Do I practice polygamy?
No I do not. The reason is not because I believe it is wrong, nor is it because State governments have declared it illegal. The reason is because right now the conditions for me are not right. But do I condemn those Christians who do practice polygamy within the guidelines of Scripture? No I do not.
But if I were living in a culture that allowed polygamy would I practice it? Absolutely! And no the reason is not all about sex as polygamists are often accused of. It goes far beyond that. See below many of the positive benefits of polygynous marriages.
These are some of the positive benefits of polygynous marriages:
- Polygyny emphasizes the Biblical teaching that woman was made for man and not that man and woman are equal in marriage. It is practically impossible to mistake who was made for whom in a polygynous marriage. The wives don’t sit around and wonder if they are equal to their husband, all the wives know they are there for their husband. This is why many women, Christian and non-Christian alike, hate polygyny, because it demonstrates to the world that woman was created for man, and that marriage is NOT an equal partnership as is taught in many Christian circles today.
- Polygyny has practical benefits like that when one woman is sick, the other women can care for her and her children when the man is out working.
- While I do believe that a man should be able to support his family, this arrangement would come in handy for if the wives had part time jobs that the other wives could watch their children. In Biblical times it would not be uncommon for some wives to be working in the fields while other wives cared for their children.
- The wives would act like sisters to one another and be able to provide emotional support to one another (an area many men lack in simply because it is not how they are wired).
- In Biblical times, with a high infant mortality rate, having multiple wives would give you a much better chance of having children, especially sons to carry on your estate.
- Polygyny makes being a selfish wife much more difficult. You don’t get to make yourself the center of your husband’s universe, you have to share. In a monogamous marriage this can happen all too easily (wife as center of universe mentality). It also requires the man to also share of himself with each of his wives. Contrary to modern belief, it is possible for a man to love more than one woman. Men are very good at compartmentalizing, this is a trait women often lack.
- Often in Biblical times polygynous men were well off and women would gladly become a new wife to one of these men for the economic security it would offer her and her future children. The old saying “a good man is hard to find” goes all the way back to almost the beginning of creation.
- I mentioned earlier the idea that polygyny would offer a better chance of having more children. But even in a marriage that may have started off monogamous for many years, if the wife went past her child bearing years without giving the man a son to carry on his name and his estate, he could then marry a younger second wife to try and conceive a son.
- In the area of sex, there are often times because of periods, medical conditions, problem pregnancies, or after delivery issues that a woman might not be able to have sex with her husband for an extended length of time. Polygyny solves this problem.
- What about if a man marries a woman and not long after the marriage he finds her to be most disagreeable? Some might call this today a “battle ax”. Even if she was not disagreeable in general, what if she were frigid in the bedroom? Biblically as long she did not refuse to have sex with him he could not and should not divorce her because of these things and he is bound to take care of her and provide her marriage rights for life. Polygyny solves this issue. Now I realize that some might argue that he is doing something wrong to make his wife disagreeable, and in truth he should try to make each marriage to each of his wives as good as it can be. But let’s face it some women are just disagreeable, it’s who they are.
The emotional support of fellow wives
I covered this briefly in the list of benefits of polygyny above but I wanted to park on this for a minute. One of the biggest killers of marriages today is the emotional connection aspect. The move to monogamy only was a big blow to women’s emotional support systems. Unless they had other women close by, women had little emotional support once polygamy became unfavorable form of marriage.
But women of the past did not divorce their husbands for lack of emotional connectedness, this is a new phenomenon occurring only in the last century. Women understood that men were different, and that men lead, provide and protect. Men were not expected to be like women or to try and change their mindsets to be more emotional and relational.
The reality is that a man can only meet so many needs of his wife, and a wife can only meet so many needs of her husband. If we look to our spouse to meet all our needs in every aspect of our life they will always come up short. There are some needs that will only be met outside the husband/wife relationship with same sex friendships.
We all know this to be true. As men we know there are some things only another man will understand, and for women there are some things only another women will understand.
This is truth is sorely missed in our modern society. Instead we are trying to make men more like women and women more like men in an attempt to try and make marriage meet all the needs of both sexes when that is something God never intended.
Can polygyny be abused?
Absolutely! Whether in the past or today polygyny can be abused, just like monogamy can be abused. Something that can be good and wholesome, can be turned into something perverse. A man can abuse or neglect his wife in a monogamous relationship as easily as a man can abuse or neglect his wives in a polygynous relationship.
I believe that fact that Solomon was married to 700 wives and 300 concubines (slave wives) was an abuse of polygyny. How could a man possibly fulfill his marital duty to 1000 women?
It is one thing for a man to have 4 wives like Jacob did. It would be very possible to cultivate a relationship with four women, but with 1000? I think not. I think it would be fair to say that being a wife of Solomon meant you got see him a few times a year at best. In fact if he slept with a different wife each night, it would take him three years to get back to his first wife!
So I am not arguing that every polygynous relationship is right – and for that matter neither does the Bible. The Bible actually condemns certain polygynous relationships, while allowing others.
Polygyny is also abused today by those who have some of their wives put their children on state aid. If you are going to practice polygyny, then you must practice it Biblically. That means you must be able to support your new wives, and if you can’t you should not do it.
It’s not fair!
The last complaint against Polygyny that I will tackle is “it’s not fair!” Why does a man get to have more than one wife but a woman can have only one husband. The simple answer is this – LIFE IS NOT FAIR.
God did not make an equal creation, in all of creation there is inequality.
Can a fish say to a bird “Why can’t I fly? That’s unfair”
Can a deer say to a bear “Why can’t I be as big and strong as you? That’s unfair”
If cars could talk, could a minivan say to Dodge Ram with a huge Hemi engine – “Why can’t I tow what you can, why can’t I go as fast as you, why am I not as durable as you? That’s unfair”
You get my point.
Some might say my analogies are flawed because they compare apples and oranges. Men and women are both human beings.
This is true that we as men and women are equal in our humanity, and we are equal in our worth to God. However, we are not equal in how we are created and we are not equal in the roles that we were designed for – this is not only a Biblical fact, it’s a biological FACT.
We are all designed by our creator for a purpose. Can a monogamous marriage also show God’s purpose for man and woman in marriage? Of course it can. But God’s purpose in marriage is not as obliviously seen in a monogamous marriage as it is in a polygynous marriage.
Conclusion of Part 5
Polygamy can be abused like any other acceptable thing and it has been abused some at different points in history and even today, but that does not make polygamy itself wrong, only the abuse of it. While I myself do not practice polygamy, I support the right of every man to engage in this practice as a Biblically acceptable model of marriage.
As I have demonstrated in the 10 benefits above, polygyny is not all about men being able to have sex with lots of women. There are many mutual benefits for both men and women from the Biblical practice of polygyny.
All articles in this series: