by Janet Lisonbee
It is very insightful to understand marriage customs of the ancient church to more fully comprehend Christ’s role as the Bridegroom and our role as the Bride. Many prophets described the second coming of Jesus Christ as a marriage of the bride to the bridegroom — and as we look at these ancient marriage customs, one can see the reason Jesus Christ used this metaphor of marriage.
1. Anciently, Jewish marriages were arranged by the young couple’s respective fathers.
Jesus Christ was chosen to be our Savior by the Father.2. Though it was not essential, the bride’s consent was at times asked for.
We have the freedom to choose3. There was a bridal payment from the groom to the bride’s father.
Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for us, the bride4. There were also gifts, given from the groom to his future bride.
Moroni wrote about spiritual gifts such as the working of miracles, prophesy, tongues, wisdom and said that “every good gift cometh of Christ” [Moroni 10:18]. The resurrection of our bodies is also a gift through Jesus Christ.5. There were also gifts to the bride by her father.
“God will give liberally to him that asketh.” [2 Nephi 4:35] Eternal life is the greatest gifts of God6. Jewish marriages were legally formalized by a written marriage contract that stated the bride price, the promises of the groom and the rights of the bride
[Louis M. Epstein, The Jewish Marriage Contract, p. 78].
This new covenant is the new and everlasting covenant of the restored Gospel. This marriage contract can be likened to the covenants we make with the Lord at baptism and our temple covenants.7. The betrothal, or engagement, was as binding as marriage. Once the terms of the marriage contract had been specified, and the father of the bride had agreed to them, the prospective bridegroom would pour a cup of wine for the prospective bride. If she agreed to the match, she would drink from the cup, indicating her acceptance [Richard Booker, Here Comes the Bride, p. 5]. In this manner, the covenant was sealed, and the couple was considered to be betrothed.
“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name” [Matt. 26:27-28]. As we partake of the Sacrament, we accept Jesus as our Savior and the gifts He offers us and renew our covenant to be faithful to Him.8. The betrothal period typically lasted one full year. For the groom, the betrothal period was one of preparation. The groom would depart, returning to his father’s house to prepare the bridal chamber [the huppah]. Sometimes this would require actually adding on a room to the father’s house. The groom’s father was the one to decide when the bridal chamber was ready for the bride
[Zola Levitt, A Christian Love Story, p. 15-17].
Just prior to His death, Jesus told his apostles, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you” [John 14:2]. Christ will tell the righteous, “Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father”9. The betrothal was, for the bride, a time of purification and anticipation.
“Therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God”10. The Bride was also required to undergo a ritual purifying bath.
Baptism certainly fits this symbolism.11. She also wore a veil whenever she stepped out of her house to indicate that she was “out of circulation”, that she was set apart for marriage to a particular man [Levitt, p. 4] and helped to remind her to be faithful.
As we enter into temple covenants, we are set apart and wear the symbols of our covenants as a veil and a reminder to be faithful to the Lord.12. When the father of the groom deemed that the bridal chamber was ready, he would give his approval for the groom to claim his bride.
In regards to the second coming of Jesus Christ, Matthew records in chapter 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”13. The arrival of the groom at the bride’s house signaled his intention of “taking her to wife”. Typically this would occur at night. The groom and his attendants would make their way by torch light through the dark streets of the town to the house of the ride. The groom’s party would announce their arrival with a shout “Behold, the bridegroom cometh!,” and possibly, the blowing of the traditional trumpet made from a ram’s horn
[Booker, p. 9].
“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” [Matt. 25:6]. The Lord calls and invites us with many “trumps” which include the missionaries, the voices of natural disasters and by offerings of eternal life [Doc. & Cov. 43:25]. In Revelation 8-10 and Doctrine and Covenants 88:94-110, there are seven angels which sound seven trumps preceding the Millenium.14. Having claimed the bride, the party would return to the bridal chamber, where the nuptials themselves would begin. The groom and the bride would be elaborately clothed and would be treated like a king and a queen
[Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible Times, p. 66].
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” [Isaiah 61:10]. “They shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them”15. They would also share a cup of wine
[Tim Warner, The Last Trumpet, Jewish Wedding Customs & the Rapture, 1998].
To Joseph Smith, the Lord said “for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth and also with all those whom thy Father hath given me out of the world”16. Then the bride and groom would return to the house of the groom’s father, where the huppah had been prepared. Then they would emerge as husband and wife.
This period of togetherness could be symbolic of the Millenium.17. Meanwhile, the guests would be enjoying a sumptuous feast, while waiting for the bride and groom to rejoin them in public celebration.
“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. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb”We, as members of the Church, are the Bride and need to spend this probationary period preparing and sanctifying ourselves for the Great Day of the Lord.
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