Why Did the Ancient Israelites Pay a Bride Price?

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EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 200+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Ancient Israelites paid a bride price, also known as a “mohar,” as a way to transfer ownership of a woman from her father to her husband. This practice was rooted in the patriarchal society of ancient Israel, where women were considered property and their value was measured in terms of their ability to bear children and their potential to increase the wealth and status of their husband’s family.

Purpose of the Bride Price The purpose of the bride price was to compensate the father for the loss of his daughter and to provide a sense of security for the bride. The bride price was also seen as a way to ensure that the husband was committed to the marriage and would take care of his wife and any children that were born from the union.

Amount of the Bride Price The amount of the bride price was determined by the father of the bride and was based on factors such as the bride’s beauty, fertility, and social status. The bride price could be paid in the form of money, goods, or services. In some cases, the bride price could be quite high, and the husband would have to work for the bride’s father for a period of time to earn the money to pay the bride price.

Role of the Bride Price in Biblical Law The Bible mentions the practice of the bride price in several passages, including Exodus 22:16-17, where it is stated that if a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, he must pay the bride price to her father and marry her. In Deuteronomy 22:29, it is stated that if a man falsely accuses his bride of not being a virgin, he must pay the bride price to her father but cannot marry her.

Overall, the practice of the bride price was an important aspect of ancient Israelite society, reflecting the patriarchal values of the time and serving as a way to transfer ownership of women and ensure the security and commitment of the husband in marriage.

What About Christians Today?

The practice of paying a bride price, also known as a “mohar,” continues in some cultures today, including among some Christian communities. The bride price is a payment made by the groom or his family to the bride’s parents as a way to transfer ownership of the bride from her family to her husband. While this practice is often viewed as patriarchal and rooted in the idea of women as property, some Christian families approach it differently.

Philosophy of Christian Bride Price For Christian families, the bride price is not meant to be a way to exploit or take advantage of the groom and his family. Instead, they strive to be reasonable in their demands, as outlined in Philippians 4:5 and 1 Corinthians 10:32-33, which emphasize the importance of not being “lovers of money” or greedy. This approach ensures that the groom is not financially burdened or forced to postpone the marriage until he has earned enough to pay the bride price. Additionally, it helps to ensure that the groom will not have to give up his service as a pioneer in order to earn enough money to pay an excessively high bride price.

Legal Regulations

In some countries, the bride price is regulated by law. In these cases, Christian families abide by the laws and regulations set forth, as stated in Romans 13:1 and Acts 5:29, which instructs Christians to be “in subjection to the superior authorities” and to obey laws that do not conflict with God’s laws. In this way, Christian families strive to balance cultural tradition with biblical principles and legal regulations.

In summary, the bride price is a longstanding custom in some cultures, but for Christian families, it is approached differently, with the goal of being reasonable and not exploitative. This approach is in line with biblical principles and legal regulations that govern the practice.

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