by Scott Diffenderfer
Traditions, this word from the famous song from Fiddler on the Roof is both a blessing and a curse for Believers today. On the bright side, traditions provide stability and continuity for families and communities. However, there is ample warning in Scripture about the “traditions of man”. These dark traditions are the ones that are not based on His Word but come from practices of man stemming from the Babylonian culture that has permeated the world. Yes, traditions can be dangerous but also glorious. The ancient Hebraic wedding customs are indeed glorious as they point to Y’shua, His Bride, and the covenants of Scripture. They are rich, alive, and perhaps even practical for His people today.
There are four stages of the ancient wedding customs. These are the arrangement (shiddukin), betrothal (eyrusin), wedding (nissuin), and the celebration. We will explore each stage looking for applications for today and for our future life with Messiah Y’shua. There are rich details and textures in this topic. We hope to inspire our readers to explore their role as the Bride of Messiah as they read this article.
In Genesis 15, Abram and YHWH enter into a covenant. This covenant is ancient and yet still unfulfilled. This covenant is an example of the shiddukin between YHWH and His people Israel. Long ago, YHWH was making the arrangements for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. YHWH entered into an unconditional covenant with Abram. To this day, YHWH remains faithful to the covenant and the promises found therein. It is His bride who has played the harlot while the Bridegroom has been patiently preparing according to His Father’s instruction.
We see another example of the shiddukin in Genesis 24: 1-4, And Abraham was old, and well striken in age: and YHWH had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that rules over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by YHWH the Elohim of heaven and the Elohim of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. Here the head servant is the representative of the father. The oath that was made between these two men was consummated by the servants hand being placed under the thigh of Abraham, or his loins. Notice that the loins are the area where the seed of Abraham is located. Multiplicity of that seed was one of the promises of the unconditional covenant between YHWH and Abraham. Could Abraham have been signaling the covenantal promise through this oath from his servant? In any case, it is obvious that Abraham knew the seriousness concerning his offspring. Isaac’s bride had to be from his people. The details of this arrangement were thoroughly worked out by the father.
Now, compare this with the dating and courting that exists today. The only difference between these two mating rituals is that in courting the parents allegedly give their blessing prior to the courtship beginning. In both of these situations the young folks are following their own desires rather than the desires of their father in seeking their life partner. It is no wonder that our divorce rate is over 50 percent. What begins faulty is surely going to have problems later on.
There are many examples of the shiddukin in the Brit ha Dasha (renewed covenant). YHWH has indeed set forth all the arrangements for His Son’s wedding. One example is found in John 3:27-29, John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Messiah, but that I am sent before Him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. Yes, all the details of our wedding to Y’shua have been arranged since before the founding of this world. He has been faithful, the question is will we be the same? For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Messiah (2 Cor. 11:2). Here Shaul (Paul) is the representative of the Father. His desire is the same - that Israel would be a chaste virgin, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish upon the day of the wedding. Shaul gave his very life for this purpose.
Yes, your arrangements have been made. The question is, will you be faithful as He is faithful? Since the beginning of man YHWH has had one purpose. That purpose is to have a separated people for His own possession - a Bride for His Son Y’shua HaMashiach. From Adam until today YHWH has been searching and longing for a faithful bride who will not compromise or waiver in their love of Him. Are you ready? Are you willing and able? Will you answer the call to holiness? The choice is yours just as it is the bride’s choice in the next stage of the wedding, the betrothal (eruysin).
Obviously, faithfulness is the cornerstone of any marriage. It is especially true concerning our marriage to our bridegroom Y’shua ha Mashiach. YHWH has always been faithful to His bride. It was Israel’s sin that separated her from Him. YHWH divorced Israel as we read in Jeremiah 3:8, And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce… Please note that it was Israel who was unfaithful to the covenant not YHWH. Some twist this verse to say that the church has now replaced Israel since YHWH divorced her. This teaching is flawed on several levels. First of all the Israel of Scripture is not the Jews but rather the 10 Northern Tribes also called Ephraim or the House of Joseph. Secondly, as we read in the next chapter, YHWH yearns for His Bride to repent of her adultery and He is waiting for her return (teshuva). If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith YHWH, return unto me: and if thou will put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove (Jeremiah 4:1). We further see these abominations defined in part through Isaiah… which eat swine’s flesh and drink the broth of abominable things… (Isaiah 65:4). Yes, YHWH will be faithful to His covenant with Abraham IF Israel will put away the things that are abominable to Him. YHWH did not marry “the church”. He has always had a separated people, His chosen ones - Israel. He keeps His covenant even when we do not.**
YHWH, like Abraham, even sent his representative to look for His Son’s bride. The twelve apostles were told by Messiah, Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mat. 10:5, 6). Of course Shaul was given for the Gentiles, or was he? Every city that Shaul went to he first entered the synagogue. How did these synagogues exist? They had been started by those Israelites who had been previously dispersed into all the nations. If you do some history you will see that Shaul’s travels match up very closely with the dispersion routes of the Israelites. Paul too was out looking for the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He certainly found some people from the nations who chose to join him but his primary mission was the same as the original twelve.
At the time of betrothal, a ketuvah, a written notice of intentions, is presented to the bride and her father by the groom and his father. This ketuvah clearly defines the agreed upon conditions of the covenant being entered. Specifically it details the bride price and the other conditions of this marriage. The bride at this point has a choice to make. She can accept the ketuvah, or she can walk away. This is a great picture of our relationship with Y’shua. The ketuvah was established long ago at Mt. Sinai, now it becomes our individual choice to accept it, or walk away. If she accepts, the bride is to drink the cup of wine that has been poured by the bridegroom. If you recall Y’shua’s Passover with His disciples he poured a cup of wine for them and asked that they drink it all. They accepted through their action of consuming the wine - all of it. Y’shua did not need to drink it as it represented Him. They had the choice to make just as we do today.
The mohar is the portion of the ketuvah that protected the bride through establishing the financial arrangements. These economic provisions would be set aside to ensure that the bride would be taken care of in case any harm befell her groom or if he proved to be an unworthy husband. The price that Y’shua paid for us was a heavy one. He gave His life so that His Bride would be provided for forever. While He was in prayer before His execution, he asked His Father if this indeed was His will. The price was high but He was willing to follow His Father’s will for you and I. May we be a faithful bride.
All of this ceremony takes place under the chuppa (wedding canopy). Our chuppa with Messiah Y’shua is His banner of love. What else would cause Him to give His all so that we might live? It is interesting to note that in Ephesians we read that husbands are to love their wife as Messiah loves His Eklesia. If we are unwilling to do so, we have no business getting married. This is not some emotion charged, hormone filled temporary tingle but a life long blood yielding commitment. Once we drink of His cup, we get to dwell under His chuppa (the banner of love) forever, if we remain faithful.
This betrothal typically took place in the teenage years, usually around the eighteenth year of the young man’s life. Unlike today, when we let our children wander around searching for a mate, in ancient times this betrothal took the pressure off. We are setting our young people up for failure by not helping with this major decision in their life. Notice, I did not say making the choice for them but rather guiding and praying for them. At a time in their physical maturation when their bodies are entering full adulthood we tell them to wait. This is not natural. Much better to have solid knowledge of who they are going to spend their lives with. Then the next step is to keep them busy! Very busy.
After the cup of wine is accepted, the groom goes off to prepare a house for his bride. Typically, this house would be an addition to his father’s house or a separate house on his father’s property. Again, this is a vast difference from where most of us are today. Imagine the great benefit of beginning your married life debt free (other than the debt of love). The money you could save for the future if you did not have a mortgage would have certainly benefited most marriages today. One of the downfalls of failed marriages is finances. The pressure to provide for a family while still learning how to be a husband is too much for many young couples to endure. Through parental guidance and proper planning this can be avoided.
Meanwhile, as the groom is sweating and building a house, the bride’s family is preparing the wedding garments. These garments are lush and beautifully adorned. This is a family process involving the immediate family and others as well. The manufacture of these garments would typically take about a year due in part to their opulence.
Once again, we have a wonderful spiritual side to this preparation period. Y’shua is busily building a home for His Bride - the Bride of Messiah. Simultaneously, we (the Bride) are to be changing our garments. We are to be changing into spotless, wrinkle free garments for the wedding supper of the Lamb of YHWH. Yes, this too takes awhile and sometimes you sweat a little. That is good, for as He refines you the heat is increased as you are purified in the fire. But rest assured that in the end you will be transformed into a beautifully adorned bride!
