Quoting Quiverfull: What is Betrothal?

Quoting Quiverfull: What is Betrothal? March 22, 2013

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.

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


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  • Guest

    It seems to me that a lot of the people who think courtship is the way to go are just trying to avoid being hurt. It won’t work – you can’t live life without being hurt and feeling pain. It’s just part of life.

  • I think this is more about controlling sexual experimentation than avoiding feelings being hurt. Especially if the children are girls.

  • Nea

    Ideally, they don t even allow themselves to dream about romantic relationships.

    The way he’s phrased this, it sounds not as if they’re dreaming of a relationship with Heartthrob Du Jour, but as if they’re not allowed to think of romance in their lives from anyone, ever. Which is so impossible that holding it up as an ideal to strive for is going to lead to just as many struggles and scars as allowing the children to learn what they want and what to watch out for as they date.

    Besides, what Bible is this guy reading that doesn’t have one single story of even Godly people lusting after each other? Because I can think of quite a few examples of Biblical characters dreaming of romantic relationships before bethrothal off the top of my head.

  • Sal

    Oh, purity. Because it wasn’t hard enough to avoid having sex before marriage, so let’s make having a romantic thought or feeling sinful! That way everybody’s evil! (Honestly, this is a literally impossible standard.)

  • Is it wrong that every time I see this article’s name, even though I wrote the article name, I read it as “What is a Brothel?”

  • I think he missed the Song of Songs. Did he take it out f his Bible?

  • That would be appropriate – sex with no feelings……..

  • saraquill

    Instead of doing flips, twists and odd contortions to the Bible, wouldn’t it be simpler for the man to just lock his children up indefinitely? To be extra sure they don’t mingle with the opposite gender, brothers should be locked up separately from sisters, and mom banned from seeing her boys.

  • SAO

    God’s best for him is to control his grown children. Somehow, I doubt the guy will get much in the way of thanks for that either in heaven or on earth.

    The assumption inherent in these words is that his kids have neither the judgement or sense to make good decisions for themselves, nor the fortitude to overcome adversity. The father clearly has little faith that God will help his kids with either.

  • Kimberly

    The last sentence in the segment summed it up: he and his wife had romantic involvements before marriage and want to protect their kids from the pain they suffered. But that’s not how we humans grow and learn. To instill such fear and confusion in his kids about their natural developmental feelings toward the opposite sex might prevent regret, but it certainly will cause a lot of dysfunction they will have to work through and then regret of a different type.

  • Persephone

    It’s similar to the abstinence instructors who had a lot of sexual experiences when they were teenagers and now blame all their unhappiness on that, not recognizing that there were probably issues in their lives that led them to this behavior, and that the hormonal drive a teenager has is very different from that of a middle-aged adult.

  • Persephone

    I understood that the betrothal period was to draft the marriage contract, prepare the money and goods to be exchanged, and prepare for the wedding.

    these fundagelical parents claim to be raising mature Christian servants but all they seem to get are submissive, insecure slaves, psychopaths, or abused children who escape as soon as they can.

  • I think if a child has a father like that, he or she will indeed reach adulthood without much sense or judgment. But the solution is certainly not staying with the parent who never taught them sense.

  • revsharkie

    I’d imagine that, like many in the church have done throughout history, he’s so thoroughly bought into an allegorical interpretation that he has no idea it’s about sex. (Interesting that people who insist on literal interpretation throw that out the window when they get to Song of Songs…)

  • vyckiegarrison

    It’s appalling to me that Lindvall discusses the passage in which a rapist must pay the Bride Price to his victim’s father and then marry her and yet expresses not the slightest hint of moral repugnance at the arrangement. Apparently he sees absolutely no problem with forcing a virgin girl to marry her rapist. 🙁

  • Persephone

    Well, she’s damaged goods, so she should be happy that any *christian* man would want her, rapist or not.

    I made myself nauseous just typing that.

  • “Never crowd youngsters about their private affairs–sex especially. When they are growing up they are nerve ends all over, and resent (quite properly) any invasions of their privacy. Oh sure, they’ll make mistakes–but that’s their business, not yours. (You made your own mistakes, did you not?) ” -R.A.H.

  • Cactus Wren

    “You break it, you buy it.”

    I want to spit after even typing those words. But that’s why rape of a betrothed virgin carried a higher penalty: it was a double offense. The rapist had not only irreparably damaged the merchandise, he’d invalidated the purchase contract.