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Discovery Magazine 8/1/2002

Marriage Customs and the Bible

by  Jim Estabrook

Some Bible customs are more familiar to us than others. Marriage is one custom that we may not think about frequently, but most of us know some things about it. Among humans, marriage has always been an important institution. God has given us marriage for our happiness, for maintaining the population, and for rearing righteous children.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told a story about women who were waiting for a bridegroom (the man who will marry the bride). Why were these women waiting? In the past, it was customary on the day of the wedding for a groom to dress as much like a king as possible. This, however, was a time consuming process, which is why the women were waiting. For a short while, it would be as if the bridegroom were royalty. The women would go through a similar process, dressing themselves extravagantly in an attempt to make their complexion shiny like marble. The idea behind the women dressing this way was to ensure that the bride would not forget her wedding night. Sometimes the bride's family would deliver her to the bridegroom, but more often the bridegroom himself would bring in the bride for the festivities.

Another biblical story with which we may be more familiar concerns a wedding feast. Some of us have been to weddings where a meal was served. In Matthew 22, Jesus told a story about a king who had arranged a marriage for his son. What was this wedding feast like? First, there was a "ruler of the feast" who would make certain that the guests lacked for nothing. There was no religious ceremony at the feast. Second, it was customary to tell riddles at these feasts, like Samson did at his wedding in Judges 14. Third, we also know from Matthew 22 that it was customary for the guests to wear some type of wedding garment. We can see that some of the customs that were practiced in the past still take place today.

On two different occasions, Jesus used the custom of marriage to teach an important point. Just as the women who came for their wedding, and the people who came to the wedding feasts, were both expected to prepare, we, too, should be prepared so we can always serve God in His Kingdom. Read these passages and find out what happens to people who are not prepared.

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