Tying the knot

I have visited a few web sites written by eminent gentlemen ,none of whom could say when a union became a marriage but it has been an interesting journey. What follows are just a few of the comments that I found.

One of the more curious mysteries in that civilization (Ancient Egypt) is the complete absence of information on the act of getting married. Legal papyri always identified a woman as the “wife of …” and there are many documents attesting to a couple’s divorce. Weddings in Ptolemaic Egypt were often accompanied by very elaborate parties, but there is nary a word from the Pharaonic period about a marriage ceremony. We may assume that there was a moment before which a couple was not married and after which they were married, but we have no clear evidence to tell us what happened. Ancient Egyptian marriage was a social and economic arrangement, not a legal one. At least in theory, a woman needed her parent’s permission to marry until the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty. In the Ptolemaic Period a quarter of all marriages were between full or step siblings. Beyond these three points Ancient Egyptian marriage does not seem to have been very dissimilar to that in most English speaking countries today. The following indicates the norm, but it should be remembered that there were always exceptions.

1. Marriages were monogamous.

2. People married within their social class, and except in the Ptolemaic Period they married someone unrelated or no more closely related than cousin.

3. Men and women retained separate ownership of any property they brought into the marriage.

4. Either party could initiate a divorce. No reason need be given.

5. A wife was generally entitled to a third of her husband’s property when he died. Beyond that, men and women generally divided their estate among their children.

In Ancient Israel the practice was to find a partner within the tribe — and if that was not possible, then within the larger tribal confederation (Num 36:10ff). That these unions were often arranged is well known. Yet these arrangements were not devoid of love (Gen 21:21, Judg 14:3, I Sam 18:17).

The” marriage”,and I still need to find outwhen this word was first used,so bear with me, was official when the betrothal took place. “There was no religious rite that was performed although there was a feast at the conclusion of the festivities (Gen 29:27, Judg 14:10)”(Preuss, p. 104). A betrothed woman was, in the eyes of the people, legally married. When the relationship itself was consumated the husband received the wife and the family of the wife received a “dowry” . This payment was made because, as the wife’s family had given their flesh and blood the husband’s family was bound to gives order to maintain balance between the families. The payment of the rhm (mohar, or “dowry”) was simply compensation for the loss of the daughter’s labor and should not be considered as a wedding gift .

Within the family circle the husband was the “lord” while the wife was expected to “help” him by providing the family with children, this of course is after the “fall” so woman has lost her equality in mans eyes. The will of the husband was binding on the whole family. If the wife wished to express her wishes in contradistinction to the husband, she had to do so slyly (as illustrated in the stories of Rebeccah (with Isaac) and Abigail (with Nabal). This was obviously not in the original plan either.

Samson Raphael Hirsch says in relation to Isaac and Rebecca,and here he is taking for granted that a union means marriage, “Marriage preceded love, the more they were married, the more Isaac loved her.” In this, the first Jewish marriage the Torah illustrates the principle that has generally been followed by Jews.” Jewish marriages are contracted not as a result of passion and romance, but as a result of good judgment and sound reason. If the couple is well suited, the marriage will result in love and happiness. Marriages based on pre-marital infatuation, however all too often fail the test of married life. The chapter ends with the words that exalt and ennoble the status of a Jewish wife. Isaac was a mature man when his mother died, but he could not be consoled as long as the sweetness and goodness of the Matriarch was gone from the home. In his wife he found consolation she embodied worth, nobility and greatness.

By the time we get to the New Testament man had weddings with pomp and ceremony.Jesus attended one as we can read in the gospels .It was a normal part of Jewish culture by then.

So ,good judgement and sound reason are what we need! Hollywood listen out.

Hand Clasping or fasting.
The old way in Great Britain for couples to pledge their betrothal was for them to join hands, his right to her right, his left to her left, so from above they looked like an infinity symbol. Done in front of witnesses, this made them officially “married” for a year and a day, following which they could renew permanently or for another year and a day. This was called “handfasting” and was used extensively in the rural areas where priests and ministers didn’t go all that often. Sharing a cup and pledging their betrothal in front of witnesses used to accomplish the same thing (usually done in taverns) but was eventually outlawed in most of Europe. In fact, the reference I got that from mentioned only Switzerland because that country was one of the last to stop recognizing it as a legal marriage. Handfastings (ancient word for weddings) were traditional before weddings became a legal function of the government or a papal responsibility taken over by the formal religions in the early 1500’s. The very word Handfasting derived its origin from the wedding custom of tying (or hitching; see section below) the bride and groom’s hands (actually their wrists, not hands) together, as a symbol to their clan, tribe or village of their decision to be bound together in family living. The traditional length of time was a year and a day, or 13 moon cycles. If the marriage proved to last over this period of time, then the vows would be renewed for a lifetime or they renewed them for “as long as love shall last”. Often during this (trial) period of time the bride would be referred to as a Virgin, or ‘a woman not owned by a man’. The wedding would be best arranged during the time of the new moon, for the new moon symbolizes new beginnings, the beginning of a new cycle and also looks like the Moon Goddess smiling down on them in the night sky.

Vow Renewal
The Handfasting Renewal was the original Vow Renewal Ceremony. Hand-fasting is the old Celtic tradition of binding two people in love together (like matrimony). It was traditionally performed on May 1st (although any day that the couple wishes is fine too), and those who were handfasted renewed their vows if they chose to stay together and were accepted into their community as a new family, which is what our culture does upon the initial Wedding Ceremony.

Why are more people renewing their wedding vows?

  • After the birth of a child or recovery of traumatic event or illness;

  • Because of a pending separation by distance or call of duty;

  • Because of tender wishes to revisit their commitment to each other;

All this is abit muddled. I came to the conclusion that God has a partner for each of us ,that we should choose wisely and then we should unite as one person. But, as to government intervention, church traditions and cultural differences, he seems to have left us to our own devices.

And, as is the human nature we have tied ourselves up in red tape and unnecessary laws and trivia, judging others by our own self made standards.

I go back to my first statement, I’d like to be chosen and unite with that one person promising before God alone our intentions, but as for pieces of paper and ceremonies….. not for me…..


I would love to hear your comments and will try to reply ASAP.

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