Ancient Hebrew Marriage Customs and How They Correspond to the Actions of Yeshua the Messiah as Described in the Scriptures
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The Scriptures identify the New Jerusalem and some of the followers of Messiah as a bride (the church of Philadelphia) and Yeshua the Messiah is its bridegroom. What appears to be a flowery metaphor is actually something much more substantial. The use of this language has to do with actual ancient Hebrew Marriage practices.
These marriage practices are in concert with the covenant Yeshua made with us, and it shows the importance of the vow that He made to return for His bride. The people of ancient Israel understood what Yeshua was presenting to them with this specific language, and subsequently what he is going to do for us as a bride grafted into the church body, because the early disciples recognized the marriage traditions. Unfortunately for the body of Church members, the teaching of most of the marriage tradition has been stopped over time.
Many people do recognize some of the basic marriage symbolism in the covenant Yeshua made with us, and look forward to what the Scriptures say is His plan to return to gather the church for a wedding ceremony. But because people have not been properly taught about the ancient customs, many members of the church do not realize how much the betrothal and wedding symbolism plays a part through much of the Gospels, nor do they realize exactly what the New Covenant really is and how important it is within the marriage symbolism.
There is a specific set of customs that the ancient Hebrews followed when a groom wanted to marry a bride. The words and actions of Yeshua reflect those marriage customs exactly, and once you understand these marriage practices, the marriage themed sections of Scripture will become more recognizable and their importance much more realized.
This tract will first cover the details of the ancient Hebrew marriage tradition. Then once you have the basic knowledge of the marriage tradition, the second part of the tract will present a portion of the verses from scripture that correspond with this marriage tradition for you to reflect upon.
After you have read through the first and second part of this tract, you should be able to recognize how Yeshua has fulfilled the betrothal portion of the marriage traditions, and how He shall fulfill the remainder of the traditions with the wedding when He comes back to take His bride in marriage.
THE ANCIENT HEBREW MARRIAGE TRADITIONS BETROTHAL THROUGH WEDDING
A traditional ancient Hebrew Wedding ceremony has two simple, minimal requirements. Those requirements are first that the bride accepts an object from the groom that is worth more than the equivalent value of a dime, something extremely small in value, along with what is called a statement of documented acquisition, a document validating the marriage, and second is consecration of the marriage after the betrothal period. When these two acts of the wedding day are completed, and witnessed or confirmed by at least two people, the marriage is official. That is all that is needed for a valid ancient Hebrew marriage like the ones that disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, and their ancient ancestors themselves for thousands of years, were familiar with. Everything else, including various blessings, the breaking of a glass, and even the presence of a Rabbi or Priest were all added over time. The Betrothing process of the marriage, in comparison, is much more involved.
The betrothing process, which leads up to the marriage, would start when a man took a liking to a young woman. The man, and the Father of the man if still alive, approached the father of the woman to ask for her hand in marriage. As a result of economic conditions, it would take a long time for a man to become financially stable to a point to think about starting a family. Due to the financial necessity, the process of looking for a wife normally started for the man between the ages of his 30’s through his 50’s. When he did begin to look for a wife, he looked for a bride young enough to bear him many children. So while the man in these situations could be in his 30’s or above, the potential bride would often still be a teenager, living with the family that raised her, and thus would need the permission of her father to be married.
Inviting the man into their home, the parents of the young woman would sit down with the man and his father around a table while the young woman brought wine and multiple cups. After she had poured everyone a cup of wine, except one for herself which she left empty at this point, she listened while this man, who she was meeting for the first time, described his assets, skills and other qualities that made him a desirable husband.
A brief negotiation followed between the men for the price to pay as compensation for the family loss of their daughter. The term for the compensation is called The Bride Price, and it was based on what it cost the family to raise the daughter. The more expensive it was to raise the daughter, based on things such as food, clothing, lodging, and lifestyle, the more expensive the price of the bride was. It is also known as a dowry.
If the men reached an agreeable amount, everyone would then turned to the daughter who had been listening to their discussion. She now had to decide if she would take this man to be her husband. If she turned her empty cup upside down, the man went away never to return. But if she filled her cup and took a sip of the wine, she was agreeing to become his wife.
