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Some further details, gathered almost at random, will give glimpses of Jewish home life and of current views. It was by a not uncommon, though irreverent, mode of witticism, that two forms of the same verb, sounding almost alike, were made to express opposite experiences of marriage. It was common to ask a newly- married husband: "Maza or Moze?"--"findeth" or "found"; the first expression occurring in Proverbs 18:22, the second in Ecclesiastes 7:26. A different sentiment is the following from the Talmud (Yeb. 62 b; Sanh. 76 b), the similarity of which to Ephesians 5:28 will be immediately recognised: "He that loveth his wife as his own body, honoreth her more than his own body, brings up his children in the right way, and leads them in it to full age--of him the Scripture saith: 'Thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace' (Job 5:24)." Of all qualities those most desired in woman were meekness, modesty, and shamefacedness. Indeed, brawling, gossip in the streets, and immodest behavior in public were sufficient grounds for divorce. Of course, Jewish women would never have attempted "teaching" in the synagogue, where they occupied a place separate from the men--for Rabbinical study, however valued for the male sex, was disapproved of in the case of women. Yet this direction of St. Paul (1 Tim 2:12): "I suffer not a woman to usurp authority over the man" findeth some kind of parallel in the Rabbinical saying: "Whoever allows himself to be ruled by his wife, shall call out, and no one will make answer to him."
It is on similar grounds that the Rabbis argue, that man must seek after woman, and not a woman after a man; only the reason which they assign for it sounds strange. Man, they say, was formed from the ground--woman from man's rib; hence, in trying to find a wife man only looks after what he had lost! This formation of man from soft clay, and of woman from a hard bone, also illustrated why man was so much more easily reconcilable than woman. Similarly, it was observed, that God had not formed woman out of the head, lest she should become proud; nor out of the eye, lest she should lust; nor out of the ear, lest she should be curious; nor out of the mouth, lest she should be talkative; nor out of the heart, lest she should be jealous; nor out of the hand, lest she should be covetous; nor out of the foot, lest she be a busybody; but out of the rib, which was always covered. Modesty was, therefore, a prime quality. It was no doubt chiefly in jealous regard for this, that women were interdicted engaging in Rabbinical studies; and a story is related to show how even the wisest of women, Beruria, was thereby brought to the brink of extreme danger. It is not so easy to explain why women were dispensed from all positive obligations (commands, but not prohibitions) that were not general in their bearing (Kidd. 1. 7,8), but fixed to certain periods of time (such as wearing the phylacteries, etc.), and from that of certain prayers, unless it be that woman was considered not her own mistress but subject to others, or else that husband and wife were regarded as one, so that his merits and prayers applied to her as well. Indeed, this view, at least so far as the meritorious nature of a man's engagement with the law is concerned, is expressly brought forward, and women are accordingly admonished to encourage their husbands in all such studies.
We can understand how, before the coming of the Messiah, marriage should have been looked upon as of religious obligation. Many passages of Scripture were at least quoted in support of this idea. Ordinarily, a young man was expected to enter the wedded state (according to Maimonides) at the age of sixteen or seventeen, while the age of twenty may be regarded as the utmost limit conceded, unless study so absorbed time and attention as to leave no leisure for the duties of married life. Still it was thought better even to neglect study than to remain single. Yet money cares on account of wife and children were dreaded. The same comparison is used in reference to them, which our Lord applies to quite a different "offence," that against the "little ones" (Luke 17:2). Such cares are called by the Rabbis, "a millstone round the neck" (Kidd. 29 b). In fact, the expression seems to have become proverbial, like so many others which are employed in the New Testament.
We read in the Gospel that, when the Virgin-mother "was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily" (Matt 1:18,19). The narrative implies a distinction between betrothal and marriage--Joseph being at the time betrothed, but not actually married to the Virgin- mother. Even in the Old Testament a distinction is made between betrothal and marriage. The former was marked by a bridal present (or Mohar, Gen 34:12; Exo 22:17; 1 Sam 18:25), with which the father, however, would in certain circumstances dispense. From the moment of her betrothal a woman was treated as if she were actually married. The union could not be dissolved, except by regular divorce; breach of faithfulness was regarded as adultery; and the property of the women became virtually that of her betrothed, unless he had expressly renounced it (Kidd. ix. 1). But even in that case he was her natural heir. It is impossible here to enter into the various legal details, as, for example, about property or money which might come to a woman after betrothal or marriage. The law adjudicated this to the husband, yet with many restrictions, and with infinite delicacy towards the woman, as if reluctant to put in force the rights of the stronger (Kidd. viii. 1, etc.). From the Mishnah (Bab. B. x. 4) we also learn that there were regular Shitre Erusin, or writings of betrothal, drawn up by the authorities (the costs being paid by the bridegroom). These stipulated the mutual obligations, the dowry, and all other points on which the parties had agreed. The Shitre Erusin were different from the regular Chethubah (literally, writing), or marriage contract, without which the Rabbis regarded a marriage as merely legalised concubinage (Cheth. v. 1). The Chethubah provided a settlement of at least two hundred denars for a maiden, and one hundred denars for a widow, while the priestly council at Jerusalem fixed four hundred denars for a priest's daughter. Of course these sums indicate only the legal minimum, and might be increased indefinitely at pleasure, though opinions differ whether any larger sums might be legally exacted, if matters did not go beyond betrothal. The form at present in use among the Jews sets forth, that the bridegroom weds his bride "according to the law of Moses and of Israel"; that he promises "to please, to honor, to nourish, and to care for her, as is the manner of the men of Israel," adding thereto the woman's consent, the document being signed by two witnesses. In all probability this was substantially the form in olden times. In Jerusalem and in Galilee--where it was said that men in their choice had regard to "a fair degree," while in the rest of Judaea they looked a good deal after money--widows had the right of residence in their husband's house secured to them.
