Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What is Betrothal?

Below is the response I gave on an internet discussion forum to the question, "What is the difference between courtship and betrothal?"

Betrothal is not a "process" so much as it is an event and statement of the status of relationship between two people.

So if I ask how are you related to that man over there, you might answer, He IS my father, or he IS my brother, or he IS my husband, or, in the case of betrothal, he IS my espoused husband. Betrothal creates a relationship between two people. It begins with a covenant, historically and biblically between the groom/husband and the father of the bride. The covenant is fulfilled when the husband returns and takes the bride to wife.

There is no reference in Scripture of which I'm aware where the marriage is a covenant. The marriage is the fulfillment of the Betrothal covenant.

Betrothal has nothing to do with a couple getting to know each other and that is not a necessary element of it. In many cultures and in the accounts in the Bible, there is no "relating" going on between betrothed people. They "get to know each other" AFTER the marriage.

It was not uncommon for the bride price to include jewels, so we see betrothed women having been adorned with rings and bracelets. These would have served to let others know that a woman was taken. In ancient cultures a single woman would never adorn herself with jewels (unless she was a harlot). It served much the same purpose as our culture's engagement ring. Once a maiden was betrothed, her "status" was different, even though she would continue to live in her father's house and function pretty much the same as other single women until her husband came for her. There was no dating or courtship.

Both courtship and dating are terms that refer to how a couple get to know one another before marriage. Some families practice them, some don't. Some cultures practice them, some don't. Neither term or practice seems to have any biblical endorsement or prohibition.

It is interesting to me that there is no requirement that the woman/bride be involved in the betrothal. This also contributes to the difference between reformed and non-reformed theology in the sense that the reformed believe that God chooses the bride for his Son and the bride does NOT choose the Son. She is "chosen", whether she wants to be, or not.

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