Once the terms of the marriage were agreed upon, the groom could formally “propose” to his prospective bride. He would present her with a ketubah, an elaborate formal document, hand crafted ornately and beautifully decorated. This document had instructions that specified the marriage terms and expectations, and also stated his intent to consecrate himself to his bride-to-be. As an example, a copy of a hand drawn ketubah is seen below:
The ketubah would be presented to the bride for her to keep and refer to during the marriage so she would be reminded that he has promised to look after her, and it also allows her during the betrothal period to review details of how she could prepare herself to live up to her part of the marriage to be. With that, the groom then offered her a gift of value. It would be a possession symbolic of his esteem for her and his willingness to sacrifice in her behalf.
Then the groom made a ritual statement, such as the one found in Hosea 2, formally consecrating himself to his bride. “And I will betroth you to me forever, yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know YHWH“ (Hosea 2:19-20). The use of these five virtues in this particular statement, righteousness, judgment, loving kindness, mercies, and faithfulness, all describe traits of YHWH, and the statement concludes with an invitation for the bride to meet YHWH. This verse specifically invites YHWH into the covenant being made between the man and the woman through the marriage.
The groom then poured a cup of wine for the prospective bride. Because Hebrew law stated that a woman could not be forced to marry a man distasteful to her, the bride was ultimately allowed to choose whether to accept or reject the groom’s proposal. If she drank the cup he offered, the covenant was sealed. The man and woman would be considered betrothed. Betrothal was a legally binding part of marriage, and was considered as strong as the events that complete the marriage ceremony on the wedding day.
The groom would then formally accept his bride with another ritual statement. The statement often would be something such as “You are set apart” or “You are consecrated for me.” You would find the same terminology used in the Holy Scriptures to describe the dedicated Temple of YHWH. The bride was considered a temple, now set apart for her husband for the price agreed upon. From this point on, the bride would wear a veil over her hair in public to indicate to men that she was not available for marriage, and men and woman would know that she was a betrothed or a wedded woman.
Next they both signed a betrothal agreement, wherein the man promised on oath to return for the young woman when all the wedding preparations were complete. Additionally, before the the man went away he would verbally vow not to drink any alcohol again until their wedding day. Then the man would return to his home.
With that accomplished, the woman would take a Mikvah. The Mikvah, a symbolic cleansing bath, is the Hebrew word used for a baptism. The only way the bride would be accepted for the marriage ceremony is if she was cleansed through a Mikvah that she took of her own free will.
The woman also would look through her home to remove things she would not need during her marriage life. This was done in a similar way to a search for leaven bread prior to the Feast of Unleaven Bread. The bride knew she would be taken care of by her bridegroom where she was going to live, and she was expected to get rid of undesirable and non useful things before then.
While the woman tended to her items, the man went back to build a home for them on the family property. The home could be anything from an extra room or annex on the side of the house of his father’s home to a completely separate house next to the house of his father on the family land. This would take some time, the construction would normally take from one to three years depending on the size of what was being built.
The groom and bride would not be expected to met again until the father of the groom pronounced the construction acceptable for habitation. Only then was the wedding date set, and the man then would be given permission by his father to go collect his bride for the wedding. If the bridegroom was asked when the wedding was to be, he would have said “it is not for me to know, only my father knows” because his father was the one in charge of the final inspection of the grooms home.
During this time the young woman was to watch and wait at the home of her parents, she would be considered Set Apart or known to be Bought With A Price. She and her attendants had to maintain a constant state of preparedness, since the wedding date would not be revealed to her until the bridegroom actually appeared at her door to take her away to their new home, known as Stealing Her Away. While the bride kept ready she would receive special gifts from the groom. These gifts were prepared by the groom or with the assistance of the father of the groom to prepare the bride for her marriage.
