Christian arguments FOR the practice of Polygamy
The Bible regulates polygyny
One of the greatest arguments against MO advocates comes from the fact that the Bible regulates polygyny. Before I even show the passages that regulate polygyny MO advocates will argue that the Bible also regulates slavery and we all know that is wrong and immoral right? Well that’s for another post, but here is the short and concise answer about slavery.
“Man stealing” as the Bible calls it, is wrong. This is when you take someone that is not yours to take and sell them as a slave. However it was not wrong or immoral in Biblical times for a man to sell his son or daughter as a slave. Often time’s families that were in poverty did this, and it was a mercy for the child so they could be fed and taken care of instead of dying of hunger.
Another example of slavery that would not be wrong would be when the Israelites conquered nations they took some of the people as slaves – this was a right granted by God and it was a punishment of God upon the ungodly heathen nations around them.
But just like polygyny, God regulated how slaves could be taken and how they were to be treated. This may offend our 21st century western ideals, but I choose to accept God’s ways over our modern ways when the two conflict instead of trying to warp the Bible into fitting our modern mold.
But getting back to polygyny, here are several Bible passages that regulate the practice of polygyny:
God commands that wives are to be taken care of equally even when their husband takes another wife, and each wife has a right to sexual activity with her husband.
The rights of wives to be treated well even after their husbands married other women
“7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.”Exodus 21:7-11 (KJV)
A man could not marry his wife’s sister while she lived
God commanded that a man could not marry a close relative including the sister of his wife while his wife lives.
“Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.”Leviticus 18:18 (KJV)
This verse very clearly is talking about polygyny. Moses says a man cannot take a woman’s sister as a rival wife while the woman lives, which implies after his wife has died then he can marry his sister-in-law – no honest reading of this passage would imply that he is forbidding polygyny, only polygyny amongst close relatives. The “in addition” phrase implies that a man could take another wife, just not one that is a close relative (like an aunt, sister, half-sister or sister of his current wife).
God commanded a man (regardless of marital status) to marry the wife of his dead brother and raise up and heir for his brother’s estate. If he did not fulfill this duty he would be shamed before the people. There was definite possibility of polygamy occurring here.
“5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.”Deuteronomy 25:5-6 (KJV)
God said he gave David the wives of Saul
“8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.”II Samuel 12:8(KJV)
In addition to these regulations we have the examples of many Godly men in the Old Testament who had many wives. Abraham had concubines (slave wives) in addition to his second wife after Sarah died. Jacob had 4 wives, Gideon had “many wives” and David had 8 wives and 10 concubines. As I said earlier I think Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines is an abuse of polygyny and is a violation of God’s warning against Kings multiplying wives.
That being said, I think the weight of Scripture, both in example and in actual regulations is against MO advocates.
History shows us that the Jews even 300 years after Christ still heavily practiced polygamy, because the Romans would not have had to keep passing laws against something that was not a problem.
God symbolizes himself as a polygamist with his two wives – Judah and Israel
1 The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother:
3 And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity.
4 And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah…
36 The Lord said moreover unto me; Son of man, wilt thou judge Aholah and Aholibah? yea, declare unto them their abominations;
37 That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them.Ezekiel 23:1-4 & 36-37 (KJV)
Most Christians know that God pictured himself as a husband to Israel. What many Christians do not know is that God actually pictures himself as polygamist in the Book of Ezekiel, married to two women (Judah and the rest of Israel). Opponents may argue that God was speaking of Israel as one nation, but then why would he clearly say there were two daughters who bore him children and he said “they” committed adultery against him? If Polygamy was an evil thing, God would never picture himself as a polygamist.
Conclusion of Part 4
Not only did God not have Moses condemn the practice of polygamy, he had him do the opposite – he had him regulate it! God said through his prophet that he had given David the many wives of Saul. God commanded that men had to marry their dead brother’s wife to raise up heirs for him and no exemption is made for them if they are already married. Why would God picture himself as polygamist married to two women (Judah and the rest of Israel) if polygamy was a perversion or wrong?
In the final part of this series some practical benefits life benefits of polygamy.