Grapes or wine? The marriage principle



I have read about twenty translations of Song of Solomon 8:6. The paraphrases do not seem to get that this verse is from the Ketubah or the Marriage Contract. I have heard at least a hundred sermons on how our relationship with Jesus is as a betrothal between the groom and the bride, but I haven't heard much at all on the contents of the marriage contract, or the Ketubah. It comes from the Mishna.

It’s fascinating, in a word.

I cannot find the artist of this painting.
The original purpose of the ketubah was to protect the wife and children in case something ever happened to the husband and papa. In ancient times, the family of the husband could just absorb the whole estate leaving the wife and children with nothing. In Jewish thought, this is tzedek, or justice. Ketubot, plural of ketubah, took the place of the mohar, the bride price as the young men desirous of marriage rarely had the money or possessions to pay the mohar so the priests made marriage possible by delaying the payment of the bride price.

The delay meant the couple could marry, but the husband promised to pay for his wife’s care in case he decided to divorce her. Genesis 34 illustrates the practice of paying a bride price. A Hivite, Shechem, saw Dinah the daughter of Jacob and desired her so much that he violated her. His father approached Jacob and his sons offering to pay what ever price they said so that Shechem could wed Dinah. Exodus 22:16-17 stipulates that any man who violates a virgin should pay the bride price and if her father refuses to give her to the man as wife, the man shall pay the virgin bride price anyway. 

The bride price was set high enough to pay all the woman’s living expenses for the rest of her life. If a woman was violated, any other man would not take her as a wife because she was tainted goods. (Even a widow were not married very often and became a burden unless she had sons to take care of her.) Her father must continue to take care of her far beyond the expected time so it was the responsibility of the man who violated her to pay for her care. It was also considered the responsibility of the husband to care for his discarded wife since she would have no place to go except back to her father’s tent. 

In the ketubah the bride and groom did not sign the document, but the two witnesses who were highly honored friends attested to the promises made by the groom who would speak the words out loud to the bride and then would drink from the goblet of wine, then offer it to her. The wine represented the groom’s blood and offering it to his betrothed was the symbolic gesture that he would give up his life for her. When she took the goblet and drank it, she was telling him, the witnesses, and all who were present that she accepted his life and his promises. Thus the betrothal was complete.

John the Baptist called Jesus the Bridegroom and that He who has the bride is the Bridegroom. As mentioned above the witnesses were friends of the bridegroom, and John rejoiced at this highest honor God had bestowed upon him to bear witness to the authenticity of Jesus being the Son of God (John 3:28-34). The church is often called the Bride of Christ, and references to this are sprinkled throughout scripture as in Isa. 62:5; Rev. 21:2, Rev. 21:9; Rev. 22:17; Eph. 5:26-27, Eph. 5:32; 2 Co. 11:2. Therefore the significance of the ketubah and the mohar is evident as a physical example of a spiritual truth. The monetary promise of the ketubah was a disincentive to divorce. If a man must pay an exorbitant bride price to the woman’s father because he was to give her a writ of divorcement or a get, it was hoped he would rethink the action as it would deplete his fortunes considerably.  

Jesus did not postpone the mohar but gave His life as the bride price just as the wine was His blood and the bread His body that we would remember what He had done. The wine is used when the betrothal is announced and everyone drinks to L’Chaim—To Life! It is the most common toast. Without blood there is no life. The sacrifices described in the Torah, were life given so that human life could continue. The correlation here is that God delayed pouring out His wrath upon the people.

Consider the day the Israelites persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. God told Moses to get himself down the mountain because the people had done this evil thing; and God said His wrath would burn hot and He would consume them. Moses pleaded with God to consider Abraham, Isaac and Israel. So God nâcham. He took a deep breath and breathed out, easing His own anger and refrained from consuming the people. However, 3,000 men died that same day by a Levite sword. Blood was shed for the sin of the people.
Exodus 32:31 Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." 33 And the LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin." 35 So the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.

Wages of sin is death. But our Husband declared His love was so great that He gave His life, chaim, to redeem us. Moses offered himself for the people, but it was not a perfect sacrifice and God’s view is that each shall bear his own guilt unless he accept the atonement, or redemption payment, of Jesus’ blood.

What if young men were to make that kind of commitment for their brides today? What if wives would make that choice as well?

A man and woman can live as a married couple sharing everything, but still remain separate submerged within their own selfish desires, never caring beyond sacrifice for their beloved’s needs and pleasure. That is living as grapes on a vine. But, when grapes are crushed together, the flesh merges as one and the mingled juice becomes something more prized than water, as Jesus portrayed in Cana; that is the ultimate two becoming one flesh. That is how God intended marriage. The two people so blended, and so much a part of each other that it is impossible for anyone to divide them in twain.

That is the marriage principle. That is how it is with Jesus and His bride. We have no need of a ketubah. 

(Inspired by this video:  http://www.aish.com/f/m/Jewish_Weddings_and_Wine.html) This is a reprint from this week's column at LiveAsIf.org.
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