The Importance Of The Dowry 4

Isaac, when his father took him up on Mount Moriah, certainly trusted Abraham to deal rightfully with him. (Gen.22:1-10) Later, when the servant was sent to procure a wife for him, Isaac, along with Abraham, had to wait in faith for his successful return, when Isaac it seems, played no part in the servant’s commissioning (Gen.24:1-9, 62-67). This required that Isaac trust God, his father, and the servant, that the whole plan would be successful.

While it is necessary and proper that parents teach their children the commandments,  parents must also understand balance in these relationships. One extreme is that of provoking or aggravating a son (Eph.6:4) with unwise and unrealistic demands placed upon him. No son wants a father who merely barks commands like a parade-ground sergeant-major. That father will find that he loses the affections and heart of his son, when all along, it is the heart of the son, that the father must seek to win. (Prov.23:26) The other extreme, is being indulgent of that son, requiring little or nothing of him (Prov.29:15). David it seems, was guilty of this, in relation to Adonijah (I Kings 1:5-6). It is in the avoidance of unwise extremes that fruitfulness can eventuate in any relationship. Out of a warm, viable father-son relationship, great good can come for that young man.

The father’s choice of a bride for his son, and a father’s requirement of a specific bride price from his son-in-law, can of course degenerate into the tragic abuse or misuse of power.1 Jehoshaphat was certainly guilty of this (II Chron.18:1; 21:1-6; 22:1-10) as was Saul, who conspired against David, by means of the dowry payment. Without the fear of God, men will always bring trouble on their household, as those two men undoubtedly did. Money, sex and power have been abused since the Fall, and will continue to be; but money, sex and power are not evil of themselves. The knowledge that abuse takes place, must not deter godly men from being responsible, with the legitimate power and influence God has given them, to authoritatively serve God, as heads of their families.

With the coming of Jesus Christ, a significant change has come. We have a new institution, the Church. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail overpower it.” (Mat.16:18) There is a God-ordained authority structure now, that was not present in the days of the patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Eph.4:12)

In the context of the local church, this means there will be officers present, (elders, deacons, pastors) who have responsibility for the leadership and welfare of the church. This lifts some of the responsibility off fathers. A godly father will understand he is still to be a man of authority and responsibility, but always in submission to his lawful church leadership. If he is wise, he will give his children a mechanism for appeal to the elders, regarding decisions he has made, so that he cannot be labelled a tyrant or abuser, or misuse his authority.

Thus, “Jesus did not identify the family as the central institution in society.” 2 The family cannot be made…a substitute for the institutional church.” 3 “Christianity teaches that the Church is the central institution in history, not the family.” 4 Therefore, “any attempt to strengthen the family without strengthening the institutional church is self-defeating for Christians.” 5

Thus it is important to note in the context of marriage, that “the New Testament annulled the bride-price system by transferring the marital adoption process to the church…the church baptises children and then later sanctions the human marriage bond that reflects Christ’s love of His church (Eph.5:22-33). Christian fathers still screen prospective bride-grooms, but as delegated agents of the church rather than as agents of the extended bloodline family.” 6

1. At the heart of the tension between Jacob and Laban, were 2 issues:1) Laban had deceived Jacob in relation to Rachel and Leah, (Gen.29:25-27) and 2) Laban after twenty years, had never returned to his daughters, anything of Jacob’s dowry payment; fourteen year’s wages. Consequently, his daughters complained that  “…we have been sold…” (See Gen.31:14-16, 41-42.) Laban, amongst other things,  was an opportunist. He had treated his daughters as though they were concubines, not endowed wives.
2. North, G., Baptised Patriarchalism, 1995, p.2.
3. p.71.
4. p.71
5. p.2.
6. North, G., Tools of Dominion, 1990, p.276-277.

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