Betrothal. What is it Biblically?

Betrothal. What is it Biblically?

The Divine Marriage

Hosea: 2:19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know Yahweh.

2 Corinthians 11: 2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Our marriages are pictures of the divine marriage

How important is marriage and betrothal? Besides being the foundation of the family structure, marriage is the picture of our relationship with Christ. The way we arrive at our true marriage to Christ, according to the scripture, is through betrothal. It is important that we understand what betrothal is and how it works just for the spiritual aspects in our lives, but beyond that, there are practical truths for us. Because our marriages are pictures of the divine marriage, we should expect that our earthly marriages will work better the closer we are able to replicate it. This means that, as believers, taking a betrothal perspective and implementing it in our approach to marriage should be one of our goals even in our modern culture, making the principles of betrothal practical to us as well as spiritually enriching.

Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

Isaiah 54:5 For thy Maker is thine husband; Yahweh of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

We see more information in these passages showing that we, as the new Jerusalem and Israel, are married to Yahweh. Already, even though the wedding supper and full union where we dwell with Him forever are yet to come, God is called a husband and Israel is called His wife and bride. This is cluing us in to the idea that starting at the betrothal period, before a full marriage celebration has taken place, the man and woman are called husband and wife in the scripture.

What is Betrothal?

Genesis 29:17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.
18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.
20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Yeshua Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of Yahweh appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Yeshua: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of Yahweh by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of Yahweh had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Yeshua.

Exodus 22:16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

Deuteronomy 22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

There are a number of things we can glean about betrothal from these passages.

  • We see there is generally a bride price of some nature paid by the prospective groom.
  • From the story of Joseph and Mary, we find that betrothal is binding enough that it requires a divorce to break it off (more details here and here.)
  • In the Deuteronomy and Exodus statutes we find a betrothed girl treated as a married woman in cases of adultery and, if complicit in the act, executed with the man, where the ruling for a woman not yet betrothed is different.
  • There are also indications that approval from the father of the girl is necessary for a betrothal.
  • Once again, as pointed out earlier, the words husband and wife as used in the scriptures apply to the members of couples that are only in the betrothal stage so far.

Betrothal can be seen to be the period from the commitment to marry, up until the time the groom comes for his bride and they physically consummate their relationship. As a mixture of the passages examined so far show, scriptural betrothal parallels modern engagement up to a point, but there are also major differences. For instance, engagement usually doesn't have such a formalized agreement (including father's permission) and require a divorce to break it. We also don't call an engaged couple husband and wife.

Modern marriages have a short betrothal period from the wedding ceremony until the couple leaves

However there is a point before consummation at which we recognize the couple as husband and wife even in our traditional Christian marriages. That point is right after the marriage ceremony. There is usually a giving of the bride by her father, there are vows spoken by the couple and the officiator often says words to the effect, "I pronounce you man and wife" at the end of the ceremony. In essence, our modern marriages have a short betrothal period from the wedding ceremony until the couple leaves together and consummates their marriage. If you take the concept of a newlywed couple that is between wedding ceremony and wedding night when you think of the betrothal period, then you may be able to more accurately understand what the Bible has to say about it. In other words, a betrothed couple is just as married as a modern couple is at their wedding reception after the wedding but before the honeymoon.

To be clear, there is no scriptural requirement of a ceremony or even third party witnesses to make a marriage or betrothal even though we think of things that way because of our culture. Even those who are familiar with and practice betrothal usually have a ceremony to celebrate that and count their betrothal from that point. However, once there is agreement to the marriage in place between the parties, it is in essence a betrothal. Consider Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24. In verse 51, Rebekah's father agrees to the marriage, in verse 58, Rebekah agrees and in verse 67 Isaac happily takes Rebekah into the tent. No ceremonies mentioned and some of the agreement is even done remotely and through third parties!

Betrothal misconceptions

There is no scriptural requirement of a ceremony

Genesis 24:56 And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing Yahweh hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.
57 And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.
58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

1 Corinthians 15:1 ¶ Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Yeshua, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

In some circles that advocate for betrothal, they also teach that the woman does not have a say in the process and that her father can give her in marriage without her acceding to the match. There are situations in the scripture where it is obvious the woman has no say, yet those appear to be times where the woman is a slave or captive, which does not really apply in modern society. Other situations, it is hard to tell if the woman is accepting of the marriage in question, since the passages don't mention her actions at all. Still, I think we can glean from the story of Rebekah that there is reason to believe the woman has the option of accepting the relationship or not. Beyond that, knowing that earthly betrothals are the picture of our ultimate betrothal to Yeshua, I think it is obvious that the woman needs to be party to the betrothal for it to be proper. The very essence of the gospel teaches us this, since it is believing in and receiving Yeshua that saves us. Without our acceptance of the relationship, we are not saved and are not part of His bride. (For those who believe in full predestination, note that we still do accept Yeshua, regardless of whether we were predestined to do so.)

