by Jonathan Lindvall at Bold Christian Living
In the story of Christ s birth we have an interesting illustration of the practice of betrothal. Joseph was deliberating what he should do with Mary, his betrothed wife, having learned that she was pregnant. Because he was “a just man” he determined to “put her away secretly” (Matt. 1:19). He and Mary as a betrothed couple were committed to marriage. Joseph could only break this commitment if he “put her away” according to Deuteronomy 24:1. The only other alternative was to publicly accuse her as an adulteress, in which case she would be executed by stoning. Scripturally there were three distinct marital states: unmarried, betrothed, and married. Although betrothed couples were not permitted to be physically intimate, they were considered married in the sense of owning one another. For example, if a man seduced or raped a virgin who was not yet betrothed he was required to pay the bride-price to her father and (if the father so desired) marry her (Ex. 22:16-17; Deut. 22:28-29). However if he did the same with either a married or betrothed woman he (and possibly she) was to be executed as an adulterer (Deut. 22:22-27). Although betrothed couples were not yet married, the woman was already referred to as the man s wife (Luke 2:5). By Jewish custom (and Biblical mandate by some interpretations of Deut. 24:5) the betrothal period was one year. If the groom died during that year, his betrothed bride was still considered a widow although the marriage was never consummated. I wonder if this scriptural two-tiered marriage institution may be more than just a curious tradition, a sociological fluke. The law is intended to serve us, even under the new covenant, as a tutor (Gal. 3:24). In scripture physical relations were reserved for marriage and still forbidden during betrothal. What purposes could be served, then, by an officially binding betrothal? What special privileges belonged to betrothal? Clearly the betrothed young people were officially authorized to at least cultivate their emotions of love toward one another. Could this be God s solution to the problem of marrying someone you don t love? I have concluded that God s best for me is to teach my children not to allow themselves to cultivate romantic inclinations toward anyone until they know God has shown them this person is to be their life-long mate. Thus, my children do not participate in dating. Ideally, they don t even allow themselves to dream about romantic relationships. Certainly there will be struggles, but to the degree that they allow me to protect them from the emotional scars my wife and I bear, they will be spared the regrets we suffer.
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NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
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