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 “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. 8 If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. 10 If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. 11 If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.”
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.
“You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.”
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 “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.”
God said he gave David the wives of Saul
“I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!”
II Samuel 12:8(NASB)
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
“The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, 2 “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; 3 and they played the harlot in Egypt. They played the harlot in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and there their virgin bosom was handled. 4 Their names were Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. And they became Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah… 36 Moreover, the Lord said to me, “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations. 37 For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands.”
Ezekiel 23:1-4 & 36-37(NASB)
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?
All articles in this series: