In many Christian communities polygyny is not accepted, and is considered a sin by a lot of people worldwide. The problem I personally had with this was that many of the ancient Jewish elders were in fact in polygynous relationships, and were not condemned sinners for this. It is rather hypocritical to expect that in the old times this was not a sin, and yet now it is considered so. The word of God is consistent and so is his message, and except for the completion of the Law which was given to Moses, no other part of God’s message to man has ever changed. Just as it is still acceptable for believers to do animal sacrifice if they choose to, it should also be acceptable to marry in a polygynous fashion. Although trespassing the laws of the land remains unacceptable, where this is legal it ought not to be condemned.
One of the first things I learned was that the modern description of marriage as a team does not exist in the bible. Even the passage “be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers” is in a completely different context than marriage. 1 Samuel 6:7, 1 Kings 18:44, 2 Kings 5:17, 2 Kings 9:21, Jeremiah 51:23 The previous are all of the verses containing the word yoked.
These verses all come from cross referenced English translation versions, the versions searched were King James Version, Apostolic Bible Polyglot, American Standard Version, 1965 Bible in Basic English, Contemporary English Version, English Standard Version, International Standard Version, Jewish Publication Society Bible, Revised Version, 1912 Weymouth New Testament.
Nor oddly enough is marriage ever described as a pair either, the same 10 translations were checked.
There are a few places where men and women are described as a couple both in married and non-married relationships. These 3 passages are from the contemporary English version.
Numbers 25:6 to 8 Later, Moses and the people were at the sacred tent, crying, when one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman to meet his family. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the priest, saw the couple and left the crowd. He found a spear and followed the man into his tent, where he ran the spear through the man and into the woman’s stomach. The LORD immediately stopped punishing Israel with a deadly disease,
Matthew 19:6 Then they are no longer two people, but one. And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.”
Mark 10:9 And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.”
This verse is from the international standard version.
Amos 3:3 “Will a couple walk in unity without having met?
As odd as it is and as foreign to our minds we must then cast aside the descriptions of modern marriage when speaking about biblical marriage. This will help to make what we do learn from the bible more concrete in our minds. In this short few verses the modern equality teamwork marriage is destroyed. Let us check a few more ideas.
- The marriage relationship pattern preexisted before “The Law” which was nailed to the cross. There were polygynoist marriages, and master concubine relationships pre-existing before then. In fact Hebrews chapter 11 records many people who are accounted worthy that were in polygamist relationships. Just as there are 4 cherubs for each of Gods patterns of service a couple of them represented in the table. The way the bible keeps consistency because of 2 dispensations the other 2 ought to have consistent rules to go with them.
|Noah||Abel||Abraham Wife, Concubine|
|Isaac||Enoch||Jacob, 2 wives, 2 concubines|
|Joseph||Sarah, wife in polygamous relationship|
|Samson||Rachab||David seven or more wives, and an unnumbered amount of concubines 1Ch 14:3|
Of the people named in Hebrews chapter 11 the amount of people in monogamous and polygamous matrimony are equal. The number of unrecorded people outnumbers both. None of these people are specifically recorded to have been unmarried, or married.
Polygyny will also be allowed in the future during the 1000 year reign of Jesus on the earth, the word Hold, is used in reference to forcing someone to have sex in the law.
Isaiah 4:1 to 3 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:
Isaiah 4:1 והחזיקו שׁבע נשׁים באישׁ אחד ביום ההוא לאמר לחמנו נאכל ושׂמלתנו נלבשׁ רק יקרא שׁמך עלינו אסף חרפתנו׃
The phrase reproach when used in reference to women in the bible, usually is speaking about the inability to bare children, and is spelled differently in the Hebrew text. There are 2 other sources of reproach, one of rape, and the other of extreme lewdness. Leviticus 19:20, 2 Samuel 13:10 to 14, Ezekiel 16:57 Neither of those alternative sources are speaking to the type of reproach spoken of in Isaiah 4, the great day of the Lord, when man shall be as rare as gold upon the earth Isaiah 13:11 & 12.
Genesis 30:22 to 23 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:
Isaiah 54:1 to 8 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
Lamentations 5:1 to 4 Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us. Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.
The drive for the reproach is simple, the command to reproduce is God’s first directive. This was repeated again to Noah, and again to Jacob before he took a wife. The core of a woman’s service to God is giving birth to and raising little children in the love of the lord. There is no denial bareness causes personal turmoil to women.
Genesis 1:27 to 28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
Genesis 28:1 & 2 & 3 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
1 Timothy 2:11 to 15 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
If then before Jesus’ light, and after he returns polygyny is found acceptable by God and not a sin, then there is no biblical precedence for the way this relationship formation is treated as anathema by so many Christians. Three cherubs concur, this leaves the cherub of now. Do the cherubs all have the same pattern? Yes, and all protect the way to immortality. Let us then examine the truth in the gospel.
There are 3 verses in the New Testament which specifically mention people having one wife.
1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop G1985 then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
G1985 ἐπίσκοπος episkopos ep-is’-kop-os
From G1909 and G4649 (in the sense of G1983); a superintendent, that is, Christian officer in general charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively): – bishop, overseer.
