Is attraction required for marriage?

Just_a_touch_is_all_I_need

There are typically three things that most people in the western world would believe are required for marriage:

  1. Physical attraction
  2. Love(feelings of love)
  3. A willingness to make a serious commitment

From a Christian perspective (as well as many other non-western and non-Christian perspectives) only a commitment to the institution of marriage is required.

For thousands of years, and even today there are many outside of western nations that have marriages arranged by their parents. Often times they meet their spouse only a week or two ahead of when they are married. In western culture many despise these types of marriages as dull or unemotional. But if you talk to these couples, they often have much stronger marriages than we do in the west, and they have a tiny fraction of our divorce rates here in the United States.

I am not saying that looking to be attracted to a person is wrong. I wanted to be attracted to my wife before I married her and I definitely was. I also had feelings of love and attachment to her before I proposed. But in God’s eyes, the only thing that was required of her and I was a commitment before God to the covenant of marriage, anything more than that was simply icing on the marriage cake.

The reason I say this is, for many marriages the attraction, as well as the feelings of love may fade over time. God never expects us to keep our physical attraction to our spouse, or to keep our feelings of love to our spouse.

But someone might say – “Wait a minute! The Bible commands in many places that husbands and wives are to love one another”. That is absolutely a true statement. But the love the Bible is describing is love that is made up of actions, not feelings.

I am not commanded to feel an emotional attachment to my wife, I am commanded to take actions of love toward my wife. I wrote about the 12 attributes of Biblical marital love and you can read them here.

I am not commanded to feel attracted to my wife either, only to love her with the actions of love God has defined for a husband and wife.

Let me explain more of what I am saying by defining the sources of love.

The three sources of Love

Family, or instinctual love(Storge) – Most human beings have an instinctual love toward their parents and their children. There are some exceptions as in the case where a parent abuses a child and that child may have no love left for their parent, but in most cases love happens instinctually between parents and children.

Emotional, or Friendship love(Philia) – This is love based on either romantic feelings between a man and woman, feelings of infatuation, or love that is based on common interests. This kind of love is almost 100% based on how much each person puts into the relationship, whether it is a same sex friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage.

Unconditional love(Agape) – This is a love that is based on a choice, a commitment to love someone no matter what they do. This is the kind of love we are told that God has toward his children (those who trust in his Son). This is highest form of love, because it not based on feelings, or anything that the recipient of this love has done.

God commands husbands and wives to have an unconditional love(Agape) toward one another in the covenant of marriage.

What this means on a practical level is, I am supposed to be patient and kind to my wife no matter what she does. My wife is supposed to protect my reputation and honor me, and I her, regardless of whether we feel an emotional attachment to one another, or attraction to one another.

Marital love is not earned, but emotional love(philia) and attraction are earned

I say everything I have said up to this point to present this extremely important principle for those who are engaged, newlyweds or couples that have been married for a long time.

Many people, both men and women, think that part of unconditional love is the fact that their mate is required to unconditionally feel an emotional attachment to them and also be attracted to them no matter what they do.

You cannot control your emotional attachments, or you whom you are attracted to, you can only control what you do with those feelings and attractions.

But I want my spouse to feel an emotional attachment to me and be attracted to me!

You want your spouse to be attracted to you? You want your spouse to miss you when you are gone and truly want to be around you, not just out of a sense of duty, but also because of how they feel about you?

Make yourself attractive, give them a reason to feel love for you, not just show love out of duty. Make them miss you because of how wonderful you are to be around.

Things that erode attraction and emotional attachment between a husband and wife

Criticism is perhaps the greatest killer of attraction. Every critical word that comes out of your mouth toward your spouse erodes at their attraction to you. Any time your correct your spouse, or tell them they are wrong, or doing something wrong you erode the attraction they have to you.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times we need to speak the truth in love to our spouses about wrong things they have done. But we should be extremely choosy about when we do this.

Moodiness is another killer of attraction and emotional love as well. Maybe you don’t criticize your spouse much, but you have a frown on your face half of the time. Happiness and contentment are attractive, moodiness and negativity are very unattractive.

Complaining never builds attraction. Yes we all complain at times, but if we have a constantly complaining spirit, this is not an attractive quality. You may not be criticizing or complaining about your spouse, but simply the act of complaining all the time is very unattractive.

Physical appearance – yes physical appearance still matters after you get married, not just before you get married.

Guys – are you shaving and showering on a regular basis? Did you forget where your deodorant or cologne are? If you are not caring for your physical appearance, this can erode attraction and emotional attachment.

Ladies – do you spend most of your time in sweats and tea shirts? Do you ever wear sexy clothes and care about your appearance the way you did when you were dating? Did you forget where your perfume was? If you are not caring for your physical appearance, this can erode attraction and emotional attachment.

