Skip to comments.What were weddings like in Jesusí day?
Posted on 08/14/2014 2:34:59 AM PDT by markomalley
The word family had a wider meaning both Aramaic and Hebrew than it does in our English word today. The Hebrew, ah and the Aramaic aha could be used to refer to those who were brothers and sisters, half brothers, cousins and even other near relations. Extended family networks were both insisted upon, and essential for survival. To have these ties and be dependent upon them, was every Jewish persons duty, and an absolute necessity for survival.
Marriage Of course marriage is the heart of family. The very first order that God gave Adam and Eve, was that a man should leave his father and mother cling to his wife and two of them to become one, and that they should increase and multiply. Ancient rabbis said a man really wasnt a man at all until he did so. However, especially by the time of Christ, there were some men and women who lived celibate lives so as was to be particularly free to serve God, whether by studying the Torah, teaching, or engaging in some great work for Gods people. Jesus and Paul seem to have been in this category. Jesus praised those who did so in Matthew 19, as did Paul in 1 Corinthians 7.
In the earliest years of Israel, there seems to have been some tolerance for polygamy, though it was a departure from what God had set forth. Many however, overlooked it, given the urgent need to grow the family of God, the chosen people. Men were often lost in war, and this led to a greater abundance of women who need husbands etc. Generally, only wealthier men could afford to have more than one wife. And although the Bible does not explicitly condemn the polygamists, it does show that polygamy led to intractable troubles, not necessarily between the different women involved, but between their sons, over the questions of inheritance rights etc. By the time of Jesus, polygamy among the Jews had disappeared if not altogether vanished. There is simply no mention of the practice in the New Testament. Jesus also summoned the men of his day to love their wife, and prohibited other Mosaic leniencies in marriage; He re-proposed Gods original plan of one man for one woman till death do them part.
Call to marriage and engagement Marriage took place very early for the ancient Jews. Most rabbis proposed age 18 as most suitable for men, though they were often married a bit younger, especially when war was less common. Young women married almost as soon as they were physically ready for marriage, approximately age 13 or 14.
In most cases, marriages were arranged by the parents for their children. However, there were exceptions to this, and arranged marriages were seldom forced on young people who had absolutely no attraction or interest in one another. Nevertheless, the insight in the ancient world, even in many places today, was that marriage was not so much about love and romance as it was about survival. Further, it was not merely individuals who married, but families that came together in mutual support. Beauty and romance, while noted in Israel and considered pleasant things, were also noted to pass, and life and survival had to be based on sturdier foundations, so they were.
When the future bride had been chosen for young man, either by his parents or more rarely by himself, there proceeded a period of one year called betrothal. During this time the couple still lived apart, and delicate, often protracted negotiations went back-and-forth between the families as to questions of dowries, etc. The groom or his family paid the dowry, to the father of the bride. The payment was made in lieu of the loss incurred as a working member of the household went fourth. He was also understood that some money should be set aside for the woman in case her husband were to die prematurely.
Marriage ceremonies when the period of the betrothal was finished, and all the agreements were at last made and signed, now came the wedding day. Weddings actually extended over a period of five to seven days, routinely. Autumn was the best time for marriages: the harvest was in, the vintage over, minds were free, and hearts at rest. It was a season when the evenings are very cool, delightful, and it is agreeable to sit up at late night. In the villages, which were small, the whole village would usually gather.
On the evening of the beginning of the wedding feast, the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, went to fetch his betrothed from her fathers house. He would wear particularly splendid clothes and sometimes even a crown. A procession was formed under the direction of the bridegrooms friend, who acted as master of ceremonies and remained by his side throughout the rejoicing.
The bride having been fetched, was carried in a litter, and in procession. She was beautifully dressed, and along the way people sang wedding songs that were traditionally known and largely drawn from the song of songs in the Bible: Who is this coming up from the wilderness
like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant? (Song of Songs 3:6). When the procession reached the bridegrooms house, his parents uttered a traditional blessing, drawn from scripture and other sources. After the prayers, the evening was passed in games and dancing, and the bridegroom took part. But the bride withdrew with her friends and bridesmaids to another room assigned for her.
The next day, the great day of the wedding feast came, and once again there was general rejoicing and a sort of holiday in the village. There was a meal toward the end of the day, men and women were served apart. This was a time for giving of presents etc. The Bridesmaid stood about the bride, all dressed in white, there were usually ten of them. The bride sat under a canopy and traditional songs and blessings were recited and sung. During this time, in the evening, the groom arrived and while the exact ritual words are not certain, there seems to of been a dialogue between bride and groom which is recorded in the Song of Songs she saying Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with youlet us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. (song 1:2-4) And the groom responded: Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. (song 2:13-14).
Now that the couple was together, all the men and women were also together. It would seem that synagogue or other religious leaders imparted blessings to the couple now together under the canopy, The words of these blessings and rituals is not clear and seems to have varied. After these, the evening feast.
Later on that first evening, the couple vanished and the marriage was consummated. The celebrations often went on for several more days the couple did not going on a honeymoon, but remained these days sharing the Merriments, the songs, and the dancing under the star strewn sky.
Msgr Pope ping
Sure, I get that.
Fascinating, thanks for posting.
No chicken dance? No hokie pokie? That's not a wedding.
Given how much wine they drank, they probably had an equivalent.
From that, to today’s “Bridezilla.” Ugh.
My teetotalling fellow Christians still choke at mention of Jesus’ first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.
Especially where the chief steward chides the bridegroom for saving the best wine as he points out that the guests are already too squiffy to appreciate its quality.
Yes, it’s hard to square that final fact with any sort of non-alcoholic beverage. The text does say (in the RSV) “when men have drunk freely,” so perhaps the women weren’t getting smashed. They probably had to be functional to continue taking care of household tasks and children.
Interesting gender roles.....when Jesus fed the five thousand with loaves & fishes, He first said to His disciples, “Have the men recline”, for it was a grassy & comfortable space.
Was that so that the women would be the ones fetching & distributing the baskets of food?
That certainly fits with the text, unless the apostles themselves served everyone.
Maybe (although it doesn’t say) the people were called up in groups, like at a buffet dinner: “The first two tables on the left, you go first ...” and so on. That would be consistent with one of the descriptions of their sitting “in companies on the grass, by twenties and fifties.”
In Jesus day, men had “wives” and women were like cattle. It took the Catholic Church and the sacrament of marriage to elevate women to the level of wife.
Knowing a number of people from India, their weddings seem quite similar to what was described in the Bible (arranged by families, dowries, long betrothals, massive party lasting for days).
** The Hebrew, ah and the Aramaic aha could be used to refer to those who were brothers and sisters, half brothers, cousins and even other near relations. Extended family networks were both insisted upon, and essential for survival. To have these ties and be dependent upon them, was every Jewish persons duty, and an absolute necessity for survival.**
And so we get references to Jesus’ family in many passages. Glad to see this real reference.
The first miracle of Christ a Cana shows the importance of a couple of things to me.
First, the importance of weddings and marriage and family.
Second, the importance of intercession — remember it was Christ’s mother who said to him, “They have no wine.” After his reply, she then utters her last words in the Bible: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Thanks for the ping to this interesting article.
**Was that so that the women would be the ones fetching & distributing the baskets of food?**
No, the apostles played this part in the scenario....remember they were learning to be leader/servants like Christ.
Mary’s first intercession to our Lord Jesus Christ!
My teetotalling coworkers would have preferred for Him to reply, “Mother, there is already too much drunkenness at this feast, and I will not contribute to the guests’ further inebriation!”
(How did Mary His mother know of Jesus’ miraculous powers?)