Quoting Quiverfull: What is Betrothal?

by Vaughn Ohlman from True Love Doesn’t Wait – What is Betrothal?

(Trigger warning for those recovering from legalism and extreme control by others! You’ve been warned.)

Hosea 2:19-20 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. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

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.

Due to the recent betrothal of my son Joshua and my new daughter in law Laura I have been receiving a lot of questions about betrothal. What is betrothal?

I don’t mean to explain here all of the principles that go under the name of ‘betrothal’, but a definition of the actual period where two people are ‘betrothed’.

Let me start by laying out the process whereby people in our era commonly get married. They first start, usually, as ‘friends’. Then they start dating and become ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’. Perhaps they ‘go steady’. (We will ignore, here, the world’s stages of when they start sleeping together.) Then, assuming things go well, they get ‘engaged’.

I want to examine carefully the next two phases; because we don’t think of them as two phases except, occasionally, when there is some legal problem. But there are two distinct stages. First there is the ceremony, which usually involves some critical moments: vows, a preacher saying ‘I now pronounce you’.

Most of us, after those critical moments, consider the couple ‘different’. We call them Mr and Mrs So and So, we call them man and wife, we cheer when he kisses her.

But at the same time, especially if they are virgins, we are all waiting for something else as well. We call it ‘consummation’. It is the time, usually later in the day, when the young couple ‘comes together’ physically.

But there is typically at least some kind of separation between these two times. A time when the young couple is ‘Mr and Mrs’, but they have not had sex. When they are in covenant, but have not consummated that covenant.

What is betrothal? It is that time. Bound in covenant but not  yet consummated.

In Scripture we do not see the whole ‘friends’, ‘dating’, ‘engagement’ thing happening. Even historically a broken ‘engagement’ was called ‘breach of promise’ and could be sued over. In Scripture we see the couple being formed by the agreement of the fathers,[1] and being bound in covenant at that time. They don’t date, or court, they begin by being bound in agreement.

And it is a very serious agreement. A young man who slept with a young woman who wasn’t betrothed would be forced to pay the bride price and marry her.[2] A young man, on the other hand, who slept with a young woman who was betrothed (to someone else) was executed.[3] As was she, if it was consensual.[4]

The young man who was ready to go to war was sent home if he was betrothed; so that he could take his wife and not die in the war and have another take her.[5]

Joseph, a betrothed husband, was considering divorcing his wife when he thought she had slept with another.[6]

So a ‘betrothal’ is a ceremony where a man and a woman are bound in covenant to each other. It holds no force in (modern American civil) law, but it holds a strong place in God’s law. It may change very little about them in the eyes of most men,[8] but I believe it changes a good deal in the eyes of God.

So my Joshua is now ‘betrothed’. He has a wife, he is bound in covenant. They held hands for the first time when his new father in law joined their hands. He set eyes on her for the first time when his father in law introduced them. But he now has a wife. Laura Ohlman (betrothed).

My Laura (what wonderful words to say) now has a husband. She is bound in covenant. She is wearing rings placed there by her covenant head. The world will no doubt comment, if they are so blunt as to comment, that she is wearing them backwards.[7] But this will give her a chance to explain, exactly, what they mean: the person and covenant they represent.


Eph 5:22-33 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
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.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
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.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
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.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Comments open below


QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


About Suzanne Calulu
  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

    Is there some welfare agency down there who can be told that this young woman is being pressurized/ convinced/ brainwashed to marry a stranger?

  • Nightshade

    If one accepts Mr. Ohlman’s view as correct-which I don’t think most of us do-why should there be any period of time between betrothal and consummation? If betrothal/engagment/whatever the heck you want to call it, is so binding then why wait? True Love Doesn’t Wait, right, Von?

  • Em

    Why does he assume that we are all “waiting” for them to consummate their union? I don’t usually spend the whole wedding daydreaming about how the bride and groom are probably gonna do it later, that’s just weird. Historically, breaking an engagement was seen as a far bigger deal than it is today because marriage could very well be a woman’s only shot at financial security. He would probably want it to be that way again, but his views no longer align with reality.

  • AlisonCummins

    If he’s doing it right, Laura Marie Camp is no more than eight years old. That gives them time to get to know eachother as she grows up, and Laura’s family get help raising her as her fiancé contributes to her material needs and her fiancé’s mother might even participate in her education.

    When she starts menstruating they can have a party as she moves into her husband’s house where she will become a servant to her mother-in-law.

  • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

    “Forced Marriage” (where one or more parties do not freely consent) is pretty much illegal, and a total human rights violation. This might be a start: http://truth-out.org/news/item/15845-arranged-marriage-is-a-us-issue

    Significantly, his run-down of OT “betrothal” doesn’t mention that even the patriarchs included the option for the young woman to say no. (Genesis 24:58.) And of course, the difference between a historical description of the ANE and a “biblical” mandate is completely lost on him as usual.

  • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

    “But at the same time, especially if they are virgins, we are all waiting for something else as well. We call it ‘consummation’.”…

    How skeevy is it that he thinks “we are all” anticipating the thought of his future daughter-in-law having sex? Um, pretty sure that’s just you, Von. Laura, dear, there’s still plenty of time to run for the hills and escape having this creep as a father-in-law.

  • Joy

    “My” Laura? Geez, Von, you’re her father-in-law-to-be, not her owner. For that matter, your son doesn’t own her either and never will.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    That was my thought exactly. I read that line and was like “Uh, speak for yourself, Captain Creepypants. I’ve been to my share of weddings in my lifetime and have ‘waited’ for many things–seeing the bride in her dress, hearing the couples’ vows, um, dinner etc. I can safely say that I have never given a thought to what the bride and groom will be doing in bed after the wedding. Blech.”

    Are his son and daughter-in-law at least adults?

  • Hannah

    If betrothal is basically the same as marriage, why not just skip the whole wedding shebang entirely? Just sign the papers, move them in together, and be done with it.

    Betrothal is engagement. They’ve made the commitment but aren’t necessarily living it quite yet (lack of legal rights, not living together, etc). Yap on about how betrothal is so much better, but it’s just word choice.
    Also, I’ve never once wondered or waited for a couple to consummate their wedding. Seriously, boundaries? That’s between the couple and God, no one else. Certainly not their parents! You can assume that they haven’t-and-will-now, but anything beyond that makes you pervy. You don’t need to, and shouldn’t GET to know any details.

  • Hannah

    I caught that too; doesn’t he teach that the husband is the “owner” anyways? Now he’s changing that to father-in-law? Keep your chain of ownership straight, man!

  • Nightshade

    Seems he *does* consider himself her owner…makes one wonder if
    there’s a deeper motive for exerting such control over his son’s
    marriage, doesn’t it?

  • stairway to heaven

    Just when you think what this man says and does can’t get any sicker…

  • texcee

    It will probably be a public consummation.

  • Trollface McGee

    I’m rather shocked Mr. Ohlman is typing on a computer. Neither Jesus nor any of his disciples ever typed on a computer, none of them even had a ballpoint pen. I also assume that Mr. Ohlman regularly partakes of medical services that would be unimaginable in Biblical times. Surely, the message of the Bible is that society must never change in any way. It isn’t that this “betrothal” model is prescribed by Scripture, but that it is acknowledged as the cultural norm at a time where fathers legally owned their children (and I’m sure most of them cared more about the consent of the parties involved than Mr. Ohlman).
    Also, no, and ew. The last thing I think about at a wedding is “they’re going to have sex later.” Also, ew. Just ew.

  • Nightshade

    ‘…his views no longer align with reality.’ For which we can all be extremely thankful!

  • KarenJo12

    I imagine it will at least involve display of bloody sheets. AND I have succeeded in skeeving myself out. Bleccch.

  • teaisbetterthanthis

    How disturbing. I hope she, Laura, has a chance to get to know her FUTURE father-in-law before she actually marries his son…And has the presence of mind to run like hell.

  • Saraquill

    “My Laura (what wonderful words to say) now has a husband”

    Ewww. That sounds quasi-incestuous.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I thought this particular piece of relationship voodoo that Von was conjuring was particularly vile. Why does he keep mentioning sex? It’s almost like he’s sleeping with her via surrogate (his son) and getting off on the whole idea of it. Beyond creepy!

  • Trollface McGee

    If she’s of age and without some sort of mental health or developmental issue, consent can be difficult to disprove.
    However, just because she has apparently become part of this archaic arrangement, does not mean that the laws don’t apply to her marriage. She is still entitled to all the marital legal rights and personal rights as any other person.

  • Cathy W

    I’m wondering – is there any connection between Vaughn Ohlman and a blog post I remember making the rounds a while back from a young man explaining why he wasn’t going to legally marry his wife, who he had not asked to marry him – he had made a contract with her father, who had handed her over to him, and the relationship was consummated, and if that was enough for God it should be good enough for everyone else? (I’m having a sad amount of difficulty finding the post I’m thinking of.) It seems like the same kind of attitude towards the prospective bride in both cases.

  • persephone

    I think the son was mentioned before as around age 22.

  • persephone

    And several more of us.

  • persephone

    I think they’re in Texas, so probably not.

