- What is betrothal?
- How is it done?
- Is it a time period in life?
- Is it an event?
These are questions my family and I have asked for many years and we’ve researched and pondered and come up with some ideas. But, in the last 3 months of my life, we went from speculation and ideas, to application and decisions. You see, exactly one month ago I became a betrothed girl!
Hannah contacted me and asked if I could share a little about how we did things. While I am, by no means, the first girl in modern times to be betrothed, it is still somehow quite an enigma in today’s world. Everyone seems to have different definitions of what it means and people wonder how to apply the ideas we all have for the word “betrothal”. I am not going to try to define betrothal or tell you what it should be or how it should look, as I think it will likely be different for each one of us. But, here is a bit of our story and what we did. Perhaps it can encourage you and give you ideas. First a little history –
Three years ago, one of my life-long dreams came true. My Mom, my sister, and I got to go to Israel for two months! That was a tremendous trip filled with many wonderful stories. The reason I tell you this is because on that trip I met a fellow named Joel Paul…and now you can guess the rest of the story! The whole group that was on that trip became very close friends and we all kept in contact regularly after the trip. Through group emails and sporadic visits, the friendships within this group continued to grow. It would take too long to tell the whole story now, so in a very “cut-and-dry” summary…This past June, Joel talked to my Dad about his desire to marry me and he and my parents communicated without my knowledge for 2 months. I had no idea Joel was even interested in me. At the end of August, Dad and Mom told me about Joel’s interest and said they had peace from the Lord and that now I should pray about it. I prayed, and Joel and I started talking on the phone. (He lives in Canada, I live in Colorado) After about 1 month, I felt clear leading from the Lord that Joel was the man God had planned to be my husband, and with great joy we started planning our betrothal. (That is the very cut-and-dry version!)
Ah, now we get to the point of this article! Instead of telling you all the different things we talked about, asked questions about, researched, and prayed about, I will simply tell you what we did and how we are looking at this time in our lives called betrothal.
In early November my sister and I flew to Canada. We spent about two weeks with Joel and his family before my parents and brothers and friends arrived. Much of this time was spent in planning what we would do for the betrothal ceremony. Joel and I share a deep love for Israel, the traditions of the Bible, and the history of God’s people, so we knew we wanted our ceremony to be patterned after that. Scripture talks a lot about betrothal and the word is mentioned quite often, and yet, it doesn’t give us much in the way of specifics. One of the only clear indications we have, is that once a couple was betrothed, they were legally bound to each other and even called “husband and wife” even though the actual wedding had not yet taken place and they were not yet living together. The story of Mary and Joseph makes it clear that even though they were only betrothed, if Joseph wanted to “put her away” he would have had to actually divorce Mary legally. So we know that betrothal is a covenant and is very serious; much deeper than our modern day engagement. So, the day of Joel’s and my betrothal arrived and here is what it looked like.
A friend of Joel’s came forward and sounded the shofar (ram’s horn). Then all those gathered, our witnesses, sang “Father of Lights”, a song of praise to God for His good and perfect gifts. Joel asked Kenton, my father, to come forward and after receiving Dad’s blessing to take me as his wife, Joel gave Dad a box that contained a representation of a “bride price” something that represented the esteem and value he has for me. In Biblical times, a man always had to pay a price for his bride. The daughters in families were highly valued and the young man had to pay something that would indicate his love and the sacrifice he was willing to make to take a girl as his wife. After Joel gave Dad the “bride price”, Dad then gave Joel a key. There is a story behind this key.
You see about 10 or 12 years ago, my Dad and Mom took me out to dinner one night. They asked if I would willingly place myself under their authority and leadership, specifically in regard to my future husband. Would I purpose to stay pure, to save myself physically and emotionally for the one man God had planned for me? Would I trust my heart into my Dad’s safekeeping, to guard me and protect me until he saw fit to release me to a husband? Would I trust Dad and go through him, should any young man have an interest in me? Dad had a key that he presented to me representing the “key to my heart”. I had the choice the keep the key and run my own life, or to return the key to him so that he could be the guard of my heart. I agreed to their request, returned the key to Dad, and chose to give my heart to him for his guarding and safekeeping. Dad and Mom then gave me a ring, representing our agreement, our covenant. So at our betrothal, Dad gave Joel the “key to my heart”. It is now his, all and only his. And now Joel is the guard and protector.
Now that Joel had received Dad’s blessing and paid a price for his bride, our brothers came forward and assembled a chuppah. The chuppah is often made from the groom’s tallit (prayer shawl) and it is held up by four poles, supported by four men. The chuppah is a picture of the new home that the couple is beginning. The sides are open to show the importance of, and the commitment to, the Biblical command of hospitality. I have two older brothers and Joel has two younger brothers, so the four of them held up our chuppah. Once it was assembled, Joel asked me to join him under the chuppah. His father, Tom, poured a glass of grape juice and gave it to Joel.