But I have tried all these things, but still my spouse is unresponsive!

This is a topic that requires its own post which hopefully I will have something on shortly. For now I will just say it is possible to be married to a spouse that is emotionally stinted (and yes this applies to both men and women). It is also possible to be married to a person that is so self-absorbed, or so overwhelmed by their own emotional issues(such as anger, depression, moodiness, health issues, job issues) that no matter what you do to cultivate attraction and emotional love they will never or rarely respond in a meaningful way. I will address this situation in a separate post.

Conclusion

Each man and woman are different in what they consider to be attractive and what builds emotional attachment for them. You don’t have to earn your spouse’s love in the unconditional, commitment sense of the word. God expects that no matter what, and that keeps marriages together.

But the conditional love, the emotional love,the attraction love, the love that is based on actions and appearance makes marriage much more than a duty, it makes marriage fun and enjoyable.

So you if you want your spouse to love you in the emotional sense, to be attracted to you and to miss you when you are not together – it is all up to you! Ask yourself what you have done and what you are doing to build that attraction and emotional connection. It won’t just happen, it requires intentional action.

The 12 required attributes of marital love

OneFlesh

Before I get into the 12 required attributes of marital love, I want to talk about the two types of love which can exist within marriage. Both types of love are good to have in a marriage, but only one can form the lasting foundation for marriage, while the other may come and go.

The Bible speaks of three types of love:

Family, or instinctual love(Storge) – Most human beings have an instinctual love toward their parents and their children. There are some exceptions as in the case where a parent abuses a child and that child may have no love left for their parent, but in most cases love happens instinctually between parents and children.

Emotional, or Friendship love(Philia) – This is love based on either romantic feelings between a man and woman, feelings of infatuation, or love that is based on common interests. This kind of love is almost 100% based on how much each person puts into the relationship, whether it is a same sex friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage.

Unconditional love(Agape) – This is a love that is based on a choice, a commitment to love someone no matter what they do. This is the kind of love we are told that God has toward his children (those who trust in his Son). This is highest form of love, because it not based on feelings, or anything that the recipient of this love has done.

In the context of marriage, when you made your wedding vows and vowed to love your spouse in good times and in bad, in sickness and health, till death do you part – you were vowing to love them with Agape love(unconditional love, apart from feelings). You probably were motivated to vow Agape love to them out of the Philia love you had which is based on feelings of friendship and romance.

Philia love is not bad, but it can become bad if that is the only foundation for a marriage, for it will not always be there. It comes and goes. But Agape is always there, because it is not based on feelings, but a commitment made to God.

The foundation of marital love is not Philia (friendship or romantic) love

I say all this as to say that the 12 attributes of marital love I am going to talk about are based in Agape love(unconditional love), and not feelings. We do things whether our spouse makes us feel loved or not. We do these things whether we are fond of our spouse at a given moment or not.

Biblically speaking marriage is defined as the union of a man and woman who make a covenant before God to fulfill their God given duties to one another in marriage. One of the duties God calls them to is to have marital love toward one another. In many ways marital love is not much different than any other love we should have for our friends, family or for the general population of the world around us. After sharing this list though, I will point out some of the features that distinguish marital love from all other types of love.

BIBLICAL MARITAL AGAPE LOVE IS…

  1. GIVING my body to my spouse to meet their sexual needs.
  2. PATIENCE toward my spouse in regard to their faults.
  3. KINDNESS toward my spouse in words and actions. It is kindness in caring for the physical needs of my spouse whether in taking care of them when they are sick, making sure they are feed, or meeting their sexual needs.
  4. SACRIFICING my own well-being for the sake of my spouse’s well-being.
  5. HONORING my spouse’s God given gender role in our marriage.
  6. FORGIVING my spouse for the offenses they commit against me.
  7. TRUTHFUL with my spouse. This does not mean brutal honesty – you know the old line “do I look fat in this dress?”. It does not mean we have to say every thought that comes into our mind, or how we feel about every given situation.  But what it does mean is not telling lies to hide our sin from our spouse. It also means that sometimes we have to do as the Bible says and “speak the truth in love” to our spouse when we believe they are acting sinfully, as love does not rejoice in evil.
  8. PROTECTING my spouse’s person and reputation.
  9. TRUSTING that my spouse has my best interests at heart and in the absence of evidence to the contrary believing what my spouse tells me about events that may have occurred.
  10. HOPING in my spouse’s abilities, even when they seem to lack in a certain area. It always keeps hope that they will succeed or that they will improve. This is an encouraging type of hope that encourages our spouse in whatever they set out to do.
  11. ENDURING through arguments or disagreements, health problems and physical changes to mine or my spouse’s body. It endures through job loss, economic status changes or changes in housing.
  12. CONSTANT, because it is based on a conscious life choice, and not upon my feelings towards my spouse at any given moment.

