was the act of engagement for marriage in Bible times and was as binding as marriage. Old Testament-Genesis 19:14;
2 Samuel 3:14;
Hosea 2:19-20. New Testament-Matthew 1:18;
Old Testament The biblical terms, betrothal and espousal, are almost synonymous with marriage, and as binding. Betrothal and marriage comprised a moral and spiritual principle for the home and society. The penalty under the law of Moses for disrupting this principle by adultery, rape, fornication, or incest was death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-30). Later under some circumstances the Jewish legal system allowed divorce. The forgiving love and grace of God for his adulterous people is demonstrated by Hosea buying back his adulterous wife and restoring her to his home and protection (Hosea 2:19-20). This means that forgiveness takes precedence over stoning or divorce.
New Testament Mary and Joseph were betrothed but did not live together until their wedding. When Mary came to be with child during betrothal, Joseph decided to quietly divorce her. In a dream from God, the apparent unfaithfulness of Mary was explained to Joseph as a miracle of the Holy Spirit. This miracle gave emphasis to the unique human and divine nature of Jesus Christ. Paul used the betrothal concept to explain the ideal relationship that exists between the church as a chaste virgin being presented to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).