Friday, March 23, 2018

The Marrying of Lehi’s Sons – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the marrying of Lehi’s sons under the understanding of ancient Judaic laws and customs. 
    Another very important point about Hebrew customs and one that explain why Ishmael was willing to go into the wilderness with Nephi and his brothers and follow them down to Lehi’s tent and commit himself to a nomadic existence. That custom was called lâqach, “taking a wife” לָקַח (Genesis 6:2; 11:29). When a girl was chosen to be the wife of a young man, the fiancé was expected to pay a mohar or sum of money to the bride’s father or even to the bride herself. This involved mattan מתן, meaning “to give” as in a “marriage gift” (Genesis 34:12) or “presents” (Proverbs 18:16), sometimes called mohar מֹ֫הַר, meaning “dowry,” “wedding money” or “bridal payment” (Exodus 22:17; 1 Samuel 18:25), the dowry provided a prospective wife by the groom.
The future Patriarch, Jacob, meets Rachel at the well. She was Jacob’s mother’s niece, daughter of her brother, Laban, and the future wife of Jacob and mother of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph

In ancient Israel, one of its functions was compensation to her family for loss of valuable services that she gave by tending flocks or working in the fields, another was to serve as a form of protection for the wife against the possibility of ill treatment by her husband and his family, with whom she was expected to reside. When the exchange entailed the provision of labor to the bride’s family, such as in the case of Jacob working for Leah (Genesis 29:17), and then longer for Rachel, it was known as “bride service” (Genesis 29:18).
    When sons in a Hebrew family were to marry, their wives were chosen by their parents. In choosing a wife for a son, as is still the custom in some places even today, particularly among Arabs in certain Bible lands; love and romance came second at best, especially to patriarchal desire or parental arrangement. In fact, all the specific arrangements for a Kiddushin (betrothal) were handled by the parents of the bride and groom (Gen 21:21; 24:2-5; 27:46).
    By New Testament times there were usually three steps in marriage among the Jews. 1) First, there was the engagement, which could be made even if the couple were only children. The match might be arranged by the parents themselves or by a professional go-between. Often the couple involved had never seen each other. This fact may astonish young people today, but marriage was looked upon as a very serious step and not as something to be left to human passion and hasty action;
2) Second, there was the betrothal. In this step the engagement would be ratified unless the girl was unwilling to accept it. But if she accepted it, the Jews regarded the betrothal as absolutely binding. For at least one year and sometimes much longer, the couple were regarded as man and wife but without the rights of marriage itself. Betrothal could be terminated only by divorce; and
3) Third, the marriage proper took place after the period of betrothal. This involved the groom preparing the Chuppah, or bridal chamber within his father’s house (or tent).
It was custom for the groom to show up to receive the bride at midnight, and it was necessary for the bride to have her oil lamp burning all the time in anticipation of this event, the “coming of the bridegroom.” To insure this, it was common for the groom to send a chaperone or servant to keep an eye on her, to insure that she would be cared for and watchful for the return of the groom. Thus we see in this practice the Lord’s parable of the ten virgins and their oil lamps.
    While, anciently romance as we depict it in the Western world, could be involved, it was not necessarily a factor in the marriage match (Genesis 29:20; Judges14:1-2; 1 Samuel 18:20), it was actually more about maintaining the tribal name and the land associated with the name. The reason was simple. The land of Israel had been apportioned among the tribes and then within each tribe further apportioned to the clans. In fact, For all Israelites God required that no marriage cause property to transfer from one tribe to another, as illustrated in the ruling given for the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:6-9).
    Marriage, then, often began with match-making, called shiddukhin or a "marriage proposal." The initial proposal could come from the prospective groom (chatan), but more often it came anciently from the father of the groom. Once an agreement was made between both fathers (of the groom and bride), the Kiddushin (Betrothal) was in effect. Since the word also meant "sanctification," from that point the woman belonged to the man. The word kiddushin comes from the same root word as kadosh ("holy"). Just as kodesh (holy things) are forbidden to all but those for whom they are designated, so too does this woman become forbidden to all men but to whom she has now been designated. Betrothal made the woman a legal wife and her status could only be changed by divorce or death. Betrothal was usually accomplished by the groom giving a coin or ring to the prospective bride and her acceptance of the token accomplished kiddushin. It should be noted, of course, that under Judaic law, the Ketubot (the actual marriage) would not take place without the consent of the bride (Genesis 24:58; 1 Corinthians 7:39).
    The betrothal generally occurred long before the actual marriage took place. Both fathers were interested at the early ages of their children to secure favorable marriages for them, especially fathers of sons, and such betrothals took place long before the children were of a marrying age.