The twelve actions of marital love I have just stated are all clearly supported in the Scriptures I will show below.

Today we have all kinds of marriage books, both Christian and non-Christian alike trying to define what Biblical love is, especially as it relates to marriage. While some of them point to these very same passages I will reference, often times they either leave out parts of the Biblical definition of marital love, or more often than not they add a lot of things the Bible does not.

I think that any of us reading this list, if we are honest with ourselves will see it as very convicting. We will be convicted even more so when we read it from the very Word of God. I can see my own failures to live up to this high standard God has for marital love.

But God understands we are sinful beings and that we are but dust. What he asks of me and you is that we aspire to these principles, to grow and better ourselves according to standard he has set, not the standards of our ungodly world. When we fail to meet these standards, he asks us to humble ourselves, and ask his forgiveness, as well as our spouse if we have failed them in any of these principles.

One other thing I want to mention, I am not saying the above list is an exhaustive list of all the Biblical duties involved in marriage, because it is not. This is the Biblical definition of the love we are required to have, love as a set of attitudes and actions that should flow through all the other duties of marriage that I have not mentioned here.

Biblical references that form the foundation for the twelve actions of marital love

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails…

I Corinthians 13:4-8(NIV)

 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time…

I Corinthians 7:3-5(NIV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5:25-33(KJV)

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

I Peter 3:7(KJV)

So what distinguishes marital love from other types of love?

If you were to look at many of the attributes of love I gave – especially the ones based on I Corinthians 13:4-8 you could easily see that many of these attributes apply to other relationships besides marriage.  They could apply to friendships or even the parent-child relationship.  But here I am trying to apply I Corinthians 13:4-8, a passage not specifically about marital love, to marriage because God calls for agape love in marriage.

“34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-39(NIV)

The reason I bring up Matthew 22, is because the concept of a man loving his wife as he loves himself is not new, or even exclusive to marital love. As Christians, we are to love all people around us, as we love ourselves.

The key in understanding the distinctiveness of marital love is found in Ephesians chapter 5.

“29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”

There are two key words in verse 29 that help us begin to distinguish the love God want’s between a husband and wife, and all other types of love. The Greek word Ektrepho here translated in English as “nourish” here has to do with “feeding to bring to maturity”.   The second Greek word Thalpo translated as “cherisheth” originally referred to a mother bird “keeping warm” her eggs as she sat on them. This Greek word later came to mean “foster with tender care”, but it has the same idea.

So in its most literal sense Ephesians 5:29 is saying that just as mother bird warms her eggs and then feeds her babies and brings them to maturity this is like what Christ does for his church in caring for her physical and spiritual needs and bringing her to maturity.

When taken in the complete context of Ephesians 5, just as Christ brings the church to spiritual maturity and tenderly cares for her spiritual and physical needs, so too husbands are to care for the physical and spiritual needs of their wives and bring them to spiritual maturity.

But this is only the first part of the distinctiveness of marital love found in Ephesians 5, the most profound distinctive characteristic of marital love is found in verse 31:

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

The physical union of a man to his wife, the sexual union, is the most distinguishing characteristic of marital love. This is why often times, sex is referred to as the “the act of marriage”.

Think about it – go through all twelve points I list above and you could have all but one of those with a friend who is the same sex. Even the honoring portion, while it would apply differently in marriage, than in friendship, can also apply to friendship.

The one point that exists only within marital love is the giving of the body that takes place between a husband and a wife within marriage.

But just as with loving our neighbor as our self, so too the “one flesh” proposition can occur outside of marriage:

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. “

I Corinthians 6:16(KJV)

Right now I realize some of you are scratching your heads. How can “one flesh” occur in marriage and also outside of marriage between a man and a prostitute?

The answer is simple – “one flesh” in it’s most literal sense refers to one thing that both a man and his wife can do, and a man a prostitute can do, and that is have sexual intercourse.  Now does the Bible’s “one flesh” principle extend beyond the physical act of sexual relations? I believe the answer is yes according to the words of Christ.

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Matthew 19:4-6 (KJV)

The key phrase in Christ’s statement on marriage is “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh”.  Once a man and woman marry – God looks at them as single unit that should never be separated by man aside for a few exceptions that God gives.

In marriage a man and woman should be united on all three levels – spiritually, emotionally and physically. 

Now all Christians and even many non-Christians would agree with the statement I just said above about the need for a husband and wife to be united on all these levels in marriage.  But the disagreement comes in HOW a man and woman are to be united in these three ways.

How can a man and woman truly be one in marriage?

