Counting of the Omer till Shavuot (2011 begins on June 11 at sundown for 24 hours)
Shavuot, ‘Weeks’, is the second of three major agricultural festivals (the other two are Passover and Sukkot) commemorating the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and it is also when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples in Acts 2. The disciples were in Jerusalem at the Temple for this feast when it happened.
The period from Passover to Shavuot is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the Sabbaths from the week of Passover to the day before Shavuot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival. Shavuot is also sometimes known as Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day. The counting reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality and was our Ketubah or betrothal contract to our Messiah.
Betrothed to Y’shua (Jesus)
The Scriptures are the love story of the Creator of the Universe and His bride. The story begins in Genesis with their betrothal and continues all the way through to the book Revelation and their wedding feast. Unfortunately many of us do not view marriage and courtship the way Yahweh (God) does. Our lack of knowledge concerning the Hebrew wedding customs causes us to misunderstand and misinterpret much of the wedding terminology used in the Scriptures. In order to better understand the Scriptures we need to understand the wedding customs of Biblical times.
A Hebrew wedding was actually two events, the first being the betrothal or kiddushin. This is similar to our engagement period, except it was legally binding. The second part would be the actual wedding ceremony, called the Huppah or Nisuin. The betrothal and wedding ceremonies were usually one to two years apart. Since Messiah has not returned for His bride, we are still in the betrothal stage.
In Biblical times marriages were usually arranged by the parents. Often the father would send his emissary out to search for a suitable wife and make a proposal for his son. She should be a maiden of virtue, pure and kind. An agreement would be made between the father of the groom and the father of the bride, and this would be the proposal. The family of the bride was important. They needed to be known by the father. Often the bride was chosen from among the groom’s own family as was Rebekah for Isaac (Genesis 24). Later on we see Isaac send his own son Jacob to chose a wife from among his uncle’s daughters. (Genesis 28).
When YHWH approached Abraham He was making a proposal. I will be your God and you will be my people. I will be your husband and you will be my bride. The calling of Abraham was the calling of the bride.
Yahweh has sent His emissary out into the world to search for a bride for His son. His emissary is the Holy Spirit. When you answer the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit and accept Y’shua into your life you are answering His proposal. The blood of the Savior washes and purifies you, making you acceptable to your groom and His father. Y’shua’s bride will be from the family of believers.
Price is decided
Once a suitable bride was found then the bridal price, or a mohar, was agreed upon and paid either at this time or during the ceremony or marriage contract (ketubah) signing. Although this practice might seem archaic to us that is only because we are viewing it through our western mind set. A Hebrew woman would not view her bridal price as how much she cost but rather her worth to her perspective husband. She came with a price, her groom had to sacrifice something to obtain her. In Genesis 29:18 Jacob works seven years for Leah and another seven for Rachel. This was their price. Today most men propose with the price in their hand, an engagement ring.
After Yahweh called Abraham and his descendants to be His bride a bridal price was arranged. Yahweh is calling the Hebrews to be His bride forever, in this life and the next, There is only one way to be with Him for all eternity and that is through the blood of Y’shua. (See Understanding the Blood Covenant) Abraham went into a deep sleep and the bridal price was decided (the covenant was cut, Genesis 15:17). Y’shua would pay the bridal price with His own life. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
The bridal price could be accepted or rejected. You can accept the price. He paid for you or you can reject it. The decision is yours.
Next would be what we would call an engagement. Instead of a ring they would have the marriage covenant, or ketubah. The ketubah was a legally binding agreement setting the tone for the marriage that could only be broken by a divorce. The couple were seen as a married couple even thought the marriage had not and would not be consummated until after the wedding ceremony. They did not look upon an engagement as casually as we do today. A man would have to have just cause for putting away or divorcing his intended. The usual cause would have been provable adultery, in which case she could be stoned. We see this in the relationship between Mary and Joseph. They were to be married but had not yet been married. When Joseph found out she was with child, he at first thought to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)
The ketubah would state what was desired of each other. It would clearly state guidelines protecting the bride during the marriage, what the groom would provide for her, as well as how she would contribute to the stability of the home. There would also be provisions made for her in the case of death of her husband or divorce. The bride would give her consent to the ketubah and then it would be read aloud in the presence of the witnesses gathered. As unusual as this seems to us today, the bride would agree to the ketubah before it was read aloud. While it is generally believed that the contents of the ketubah were agreed upon prior to the actual reading aloud of it, this still shows the trust of the bride and her father in the integrity of her groom. This ketubah was given to the bride to keep with her as a precious sign between them forever.
The ketubah was not given in Abraham’s time but instead was given to the Hebrew children on Mt. Sinai more than 400 years later. And in true Hebrew fashion the children of Abraham agreed to the ketubah before it was read to them.
