In our last study What’s the Story? we learned that Bible is a Love Story with a Plot, like so many others, that follows the classic formula of…
Boy meets and wins Girl,
Boy loses Girl to evil Rival,
Boy beats up Rival and wins Girl Back,
Boy and Girl marry, have family, and live happily ever after.
Our Plot takes a little different twist from the others in that, instead of its parts being played by ordinary human beings, its “male” roles are being filled by a select group of Heavenly Beings while its “female” roles have been assigned to the three Collective or Corporate Bodies of Human Beings representing the three Covenantal groups that we find in the Bible…
- Israel—the corporate or collective spiritual body that is in covenant relationship with God in the Old Testament;
- The Church—the corporate or collective spiritual body that is in covenant relationship with Christ in the New Testament; and,
- Mystery Babylon—the corporate or collective spiritual body that is in covenant relationship with Lucifer or Satan; and the one representing every system of false belief or counterfeit religion that man has ever known.
When paired up, these roles look something like this…
God the Father — Israel, God’s Wife
God the Son — The Church, the Bride of Christ
Satan — Mystery Babylon, Satan’s Mistress
If you’re having trouble getting your head around this concept, remember that the One Big Story of the Bible began because God wanted to have a Family to love. But before there could be a Family, there first had to be a Husband and a Wife—and in this case, the Husband was to be none other than God Himself, while the Wife was to be the nation, Israel.
Why Israel? In Deuteronomy 7: 6-10, we are told that God chose Israel from among the nations of the earth, not because she was the greatest but because she was the least. In other words, as an act of love and grace, God chose Israel from among all the people groups of the world to be His Wife—and the nation through whom His Son would come into the world.
That being said, and with God the Father in the Hero’s role, Israel as His Leading Lady, and Love as the Theme of the Story, it should come as no surprise to learn that when Formatting the Story’s Plot, God did so by incorporating the Ancient Jewish Wedding Traditions which were at the very heart of Israel’s Culture. While there could be some variations in these traditions, generally speaking, when the time came for a Jewish Son to get married, a three-stage process was initiated which usually consisted of…
The Negotiation (Shiddukhin)
The bride was usually chosen by the father of the groom, with an Agent representing him being sent to the bride’s family to negotiate a marriage contract or covenant. Before the covenant could be ratified, the bride had to give her consent, or say, “I do.”
A bride price (mohar) was then established. A written document (ketubah) was drawn up which stated the bride price, the promises of the groom, and the rights of the bride. This ketubah had to be executed and signed prior to the wedding ceremony.
Gifts were given to the bride and a cup called the cup of the covenant was shared between the bride and groom. The rite of betrothal (erusin) was completed when the groom gave something of value to the bride and she accepted it. This completed rite is known in Hebrew as kiddushin, which means “sanctification.”
The Betrothal (Eyrusin)
At this point, the bride and groom were officially betrothed to one another, and their covenant was so legally binding that it could only be dissolved through divorce. The bridegroom departed and went back to his father’s house to prepare a home for his bride. Before he left, he made this statement to the bride, “I go to prepare a place for you; if I go, I will return again unto you.”
The bride would then undergo water immersion (mikveh) as a ritual of cleansing. It indicated a separation from a former way to a new way, or the leaving of an old life for a new life with her spouse.
The bride was consecrated and set apart for a period of time while the bridegroom was away building their house. But before he could return for his bride, the groom had to get his father’s permission. The father had to be satisfied that his son’s house was completely ready, meaning that the groom didn’t know when his father would actually declare the bridal chamber fit for his son’s bride. During this time, the bride waited eagerly for the return of her bridegroom; not knowing when that would be, she had to be prepared at all times.
The Marriage (Nissuin)
Once the bridegroom received his father’s permission, he returned with a shout, “Behold the bridegroom comes” and with the blowing of the ram’s horn (shofar). He then abducted his bride from her father’s house, usually in the middle of the night, and led her—in a sacred procession—to the chupah or wedding canopy where the wedding was to take place. The groom was led to the chupah first while the cantor chanted “Blessed is he who comes…” where he was greeted like a king under the chupah with his bride as his queen.
Following the ceremony, the couple went into the bridal chamber where the marriage was to be consummated. Once there, the friend of the bridegroom would stand outside of the door, waiting for the signal from the groom that that had occurred. At this signal, great rejoicing would break out among all the guests. The couple would then remain in the wedding chamber for seven days and at the end of that time, they would come out to a great marriage supper with all of the guests who had been invited by the father of the bride.
I suppose the Readers’ Digest version of this process would look like this…
Offer Made, Offer Accepted
Bride Price set, Agreements Written Down
Gifts Exchanged, Communion Cup Shared
The Capture, The Chupah,
The Consummation, The Celebration
In order to illustrate how these Wedding Traditions were used in the formatting of God’s One Big Story, we need only to take our original Basic Structure of the Bible diagram and expand it to include a highly condensed summary of the Story, and it will give us a Plotline that looks like this…
There is still more to God’s One Big Story than what we have learned so far, but with the Stage in place, the Cast of Characters recognized, the Theme of the Story identified, and the Plotline somewhat clear, we are now ready to discover How God’s Story will be presented to us.