We see it all the time with engaged couples or newly weds.  They seem to be so united and so in sync with one another. They often finish each others sentences and they rarely if ever fight. But for anyone who has been married for long length of time we can all tell you that the unity of marriage when the relationship is new is based on one thing and one thing alone folks – good old fashion hormones.

It is kind of humorous to see this with newlyweds.  Often times newlyweds are insistent that their unity will never change – and that it will be exactly as it is when their marriage is new for the rest of the marriage. I have to hold back the chuckles every time I hear a newlywed couple say this with such sincerity in their hearts.  I said this before and I will say it again – new love between a man and a woman is an emotionally and hormonally driven love which produces a type of temporary insanity especially in men.

After a time whether it be six months or a year this hormonally based love eventually comes to an end and the real mature and lasting love in marriage can begin to be built.

The world and even many Christian teachers today will tell you that unity and oneness in marriage comes down to one word and that word is compromise.  They say a husband and wife must talk out each life issue whether it be about what church the couple will attend, their career ambitions, how they will raise their children, finances or other important areas of life and compromise on their differences and come to a consensus.  There is no leader and no follower in this type of union, but it is instead a partnership of equals.

The Bible however presents a very different way in which a husband and a wife are to become one in marriage.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:23-24 (KJV)

In Biblical marriage the way a man and wife become one is the same way the church becomes one with Christ.  He leads and she follows. As Church is mold itself around the wishes and leadership of Christ so too a wife is to mold herself to the wishes and leading of her husband.

So while the world and many Christian teachers today teach that compromise is the key to unity and oneness in marriage – the Bible teaches that conformity rather than compromise is the key to oneness in marriage.  In Christian marriage – the man conforms his will to God’s will and the wife conforms her will to her husband’s will.

Sadly many Christian marriages today are built on compromise rather than conformity and the truth is that men and women are equally to blame for this sad state of affairs. Women are to blame because they emotionally badger their husbands into compromising with them on important affairs of the home even when he believes God would have their family do things differently.  Men on the other hand are to blame for not standing up as men of God and choosing to conform to the will of God rather than compromise what they know to be right for the sake of peace with their wives.

I am not saying that a husband cannot hear advice from his wife and take it.  Or that marriage erases a woman’s unique identity because it does not.  God made all of us as individuals unique and he even made each one of his local churches unique.  No two people or two churches are exactly alike. But when it comes to the important matters of life especially in the areas of faith, child rearing and teaching and finances a wife is to mold herself to the pattern of her husband.  I will talk more about the Biblical concept of marital unity in another post.

Summary of what Biblical Marital Love is

Just like other types of Biblical love, the truest form of love is one that is based on choice and actions, not on feelings and instincts.

I don’t just have to be kind to my wife when I feel like it, I should be kind to my wife even when I don’t feel like it.  My wife needs to be patient with me and trust me even when she does not feel like being patient with me and trusting me.

The Biblical marital love that husbands and wives are supposed to have, and the love we are to have toward friends, family and even strangers have many common attributes.

But Biblical marital love is distinct from all other loves in that it calls on a husband and wife to model their love for one another after the love between Christ and his church. The wife places her dependence upon her husband for her nourishment and protection in the same way that the Church places her dependence on Christ for her nourishment and protection.

The husband should care for the spiritual and physical needs of his wife, and tenderly care for and protect her the way Christ does the Church.

The husband and wife should have sex regularly and often, not only to meet one another’s physical needs and avoid temptation, but they must also realize that their physical union in sex is the most distinctive and most defining act of marital love.

One last note I want to add here about sexuality in marriage. Just like all of the other points of marital love, sexual relations in marriage should never be dependent on feelings at any given time. The Bible is crystal clear that they are to be regular and often, except for a short time by mutual consent.

While it is nice to do things for our spouse (whether it is husbands for wives, or wives for husbands), sex in marriage should never EVER have to be earned. The moment a husband and wife say “I do” it becomes mandatory.

This is not always a husband wanting from a wife thing either. I know of a newly wed married couple, a young couple, where the husband would rather play video games or do things with his friends than have sex with his wife and this should never be the case. The Bible sees sex as the distinctive symbol of the marriage relationship, and it is to happen regularly and often, whether the husband or wife feels like it.

Some might say this feels like a very dry and unemotional type of love the Bible calls us to, but the reality is God knows something we often forget. When you do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it, often times the feelings will follow sooner or later. But on the flip side, if you only practice these actions required for marital love when feel like it, the love in your marriage will soon die.  Feelings don’t last, commitments and choices can and do last.

And finally while the sexual part of the one flesh relationship is an indispensable part of marriage a husband and wife should be united not only in physical relations but also spiritually and emotionally and we previously mentioned. This unity in marriage is accomplished not by compromise between a husband and wife, but rather by conformity of the husband to the will of God and the conformity of the wife to the will of her husband.

