Historically, we know that betrothal was a commitment to marry.
It was much more permanent than most of us consider engagements today.
We are all, no doubt, familiar with the treachery of Laban in giving Jacob the wrong daughter and Jacob’s honor in remaining with her in spite of his disappointment.
We also know the story of Jacob later marrying Rachel also and all of the heartache that followed for an entire family. However– and here is the rub– he failed to follow through in his duty to his wife.
Now let us look at Jacob’s parents, Isaac and Rebekah. Rebekah was brought to Isaac by Abraham’s servant, an arranged marriage if ever there was one.
By our standards, this might be expected to be a disaster– two people stuck in a loveless marriage.
Barring an extremely unusual circumstance, the betrothed couple was married for life. The first one comes in the often-repeated words: ‘give their daughters in marriage.’ This always refers to fathers and seems to imply bestowing her as a gift upon the chosen husband. That is the most important question of all– the answer to our dilemma in this area.
Let’s look at two particular Biblical examples of this — one that I believe was done the right way and one that was not.
Once a couple was betrothed they were, ‘off the market,’ no longer available for any type of romantic activity. How did two young people decide to become betrothed? Here is where I get radical, but I believe it is also Biblical. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about the ritual of courtship, or any ritual prior to the betrothal commitment, but we do get a few hints.Jacob began his search for a wife in the right way. He started out with his father’s approval; he asked for and received her father’s blessing. He never learned to love her or to cleave to her as God had taught since Adam and Eve.He still loved Rachel, even though he was married to Leah, and that was his undoing.However unjust his marriage had been, it was binding in the eyes of God and clearly was the Lord’s will for Jacob.After all, it was through Leah that Jacob became an ancestor of the Messiah, not through Rachel.