DOWRY (dou'rē). The price paid by the suitor to the parents of the prospective bride; also the portion that the bride brought to her husband. Gen.30.20; Gen.34.12; Exod.22.17; and 1Sam.18.25 (kjv) illustrate various uses of the word. NIV renders “gift,” “bride-price.”
, three Heb. words are so tr. in the Eng. VSS. 1. מֹ֣הַר
, “purchase price,” “purchase money” (KJV) DOWRY, (RSV) MARRIAGE PRESENT. The actual meaning of the word is in effect “bride-price,” a sum paid the father of the bride for her economic loss to the family. This could be paid in service (Gen 29:18
). It is used specifically in the sense of money paid the father for the bride (Gen 34:12
; Exod 22:16
; 1 Sam 18:25
). It is therefore incorrect to consider this type of payment a dowry.
2. שִׁלֻּחִ֔ים, “gifts given to a daughter on her leaving for marriage.” Although a rather clumsy definition, it is clear enough in the two texts where it occurs (1 Kings 9:16; Mic 1:14 [KJV], “present” [RSV], “dowry”).
3. זֵ֣בֶד, “endowment,” “gift” (Gen 30:20). The relative scarcity of such terms in the OT demonstrates that although common in the Near Eastern cultures around them it was not customary among the people of Israel; in fact, three of the less than ten references are in contexts concerning Gentiles. See Marriage.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)