A marriage present that ensured the new wife's financial security against the possibility her husband might forsake her or might die. The husband-to-be or his father paid the dowry or bride price to the bride's father to be kept for the bride. The bride could protest if her father used the dowry for other purposes (Genesis 31:15). In addition the bride received wedding gifts from her father and husband (Genesis 24:53;
Judges 1:15). The amount of the dowry depended on customs of the specific tribes or clans and upon the economic and social class of the parties involved (1 Samuel 18:23-27, a passage also showing that service could be substituted for money; compare
Joshua 15:16-17). Besides guaranteeing future financial security, the dowry also compensated the bride and her family for the economic loss represented to her family by her leaving to join her husband's family.
Deuteronomy 22:29 apparently puts the price at fifty shekels of silver, a much larger price than paid for a slave—thirty shekels (Exodus 21:32; compare
Leviticus 27:1-8). Payment of the dowry made the marriage a legal fact even before the official wedding ceremonies or consumation of the marriage. Ancient Near Eastern texts from different cultures show similar practices. Often the bride receives the dowry directly or indirectly through her father. See Marriage; Family.
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'DOWRY'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".