marriage feasts, weddings

(John 2:1-11)

Marriage feasts

“lasted usually for a whole week; but the cost of such prolonged rejoicing is very small in the East. The guests sit round the great bowl or bowls on the floor, the meal usually consisting of a lamb or kid stewed in rice or barley.

The most honored guests sit nearest, others behind; and all in eating dip their hand into the one smoking mound, pieces of the thin bread, bent together, serving for spoons when necessary. After the first circle have satisfied themselves, those lower in honor sit down to the rest, the whole company being men, for women are never seen at a feast.

Water is poured on the hands before eating; and this is repeated when the meal closes, the fingers having first been wiped on pieces of bread, which, after serving the same purpose as table-napkins with us, are thrown on the ground to be eaten by any dog that may have stolen in from the streets through the ever-open door, or picked up by those outside when gathered and tossed out to them (Matthew 15:27; Mark 7:28).

Rising from the ground and retiring to the seats round the walls, the guests then sit down cross-legged and gossip, or listen to recitals, or puzzle over riddles, light being scantily supplied by a small lamp or two, or if the night be chilly, by a smouldering fire of weeds kindled in the middle of the room, perhaps in a brazier, often in a hole in the floor. As to the smoke, it escapes as it best may; but indeed there is little of it, though enough to blacken the water or wine or milk skins hung up on pegs on the wall. (Compare Psalm 119:83.)

To some such marriage feast, Jesus and his five disciples were invited at Cana of Galilee.” —John Cunningham Geikie, Life of Christ

For much more insight on the marriage customs of ancient Israel, see the Biblical archaeology video: On the Life & Ministry of the Messiah (“No Greater Love,” part of the Faith Lessons video series).

“The imagery of 1st Century Jewish marriage customs illustrates Jesus Christ’s great love for mankind. Today, he asks us to be his spiritual bride.”

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