I’ve been meaning to review this wonderful book for the last few weeks since I first read it. But I’m glad I waited because I’ve been able to ponder it and reflect on just how important the book really is. Have you ever been puzzled by the references in the scriptures to the wedding feast, the marriage covenant, the significance of the marriage ceremony or the parable of the ten virgins?
You’re not alone. Even though I have been a student of the scriptures all my life, I always said to myself, “Someday I’ll understand why the Lord would have one of his prophets marry a harlot. But for the life of me, it seems an awful mean trick to play on a man, knowing that she would leave him and go after her former lovers.” Well, that day has come. I now understand Hosea.
The Bride Waits Faithfully
The Lord desires to have a sacred and deeply spiritual bond with us, similar to the bond that exists between two very close people such as a husband and wife. He does not desire to be an unknown or distant God. He wants our relationship to be based on experiences that are closely shared, building a personal and intimate association. We are the bride. He is the bridegroom.
Like Hosea’s bride, we have played the harlot. We have all gone astray seeking after the ways of the world, when we should have been faithful as we promised when we entered into the wedding contract through baptism. In ancient Israel, after entering into the marriage contract, it was now time for the bridegroom to go and build a home for his bride. She waits for his sudden return.
Bride Price Paid with Blood
Understanding ancient Jewish marriage and family customs will help us understand the Savior. The people he taught were Jews. They understood the significance of why the bridegroom had to go away after negotiating for the bride, paying the bride price and entering into the contract. The bridesmaids, light, outer darkness, the father’s house and the closed door were all clear to them.
For us, it’s not so clear. That’s why Donna Nielsen’s book, Beloved Bridegroom is so essential to really understand the events that will take place when the Savior returns. He came and paid for us in the meridian of time with the price of His blood. He loves us and is beloved by those who know and understood what He did for us. It is now time for the Bridegroom to claim his bride.
The Father Determines the Time
While the bridegroom was away building the wedding chamber or “little mansion” for their honeymoon, if he had to communicate with the bride, he did so through the “friend of the bridegroom.” That’s interesting to ponder today. Who is the friend of the bridegroom that the Lord is using to carry messages to his bride? It seems to me that prophets fulfill this role.
The new home was built under the direct personal supervision of the groom’s father. The father wanted everything regarding the bride’s new home to be as beautiful and perfect as it could be. The father was the sole judge of when the preparations were complete. Only when the father determined everything was ready did he gave permission for the son to claim his bride.
Preparation for the Wedding
There is much work to be done before the bridegroom returns. Although she doesn’t know the exact date and time, the bride knows she must be prepared for the exciting day. One of those areas of preparation was the ritual immersion at a mikvah, a bath drawn from natural or living waters. It had to be large enough to immerse oneself completely in preparation for holiness.
From the time of the bridegroom’s departure until he returned for her a year or so later, the bride placed a lamp in her window and kept it continually burning every night. It was a token of her faithfulness, and she lived for the day when her beloved would return for her. The focus of her life during this time revolved around the thoughts of her future happiness with her new husband.
The Double Invitation
When the “wedding house” was finished, the father finally gave the long-awaited permission. The groom called and gathered his friends and the Father sent servants with a second wedding announcement. The first invitation or calling had been sent when the betrothal began. The initial acceptance implied a firm commitment. The second invitation went to those who had committed.
In Jerusalem, if you planned to accept an invitation to attend a banquet, you made it known to others. No citizen of Jerusalem would attend a banquet without changing his buckle from the right to the left shoulder. This was so that another person should not extend to him an invitation that would be wasted. The guests who accepted the invitation were then duty-bound to appear.
The Bridegroom Cometh
It was now time for the wedding procession, a very noisy and joyful group consisting of the bridegroom, his servants, companions, and closest friends. They wound their way through the streets. The people of the city would gather and watch the wedding processions enter and depart through the special Gate of the Bridegroom. There was much singing, dancing and merriment.
