Jewish Wedding Customs

A picture of the Bride of Christ in End Times



John Hoole – January 15, 2012





Today we continue our study of End Time Prophecy.  Over the past several weeks, we have been examining the event called The Rapture of the church.  Today’s lesson, as well as the next 2 or 3, will continue our study of this event.  In today’s lesson, we are going to visit the close correlation that seems to exist between the Rapture and the Jewish Wedding Customs.


Our Lord was a Jew and He and his parents did things like all Jews.  Many of the Old Testament Jewish customs and ceremonies were observed by Jesus.  This would include observing the weekly Sabbath, the annual Feast Days, as well as a number of other observances.


We are told in several places in the New Testament that many of these Old Testament observances were a shadow of things yet to occur.


Hebrews 10:1 NIV


1       The law [of Moses] is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves.


Colossians 2:16-17 NIV


16     Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

17     These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.


The tenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth talks about Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness.  It recalls them going through the Red Sea, and the manna that they ate.  It mentions the water that came from the rock.  But, even with these and many other miracles, the people still murmured and complained.  And then in 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV), we read:


11     Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition,…


These verses say that Old Testament Jewish feast days, like Passover and Pentecost were examples of something better yet to come.  1 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that Jesus is our “Passover Lamb.”  His death was the ultimate fulfillment of this feast day.  Likewise, the Feast of Pentecost had its ultimate fulfillment when the Church was born on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).


Shadows and Types of things to come can also be seen in the Jewish Betrothal and Wedding customs.  To understand Bible prophecy about the return of Jesus Christ, we need to understand the Jewish wedding as presented in Scripture.


Revelation 19:7 NIV


7       Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.


Jesus often spoke of his return by using wedding analogies.   (Matt. 22 & 25;  Luke 12:36;  Rev. 19 & 21)  And many Scriptures show that the Church is the bride of Christ.


Ephesians 5:25 NIV


25     Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.


Based on the Old Covenant, the Jews had their own special wedding customs.  These were still being observed during the time of Christ, and in fact, are still observed in many Jewish quarters.


What I want to depict is the fascinating parallel between the Jewish customs surrounding betrothal and marriage and the end-time events surrounding the CHURCH which, according to Ephesians 5,  is none other than the BRIDE of Christ.


What I am alluding to is that the Scriptures portray a relationship between Christ and His bride which is very much like that observed in Jewish matrimonial customs.  Understanding ancient Jewish wedding practices makes the meaning of Scripture clear.  The wedding is a picture of the covenant Jesus made and reveals His plans to return for His bride, the church.  The people of ancient Israel understood what Jesus was going to do because they understood the model of the wedding.


The correlation between the Jewish wedding and the relationship Jesus has with the Church, is found in Ephesians 5:31-32 NKJV.


31     For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

32     This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.


This lesson explores one of the many reasons for believing in a Pre-tribulation Rapture.  There existed eight (8) aspects of the ancient Jewish Wedding custom.


                   1.      The Covenant

                   2.      The Cup

                   3.      The Price

                   4.      The Departure

                   5.      The Return

                   6.      The Bridal Chamber

                   7.      The Marriage Supper (Feast)

                   8.      The New Home


First of all, I want to take a brief look at each of the aspects the Jewish wedding process.  Then we will come back and see how it relates to the Church as the bride of Christ.  I think you will, in most cases, begin to see the parallel as we go through the customs.


The Covenant  [Ketubah]


When a young man of Israel in Jesus’ time saw the girl he wanted (or the girl chosen by his father) he would approach her with a marriage contract.  This was no small issue, for this contract was a legal and binding agreement when enacted and signed.  Unlike the engagements between two people in our society, being engaged as a Jew was binding.


This part of the process was initiated by the Groom and his family going to the home of the bride-to-be, giving the terms of the marriage contract.  She and her father would read the contract.


The Cup


If the terms were suitable to her and her father, the future bride and groom would drink a cup of wine together and the bargain would be sealed. 


FOR THE GROOM, drinking this cup signified that he was willing to sacrifice himself in order to have this bride.


FOR THE BRIDE, it showed her willingness to enter into this marriage.


The Price [Mohair]


Then the groom would pay the price – a sort of dowry.  It should be said that this price was no small amount.  But the price was set so that the bride would be a costly prize.  That was the idea.


The young man had no illusions that he was getting something for nothing.  To marry this chosen girl, he would have to pay dearly.  The price compensated the young woman’s family for the cost to raise a daughter, and also indicated the love that the young man had for the young woman. 


The bridegroom would also present the bride with special gifts.  The purpose of these gifts was to show the bridegroom’s appreciation of the bride.  They were also intended to help her to remember him during the betrothal period.


The Departure


When the matter was settled, the groom would depart.  He would make a short speech to his bride, telling her that he was going away to prepare a place for her.  But he would return at the appropriate time.  He then returned to his father’s house.  There he would build her a bridal chamber, in which they would have their honeymoon.  He could actually build either a separate building on his Father’s property, or decorate a room in his father’s house.  That all depended on how financially well off the family was.


The bridal chamber had to be beautiful.  And it had to be stocked with provisions, since the bride and groom were to remain inside it for 7 days during their honeymoon.  The construction project would take the better part of one year.  Ordinarily, the father of the groom would be the judge of when it was finished.


While this construction was going on, the bride was obliged to do a lot of waiting.  While waiting, she would gather her trousseau and be ready when her bridegroom came.  Jewish custom provide that she had to have an oil lamp ready in case the groom came late at night in the darkness.  She would have to travel at a moment’s notice.


During this long time of waiting, she was referred to as being “consecrated,” that is, “set apart,” or “bought with a price.”


Meanwhile, the groom would be building and decorating.  His father would inspect the chamber from time to time to see if it was ready.  During this time she prepares herself for marriage.


The Return


The exact moment of the return was unknown.  But finally, the groom’s father would deem the wedding chamber was ready and the groom would assemble his friends to accompany him on the trip to claim his bride.  He and his friends would often set out at night to completely surprise the bride.  This was considered part of the romance of it.  In effect, the Jewish bride was “stolen.”


Now, there were rules to be observed in consideration for a woman’s feelings.  The groom could not just rush in on her.  As they got close to the bride’s home, a friend of the groom would run ahead to give warning.  He would yell,  “The bridegroom cometh!”  A shofar would be blown.


When the bride heard that shout, she knew her young man would be there momentarily.  She only had time to light her lamp, grab her honeymoon clothes and go.


And so the groom and his men would charge in, grab the bride and her maids and make off with them.  The father of the bride and her brothers would look the other way, or perhaps take one look to make sure that this man was indeed the one which had signed the contract.  The wedding ceremony was conducted in the home of the groom.


The Bridal Chamber  [Huppah]


When the wedding party reached the house of the groom’s father, and after the ceremony, the bride and groom would go into their chamber and shut the door.  No one else would enter.  And they would remain there for seven (7) days.  During those 7 days, the groom’s father would assemble the rest of the guests and prepare to celebrate the new marriage.


The “Bridal Week,” as it was called is mentioned in several passage  (Judges 14 and Genesis 29 are two of them).


The Marriage Supper


At the end of the week, the bride and groom would make their long awaited presence to the cheers of the crowd.  There would be a great feast – a Marriage Supper.  This is what might be called the wedding reception today.


The New Home


After the marriage supper, the bride and groom would depart.  They were not to remain any longer in the father’s house.  They would go instead to their own house, which had been prepared by the groom.


I am sure that most of you can easily see the beautiful parallels between this somewhat complex custom observed by Jewish people with the manner in which Christ has called out His chosen bride – called the Church.  You probably have also noted that if this custom does have a prophetic note concerning the Church as the Bride of Christ, then the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position is what it most corresponds to.


Let’s review each of the elements of the Jewish custom so that we fully understand the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the Church.  We will look at Scriptures that explain the parallel.


The Covenant


Jesus came to the home of His bride (earth) to propose and present a marriage contract.


In Heb 8:8 (NIV), Christ say:


8       ……"The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant…” [Heb. 12:24].


This proposal for marriage provided by Jesus is the new covenant.  God has made a covenant with each of us.  He has stamped it upon our hearts and has stated its terms and identified the parties.


Under this agreement, Christ said he would pay the desired price.  This price would allow God to forgive our iniquities and forget our sins.  This was a costly price to pay for He purchased his bride with his own blood [1 Peter 1:18-19].


The Cup


When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said:


“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me:  nevertheless not my will but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)


Earlier in the same chapter, Luke 22:20 (NKJV), we read:


20     Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”


But He did take the cup and drink it.   But what about us?  Both parties were to consummate the agreement by drinking the cup.  This would signify our acceptance of the covenant.


Matthew 20:23 states:


         “And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup…..”


And then, most are familiar with Matthew 26:27-28.


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 (new covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins.


The expression “signed in blood” is thoroughly Biblical.  Certainly verse 28, which we just read, fulfills what we read earlier in Hebrews 8:12“….their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”


The Price   (The Dowry)


How much did our bridegroom pay?  What did it cost Him?  Everything.


