Over the years I have noticed a growing trend in both Christian and non-Christian people to prolong their engagement over many years, and often not even to end up marrying. Often there is an engagement party and the couple are asked if they have set a date for their wedding. Usually there is no real indication of when they plan to marry, just a vague wave of the hand and a casual "when we get around to it" attitude.
In biblical times a Jewish betrothal was generally about 12 months. However, the betrothal was as if the couple were married and in fact to break the betrothal would require a divorce. Sexual relations did not take place. Indeed if a betrothed person was found to have had intercourse with someone not their betrothed, they could be stoned for adultery.
A marriage contract was called a Ketubah During this time, the groom would prepare a place for his betrothed wife. There was never any doubt that a marriage would be consummated, but the exact date was usually known only to the groom. The bride stayed with her parents and waited for her groom.
Today, there are no real expectations or enforcements of engagements. They can be broken with a minimum of outward fuss- most fuss being internalised and emotional. Other times, the young couple will just cohabit as if married and there is no wedding ring- ever. But an engagement is not a marriage.
For young Christians who become engaged, the temptation to become sexually involved is strong, and for this reason I believe an engagement shouldn't be prolonged. And just like marriage, an engagement shouldn't be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. Christians are different from the unsaved in that when one gives a promise or their word, we should carry it through.
For those considering marriage, make sure that you are fully intending to marry and that your engagement isn't too long. Impurity and cohabitation are not in God's plan for our life: He wants us to marry and bear precious seed for Him.
Becoming engaged is a promise to marry, not a promise to be exclusively available for a "permanent" relationship, nor is it to be seen as a licence for cohabitation. Betrothal from the earliest times has been seen to precede a marriage.
Everlasting engagements can be the gateway to failure in being godly wives and mothers. They can lead to us being left with just our engagement ring and memories, and perhaps, with a baby or two in tow.
© Glenys Robyn Hicks
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. Hosea 2:19