This was a very special moment and one that probably needs some historical explanation as well. The cup of wine or grape juice is a symbol of the covenant. Drinking from the cup symbolizes acceptance of the covenant. It also represents the life of the one giving it. In Biblical tradition, when a man wanted to marry, he and his father would go to the girl and her father. Once permission was given by the girl’s father and a bride price was decided upon, the young man would take a cup of wine and drink from it, then offer it to the girl. If she accepted and drank from it, she was accepting his proposal, his life. When Yeshua (Jesus) offered the cup to His disciples and said “drink of my cup”, they would have understood the symbolism in what
He was saying. Essentially He was asking, “Do you accept My life, the life I am calling you to live? Will you join Me in this?”
Joel took the cup from his father, and proposed to me, offering to me his life and all that he is, confirming his love for me and asking me to join him. He drank from the cup and offered it to me. I took it, said a few words accepting his proposal, and drank from his cup. Joel then sang a song to me from the verses in Hosea about, “I will betroth you to me forever…” That was a very beautiful moment. Though we knew before this day that I would indeed be marrying Joel, this was the proposal, the moment when he asked me to be his wife and I accepted.
Because we look at betrothal as a covenant, the beginning of the marriage covenant in a sense, we chose to have a ketubah (a written document) at our betrothal. Basically, it is the terms of what happened on that day – saying that Joel had asked for, and received, the blessing of my parents to take me as his wife, to betroth me on November 15, that a bride price had been paid, and that a ring was given to the bride as a sign of the covenant. Following that are Joel’s vows to me and mine to him, and then a paragraph that is basically our prayer as we begin our lives together. So at this point in the ceremony, we said our vows to each other as they are written on our ketubah; verbalizing to each other, and to the witnesses gathered, what was in our hearts as we committed our lives to each other. As Joel finished his vows he gave me a ring, saying, “Behold, with this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel!” (These vows will also be said at our wedding, with some additions for that day.) After saying our vows, Joel and I and our four parents signed the ketubah.
Our dads and two of the elders of Joel’s community prayed over the two of us. That was very special – to have their blessing and prayers over our lives. At this point, all the witnesses played a very important part. We believe that Scripture puts an emphasis on the importance of covenants being witnessed. Those gathered for our betrothal were not there just to watch something neat, but to be active witnesses of our covenant. So at this point in the ceremony (the witnesses had been prepared for this moment), Joel turned to those gathered and said, “Today you are all witnesses of our covenant!” And they all responded with great strength, “WE ARE WITNESSES!!!” It was incredible! Such a powerful moment! (We took this idea from the story of Ruth 4:9- 11)
We sang a song together that Joel had written from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Shema Yisrael”. We wanted to include this as a public statement of who our God is and who we serve as we entered into this covenant. Then we took a few moments to thank our parents for all their faithfulness and dedication in raising us in the ways of God and we gave them bouquets of roses.
Then Joel sang another song to end the ceremony. I was going to be staying in Canada for two more weeks, but then I had to go back to Colorado. There was a time of separation coming soon; a time of about 5 months before we will be married, with perhaps only one visit during that time. So to end the ceremony, Joel sang a song by Rich Mullins about Yeshua going to prepare a place for His bride, “that where I am, there you may also be.” It was a perfect song and so special and meaningful to have Joel sing it. The words are so great! These are a few of my favorite lines:
“In my Father’s house there are many, many rooms, In my Father’s house there are many, many rooms And I’m going up there now to prepare a place for you, That where I am, there you may also be.
If I go prepare a place for you, I will come back again, If I go prepare a place for you, I will come back again And you know I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, keep my command, That where I am there you may also be
(Chorus) That where I am, there you may also be, Up where the truth, the truth will set you free. In the world you will have trouble, but I leave you my peace, That where I am there you may also be. Remember you did not choose me, no I have chosen you, Remember you did not choose me, no I have chosen you The world will show you hatred, the Spirit show you truth, That where I am there you may also be.
And that was our betrothal ceremony! Afterwards, we chose to have a civil wedding to make our betrothal legally binding. But don’t be confused by our doing that. We do not consider ourselves married yet, and won’t live together until the “real” wedding sometime in May. It was simply a step we chose to represent the seriousness, the real- ness, of our covenant. For believers in Yeshua, I think it creates a beautiful parallel and picture. Joel and I are in the same place right now in our relationship, that each one of us is in with Yeshua. Yeshua came to us, chose us, bought us with a price – His very life, His blood – and we are in covenant with Him if we have chosen to accept His life. But, we aren’t married to Yeshua yet! He’s still waiting to come for His bride, the church!! Wow, am I getting a better understanding of what it means to wait for His return, to long for our Heavenly Bridegroom, as I wait and long for my personal bridegroom.