Previously I wrote about why polygyny is not only NOT unbiblical, but it was regulated, allowed and practiced by many of the Old Testament patriarchs. But what about the biological case for polygyny? Did God design men’s bodies for polygynous relationships? What about the marriage of young women to older to men?
Imagine that you were able to take a time machine back to a time in human history around 3000 years ago, deep in the Middle East. You meet a traveler who says he is coming back from a trade journey for his master. You ask him about how he became a slave and he tells you that his parents were in poverty, and that they traded him to his master for some cattle. He says this helped his parents to come out of poverty and to build a life for his other siblings.
He asks you to come meet his master. He tells you that his master was a great hero to his nation, and he is a kind and generous man, a man that worships the one true God. In the distance you can see what looks like a small village. You see what seems to be a celebration of some kind so you ask your companion “what are they celebrating?”
He responds that his master is getting married. As you come closer he points out his master and his bride to be sitting on the ground beside him. The man appears to be his mid-40’s while the girl sitting next to him looks no more than 14. This must be a mistake.
You ask him again – “that girl is his daughter right?” He responds – “No she is his bride to be. My master is very excited, she is his 15th wife and he is hoping she will give him his 70th son!” After wiping the shocked look off your face, you ask you’re travelling companion one more question – “What is your master’s name?” He responds – “My master’s name is Gideon”.
The story I have just given you, while fictional, is based on a true Biblical character and based upon what we know of the culture and times most likely happened (minus the time traveler with one of Gideon’s slaves- LOL).
“Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”
When does a girl become a woman?
While culturally we consider a girl to become a woman at the age of 18, biologically speaking, adulthood is reached when sexual maturity is reached. Before the modern era, a girl became a woman when she experienced her first period (usually around 12 or 13), she was then eligible for marriage and usually her father had her married off not long after this.
Lucien Deiss in his book “Joseph, Mary, Jesus” writes:
“How old could Mary have been? Young girls usually were betrothed as soon as they became a woman. It was believed they reached puberty at about twelve or twelve and a half. Boys it was believed reached the age if puberty a year later. Marriage could take place one year after puberty a year later. In general, it was held that men could wait until the age of eighteen or twenty before marrying so that they could have time to build a house and plant a vineyard.”
In “Jesus of History, Christ of Faith” we read:
“The women normally married as soon as they were physically able to bear children, which the Law defined as twelve and a half years of age.” 
Rev. Dr. Eugene Weitzel stated this about the Jewish view of early marriage:
“As we noted above, the Jews clearly understood that the first command that God gave to Adam and Eve was “increase and multiply” (Gen 1:28). In fact one rabbi firmly believed that “A bachelor is not truly a man at all.” Furthermore, celibacy was looked upon as an anomaly, almost a disgrace. Now keep in mind that Jesus Christ, a devout, practicing Jew who dearly loved his Jewish faith, grew up with this view of celibacy. He also knew that his people believed in early marriage. Many rabbis, even during Jesus’s time, taught that eighteen was the ideal age for marriage for a man but certainly not later than twenty-four. He knew too that girls were ready for marriage as soon as they were physically ready to conceive and bear children, which according to the law was twelve and one-half years. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably no more than fourteen years old when she gave birth to the Son of God.” 
Zvi Yehuda in his book on Jews that came to Iraq from all over the world for over 400 years writes:
“Where traditional family structure was unchanged, Jewish girls were betrothed by their parents at age 9-11 and married at age 12-13. A Jewish girl who reached the age of fifteen and was still unmarried was considered an old maid with no chance of a husband. A girl bride was not asked for opinion in choose her mate and parents occasionally married off their daughters to men dozens of years older than the bride.” 
The evidence is clear. Both in Jewish tradition and over historical accounts we know that Jews married their daughters off young. Why? Because of God’s first command to mankind to be fruitful and multiply. Men needed more time to prepare a home for their wife – but women as soon they became women(had their first period) and passed the age of 12 were usually betrothed or married and most likely had their first child by the age of 13 or 14.
Teenage mothers were the norm before the modern era
As we have previously pointed out, most scholars believe that Mary was 12 to 14 years old when she was espoused to Joseph to be married. They believe she would have been between 13 and 14 when she gave birth to Jesus. While the Bible does not state her exact age, if she were older it would have stated this as it did with Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist). Since the Bible makes no mention of her age, then it is assumed she would have been in the normal first child bearing age of women in that era, which would have been around 13 or 14. Joseph is thought to be a bit older than her (perhaps in his mid-20s or older) because he died well before Jesus’s ministry and Mary was a widow.
Just a note – if you look online there are a few Christians (but a small minority) that have tried to argue with the notion that Mary was a teenage mother and instead argue that she was at least 20 years old as this was God’s age of accountability and God would not have asked her to carry his Son at such a young age.
There are few problems with this theory of Mary being much older. The first problem is that first time mothers in their 20’s were considered to be older mothers, and the Bible would have said something about her older age, like it did with her cousin Elizabeth if she were in her 20’s. Another problem with the magic “20” number is that in most instances of the Old Testament this applied to men being fully accountable, not to women, and even in the one instance in the book of numbers where men are not specified, it does not specify women either, so the assumption always goes to it talking about men aged 20 or older.
Women were accountable to their father as long as they were in his house. He could override any decision she made, financial or otherwise while she lived in his house. His authority over her then transferred to her husband when she got married.
Some Christians want so desperately to believe, against the evidence of historical and cultural data we have of the period and location, that there is no way Mary could have been a 14 year old mother. But this starts with their pre-conceived notion, based upon our modern western culture we have all been brought up in, that marriage of girls at such young ages is an immoral act.
