#10 Jesus Bethrothed

By Dr. Stephen Phinney
"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full” (John 3:29).

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready" (Rev.19:7).

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’ ” (Rev. 21:9).

“ ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom’ ” (Matt. 25:1).

Covenant Prayer

Dear Father, I know that Jesus is our Husband. I accept the fact that we, as His bride, are called to hear His voice, so that His joy may be full. I rejoice and choose to be glad and give Him the glory He deserves as our Husband. For I know that we, the Church, are being prepared for the marriage of the Lamb and we are to make ourselves ready for Him. I thank You for comparing us to the likeness of the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Your heaven. I have decided this day to do what is necessary to adorn myself for Him. I will listen carefully for Your voice, as His Father, to say, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” You know my past much better than I do and You are fully aware of the choices I have made to “stain” my wedding garment. I accept Your forgiveness for not functioning as a pure virgin, like one who waits for their groom. I ask that You would purify me and make me as a virgin once again. Cause me to keep oil in my lamp, my garment clean, and my heart pure. These things I pray in the blessed name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Neither the Bible (in general), nor Jesus (in particular), treats the family from the point of view of an historian or sociologist, but solely from that of a teacher of the Father’s beliefs and morals. In short, their point of view is “Godological” (theological), rather than sociological. Moses and the prophets, no less than Jesus and His apostles, accepted marriage as a holy institution that gave rise to certain practical, ethical questions and they dealt with it accordingly. There is nothing in the record of the teachings of Jesus and His apostles to indicate that they “caved in” to marital social content, customs, or sanctions. They simply accepted it as God’s conventional civilized ways for His people. They also accepted its connected customs, which were for ethical and/or illustrative purposes. There is one exception to this general statement; Jesus acknowledged, because of the demands of social development, for Moses to modify the law permitting and regulating divorce. This clearly indicates, at the same time, that He regarded such modification as out of harmony with the institution as at first given to mankind by His Father. According to the original divine purpose, marriage was monogamous. Any form of polygamy, and apparently of divorce, was excluded from His Father’s divine idea and purpose. Many modern believers use Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 as an excuse or permission for divorce. This could not be farther from the Truth. His statement to the religious leaders of that day was correction of “straying from the beginning.” For if Jesus would have put a hardy approval on divorce that day, He would have subtly allowed a “cheap” doctrine of forsaking His bride.

Take Action -Your View 
  • What is the reason for being engaged, or betrothed, to the one you desire to marry? 
  • From your perspective, why would Christ “betroth” Himself to a bride who continues to go back to their sins of preference?  
  • Do you believe Christ would ever divorce His bride? Why or why not?  
  • Read Ephesians 5:26-27 and state what Jesus, as the Groom, is doing with His bride before He unites with her in marriage.

The Father Chooses the Bride for His Son
Even though it is not a popular idea today, Hebrew tradition reveals the father of the groom played a significant role of “picking” the bride for his son. The father looked for economic, social, and spiritual qualities, as well as, a pure bloodline. These elements were important for the father because these qualities would preserve his investments. As it was back then, young men see the fact it took the wisdom of a father to look through the son’s desires of the flesh to marry and assist him in finding a bride who would be a suitable helpmate. The father was interested in protecting his investment in his son. A wise father understood that a woman could take all that away in a very short period. Since the purpose of a father’s life was to “set up” the next generation to responsibly manage his inheritance (rewards of his labor), he made sure his son had a wife who would not squander it (Exodus 34:16). For it was the father's responsibility to form his son’s future; then, teach him how to do the same with his sons.

Another significant point is a young man typically looked at the outward beauty of a woman as the primary qualification to marry her, while the father looked at the inward beauty. Because young men lack wisdom, they tend to look at women externally. Old men, men of wisdom, understand that external beauty quickly fades away, the man is left with the inward woman, and many times that wasn’t much. This is why the son had to have complete trust in his father to do the “picking.”

Let it be known that a son had the right to look and desire, but the father is the one who did the picking. Judges 14:2 shows us, “So he came back and told his father and mother, ‘I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.’ " The simple point here is that the son knew he had no ability to obtain a woman on his own – it required the fathers to “work the deal” for him.

To Be Betrothed

Betroth = be-troth (ארשׂ, 'āras) derives from the word “troth” or the Hebrew word for “trooth” (אמת, 'ĕmeth) or truth. The literal meaning here is to “be” engaged in “trooth”. This explains the critical reason why the parents worked diligently in the “negotiations of dowry” to discover the truth of the groom, his family, the bride, and her family. When you married, you married tribes, and tribes have traditions and beliefs that affected the couple for generations to come.