‘The people all responded together, “We will do everything Yahweh has said.”’ Exodus 19:8
What are the terms of the ketubah? The bride’s ketubah is recorded in chapters 19-23 of Exodus. The ketubah, or the Torah, was given to prepare the bride how to live so she could be His treasured possession.
The ketubah was to provide for and insure for the care and well being of the bride. Yahweh also has provisions for blessings for his bride in His ketubah. These abundant promises are recorded in Leviticus 26:3-12 and Deuteronomy 28:3-13.
Walking contrary to the ketubah would bring chaos to the home. In Exodus 19 Yahweh tells them to be sure to follow all His commandments in order to be his people. He repeats this warning in Deut. 4:1-9 and Deut.10:12 and 13. All of the consequences of breaking the marriage contract are recorded in Lev. 26:14-39 and Deut. 28:15-68. Lev. 26:28 tells the Hebrew children that if they break their ketubah and do not turn back to it then He will multiply their punishment seven times. Deut. 28:36 says He will drive them out of the land. Lev. 26: 33 and Deut. 28:64 says He will then scatter them among the nations. The final punishment for breaking the ketubah was to be scattered from one end of the earth to the other. The northern kingdom disobeyed her ketubah (the Torah). The result of that disobedience was to become scattered into the nations and to lose their identity. Many descendants of Abraham are walking around today without knowing who they are.
Yahweh has called all believers to be His son’s bride and to walk in harmony with His Kingdom.
‘If you love me, you will obey what I command.’ John 14:15
The accepting and signing of the ketubah must be done in the presence of at least two people. These two people bare witness to the acceptance of the terms of the ketubah, they are the two witnesses.
Prior to being reunited with his brother Esau, Jacob divided his family into two camps. (Genesis 33). Likewise, Yahweh divided his family into two camps, the northern kingdom (Israel/Ephraim) and the southern kingdom (Judah). Judah has born witness to the Torah of Yahweh. Although Ephraim has been scattered among the nations, many of them have born witness to salvation through Y’shua.
In the last days Yahweh will reunite his family. (Ezekiel 37:17) We will become one once again.
If the proposal was accepted and the ketubah agreed upon, then the bridal price would be paid. This would be whatever had previously been agreed upon.
What was our price? The Abrahamic covenant was a covenant between YHWH and Y’shua, with Abraham and his descendants being the recipients. The terms were eternal life for all who believed through the blood of Y’shua. Our price was the life and blood of our groom.
“You were bought at a price.” (I Corinthians 6:20)
Y’shua’s blood paid your price for all eternity if you accept Him.
Gifts given to the bride.
The groom would then give something of value to the bride. In Y’shua’s day it was usually 10 silver coins. The bride would keep them with her and often sew them into her wedding veil. These coins belonged to her and no one could take them from her. They were considered a token of love from her groom and would serve as a reminder of his love for her while he was gone.
Y’shua told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they received the gift He would send. (Acts 1:4-8) That gift was the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are a token of love from our groom and should be cherished as such.
In Luke 15: 8-10 we read the story of a woman who lost one of her coins and diligently searched for it until she found it. The gift of the Holy Spirit is lost to many people, are you like the diligent bride who searches until she finds it?
The Cup of the Covenant
The next step in a betrothal ceremony is the sharing of the Kiddush cup, or cup of Sanctification or cup of the Covenant. The groom sips first and then passes the cup to his bride. As she sips from it, she is acknowledging her willing participation in the betrothal ceremony. After this cup is shared, the couple is considered legally married, although the bride and groom will still live apart.
The night before Y’shua was to be crucified was the beginning of Passover. Y’shua was sharing a Passover meal with his disciples before He became the Passover lamb. He took His cup and gave it to the disciples saying, “This cup is the renewed covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
When you celebrate Passover every year and drink from the cup, you are partaking of the marriage cup of Y’shua. That is why he said to do this in remembrance of him.
After the signing of the ketubah the groom would then leave to go and make a place for his bride. Although she might not know the exact day or hour when her groom would return, she would have an approximation of how long he would be gone. A watchful bride would not be caught unaware. The bride was to make herself ready for her groom and be prepared when he returned. During this separation the groom would prepare the new home. Many times this would be an addition to his father’s house. Only when the father thought the preparations were complete would the son be allowed to return for his bride.
Y’shua told his disciples He was going to His father’s house to prepare a place for them and He would then return for them (John 14:2-3). He also told them only the Father knew when He would return for them. (Matthew 24:36)
The bride is waiting for the return of her groom. We might not know the exact hour of His return but those who are watchful know that the time draws near.
So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Y’shua.
[Edited with some content changes from the following sites…
Shalom Aleichem,Dee Ann Stover
Kol Kevuda Bat Melech Penima
All the honor of the daughter of the King resides within