The Shiddukhin: Mutual Commitment
Throughout Scripture, there is a recurring parallel of Jesus and the Church and the Bridegroom and Bride. Seeing as how Jesus was a Jew by birth He used Jewish traditions in the parables He spoke and the tradition of marriage is incredible. By examining these customs through the light of Scripture we can further hold onto the promises. Over the next three weeks, we are going to dig into the three phases of traditional Jewish marriage and how it directly applies to our lives as believers and the Bride of Christ. The three phases are Shiddukhin (Mutual Commitment), Erusin (Betrothal), and Nissuin (Marriage). Without further ado...let’s jump right in.
The first phase of this tradition was known as Shiddukhin, which refers to the preliminary arrangements to the legal betrothal. In ancient times it was common for the father of the groom to select the bride for his son. During the time of Jesus’ life, it was becoming more common for the bridegroom to take the initiative in selecting his bride. In Genesis, we can see both, by Abraham picking a bride for Isaac and then Jacob picking a wife for himself. In both cases, the father gave instructions on where to pick a wife from.
Genesis 24:1-4 NLT
Abraham was now a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, the man in charge of his household, “Take an oath by putting your hand under my thigh. Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.”
Genesis 28:1-2 NLT
So Isaac called for Jacob, blessed him, and said, “You must not marry any of these Canaanite women. Instead, go at once to Paddan-aram, to the house of your grandfather Bethuel, and marry one of your uncle Laban’s daughters.”
After finding a prospective bride, the groom would prepare a contract (covenant) which included provisions and conditions of the proposed marriage as well as the mohar (bride price). This contract is known as the ketubah, which means written, and is still used today. The ketubah is mutually agreed upon by the bride and groom and is binding under both civil and religious law.
The ketubah includes all the rights and responsibilities of the bride and groom to each other. In ancient times marriages were arranged for reasons of survival, practicality, or alliances between families. Romantic love was a secondary issue if it was even considered at all because romantic love grows over time. It states how the groom will support his bride by providing food, clothing, shelter, etc. It would also include the bride’s dowry, what money and/or property she would be bringing into the marriage.
When Eliezer (the servant on behalf of Abraham) and Jacob had each found a prospective bride, arrangements needed to be made with her family. They would’ve presented the families with their versions of the ketubah with the included mohar (bride price). Eliezer came prepared and paid with articles of silver and gold, clothing, and precious and expensive gifts. After discussing the cost with Laban, Jacob paid with his time and labored in his fields.
The last part of the Shiddukhin is known as a mikvah. In preparation for betrothal, the bride and groom would separately partake in a ritual immersion in water, symbolizing a spiritual cleansing. After all of that was accomplished the eyrusin or betrothal could take place. We will get into that next week though. Let’s finish off today by breaking down the parallels of this part, the shidduchim (mutual commitment), with Jesus and the scriptures.
Because of Abraham’s advanced age, he designated his servant Eliezer as an official representative of the family to arrange the marriage. This is known as a shadkhan - a marriage broker or matchmaker. This is a holy and honored position and we have God the Father as the original marriage broker when He brought together Adam and Eve and now Jesus (His son) and the Church (the bride).
Jacob left his father’s house and traveled to another land, following the instructions of his father.
Jesus left His Father’s house in heaven and traveled to another land with specific instructions from His Father.
John 6:38 NLT
“For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.”
As a prospective bride, we were chosen.
John 15:16a NLT
You didn’t choose me. I chose you.
Ephesians 1:4 NLT
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
The ketubah (contract) is the New Covenant itself.
It includes the groom promising to love and care for His bride and to give Himself for her and the bride promises to pay her dowry.
The mohar (bride price) Jesus paid was His blood and His life.
1 Corinthians 6:20 AMP
You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own].
1 Peter 1:18-19 AMP
For you know that you were not redeemed from your useless [spiritually unproductive] way of life inherited [by tradition] from your forefathers with perishable things like silver and gold, but [you were actually purchased] with precious blood, like that of a [sacrificial] lamb unblemished and spotless, the priceless blood of Christ.
Our dowry is a life lived surrendered to Jesus.
1 Corinthians 3:23 NKJV
And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Jesus as the groom took part in mikvah (ritual immersion -- baptism)
Matthew 3:15 NLT
But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
We as the bride take part in mikvah
Ephesians 5:26-27 NLT
to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
John 3:5 AMP
Jesus answered, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God.”
On a personal note, I really enjoy reading into stuff like this. God is intentional and detailed and sometimes the depth of things isn’t fully understood. I’m not claiming to know everything and I certainly don’t want to proclaim: “THIS IS WHAT HE MEANT!”. I was just doing some study on marriage and the roles of husband and wife and that naturally led to Scriptures concerning the bride and the bridegroom which led to wanting to share what I have found. Looking into the Jewish culture and traditions during the time of Jesus has really helped me see things differently. It’s definitely broadened my perspective and has given me greater insight into the words of the Bible.
By looking at the relationship between Christ and the Church and the ancient traditions of the Jewish marriage process it has helped me further understand what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 5 concerning husband and wife both for my own marriage and as part of the Church, the bride of Christ. This is what the Amplified translation states:
Ephesians 5:33 AMP
However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of lovingkindness], and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].
I’m going to change a few words to give an example of what I’m trying to say.
Jesus loves His bride (the Church, ME) as His very own self, [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her (the Church, ME) with an attitude of lovingkindness], and the bride (the Church, ME) [must see to it] that she respects and delights in JESUS [that she notices Jesus and prefers Jesus and treats Jesus with loving concern, treasuring Jesus, honoring Jesus, and holding Jesus dear].
Next week I’ll be sharing about what takes place during the erusin (betrothal). There’s so much more to get into and it’s all super exciting and my hope is you’ve found this as interesting and encouraging as I have.
Written by Aaron Crosson