Khutso Mokgehle
11 Jul

By Khutso Mokgehle

This shouldn’t be a question, but it is. The reason is lobola is an African custom and in most cases, many black Africans including Christians associate this practice with ancestral worship and acknowledgement. 

What is lobola?

According to Collins Dictionary lobola is an African custom by which a bridegroom's family makes a payment in cattle or cash to the bride's family shortly before the marriage. In South Africa, once a couple has taken the decision to get married, families meet. The groom's family formally requests the bride to be a part of their family. Usually, the bride’s family will often “name their price”, this could be cattle or money and, in most cases, there will be miscellaneous items like blankets, doeks, clothes, etc, these are different from each family and tribe. 

Usually during these lobola negotiations, many families also introduce the bride to the groom’s ancestors and certain rituals are conducted, mainly the slaughtering of a goat, sheep or cow - and one of the rituals is for the ancestors from both families to know each other. 

What is the origin of lobola?

Lobola seems to have always been an African thing. As Christians though, we need to continuously scrutinize any practice that is common in the world to see if the Bible says anything about it, this is important, so that we do not participate in anything that is an offense, therefore a sin to God. It is always important to carefully determine what pleases the Lord - Ephesians 5:10.

What does the Bible say?

There is no explicit Bible verse that tells whether to do this or not. However, when we read the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, we see several marriages and what seems to be common is that the groom and/or groom’s family offered gifts to the bride’s family before or during the marriage.

Grooms in the Bible that paid lobola

  1. Isaac

Abraham sends his senior servant to go look for a suitable wife for his son Isaac amongst his relatives in Nahor. It was love at first sight, in a weird way though as the groom was not there but the servant loved Rebecca’s serving heart. In Genesis 24, the servant gives Rebecca a nose ring and two gold bracelets. In verse 53, the Bible tells us that the servant offloaded the following gifts from the camels to give Rebecca, her brother Laban and her mother; gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing.

  1. Jacob

The story of Jacob’s marriage is found in Genesis 29. Jacob goes to his uncle Laban to find a wife as instructed by his parents. He arrives at Paddan Aram, finds his uncle Laban and falls in love with his cousin, Rachel. In verse 18, Jacobs makes an offer to his uncle, “I’ll work for you for seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel”. Jacob had no wealth at this stage, that’s why he offered to work for free for seven years to pay “lobola” for Rachel. The uncle agrees. Even though there is a plot twist in the story later, fact remains, Jacob worked hard to have Rachel as a wife. 

  1. David

The story of David and his marriage to Michal, who was King Saul’s daughter is found in 1 Samuel 18. David loved Michal, Saul wanting to get rid of David thought instead of requesting a normal lobola from the groom, he rather requested 100 foreskins of Philistines. Saul had no idea of how David was favored by God. David went out and brought the required foreskins as his lobola for Michal. 

  1. Boaz

The love story of Boaz and his wife Ruth is found in the book of Ruth. Ruth’s husband had passed away, Boaz was a relative who was not the rightful “redeemer” according to their custom. Boaz presented the matter to the “redeemer”, for him to marry Ruth and also take the inheritance that belonged to Ruth’s late father-in-law. The redeemer was not interested, Boaz then paid for the inheritance of Ruth’s father-in-law, giving the money to Naomi, the mother-in-law thus taking Ruth as his wife. 

  1. Jesus Christ

Last but not least, we look at the greatest love story that is found from Genesis to Revelation, Christ bought the church with a high price, His blood! The Bible often makes reference to the Church as the bride of Christ, and we are because He did not just claim us, but He had to prove His love for us by paying a price like no other. 


There is a certain element of pride to a bride whose husband sacrificed to be the love of his life. It is a commendable practice that seems to value a woman, that she cannot just be taken from one home to another without some sort of price being paid by the groom. 

I personally do not find anything that is against God’s word regarding lobola, except of course the rituals that acknowledge ancestors, which is an abomination and an insult to the God who created all. As Christians we are supposed to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them - Ephesians 5:11

However, if your spirit grieves with this practice, I encourage you not to partake in it, rather pray about it and seek counsel from God and the Holy Spirit will give you direction, for it is written, “But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.” - Romans 14:23

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