When the bridegroom’s father deemed the construction ready, which included a private wedding day chamber, the father would tell the bridegroom that all was completed to his specifications and that his son could retrieve the bride. For his part, the groom would try to show up unexpectedly to surprise the bride, carrying her off suddenly like a thief in the night when no one would see them. The bride would have to have her lamp and her belongings ready at all times. Her sisters or bridesmaids would also be waiting, keeping their lamps trimmed in anticipation of the late night festivities. The only momentary advance warning the bride would get was the blast of a shofar, the ram’s horn, blown by the groom or his groomsmen and the sound of the groom’s voice shouting her name. The bride, who should have been keeping herself in a state of readiness for this day, would hear this and quickly get herself ready to be caught up in the commotion and taken to the wedding. The bride and her bridesmaids would then be taken by the groom and his groomsmen to the father’s property.
When people discovered that the bride had been spirited away they would organize a large torch lit procession, going throughout the whole town announcing that the wedding banquet was soon to begin, and that people were invited by the father of the groom to partake.
Once people had gathered at the property of the father, a banquet would begin that would be at least a seven day celebration, with the understanding of needing to take a rest for the seventh day Sabbath. During this time the bride and groom were hidden away inside in their private wedding chamber for a honeymoon, consummating their marriage, while the whole community took part in a party. The bridegroom’s friend would wait outside the door of the wedding chamber, and when the marriage was consummated, the bridegroom would tell his friend through the door. The friend would then announce it to the assembled guests as they continued to celebrate, and eventually the bride and bridegroom would emerge from the wedding chamber, reappear at the banquet, and received the congratulations of their friends and family. This is when a great feast would be held in their honor, and the bride and groom would be lifted into the air above the heads of the guests in celebration. The great feast is called the marriage supper.
After the marriage supper, the bride and bridegroom would leave the groom’s father’s portion of the house, and they would go to their own section of the home or the separate house constructed on the family property. This was the home that the bridegroom had prepared for his bride, her new home, where they would live.
THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND YESHUA THE MESSIAH
With your gained familiarity of the Hebrew marriage traditions, the goal of this part of the tract is to reintroduce to you some example passages from Scripture that synchronize with the traditions you have learned about. In these examples, which is only a sampling of many other examples that can be found in the Scriptures, you will see that what Yeshua the Messiah preached and the actions he took among his disciples coincides with the betrothal traditions, and that what is described for the wedding between the Church and the Messiah also matches the marriage traditions.
Important key parts of the marriage process:
FOR THE BETROTHAL
- Start of the Bridegroom Marriage Process
- Description of Bridegroom Qualities
- Ketubah Marriage Covenant and Bride Price
- Betrothal Cup
- Betrothal Statement
- Mikvah for the Bride
- Consecrated Watchful Bride
- TheBridegroomPreparesaPlacetoLiveStart of the Marriage Process:
FOR THE WEDDING
- Bridegroom Comes for His Bride
- Seven Days in the Wedding Chamber
- Wedding Supper
- Raised in the Air
- The New Home
The Hebrew traditional age for a man to begin to look for a bride is no earlier than age 30 and usually no later than age 50. Yeshua started his ministry to the Church around age 30.
“Now Yeshua himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23).
Something also to note, when the scriptures say “about thirty”, that would mean that Yeshua had to be at least 30 years old or older at the time he began his ministry, rather than being 29 years old or younger at the start of this betrothal process with the Church.
Description of Qualities:
As part of the betrothal process, the bridegroom would go to the potential bride and tell her what he could offer her. She would listen as he described his qualities, and she was able to watch his actions as they spoke.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
In this example, Yeshua is describing what kind of bridegroom he is, and what life with the Messiah will be like in the New Heaven.
KETUBAH MARRIAGE COVENANT AND BRIDE PRICE FULFILLMENT:
The bridegroom would go to the home of the bride to verbally discuss and also present a formal written Marriage Covenant to the bride. In all four Gospels we have examples of what Yeshua preached when he came to the home of his bride, and a major theme of what he preached was how people need to live in this life if they expected to be welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven. By doing this he verbally presented a Marriage Covenant to the people that heard him preach. And by way of the written New Testament, we have been presented with an actual printed Ketubah that represents our contract, the New Covenant, with Yeshua the Messiah, which explains exactly what is expected of us, how we are to act, and what we are promised by our bridegroom. You can select almost any section of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to find examples that describe this.