On the other hand, a father was bound to provide a dowry (nedan, nedanjah) for his daughter conformable to her station in life; and a second daughter could claim a portion equal to that of her elder sister, or else one-tenth of all immovable property. In case of the father's death, the sons, who, according to Jewish law, were his sole heirs, were bound to maintain their sisters, even though this would have thrown them upon public charity, and to endow each with a tenth part of what had been left. The dowry, whether in money, property, or jewellery, was entered into the marriage contract, and really belonged to the wife, the husband being obliged to add to it one-half more, if it consisted of money or money's value; and if of jewellery, etc., to assign to her four-fifths of its value. In case of separation (not divorce) he was bound to allow her a proper aliment, and to re-admit her to his table and house on the Sabbath-eve. A wife was entitled to one-tenth of her dowry for pin-money. If a father gave away his daughter without any distinct statement about her dowry, he was bound to allow her at least fifty sus; and if it had been expressly stipulated that she was to have no dowry at all, it was delicately enjoined that the bridegroom should, before marriage, give her sufficient for the necessary outfit. An orphan was to receive a dowry of at least fifty sus from the parochial authorities. A husband could not oblige his wife to leave the Holy Land nor the city of Jerusalem, nor yet to change a town for a country residence, or vice versa, nor a good for a bad house. These are only a few of the provisions which show how carefully the law protected the interests of women. To enter into farther details would lead beyond our present object. All this was substantially settled at the betrothal, which, in Judaea at least, seems to have been celebrated by a feast. Only a bona fide breach of these arrangements, or wilful fraud, was deemed valid ground for dissolving the bond once formed. Otherwise, as already noted, a regular divorce was necessary.
According to Rabbinical law certain formalities were requisite to make a betrothal legally valid. These consisted either in handing to a woman, directly or through messengers, a piece of money, however small, or else a letter, * provided it were in each case expressly stated before witnesses, that the man thereby intended to espouse the woman as his wife.
* There was also a third mode of espousal--simply by cohabitation, but this was very strongly disapproved by the Rabbis.
The marriage followed after a longer or shorter interval, the limits of which, however, were fixed by law. The ceremony itself consisted in leading the bride into the house of the bridegroom, with certain formalities, mostly dating from very ancient times. Marriage with a maiden was commonly celebrated on a Wednesday afternoon, which allowed the first days of the week for preparation, and enabled the husband, if he had a charge to prefer against the previous chastity of his bride, to make immediate complaint before the local Sanhedrim, which sat every Thursday. On the other hand, the marriage of a widow was celebrated on Thursday afternoon, which left three days of the week for "rejoicing with her." This circumstance enables us, with some certainty, to arrange the date of the events which preceded the marriage in Cana. Inferring from the accompanying festivities that it was the marriage of a maiden, and therefore took place on a Wednesday, we have the following succession of events:--On Thursday (beginning as every Jewish day with the previous evenint), testimony of the Baptist to the Sanhedrim-deputation from Jerusalem. On Friday (John 1:29), "John seeth Jesus coming unto him," and significantly preacheth the first sermon about "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." On Saturday (v 35), John's second sermon on the same text; the consequent conversion of St. John and St. Andrew, and the calling of St. Peter. On Sunday (v 43), our Lord Himself preacheth His first Messianic sermon, and calls Philip and Nathanael. On "the third day" after it, that is, on Wednesday, was the marriage in Cana of Galilee. The significance of these dates, when compared with those in the week of our Lord's Passion, will be sufficiently evident.
But this is not all that may be learned from the account of the marriage in Cana. Of course, there was a "marriage-feast," as on all these occasions. For this reason, marriages were not celebrated either on the Sabbath, or on the day before or after it, lest the Sabbath-rest should be endangered. Nor was it lawful to wed on any of the three annual festivals, in order, as the Rabbis put it, "not to mingle one joy (that of the marriage) with another (that of the festival)." As it was deemed a religious duty to give pleasure to the newly-married couple, the merriment at times became greater than the more strict Rabbis approved. Accordingly, it is said of one, that to produce gravity he broke a vase worth about 25 pounds; of another, that at his son's wedding he broke a costly glass; and of a third, that being asked to sin, he exclaimed, Woe to us, for we must all die! For, as it is added (Ber. 31 a): "It is forbidden to man, that his mouth be filled with laughter in this world (dispensation), as it is written, 'Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.' When is that to be? At the time when 'they shall sing among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.'"