Lobola, which is sometimes referred to as a “bride price,” is “property or cash, which a prospective husband or head of his family gives to the prospective wife’s family in gratitude of letting the husband marry their daughter.” The custom of “paying Lobola” is still practiced in southern Africa today. Another objective of Lobola was to bring the two families closer together and thus it was sometimes practiced between warring tribes in order to bring about reconciliation and an alliance. So, Lobola is not the “actual marriage,” but it was a “required price” before the marriage could take place.

This custom was also practiced in Biblical times but instead of being called “Lobola” it was called a “dowry.” The most well-known example of this is found in Genesis chapter 29 where Jacob offered to work for his future father-in-law Laban for seven years in order to marry his daughter Rachel. Jacob had no property or cash to pay the “bride price,” so he and Laban worked out this arrangement as an acceptable “dowry.” Later, in Genesis chapter 34, we have the example of Shechem, a Canaanite who desired to marry Jacob’s daughter Dinah. He was willing to pay whatever Jacob desired in order to marry her. We see this in verse 12 where he says to Jacob and Dinah’s brothers, “Ask me never so much DOWRY and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.”

This is still practiced, to some extent, in Eastern cultures. It is taken very seriously by both families and there is a deep commitment made by the prospective husband before the marriage. In Western cultures the exact opposite custom is practiced, for instead of a would-be-husband paying a dowry to the family of his prospective wife, money is given by the parents of the would-be-wife to the family of the prospective husband. This custom is not nearly as serious as Lobola, for it is NOT a legal agreement that is binding on both families. In our Western culture it is an informal commitment by the wife’s family to pay for most or all of the expenses incurred for the wedding.

In closing, I would draw our attention to another “marriage” in Scripture that required no Lobola/dowry to be paid to the bride’s family, yet there was an extreme PRICE that did have to be paid in order to acquire the bride. I’m referring to the price the Lord Jesus Christ had to pay in order to purchase those who will one day be His eternal Bride. We read in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH, AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR IT.” In order to redeem those who would make up His Bride Christ had to lay His life down on Calvary’s cross and shed His precious blood as a payment for our sins. Thus we read in 1st Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Jesus illustrated this truth (of His love for the church who would be His bride and the price He would be willing to pay to procure her) in the following parable: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46). The “merchant man” is Christ; the “one pearl of great price” is the Church/Bride; and “selling all that he had” is what took place at the cross when He gave His very life. I might add that “just as a pearl is formed inside an oyster through suffering caused by irritation, so the church was formed through the sufferings that Jesus went through when He ‘bore our sins in His own body on the tree’” (1st Peter 2:24). What a day that will be when the wedding takes place (see Revelation 19:7-9)! We (the Bride) will never forget what it cost the Lord Jesus to make us His Bride, for every time we look at Him we will see the marks in His hands, His feet and His riven side and realize afresh that He, the Lamb of God, had to be slain and His blood shed (see Revelation 5:6-9).  (404.3)  (DO)