This post was edited and updated with new content(the sections about unity and oneness in marriage) on 8/2/2016.

Why do older men go out with younger women?

Bodycrimes made this comment in reply on a post she wrote about Older men and Younger women:

“Except that women aren’t making that sacrifice at all. Women who are university educated are now the most likely to get married and have families. Professional and educated men do not marry uneducated women. The worst thing a woman who aspires to a middle class or above life could do is to fail to get an education and career.”

Are there studies that on the surface would seem to support what she said? Yes.

This study sited at the HuffingtonPost would be one that seems to confirm her opinion:

“According to a new study by NYU sociologists Paula England and Jonathan Bearak, prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families, college-educated women are now as likely to get married as their less-educated peers — even if the weddings happen in a somewhat older age range. These findings contradict the previously prevailing idea that women who pursued higher education were more likely to delay finding a mate past some stereotypical “marriageable age” while studying and building demanding careers.”

However as you dig deeper into the study, you note the disparity between races on this issue.

“In terms of race, the delayed marriage boost that college education produces is far more pronounced for black women than for white women. While “black women have lower odds of ever marrying than white women … getting a college education raises ultimate marriage rates by the 30s and 40s much more substantially for blacks than whites.” Black women who don’t complete high school are far less likely to get married than any other group.”

Because there is a complete breakdown of the nuclear family in the black community of the United States, where almost 70% of black children are born out of wedlock Black women need that extra education to give them that leg up. But in other racial groups, especially with whites, where the out of wedlock birth rate is more around 30%, a woman having a college education does not have as high an impact on her marriageability or getting into the middle class.

This study cited by the Huffington Post also shows that these same college educated women, while having a better chance of getting married (and as I pointed out this is more in the black community than in other racial communities) also marry much later.

What they don’t report is that these women who marry later in life often have a lot more fertility issues and this is one of the contributing factors to declining birth rates in most western nations (including the US).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/college-educated-women-and-marriage_n_1421792.html

But is a higher education all positive for women? Not really according to this study cited at Bloomberg.com:

“Women who have come out on top in the job market may not find similar success in the marriage market… Aversion to wives earning more than husbands could be leading to fewer weddings and more divorces, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper… couples where a wife earns more are less satisfied with their marriage and are more likely to divorce”

http://go.bloomberg.com/political-capital/2013-05-15/higher-paid-women-less-married-more-divorced/

The higher educated a woman is, and the more she makes directly lessens her chances of getting married and even if she does get married her chances of divorce are much higher.

The study cited in the HuffingtonPost and the one at Bloomberg.com are not contradictory when you look at the racial factor. There is truly a marriage crisis in the Black community, to deny so would be to deny what every government and private study shows us. Does poverty have some affect? Yes. But even in other racial communities where poverty exists marriage rates are much higher than in lower income black areas.

If you remove the racial factor, for whites especially, a woman having a higher education makes her LESS likely to get married, and when she does get married she will have a much higher chance of divorce.

That may not sit well with my feminist and egalitarian friends, but it is the truth.

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 5

Polygamy 10

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Women talking over coffee

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.

Sad woman

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:

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 1

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 2

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 3

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 4

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 5

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 4

Christian arguments FOR the practice of Polygamy

polygamy 9 Moses law

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.

Exodus 21:7-11

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.”

Leviticus 18:18(NASB)

 

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.”

Deuteronomy 25:5-6(NASB)

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, “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; 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. 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:

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 1

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 2

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 3

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 4

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 5

 

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 3

Common Christian arguments against polygamy

Wedding Couple, Bride and Groom Kissing

Does one flesh mean one wife?

MOAs often believe this is their most powerful argument against polygamy. Because after all, how can 3 or 4 or 18(David had 18 wives) mesh with “the two shall become one flesh”?

4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

Matthew 19:4-6(NASB)

Jesus repeats what is said in Genesis after God created Eve and brought her to Adam. The context of Jesus’s statement is his answer to the question of divorce. He is alluding to “the beginning” in the Garden of Eden, before sin. Before sin divorce was not necessary, so in the beginning divorce would never have been needed. But is he also alluding to the fact that marriage was designed by God to be monogamous? He says nothing about that here.

When Jesus said of marriage “So they are no longer two, but one flesh” he was referring to both the physical and spiritual bond that God intends for a husband and wife to share.

In it’s most literal sense “one flesh” refers to a man and woman having sexual relations.  Sexual relations between a husband and wife mark both the consummation of the marriage and are a constant reminder of the covenant shared between the man and his wife.

