On Polygamy in the Bible & Modern Times #AskMe
Why was marrying multiple women seen as acceptable back in the Old Testament or other religions, but shunned today?
When we read the Bible, we must do so with the understanding that God is a God of patterns and structures. When He wanted the ark, tabernacle, and temple built, He laid out very specific instructions. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, He gave them a formula. Similarly, when he wanted us to understand marriage, he showed us Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, pre-Fall.
We must also understand the Law of First Mention wherein the context in which a thing or concept is first presented (i.e. marriage), that is the context upon which we are to base every other mention of it in the Scripture.
Recently on Facebook, I had a very similar discussion and this was my answer:
I always like to say that God is a God of patterns. In the Bible we must consider the Law of First Mention which means that the first mention of a thing/concept such as marriage is how we are to take it throughout the Scripture. Thus in the perfect Garden of Eden we see one man and one woman. And God perpetuates this pattern for all of the firsts:
First Families after the flood (Noah and wife, Noah's sons and their respective wives--one each)
Isaac, the father of Israel (Jacob), had one wife, Rebekah
The Church, one Bridegroom (Jesus) and one Bride (the Church).
Now you may say, "What about the other patriarchs with multiple wives? God was okay with that right?" I say no and I'll illustrate why:
1) Abraham had one true wife, Sarah. When Sarah--in her own strength, not God's--tried to bring God's Word to past, she gave her maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham and thus caused the problems we are still actively fighting today between Israel (and their friends) and the sons of Ishmael, the Muslims. Hagar marrying Abraham was NEVER God's will, NEVER.
2) Israel/Jacob was, unfortunately, swindled into having two wives. He actively agreed to marrying the maidservants as well. Marrying four women was NEVER EVER God's will for Jacob. We know this, because all of the children by the women besides Rachel tried to kill/get rid of Joseph.
3) David ran into A LOT of problems because of his multiple wives. Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar. Tamar's whole-brother, Absalom, killed Amnon. Later, Absalom's whole-brother, Abijah, tried to steal the throne multiple times from his half-brother, Solomon, and eventually, Solomon had to execute him. And we ALL remember how Solomon got here and how his only (to our knowledge) whole-brother died because of his parents' sin.
4) Solomon took after his father in the area of sexual lust and had over 1,000 wives/concubines. And it was these "strange women" who caused Solomon, in all of his wisdom, to commit spiritual adultery and go after foreign gods.
Every time you see a notable man in the Scripture married to multiple women, you see problems galore stem from it! PROOF it's NEVER God's will. And if that weren't enough, in the New Testament, when you see the qualifications for a deacon and a bishop you always see that he must be the husband of ONE wife. (And if you're a woman, the wife of ONE husband.) Anything else is going outside of the Scripture.
What I meant to add to the Facebook conversation was this: there is forgiveness for wrongdoing when true repentance is present. And furthermore, what happens-once surrendered to God--can work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Such was the case with Israel, his four wives, 12 sons, and one daughter. They formed the nation we now know as Israel.
Also, I’ll reference something my bestfriend, Jessica, once told me. She was in one of her English Bible minor classes at Oral Roberts University, and they were discussing societal issues in the context of the Bible. The question at hand had to do with women’s position in society and the professor said something to the effect of this:
God didn’t come to change our society.
It may be a shocking statement to some and this is an issue I cover extensively in my very very forthcoming book on reformation. However, I agree. Jesus did not come to change the way society worked. He came to change us. And if we being changed and transformed by the blood, the Word, and the Spirit would be hearers and doers of the Word, then society will eventually be changed as well.
Bringing it back to marriage, as sons of God, we never base our reasoning on what other popular culture and other religions deem acceptable. We base it on the Word of God and God alone. We set the standard, not them. And when you see instances such as Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon marrying more than one woman, you see them conforming, not to God’s leading, but to the societal norms of the time. We do not rely on paganism or moral relativity to set the standard, we are the standard.
Unless you’re part of some back-country Mormon clan, in America, polygamy isn’t really an issue (not now anyway). However, if we take it to the Motherland, we see this as a major issue, especially in the heavily Muslim areas.
Bishop Tudor Bismark, who is based in Harare, Zimbabwe referenced a real case of polygamy in a church’s congregation in one of his sermons.
The man was a member of the church, but obviously, he needed to be dealt with in some way. I don’t recall how many wives the man had, but they and their children were all financially dependent on the man which is often the case and even the purpose of many “old school” polygamous marriages. Just look at the early Mormon church. They decided the following:
The man must maintain his obligation as a husband and father to the family he’d created.
The man must not marry anymore women.
The man must not be allowed to serve in ministry.
Some of the scriptures that support this decision are as follows:
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8)
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)... (I Timothy 3:2, 4, 5)
Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (I Timothy 3:12)
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. (Titus 1:5, 6)
The man had created his bed and had to lay in it--literally. The women and children shouldn’t be made to suffer for their husband’s/father’s lack of discretion.
Practically speaking, as any man in his right mind would agree with, it’s enough work (or trouble depending on who you ask) to give one woman everything she needs in a relationship, much less marriage. Why complicate the situation by bringing another woman, or two, or three...into the picture? That might have flown in the olden days, but women are (generally) far too independent to put up with that mess nowadays.
I would also add, in my personal opinion as a woman, that polygamy is a sure-fire sign of a man or society that has a low, derogatory view of women. A man is worthy of all that attention, but a woman isn’t. A woman isn’t worthy of having one man all to herself; she must share him with others. A woman needs to fit in where she can get it. A woman needs to take what she’s offered because something better won’t come along. A woman can’t or isn’t allowed to fend for herself. Honestly, at it’s core, I truly believe that it is rooted in a demonic hatred of women. My proof is that you never ever hear of polygamy the other way around: one woman with multiple husbands. Neither way is good or godly. It just seems polygamy is aimed at degrading women at that is not, never was, and never will be the heart of God.
I’ll also mention that the Prophet Isaiah presents a prophecy that makes it sound as if polygamy is the sign of a curse:
And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 4:1, see Isaiah 3 for full context)
Judah and Jerusalem were under God’s judgment in this prophecy so anything that’s a symptom of God’s judgement, I don’t want it!
At the end of the day, we simply must choose God’s pattern or create one of our own without His blessing. But we must remember that if we step out from under His will and protection, He cannot and will not be held responsible for the chaos that ensues because of it.