Wedlock a word that occurs but once in the A.V. (in the phrase "break wedlock," נָאִŠ, Eze 16:38, to commit adultery, as elsewhere rendered); but the relation is very often referred to both in its literal and figurative (spiritual) sense in the Scriptures. The term properly designates the state of lawful matrimony as distinguished from all illicit or irregular connection of the sexes. As this is a subject having extensive social relations, we give here a treatment of the several topics embraced under it, presenting some additional points to those given under previous articles, and supplementing the whole from various sources, especially the prescriptions and regulations of the Talmud.
I. The Married State. — This among the Hebrews was contracted by the fathers of the two parties (Ge 34:4; Ge 38:6; 1Ki 2:17; comp. Homer, Iliad, 9:394; 19:291; Arvieunx, Voy. 3:254 a), and only in their absence by the mothers (Ge 21:21; by daughters with the consent of their full brothers, 24:50; 34:10), so that the bride (כִּלָּה) and the bridegroom (חָתָן) often did not even see each other previously (as is still customary, at least with the inhabitants of cities in the East; see Russell, Aleppo, 1:414; Burckhardt, Proverbs page 178; Descr. de l'Egypte, 18:84; but comp. Jg 14:1 sq.; Song 8:1 sq.; Tob. 7:10). Indeed, the parents sought the wife for their son (Ge 34:4,8; Ge 38:6; Jg 14:1; comp. Ruppell, Abyss. 2:49; yet see Tob. 7:10), and a formal price (מֹהִר, dowry) had to be stipulated (Ge 29:15 sq., 34:12; Ex 22; Ex 15 sq.; 1Sa 18:25; Ho 3:2), a rule which prevailed likewise with the ancient Greeks (Homer, Odyss. 8:318 sq.; Aristotle, Polit. 2:8; Pausan. 3:12, 2), Germans (Tacitus, Germ. c. 8; see Strodtmann, Deutsch. Alterth. page 309 sq.), Babylonians (Herod. 1:196), and Assyrians (AElian, V.H. 4:1; Strabo, 16:745), as still among the Arabians (Arvieux, 3:21, 254; Buckingham, 2: 129; Joliffe, Trav. page 304), Kurds (Niebuhr, Reis. 2:420), Persians (Olear. Voy. page 318), and other Asiatics and Africans (Ruppell, Abyss; 2:49; comp. B. Michaelis in Pott's Syllog. 2:81). This sum was naturally very various (Ge 34:12; 1Sa 18:23; Ho 3:2, etc.), but in one case (De 22:29) was to be fifty shekels as a minimum (see, on the other hand, Ho 3:2). The practice of the modern Egyptians illustrates this; for with them the dowry, though its amount differs according to the wealth of the suitor, is still graduated according to the state of the bride. A certain portion only of the dowry is paid down, the rest being held in reserve (Lane, 1:211). Among the modern Jews also the amount of the dowry varies with the. state of the bride, according to a fixed scale (Picart, 1:240). SEE DOWRY. Different from this was the present (מִתָּן) which the wooer bestowed beforehand (Ge 24:53; Ge 34:12; Gr. προϊvξ). In some cases, where the suitor was poor or a particular task was exacted, the daughter was earned (Ge 29:20,27; Jos 15:16; Jg 1:13; 1Sa 18:24-sq.; 2Sa 3:14; comp. Pausan. 3: 12, 2; Herod. 6:127; Diod. Sic. 4:42, 64; Burckhardt, 1:465), and sometimes a dowry accompanied the bride (1Ki 9:16; comp. Jos 15:18 sq.; Tob. 8:23). But it is a disgrace, according to Oriental ideas, for a maiden to make the match herself (Isa 4:1). The Talmudists specify three modes by which marriage might be effected, viz., money, marriage contract, and consummation (Kiddush. 1:1). The matrimonial agreement between the parents was verbal in the presence of witnesses, but occasionally ratified by an oath (Mal 2:14); it is only after the Exile (Tob. 7:15) that we meet with a written marriage contract (Talmud, כּתוּבָה, lit. a writing; see the Mishnic tract entitled Kethuboth). The technical term of the Talmudists for the dowry which the wife brought to her husband, answering to the dos of the Latins, was נדוניא. The technical term used by the Talmudists for betrothing was kiddmshin (קַדּוּשַׁין), derived from קָדִשׁ, "to set apart." There is a treatise in the Mishna so entitled, in which various questions of casuistry of slight interest to us are discussed. As to the age of the parties, nothing is specified in the Mosaic law; but later enactments require full twelve years for the girl and thirteen for the boy (puberty in both sexes being much earlier in warm climates, so that females of ten or eleven years often become mothers, and lads but little older fathers; see Ruippell, Nub. page 42; Abyss. 1:201; 2:50, 57; Harmer, Obs. 2:312), though the usual age was about eighteen (Mishna, Pirke Aboth, 5:21; Carpzov in the Brem. Biblioth. 2:907 sq.). SEE BETROTHAL.