Another critical factor is once you were “betrothed,” according to Hebrew law, you were sealed for marriage. That means if you decided to “end” the relationship during the engagement, you would have to go through the divorce process. In the story of Joseph getting ready to “send her (Mary) away” (because of her pregnancy with Jesus), God had to send an angel to tell Joseph it was a supernatural conception by God.

Matthew 1:18-20 says: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’ ”

The parallel is this: when Jesus accepted us for Salvation, He was agreeing to becoming engaged or “betrothed” to us. The actual wedding has not occurred yet. This is what the Second Coming of Christ is for - to come and get His bride. During the engagement phase with Christ, He is “cleaning us up” and preparing us for His wedding. Ephesians 5:27 says, “That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” Our “betrothed” period with Christ is for the “working out of our Salvation” (Phil. 2:12).

  • Look up Philippians 2:12 and rewrite the verse using your name.
Here is the point: the engagement period is a promise “by one's truth” to fulfill the process of preparing for marriage. This usually took place a year or more before marriage. From the time of betrothal, the woman was regarded as the lawful wife of the man to whom she was betrothed (Deut. 28:30; Jdg. 14:2, 8; Matt. 1:18-21). This idea is figuratively representative of the spiritual connection between God and His people (Hos. 2:19-20).
  • As God illustrates this point perfectly in Hosea, look up Hosea 2:19-20 and make a summary statement regarding what you read.
Hosea, in his great parable of the prodigal wife (surpassed only by a greater Teacher's parable of the prodigal son), uses betrothal as the symbol of God (the Father’s) pledge of His love and favor to penitent Israel. Since we are grafted into the Hebrew (Jewish) blood lineage, this principle also applies to us (Romans 11:23). At the point of Hosea’s betrothal to Gomer, she was a whore (an unclean woman who gives herself away to “men of the covenant”). Like Gomer, we, too, are a “mess” when Christ decides to “betroth” Himself to us. However, the good news is that He takes the engagement period to “clean us up” by washing us with the Word – His Father.

The Negotiations of Betrothal

Genesis 34:6-17 – This passage is one of the clearest Hebrew pictures of the betrothal process. The situation here is Prince Shekem lusted after one of Jacob’s daughters (Dinah), took her to the field, and had sex with her. Her protective brothers found out about it and now we have the betrothal process. Note: Even though the situation here is grim, the process of betrothal is quite clear.

  • Read Genesis 34:1-31 before continuing on. Yes, I read this passage: ____
It all starts with a conference, as such, between the parental parties. As in the case with Hamor, the father of Shekem (son of lust), and Jacob (the father of Dinah), the parents on both sides are the principals of authority in the negotiation. The sons of Jacob, being brothers of the injured damsel, are present according to custom. The actions were to check out any deeds that were contrary to sanctity, which must characterize God’s holy people. Hamor makes his proposal of restitution; he proposes a political alliance or merger of the two tribes, to be sealed and actually affected by intermarriage. He offers to make them joint possessors of the soil (breath of the father) and of the rights of dwelling, trading, and acquiring property.

Shekem now speaks with respect and sincerity. He offers any amount of dowry, or bridal presents, and of gift to the mother and brothers of the bride. It must be acknowledged that the father and the son were inclined to make whatever amends they could for the grievous offense that had been committed. The sons of Jacob answer as a representatives of their father and they respond with the following conditions of giving Jacob’s daughter over to Shekem. They said that they cannot intermarry with the uncircumcised; only on condition that every male be circumcised will they consent. (see Gen. 34:14-15) On these terms, the father and son promised to “become one people” with the “bride’s” Hebrew race/traditions.

Even though Jacob’s sons used this dowry as a way to kill Shekem and his people, the negotiation process reveals the traditions of betrothal. The price for Shekem’s bride was death; he just didn’t realize it at the time. It is amazing how one of the most “fleshly” and deceptive stories in the Bible clearly reveals the ways of the Father – Hebrew traditions.


God, the Father of the Son to be “betrothed”, had to negotiate with the “father of lies” to retain the bride for His Son. The price was His Son! Like Hosea, He had to come and take on the sins of the “bride to be,” take the punishment for those sins, then open His arms for “betrothal.” He, again like Hosea, had to “put up with” the “betrothed bride” going back to her sins of preference until the day of sanctification. God required Hosea, and Christ, to be the one responsible for the “cost” of “betrothal,” not the “betrothed” bride. God knows that the full price of dowry falls on the groom because He is the One who set the rules of engagement. In His case, the dowry was death! Secondly, He was responsible for making sure the bride was ready for the wedding day. Once the bride was purified and ready, He would come for her – i.e. the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.