Bearing and Rearing Children is a young woman’s game
Biologically speaking, a woman’s best time to conceive and bear children is from the time of her first period (for most girls between age 12 and 13) and age 24. After age 24 chances of birth defects and problem pregnancies begin to rise. At age 30, a woman has used or lost 90% of the eggs she will ever have and this is why women in their 30’s typically have a much more difficult time getting pregnant.
The reason that God designed a woman to have children at a younger age, as opposed to an older age(like 30s and 40s) is because of the extreme stress that is placed on the body during pregnancy, as well as the energy and physical stamina that is required to care for and wean a child in their younger years.
What about Sarah and Elizabeth in the Bible?
Yes there are few instances of God miraculously causing older women to conceive, but this was by no means the norm of his design. We cannot take these two special cases and try to make a doctrine that God intends for women to wait until their older years to have children.
“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”
I Timothy 5:14(KJV)
A teenage girl might physically able to bear a child, but she is not psychologically ready
This argument does stray a bit from what is strictly a biological topic, but I think it needs to be addressed. I completely agree that most teenage girls in our culture and time period are not psychologically prepared for having children. But that is because our culture babies children in ways cultures of the past did not.
In Jewish tradition, a boy began his journey to manhood at the age of 13, and a girl began her journey in womanhood at the age of 12. While boys were not fully responsible (for taxation purposes, and conscription purposes and some other legal purposes) until they reached age 20, they were in many ways treated as men from age 13 on. Since women did not have the rights men did, a woman was a full woman at the age of 12 and her status and rights did not change from that point forward.
A young 12 year old girl would have witnessed births by many women by the time she reached 12 and would be fully aware of periods, child bearing and birth long before these things happened to her. She would already have been learning about child care well before she reached puberty. Her whole life would have been leading up to the time when she could finally marry and have children of her own.
So in many ways, a 12 year old girl in pre modern times would have had the maturity level of what many 18 or even 20 year old girls have today.
Also we must keep in mind that before the modern era, families took care of other and were much closer. So when a 13 or 14 year woman had her first baby, her female relatives, whether they were cousins, or aunts, or even her mother were all there to help her learn the ropes of motherhood. Today the tribal family structure has all but been eliminated.
Men can father children at any age beyond puberty
Unlike women who ovulate once a month, and are only fertile for about 5 days, the typical man (unless he has a medical condition) is in essence “fertile” every day. A man completely replenishes his sperm every 24 hours. Before recent research, doctors used to tell men to wait every other day to have sex with their wives during her fertile period. Then they discovered that is was in fact better for them to have sex every day, as all the sperm is at its best every 24 hours or so.
A man since he was not responsible for caring for the child, but for the teaching and disciplining of the child, did not need to have the physical strength and endurance that a woman needed in her duties of child rearing, and this is why a man has no expiration date on his ability to produce children.
The fact of God’s creation in human biology is, men are built for fathering multiple children with multiple women at the same time. They are also built for fathering children with multiple generations of women, as their first wives age and cannot have children, they can continue fathering children with younger women.
This is why men have such a stronger sex drive and can compartmentalize relationships with multiple women, much better than the average woman could with multiple men. Not to mention that a man has a never ending supply of child producing sperm. On the other hand, women are designed with a shelf life when it comes to having children. How else do you explain the extreme disparity between the male and female reproductive systems?
What about my own daughter?
As I write this article in August of 2014, my daughter is 12 years old. I could not imagine her being married at such a young age. But why could I not imagine such a thing? Is it because it would immoral or wrong? The answer is no.
The reason I cannot imagine it is because of the culture I have been raised in and the culture I have raised my daughter in. Because she has not been raised to prepare for marriage at age 12 she is not ready to be a wife and mother yet. Could she be ready in a few years? Perhaps.
Let’s say my daughter was 16 and a wonderful Christian 25 year old man who was a mechanical engineer approached me about courting my daughter. I was able to check out the church he attended and verify with many people his Christian character. He makes over 100K a year, owns his own home and can provide for my daughter well. Would I consider letting him court my daughter and possibly marry her as a 16 year old young lady? The answer is yes.
Just a quick note on the difference between courting and dating. Dating is when a couple choose one another apart from any parental involvement and they go out alone together doing various activities together. They may or may not be going out together with marriage in mind.
Dating is a relatively new phenomenon originating in the last century. Before that marriages were arranged either between parents or between the father of the daughter and a potential husband. Courting came on the scene later. But courting, unlike dating, is always with the prospect of marriage in mind. Also a big difference between courting and dating is the couple is never alone together. They always have a family member from one side or even both sides along with them wherever they go.
How does all this apply to us today?
After reading all this, you might say – “so what if before modern times women got married and had babies way younger, and men had many wives – that’s not how are society is structured today, so how does any of this apply?”
There really are two issues here that apply to our modern times, and in this post I will only address one of them, as I believe the other issue merits its own post.
The first issue is the fertility crisis that the world will soon be facing in the coming century. In most modern countries, because women are waiting so long (average age of first time mothers is now around 26 in highly westernized countries) the birthrates in these countries among the indigenous populations has plummeted. Many European countries are far below replacement levels (just having enough babies to keep their population stable) and even the US population only keeps a modest growth because of immigration (legal and illegal). If we did not have the immigration we have now, we would be experiencing population decline.
I will reference this book in another article on this subject, but I highly encourage the reader to check out the book “What to Expect when no one is expecting” by Jonathan Last.
The fertility statistics in this book are a real “inconvenient truth” to modern day feminists. We face a much greater threat from dropping fertility rates than any climate change, real or imagined. But I will have more to say about this subject in separate post dedicated to conflict between women’s rights and the survival of the human race.
But the second issue, and the one that this post is primarily dedicated to is the biological capacity of men for polygyny.
Even if practically speaking, we as men in western culture are for the most part living monogamous lives it helps us and our wives to understand ourselves better when we all come to the realization that men are biologically built with the capacity for polygyny.
