My first post on this subject, “The biological case for Polygyny and marriage of young women” sparked a lot of interest, and most of it was negative as I would expect. Most people have a hard time stepping outside their cultural norms and value systems and looking at things from a wider historical perspective – so the negative responses I received did not offend me or shock me.
What I wanted to do here is answer some of the objections and questions that people raised, as well as clarify some things I was trying to communicate in the first post.
If you read the first post, you would see that I never once advocated for men in America to go out looking for 12 and 13 year old women to marry. What I was trying to communicate was that men marrying younger women, and even multiple younger women (polygyny) in past civilizations was not wrong and it was not immoral.
It is not wrong (present tense) in some cultures outside the United States that still practice it today (older men marrying younger women) as they are brought up in a culture expecting to be married at a young age.
In modern America, because a majority of Americans believe that men and women do not have any defined roles anymore, but should have equal opportunity (including education) to do whatever they want, this would not work in our country. Our laws against polygamy, and the fact that most states don’t allow marriage without parental consent until age 16 reflect these American values.
But what I was trying to say in the last article, and it somewhat got lost, is that even though we are living in a monogamous society, and equal opportunity for both genders society, this does not change man’s biology.
All men, are biologically capable of impregnating 20 or 30 women in one month. A woman on the other hand, is biologically wired for monogamy, even if she has sex with 20 men in one month, she can only be impregnated by one man at a time.
Man’s biological capacity for polygyny, is not only located in his reproductive organs, but also in his brain. Even though Western men are living within the constraints of a monogamous society, they are still drawn to a variety of women. But in our society men are taught to hide and subdue this natural polygamous mental wiring, because they are taught that they should only desire one woman. There are of course expectations, where some men have a very low sex drive, and some men have no sex drive at all.
The key word is “capacity”
A word I continuously used in my first post, and I continue to use in this post is “capacity”. For instance all men and women (unless they are born with some rare medical condition) have the biological capacity for having sex. But just because they have the capacity for sex, does not mean they will actually ever have sex in their lifetime.
In the same way while all men throughout history have had the biological capacity for polygyny, it does not mean they were able to act on it, or even if given the choice, many did not act on it.
Someone might say, “Well we all have the capacity for sin too, but just because we have the capacity for something does not make it right”. I would agree wholeheartedly with this statement.
If we did not have examples of some of the greatest heroes of the Bible like Abraham, Gideon, David and many others who were practicing polygynists I might agree that man’s capacity for polygyny could be a sinful capacity.
If we did not have the Old Testament regulations specifically allowing men to take other wives through various means I might agree that man’s capacity for polygyny could be a sinful capacity.
If God himself did not say to King David that he had given King Saul’s “wives” into David’s “bosom” (II Samuel 12:8) I might agree that man’s capacity for polygyny could be a sinful capacity.
If God did not picture himself as a polygynous husband with two wives (Ezekiel 23) I might agree that man’s capacity for polygyny could be a sinful capacity.
If God did not have the names of the sons of Jacob, a product of a polygynous relationship with 4 different wives inscribed on his Holy City for all eternity (Revelation 21:12), I might agree that man’s capacity for polygyny could be a sinful capacity.
What about the 50/50 ratio between men and women – wouldn’t polygyny take away wives from other men?
The first problem with this train of thought it is that it assumes there has always been a ratio of 1 to 1 for men and women throughout history. We do not know that in the beginning God did not have more women than men born so as to populate the world faster.
Secondly, for arguments sake, let’s say that for all of human history since the dawn of creation there has always been a 1 to 1 ratio between men and women. Let’s go back to my key word “capacity”. Just because man has the capacity for sex, does not mean that all men are going to get married. Just because man has the capacity for polygyny does mean all men throughout history have been able to act on their capacity for polygyny.
Many men could not marry, either because they were slaves or servants (who could only marry if their master allowed them to), or they were in poverty and poor men generally were not able to marry. You usually had to show a father you had the ability to care for his daughter, before you could marry her. Some men would later fall into poverty after marriage, in which case they would have to sell their children as slaves so they would be cared for.