Hebrews 9:15 (NKJV) makes it clear that Jesus died as the price for the new covenant.


15     And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.


Matthew 13:46 depicts the cost in the form of a parable by stating that Christ, “when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”  To our Bridegroom, you and I are that pearl of great price.  And He gave up all He had to redeem that pearl.


1 Cor. 7:23 (NIV) says,


                   … are bought at a price.


         Jesus paid the full price.


1 Cor 6:19-20 NIV


19     Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

20     you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.


We all know that part of the price involved death, the giving of His life so that we, whom He loved so dearly, might live.  But, even more than that, the price also involved taking upon Himself all our sins.  He who was pure and holy, became sin for us so that we might be made righteous in him.  He paid it all.


The Departure


We saw earlier that it was the Jewish custom for the groom to depart to his father’s house after the Contract was signed, the cup had been drank and the price paid.  That is exactly what our Lord Jesus did.  He would make a short speech and leave.


In John 14:2, Jesus tells his bride….


2       In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.


Two chapters later, but during the same Upper Room meeting, in John 16:28, Jesus says:


28     I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father."


Jesus is in heaven now, preparing us a place.  And we are in the “waiting period.”  We are to act in such a way as to indicate that we have been “spoken for.”  We have been “set apart” and must remain faithful to our lover.  The very Greek word for “church” (Ekklesia) means “called out” ones.


The Return


On the wedding day, according to the Jewish wedding custom, the groom would leave his own home to go to the bride’s home to fetch her.


I hope you took note that according to Jewish custom, the Father is the one who gives the OK to his son’s preparation of a home for He and his bride.  This is exactly what we see in Matthew’s gospel.


Matthew 24:36 NIV


36     No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.


Just as the bridegroom would come for the bride in the middle of the night, with a shout and the sound of a shofar, so the Lord will come for us.


1 Thess 4:16-17 NKJV


16     For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17     Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.


                   One day Jesus - the bridegroom – will return to take his bride.


We do not know exactly how long it will be until our bridegroom returns.


Matthew 24:43-44


Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.


Matthew 25:13 says about the same thing.


2 Peter 3:10 adds:


                   But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night….


Revelation 3:3 NIV


3       Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.


But, although we may not know the day nor hour of his coming, we do have the assurance – the signed covenant – that He indeed will come.


As we noted in the Jewish custom, the wedding ceremony took place in the father’s home.  For the church, when the Rapture occurs, we are then taken to His Father’s home in heaven.  The wedding of Christ and His bride will occur there.  After we rise to meet Christ in the air, we will return with Him to His Father’s home in heaven.


The Bridal Chamber


With the wedding ceremony completed, the bride and Groom will enter the bridal chamber.  The 7-day bridal week in Jewish customs very much parallels the time we will be in heaven before returning with Christ.  But now the time closely matches 7-years rather than 7 days.  On earth during this time, the Tribulation will be happening.  For seven years (equating to the 7-day Bridal Week in Jewish customs) we will be in the bridal chamber consummating our marriage.  Again, this correlates very well with a Pre-Tribulation Rapture position.


The Marriage Supper (Feast)


Near the end of the 7 years, we will partake of the festivities known as the marriage supper.  The feast is a time of public announcement.  It is a time to show off the beauty of the bride and groom.


At the very beginning of the Book of Esther, there is an interesting occasion.  King Xerxes holds a week-long feast.  At the end of the 7 days, he calls for Vashti, his wife, to show off her beauty.  In similar fashion, near the end of the week – 7 years, we will participate in the feast prepared for our wedding.  We will celebrate this joyous occasion.


Revelation 19:7-9 NIV


7       Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

8       Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

9       Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'"


Note verse 7 – we are indeed a “wife” at this point and no longer just a future bride.


The New Home


After the marriage supper, the bride and bridegroom would leave the groom's father's house where the groom had built the wedding chamber.  They would go to their own home, which the bridegroom had prepared.


You will remember, that in John 14:2, Jesus said He would be preparing a place for us.  That place is elsewhere known as the New Jerusalem.  The principal Scripture revealing this is Revelation 21:9 – 22:5 where John is able to see the home of the Bride


Revelation 21:9-10 NIV


9       One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."

10     And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.


                   Again, note that in verse 9, the Bride is now also the wife of the Lamb.


Again, I want to emphasize the close correlation between this Jewish custom, and what will transpire with regard to the Church.  But it will only correlate if you believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.