Ancient Jewish Weddings (And What That Has To Do With Christ)

Talking about eschatology is fun, I like it, it's all conjecture and all that really matters is that we know Jesus is coming back, and He's coming back for us, His bride.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! How does a wedding have anything to do with eschatology? Who is the Bride of Christ? What does Jesus have to do with it? Well, you all know the analogy of the onion: it's comprised of many layers, as you peel off the outer layer, here is another underneath. That's what the following story is like: it’s the outer layer of an onion, the oldest layer, and as it was forming, so was the meaning in the layers of what being joined with God in Holy Communion is all about.

In this story of an ancient wedding:

A. There are four main characters:

1. Abraham,

2. His chief servant

3. Isaac

4. Rebekah

B. There is the story of an ancient marriage, which had four main parts:

1. The arrangements, which were made by the fathers;

2. The year-long betrothal, which the bride and groom entered into if they each freely agreed to the marriage;

3. The wedding ceremony, which was very short;

4. The celebration, which was a week long.

Theologians have long associated this story with God's redemption of believers:

1. Abraham standing for God the Father sending his unnamed servant into the far country to take a bride for his son, though she doesn't yet know she has been chosen.

2. The servant is like the Holy Spirit, to invite her to come, to woo and win her, bringing her back to the Father's house.

3. Isaac is like Jesus, Who has given all He has, even His life, for His bride; Who is now resurrected and preparing a place for her, ready to receive and claim His beloved for Himself.

4. Rebekah is like the believer who chooses to leave her old life and enter, by faith, into communion with the Lord.

So let us begin!

PART ONE: The Arrangements For Abraham, part of imparting his God-given responsibility was finding a godly wife who would uphold godly principles instead of leading her family into idolatry and godless ways.

Genesis 24:2-4 “So Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who was in charge over all that he had, ‘Please, place your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live. 4 But you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.’” [Modern English Version (MEV)]

It was the custom at that time for the parents to arrange for the marriage of their children, as is still the custom in some eastern and near-eastern nations today. Most theologians believe the servant in this story was Eliezer, and possibly one of the two servants who had accompanied Abraham and Isaac to Mt. Moriah. He would have had a deep understanding of how important this commission was to Abraham.

Putting the hand under the thigh as an oath was an oriental custom recognizing that the loins were the source of life. Multiplying his seed to be a blessing to the whole earth was one of God's unconditional promises to Abraham. For the servant, it was a representation of being bound in the very deepest part of his life. This was a solemn vow concerning the covenant promises of God.

Abraham had begun the marriage process with what was called

The shiddukin: or "the arrangement," where the father would choose the prospective mate for his child. Most often this process began early in the child's life. Often neither person knew who their father was making arrangements with until the time to agree had arrived. In the same way God the Father loved and foreknew from before the creation of the world those who would be redeemed to eternal life through union with Christ. Think of all the places in scripture where God says He has chosen us since before time.

The Biblical principle in this case is that a believer is not to marry someone who has not committed their life to the Lord Jesus Christ. There can be no fellowship of light with darkness, no harmony, no unity. Abraham refused to even entertain the idea, even though finding a godly wife was going to mean lots of risk, dangers and total reliance on God to bring her safely back to Isaac.

Abraham’s servant faced in this enormous undertaking: a dangerous journey that would take nearly two months, crossing five to six hundred miles of desert and rough terrain, vulnerable to weather, illness, accident and robbers. He faced the difficulty of finding Abraham’s family, a suitable bride and the hardest of all, he worried that perhaps she would not be willing to return with him to marry a man she’d never met (Genesis 24:5).

In obedience to his master Abraham, and with trusting faith in God, the servant took ten camels loaded with supplies for the journey, and sumptuous gifts for the prospective bride—representative of the great wealth her husband-to-be was heir to.

When he arrived in the city of Nahor, where Abraham’s extended family lived,

Genesis 24:11-22 “he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water in the evening when the women came out to draw water.
12 Then he said, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please let me have success this day and show kindness to my master Abraham.13 See, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let it be that the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please lower your pitcher, that I may drink,’ and she shall say, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels water also’—let her be the one that You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. Then I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
15 Before he had finished speaking, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milkah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with a pitcher on her shoulder. 16 The young woman was very beautiful to look at, a virgin, and no man had ever been with her. She went down to the well and filled her pitcher and came up.
17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.”
18 So she said, “Drink, my lord.” Then she quickly let down her pitcher to her hand and gave him a drink.
19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.”20 Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough and ran to the well to draw water and drew for all his camels. 21 The man, gazing at her, remained silent, trying to discern whether the Lord had made his journey a success or not.
22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose ring of half a shekel weight[a] and two bracelets for her wrists of ten shekels weight[b] in gold.” (MEV)

The servant was all ready to offer the betrothal gifts to this young woman once she answered his critical question

Genesis 24:23-24 “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?” 
24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milkah, whom she bore to Nahor.” (MEV)

Rebekah invited the servant to their home, assuring him of their warm and capable hospitality for his entire caravan.

Genesis 24:26-27 26 Then the man bowed down his head and worshipped the Lord. 27 And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s relatives.” (MEV)
All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.