So my point is, there were a lot more eligible women for marriage, then eligible men, which made it possible for many men to have polygynous marriages.
But that brings us to modern times. In our modern America a man does not have to have the means to care for a woman to marry her. In fact it is very common for poor men and women to marry each other and not long afterwards go on public assistance, especially after they have children.
But even in our day, there are still many more eligible women for marriage than eligible men. The reasons are very different than they once were. Now many men don’t won’t want to marry, and our free sex society allows men to follow their polygynous urges without any sort of marital commitment so that is what men do now(they whore around instead of getting married). This is of course just many of the reasons men run from marriage today.
“In 2011, the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960.”
Huffington Post – “Marriage Rate Declines To Historic Low, Study Finds”
This leaves a lot of women looking for men who are willing to enter a committed relationship and get married. There are many intelligent and economically well off men that would gladly take on multiple wives as our Biblical forefathers did if our society allowed.
There is no “one-flesh” mutuality in a marriage when a man marries a much younger woman or has more than one wife.
There is a sense in which marriage is a mutual thing.
“In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman”
I Corinthians 11:11(HCSB)
Man needs woman, and woman needs man, we mutually need one another.
However that is where the mutuality of man and woman begins, and the distinction between man and woman begins.
A man and woman do not need to be the same age, or the same maturity to be married. As long as the man is in a position to lead and protect his wife, she can be much younger, and much less mature.
Contrary to modern American teaches, marriage is not partnership of equals, but a patriarchy.
In the same passage above where Paul talks about men and women needing each other, he also talks about why woman was made:
“A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory. For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. 9 And man was not created for woman, but woman for man.”
I Corinthians 11:7-9(HSCB)
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.”
What does “one flesh” mean in the Bible?
““Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” and He also said:
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
“Don’t you know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For Scripture says, The two will become one flesh.”
I Corinthians 6:16(HSCB)
So what the Scriptures tell us is, a man can become “one flesh” with his wife, and a man can become “one flesh” with a prostitute. What is the only two things those two relationships have in common? Sex.
This tells us that the primary meaning of “one flesh” when it comes to the relationship of a man and woman refers to their sexual relationship.
The sex act is the binding symbol of the union between a man and woman. In Biblical times, a marriage was not sealed until a man had sex with a woman, which then bound together by law. I am not saying that there is not an emotional connection that often occurs between a man and a woman as a result of sex, we know this can and often does occur. I am also not arguing that in marriage there is not more to the one flesh concept than just the sexual reference.
Is there a secondary meaning to “one flesh” in regard to marriage? Yes. Christ shows us this in the Gospel of Mark:
6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
Mark 10:6-8 (KJV)
So the Bible refers to “one flesh” in regard to a man and woman in two ways. We are told that a man can become one flesh with a prostitute and we are also told that in marriage that a man and woman are no longer two, but one referring to the spiritual, intellectual and emotional union of a man and his wife.
But here is the issue – in our current culture Christian teachers primarily emphasize the second way one flesh is used(one in spirit and mind) and they place little to no emphasis on the most literal meaning of a couple becoming one flesh which is the sexual aspect of it.
But how can a man become “one flesh” with more than one wife?
But how can a man be “one” with more than one wife? Would that not make them many? If this was an intimate relationship of many people with one another, then that would be a polyamorous relationship. But in polygyny, a husband has a separate and distinct relationship with each of his wives(the wives don’t have physical relations with each other). He is a husband to each of them, just as God pictured himself as a husband to two wives in Ezekiel 23.
I understand that may be a difficult concept to understand, so if you are a Christian when you get to heaven you might need to ask Jacob – whose sons from his polygynous relationships with 4 different woman are inscribed on the city of God for all eternity (the twelve tribes of Israel).
I encourage the reader to look at my series on “Why Polygamy is not unBiblical” to understand this better.