Polygamy is not a topic I much enjoy thinking about, to me, as a woman and a human being I find it awful. My face screws up if I try to imagine myself in that scenario. It hurts to think about it. When I viewed the content related to the blog post by Christine a while back about a man that felt it was his right to go against the law of this land and marry more than one woman, I got quite angry at the entitlement of this individual. It would be easy to wag my finger at other religions or sects and feel superior in my moral Christianity, another piece of evidence that our Way is the right Way right? All Christians are against polygamy wouldn’t you say?
Well, consider this comment from a Biblical scholar. A quote from his study of Genesis is below:
“Genesis 4:19 speaks of the wives of Lamech: “Lamech took unto him two wives.” This is the first case of bigamy and polygamy, which by itself was never expressly forbidden by Scripture.”
Hmmm, it leaves a door open, doesn’t it.
The same scholar quoted above would end a conversation on this topic by saying something to the effect of; “The Bible does not speak against polygamy but who would want the headache of two wives,” Chortle, snigger, snort.
Biblical scholars and teachers hold an incredible lot of sway and influence whether they want to or not, when they tag on a “God has revealed in His Word” or “After years of diligent and prayerful study of Scripture” we (myself included) often find ourselves in conversations saying; “Dr/Pastor/Preacher says…..”
I have seen this scholar’s work quoted by others on this topic as though it gives their argument authority, and on it goes.
From some of the readings of those in favour of polygamy including the scholar above I see a connection with strong patriarchal views.
Some argue, as they do with slavery, that polygamy is a means of social welfare, helping perhaps an unfortunate woman and elevating her to the higher status of wife and mother albeit alongside another. If the man provides for her and takes care of her – well what’s wrong with that? Others see it as a way of putting wrongs in society such as adultery, rape pornography right – reasoning if polygamy and complete submissiveness of the wife to the husband was in place these ills would be eliminated overnight. And for others, it will fit very nicely with their reconstructionist ideas of recreating a Christian/Patriarchal society of generational faithfulness, you need the numbers though, so more wives equals more children, gets the job done quicker!
When we read the Bible we see some of the Patriarchs, those who revered God and whose salvation we do not doubt, had more than one wife, Jacob and David being two that spring to mind. It would seem that God did not speak against those who had plural wives and even blessed and worked through these men. In Leviticus 18:18 we see God giving guidelines to not marry two sisters but says nothing against marrying more than one woman. So maybe God is O.K with polygamy?
Everything in my gut says polygamy is NOT good for women, and I think God loves women, so I don’t think He likes it either! So how does one contend?
As the above quote mentions, our first example in the Bible of polygamy is Lamech and his wives in the passages of Genesis leading up to the flood. We know the Bible is also a record of history. But just because a practice is recorded in the Bible, does that mean it receives God’s blessing as OK and legitimate?
Lamech came down from the line of Cain. He was a murderer. Is God using Lamech as a poster boy to promote polygamous marriage? I think not.
Consider these verses in Matthew when the Pharisees try to catch Yahshua out, quizzing him about the law regarding divorce.
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
I think the Bible makes it clear what God’s original plan for marriage was. This verse in Genesis rules out polygamy because it states ‘two will become one flesh’ not three or four or six!
I find the following verses interesting too:
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Could the law about not marrying a wife’s sister also have been given because of the hardness of our hearts and should not be used as an argument for polygamy?
In Matthew 7:31 Yahshua makes this statement
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
I believe this is the determiner and if we by His grace keep this simple commandment we will be in line with the teachings of the Law and the Prophets. So…..
- If a man would not enjoy being one of two or more husbands to one wife then he also shouldn’t have more than one wife.
- If a man would become jealous or lonely because his partner preferred another to him then he should not suggest polygamy is a healthy living arrangement.
- If a man would find it hard to trust his wife or remain loyal to her, or found himself doubting her love for him over and over because her affections were split between him and another… then… he should be content with one wife.
We can read in the Bible and see how miserable Hannah was. We see the conflict caused in the Patriarch’s of Israel’s households when ‘another’ was brought into the equation. We see how God gave guidelines for the future kings of Israel no to have multiple wives,(Deuteronomy 17:17) and how doing so led to problems that had ramifications within their household and wider society.
In all honesty I am completely ignorant of how this arrangement would work. All I can envision is jealousy, arguments, play-offs, manipulation, and an unhealthy pecking order. Is that God’s ideal for His children? Does a loving Father hope that one day His little girl will grow up to be one of many to one husband? And the children, what about the children????
Sometimes it is scary going against men of the Word, who have studied for years, who bring a tone of authority, but they don’t get it right all the time. There are other ideas, quotes, ‘doctrines’ that we have come to realise are not Scriptural but often swallowed as though they are. This post may be one of many “Wait, what?’ moments that we have had since we have ventured on this path of discovery.
It all comes back to the heart.