USA – about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.
Middle East (Israel) - 35%
Ancient Israel – here is but an excerpt of a document titled: (linked below)
WOMEN AND THE LAW IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
The Ancient Hebrew law code outlined in the Bible unfortunately lacks the detail that can be found in other ancient legal systems such as the Babylonian and Roman, but we can at least summarize the general principles.
1. Marriage was called “taking a wife”
2. It involved sexual intercourse
3. While there was no death penalty in Hebrew law for property crimes, adultery was a capital offence for both participants.
4. Marriage and children were necessary to have a fulfilled life. A childless woman could call herself a mother by giving her maid-servant to her husband as a second wife (assuming, of course, the maid-servant did indeed produce a child).
5. A widow had the right to marry her husband’s brother if he lived in the same town.
6. Polygyny was permitted but uncommon.
7. Divorce was easy for a man and impossible for a woman.
8. Childlessness was the most common reason for divorce
9. The woman moved to the husband’s home and family
10. While the husband was clearly the boss, each expected love from the other and a wife had the legal right to support.
The following contains additional material from the Bible and other Jewish sources such as the Talmud and the Halakhah.
TAKING A WIFE
The importance of marriage to the Ancient Israelites is clear enough in the Bible, but nowhere is there any information on the ceremony itself and it is likely that custom varied from one locale to another.
In Leviticus 18 there is a list of prohibited relationships (a man cannot marry his sister, etc.). These appear less concerned with the dangers of inbreeding and more concerned with ensuring that no woman can be related to a man in more than one way; for example, a woman cannot be both an aunt and a wife to the same man. A man was permitted to marry his dead wife’s sister since he was no longer related to her.
While close relatives were forbidden, men usually married women who lived in the same area, limiting ownership of property to people in the same village and enabling the bride to maintain contact with her birth family even after moving to the home of her husband.
Bride Price was the practice in pre-literate societies whereby the groom was expected to pay an amount sufficient to compensate the bride’s family for the loss of labor when she moved to her husband’s home. This may have been the motivation behind Laban’s demand in Genesis 29 that Jacob work two consecutive seven-year terms in order to earn the right to marry Leah and Rachel.
In Exodus 22:16-17 we read that a man who lies with an unbetrothed virgin must pay the marriage present and marry her. In Deuteronomy 22: 28-29, we learn that a man who rapes an unbetrothed virgin must pay 50 shekels to her father and marry her. (A raped woman was considered unmarriageable: a forced marriage to her rapist was thought to be better than no marriage at all.) These references would appear to suggest the existence of a system where men purchased their wives and had to pay real money, but fifty shekels was a reasonable wage for a worker for five years and would be well beyond the resources of the average suitor. Such a sum might be compensation for an act of rape but could hardly be, as some have suggested, the normal price for a bride.
The Halakhah was a collection of texts in which various rabbis presented their views on how Jewish traditions should be applied in specific cases. The result was perhaps not a true law code, but its teachings carried considerable weight and probably reflected the real life of the Jews in the post-Biblical era. The Halakhah was quite clear on the requirements for a valid marriage:
• A payment to the bride’s father of a small sum of money (equivalent to our one cent coin and thus nothing more than a symbol of sincere intent)
• The bride’s consent
• Sexual intercourse
It is possible, then, that Jewish men did purchase their brides in the earliest days, but it is very clear that for at least the two or three centuries before the common era there was no bride price beyond a modest token to demonstrate sincerity. Since the expression “take a wife” was in Scripture it could not very well be repudiated, but Jewish leaders made it clear that brides could not be bought and that marriage required the consent of the woman herself as well as that of her father. Girls typically married at age 12 or 13, immediately after puberty, so one might be excused for wondering what chance they had of developing an informed opinion beyond that of their fathers.
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