In the greek text the word is singular and masculine. The additional information from Titus requires this person to be an elder.
Titus 1:5 to 8 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders G4245 in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop G1985 must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
1) elder, of age
1a) the elder of two people
1b) advanced in life, an elder, a senior
1 Timothy 3:12 to 13 Let the deacons G1249 be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
G1247 διακονέω diakoneō dee-ak-on-eh’-o
From G1249; to be an attendant, that is, wait upon (menially or as a host, friend or [figuratively] teacher); technically to act as a Christian deacon: – (ad-) minister (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon.
The concordance definitions are a little bias in definition, per the information available on perseus.tufts.edu this word means “one who serves” and is no more specific than that. In my opinion this speaks of those who serve the needs of the Elder, or for ecclesial management.
What this means for us is that a person in a more than 1 marriage situation whether polygamous or previous divorce relationship, is not eligible to manage the ecclesia or be an elder in the ecclesia. They however may attend as a regular member. As an educated guess as to why this was commanded, just look at how busy those brothers in divorce relationships with children are in dealing with ex-wives, and at how busy those men are in polygamous relationships. The time and dedication it takes to thoughtfully manage an ecclesia, they simply do not have, and in the case of the previously divorced are often biased in their own failures.
My finding is that it is not wrong to be monogamous, but neither is it wrong to be polygamous, or remain unmarried. There is no specific restriction placed on polygamous marriage, except for ecclesial elders, and as may be later shown, many of the other verses used to prove polygamous marriage incorrect are out of context or misunderstood. The first is as follows.
Though Jesus does say a man and his woman become 1 flesh, this is in the context speaking of divorce and separation from a spouse. Jesus actually never addresses polygamist marriage, or monogamous marriage in any of his teachings, but rather divorce was for the hardness of your hearts. This use of this to try and disprove polygamous marriage is false.
Matthew 19:3 to 6 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
The word there both in Hebrew and in Greek for wife means only woman with no specific meaning of wife. The LSJ, Middle Lindell, and Autenreich Lexicons on perseus.tufts.com all agree with Thayer. This may seem irrelevant, except neither the Hebrew nor the Greek use the words bride here. The verse Jesus quotes in the Hebrew is Genesis 2:24 & 25, my personal understanding is that this verse speaks of “taking a mate”, the Greek in Matthew agrees.
Genesis 2:24 על כן יעזב אישׁ את אביו ואת אמו ודבק באשׁתוH802 והיו לבשׂר אחד׃
Genesis 2:25 ויהיו שׁניהם ערומים האדם ואשׁתוH802 ולא יתבשׁשׁו׃
In the Hebrew the first word for woman and the second word for woman are different. It is my view the first word is speaking of the act of mating.
The Prefix ב means in, while the suffix ו means his, the entire meaning of the word means “in his woman”.
The Second word the prefix ו means and, and the suffix ו again means his.
This the word meaning is “and is his woman” neither word is plural. This was the first marriage law set forward by God, the act of sex makes the relationship permanent. The lack of plurality is not a problem, either in the Hebrew or Greek, one man and one woman may be with each other in this way anyway. Our bodies are not designed for more.
H802 נָשִׁים אִשָּׁה ‘ishshâh nâshı̂ym ish-shaw’, naw-sheem’
The first form is the feminine of H376 or H582; the second form is an irregular plural; a woman (used in the same wide sense as H582).: – [adulter]ess, each, every, female, X many, + none, one, + together, wife, woman. Often unexpressed in English.
Ephesians 5:22 to 33 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
In the Greek and the English both husbands “men” ανδρασιν and wives “women” γυναικες are plural. This can be read both as singular or multiple vows.
1 Corinthians 7:36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.
1Corinthians 7:36 ει δε τις ασχημονειν επι την παρθενον αυτου νομιζει εαν η υπερακμος και ουτως οφειλει γινεσθαι ο θελει ποιειτω ουχ αμαρτανει γαμειτωσαν
But if certain acts have wronged her virginity, if he is the right age by custom and in this way is bound to desire not to sin, you must get married!
The last word γαμειτωσαν is plural, in the English it reads singular, and the Greek is different though. This might be a case of having one wife, and getting involved with another woman also. The Roman laws banned polygyny, as had the Greeks. There is a nice research paper on this at www.princeton.edu and also a snippet on Wikipedia. This is why the word for custom is used in this verse.
Why does polygyny matter? Polygyny sets up the basis for paternal leadership. In a polygamous marriage it is most necessary to have 1 leader so the group does not split apart. The marriage practices of the ancients support this, pre-law, and post-law. The frequent and allowed use of polygamy helped to stabilize the rest of society in a paternal structure. The modern decay of marriage by society is a long term result of having no societal pressure for patriarchal leaders. Fathers today have had their family leadership roles taken from them and been demoted to members of a team rather than leaders of a family body. Men and women were not created for the same purpose. God chose to specify roles specific to each gender, and he was the one who designed us as people for those roles. We do not know more than God.