It is in this sexual sense of being “one flesh” that God warns us we are not to abuse being one flesh with others outside of marriage:

15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 (KJV)

But then we have the spiritual side of being one flesh and this is the part of being one flesh that opponents of polygamy will use to attack the practice of polygamy.  But when they use this to attack polygamy they do so from an egalitarian perspective of marriage.   They believe that a husband and wife become one spiritually by blending together and becoming like one another.  The man moves toward his wife on some views and she moves toward him on others thus they make one new person together. While that might sound romantic this is not the Biblical view of how spiritual oneness should take place between a husband and wife.

Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us that God designed marriage between a man and woman to be a picture of the relationship between God and his people and in the Church age between Christ and his Church.

So we have to ask ourselves – does Christ mold himself to his Church or is his Church called to mold herself to Christ? Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ gave himself up for his Church to wash her of her spots, wrinkles and blemishes That he might present it to himself a glorious church…(Ephesians 5:27).

Christ molds and shapes his Church to his liking, to his thinking and so too in marriage wives are to mold themselves to their husbands.  With this understanding of what one flesh means from a spiritual perspective we then can understand that it is very possible for a man to be “one flesh” with many wives in many distinct marriages just as we as Christians each unite ourselves with Christ and become one with him in our spirit and our thinking.

So yes it is absolutely correct to say that marriage always involves two people, a man and a woman, becoming one flesh both sexually and spiritually.  But while a woman is forbidden from multiple marriages (Romans 7:2-3) God has blessed(Genesis 30:18) and allowed(Genesis 30:18,Exodus 21:10-11,Deuteronomy 21:15-17,Deuteronomy 25:5-7) multiple marriages for men.

In fact,  God has even given multiple wives to some men (II Samuel 12:8, II Chronicles 24:2-3)  and even pictures himself as a polygamist husband of two wives in both the Old Testament in Ezekiel 23:1-5 speaking of Judah and Israel as well as in the New Testament  in Romans 10:19 when speaking of taking on his new bride, the Church, in order to make his divorced wife Israel jealous so that she might return to him as well.

 

Sopolygamy 6 preacher

The Bishop must be the husband of one wife

“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” – I Timothy 3:2(NASB)

Some point to the fact that the Bishop had to be the husband of one wife. If a Pastor must be the husband of one wife, then this must be God’s correct design for marriage and anything else is perversion of his design including polygyny or so they say.

Is the “husband of one wife” requirement (I Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6) for a Pastor speaking of monogamy or divorce? I would argue based the qualifications of widows who could be supported by (and became servants of) the church that Paul was speaking of a Pastor or Deacon not having been divorced from his first wife:

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man,” – I Timothy 5:9 (NASB)

Even if the apostle Paul is stating that the Bishop must literally be monogamous, this is ONLY applied to Bishops and deacons and never to Christians at large.  This would be very similar to how the Old Testament has stricter marriage practices for Priests as opposed to the general population.

In any event, no passage in the Bible, either Old or New Testament, condemns the practice of polygyny.

Another argument I have read online is –“like God tolerated divorce and it was not part of his original plan, so too he tolerated polygamy but it was not part of his plan either”.  There is one small problem with that statement – the Bible never compares polygamy to divorce and it never states that polygamy was a sin.

polygamy 7 Adam and Eve

The Adam and Eve argument

This argument typically goes like this – “God did not make Eve, Mary, Sarah, and Leah for Adam – he only made Eve. Therefore, we know that God’s design for marriage is that a man should have only one wife.”

I love the Genesis account.  It is utterly filled with truths about God’s design of the world and how things came to be.  However, the Genesis account is not the complete revelation of God about his will and design for his creation.  No, my friend – we will see that God progressively reveals and more and more truths about his purposes back in Genesis all throughout the Old Testament and also in the New Testament.

In fact, many of God’s mysteries and truths are shrouded in symbolism in the Old Testament only to be completely revealed in the New Testament. So, we cannot assume we know God’s full design for marriage simply by looking at the Genesis account while ignoring the rest of the Bible.  We must take the entire Bible into account to fully understand his design for marriage.

So, going back to the Genesis account of Adam and Eve – yes God could have chosen to create multiple women for Adam but he did not.  He also could have created Adam and Eve and immediately clothed them but he did not.  Later in Revelation 7:9 we read that AFTER sin is removed people are “clothed with white robes” so we know that Adam and Eve’s nakedness was only temporary and that God clothing them was not just because of sin.  They simply jumped ahead of God’s plan by eating from the tree which revealed to them that they were naked.

God could have created multiple couples so Adam and Eve’s children (brothers and sisters) would not have to marry but he did not.  In Leviticus 18:9 God would officially end the practice of brothers and sisters marrying even though this was an original part of his design with only having one couple, Adam and Eve, to start the human race.

