We’ve looked at the betrothal convention over the last two weeks. The first story containing a betrothal – that of Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for Isaac – also adhered most closely to the guidelines.
Other betrothals used many of the rules of the convention but tweaked the rules in a way that added to the meaning of the story.
The surprising betrothal is one that massages the conventions in unexpected ways to produce an unexpected conclusion.
In John 4, we read the story of the Samaritan woman. In the story, the hero – Jesus – goes to a foreign country and stops at a well. When a woman approaches, he asks for a drink of water.
The two engage in a conversation and Jesus then invites the woman to bring her husband to meet him. She then has to confess that she has no husband. This tweaks the betrothal convention, which assumes a young maiden who goes to her husband.
In the John story, we don’t meet a maiden but a woman who has been married five times and currently lives with a man who is not her husband. She’s had a life of rejection in being divorced five times. It was usually the husband who divorced his wife and she had endured five rejections.
Jesus tells her about living water. Rather than drinking from the well water, he instead offers her something else: water that will well up into eternal life.
Although she doesn’t fully understand, Jesus’ words intrigue her enough that she hurries back to town, leaving her water jar behind.
She returns with many from the town and, as they listen to Jesus’ teaching, become believers.
Believers are often called the bride of Christ.
Although this betrothal story is a bit more nuanced, it uses the convention to convey a powerful meaning.