My dear fellow Proverbs 31 women in progress,
As an African woman, I am always astonished by the existence of some customs that still exist in Africa, despite the Christianisation of the society.
Though I live in France, I often heard about this issue and all the controversies raised by this issue.
Indeed, some say that paying a bride price is outdated and degrading because women are purchased like things.
Others say that in the contrary, paying the bride price is a way to show respect to the family and shows the high value of the bride.
Having said that, what does the Bible say about the bride price? Do we have examples of bride price in the Bible?
Well, when you read the three stories that I’ll share with you, you’ll be quite surprised as I was…
Is Bride Price explicitly addressed in the Bible?
Yes and no. The Lord has not commanded to pay the bride’s family to marry her, except in case of rape.
Indeed, in Deuteronomy 22:28-29, it is said:
If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.
Here the bride price is pre-determined by the law, as the price of the virginity of the young girl, since her virginity represents her honour.
Now that we have presented this, let’s examine three stories of bride price in the Bible
Classic Bride Price: Isaac & Rebekah
The story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah is told in Genesis 24. I’ve already addressed their marriage in another post here.
Abraham’s servant offered jewelry and precious clothing to Rebekah. But it is said that he also gave precious gifts to Rebekah’s mother and brother, Laban. We’ll talk about Laban later for our second marriage.
We have the classic bride price, with expensive presents to the family.
Unusual Bride Price: Jacob & Rachel
The story is told in Genesis 29. This time, Jacob wants to marry Rachel, for which he had love at first sight.
Laban agreed to give Rachel’s hand in marriage but there was one problem: Jacob didn’t have money to buy expensive gifts to his uncle and future father-in-law.
To circumvent this situation, Laban found a compromise: Jacob would work seven days to pay his bride price. Jacob willingly complied.
However, when the time of marriage came, Jacob was given Leah instead, because of the traditions of the country which prevented from giving away the younger daughter before the elder daughter.
So, Jacob had to work seven more years to pay his bride price for Rachel. Total: 14 years of work. As for Leah, she was married for nothing.
Extreme Bride Price: David & Mikal
The story of David and Mikal can be found in 1 Samuel 18.
After defeating Goliath, David became more and more popular, and provoked the jealousy of King Saul.
The King wanted to ensnare David and eliminate him. So, he offered his elder daughter’s hand in marriage, but she finally married someone else.
Afterwards, it was reported to King Saul that his daughter Mikal fell madly in love with David. So he sent his servants to tell David that he was willing to give his daughter’s hand in marriage.
David was sensitive to the interest the King had in him. However, he felt that he couldn’t marry a princess because he came from a humble family and wasn’t rich.
King Saul told him that he didn’t want expensive gift from him. But, as a bride price, he wanted one hundred foreskins of Philistine men, to get revenge of his enemies.
David was courageous and the Lord was with him. So, he rose, killed two hundred Philistine men (overachiever!) and brought their foreskins to the King.
Just imagine the picture of King Saul and his servants counting two hundred private parts that were cut off from corpses…
This is the weirdest bride price ever… but I guess the Bible also has this kind of interesting facts!
Finally, we can say that if we exclude the case of the raped virgin, there is no explicit commandment from God to pay a bride price to her family.
However, we can also say that it was probably a cultural norm that was widely observed; so it’s not prohibited either.
And for my African sisters, if your future husband complains about the bride price or says that it is too expensive, just kindly remind him that he does not have to cut off private parts like King David!
Well, that’s all for today! What do you think of bride price in the Bible?
Please share your point of view in the comments below!
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God bless you all!