God initially created Adam and Eve naked only to show us that later in the eternal state everyone is clothed. He also only created one man and one woman to start the human race thus necessitating the practice of sibling marriage only to later end the practice in the law of Moses.  These two facts show us that we cannot derive God’s complete plan for marriage from the Genesis account alone.  We must take the entire witness of the Scriptures into account to understand God’s complete plan for marriage in this world. Therefore, God’s creation of only one wife for Adam does not condemn the practice of polygamy because it does not take into account the entire revelation of God throughout the Scriptures.

 

polygamy 8 state laws

What about Laws against Polygamy?

If opponents of polygamy cannot win their argument against the practice of polygamy in Biblical times they will try this argument against polygamy for modern times:

“God said “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man” (1 Peter 2:13-14), therefore if the government says we cannot practice polygamy then we cannot practice polygamy.”

It is absolutely true that since the Roman empire outlawed polygamy monogamous marriage became the norm throughout western civilization. But as I referenced in part 2 of these series on polygamy,  the Romans had the hardest time enforcing their laws against polygamy with the Jewish people. Well after the time of Christ and his Apostles polygamy was widely practiced by those of Jewish descent. It took centuries for the Romans to finally root it out this ancient practice of the Jewish culture.

However just because the government makes a law does not mean we must follow it despite what I Peter 2:13-14 and other passages tell us about obeying the civil laws of our government.

The first principle that allows us not to obey certain laws of our governments is when they ask us to sin against God as seen in here in the words of the Apostle Peter:

“27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Acts 5:27-29 (KJV)

So at this point some Christians would say “Sure we should not obey any laws that tell us not to do something God told us to do or tell us to do something God told us not to do.  But God does not command us to engage in polygamy, he may or may not allow it, but he never commanded it. Therefore, we should obey our nation’s law prohibiting polygamy.”

But what these same Christians miss is that there is more than one side of this government issue.  Contrary to the assertions of Kings of the past or even some in the modern governments today – God did not give unlimited power to the sphere of civil government. While the Bible does not prescribe a certain form of government for all nations (like Monarchy, Dictatorship or Democracy) it does prescribe certain principles that all governments must adhere to.  For instance, governments may not oppress their people and they must respect the private property rights of their people. Governments may not unjustly enslave anyone and deny people their private property rights. Christ even acknowledged the concept of limited Government here:

“They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Matthew 22:21 (KJV)

Jesus did not say “Whatever power is not reserved for God and God alone belongs to Caesar”, no he said for us to Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”  So, what limited powers did God give to the Government?

The clue to the government’s role is found right here in the very passage used to attack polygamy:

“13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;  14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (KJV)

The primary purpose of God’s ordination of the sphere of civil government is the protection of the people.  The government is to protect people from those who would prey on others. The prosecution and punishment of murders, kidnappers, rapists, thieves and extortionists – this is a primary function of government.  The government is also to protect its people from outside threats such as foreign powers.  They are to be “the minister of God to thee for good” (Romans 13:4). They are to encourage good behavior while punishing bad behavior.

We need to realize that Civil Government is just one of five types of Government God established and recognizes.

  1. Self – God wants every person to govern their own actions according to God’s law and his will for their lives as individuals. He wants us to practice self-control and self-discipline in our thoughts, speech and actions no matter what other human authority spheres we may or may not fall under.
  2. Family – This is the first sphere of authority where God established one human over other humans. Husbands and fathers are given authority over their wives and children and they are to lead, provide for and protect their family all in the spirit of God’s love for his people. They are tasked with teaching spiritual and doctrinal truths to their wives and children and are tasked with correction and discipline of their wives and children all while providing for the physical needs of their family.
  3. Business – regulates the relations between employers and workers or master and slaves. Workers and slaves are admonished to work hard for and obey their masters while Masters are admonished to treat their works with dignity and to pay them promptly based on what they agreed to if there was such an agreement.
  4. Church – given authority by God over the affairs of local assemblies of believers. Church leaders have the right and responsibility to teach correct doctrine and defend the unity of the Church from heresies that may arise from within. Church leaders are also given the right and responsibility to expel members who are living in open sin or are promoting heresies in the Church. Churches are also called to spread the Gospel and plant new Churches.
  5. Civil – given authority by God to prosecute and punish sins like murder, theft, rape, kidnapping and extortion and to settle property disputes between individuals or businesses as well as to organize resources and people for the defense of their nation.

Out of these five spheres of authority –  the family sphere with the husband and father at its head is the most power sphere of human authority God established. While the sphere of Civil government is the most limited sphere of Government God established.

So, bringing this all full circle back to polygamy – God did not give authority over marriage to the sphere of the Civil government or the Church government. He gave it to the Family government headed by the father:

“16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”

Exodus 22:16-17 (KJV)

Later we see again that fathers may override any vows their young daughters make (which would include an agreement of marriage):

“3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth; 4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. 5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.”