There are some men who have lower sex drives, and have less polygynous natures than other men, so that they would never desire to act on their capacity for polygyny. But the vast majority of men have a high sex drive, some higher than others, and definitely if our society allowed it would act on their natural polygynous desires and biological capacity of for polygyny.
This is why happily married men still routinely check out other women.
This is why it is not perverted for a 50 year old man to check out an 18 year old woman.
This is why men typically want to have sex multiple times a week, whereas many women would be happy with sex a few times a month.
Man’s capacity for polygyny is not only Biblical, it is also biological.
 Deiss, Lucien (1996), Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Liturgical Press, p. 25, ISBN 978-0814622551
 Zanzig, T. (1999). Jesus of History, Christ of Faith. Terrace Heights, Winona: Saint Mary’s Press, Christian Brothers Publication. p. 89
 Weitzel, Eugene. J. (2010). I Want to Be a Husband and Father for Life and a Catholic Priest Forever. U.S.: Xilbris Corporation. p. 113
 Zvi Yehuda, “The New Babylonian Diaspora: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Community in Iraq, 16th-20th C.E.”, p.97
The biological case for Polygyny and marriage of young women Part 2
Women’s ovaries don’t agree with Feminism
Why polygamy is not unBiblical
45 thoughts on “The biological case for Polygyny and marriage of young women”
If polygamy was God’s plan, why is gender ratio between baby boys and girls roughly 50/50? Polygamy means many males won’t get a wife. Secondly, why shouldn’t a godly woman use her gifts and talents, such as Sheerah the builder? In this day and age, that usually requires education past puberty.
For full disclosure, I’m a 44 year old white woman, born and raised in the US, Jesus-lover, committed evangelical, happily married, mother of two wonderful girls, mostly a stay-at-home mom, and this article completely grossed me out. The lack of depth that you inadvertently communicate regarding your awareness and understanding of women’s issues as they pertain to global socioeconomics, politics and demographics, feminist praxis, and male privilege is, well, breathtaking. You’ll probably read this as ad hominem and trust me, its not: its a suggestion that you do a whole lot of reading before talking about these things. Women and girls lives — yes, I mean in life and death terms — hang in the balance because of this sort of thoughtless rhetoric and solipsistic theologizing.
I can’t comment. I’m too nauseated.
While I agree that a man’s capacity for polygamy is demonstrated in the Bible. Not everything that men did in the Bible was God’s best intention. There is no “one-flesh” mutuality in a marriage when a man marries a much younger woman or has more than one wife.
I have no doubt that men in the Bible married much younger women and that Mary was most likely in her early teens. These were customs of a time when marrying a virgin was paramount. However, I strongly doubt that a 12 or 13 year old girl is in her prime for child birth. Having a period does not necessarily mean that a girl is physically mature enough to handle the stresses and strains that pregnancy and childbirth puts on a woman’s bod, nor does it indicate that she is fertile. The first few periods may occur before ovulation has started. Many infertile girls and women have periods.
Even the pagan Soranus in his Gynecology (ca. 100) recommended that 14 was the best age for a girl to first begin bearing children. Plutarch said that girls were too young at 12 to marry and have children. These pagan men seem to be more sensible and compassionate than Christians who are advocating for child brides and polygamy.
I am glad I’m not living in Bible times.
Polygyny leads to a surplus of young men with no ability to marry or raise families to care for. This happens today, in the United States in FLDS communities. If the practice was widespread, it would unravel society much faster than a decline in fertility would.
I’m curious how you define (though I’m guessing it’s the same rationale for succumbing to your basest instincts as is the rest of this article) “perverted” and “check out.” Because Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin gouge it out,” and Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look upon a young woman.”
The Bible additionally says, “A MAN shall leave his parents and cleave to his wife.” Singular.
Finally, I’m sorry you’re saddled with a wife who only wants you a few times a month, but out here in the real world women and men both have strong, active, healthy sex drives. When women aren’t told they’re sinful or the anomaly for having a strong sex drive it changes everything.
Thank you for you comment, I responded to your 50/50 gender ratio question in a broader response to many questions posed at https://biblicalgenderroles.com/2014/08/23/the-biological-case-for-polygyny-and-marriage-of-young-women-part-2/
As to your question about Sheerah the builder:
Yes Ephraim’s daughter Sheerah built the three towns of Lower and Upper Beth-horon and Uzzen-sheerah. But when we understand that Scripture never contradicts scripture then we understand that Sheerah must have been a woman who was never able to marry for some reason. There are no specifics here to tell us what her involvement was in the buildings of these towns. I don’t believe we can use obscure passages of Scripture to negate the clear passages like what Paul said in I Timothy 5:14 “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house” or when he said in Titus 2:4&5 “teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
Karen – I appreciate you comments, and unlike another comment in this section I don’t take your comments as ad hominem. I actually do understand socioeconomics, politics and demographics very well and read a lot of books on demographics, politics and economics. I simply come from a different perspective.
As to male privilege, do I believe that it exists? Absolutely! Do I think it is wrong in most cases – No. With responsibility comes privilege. God has given men the responsibility to lead, protect and provide for women and their families, and in doing so men have certain privileges that go along with that women do not have.
But women also have the privilege and honor of bearing the son’s and daughters of mankind. Under God’s design, women have the privilege to stay home and appreciate every one their babies and growing child’s firsts while Dad is out working and providing.
Thank you for your commments. I responded to your “one flesh” mutuality comment as part of a broader response to some other questions posed here at https://biblicalgenderroles.com/2014/08/23/the-biological-case-for-polygyny-and-marriage-of-young-women-part-2/
Well there may have been some disagreement on what age was best, whether 12, 13 or 14. But even your champion Soranus is recommending child bearing to begin at age 14, far below the age that most Americans would believe is acceptable.