Ruth 3:7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.
8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.
9 And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.
10 And he said, Blessed be thou of Yahweh, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.

Isaiah 4:1 ¶ And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.

Numbers 36:6 This is the thing which Yahweh doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.

Let them marry to whom they think best

Another teaching that has come up among those dealing with betrothal is that any marriage proposal that originates from the woman's side (via her or her father) is automatically not of Yahweh's will. On one hand, in the divine marriage that we are trying to imitate, the husband is the initiator, so any deviation from that is going to detract from the picture. However, as we see in the above verses, there are cases in the scripture, especially when the woman in question is destitute and currently does not have a male protector, where the proposal originated on the woman's side. Ideally, yes, it should be a man seeking a bride just as Yeshua sought us, so I would not recommend for a woman or her father to do the proposing except when she is coming from difficult circumstances, but to teach that such a marriage would never be Yahweh's will is stepping beyond what we actually see in the scripture.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

We have strayed so far culturally from the Biblical mindset, that when we read a verse like the above, we only think of it as it applies to those who are fully married. Yet, since the Biblical definitions of "husband" and "wife" include those who are betrothed, any command (such as this) addressed to "husbands" or "wives" by definition can include those who are still in the betrothal stage. In the command to, "love your wives, even as Christ loved the church," the connection is easy to make since Christ and the church are also in the betrothal stage and we know instinctively that husbands and wives should love each other even if they aren't fully married yet. Some of the verses in the next couple points are harder ones for us to get over our preconceptions, since reading them with the Biblical definition of husband and wife in mind makes them take on some radical, new connotations.

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Matthew 9:14 ¶ Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
15 And Yeshua said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.

Matthew 26:29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

A common betrothal related teaching, often a carryover from those who advocated "courtship," is that a couple should not have a certain level of physical contact until they are fully married. For instance, some teach that kissing is wrong, others that hugging or holding hands or perhaps even seeing each other at all is forbidden. For one thing, these teachings are incredibly illogical when applied to betrothal since it is the physical consummation that completes the marriage (details here). It can't be inherently wrong for a betrothed couple to have physical contact (such as kissing) until after they have had the ultimate physical contact (consummation) or believers could never be fully married since they would be forbidden from consummating their marriage by the same rule!

That being said, as we see in 1 Corinthians 7:5, there can be a consensual agreement between the couple to forego sexual contact for a time of fasting. It makes sense to view betrothal as one of those times (since otherwise the couple would quickly end up fully married) and this is borne out by Matthew 9 where Yeshua points out that His disciples will eventually end up in a situation, separated from their betrothed bridegroom, in which they will fast. Depending on the length of the betrothal, this might not be a complete fast, for instance, Matthew 26 points out that Yeshua Himself is fasting from wine until our consummation with Him. Still, considering that the betrothed couple are already husband and wife, 1 Corinthians 7 says that they have power over each others' bodies and there is no scriptural limit to the amount or type of physical contact that they can have with each other, except the limits that they mutually consent to. Just as it would be overstepping for someone to push between a married couple during the wedding reception and tell them they are not allowed to hug, anyone besides the couple themselves, who tries to set (rather than just advise) physical contact limits on a betrothal is acting as a usurper since scripture explicitly gives the couple that power.

Leviticus 22:10 ¶ There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.
11 But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat.
12 If the priest’s daughter also be married unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things.
13 But if the priest’s daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father’s house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father’s meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.

A topic that can get contentious in a hurry is trying to understand which household a betrothed woman is part of. Is she still part of her father's household because she is living there, or is she part of her husband's household since she is his wife? Leviticus 22, discussing the priest's household, makes the answer to this question pretty clear. The passage goes through the various people who might be living in the priest's house, but only allows those who are his slaves or part of his family to partake of the offerings. Someone who is sojourning in the priest's house, is not considered part of his household and cannot eat of the offerings. Since the priest's at-home, yet married, daughter (which essentially describes betrothal) is also forbidden to eat the offerings, it is apparent that she is not in the household member position like an unmarried daughter, but is instead basically a sojourner staying in the house as a guest.

Numbers 30:3 ¶ If a woman also vow a vow unto Yahweh, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;
4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.
5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and Yahweh shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.
6 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul;
7 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.
8 But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and Yahweh shall forgive her.
9 But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
10 And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath;
11 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.
12 But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and Yahweh shall forgive her.
13 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.

From this passage we get an understanding of what happens in the case of a vow made by a betrothed wife. If she is "in her father's house in her youth," (which with the contrast made in the Leviticus passage about the priest we can see equates to unmarried) then her father is the one responsible to disallow a rash vow she might make. (This is also a reason why the woman's father's permission is necessary for a marriage to be valid, since he could disallow her wedding vow on the first day if he wasn't in agreement with it.) Then, looking at verse 10, if a woman makes a vow while in her husband's house then it is her husband who is the responsible one. Neither of these verses really fits betrothal, however we do have a progression in between these two scenarios. In verse 6 the context is still a woman in her father's house, but with the distinction "if she had at all an husband." In other words, a vow made by a woman while in her father's house can be broken by her (betrothed) husband! In this we can see that the spiritual headship has already passed to the husband during the betrothal.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Colossians 3:18 ¶ Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.


We see these commands and variations on them other places in scripture as well, and as I pointed out earlier, it is easy to understand and get on board with the need for the husband to love his wife even during the betrothal period. What I have seen opposition to in multiple real-life betrothal situations is the idea that the wife should already be submitting to her husband during betrothal. Yet the scripture lays this out plainly as a general command to wives, and betrothed women are wives. The context even compares her relationship with, "as the church is subject to Christ," which is a betrothal relationship!

Some will object to the idea on the practical grounds that a betrothed woman would then be expected to live under two "masters," since the father has authority in his house and the husband has authority over his wife. Yet, is this really any different than a situation in which a husband and wife visit that same house? As a guest in the house, the visiting wife is subject to the head of the household's home rules, yet she is still to submit to her own husband. In essence, a betrothed woman is just a visitor or sojourner in her father's house. Obviously, she will need to keep the rules of the household while living there and if it is impossible to do that and submit to her husband, then ultimately she may need to find another place to live. We mirror this picture in our attempts to live under our earthly government while submitting to Yeshua our betrothed. Obviously, we obey Yeshua rather than the government if there is a conflict, yet a properly run government will strive never to put us in a position of having to choose between the two.


Practicing betrothal in our culture is challenging because as a nation we have strayed so far from the biblical mindset, but I believe it is worth the effort. As I stated earlier, we are called to paint the picture of Yeshua and His bride, the church, and we can only truly do that through betrothal. In fact, since the relationship of Yeshua and His bride is currently a betrothal it is only in betrothal that we have a chance to represent our current spiritual state. Once fully married, we do still represent Yeshua and the church, but we do it representing His second coming and all the glory of full intimacy with Yeshua that we have to look forward to.

Yet, even if it wasn't part of our calling to imitate Yeshua in His betrothal, I believe there are many practical reasons to employ it in our marriage relationships. Some of the ones I have seen or experienced in my own betrothal are:

Our marriages are pictures of the divine marriage

  • The couple are free to give themselves fully to each other emotionally leading up to the marriage. The stability and finality of knowing that you are husband and wife is a very safe place to be.
  • It is easier to get some of the financial and legal paperwork out of the way before the wedding, even getting legally married since you are already husband and wife anyway.
  • There is no need for chaperones like in a courtship setting.
  • In our breakup riddled culture, interested outside parties are not as likely to come between a couple that calls each other husband and wife.

Our society appears to be coming apart at the seams where marriage is concerned. We need to get our marriages working properly and where better to go than to the Designer of marriage Himself? The solution for fixing our marriages is to put aside our broken cultural ideas and start following God's blueprint. Betrothal is a step, maybe even a major step, in that direction.


Very well done Joshua. Pretty much every base covered by scripture and logic. How could we have ever seen it differently when it is all right there in scripture? Keep up the good work.

Really good. Comparing betrothal to post wedding, pre wedding night couples helps put it in terms a modern reader can understand. Also great point that once the agreement is made they are betrothed, no ceremony required.

This approach to Biblical Betrothal and explanation of how it should look is very insightful and unique....something we all need to understand better and consider deeply as we break from the mold of men's traditions and instead press towards that of our Heavenly Father's perfect design and picture of our Betrothal to Yahshua.

Thanks for writing this! Nice to have all the verses in one place.

I would be interested in an elaboration on your comment that there is no need for chaperones during the betrothal period. How important do you think sexual purity is before the wedding day if that is the case? I have heard this used as an argument against getting legally married at the time of betrothal (that it would make it easier to fall in this area if two people already view themselves as husband and wife). Also referencing your statement: "there is no scriptural limit to the amount of physical contact a couple can have" during the betrothal period. Really? Then what would be the point in waiting for the wedding day? I guess the only example we really have is Yeshua not being physically present with us during this our (spiritual) betrothal period. Would appreciate further discussion on this. Thanks!

It sounds like you are still thinking of betrothal like a courtship rather than a couple that is called husband and wife.

Sexual purity before the wedding covenant is extremely important. After the wedding covenant, a couple can't be guilty of fornication any more than a modern couple leaving for their honeymoon can be since the covenant that allows them the marriage bed is in place. With the covenant made at betrothal, a couple who is betrothed could choose to consummate their wedding at any time. If they do, that would be their "wedding day." (Remember, no ceremony required.) In essence, a betrothed couple that "falls," is not guilty of anything more than moving the date of their wedding day up.

Consider Joseph, who went up to Bethlehem with his "espoused wife." (Luke 2:4-5) Even though he had already taken Mary to live with him (Matthew 1:24-25) they had not consummated the marriage, thus she is still technically his espoused/betrothed wife.

The point of the betrothal period is for the couple to get ready to be fully married, whether that involves learning skills, bonding emotionally, building a house or other practical considerations. Ultimately though, they are husband and wife and if they decide to throw practicality to the wind, they are allowed to do so.

Objecting to getting legally married at betrothal because it might make the couple think they are husband and wife is ridiculous when you understand that they ARE husband and wife at betrothal. They should think that!

You bring up a good point that Yeshua is not currently present with us during our betrothal to Him. I think in many circumstances there can be value in reproducing that. However, Yeshua was present with His disciples during part of the betrothal period, so this can't be laid down as a hard rule. We also have examples in the statute that allows a man to betroth his servant girl to himself and in Joseph and Mary living together in a betrothed state until after Yeshua was born, so there doesn't seem to be physical separation required during betrothal.

Personally, I think going through the longing that a betrothal separation can generate is a great learning experience and I would recommend couples setup at least a short portion of their betrothal to be that way. However, I would be concerned if a couple who decided to be physically separated was going to be without any communication as the development of the relationship during betrothal is a beautiful picture of us and Yeshua.

Great work on this and I appreciate your commitment to truth. This article really does answer so many important questions about biblical marriage relationship.
However I feel like it left me wondering “what is this Betrothal thing”. on the one hand it’s talked about like a clear idea that should be implement into our marriages today while on the other it seams to be nothing more then delaying the “honeymoon”, a day? Longer? Doesn’t matter? It’s Up to the couple..? Or perhaps a month or longer is important for saving modern day marriages? How would this be practically lived out? I guess biblically there’s not much of a case for how to do Betrothal but that it was done and is important. there is huge range of biblical historic examples lasting different lengths from a day to 2,000+ years. and where the man and women SHOULD live doesn’t ever seam to be mentioned in the Bible. So when you say it may be vital for us to bring Betrothal back into marriage I say, great, so I’ll teach my kids to make a commitment (vague) and after that see yourself as married, but don’t have sex till later(vague ).. and whatever “later” you decide is acceptable. I’m asking how can something be potentially so important but not have any clear model to follow?
Or Maybe the important part is still, commitment and not having sex outside of marriage. If you have a good betrothal model you recommend I would love to hear it.. but I imagine it will depend a lot on the circumstances.

Hello Jesse,
I appreciate your thoughtful questions. Since I see betrothal as the point of commitment, I expect the length of our betrothals to be similar to engagement. In other words, think like we are replacing modern engagement with a serious, call-each-other-husband-and-wife betrothal. Rather than waiting to make our marriage vows until right before we are ready for the physical, we do it earlier in the process.

