There are many traditions that have developed over the years in the practice of a Jewish wedding. Traditions such as performing the Tish, a form of teasing the groom and distracting him whilst he tries to read a Torah portion and expound on it. The circling, where the bride will walk around the groom seven times, or the most well-known, the breaking of the glass.
There are many traditions depending on which branch of Judaism and how it is to be enjoyed by all, but there are certain aspects that are present throughout. The most important being the signing of the Ketubah. The ketubah is the marriage contract between the man and the woman. The man will write the ketubah and detail in it what he will do as the husband and what he expects from the bride. Once the bride has read it, if she agrees to what is in it, she will say so and the official part of the ceremony is complete. At this point they are legally married; she is no longer the bride but the wife at this point.
This ketubah is then handed to the wife and it becomes hers as proof of what the agreement states and a record to refer to as to what both parties’ responsibilities are.
Then comes the ceremonial side of the wedding; the Kiddushin. This takes place under a Chuppah, the Chuppah is usually a covering held up by four poles and stands for the covering of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the practice of living in tents in those nomadic times.
Next, we have the Sheva B’rachot; this is a time of worship and prayer, a time the couple are bound together and prepared for the wedding supper. Often in this ceremony, the couple are wrapped up together in a Tallit or prayer shawl to remind them to be bound in prayer and togetherness with Adonai and each other. A symbol of communication.
This time is followed at once by what is called the Yihud; the Yihud is a short time where the couple can have some alone time to reflect on the importance of the events that have just occurred and often feed each other a little food symbolic of sharing their first meal together.
The next important part, and perhaps the most joyous is the wedding supper called the S’eudah Mitzvah; this is where all the invited guests will finally arrive to. They will arrive and take their seats. Once the table is full and there is no place left for more, the meal would begin followed by the Hora: the lifting up of the couple on chairs and celebrating their union. This is followed by lots of dancing and celebrating by all those attending.
The celebration is finalised by the Birkat Hamazon; this is the last part of the ceremony where the grace is said after the meal. These prayers are recited by all the guests, and it is usually finished of with some wine which is tasted by the one leading the blessings and poured out into two glasses for the couple to drink.
There are, as you can imagine, many other traditions that can be added or enacted differently, but these practices I have mentioned have been used within Judaism and are biblical practices and are important concepts that scripture sets up for all believers to understand.
Most people will never attend a Jewish wedding or see these practices or have any knowledge of them, so why am I bringing this up?
For any believer in the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus this practice and scriptural picture is highly relevant in understanding the marriage supper of the Lamb.
It is traditionally taught today that the marriage supper of the lamb is for Christians and that is when we become the bride of the Messiah or bride of Christ. I would like to point out that this is a traditional teaching not founded in scripture but a developed teaching because of the lack of knowledge given in the Torah and the rejection of the Jewish nature and understanding of scripture.
Let me explain:
The Ketubah or contract/covenant is an agreement between two parties for the purpose of laying out an agreed system of relationship. Both parties must agree to this contract for it to come into force.
At Sanai, when Moshe was given the Torah, it was classed and understood to be a contract or in this case a Ketubah, marriage contract between Adonai and man. We can see how this works when we examine the process that occurred.
Adonai gave the Ketubah or agreement to Moshe, Moshe came down and read it to the people. The people, including the gentiles present agreed with the Ketubah/Torah/Contract and all said yes, they would abide by their side of the agreement and Israel and those alongside went from being the bride to the wife. Moshe wrote down the agreement or Ketubah so that the wife could have her copy and refer to it to be reminded of what her responsibilities are.
The legal side of the contract was complete. After the contract was agreed, the ceremony began, the two parties were together for a time under the Chuppah. In this case it was the tabernacle, Adonai was in the tabernacle and a person standing for the people/wife was also allowed into the presence of Adonai and they would dwell together.
As with the wedding, what comes next is the time of prayer and reflection on the importance of the event that has occurred, a short time to get to know each other, to feed each other getting ready to spend the rest of their life together.
The Torah/Ketubah was given and agreed to, then the time of getting to know one another and reflecting on the importance of what occurred and coming to terms with the requirement of fulfilling our side of the covenant. Being obedient to the Ketubah as the wife is the period before the marriage supper. The time you prepare yourself and be ready to step into the state of actual marriage and what that will entail.
This is the time we are in now as believers. The marriage or wedding supper does not occur until after this time of getting to know Adonai and coming to terms with what it is we are expected to behave. Examining the Ketubah/Torah to live our side of the agreement is our responsibility as the wife. However, because we cannot live our side perfectly, Adonai, from His side prepared a way to help us through this struggle – the sacrificial system being brought to completion through Yeshua's sacrifice. He is looking after His wife as promised.
