Marriage in the Bible – Part 6: The Honeymoon

This Sunday, my wife and I completed the one-year re-enactment of our “mini-moon”, the one day honeymoon that we took immediately after our wedding. (A more elaborate honeymoon was reserved for later in the year when we could both take time off of work.) Our mini-moon was to a lovely bed-and-breakfast in Rockport, Massachusetts and our trip back there this weekend was only slightly marred by the unseasonably awful New England weather. (Snow? In October? Can we move to Florida?)

In light of spending the weekend relaxing with my wife, I’ve been reflecting on one of the nicer traditions in the Torah around marriage: the honeymoon. Read on.

First: I lied a bit. The “honeymoon” as we know it in English isn’t biblical.

Sydney Opera House
Where I Went On My Honeymoon (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The term “honeymoon” entered English at around the right time: the 16th century, right around when the King James edition of the bible could have picked it up had it of desired to. It didn’t, of course. The earliest uses of the term are as two words, in essence, “honey moon,” or perhaps in more modern parlance “sweet month”. It referred to the first month of a marriage before the newlyweds lose that new couple sheen.

What the bible proscribed instead wasn’t a month-long period, but rather a special year for the new couple. During this initial year, the young groom was not permitted to travel on business or military service and he was given ample room to start a family with his new wife.

When a man taketh a new wife, he shall not go out in the host, neither shall he be charged with any business; he shall be free for his house one year, and shall cheer his wife whom he hath taken.

Deuteronomy 24:5

Of course, the logical upside of this law, of course, is that an entire year of “cheer[ing]” ones wife would probably have resulted in a child, and perhaps equally importantly, a child of definite parentage. Given all the reading I’ve been doing on inheritance law this week, I think I’m seeing it everywhere.

A Marriage Proposal
Artist's Depiction of a Marriage Proposal (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

What is better is that the law gets you out of military service even if you are not married yet:

And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.

Deuteronomy 20:7

I have a distinct suspicion that there was a flood of marriages and betrothals leading up to military conflicts, in ancient Israel.

While the honeymoon as we know it today isn’t biblical, it’s refreshing that the period immediately after marriage was known to be special even in biblical times.

Up next: … Divorce? Or Incest laws? One or the other… Probably…

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