The procession would usually come late at night. The Jewish people thought it romantic that the bridegroom would come suddenly, with an element of surprise. They knew the general week of his arrival, but never the exact day. When the procession nears the brides home, a messenger was sent ahead to give the shout, “The bridegroom cometh!” He would then arrive within a half hour.
The Bringing of the Lamp
The bride had only enough time to make a few final preparations. She gathered her already-packed honeymoon clothes and quickly dressed in her bridal gown. She had her traditional gift for the groom ready, a carefully prepared tallit or prayer shawl. Now came the final call, “The bridegroom cometh!” Immediately the group and the groom rushed in to find the bride.
After the father of the bride made sure he was the man with the contract, the father would stand aside and let the groom take the bride. The procession reversed course, lifting the bride up into a special chair and carrying her home. Four strong men were given the honor of carrying the bride, accompanied by torch-bearers. This was called “the bringing of the lamp,” meaning the bride.
Entering the New Home
The most important period of the marriage festivities was when the bride entered her new home. The bride and groom were sometimes crowned with real crowns or with garlands of roses, myrtle, or olive leaves. The parents uttered a traditional blessing upon the bride and groom and the guests repeated the expression of a wish for happiness and fruitfulness in their marriage.
After these blessings were recited, the bride and groom and all of the invited guests who carried their lights went in. The door was then shut and bolted because there was not enough room for all who would seek to enter. Even the invited guests who came late were left outside. To be late was unthinkable at such an important occasion and was considered a gross insult to the host.
Light is Our Contribution
There was great disappointment for those not prepared or on time for the marriage and wedding feast. This is why the parable of the ten virgins, or bridesmaids was so easily understood by the Jewish people. It was considered a religious duty to bring light when attending a wedding. Light was associated with marriage as a special metaphor for joy, lighting the father’s house for days.
To bring a lamp to the festivities was the responsibility of every guest and was considered his personal contribution to the joy of the event. The expression “outer darkness” takes on a new meaning when we realize those not admitted to the feast would suffer agony of being alone when everyone else was rejoicing together. How sad for the foolish virgins who were not prepared.
Conclusion and Recommendation
I could go on and on with things I have learned from this book. If you note the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see they are almost all rated five-star. Yes, it’s that good. At about 180 pages, I was able to read it in one day, basically an afternoon and evening. I simply could not put it down because I was filled with so many “ah-ha” moments as phrases took on new and real meaning.
My little review here only covered two chapters – four and five. There is so much more. I’ll include the table of contents below. I highly recommend this book. I give it five stars. It is more than just a good book. I believe it is imperative that we understand these things in order to be fully prepared for the events of the last days which are now upon us. The bridegroom cometh!
Table of Contents
Chapter One – Family Life in Israel
– Roles of men and women, religious training of children, and family loyalty
Chapter Two – The Marriage Proposal
– Finding a mate, fire, desirable personal qualities, negotiating the bride price
Chapter Three – The Bride’s Acceptance
– Ketubah, gift, ratify covenants, cup of wine, veil
Chapter Four – Preparing a Place
– Father’s supervision, bride’s preparations, double invitation, procession
Chapter Five – The Ten Bridesmaids
– Light, outer darkness, the father’s house, closing the door
Chapter Six – The Wedding Canopy
– Wedding garments, crown of glory, seven bridal blessings
Chapter Seven – Gardens and Fountains
– The sanctity of sexuality, scriptural euphemisms, spiritual views, wedding chamber
Chapter Eight – Food for Feasting
– Seven species, wedding song, party manners, etiquette
Chapter Nine – Song for the Bridegroom
– Prophetic principles, celebrating life stages, biblical prosperity, peace in the home
Chapter Ten – Spiritual Betrothal
– Christ paid the bride price, gift of the Sabbath, honoring his name
Chapter Eleven – Spiritual Preparation and Marriage
– The Comforter, Sabbath bride, cup of joy, knowing God, rending the veil
Chapter Twelve – The Imperative of Fruitfulness
– Bringing forth fruit, vessels, glory, holy places, brides in scripture