All I have to say for FLDS is that they don’t practice Biblical polygyny, they might think they do but they don’t. They are a cult pure and simple.
Biblical polygyny does not try to eliminate excess males or any other such nonsense, and it does not teach that polygyny is required(except in the case of Levirate marriage where a man had to take his dead brother’s wife regardless of his marital status and give her an heir for his brother), only that it is allowed.
As to the question that if polygyny were widespread it would unravel the world – I respectfully disagree. Polygyny existed, widespread, for thousands of years before the Romans finally outlawed it in their empire(one of the reasons was to get more wives for their soldiers as a reward for service). It simply provides women with husbands that care for them when they are surrounded by other men who could not or would not care for them.
Today we already have an unbiblical type of polygyny that is widespread in Western nations, as marriage rates have plummeted(including in the United States). This unbiblical polygyny lets men sleep around with different women and never get married or make any commitment.
Thanks for your comments. To understand what I mean by “check out” see my previous post which addresses the Biblical topic of Lust(and covers passages like Matthew 5 and Job 31 in detail).
You can find it at What does the Bible say about Lust?
Yes the Bible says “A MAN shall leave his parents and cleave to his wife.” Singular.
The Bible also says God gave David the many “wives” of Saul – Plural.
The Bible also says that Jehoiada, one of the most respected priests in all of Israel’s history, got two wives for Joash(one of Israel’s great Kings). – Plural.
No, the Bible says young WIDOWS should remarry because presumably they would not have the gift of singleness. Celibacy is highly regarded in the New Covenant.
I’m not going to condemn polygamy; the third-world status of polygamous societies speaks volumes enough. But the possibility that you find 12 year old girls sexually attractive scares me, especially as you have a young daughter. Some girls get their periods as young as 8, so where do you draw the line?
Third world countries are not in the mess they are in because of polygamy, it is because of corruption and lack freedom. There are extremes on both ends, there are countries that have little to no freedom at all, and there are countries that have way too much freedom. I never said I find 12 year old girls attractive, I talked about the fact that a woman’s fertility was of high value to earlier civilizations, and some still today, it is was not about attraction, it was about fertility.
The line in Jewish law(outside the Bible) was 12 before a girl could be married. So even if she was one of the rare girls who had periods earlier, she could not be married until she was twelve.
Yes she could have been celibate in the service of God. Celibacy in the Bible was meant to be in the service of God. Paul and Jesus both said that it was a gift, it is a rare gift and is special if someone has it. Celibacy was never meant for a person to go out and have a secular career and make themselves rich, or to lead a more “fulfilling life”, it was meant only for service to God.
Soranus is far from being my champion. He was a pagan gynaecologist who did not know what we know today about the reproductive system. I used him as an example of someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but at least realized that 12 and 13 are not the best ages for a girl to have a child.
A wife and a marriage is about much more that having children. God did not say, concerning the first human, a will make an ezer kenegdo so that he can reproduce. He made the first woman because it was ‘not good’ for the man to be alone. Marriage is about compatible companionship, not just procreation.
What sort of compatible companionship can an uneducated girl offer a much more educated, older man, as was the case in the Greco-Roman world (my area of study) and in marriages today between child-brides and older men? There can be no real unity, compatibility, and mutuality in these cases.
I am not American, but I deplore the custom of child-brides. It is tantamount to child abuse.
Women and girls are valuable to God and have much more to offer society than just their wombs. While we do see polygamy and young brides in the Bible, we also see women leaders and teachers such as Deborah, Huldah, Anna, Philip’s daughters, Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe, etc.
I agree marriage is about more than having children, but it is not about less than having children. God commanded Adam and Eve “to be fruitful and multiply” and this commanded his repeated throughout the Bible. Yes God created Eve to be a companion to Adam, but he created man, woman and marriage to symbolize for mankind the relationship between God and man.
Just as all mankind are made for God, so to women are made for men.
Just as mankind is to serve and submit to God, so to women are to submit to their husbands in everything(as Ephesians 5 states).
A man’s leadership, protection and provision for his wife is symbolic of God’s leadership,provision and protection of his people.
A woman’s submission and serving of her husband is symbolic of Mankind’s submission to Christ.
Uneducated younger women were wonderful wives and companions to many men throughout history.
Yes the Bible says that men and women mutually need each other, but it does not say they have to be equal age or equal in education, and this has not been the case for most of human history.
Yes woman are valuable to God, just as valuable as men. But God created men and women for very different and distinct purposes. God determines what is a woman’s best contribution to society, and the last time I checked he told Adam to “labor”, and he told Eve she would “bring forth children”. God created Eve for Adam, not Adam for Eve and God brought her to him. Her greatest contribution was to serve and honor Adam and bare his children and care for them, all of her other contributions paled in comparison to this great honor and destiny. It is the same for women today, God’s design has not changed.
I don’t understand your reason for highlighting the fact that polygamy is biblical. It is biblical. There is no doubt about it. Slavery is also biblical, as are a lot of other concessions (some quite horrible) that are far from God’s ideal for his people.
“Uneducated younger women were wonderful wives and companions to many men throughout history.” This is an overstatement. Judging from some men’s actual comments (e.g. Aristotle) women were not viewed as compatible companions for men; rather, wives were merely seen as necessary to have legitimate children. The consequences of sin meant that women were subordinated, and wives were not viewed as compatible companions for their husbands; a woman was rarely seen as an “ezer kenegdo”.
Were older educated men wonderful husbands to their younger uneducated wives? Did they treat their wives as equal partners? Did they honor and cherish their wives and lay down their lives like Jesus did for his beloved church? I doubt it. Moreover, a man who would be happy with an ignorant child as an equal companion and life partner must not be much of a person, unless he himself is an ignorant child.