When all is ready, the father inspects the new home and gives his approval for the bridegroom to go and take his bride. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. This is the culmination of years of preparation and work. One day, when all is in place, YHWH will release Y’shua to take His Bride away. Until then we are to be busy preparing, for if we tarry we may not be prepared just the foolish virgins were unprepared. Like His Bride, ancient brides did not know the exact hour of the groom’s arrival - they were to be faithfully prepared. May it be so for us today.
Interestingly, we can again see the details involved in this covenant fulfillment. The covenant with Abraham was in part concerning multiplicity. YHWH told Abram that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. We read in Malachi 2:15 that YHWH brings a couple together, that he might seek a godly seed. So as the processional walks though the night under the stars in the sky they have a picture before them in the heavenlies of Abraham’s covenant. It is clear to them what is the purpose of this processional—to help fulfill the promise given to Abraham for they are, heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:29) if they are followers of Messiah Y’shua.
The processional conveys the bride back to the chuppa where the marriage ceremony will take place.. This chuppa traditionally is made from four trees that were planted when the groom was born. The mainstays of the chuppa are the trunks of these trees. Rich fabrics, a tallit, and leafy boughs also are part of the chuppa. The leafy boughs are arranged so that the couple can see the stars in the sky as a further reminder of the Abrahamic covenant.
The groom approaches the chuppa first. Just as YHWH approached Moshe first in a cloud (Ex. 19:16-19) and as Y’shua will return in a cloud to gather His people, the groom is waiting on the bride. She then joins him under the chuppa and stands on his right side based on Psalm 45:9: Kings daughters were among thy honorable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold Ophir. Notice that this is all backward from our man made wedding traditions. As the bride approaches, she encircles the groom three times based on Hosea 2:19-20 where the betrothal is mentioned three times, And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgement, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know YHWH. This passage in Hosea gives a good indication of YHWH’s character: righteousness, judgement, mercy, and faithfulness. These too are qualities of a good husband. Please note that this betrothal, like all betrothals is entered into forever.
Yes, the groom and bride are indeed like a king and queen. They are adorned in royal wardrobes, I will greatly rejoice in YHWH, my soul shall be joyful in my Elohim; 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 a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10). The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework; the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into a king’s palace (Psalm 45: 13-15). Both the groom and the bride wear golden crowns based on Song of Solomon 3:11, We can see another purpose for this crown in the book of James, Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which YHWH hath promised to them that love him (James 1:12). You see, it is not enough for the bride to be a virgin upon their wedding day. The groom too is to be pure as our Heavenly Bridegroom is pure. We need to train our young men to “endure temptation” so that they can receive the “crown of life”.
During the wedding ceremony the bride’s veil is placed on her husband’s shoulder. This signifies the bride yielding to her husband’s authority, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:and the government shall be upon his shoulder... (Isaiah 9:6). The “government” of the home is placed upon the husband. Only when the wife willing yields to her husband’s Scriptural authority will any home have a chance of attaining all that YHWH has in store for it.
So now the moment has arrived. All is in place as the ketuva is re-read and the minister says, “I now pronounce you man and wife”. The happy couple who have been waiting for this moment for years now get to… go stand in a receiving line! Oy vey! After the intimate moment of exchanging vows, our modern day couples are delayed for hours in a reception. Anciently, there was no minister but an elder who would serve as an earthly witness of the ketuva. Then the couple would go into the marriage chamber and physically “become one”. This is when this couple was recognized as married in the eyes of YHWH and man. The bed linens were produced as evidence of the bride’s purity which the groomsman, who stood by the door, would verify. If the bride was not a virgin there were legal grounds for a divorce (get). Marriage is not a contract, but rather a blood covenant (Ex. 24:6-8). This evidence is certainly lacking in our society today. Once the marriage was “verified” the celebration would begin.
Come Y’shua our beloved Bridegroom.
This is what WE (ISRAEL, the BRIDE of YH'SHWH Ministry) believe.
This writer is correct that YH'SHWH divorced Ephraim and the Nine other Tribes under Ephraim.
believe that HE did not divorce Judah and Benjamin (Tribe under Judah).
HE came to reclaim HIS ISRAEL as MESSIAH.
broke themselves away because of unbelief.
is lost and though, knowing HIM as MESSIAH, will not listen as to who they
are. (the brother in the "wilderness")
WE are ISRAEL!!!