A Journey Unto Revelation’s End


An Eastern Wedding Feast

Symbols of Restitution in the Eastern Betrothal Contract and Wedding Ceremony*

By Steve Santini


Jesus referred to his coming as a wedding feast in several places in the gospels. To grasp his second coming one needs to understand the prophetic portrayal of the Eastern Wedding Feast.

A wedding in Israel was a joyous occasion that could last as long as a week. Community members prepared with prayerful expectancy, not only because their regard for the couple, but also because each wedding symbolized the cleansing of sin for the nation of Israel when they, as a body, were to be married to their coming Messiah. Each aspect of the formal preparations represented a part of their entire redemption. It was such a significant occasion for the community that some prepared by fasting, prayer, and washings. Before the final days of a feast a colorful processional would go through town displaying the bridal gifts with music, dancing, and singing. At times the veiled bride would be escorted through town by her attendants to the public baths for display and preparation. The washings for purification were also representative symbols of the cleansing to take place through the approaching consummation with her groom. These weddings had not only been the lifetime focus of the bride and groom but were the centerpieces of family life in the community.

For parents of both groom and bride in the Eastern culture the marriage plans included three distinct stages. The first was the arrangement. Parents could make the arrangements for the marriage of their children before the children were even born. It was exceptional for the bride and groom to meet face to face before the wedding feast. The Easterners believe that the love between a couple is set in motion during the final exchange of the ten pieces of silver during the wedding feast and that their love is more like a predestined divine union between a brother and sister. The dowry, to be paid by the father from the household accounts administered by the mother of the groom to the family of the bride, is also negotiated during this arrangement period. If a son reached marriageable age and had not yet been entered into an arrangement he could go to his father and ask him to find him a wife. Then the mother of the groom would consult her son and go with female relatives to the homes of kinsmen in search of a wife that would be appropriate for her son. She would meet with the mothers of eligible daughters. When she found a potential bride for her son and the daughter consented through her mother and the son expressed his approval to his mother, plans were made by the father of the groom for the formal betrothal agreement.

For the betrothal contract, the father of the groom selected a deputy to act as “the friend of the bridegroom”. The deputy and the father proceeded to the prospective bride’s home where the father of the bride had also selected a deputy or another daughter to act in his behalf. The details of the dowry and the character of both the soon to be bride and groom would be discussed. At the conclusion of the negotiations a contract was signed with copies for each party. It stipulated the portion of the dowry to be paid to seal the betrothal contract and the fulfilling portion to be given during the wedding feast. It also set the date of the wedding feast which was most often months or even years in the future. When this was completed, refreshments were served as each party congratulated the other and extolled the character of both the groom and bride.

During the period of betrothal the bride was considered to be under the instruction and care of her mother in law. When Rebecca was brought from her far off kinsmen after her betrothal to Isaac, through Abraham’s chief servant, she went into Sarah’s portion of the tent. The mother in law would oversee the preparation of her son’s future wife giving her advice and counsel, including family history and the nature of her son, in order to prepare the betrothed bride to enter into a new family.

The betrothal was considered sacred and legally binding. To break the agreement required a formal divorce and engendered public humiliation. When Mary was found to have conceived through the Holy Ghost during her betrothal, Joseph ignorantly wrestled with divorcing her for fear of public humiliation. When the angel of the Lord told him that that which was conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit, Joseph knew that their public tokens of virginity would not be a disgrace and took Mary as his wife.

The date for consummation at the end of the wedding feast was often set after consulting the local synagogue leaders concerning the positioning of the celestial bodies in relation to their Biblical significance and after determining the bride’s most fertile day of her monthly cycle. As the day approached for the wedding feast to commence at the parents of the groom’s home, both the father of the groom and the father of the bride would send out invitations and small oil lamps to be lit during the festive occasion. The festivities could include a day in which the bride fled into the surrounding hills requiring her groom to come in search for her and to return her for the completion of the festival.

On the day of the ceremony the veiled bride would proceed from her family’s house escorted by her attendants, singers, dancers, musicians and children. Above her would be a canopy with colored cloth streamers fluttering in whatever breeze there may have been. The procession would move slowly through town stopping at times to allow the dancers to perform to the music and singing. When they arrived at the groom’s parent’s house the bride would be escorted to her mother in law’s suite. Once the bride was settled the groom would arrive at the doorway. Then the groom would gently lift the veil of his bride for his first long awaited glimpse. The groom would then proclaim his satisfaction for all to hear, to which the “friend of the bridegroom” who had sealed the contract would be very pleased. The groom would return to his attendants and family where the festivities would continue separately with the “voice of the bridegroom” and “the voice of the bride” being heard by each other.

During the ceremony the groom would transfer the ten pieces of silver by allowing them to fall slowly from his cupped hands into those of his bride. These coins had small holes through which hooks were placed so that she could display this representation of love and trust in her hair on special occasions. Usually the coins were marked with the family crest of the wife’s husband. They were the only part of her dowry that she could not retain in the event of divorce. If she ever lost even one of these pieces of silver she would bring dishonor on her new extended family and her husband would be required to divorce her. Jesus used the determination of the wife who had lost one of these pieces of silver as a symbol of the determination of the feminine to retain her rightful place of honor as the wise administrator of the familial household.

