Betroth (properly אָרִשׁ, arash', μνηστεύομαι). A man and woman were betrothed or espoused, each to the other, when they were engaged to be married. SEE ESPOUSE. Among the Hebrews this relation was usually determined by the parents or brothers, without consulting the parties until they came to be betrothed. The engagement took place very early, as is still the case in Oriental countries, though it was not consummated by actual marriage until the spouse was at least twelve years of age. The betrothing was performed a twelvemonth or more before the marriage, either in writing, or by a piece of silver given to the espoused before witnesses, as a pledge of their mutual engagements. Sometimes a regular contract was made, in which the bridegroom always bound himself to give a certain sum as a portion to his bride. From the time of espousal, however, the woman was considered as the lawful wife of the man to whom she was betrothed: the engagement could not be ended by the man without a bill of divorce; nor could she be unfaithful without being considered an adulteress. Thus Mary, after she was betrothed to Joseph, might, according to the rigor of the law, have been punished if the angel of the Lord had not acquainted Joseph with the mystery of the incarnation (De 28:30; Jg 14:2,8; Mt 1:18-21). SEE MARRIAGE.