Along with the presentation of the Ketubah was a very important part of the marriage contract, the bride price, the price the man was willing to pay to marry the woman.Yeshua paid the bride price with His life through his Crucifixion, and he readied his bride by telling the disciples what he was willing to do for her.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20).
“And Yeshua the mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Able” (Hebrews 12:24).
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from YHWH? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor YHWH with your body.”
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of YHWH which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
And as John the Baptist said regarding Yeshua, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” (John 3:29).
Yeshua was crucified, paid a heavy price for our betrothal, and rose from the dead after three days and three nights. His death on the cross was an incredible act of sacrifice, but without His resurrection it would have been just another death. When He rose from the dead it confirmed the payment for the bride was complete. He paid the price YHWH set as due for our sin, then Yeshua conquered lasting death in Sheol once and for all by coming back from beyond the grave. This payment was what set us free from everlasting death, and it is the most incredible dowry gift that could be given. If there were any doubt as to whether Yeshua the Messiah is a worthy King and Bridegroom, surely this act clearly proves he is.
THE BETROTHAL CUP:
Just as the bridegroom would pour a cup of wine for the bride to drink to seal the marriage contract, Yeshua poured wine for His disciples at the Supper before his Crucifixion. The disciples drank from the cup, accepting the contract, the sign of the covenant agreement.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
When the betrothal statement was made, the bridegroom invited the bride into the family of YHWH regardless of the tribal genealogy of the bride. The theme of the Old Testament book of Ruth discusses how Ruth, a Moabite, was grafted into the family of the tribe of Israel and she became an ancestor of King David. Yeshua the Messiah told his disciples that they would be the ones to teach the gentiles, the non Hebrews, and that they were welcome to the family through a grafting in process. We can see this grafting was understood by what Apostle Paul wrote in Romans.
“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root” (Romans 11:17)
BRIDEGROOM PROMISES TO RETURN:
When the bridegroom leaves the bride to ready their home for her, the bridegroom promises to return. When Yeshua ascended to Heaven and the disciples stood there looking as he rose, the Angels that were present reminded the disciples that Yeshua would return again the same way.
“Men of Galilee, they said, why do you sand here looking into the sky? This same Yeshua, who has been taken from you into heave, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
The bride was expected to take a Mikvah to metaphorically clean herself. The Mikvah that Yeshua provides for His bride is baptism in the Holy Spirit. He prepared his bride for something that was both a gift from him and YHWH and also a Mikvah, the baptism of the Holy Spirit to purify the disciples and those that accept Yeshua as the bridegroom.
“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command, Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4).
And after they were baptized by the Holy Spirit, they instantly began to manifest abilities they did not have before. Once they were baptized, cleansed, the bridegroom started giving them gifts of the Spirit.
GIFTS FOR THE BRIDE:
While the groom is away preparing a room for his bride, he sends gifts to his bride, usually via his groomsman. These gifts will be specifically designed to beautify his bride on their wedding day, like flowers and perfume. One of the first gifts that Yeshua gave us are the Gifts presented through the Holy Spirit:
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit Counselor has been given to us as a gift that continues to give more gifts to beautify us. Wisdom, Intelligence, Prophecy, Healing, Preaching, and many other attributes are all gifts that we receive through the Holy Spirit that make the bride more beautiful in preparation for our wedding day.
NO ALCOHOL FOR THE BRIDEGROOM:
The bridegroom pledges to his bride that he will not drink any alcohol until they are wed together, this is a two fold pledge. Making sure that the bridegroom has no alcohol could remove potential problems in judgment which may arise if the bridegroom became intoxicated during the betrothal period. Also though, in Hebrew customs, wine is an important part of celebrations, and to not partake of it would clearly show devotion to his bride.
“I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)
“I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of YHWH.” (Mark 14:25)
“For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of YHWH comes.” (Luke 22:18)
BRIDE REMOVES ITEMS UNNEEDED FOR HER NEW LIFE:
The bride was expected to get rid of things that she would not need for their upcoming marriage life. Yeshua the Messiah gave us instructions on what to do with both extra physical and spiritually sinful possessions.
