Question: "Did women in the Bible have a choice about whom they married?"
Answer: Many of the marriages mentioned in the Bible were arranged marriages in which the parents were involved in choosing a mate for their children. The practice of arranged marriage varied greatly from one family and one community to another. However, many cultures have practiced arranged marriages from the earliest times. For example, Abraham commanded his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac (Genesis 24). The servant found a potential wife for Isaac, Rebekah, but it is plain that Rebekah was given some choice regarding whether she accepted the offer (verses 57-58).
Rebekah’s son Jacob later found a woman he loved and made a deal with her father, Laban, to work seven years in exchange for Rachel in marriage (Genesis 29). Though the marriage was arranged, Rachel and Jacob appear to have both desired the arrangement.
Unlike Western marriages that often include much dating prior to a marriage, ancient Jewish custom included a much more reserved practice that usually included an attraction between the man and woman, an agreement between their two families, a dowry given to the wife’s family, and a seven-day wedding celebration. The Jewish custom of betrothal made premarital sexual activity less likely, and divorce occurred less frequently.
In summary, arranged marriages were standard in ancient times, and the Old Testament contains several examples. The practice of arranged marriage arose from a strong sense of family and fidelity that often helped provide a stronger commitment to the marriage covenant. However, many marriages in the Bible were based on a formal arrangement in which both the man and the woman desired to be married.
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