In all Hebrew marriages, the dowry held an important place. The dowry sealed the betrothal. It took several forms. The bridegroom presented gifts to the bride. There was the mohar, "dowry" as distinguished from matttan, "gifts to the members of the family" (compare Genesis 24:22,53; Genesis 34:12). The price paid to the father or brothers of the bride was probably a survival of the early custom of purchasing wives (Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:17; 1 Samuel 18:25; compare Ruth 4:10; Hosea 3:2). There was frequently much negotiation and bargaining as to size of dowry (Genesis 34:12). The dowry would generally be according to the wealth and standing of the bride (compare 1 Samuel 18:23). It might consist of money, jewelry or other valuable effects; sometimes, of service rendered, as in the case of Jacob (Genesis 29:18); deeds of valor might be accepted in place of dowry (Joshua 15:16; 1 Samuel 18:25; Judges 1:12). Occasionally a bride received a dowry from her father; sometimes in the shape of land (Judges 1:15), and of cities (1 Kings 9:16). In later Jewish history a written marriage contract definitely arranged for the nature and size of the dowry.
Edward Bagby Pollard
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