The first woman was indeed made for the first human being, because the first human being was alone. But that cannot mean that the woman unilaterally provided companionship to the man without the man also providing companionship to the woman. Companionship, by definition, is mutual. According to Paul and Peter, love, respect, and submission, are mutual in Christian marriages. Why would anyone want a marriage that isn’t mutual?
The statement that “women are made for men” is just plain wrong. The words “woman” and “man” are singular (not plural) in the only verse that mentions anything like this – 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, apart from Genesis 2:18. Woman being made for the man was the case for the first man and woman, but this is only part of the story. Paul adds “Nevertheless (or, except that), in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (1 Cor 11:11-12).
In the Lord there is mutuality and interdependence between equal people, because we all ultimately come from God.
More on this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11_2-16/
Since you use the word “Christian” and quote from New Testament texts I assume that you are a Christian of some sort. As Christians we are New Covenant people (Gal 3:28). It is important that Christians have a New Covenant, post-resurrection, and post-Pentecost perspective of men and women, and husbands and wives, rather than a post-Fall Old Testament perspective.
In the new community of God’s people we are all called to love and serve one another. Women do not have a greater obligation than men to serve. In marriage, husbands and wives, because of their unique bond, have an extra responsibility to love and serve each other. Wives do not have a greater obligation than their husbands to serve.
I love the mutuality, equality, and freedom that comes with knowing Jesus and his people.
Although there are so many things that could be addressed in this article, I just wanted to comment on 12-13 being a physically good, much less ideal, age for childbearing. This could not be further from the truth. One of the great challenges of gynecologists and surgeons trying to help out in third world areas is that so many of the girls are “too young to be giving birth.” Talk to any such doctor or watch some PBS documentaries and that phrase will come up like a mantra not because of the cultural predilections of the doctors but because of scientific facts. There is a much greater likelihood that the 12-16 year old mothers will die in childbirth or tear their vaginal wall so that it is open to the intestines. What the young mothers who survive are apt to endure in their elimination and procreative systems without special medical care shortly after birth is often unthinkable. Among other things, a basic reason for these problems is that their hips are not wide enough yet. The body settles into the proper girth around 18-20 (and of course widens further after the first birth). From the p.o.v. of the physical health of the mother, completely apart from cultural and relational concerns, the early 20s would be the ideal age to have children. Marrying as young as possible tends to be a side effect of viewing girls/women as disposable wombs. It is most prevalent where women are most devalued. Now that hardly means all the parents involved in those decisions devalue their girls, just that they are shaped and pressured by a culture that inherently does.
As a 16-year-old homeschooled Christian young man, I have to say that I strongly disagree with both your argument in favor of polygamy and the marrying off of very young girls.
First of all, Christian marriage in Ephesians is modeled on the monogamous relationship between Christ and the Church; He is only the husband of one bride. Even though polygamy was tolerated in the Old Covenant, you don’t see any polygamous New Testament believers.
Regarding women and education, I can tell you that my homeschooling has tremendously benefited from both my mother and father’s educational experiences before they started a family. My mother taught us to read Hebrew, which she learned while living in Israel. She also assisted female physicians in providing medical care to women in societies where modesty would prevent them from seeing male doctors, thus she taught us a great deal about medicine. I would’ve learned virtually nothing of impact had she dropped out of school at 12 to have babies. To deny women an education is to ultimately deny their sons an education, and impede our ability as Christians to be salt and light in the world.
Lastly, Jesus’ followers were willing to die for the gospel. Why are you unwilling to give any identifying details about yourself?
Thanks for your comments. Pregnancy has always been a great health risk to women since the beginning of creation. Many noble women gave their lives while giving birth to their children.
Notice in this March dimes report, where the health risks and problems associated with teenage pregnancies, but then they make a key admission:
In most cases the issue with teenage pregnancies could be prevented with property prenatal care and health care. If you had a society, as some ancient societies had, where the older women rallied around these teen mothers and helped them to be as healthy as possible this would prevent most of the issues you see.
Now are there sometimes issues like you have said that may have to do with proper girth size? Yes. But there are many women who face this issue even into their 20’s(I have had female relatives that had to have C-sections for all their births because of this).
Women face different pregnancy challenges at different age groups, as well as if they are in a culture that does not have proper medical care and the support a young mother needs.
Feel free to tell Jacob when you get to heaven that God just tolerated his four wives from whom the nation of Israel came, and whose sons are inscribed on the city of God for all time.
We know there were believers with more than one wife – because Paul in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 Paul makes it clear that Bishops and deacons had to be the husband of one wife. Some might argue the word in the Greek there could mean “first” as in husband of his first wife, that he has not divorced her. Even if it means a Pastor or Deacon could have only one wife(they had to be monogamous), it still proves there were believers that did have more than one wife, otherwise he would not have had to mention it. And even if this does indicate a restriction to monogamous marriage for Pastors and deacons, this would be the same as the stricter marriage laws that God had on the Levites, than on the other 11 tribes of Israel.
I actually find it interesting, that Paul goes out of his way talk about “one wife” here, but he does not mention that this should be the norm for all Christians, not just church workers.
God regulated and allowed polygamy in the law of Moses. You might take the classic argument that “well God allowed divorce, but he didn’t like that either”. The big difference between divorce and polygamy is – God actually said he hated divorce, both in the Old and New Testaments, never once did he condemn the polygamy of Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, or David for having more than one wife. In fact he told David through Nathan that he had given David the many “wives” of his master Saul(when he stole Basheba). He did condemn Solomon, but that was because took heathen wives that lead his heart astray.