Once the couple commits to being married, there are numerous practical things to figure out. Where to live, working out the financial obligations it will involve and in most cases preparing for and planning the wedding celebration with friends and family. Since I see the commitment to the marriage being reached before the couple are fully emotionally bonded (See the betrothal period is an important time of bonding in the spiritual and emotional before diving into the physical. In this type of scenario, I think we can draw conclusions from Deut 21:10-13 that giving (especially the woman) a minimum of one month to "fall in love" would be the loving thing to do.

Also, with Christ and the Church as well as in Christ's parables we see the bride and bridegroom living in separate locations during the betrothal and then moving in together once he comes for her.

So I want to teach my children not only to not have sex before betrothal, but to not be so focused on the physical that they want to basically skip the betrothal period. Marriage is way, way more than the physical and the betrothal is a time set aside to work on (and enjoy!) the parts of marriage that transcend the physical.

On the other hand, the physical relationship is an important part of why God created marriage, so I don't recommend drawing out a betrothal much past dealing with the practical matters either.

Hey Joshua,
How would you define a household? Specifically, what attributes would you apply to a 'household'?

As an example, let's say that prior to coming to an understanding of the marriage laws a man was to have married a previously divorced woman (Whose husband yet lives). When the husband realizes he's in an adulterous relationship to a woman, he divorces his 'wife.'

Deuteronomy 24 says "send her out from his house". That's where this question applies. The adulterous husband still (emotionally) loves his now ex-wife. Her original husband, though still alive, is not an option to provide care and sustenance. The adulterous husband wishes to provide for his ex-wife. How would you define the level of separation required?

Share meals together?
Pay for all meals?
Remain on a joint bank account?
Buy cars for her?
Buy a house for her?
Live in the same 'house' but abstain from physical intimacy? Or, is living 6 inches outside her house's threshold sufficient?
Any other variations you can think of...

I believe a household would be all those who are under the spiritual authority of the householder. In biblical times, this would be slaves as well as wives and children.

As far as the scenario you lay out, I believe that the divorce described in Deuteronomy 24:1 and discussed by Yeshua in Mark 10:1-12 and Matthew 19:3-12 is legitimate divorce and can only be enacted for fornication prior to sexual consummation of the marriage. (Read my full article for details.) Thus the prohibition in Deuteronomy 24:4 against going back to the first husband only applies in a case of legitimate divorce as well. After all, in an illegitimate divorce, the second man she cohabitates with is not truly a husband at all.

Given your scenario in which a illegitimately divorced woman and her second "husband" agree to separate, it is not a divorce at all, since she was not really his wife. If the first husband will take her back, that is where she should go. (E.g. Hosea and Gomer) If he (understandably in our culture) will not take her back, then the second "husband" should live up to the actual words he vowed in his "marriage" to her. If he promised her, "all my worldly goods I thee endow" or similar, then he certainly must care for her using his worldly goods. I don't see there being an actual prohibition against them even living in the same house. However, I recommend they repent before their church, and then they and their church should make sure they are separate enough to avoid adultery in the future.

Thanks for the comment.

Just to make sure I'm understanding you correctly on two points, you're saying the second 'husband' is bound by whatever portion of the vow can be binding, and is not bound by what cannot be binding? The vow is not a single IF statement, but is comprised of individual clauses, with each word becoming its own binding clause (Mt 12:36)?

When saying "...avoid adultery in the future" you speak of the physical act?

Thanks for the reply.

Unless someone adds it in, I don't think there is an "If" in the marriage vows. Most marriages are two unconditional promises and both parties are bound to their half regardless of if the other person is faithful to their half.

It is a complex topic, but if you have read then you should have the foundation. Basically, I think that a vow to another person makes you their slave in that area. I believe that the entire vow of the "second husband" (debtor) is binding unless or until the woman the vow was made to (creditor) releases him and vice verse. (To be clear, release from a legitimately consummated marriage is not possible because it is Yahweh-joined, not just a vow.) However, if one person promises something to another that is simply not possible to perform, then they are essentially in the same situation that David and Israel were in in 2 Samuel 21:1-14 where the indebted party must find something else that the creditor will accept in place of what they were actually owed, but is impossible to perform. So the part of the vows made in an illegitimate marriage (E.g. Same-sex, Remarriage) to become "husband" or "wife" are a vow to do the impossible, but the rest of the vows are possible to literally fulfill and should be obeyed until/unless release is granted.

Yes, by "avoid adultery in the future" I mean the literal, physical act.

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