One example of extra physical possessions would be the extremely monetarily wealthy man who wants to enter into heaven.
“Yeshua answered, If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
And example of extra spiritually sinful possessions would be when Yeshua preached about being a servant, or a slave, to sin. You can not be a bond slave to Satan and free to be married to Yeshua the Messiah, but Yeshua says that he can set you free if you want to remove your sin.
“Yeshua replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, a son belongs to it forever, so if a son sets you free you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)
A CONSECRATED WATCHFUL BRIDE:
A consecrated bride is set apart, and productively waits for the return of her bridegroom. This is why Yeshua said we should be spending time preparing ourselves for Him.
Yeshua used a parable with ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom in order to describe the need to be alert in order to meet with Him at any time, whenever it is we are called. “At that time the kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out, Here’s the bridegroom. Come out to meet him. Then all the brides woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, our lamps are going out. No, they replied, there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves. But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. Sir. Sir. They said. Open the door for us. But he replied, I tell you the truth, I do not know you. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)
Note that Yeshua did not say that if someone was knowingly or slothfully unprepared when he called that it was alright, he says bluntly that the door will be closed once he has gathered the brides. For that reason, you must be ready at all times with no question, and if you do momentarily falter, repent the moment you realize what has happened and get back to the ready.
THE BRIDEGROOM PREPARES A PLACE:
A bridegroom would tell his bride that he would go to prepare a place for her, and that place would be considered complete once his father said it was ready.
“Do not let your hears be troubled. Trust in YHWH, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4).
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard. Be alert. You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33)
BRIDEGROOM COMES FOR HIS BRIDE:
The bridegroom would come for the bride in the middle of the night, with a shout and the sound of a shofar.
“For the Master himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of YHWH, and the dead in the Messiah will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
SEVEN DAYS IN THE WEDDING CHAMBER:
There are many events that have happened or prophecy from the Scripture which discuss events that are foreshadows of events. This foreshadow events are events we use as preparation to look forward to other events that come, like a dress rehearsal before a performance. When the bridegroom has the bride in the wedding chamber, it usually is for seven days. A foreshadow of this would be considered what the Ancient Hebrew teachings and Revelation calls the Time of Trouble upon the earth, a seven year period of progressively more conflict. During that time of trouble, the righteous would be kept safe from direct harm by Divine protective powers, while those who chose to remained in spiritual Babylon would feel the pains.
“Then I heard another voice from heaven say, Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4)
The final act of the Hebrew wedding is for all of the guests to gather, and to celebrate the wedding of the couple. This takes place under the chuppah, or covering, where the ceremony is completed with great joy and merriment.
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting, Hallelu Yah. For our Adonai YHWH Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints. Then the angel said to me, Write, Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. And he added, These are the true words of YHWH.” (Revelation 19:6-9).
RAISED IN THE AIR:
As is part of custom, the bridegroom and bride would be lifted above the heads of the people at the wedding feast, meeting each other in the air.
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with him in the clouds to meet the Master in the air. And so we will be with the Master forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
THE NEW HOME:
The bride and bridegroom leave the marriage supper to go to the home that the bridegroom had prepared.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from YHWH, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the thrown saying, Now the dwelling of YHWH is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and YHWH himself will be with them and be their Elohim. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4).
From the pattern of the ancient marriage practices, we see that like the bridegroom of ancient times, Yeshua came to the home of His bride for the betrothal, made a covenant with His bride and sealed it with a cup of wine, paid the bride price with His life ,and sent His bride gifts through the Holy Spirit.
We, the betrothed Church, ready for our Bridegroom to partake in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb with him, and depart with our Bridegroom to our home, called in Revelation the new Jerusalem.
Early disciples of the church would have understood all of this clearly, because they were taught it and lived it. And with it being taught to you with this tract, you should also have a more clear understanding of what these example verses of scripture, and many other verses in the New Testament, are based from.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’, and let him who hears say, ‘Come’, whoever is thirsty let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)