In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you! [Blessed are you among women.]”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favour with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God. ”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)
As promised in the previous Gem, now we turn to look at the Jewish betrothal process to enlarge our understanding of the verses above. Most of us interpret these verse in the context of the western concept of being engaged to be married.
“Mnaomai” is the word used in the Greek text. It’s meaning is “to woo or to court one’s bride”, to be engaged, betrothed, to pledge or promise to marry. This matches the Hebrew term “shidduchim” with the same meaning. This was the process of “matching”. Engagement for marriage was generally brought about by a third person, often a professional match-maker (“shadchan“). The shadchan received a brokerage-fee fixed by law, as a rule a small percentage of the dowry. It was paid by either of the parties, or each paid one-half, at the betrothal or after the wedding. The rabbi, as a person enjoying special confidence, was also often employed as intermediary. Although the marriage preliminaries were the concern of the parents, their children were not forced into marriage over their objections.
The marriage ceremony is based on the rules for transfer of property or of rights in antiquity. In marriage, the woman accepts a ring (or something of value) from the man, accepting the terms of the marriage. This is called betrothal. A prenuptial agreement (ketubah) is read publicly. Witnesses are required for both the signing of the ketubah and the ceremonies.
The term “mnaomai” is a match for the betrothal or matching period. It is used in Luke 1:27 in the form of a perfect participle which tells us the betrothal had taken place some time before and was now in force. This betrothal period was like a virtual marriage and all that was needed was for the groom to come at the set time and claim his bride and close the deal under the chuppah, in a ceremony symbolizing their setting up house together. Very often the chuppah is made of an outstretched tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), but it can be any sort of canopy. The betrothed at that point could be called husband and wife, so strong was the pledge to agree to marry. Both families were intricately bound together to see this agreement honoured. Betrothal was as binding as marriage according to Jewish law. The groom could claim his bride at any time.
A girl of 12 years of age could be betrothed to her future husband. The time frame between betrothal and marriage was normally no more than a year. The girl had the same legal position as a wife. Divorce was needed to break a marriage betrothal.
We don’t know exactly what age Mary was. The Biblical text doesn’t tell us but clearly the facts fit. No wonder Mary’s reaction and her horror at the comment that she would have a child. In fact intercourse could take place in this period but it was not considered “kosher” by the Rabbis. To have an angel come at this stage and tell you that you would be with child was to throw a spanner in the works, put the cat among the pigeons and cause great chaos and cause the marriage preparation to grind to a halt. Highly irregular! What an inappropriate time to come and tell a young girl such things! Or was it?
Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances!Rick Godwin
Fear creates a form of spiritual amnesia. It dulls our miracle memory.Max Lucado
Success in marriage is not merely by FINDING the right mate, but also by BEING the right mate!Ian Vail
For you singles: you’re not single, you’re simply on reserve for someone who deserves you!Rick Godwin