    Prior to Moses a man would take a wife at will by obtaining her consent and then taking her into his tent or house and having intercourse in private. From that point on she was his wife (Genesis 25:1; 38:1-3; Exodus 2:1). With the introduction of kiddushin or betrothal, a man would acquire the bride of his choice in the presence of witnesses (Ruth 4:9-11). According to the Mishnah (Kidd. 1:1), a woman could be acquired in marriage in three ways: by money or its equivalent (Genesis 29:18; 34:12), by deed (Genesis 24:3-4; Judges 14:2), or by intercourse (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). A Ketubh, a contract or deed was almost always involved because marriage included a transfer of property.
    Consequently, in returning to Lehi and Ishmael, and understanding that Lehi’s two oldest daughters married Ishmael’s two sons as was written, according to Joseph Smith, in the lost 116 pages of the Book of Lehi (Journal of Discourses, Vol 23, p184; Improvement Era, September 1953, pp9-11), we can imagine that Lehi and Ishmael also contracted with one another for Lehi’s sons to marry Ishmael’s four youngest daughters, since the oldest was evidently too old for Lehi’s sons to be betrothed to, or perhaps there was some other reason that made her unsuitable for Laman or Lemuel as the oldest sons of Lehi, yet within an age for Zoram, whose age is not given, but was a trusted servant of Laban, believed to have been a near kinsman of Lehi’s wife, Sariah.
    The fact that Zoram married Ishmael’s oldest daughter (1 Nephi 16:7) might well suggest that the reason the older sons of Lehi had not yet married, though they were around that age, was that none had been betrothed to Ishmael’s oldest daughter, and it had long been the custom under Judaic Law and Hebrew custom for the younger daughter not to marry until the older one had been married, as is found in the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel.
Notice how quickly the two daughters of Ishmael attach themselves to Laman and Lemuel in their revolt against Nephi upon going into the wilderness with the family. As Nephi put it no sooner had they left Ishamel’s house that: “And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters” (1 Nephi 7:6, emphasis added). And note, too, that one of those daughters who did not rebel against Nephi in that early incident, also stood up for him when a second incident occurred moments later: “And it came to pass that they were angry with me again, and sought to lay hands upon me; but behold, one of the daughters of Ishmael, yea, and also her mother, and one of the sons of Ishmael, did plead with my brethren, insomuch that they did soften their hearts; and they did cease striving to take away my life” (1 Nephi 7:19, emphasis added).
    For some reason, explainable only by the fact that these daughters and Lehi’s sons had already been aligned in pairs, Ishmael’s daughters were almost immediately on the side of certain of Lehi’s sons. It should also be noted that not long after they reached Lehi’s tent near the Red Sea, and after several chapters of Lehi and Nephi preaching to Laman and Lemuel and Nephi describing his visions, we find the couples pairing off in marriage. Nephi states: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife” (1 Nephi 16:7, emphasis added).
    Of Nephi’s wife, it could be said that she was likely the youngest of Ishmael’s daughters, she suffered all things save death (1 Nephi 17:20) during the eight-year trek in the wilderness, she suffered along with the others, extreme hunger, thirst, fatigue, sickness, heartache, grief, loss and every other imaginable hardship, and in doing so became strong, like unto a man, and bore her journeying without murmuring (1 Nephi 17:1-2). Her one indiscretion was when she murmured along with the rest of her family at her father’s death and wanted to return to Jerusalem. She repented of this and never again complained, and when the Lord told Nephi to flee his older brothers who sought his life, she and their children went with Nephi and were among the righteous members of “those who went with him.”
    It is always such in ancient Hebrew writings that we know very little about the women of the time, and especially the wives and mothers of the great men described, but those women were obviously just as great and accomplished, and were every bit the equal of their husbands.
    According to Hugh Nibley, It should be noted that Nephi takes Ishmael, unlike his interaction with Zoram, completely for granted that he and his family would go with him down to his father’s tent, never explaining to him how he fits into the picture. Both the act of Lehi sending for Ishmael and he going into the wilderness with Nephi seems to be the most natural thing in the world, as does the marriage of his daughters with Lehi’s sons (Lehi in the Desert: The World of the Jaredites vol.5, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City,1988, p40). In addition, as Nibley concludes: “Since it has ever been the custom among the dessert people for a man to marry the daughter of his paternal uncle (bint ‘ammi), it is hard to avoid the impression that Lehi and Ishmael were related.”
    Thus, we can see why, assuming that these facts are correct, that Lehi’s sons were so happy about going back to get Ishmael and his family, why Nephi thought it a natural event, and why Ishmael readily agreed to follow Lehi. The two families were interminably connected, and where Lehi was, Ishmael knew he had to be for the contract of his daughters to be realized.

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