Bride "Price" or Bride "Wealth"?
My current research has me delving into African religious practices as part of a paper for the upcoming SBL on the shades and the hereafter in the Hebrew Bible. (I'm sure I'll be posting on this research subsequently.) While reading an excellent book on African Religions and Philosophy by John S. Mbiti, I was reminded that often we westerners mis-apprehend the practice of bride wealth (cf. 1 Sam 18:27). Mbiti writes, "Under no circumstances is this custom a form of 'payment,' as outsiders have so often mistakenly said. ...The two families are involved in a relationship which, among other things, demands an exchange of material and other gifts. This continues even long after the girl is married and has her own children." Further, Mbiti writes, "This marriage gift...is a token of gratitude on the part of the bridegroom's people. ...At her home the gift 'replaces' her, reminding the family that she will leave or has left and yet she is not dead. She is a valuable person."