frequently used in the ordinary sense (Isa 49:18; 61:10, etc.). The relation between Christ and his church is set forth under the figure of that between a bridegroom and bride (Joh 3:29). The church is called "the bride" (Re 21:9; 22:17). Compare parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13).
A woman about to be married, or newly married, used symbolically for those who are closely associated with Jehovah or the Lord Jesus. Though the word does not occur in the Canticles, nearly the whole of that book is composed of discourses between a bridegroom and a bride
BRIDE and BRIDEGROOM. Under this head an account of the marriage customs of ancient times, the knowledge of which is so necessary to explain many allusions in the Holy Scriptures, may be properly introduced. Among the Jews, the state of marriage was, from the remotest periods of their history, reckoned so honourable, that the person who neglected or declined to enter into it without a good reason, was thought to be guilty of a great crime. Such a mode of thinking was not confined to them; in several of the Grecian states, marriage was held in equal respect. The Jews did not allow marriageable persons to enter into that honourable state without restriction; the high priest was forbidden by law to marry a widow; and the priests of every rank, to take a harlot to wife, a profane woman, or one put away from her husband. To prevent the alienation of inheritances, an heiress could not marry but into her own tribe. The whole people of Israel, being a holy nation, separated from all the earth to the service of the true God, and to be the depositaries of his law, were forbidden to contract matrimonial alliances with the idolatrous nations in their vicinity. The marriage engagement of a minor, without the knowledge and consent of the parents, was of no force; so sacred was the parental authority held among that people. These customs appear to have been derived from a very remote antiquity; for when Eliezer of Damascus went to Mesopotamia to take a wife from thence unto his master's son, he disclosed the motives of his journey to the father and brother of Rebecca; and Hamor applied to Jacob and his sons, for their consent to the union of Dinah with his son Shechem. Samson also consulted his parents about his marriage; and entreated them to get for him the object of his choice. Marriage contracts seem to have been made in the primitive ages with little ceremony. The suitor himself, or his father, sent a messenger to the father of the woman, to ask her in marriage. In the remote ages of antiquity, women were literally purchased by their husbands; and the presents made to their parents or other relations were called their dowry. Thus, we find Shechem bargaining with Jacob and his sons for Dinah: "Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me, I will give: ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me; but give me the damsel to wife," Ge 34:2. The practice still continues in the country of Shechem; for when a young Arab wishes to marry, he must purchase his wife; and for this reason, fathers, among the Arabs, are never more happy than when they have many daughters. They are reckoned the principal riches of a house. An Arabian suitor will offer fifty sheep, six camels, or a dozen of cows: if he be not rich enough to make such offers, he proposes to give a mare or a colt, considering in the offer the merit of the young woman, the rank of her family, and his own circumstances. In the primitive times of Greece, a well-educated lady was valued at four oxen. When they are agreed on both sides, the contract is drawn up by him that acts as cadi or judge among these Arabs. In some parts of the east, a measure of corn is formally mentioned in contracts for their concubines, or temporary wives, beside the sum of money which is stipulated by way of dowry. This custom is probably as ancient as concubinage, with which it is connected; and if so, it will perhaps account for the Prophet Hosea's purchasing a wife of this kind, for fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and a half homer of barley. When the intended husband was not able to give a dowry, he offered an equivalent. The patriarch Jacob, who came to Laban with only his staff, offered to serve him seven years for Rachel: a proposal which Laban accepted. This custom has descended to modern times; for in Cabul the young men who are unable to advance the required dowry "live with their future father-in-law, and earn their bride by their services, without ever seeing the object of their wishes." The contract of marriage was made in the house of the woman's father, before the elders and governors of the city or district. The espousals by money, or a written instrument, were performed by the man and woman under a tent or canopy erected for that purpose. Into this chamber the bridegroom was accustomed to go with his bride, that he might talk with her more familiarly; which was considered as a ceremony of confirmation to the wedlock. While he was there, no person was allowed to enter: his friends and attendants waited for him at the door, with torches and lamps in their hands; and when he came out, he was received by all that were present with great joy and acclamation. To this ancient custom, the Psalmist alludes in his magnificent description of the heavens: "In them he set a tabernacle for the sun; which, as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoices as a strong man to run a race," Ps 19:4. A Jewish virgin legally betrothed was considered as a lawful wife; and, by consequence, could not be put away without a bill of divorce. And if she proved unfaithful to her betrothed husband, she was punished as an adulteress; and her seducer incurred the same punishment as if he had polluted the wife of his neighbour. This is the reason that the angel addressed Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary, in these terms: "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." The Evangelist Luke gives her the same title: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee unto Bethlehem, to be taxed, with Mary his espoused wife," Lu 2:4-5.
2. Ten or twelve months commonly intervened between the ceremony of espousals and the marriage: during this interval, the espoused wife continued with her parents, that she might provide herself with nuptial ornaments suitable to her station. This custom serves to explain a circumstance in Samson's marriage, which is involved in some obscurity. "He went down," says the historian, "and talked with the woman," (whom he had seen at Timnath,) "and she pleased him well," Jg 14:7, &c. These words seem to refer to the ceremony of espousals; the following, to the subsequent marriage: "And after a time he returned to take her," Jg 14:8. Hence a considerable time intervened between the espousals and their actual union. From the time of the espousals, the bridegroom was at liberty to visit his espoused wife in the house of her father; yet neither of the parties left their own abode during eight days before the marriage; but persons of the same age visited the bridegroom, and made merry with him. These circumstances are distinctly marked in the account which the sacred historian has given us of Samson's marriage: "So his father went down unto the woman, and made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. And it came to pass when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him," Jg 14:10. These companions were the children of the bride chamber, of whom our Lord speaks: "Can the children of the bride chamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" Mt 19:15. The marriage ceremony was commonly performed in a garden, or in the open air; the bride was placed under a canopy, supported by four youths, and adorned with jewels according to the rank of the married persons; all the company crying out with joyful acclamations, "Blessed be he that cometh!" It was anciently the custom, at the conclusion of the ceremony, for the father and mother and kindred of the woman, to pray for a blessing upon the parties. Bethuel and Laban, and the other members of their family, pronounced a solemn benediction upon Rebecca before her departure: "And they blessed Rebecca, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions; and let thy seed possess the gate of those that hate them," Ge 24:60. And in times long posterior to the age of Isaac, when Ruth, the Moabitess, was espoused to Boaz, "all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses: the Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel, and like Leah, which two did build the