The Mosaic law permitted several wives to one man, as is universally customary in the East; yet before the Exile this practice seems to have been mostly confined to princes and important personages. SEE POLYGAMY. Second marriages, especially on the woman's part, were held in disesteem (see Rau, De Odio Secund. Nuptiarum [Lips. 1803]), at least in later times (Lu 2:36 sq.; 1Co 7:8; 1Ti 1:9), if we may judge from the priestly (Josephus, Life, § 75, 76) and the apostolical regulations (1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:6), as generally among the Greeks and Romans (Diod. Sic. 13:12; Virgil, AEn. 4:23 sq.; Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. c. 105; Val. Max. 2:2, 34 Josephus, Ant. 18:6, 6). The celibacy of the Essenes (Philo, 2:482, 633; Josephus, Ant. 18:1, 5; War, 2:8, 2; Pliny, 5:15) was a disreputable asceticism (1Ti 4:3). SEE MATRIMONY.
II. The Wedding Itself. — In this the most observable point is that there were no definite religious ceremonies connected with it. It is worthy of note that there is no term in the Hebrew language to express the ceremony of marriage. The substantive chatunnah (חֲתֻגָּה) occurs but once, and then in. connection with the day (Song 3:11). The word "wedding" does not occur at all in the A.V. of the Old Test. It is probable, however, that some formal ratification of the espousal with an oath took place, as implied in some allusions to marriage (Eze 16:8; Mal 2:14), particularly in the expression "the covenant of her God" (Pr 2:17), as applied to the marriage bond. and that a blessing was pronounced (Ge 24:60; Ru 4:11-12) sometimes by the parents (Tob. 7:13). But the essence of the marriage ceremony consisted in the removal of the bride from her father's house to that of the bridegroom or his father. There seems, indeed, to be a literal truth in the Hebrew expression — "to take" a wife (Nu 12:1; 1Ch 2:21), for the ceremony appears to have mainly consisted in the taking. Among the modern Arabs the same custom prevails, the capture and removal of the bride being effected with a considerable show of violence (Burckhardt, Notes, 1:108). The bridegroom prepared himself for the occasion by putting on a festive dress, and especially by placing on his head the handsome turban described by the term peer (Isa 61:10; A.V. "ornaments"), and a nuptial crown or garland (Song 3:11); he was redolent of myrrh and frankincense and "all powders of the merchant" (verse 6). The bridegroom's crown was made of various materials (gold or silver, roses, myrtle or olive), according to his circumstances (Selden, Ux. Ebr. 2:15). The use of the crown at marriages was familiar both to the Greeks and Romans. The bride prepared herself for the ceremony by taking a bath, generally on the day preceding the wedding. This was probably in ancient, as in modern, times a formal proceeding, accompanied with considerable pomp (Picart, 1:240; Lane, 1:217). The notices of it in the Bible are so few as to have escaped general observation (Ru 3:3; Eze 23:40; Eph 5:26-27); but the passages cited establish the antiquity of the custom, and the expressions in the last ("having purified her by the laver of water." "not having spot") have evident reference to it. A similar custom prevailed among the Greeks (Smith, Dict. of Class. Ant. s.v. "Balneae"). The distinctive feature of the bride's attire was the tsaiph (צָעַיŠ) or " veil" — a light robe of ample dimensions, which covered not only the face, but the whole person (Ge 24:65; comp. 38:14, 15). This was regarded as the symbol of her submission to her husband, and hence in 1Co 11:10 the veil is apparently described under the term, "authority." The use of the veil was not peculiar to the Hebrews. It was customary among the Greeks and Romans; and among the latter it gave rise to the expression nubo, lit. "to veil," and hence to our word " nuptial." It is still used by the Jews (Picart, 1:241). The modern Egyptians envelop the bride in an ample shawl, which perhaps more than anything else resembles the Hebrew tsaiph (Lane, 1:220). She also wore a peculiar girdle, named kishshmurim (קַשׁוּרַים; A.V. the "attire"), which no bride could forget (Jer 2:32). The girdle was an important article of the bride's dress among the Romans, and gave rise to the expression solvere zonam. Her head was crowned with a chaplet, which was again so distinctive of the bride that the Hebrew term kalldh (כִּלָּה, "bride") originated from it. The bride's crown was either of gold or gilded. The use of it was interdicted after the destruction of the second Temple, as a token of humiliation (Selden, Ux. Ebr. 2:15). If the bride were a virgin, she wore her hair flowing (Kethub. 2:1). Her robes were white (Re 19:8), and sometimes embroidered with gold- thread (Ps 45:13-14), and covered with perfumes (verse 8): she was further decked out with jewels, (Isa 49:18; Isa 61:10; Re 21:2). When the fixed hour arrived, which was generally late in the evening, the bridegroom set forth from his house, attended by his groomsmen, termed in Hebrew mereim (מֵרֵעַים; A.V. "companions," Jg 14:11), and in Greek υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος (A.V. "children of the bride-chamber," Mt 9:15). Winer ( Realw. s.v. "Hochzeit") identifies the "children of the bride-chamber" with the shoshbenim (שׁוֹשׁבֵּנַים) of the Talmudists. But the former were the attendants on the bridegroom alone, while the shoshbeanim were two persons selected on the day of the marriage to represent the interests of bride and bridegroom, apparently with a special view to any possible litigation that might subsequently arise on the subject noticed in De 22:15-21 (Selden, Ux. Ebr. 2:16). These attendants were preceded by a band of musicians or singers (Ge 31:27; Jer 7:34; Jer 9:1 Macc.
9:39), and accompanied by persons bearing flambeaus (2 Esdr. 10:2; Mt 25:7; comp. Jer 25:10; Re 18:23, "the light of a candle"). With these flambeaus we may compare the δᾶ'/δες νυμφικαί of the Greeks (Aristoph. Pax, 1317). The lamps described in Mt 25:7 would be small hand-lamps. .Without them none could join the procession (Trench, Parables, page 57, note). SEE LANTERN. Having reached the house of the bride, who with her maidens anxiously expected his arrival (Mt 25:6), he conducted the whole party back to his own or his father's house. The bride was said to "go to" (בּוֹא אֵל) the house of her husband (Jos 15:18; Jg 1:14) — an expression which is worthy of notice, inasmuch as it has not been rightly understood in Da 11:6, where "they that brought her" is an expression for husband. The bringing home of the bride was regarded in the later days of the Roman empire as one of the most important parts of the marriage ceremony (Bingham, Christ. Ant. book 22, ch. 4:§ 7).. This procession was made with every demonstration of gladness (Ps 45:15). From the joyous sounds used on these occasions the term haldl (הָלִל) is applied in the sense of marrying in Ps 78:63 (A.V. "their maidens were not given to marriage," lit. "were not praised," as in the margin). This sense appears preferable to that of the Sept., οὐκ ἐπένθησαν, which is adopted by Gesenius (Thesaur. page 596). The noise in the streets attendant on an Oriental wedding is excessive, and enables us to understand the allusions in Jeremiah to the "voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride." On their way back they were joined by a party of maidens, friends of the bride and bridegroom, who were in waiting to catch the procession as it passed (Mt 25:6; comp. Trench, Parables, page 244, note). The inhabitants of the place pressed out into the streets to watch the procession (Song 3:11). At the house a feast was prepared, to which all the friends and neighbors were invited (Ge 29:22; Mt 22:1-10; Lu 14:8; Joh 2:2), and the festivities were protracted for seven or even fourteen days (Jg 14:12; Tob. 8:19). The feast was regarded as so essential a part of the marriage ceremony that ποιεῖν γάμον acquired the specific meaning "to celebrate the marriage feast" (Sept. at Ge 29:22; Es 2:18; Tob. 8:19; 1 Macc. 9:37; 10:58; Mt 22:4; Mt 25:10; Lu 14:8), and sometimes to celebrate any feast (Es 9:22). The guests were provided by the host with fitting robes (Mt 22:11; comp. Trench, Parables, page 230), and the feast was enlivened with riddles (Jg 14:12) and other amusements. The bridegroom now entered into direct communication with the bride, and the joy of the friend was "fulfilled" at hearing the voice of the bridegroom (Joh 3:29) conversing with her, which he regarded as a satisfactory testimony of the success of his share in the work. In the case of a virgin, parched corn was distributed among the guests (Kethub. 