The ceremony included a time in which the groom tied his bride’s girdle around her garment at the midriff. Even today, in the West, the term “tying the knot” is retained as a signification of commitment. The ceremony could include the sacrifice of a prized animal with its blood being poured out and the flesh roasted and eaten together with the last of the wine by both parties after the dedication ceremony had concluded.

That evening the darkness of the Eastern night would be pierced by repetitive cadenzas of a torchlight processional that included the wedding feast governor, attendants, musicians, singers, dancers and the bridegroom. The governor of the wedding feast would lead this procession as it circled the town a number of times stopping also, on occasion, for the dancers to perform. Under the light of the torches, an alternating variety of colorfully clad individual dancers would come forth towards the town to perform with flashing swords or staffs to the echoing blast of ram’s horns and the booming of drums. They would then recede into the contingent as it again moved forward in its circuit. This ancient eastern custom was based on the declarations of the nights’ cycling heavenly bodies.

At a point directly east of the town, as they circled, the procession would stop in a hush and then, after a moment’s pause that seemed an eternity, the governor, at the final trumpets blast, would lead the procession towards the groom’s parent’s home. When they came near, the groom would come forward through the procession as he unveiled. The bride would come forth from the doorway of the brilliantly lit in-law’s home with her attendants to meet her betrothed. In response the bride would gently lift her veil. After the first mature bonding gaze under the shining light of torches and oil lamps, the groom would affectionately lead the bride into an apartment the groom had been considerately preparing for them in his family’s home. Here the two would consummate their marriage. The next morning they would hang their blood-spotted bed sheets from the apartment window for all to witness the purity of their relationship.[i] The groom’s father would then provide the couple an elongated honeymoon within the household.  It was under this canopy of the father’s provision and within the tender sanctuary of their apartment that the union of the new couple was securely implanted.


In my Father’s house are many rooms: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:2-3


The importance of the symbolism within the Eastern betrothal contract and wedding feast is highlighted in Peter’s final epistle. The subject of Peter’s second epistle appears in the first chapter and in the sixteenth verse.


For we have not followed cunningly devise fables, when we made know unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ….


The English word coming is the word parousia in the Greek texts. Parousia is a state produced by at thing arriving along side another thing. It is not an instantaneous event. It includes the span of a particular condition.


Before this verse, in the same chapter and in verse eleven; there is an affirmation and a descriptive verb pertaining to this condition of the parousia.


For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.


In this verse the word entrance is the Greek word eisodos. Eisodos is composed of the word eis, which means motion unto a point with an emphasis on the motion, and hodos, which literally means a road and figuratively means a means of progress.


The Greek verb for ministered has a unique descriptive meaning that relates to the Eastern wedding feast. In the Greek texts it is the word epichoregeo. One meaning of the word is to furnish beside. This word, epichoregeo, is a compound word composed of two Greek words. Epi, the prefix, means over or down upon and choregeo, from its roots, means the leadership of circling singers and dancers.


This word becomes most revealing when one considers that on several occasions Jesus likened the entrance into the kingdom to an Eastern wedding feast and that one of the primary elements of the elongated feast, as stated, was a circuitous choral dance around the town by the groom and his party the night prior to the ending of the feast. Both Peter and Paul refer to this as the coming of a thief in the night as translated in the English language. They also refer to it as the apocalypse. The three words, thief, veil and apocalypse in the Greek language have a common family member. It is the Greek word kalupto, which means “to cover or hide.” Apocalypse literally means away with the veil. It is here that each bride and groom first fully gaze face to face at their respective beloved. It is here that the generative power for all ages and all mankind breaks again from the heart of the earth into righteousness’ infinite light. 


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Primary Symbols: The mother of the son or mother in law of the betrothed represents the Holy Spirit. The groom and his party represent Christ and the saints. The bride and her party represent the faithful in Christ Jesus.


Some Other Symbols: The dowry that seals the betrothal contract represents the token gift from the Holy Spirit; the circling troop of singers and dancers represent the cycling luminous bodies of the heavens through the zodiac along the elliptic of the sun; the ten pieces of silver represent the bride’s authority as a wife to functionally administer the familial household.



The Power of the Cross


Righteousness: The Synergism of Masculine and Feminine


A Hebrew Wedding


The Wedding Feast in Peter’s Final Epistle




About the Author and Some Reader Comments



[i]  In Matthew 1:19, after Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, yet before he knew that the pregnancy was by the Holy Ghost he contemplated breaking the betrothal agreement because he did not want to make her a public example as an adulterous woman. The public example would have been the unspotted bed sheet hung from their apartment window declaring to the community that Mary was not a virgin. After he was informed that the pregnancy was by the Holy Ghost he knew, that even so, the bed sheet would be spotted from the breaking of Mary’s hymen and it would be an example to the community of her virginity. Even so, the hyper religious Pharisees later accused Jesus of being born of fornication because he was born in significantly less than nine months after the wedding ceremony of Joseph and Mary.



Select Bibliography


Edersheim, A., The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980

Freeman, J.M., Manners and Customs of the Bible, Plainfield, Logos International, 1972

Pillai, K.C., Orientalisms of the Bible, Fairborn, Mor-Mac Publishing Co., Inc., 1974

Trumbull, H. C., Studies in Oriental Social Life, Philadelphia, John D. Wattles & Co., 1894 (Author’s note: Many elements of the of the betrothal and marriage in this chapter “A Wedding Feast” are based on H. Clay Trumbull’s chapter titled “Betrothals and Weddings in the East” in his fine work.)




Steven G. Santini, 2001