Difference between a promise and a betrothal. A promise of marriage among the Jews of Bible times might mean an engagement without anything definite. There could be a number of engagements broken off. It was the betrothal that was binding, rather than a mere promise of marriage. The promise might be set aside, but a betrothal entered into was considered as fina1.
The betrothal a covenant. Among the ancient Hebrews the betrothal was a spoken covenant. Ezekiel pictures GOD as marrying Jerusalem, and the following words are used of her: "I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the LORD GOD, and thou becamest mine" (Ezekiel 16:8). After the exile, the betrothal included signing a written document of marriage.
The ceremony of betrothal. The Jewish betrothal in CHRIST's time was conducted thus: The families of the bride and groom met, with some others present to serve as witnesses. The young man would give the young woman either a gold ring, or some article of value, or simply a document in which he promised to marry her. Then he would say to her: "See by this ring [or this token] thou art set apart for me, according to the law of Moses and of Israel."
Difference between betrothal and marriage. The betrothal was not the same as the wedding. At least a whole year elapsed between the betrothal and the actual wedding. These two events must not be confused.
The Law said, "What man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her?" (Deuteronomy 20:7). Two events are differentiated here: betrothing a wife, and taking a wife, i.e., in actual marriage. It was during this period of about a year, between the betrothal and the wedding, that Mary was found to be with child of the HOLY SPIRIT (Matthew 7:18).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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