2:1), the significance of which is not apparent; the custom bears some resemblance to the distribution of the mustaceum (Juvenal, 6:202) among the guests at a Roman wedding. The modern Jews have a custom of shattering glasses or vessels by dashing them to the ground (Picart, 1:240). The last act in the ceremonial was the conducting of the bride to the bridal chamber, cheder (חֶדֶר, Jg 15:1; Joe 2:16), where a canopy, named chuppah (חֻפָּה), was prepared (Ps 19:5; Joe 2:16). The term occurs in the Mishna (Kethub. 4:5), and is explained by some of the Jewish commentators to have been a bower of roses and myrtles. The term was also applied to the canopy under which the nuptial benediction was pronounced, or to the robe spread over the heads of the bride and bridegroom (Selden, Ux. Ebr. 2:15). The bride was still completely veiled, so that the deception practiced on Jacob (Ge 29:23) was very possible. If proof could be subsequently adduced that the bride had not preserved her maiden purity, the case was investigated; and if she was convicted, she was stoned to death before her father's house (De 22:13-21). A newly married man was exempt from military service, or from any public business which might draw him away from his home, for the space of a year (De 24:5): a similar privilege was granted to him who was betrothed (De 20:7). SEE MARRIAGE.
III. Violation of Marriage Vows. — Unfaithfulness on the part of the wife was punished with death (Le 20:10; De 22:22; Eze 16:38,40; Sus. 45; comp. Josephus, Apion. 2:24; Ant. 4:8, 23) by stoning (De 22:4; Eze 16:40), and not by strangulation (as the Talmudists maintain, Mishna, Sanhedr. 11:1, 6). The legislation of other nations was milder (Tacitus, Germ. 19; Elian, V.H. 11:6; 12:12; 13:24; yet see Arnob. 4:23). The Roman law (Lex Julia de Adulteis Coei ocendis) only prescribed confiscation of part of the culprit's goods, and public infamy, as the extreme penalty. Constantine first made adultery a capital crime (see Dick, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1832, volume 4; Rein, Rom. Criminalrecht, page 839). The ordeal of the bitter waters (Nu 5:14 sq.) is detailed in the Mishna (Sota, 2:2), and has its parallel in other nations (AElian, Anim. 1:57; Achil. Tat. 8:3; see Groddeck, in Ugolino, Thesaur. 30; Otho, Lex. Rabb. page 52). SEE ADULTERY.
IV. Dissolution of the Marriage Tie. — Separation of a man from his wife was legitimate (De 24:1), except in two cases (De 22:19,29), when he found reason (עֶרוִת דּבָר, a phrase that led to much Talmudical casuistry); but must be done by a regular certificate of dismissal (סֵפֶר כּרַיתוּת, Isaiah , 1; Jer 3:8; Talmudic גַּיטָה or גֵּט; βιβλίον ἀποστασίου, Mt 19:7; Mr 10:4; or ἀποστάσιον simply, Mt 5:31; comp. repudium, Suet. Calig. § 36). The subject is treated at great length in the Talmud (tract Gittin), and by Selden (Ux. Hebr.) and Buxtorf (Sponsal. et Divort.). SEE DIVORCE.
Wednesday is a day often marked by special religious exercises, being numbered among the Rogation and Ember days in the Church of England. At a very early period in the history of the Christian Church, the custom of meeting for divine worship on Wednesdays and Fridays was adopted. Both days were considered as fasts, on the ground that our Lord was betrayed on a Wednesday and crucified on a Friday. The fasting continued till three in the afternoon; hence they were called semi-jejuna, or half-fasts, in opposition to the fast of Lent, which was continued till the evening. Subsequently the Montanists introduced the custom of limiting the kind of food to be taken, which consisted only of bread, salt, and water. These fasts were called stationes, from the practice of soldiers keeping guard, which was called statio by the Romans. Lent begins on that day SEE ASH WEDNESDAY. In the Western Church Saturday at length took the place of Wednesday as a fast. SEE FAST; SEE LENT.