The symbolism of Christ and his Bride his a beautiful Biblical concept and I allude to it a lot on this blog. A husband has a separate and distinct relationship with each of his wives, just as a father or mother have a separate and distinct relationship with each of their children. Moses law in 95% of cases talks about the relationship between a husband and his “wife” singular as well, but then he also regulates polygamy.
I would not argue that symbolism of Christ having one bride restricts men to one wife anymore than I would argue that the symbolism of God having two wives in Ezekiel 23 means all men have to marry two wives.
“We know there were believers with more than one wife – because Paul in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 Paul makes it clear that Bishops and deacons had to be the husband of one wife.”
The presbyterial widows mentioned in I Timothy 5:9 had to have previously been a “wife of one husband.” By your logic, there were believing women who had more than one husband at a time! The correct translation should be “one-woman man/one-man woman” that is, a faithful husband or wife.
Also, in Matthew 19:9 Jesus said any man who divorced his wife other than for sexual immorality and marries another woman commits adultery. The adultery is not in the divorce, but the remarriage afterwards. He could have made provision for polygamy in that verse, but He didn’t.
Excellent point with I Timothy 5:9 – but that is actually referring to the fact that the widow could not have been a married previously to another man before her current husband died(she was not divorced and remarried), so no divorced widows could be put on the list. Even most heathen cultures of that time would not ever have allowed a woman to have multiple husbands at the same time(polyandry). So we must understand the cultural of the time when trying to understand the meaning.
In most of the Baptist churches I grew up in – they taught the “one wife” clause for Pastors and Bishops refereed to both polygyny and divorce in the sense that a Pastor or deacon could not have ever been divorced, that he was still literally married to his first wife and he only had one wife. I think that is the most accurate reading of the text.
Again – no condemnation of polygamy in general – only a stricter standard for Bishops and Deacons, just as the Old Testament had stricter standards for Levite marriage. As to the widows, these were widows who served the church(so again, official church workers like the levites), they were not given support for nothing, but pledged themselves for life to the service of the churches.
Tristan – I challenge you my friend to look into the Old Testament as to what adultery was. Adultery strictly speaking, was when a man(marriage status was irrelevant) had sex with an betrothed virgin, or another man’s wife. This woman was either pledged to be, or actually was the property of another man. Adultery was a property crime. If a single or married man slept with a virgin who was not betrothed, he had to pay her father the Bride price, and if her father wanted him to marry her he had to do it.
As to Matthew 19:9 – and other Gospel passages where Christ talks about divorce, he is teaching on a new type of adultery. The Jewish scribes knew of only one type of adultery, where a man slept with another man’s wife, that was the strict definition of it in the Old Testament. But Jesus teaches in Matthew 19:9, there was another type adultery, when a man divorces his wife without proper cause(that she was unfaithful to him) – then he also commits adultery. Since there was no proper cause, she still belongs to him and he is still responsible to her as her husband.
The men of Christ’s time did have another option(other than divorce) if their first wife became displeasing to them but she remained faithful:
“If he takes an additional wife, he must not reduce the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.”
“If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved bear him sons, and if the unloved wife has the firstborn son, 16 when that man gives what he has to his sons as an inheritance, he is not to show favoritism to the son of the loved wife as his firstborn over the firstborn of the unloved wife. 17 He must acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved wife, by giving him two shares of his estate, for he is the firstfruits of his virility; he has the rights of the firstborn.”
If a woman became displeasing to her husband, he could not simply throw her away. Their marriage was sacred before God, and he had to continue caring for her needs for the rest of her life, including continuing to have sex with her. But he did have the option to take another wife.
Contrary to your statement, the adultery is in fact in BOTH the divorce, and the remarriage. But before you get too excited about the remarriage agreement let me specify:
The husband commits adultery by divorcing his wife for grounds other than unfaithfulness.
The divorced wife commits adultery when she marries another man, because she was wrongly divorced, therefore she is still married to, and thus the property of her first husband. So the man who marries this divorced woman commits adultery because he is taking another man’s wife.
“But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
The majority of the white Christian nations are full of hypocricy. We tolerate serial monogamy, the remarriage of women, abortion, homosexuality, pornography and idolatry of many kinds, but we act like teenage marriage and polygamy are absolutely deplorable. Society as a whole fails to aknowledge the fact that God designed humans to procreate in their teens and He designed men to breed with multiple partners. There is nothing perverted about it. We have early Christian Gnostisism, Ascetisism and the Roman Catholic Church to blame for our hangups on biblical patriarchy and human sexuality. Women, get your head out of the sand and read your actual bibles for once. God called David a man after His own heart, yet David had multiple sex partners, many of which probably started out in their teens. Get over it!
Thank you for your comment and AMEN!
As far as King David wives – you are right he had multiple wives – most Bible scholars believe he had around 18 wives.
In societies like India and China there are significantly more men than women (due to sex-selective abortions and infanticide). Your counsel may have worked in biblical times, when there was a shortage of men, but it would be disastrous in a shortage of women.
In the Philippines, there are a lot of unmarried women who have trouble finding a husband (or a job!) once they reach age 25, since men and prospective employers ruthlessly discriminate on the basis of age. Law, culture, or maybe just Filipinas’ nature seem to have encouraged an extremely jealous attitude on their part toward their husbands, but it seems clear that something needs to be done to address the situation, and legalized polygamy could be the answer. These are great women and any decent American guy who goes to a Filipina dating site will be mobbed with them.
Good idea but you have to be careful of gold diggers from foreign countries. I have a good friend who married a Filipina woman, got her citizenship had two children with her and helped her get her nursing degree. It was not long into their marriage that she started sexually denying him and becoming very dominant. It was evident very early on that he was a meal ticket for her. After two children and 10 years of marriage she divorced him and has dated several men since him.
Again not a bad idea – but you have to be very very careful.