The wedding occurred when the ketubah was given, any who come alongside are adopted into the growing family that has agreed to become the wife. To be the wife the ketubah must be examined and practiced showing we agree with the head of that marriage who has promised to keep His side of the covenant. We see this promise fulfilled many times throughout scripture.
This short period of time (in relation to the lifetime of the marriage) will only remain open until the guests, those that are alongside in agreement with the marriage have taken their seat at the feasting table for the celebration. Once this table is full, no others can come in and the celebration of the agreement made in the Ketubah can begin. This is the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Now I do not want to start getting technical on this very simple concept by I do want to point out a point that will clarify a misconception.
First, when Revelation 19:7 is referred to and quoted, in almost every case I have heard it said that this will occur when the bride has made herself ready. But you are only the bride until the legal side of the marriage has occurred. Immediately after the legal agreement has been gone over, the bride becomes the wife. The wife is walking in agreement with the Ketubah and when she gets to the wedding supper, they are already married and under contract to each other.
Let us quickly read what it does say in revelation about the supper and not what is usually explained:
Rev 19:6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Rev 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.
Rev 19:8 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.
Rev 19:9 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. (KJV)
Notice it is the wife that has prepared herself: she has taken the time during the Sheva B’rachot period to get to come to terms with what is expected of her and her husband and understand through prayer and the study of the Ketubah what is required to live a life in harmony with her husband.
The word translated here as wife is, according to the Strong’s concordance:
Probably from the base of G1096; a woman; specifically, a wife: - wife, woman.
There are several bible translations that interpret this as bride rather than the correct term wife because of the theological stance of the translators rather than what it does say. The word γυνή never means bride.
So, the wife is now in the period of preparation leading to the marriage supper. The marriage supper always occurs after the legal side of the wedding and not before that. There cannot be a wedding supper unless a legal marriage has first occurred.
It is usually said that Yeshua’s death on the cross was the contract, but that is not the case. Yeshua’s death on the cross was a part of the fulfilment of His side of the Ketubah. He was fulfilling His promise to do what He said He would do: to protect His wife.
There are several depictions in scripture that help us understand this concept; grafted into Israel (the wife), adopted into the family etc… These are all simple ideas that help us understand this important relationship and what it means to come alongside. I am not saying that all Israel are the wife by default, no, in historic and biblical recognition, a wife can leave the husband, she can go and commit adultery and walk away from the marriage, but the Torah, Adonai’s wedding contract is available to agree to for any that choose to be grafted in or adopted into the agreement.
This wedding supper is then followed by the Birkat Hamazon, the time of giving thanks and praising Adonai. This is the picture we have throughout scripture once we are in the kingdom, we spend eternity worshipping our saviour.
Once this has happened the married couple are to sail off into the sunset together and live happily ever after.
Not understanding the Torah, its importance and relevance to the rest of scripture and what it is we have agreed to as the wife, who should be preparing herself through prayer and study, and what it is the husband requires and we agree to. We end up missing the context of scripture and the importance of marriage.
We hear the saying: “the sanctity of marriage” but sadly do not grasp in its entirety what that really means.
This is a rough overview and there is much to say on this topic. We see this model of contract and agreement throughout scripture and its importance.
Just something to think about.
The Bus Ride
I was trying to think of a way to describe Israel and the remnant of believers in Israel with the picture of how the gentiles are grafted in. It is a complicated topic that is further confused by the plethora of different beliefs prevalent on the topic.
So, I came up with the idea of a bus to explain it in what I hope is a simple, yet easy to understand the depiction of what scripture intends for us to understand on these topics.
I think this analogy will work, so please bear with me as we examine this in terms that I hope we can all understand.
A bus driver and his son decide to build a bus. Knowing that passengers can be fickle and have a tendency to disrupt other passengers, they produced a set of rules before they build the bus so that passengers could understand what is required of them if they want to board and remain on the bus.
The bus driver reaches the point in his scheme to build his bus and after much disappointment with previous possible contractors, he employs a chap with some integrity and along with his family are prepared to help the driver construct it. The driver promises this helper that when the bus is complete is will have many seats for his family and any that come alongside him.
It took a while, but once the bus was complete it was given the name of Israel. Many, many passengers were riding this bus, but some of them decided they did not want to follow the rules for staying on the bus. Some decided they did not like the direction the driver was taking them and got off the bus. Others decided that the driver of the bus wasn’t even real as they couldn’t see him from where they sat, so they too got off the bus. Others thought they could find a better bus driver who would give an easier ride and allow them more latitude than what was allowed on the bus.
