Listen: 53 Question 4

Sometimes people use the expression, “the law of first mention.”  This means that when studying the Bible, when you find a doctrine, a word or a theme mentioned for the first time, that passage can be understood to set the tone for understanding it throughout the Bible.  Let’s look at the first time the Bible mentions a ring being given to someone.  Genesis 41:41-44 says, “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;  And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”  It’s plain to see that this was not a wedding ring that Pharaoh gave to Joseph; but the giving of this ring is significant.  Here, the giving of the ring symbolized Pharaoh’s acceptance and partnership with Joseph.  When anyone would see this ring on Joseph’s finger, they would realize that he was authorized to act on behalf of Pharaoh.  We see that same theme in Esther 8:2 which says, “And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.”  Although we see the significance of the ring, we read of no place in the scriptures that rings were ever exchanged in wedding ceremonies.

Although wedding rings were used in ancient Greek and Roman cultures, it wasn’t until about the 9th century that the wedding ring began to be used in Christian ceremonies. The custom of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand is based upon a romantic, but inaccurate, Greek legend that the artery from that finger flows directly to the heart.  Since most people are right handed, some think that the wedding ring was placed on the fourth finger of the left hand because it was the least used finger and would keep the ring from being damaged.

However the custom of the wedding band developed, it is used today as a symbol of an unending commitment to the marriage relationship.  In that way, it certainly has a biblical basis in that marriage is to be a lifetime commitment as we read in Romans 7:2, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth…”  This very important principle is repeated in 1 Corinthians 7:39, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth…”

With that said, this does not at all mean that the wedding ring is a requirement in marriage.  Some people can’t afford to buy a wedding ring.  Some do not like wearing rings; and some believe that scripture forbids wearing rings as we read in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;  But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”  Most people do not consider a simple ring as being immodest, but we should respect those that do.

The most important thing about a marriage is that it is a man and woman that have been drawn together by the Lord to be joined together as husband and wife for the rest of their lives.  We read in Matthew 19:5-6, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”  In continuing dependence upon the Lord, the marriage relationship can be wonderfully fulfilling and can bring glory to the Lord.  (53.4)