People say the risk of getting treated that way can be reduced by finding a traditional girl from the provinces rather than a city girl. The estimate I usually hear is that about 70% of the girls over there are good girls who will give you their love, care, loyalty, and faithfulness till your dying day (see LifeBeyondTheSee video “Having A Mistress in the Philippines, 2of2” which advises NOT having a mistress, but rather staying faithful to your wife). I also see a statistic thrown around a lot that about 80% of marriages to foreign women succeed. If that’s true, it’s definitely better odds than what we’d find in the U.S. If you want, I can update you 10 years from now on whether my marriage to a Filipina has fared better than your friend’s.
Please do update me. LOL. I agree that from a lot of countries(with more traditional values and less feminism) American men can find better loyal wives. I certainly wish you the best.
I think though that the man has to be willing and able to step up and fulfill his role as a man (being dominant, decisive, and a good breadwinner; refusing to put up with disrespect; etc.) or else his wife will end up treating him badly. If men don’t take charge, their wives will, regardless of what culture they’re from; and they will resent having to do so.
It’s important to show kindness too, in addition to strength, but I would almost say that’s secondary when it comes to maintaining attraction. Women want a guy who will be a gentleman, but he has to also act confident and not let anyone (including his wife) push him around.
Of course, some women just won’t be happy or behave well no matter what you do. Those ones you have to be able to identify and stay away from.
This is an reasonable and accurate annology of the scriptures and historical nature of men and women
“I completely agree that most teenage girls in our culture and time period are not psychologically prepared for having children. But that is because our culture babies children in ways cultures of the past did not.”
This is a half truth. While many young teens may not be ready for marriage, many of them most definitely should be getting married. (Past puberty) It’s not like maturity increases the older you get. In fact it’s even a dangerous lie to tell teens that they are “children” or “adolescents”. As to your daughter not being ready at 12, why isn’t she ready? Even you agree that it is wrong to “baby” teens, so why would you purposely infantilize your daughter to where she is not capable of functioning as a woman when she is pubescent? Dont follow the culture. Follow what Paul said about being an adult.
Here’s a good video where a prominent psychologist even states that many teens should be getting married. https://youtu.be/N_pKVCGJ7E4
Good article. However I have to disagree when you say that teens nowadays are not mature enough for marriage. Here are a few quotes from a book that dismisses this notion (from Teen 2.0).
“Moreover although it’s widely believed that younger marriages are doomed to fail, Census Data show that males who marry in their teens have a lower divorce rate than males who marry in their twenties, in general, the divorce rate of young people isn’t much higher than the divorce rate of adults, and many of our nation’s most celebrated and long-lasting marriages have involved very young spouses.”
“Mary Onesi married her husband Paul in 1917 when he was 21 and she was 13. By all accounts, their marriage was happy and successful, and it was certainly prolific. By current thinking, there’s something dreadfully wrong with this pretty picture. 13 year old Mary couldn’t possibly have been ready for marriage. She must have been abused or exploited or perhaps even drugged and raped. Her sister Rose must have been in on it, perhaps serving as a pimp and getting a fee from perverted old Paul. Isn’t that the way we’re now talk to think? At the very least, the world must have been so different back then that the people in it must have been entirely unlike people are today- members of a different species, in effect. Maybe Mary was ready back in 1917, but there are no Mary’s in today’s world. Today, 13 year olds are children.”
“Question: Do you mean to imply that it’s okay for my 13 year old little girl to have sex and perhaps even to have sex with a 25 year old man? Answer: Given the mindset that is prevalent in modern America, it’s almost impossible for me to give a reasonable answer to this question without sounding insensitive or insane. But the fact is that some, and perhaps even many, 13 year olds are ready for sex, and even for deep love and marriage. Remember that throughout most of human history, our ancestors began having children shortly after puberty. Our brains and bodies are designed that way. Is your daughter ready to take on this kind of responsibility? I have no idea, but would you be willing to find out? As for that 25 year old man, if he truly loved and respected your daughter, and if he wanted to marry her and support her and treat her with kindness for the rest of his life, and if your daughter also love this man deeply, would you object to their union?
“Teens, on average, are capable of exercising judgment every bit as sound as a judgement of adults. Many teens are capable of experiencing deep in the true feelings of love. Many teens are capable of entering into successful, long-term relationships, they’ve done so throughout human history, and they still do so in countries around the world. When teens are given real responsibility and authority, they sometimes mature virtually overnight. Teens differ one from the other, just as adults do, some are more capable than others.”
“When one looks carefully at the competencies required to function as an adult, one finds that once people have passed puberty, age is a poor predictor of competence. New research shows, in fact, that [American] teens are, on average, as competent or nearly as competent as adults in virtually every area of adult functioning. This research also shows that adults greatly underestimate the capabilities of teens. Because teens are infantilized, their actual performance may not reflect their confidence, but that competence is ready to be expressed at any time.”
Great video. I have brought up the same point he has about Mary, the mother of Jesus being 12 or 13 when she became pregnant with Jesus. He is absolutely right that the concept of a teenager was invented in the 19th century. Previous generations never heard of such a thing. And many countries around the world still do not recognize the concept of a teenager and often people we call teens are working full time jobs and even sometimes marrying well before our teens ever leave high school.
I also like this comment about one of his books(even though I disagree with the teaching of evolution – the point is the same):
“While human evolution has for hundreds of millennia trusted teens to be fully
competent adults and parents, our present culture has somehow found it convenient
to view them as children. Robert Epstein makes a powerful case for
correcting this costly error.”
—Jean Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept
I think you missed my point. I was basically saying what Dr. Epstein said that “Given the mindset that is prevalent in modern America, it’s almost impossible for me to give a reasonable answer to this question without sounding insensitive or insane.” We don’t raise our daughters to prepare of sex and marriage at a very young age. I was not saying that if they were raised correctly that they could not be ready. If the culture correctly conditioned them for young marriage as it once did they would be fine.
