about preparing a place for himself and his bride to live. He would not return to his bride until the place he was preparing was finished. We see that Jesus, as our heavenly bridegroom, is also busy preparing a place for us ! He talks about this in John 14:2-3...
'In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I AM GOING THERE TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU, I WILL COME BACK AND TAKE YOU TO BE WITH ME'.
The Lord is preparing a place for us in heaven so that when the time comes and it's finished He can come and claim us as His bride !
A TIME OF WAITING.
All of this time, while the groom is preparing a place, the bride is waiting for the groom to return. She has no idea what day he will come to claim her, only that he will come for her and that he will have prepared a place for them before he comes. The Jews had a saying that 'the groom comes as a thief in the night', as the bride never knew when her groom would come for her. We see the apostle Paul using the exact same phrase when he wrote of Jesus second coming in 1 Thes 5:2...
'For you know very well that the day of the Lord WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT'.
As the bride never knew the day when her beloved would return she had to be in a state of constant readiness for him. We see this in scripture too, as the church, as a bride, must be in a state of readiness for the Lord's return. Look at Matt 25:42,44...
'THEREFORE KEEP WATCH FOR YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT DAY YOUR LORD WILL COME. SO YOU ALSO MUST BE READY BECAUSE THE SON OF MAN WILL COME AT AN HOUR WHEN YOU DO NOT EXPECT HIM'.
THE WEDDING DAY PROCESSIONAL.
After all of the preparations had been made by the groom, he would gather together his wedding party (the bestman and his male escorts). At the nearest highplace a shofar (ram's horn trumpet) would be blown as a signal that the day of the wedding had arrived, and the groom and his escorts would begin a torchlit procession through the streets making their way to the house of the father of the bride, where the bride would be waiting. Those on the street, knowing that a groom was coming to claim his bride, would begin to shout out 'Behold the bridegroom comes ! Behold the bridegroom comes !'. We see in scripture references to both the shouting and the shofar blast taking place at the second coming of the Lord. 1 Thes 4:16...
'For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven WITH A LOUD SHOUT, with the voice of the archangel, and WITH THE TRUMPET CALL OF GOD'.
We also read about the shofar blast that will herald the Lord's coming in 1 Cor 15:52...
'It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the SOUND OF THE LAST TRUMPET the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again'.
As the groom and his party continued on, others would take up the shout and eventually the shout would go up through out the whole city; 'Behold the bridegroom comes ! Behold the bridegroom comes !', and the cry would reach the ears of the bride. The purpose of the shouts was partly to forwarn the bride so that she could prepare herself quickly. The bride would send for her bridesmaids with the message 'Come to my home as fast as you can. Get me dressed in my bridal garment, for my groom is coming to claim me'. Again we see this in scripture in Rev 19:7-8...
'Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory ! For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and HIS BRIDE HAS MADE HERSELF READY. FINE LINEN, BRIGHT AND CLEAN, WAS GIVEN HER TO WEAR'.
We also see an echo of the Lamb's wedding day and the beautifully prepared bride in Psalm 45:13-14...
'Your bride, my King, has inward beauty, and her wedding gown is woven with gold. Wearing the FINEST GARMENTS, she is brought to you, followed by her young friends, the bridesmaids. Everyone is excited, as they follow you to the royal palace'.
If the bride was not fully prepared when the groom arrived at her fathers house, then the groom would wait outside. Custom dictated that the groom and the bride must meet at a place between both the new home, which the groom had prepared, and the father of the brides house. Thus, the groom could not enter the house whilst the bride was preparing herself, nor could he enter the house once she was fully prepared. When the bride and her bridesmaids were ready they would come out and meet the groom on the street so that the whole city could see them together for the first time ! We see this again in the Bible in 1 Thes 4:17...
'After that, we who are still alive will be caught up with them in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.'
Think about this verse; why must we meet the Lord in the air ? Because His coming follows the prophetic pattern of an ancient Jewish Wedding Ceremony ! Just as the Jewish bride and groom met in a place between the brides new home (prepared by the groom) and her old home (her fathers house) so also the Lord will meet His bride, the church, in the air, which is a place between the churchs new home (heaven) and the churchs old home (the earth) !
THE PROCESSION LEADS TO THE BANQUET HALL.
On the street the two wedding parties; those of the groom, and those of the bride, merged into one large torchlit procession that snaked it's way to a place that had been prepared by the grooms father for the wedding celebrations and the feast. Here a large room will have been prepared as a banquet hall, and when the bride and groom arrived they would have already found the wedding guests assembled at their places. We see a parallel in scripture here in Song of Songs 2:4...
'HE HAS TAKEN ME TO HIS BANQUET HALL, and his banner over me is love'.
At the banquet hall the bride and groom would greet each guest and then they would excuse themselves. They would retreat to a separate bridal chamber called the 'huppah'. Certain honoured guests (bestman and bridesmaids) would wait outside the huppah. Traditionally, this huppah was a tent made of banners; 'His BANNER over me is love'. Only the bride and groom could enter the huppah, and in it's privacy they would consummate the marriage. When the Jews were a nomadic people the huppah would have a large opening in the roof so that as the couple consummated the marriage they could see the stars in the sky and remember the promise God made to their ancestor Abraham to make his descendants 'like the stars in the sky'. After a time, the groom would leave the huppah, informing those honoured guests outside of the fulfilment of his vows. These honoured guests would then pass the news onto the other guests waiting in the banquet hall and the feast could begin ! Rev 19:9...
'Blessed are those who are invited to the WEDDING SUPPER of the Lamb !'.
THE DAYS OF HIDING.
The feast would last for seven days ! We see the seven day custom mentioned in Genesis in the story of Jacob and Leah. During this seven days the bride remained in the huppah, as a symbol of her devotion and 'set-apartness' (literally consecration) to her new husband. Song of Songs 2:16...
'I AM MY BELOVED AND HE IS MINE'.
This period of feasting for the guests, but hiddeness for the bride, came to be known as 'the days of hiding' or 'the days of the bridal chamber'.
THE VEIL REMOVED.
At the end of the seven 'days of hiding' the groom would bring his bride out of the huppah with her veil removed for all to see. 2 Cor 3:18...
'So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord's Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord'.
The couple would then leave the banquet hall and begin their new life together, going to the place the groom had prepared for his new bride. John 14:2-3...
'In my Fathers house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I AM GOING THERE TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU, I WILL COME BACK AND TAKE YOU TO BE WITH ME'.
23 January 1999.
'The Spirit and the Bride say "Come !". Everyone who hears this should say "Come !". If you are thirsty, come ! If you want life-giving water, come and take it. It's free !'. Revelation 22:17.Blessings to you all !