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When the Bride Price becomes Extortion

I once asked this question: When a family asks for 15 bags of rice, 20 bunches of plantains, 25 bags of garri, 15 gallons of Oil(10litres each), a pregnant envelope and much more... Is that REALLY still a bride price??? I was marveled by the responses I got; by what people accept in the name of tradition.

Over the years, the concept of bride prices or dowries have become perverted with people openly extorting others in the name of bride price. It's like that the whole family was just waiting for you to come for their daughter. Not just the nuclear family; extended family members each want to take advantage of that. Yet we call that bride price?? That's extortion, open theft, scamming... People are proud to call it their tradition. What kind of tradition is that? Extorting people?? These days there are several people who are cohabiting because of the exorbitant demands of certain traditions. Is that how marriage was supposed to be??

Let's look at the word bride price for a minute. It's a combination of two words "bride" and "price". That's essentially selling a woman. Let me ask you a question? Can you sell your arm for 1 million dollars? Can you sell your leg for 1 billion dollars?? Yet we're selling our daughters for a mere list of items to satisfy our selfish desires. Should bride prices even exist in the first place? Is that word appropriate?? Well, Let’s analyze the facts

As the Bible says: "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul. Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul. What that means is that no amount of wealth, goods or resources in this world can buy human life. A single life is worth more than the whole world. So does it make sense to sell your daughter for a list of items?? Certainly not!

Consider the story of Isaac and Rebecca in the Bible. In Gen 24, the story is narrated of how Abraham’s servant went out to find a wife for Isaac from Abraham’s brethren. In Gen 24:52 – 54 NIV the Bible says :

“When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there."

As you can see here, Abraham’s servant gave them gifts according to Abraham’s possessions. If you read the whole of that chapter, there is no place where they asked for a Bride price. They didn’t request any list of items on the pretext of tradition. Nowhere in the Bible are the bride’s parents commanded to present a price. However, it’s on the groom’s family to bring what they can offer for the lady he wants to marry. Again, it’s about what they can afford and NOT an obligation.

Take note that the bride price as used in the Bible is not a condition for marriage but rather a penalty for rape. This can be seen in Exodus 22:16-17: "If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins." A similar passage to this is in Deuteronomy 22:28-29: "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives."

We can infer from these two passages that the bride price was payed for virgins who were violated by men. If there was no intercourse before marriage then, there was no need for that payment. We can further see evidence of the bride price being for virgins still in the story of Isaac and Rebecca. Rebecca was a virgin before meeting Isaac as mentioned in Genesis 24:15-16:

"Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again."

It was but normal for Abraham’s servant to honor this family for their daughter with gifts. After all she was a virgin. Now I wonder whether the daughters of all these families who make demands are actually virgins before marriage. The key point here is that this wasn’t a request from Rebecca’s family. So, should families ask for a bride price or a list of items?? The conclusion is clear from here. There’s a difference between what is and what should be. We shouldn’t do things just because of traditions. The process of getting married isn’t complicated; as long as we follow Biblical standards.

What do you think? Should families ask for bride prices or lists?? Please share your thoughts in the comments. It will certainly be enriching for our community to hear from you. Thanks for reading and we hope you were inspired by this to make a difference. You can do so by sharing this with others. We need to do things the right way. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our blog for more thought provoking and enriching articles like this. We’ve selected a few of them for you to enjoy next. Until next time, BESTech remains your BEST bet.

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