I’m going to show your text when I see Christians speaking bad polygamy. I see some Christians claiming polygamy is wrong because the first polygamist in the world was Lamech, a descendant of Cain. Genesis 4:19
What do you think?
Neither hubby nor I agree with polygamy, and we do not agree with BGR’s theologies on this. That’s ok. BGR is really thought-provoking, which is why I come back, and people don’t have to agree 100%. I believe we are meant to be monogamous til death do us part, but we have the sort of polygamous nature in that we can remarry.
God made Adam and Eve. Not Adam, Eve, Stephanie, Andrea, Lonnie, and Babs.
Although I do not consider polygamy a sin, if I had a husband and he wanted another wife I would run away from home.
First in regard to livinginblurredlines disagreement with me on the topic of polygyny:
I 100% agree with her that we don’t have to 100% agree with other Christians on all topics. Many people comes to this site and disagree with me on a lot of things while agreeing on the core issue of Biblical gender roles. I have people who disagree with me on divorce(why it is allowed), porn(why its not all bad), masturbation and a host of other topics. The point is that we can agree to disagree in a respectful manner and livinginblurredlines is one of many commenters I have here that has done just that.
With that said let me respond to your question:
Guilt by association, or even Biblical example is not enough to condemn an action. Biblical examples can show us something is allowed, if that action is not condemned by express command in the Bible. But even if we were going by example we have examples on of good and godly people engaging in polygamy. Abraham, Jacob, Gideon and David are examples of godly men who engaged in polygamy.
Some will say, “but look at all the problems they had”. I chuckle every time I hear that. Are we saying men in monogamous relationships don’t have tons of problems with their wives? Look at all the horror stories I receive all the time! The fact is there are advantages and disadvantages of each arrangement – monogamous and polygamous marriage. But just because each has its set of problems does not make either wrong.
Abraham taking his wife’s handmaid Hagar, at the behest of his wife Sarah, to bear him children was NOT sinful or wrong. We know this because Jacob, his grandson, did the same thing in taking his wife’s Leah’s handmaid to bear more children and the Scriptures say God BLESSED her for doing it:
What was wrong in what Sara and Abraham did was in thinking God would give them an heir through Hagar. That was wrong. Ishamel was never meant to be the heir. That is why he had to be send away with his mother because he had been raised as the heir and then Sarah gave birth to Isaac and that would have caused a power struggle after Abraham’s death.
But we see in the Scriptures that Abraham took other wives(plural at the same time) after Sara died. There was no condemnation of this.
Below are seven proofs that God approves of and blesses polygamy for Men. The evidence that God blesses and allows polygamy is far greater than any examples that supposedly show he does not.
FACT #1 – God rewarded Leah with another child for giving her husband another wife (Genesis 30:18). Some try to say she just thought God rewarded her but the Scripture does not EVER record God condemning her for this so we take the Scriptures at face value that God did indeed reward her for giving her maid to her husband as another wife.
FACT #2 – God expressly allows polygyny and set rules for its practice. (Exodus 21:10-11, Deuteronomy 21:15-17,Deuteronomy 25:5-7)
FACT #3 – God while allowing polygyny warns against Kings “multiplying wives” meaning they were not to horde wives as Solomon would later do. – (Deuteronomy 17:17)
FACT #4 – God tells tells David through his Prophet Nathan when he sinned and took another man’s wife(Bathsheba) that he had given David the wives of his master and would have given him more wives (II Samuel 12:8)
FACT #5 – Jehoiada the high priest gets TWO wives for the young king Joash (II Chronicles 24:2-3)
FACT #6 – God pictures himself as polygamist husband to Judah and Israel in (Ezekiel 23:1-5)
FACT #7 – God divorces his first wife which was Israel as nation(Jeremiah 3:8) and in his seeking of his second wife(the church) seeks to make his first wife Israel jealous(Romans 10:19) and one day his first wife Israel as a nation will also be restored in the New Kingdom of God.
Also I wanted to address this statement livinginblurredlines said:
God could have created Adam, Tom, Marry and Jane. He could have paired Adam with Marry and Tom with Jane. Then Adam and Marry’s children could have married Tom and Jane’s children and there would have been no need for sibling marriage.
My point is here is that if someone says that since God created only one wife for Adam that this was God’s plan for marriage from the beginning then they must also believe that God’s intention for marriage was sibling marriage. But we know that sibling marriage was only temporary just as monogamy was only temporary. God would later condemn sibling marriage and then make allowances for polygamy. So the point is the Genesis account does not show the fullness or total intent of God’s design. It gives us the beginning of the story, not the complete story.
But if you see in the Scriptures that something is not sinful for your husband to do, and you leave him over it then you are indeed in sin before God. You cannot say you accept polygamy is not sinful, yet say you would leave your husband over it. These are contradictory statements.
if a woman sees no problem in dividing her husband with another, fine. but I could not live in such a situation. And I’m sure many women today would not want to live in such a situation, at that time a woman being a part of a wives harem was like a status. But I would never share the same male with another female, that is humiliating.
I would not even marry a man who had sex with other women before me.
Erina – I don’t want this to come off attacking, so I hope it doesn’t. You cannot live with such a situation because you have the wrong ideas and beliefs. And yes, you are right, many women today also wrongly believe the same thing. The problem is one of proper perspective. You think that he belongs to you, but this is not correct. He does not belong to you. You belong to him. He was not made for you. You were made for him. This goes completely against what the world teaches, but that isn’t surprising. A wife who does not have to share her husband should consider it a blessing, not something she is due or owed. A husband is responsible for you and he has responsibilities towards you, but he does NOT belong to you.