Passengers would get off the bus and go their own way, but if they came back to the bus driver, apologise for their disobedience and agree to again follow the rules and have a relationship with him, they would be allowed back on, but only if they had not committed anything unforgivable according to the drivers’ standards.
Any troubles that began on the bus would occur when the passengers tried to reinterpret the guidelines the driver had set and make them more palatable and convenient for themselves.
Conversely, others would take the instructions and add more guidelines around each original instruction making it extremely difficult to differentiate what was from the driver and what was of the passengers’ good intentions. In this latter case, however, it eventually developed to a point that the new instructions designed to protect the original instructions became more important than the bus drivers’ conditions.
In their eagerness, to protect the original instructions from being broken, they began to place their ideas, which were originally designed, in their mind, to protect the drivers’ instructions as more important. This led to passengers being heavily burdened with the promise of riding a bus their teachers were no longer on. Though they are a part of the passengers the bus was designed for, they spent all their time examining all their new instructions, they did not even realise that they had gotten off the bus. As a result, they were actively, but unknowingly, stopping others who the bus was designed for from getting on.
Ultimately, it got to the point where there were very few passengers left on this bus, a remnant of passengers who enjoy the ride and are happy to follow the instructions of the driver and his son.
But this bus was designed to take many passengers, and the bus driver is never happier than when the bus is full. So, to remedy this situation, he put into action a plan for just such an occasion, one that he and his son had prepared in advance before they even built the bus.
The bus had a schedule to keep, so to allow passengers to fill the seats, the driver sent his son to go amongst the passengers who had got off the bus and offer them a way to get back on. Now, rather than them having to read all the instructions and try to interpret what was meant by them, as the would-be passengers were being confused by all the ways these instructions had become interpreted, the son went amongst the would-be passengers and showed them what it meant to observe the rules. In doing this, he let them see that they were complicating a simple thing. These rules weren’t a burden, but a practical way to behave when in the presence of the bus driver.
The son managed to persuade many to get back on the bus and trained other passengers to go into the world to demonstrate the way needed to get on the bus, the way the son had taught them to follow, understanding and following the rules the way the driver wanted.
The news of this bus driver and the bus called Israel spread around the world and many passengers who never considered getting on this bus were persuaded to do so. But, sadly, many of these passengers also fell into the same mindset as so many of the previous passengers and decided to go their own way.
They started to ignore the bus driver and claim the son showed them a different way from that of the bus driver. They rejected the bus drivers’ teachings and directions and said the son gave them a different way, even though the son came and showed them the way to live the drivers recommended lifestyle, which was required to stay on the bus.
The bus called Israel and its driver became relegated to a road seen as old and undesirable. One that was full of potholes and no longer maintained. This had become, in the mind of would-be passengers, an old road that was for the previous passengers who existed before the son showed the way. Sadly, the son did show them the way, but they reject that and turned what the son said into something more pleasing and softer for man to follow. A new road that is easy on the back and a smooth simple ride.
The bus driver, however, will not be stopping to pick up passengers who do things contrary to the driver and the son who is obedient to his father. The travellers outside the bus all go in directions that suit themselves and can never reach the destination only this special vehicle can manage. Only the driver and his son know the way to the final destination. Those that come alongside the bus called Israel, but who had not previously heard of it, but displaying by action that they listened to the son and want to obey the driver are allowed on.
As the bus gets towards the final destination and heads down a road that only this bus can go on, many will start to want to jump on board. They will not look to the driver but the son and say, “we heard everything about you, we went out into the world and sold many tickets for the bus so let us on the bus, please.
We made new roads for the bus to drive on, we built big shiny bus stops for you to stop at and pick up the passengers, we even told our family and friends about you.”. But the son will look sadly at these passengers and say, “I don’t know you; you should have got on the bus and obeyed the rules instead of following your own, I never asked you for new roads or big bus stops. I asked you to follow me and I got on the bus with my father whom I obey”.
It’s time to re-examine the requirements of the driver and son to see if we are getting on the bus, being adopted into the family of passengers on the bus called Israel, or are we doing things a different way and expecting the driver to forget his rulings and let us on anyway.
Whose rules will prevail?
Those that want on the bus under their own steam with ideas that suit them, or those of the driver who hold the keys and says how one is to get on the bus and what is expected if we are to remain there.
Dr M Debono-De-Laurnetis
'Though born in England, the author was brought up in Brooklyn NY within the Jewish community as his step-father was Jewish.