  • persephone

    Since I think the son is older than Vaughn’s preferred marriage ave of about 14, I’m wondering how much of this is him humoring his dad. Its quite possible that they’ll pop out two or three kids, then plead health issues to end the demands for a full quiver.

  • Kristen Rosser

    This man doesn’t know the difference between “in Scripture we see” and “God’s law.” There is no law in the Bible, Old or New Testament, that requires betrothal! There is no law anywhere in the Bible that commands fathers to choose who their children marry! And even if there were, Christianity is not supposed to be about law, but about grace.

  • Joy

    There’s a Bible verse that seems particularly apropos for this: “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”. (Matt. 12:34b KJV). Maybe there’s a reason why he keeps mentioning sex.

    (I know not everyone here is a Christian and I don’t intend to offend or trigger anyone by quoting a Bible verse.)

  • Nightshade

    I agree…and even if one no longer believes the Bible there are still some truths about human nature to be found within its pages, I feel this is one of them. Anyway, it’s somewhere on the far side of creepy that Von is taking such an intense interest in the sexual relationship his son and future wife will presumably have. Talk about unnatural affection, and not the same-sex variety…

  • AlisonCummins

    Women could sue men for breach of contract (breaking off an engagement) because they were now damaged goods on the marriage market.

    In addition to the general distaste for buying something someone else has returned, there’s the assumption that the engaged couple were having sex — so she’s not just returned to the shelf, she’s *used.* (Also a reason to avoid long engagements: the longer the couple are engaged, the more likely they are to have sex and the longer the opportunity to break off the engagement. Once you’re engaged, just get married already. Within a month, at most.)

  • gimpi1

    Including divorce. The fact that this group regards this “contract” as binding has no force in law. If the young lady in question wakes up and decides she’s not her father’s property, to “bind in marriage” as he sees fit, she can walk away at any point, including after the marriage.

  • gimpi1

    I, personally, think it’s a mistake to take bronze-age desert pastoral modes of living and copy-and-paste them onto the lives of high-tech post-industrial temperate-zone people living 2,000-3,000 years later. If you took a person from a Hebrew tribe, say from 2,500 years ago, and dropped them into, say downtown Seattle, how would they react?

    One of the major differences between Biblical culture and the modern world is who counts as people. Women, foreigners, or slaves weren’t regarded as people, with rights in ancient cultures. We have outlawed slavery, and we recognize women and people outside our tribe as full human beings. For this and many other reasons, the two cultures aren’t interchangeable.

    It’s one thing to take inspiration from the Bible. It’s another to try and pretend the last 3,000 years haven’t happened.

  • texcee

    Makes you wonder exactly how close the relationship must be if she is “my Laura”.

  • Madame

    I remember that post and it was supposed to be an internet hoax. But Von seems to take this whole thing seriously.

  • Madame


    The Bible is full of descriptive narrative that we aren’t meant to take as law.

  • Madame

    Take inspiration from the Bible. I like that term.
    I hate when people need to use Bible for EVERYTHING. It is tiring. No. Exhausting!

  • Madame

    Yes, ewwww, and poor Laura.
    She now belongs to the Ohlman household. Remember Von is all for the groom bringing the wife to his parents’ home and taking her to his bed to make her his wife.

  • Madame

    “So my Joshua is now ‘betrothed’. He has a wife, he is bound in covenant.
    They held hands for the first time when his new father in law joined
    their hands. He set eyes on her for the first time when his father in
    law introduced them. But he now has a wife. Laura Ohlman (betrothed).”

    When were they introduced? Were they asked if they wanted to marry each other?

    Will there be a wedding, or is Joshua just going to wait till the urge hits and go and take Laura to his bed (in his parental home) and “take her” (as Von so romantically says on his website)?

  • texcee

    Checked out his Facebook page where there was a cross link to Laura’s family. Laura appears to be over 18 and they all look very happy about the bethrothal. Moreover, they all definitely look Quiverfull. All the women in long dresses, etc.

  • Madame

    Well, they may look happy, but I don’t know how you can expect people who have only been together for two hours to know each other enough to go ahead and marry.

    “I met Laura only two hours before we were bound in our betrothal covenant”

  • aim2misbehave

    So… if the “betrothal” was “binding them in the covenant” and in God’s eyes and this guy’s eyes holds the exact same weight as a wedding ceremony, is there any reason left for them to not have sex before the day that she walks down the aisle in a white dress?

  • Madame

    I don’t know if there will even be a day when she walks down the aisle in a white dress. Von has a slightly cruder idea of marriage, it appears, where a man is betrothed to a woman and can access her whenever he “feels the need”. If I understood Von correctly, she is now at his beck and call.