Is Your Bride Worth 8 Cattle?


We just returned from a mission trip to Africa, visiting four safari camps in Botswana. (Our mission: relax and enjoy God’s creation.)

We usually ask our married guides about their marriages because they are required to be away from their spouses for extended periods of time. Three guides had fiancées but were working to get the bride price (Lobola) required by the fiancée’s parents. One’s fiancée was working to pay it. All three already had at least one child.


What is a bride price?

This is money or property given by the groom to the parents of the bride. One guide was paying eight cattle but getting a one cattle good behavior discount. The others were paying an equivalent in cash… perhaps $4,000. Eight cattle seem to be the common price although it may be higher for certain bride attributes.

There is actually a tongue in cheek app for determining the value of a Nigerian bride – Mine said I am a “Super Premium Babe! Your bride price is going to cause a war in this Africa.”

Research says that if a bride proves barren, the husband can divorce her and get his Lobola back. Imagine if that had been the case for Sarah, the mother of the Jewish nation (Genesis 12).


Is a Lobola biblical?

If the question is whether it’s found in the Bible, the answer is yes.

Abraham’s servant gave expensive gifts to Abraham’s relatives when they agreed to give Rebekah to Isaac. (Genesis 24). Arguably, this may be viewed as more of a diplomatic offering but still signals sincerity on the part of the family toward the commitment to marriage.

Jacob worked seven years to marry Rachel and then another seven years for her after Laban tricked Jacob by giving him Leah at the end of the first seven. (Genesis 29)

After Shechem had defiled Jacob’s daughter, he begged Jacob and his sons. “I will give you whatever you ask. No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it — just give me the girl as my wife” (Gen 34:12). Shechem didn’t live long after that.

The bride price is demanded once in the giving of the Law: “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to anyone and has sex with her, he must pay the customary bride price and marry her” (Exodus 22:16). The corresponding law in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 equates the bride price to fifty pieces of silver, and goes on to say that “he may never divorce her as long as he lives.”


Does God demand a Lobola?

Yes and no.

First generation: God did not demand a price be paid by Adam (other than a rib) for Eve. Eve was God’s gift to Adam. “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22).

Even so, there is a required bride price in the Bible – the price Jesus paid for His Bride, the Church. Contrary to the Levitical requirement to pay when the groom has defiled the bride, Jesus paid the price for the sin of the bride, who has been unfaithful through history at every turn. She (we) continuously turns to other lovers (idols). But even so, while she is yet a sinner, Jesus died on the cross and paid the ultimate Bride Price for His beloved Church. (Romans 5:8)


Love is grand, but divorce is a hundred grand.

In our safari camps, when the subject arose, some fellow travelers joked they would pay to get rid of their daughters. Hmmm.

And what does it say that it’s so easy to marry but so expensive to divorce. Why do we put more emphasis on the wedding ceremony that lasts less than a day than the marriage that is supposed to last a lifetime?

Paying a bride price evokes a value to the bride that might otherwise be taken for granted. The bride herself may “undersell” her value by accepting a doomed marital situation or even living together because she does not see herself as Jesus sees her – a prize of high value.

From the groom’s perspective, if he does not esteem his bride enough to “work” for her or wait to “take her” prior to marriage, how committed will he be in marriage?

No rose colored glasses here. Many men mistakenly believe they can treat their wives like property, any way they want, since they paid for them, countering God’s view of brides. Even Christians believe because God says they are to head the family, they can mistreat their wives. But what would it say if we esteemed our marriage partners as highly as Christ esteems us, enough to die for us?

“… love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault” (Ephesians 5:25b-27).


Patricia Hartman: Forensic CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA. Speaker. Author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement” available at President of South Florida Word Weavers. Board member Living Water Christian Counseling.

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