Numbers 30:3-5 (KJV)

Fathers were established by God as the guardians of their daughters and marriage was strictly a family affair and neither the Priests, Pastors or Tribal or Civil Governments had any authority in marriage.

So, the truth is – Biblically speaking both the Civil and Church government authorities usurped authority in the area of marriage that God never gave them and yes that means we as Christians do not have to get marriage licenses or have clergy preside over our wedding ceremonies. We don’t even have to have a wedding ceremony but a man and woman can make their covenant before God in private if they wish to.

What all this means is that the Jews who ignored the edicts of Rome against their practice of polygamy were justified by God in doing so in the same way that men today are justified in ignoring the edicts of the United States Government against polygamy as well as local Church governments condemnation of polygamy.

Conclusion of Part 3

None of these arguments against polygamy stand when examined closely.

A man can be one flesh, which each of his wives.

Pastors and Deacons were not forbidden from polygamy, but instead became disqualified if they were divorced.   Even if were true that the New Testament was prohibiting polygamy for pastors this is not prescribed for all Christians, just as the Levite priests had different standards for marriage that were not applicable to the greater population of Israel.

If monogamous marriage is God’s standard because he only created one wife for Adam then sibling marriage is also his standard because his creation of only one couple in the Garden necessitated the practice of sibling marriage.  But we when we look at the entire witness of the Scriptures we see that sibling marriage was a temporary allowance by God which he ended in the Law of Moses and that polygamy was blessed, allowed and given by God to men and he never removed his allowance for it or condemned it even in the New Testament.

Finally, God never gave the Church or the Civil government authority over marriage.  Marriage was given to the family and the Church and Civil governments may not usurp authority in this area.  All regulations of Churches or Civil governments in the area of what constitutes marriage or who may marry and not marry may be disregarded by Christians. Our authority on what constitutes marriage and what the conditions and responsibilities are in marriage is the Word of God and Word of God alone.

All articles in this series:

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 1

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 2

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 3

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 4

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 5

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 2

 Polygamy3_Romans

Origins of the Monogamy Only position

It is ironic that monogamy became the norm from one of the most decadent empires in all of history.

While on its surface the Roman Empire was very monogamous, the reality is they were not. Roman men could officially have only one wife and she, as well as her children, would have all the rights and privileges that went along with that as citizens of the empire.  The way men got around this though was through female slaves.

Many men had un-official harems through the use of female slaves and even had children by them. In some instances Roman wives did carry on affairs with their male slaves, but if they were to be impregnated by their male slaves they would try to cover it up lest they be disgraced.

There are a lot theories as to how the MO position came to be in the Roman culture. One of the more popular ones is that MO made inheritance issues almost completely go away. Where other parts of the world especially in the Middle East and elsewhere still wrestled with these issues.  This was also a way the Romans could make themselves feel superior to other nations as most other areas of the world at the time still heavily practiced polygamy.

While polygamy did continue to exist in Europe it was usually hidden and very frowned upon.

By the way even the term – Romantic – means “like the Romans” referring to monogamous only societies.  Romanticism occurs in the context of a monogamous relationship.

How did the Romans handle the Jews and Polygamy?

A good summary of the Jewish history with the Romans on this subject is found in “Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study”:

“When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. It is true that we find no references to it in the New Testament; and from this some have inferred that it must have fallen into disuse, and that at the time of our Lord the Jewish people had become monogamous. But the conclusion appears to be unwarranted. Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even when though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife. In 285 A.D. a constitution of Diocletian and Maximian interdicted polygamy to all subjects of the empire without exception. But with the Jews, at least, the enactment failed of its effect; and in 393 A.D. a special law was issued by Theodosius to compel the Jews to relinquish this national custom. Even so they were not induced to conform.”

Source: Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study – Joyce, George (1933). Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study. Sheed and Ward. p. 560.

Polygamy_4_Martin_Luther

Polygamy during the Protestant Reformation

During the 16th century some of the Reformers reexamined the issue of Polygamy.  Martin Luther stated:

“I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.”

Source: Luter, Martin. De Wette II, 459, ibid., pp. 329–330.

Later Luther would qualify his previous statement by saying it only referred to men whose wives were sick or lepers. But I personally believe he had it right the first time.

Some Anabaptists actually promoted and practiced polygamy as the restoration of Biblical plural marriage.

Conclusion of Part 2

In this part of my series on Polygamy we have shown that the Roman Empire had the greatest influence in history as far as pushing the MO position and making polygamy an unacceptable form of marriage. We have also shown that Polygamy was still a common practice during Christ’s time and yet he never speaks against it. We can also see that some of the Reformers embraced polygamy and saw it as Biblical practice.
All articles in this series:

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 1

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 2

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 3

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 4

Why Polygamy Is Not Unbiblical Part 5