How the Jewish Wedding Ceremony Foreshadows Christ
We usually hear about the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony during the Christmas season. The story of Mary and Joseph, their betrothal, and Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary are found in Matthew 1. Many pastors take advantage of this passage to preach about Jewish weddings and marriages during the time of Jesus.
Too bad most of them don’t explain how the Jewish Wedding foreshadows the coming of Jesus. It would astound, astonish, and amaze their listeners. It is remarkable to me that most pastors never mention the correlation between the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony and the path Messiah followed – from before he was born until his eternal fulfillment.
The wedding ceremony consists of several activities that begin with a contract made between the father of the groom-to-be and the family of the future bride. It ends with the husband and wife together in a bond “until death do they part.” The full ceremony prophetically predicts the precise course Christ would follow. This ancient ritual is a perfect Type of Christ. In it, we see God’s work of salvation in giving us His Son.
In Christian Theology, a Type is a prophetic symbol that represents a future fulfillment in a person or an occurrence. A Type foreshadows someone or something to come. For example, the Book of Hebrews explains how the High Priest was a Type of Christ (Hebrews 4:14-10:25). The High Priest is a Type of Christ because he foreshadowed the coming Messiah.
In the same way, the Jewish Wedding Ceremony foreshadows Christ. Following are the elements of the Wedding Ceremony. I’ll define each component of the ceremony, along with its Hebrew term. Then, I will list again the parts of the ceremony, this time highlighting how Christ has, or will, fulfill it. (For a Jewish view of the ceremony, check out chabad.org)
The Wedding Ceremony
The Contract – When it was time for a man to marry, the first thing needed was the “ketubah.” This is a covenant, made by the father of the groom with the family of the bride. Without this, there can be no marriage.
The Bridal Payment – Once the contract was agreed to by both parties, the groom’s father would give a “mohar,” a gift to the bride’s family, which ultimately belonged to the bride for her well being after the wedding.
The Ceremonial Bath – After the payment was accepted came the “mikvah,” a ritual cleaning of both the groom and the bride separately, which symbolized spiritual cleansing.
Betrothal – At this point, the bride and groom are betrothed. This is more than a simple engagement, as we know it today. A divorce was needed to break the contract and payment would have been due should the husband break the betrothal without good reason.
The Period of Waiting – Depending on different situations, this waiting period, called the “eyrusin,” could last one- to seven-years. During this time, the groom would prepare a home for his bride, usually in the home of his father.
The Parting Gift – Before separating for the eyrusin, the groom gave a “matan,” a bridal gift to the bride, as a reminder that he loved her and would return for her.
During the Waiting Period – While she waited, the bride would ready herself for the return of the groom by keeping busy and preparing herself for the wedding day, such as by making wedding garments, having lamps prepared and learning how to be a good wife.
The Wedding Procession – The groom’s father determined when the time had come for the groom to go to receive his bride in a procession, called the “nissuin.” A messenger of the groom’s would shout, “Behold, the bridegroom!” and a shofar would blow. At this point, everyone who has been invited would join in the procession as they paraded to the bride’s home where they would find the bride waiting wearing a veil.
The Consummation – Once the bride and groom were together again, they entered into the “chuppah,” the bridal chamber, to consummate the marriage.
The Feast – There is a wedding feast, a “seudah,” that lasts seven days. The Bride is kept away in the Bridal chamber until the last day of the feast. At the end of the feast, the bride is unveiled and joins the festivities.
Marriage – The newly-wed couple go to live in the home that was prepared by the husband during the waiting period and live together until death do they part.
How the Wedding Ceremony Foreshadows the Coming Messiah
The Contract – God the Father made a covenant with Israel called the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The Bridal Payment – The Father gives His Son as payment (John 3:16). Jesus is born to us and comes down to Earth as Immanuel.
The Ceremonial Bath – Jesus is baptized by John (Matt 3:13-17). Separately, we are baptized for entrance into the Church (Acts 2:38).
Betrothal – Those who receive Jesus become part of the Church, his Bride (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27).
The Period of Waiting – Jesus ascended into heaven in the cloud (Acts 1:9). The angel tells us he will return exactly as he left (Acts 1:11). Jesus tells us he is preparing a place in his Father’s house to take us (John 14:2-3).
The Parting Gift – Before leaving, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a seal and down payment that he would return (Eph 1:13-14, Acts 2:1-4, 2 Corinthians 1:22).
During the Waiting Period – While the Church awaits Christ’s Return, she is to ready herself by keeping busy and preparing herself, such as by obeying all he has command us (Matt 28:20, Eph 5:27, 2 Tim 2:15).
The Wedding Procession – After a period of waiting that only the Father knows (Matt 24:36), Jesus will return to take His Bride (the Rapture). A messenger (angel) will shout (Matt 25:6-7) and a trumpet will blow. Then everyone who has been invited will join in the procession (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
The Consummation – The Church having been taken in secret (veiled) (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) are united as one with Christ in our Resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).
The Feast – There will be a seven year Tribulation period on Earth during which there will be a wedding Feast in heaven (Daniel 9:27, 7:25). During this time, the Church is hidden away (veiled) from the Earth. At the end of the seven-years, Jesus and His Bride will feast together with all those who were invited (Revelation 19:7-9). The Bride is unveiled when she is revealed to the world at her return with Jesus at his Second Coming (Revelation 19:14).
Marriage – After this, we will be with him for eternity in the place he prepared for us in His Father’s house (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
The Wedding Ceremony is a beautiful prophetic Type that God has given us to show us His plan for Messiah. To date, He has fulfilled the Ceremony perfectly. He will complete the Typology in the same way.