Most mornings, while I shave the hair of my face, I listen to a local radio station, WMAL. Supposedly, WMAL provides Conservative talk radio. Whatever it is I often listen to it, and I usually find myself grimacing, grumbling, and grousing at the hosts of “Mornings on the Mall,” Brian and Larry.
Why the grimacing, grumbling, and grousing? What follows is an example. This morning Brian and Larry had found some excuse to discuss the merits of the groom taking his bride’s last name. As usual, the discussion did not delve deeply into subject. It seems how we feel is all that matters, but is it? Our forebears had reasons for the things they did. Because they had to work hard to survive, they did little thoughtlessly. So why did they think it important for a woman to take the name of her husband? What reason did they have?
The history of the Jews provides the context. The Bible explains the wisdom of their traditions. Here are a several articles that describe the Jewish wedding at the time of Jesus. Each of these articles seeks to explain various passages in the Bible by relating them to the Jewish wedding customs of Jesus’ day.
- The Jewish Wedding Analogy (www.biblestudytools.com)
- MARRIAGE IN THE TEACHING OF JESUS (www.biblebelievers.org.au)
- JEWISH MARRIAGE CUSTOMS (www.biblestudymanuals.net)
- What were weddings like in Jesus’ day? (blog.adw.org)
- Are there parallels between Jewish wedding traditions and our relationship to Christ? (www.gotquestions.org)
In those ancient times the roles of sexes were well-defined, and people desired children, as many as they could have. Women bore children and cared for them. Men provided for their wife and their children.
When a man took a woman to wife, his family formed a bond with his wife’s family. Consider the nature of communities. In a time when people traveled little, you might be related to almost everyone you knew.
The word family had a wider meaning in both Aramaic and Hebrew than it does in English today. The Hebrew ah and the Aramaic aha could be used to refer to those who were brothers, half-brothers, cousins, and even other near relations. Extended family networks were both insisted upon and essential for survival. To have these ties and be dependent upon them was every Jewish person’s duty, and an absolute necessity for survival. (from here)
Hence, introducing a new member to the family was a big deal and the subject of much dickering and discussion. When a young man went out to find a wife, his father, mother, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins all had good reason to take a big interest. Who was this young woman he planned to bring into their community, perhaps even their home? And when a young man came looking for a wife, the young lady’s parents and relatives wondered whether that young man was the sort who could be trusted with their precious daughter, niece, or cousin.
What were typical homes like in Jesus’ time? describes the typical homes of Jesus’ day. Unlike our homes, those homes were places where people lived together and worked together as part of extended families. Now imagine the problems. How would a young woman signal her desire to be accepted into her husband’s family? How would young man approach the reverse problem. When he proposed, he was asking to take a precious young woman from her father, mother, and all the relatives who had cared for her and watched her grow into a young lady.
- The young lady solved her problem by honoring her new husband’s family and taking her husband’s name.
- In addition to paying a dowry, the young man solved his problem by going back to his father’s home and adding an addition, a home for his new bride.
- And both families celebrated the marriage with a wedding feast.
Does the Bible say a woman must adopt the name of her husband? Do we live in the same sort of communities today? No and no, but if we stop to think, we must admit there are still a great many similarities between us and the people of Jesus’ time. In fact, many of us long to be part of a family, and we don’t know how to satisfy that longing. Perhaps, instead of being so modern or only considering our feelings, we need to review the lessons of the past. What worked? Why?