Polygamy – Who Benefits?

in God's Commandments

While some say the Bible authorizes polygamy, an examination of its pages emphasizes the merits of monogamy, not polygamy. One example is found in Malachi 2:13-16.

And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously. (NKJV)

Christ Himself emphasized monogamy when He said: ” . . . 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” (Matt. 19:4-6).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, article “Woman,” states that the creation of woman from the rib of man indicates the unity and fellowship of the woman with that of her husband. Woman is man’s complement, essential to the perfection of his being. Both man and woman are endowed with equality and mutual independence. The Bible gives no sanction for dual or plural marriages. Lamech’s polygamy is the first recorded infraction of God established monogamy. By the time of Noah, polygamy had degenerated into promiscuity of the most incestuous and illicit kind.

The Creation account is clear regarding monogamy. There is no question as to the meaning:

And God said, Let us make man in our image. after our likeness . . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him . . . . but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:20-23)

The Bible clearly reveals that at the time of Creation God established monogamy. The God who created monogamy was none other than the One who became Jesus Christ. Christ was the God of the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul tells us: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:1-4). “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:8-9). “For by him [Christ, v. 13] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col. 1:16). Jesus Christ created the institution of marriage.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). He does not change. God binds a man and woman in marriage, He does not bind multiple wives to one man. ” . . . 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” (Matt. 19:5-6).

The Levirate Law in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 proves monogamy was the normal marriage relationship. Here is the law:

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

This law would be impossible to implement had polygamy been the accepted practice. This law simply required the bachelor brother to marry his brother’s wife in case she was left a widow and childless. The bachelor brother could refuse to do so, but if so he carried a reproach.

Christ, the God of the Old Testament, was figuratively married to Israel (Jer. 3:14). Because of national sins, God divorced Israel (Isa. 50:1), but He never remarried. His death by crucifixion freed Him from this union with Israel, and at His second coming Christ will marry the New Testament Church (Rev 19:7-9).

Lamech’s Contribution

to Human Degradation

The Flood was brought upon the earth 1,656 years after Creation. The human race had become so corrupt that God determined to destroy it. Before this destruction occurred we read: ” . . . The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:2-3). The inference is clear. Something had gone wrong with the whole view of marriage and its purpose. The world had gone way beyond the laws that God had set in motion. As a result men were given 120 years to change before a coming destruction. But to no avail. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually . . . . The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:5, 11-12).

Polygamy certainly has to be considered in this scenario. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, article “Marriage,” tells us that polygamy generally occurs when conditions are abnormal. Such conditions would include a disproportionate number of females, as in tribal communities or during war. During normal times only the very wealthy can afford multiple wives. Polygamy can be linked to the following reasons: (1) A desire for numerous offspring, (2) bareness of the first wife, (3) the advantage offered by political alliances, (4) taking female captives during a time of war, and (5) slavery.

Abnormal conditions had developed in the pre-Flood world, so much so that eventually the entire world was destroyed. About 870 years after Creation, polygamy was introduced by Lamech. Lamech was a descendant of Cain, the member of a family highly accomplished in music and metallurgy. The Bible does not give much detail surrounding Lamech’s deed, but here is the account: “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah” (Gen. 4:19). Then we find this statement: “And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (vv. 23-24). Whatever occurred appears in the context of polygamy. We can only surmise what happened, but more than likely a jealous love triangle was involved that led to murder (possibly self-defense). In the context, polygamy is associated with bloodshed and a killing. While the Bible does not directly condemn polygamy, it certainly emphasizes the divine ideal-monogamy. In the Scriptures polygamy is never shown in a positive light.

Subsequent to the Flood, the Bible record demonstrates that marital infidelity and the corruption of marriage resulted from sin. Sin is the transgression of God’s Law (1 John 3:4). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, article “Woman,” tells us that dual marriages by the Patriarchs were due to the desire to beget children and cannot be traced to God’s consent or approval. Furthermore, the Law of Moses concerning chastity was given to protect the sanctity of marriage and revealed a higher regard for women than that found in the Gentile nations. In Israel, women were safeguarded from the sensual abominations that were so prevalent among the Egyptians and Canaanites. Polygamy and concubinage were imported into Israel from the heathen nations.

What Do the Bible Texts Say?

It is a false assumption to conclude that God sanctioned or approved polygamy. Human misery and suffering all result from sin. This is why attempts to read God’s approval of polygamy into Bible passages is a preconceived notion. One such example is 2 Samuel 12:7-8. The idea read into this text is that God sanctioned polygamy when He “gave” Saul’s wives to David. “And Nathan said to David . . . Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.”

The Bible does not contradict. The instruction for kings, found in Deuteronomy 17:17, states: “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” The answer to God’s words regarding what He gave David in 2 Samuel 12:7-8 is explained in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Vol. 1, p. 273, by Harris, Archer, and Waltke). It states this about the word bosom: “A variety of abstract, figurative ideas are expressed by the term . . . . Giving the old king’s wives into the new king’s bosom showed the new king’s authority . . . .” In brief, the word “bosom” does not necessarily refer to sexual relations. Since God’s instruction was that the king was not to multiply wives to himself, we can be sure God did not sanction polygamy in 2 Samuel 12:7-8. The fact is: Polygamy never appears in a positive light in the Old Testament, and never once does it describe a truly happy polygamous marriage (Bible Knowledge Commentary on Deut. 21:15-17).

Considering Deuteronomy 21:15-17 we read:

If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

This text does not authorize polygamy. Rather, it demonstrates the unfairness that can result because of it. This law was given to protect the rights of the firstborn under such circumstances. Because of an aversion toward one of the wives when polygamy is tolerated there is the ever present threat to supplant the rights of the firstborn (Jerome Bible Commentary). This text points out the mischief that can come from having more than one wife. In these circumstances it is natural to assume that one wife would be favored above the other. In such relationships strife, jealousy, envy, confusion, constant tension, and vexation are bound to exist. What this text illustrates is that monogamy is to be preferred above polygamy.

The truth is if Deuteronomy 21:15-17 authorizes polygamy, then God has violated His own divine ideal given at Creation. A Critical and Experimental Commentary, by Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown, gives a likely interpretation as to why this text addresses the issue of inheritance rather than polygamy.

In the original, and in all translations but ours, the words are rendered ‘have had,’ referring to events that have already taken place . . . . Moses, therefore, does not here legislate upon the case of a man who has two wives at the same time, but on that of a man who has married twice in succession, the second wife after the decease of the first; and there was an obvious necessity for legislation in these circumstances; for the first wife, who was hated, was dead, and the second wife, the favourite, was alive: and with the feelings of a stepmother, she would urge her husband to make her own son the heir. This case has no bearing upon polygamy, which there is no evidence that the Mosaic code legalized (see Dwight’s ‘Hebrew Wife,’ pp. 17, 18).

One more factor is that the words “beloved,” and “hated”ยด are in the passive voice, which indicates a condition that was continuous for some time. The perfect tense used for the words “have born” should be translated “bore,” showing a completed act. The indication is that the verse refers to past events and concerns itself with the law of inheritance, not polygamy.

That the above comment in A Critical and Experimental Commentary is biblically demonstrable can be seen in the case of Abraham. He had two wives-Sarah and Hagar. Recall that Ishmael was his firstborn through Hagar. Isaac was the son of promise through Sarah-the one God had foretold. Sarah was adamant when she said: ” . . . Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” (Gen. 21:10), God then told Abraham ” . . . Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (v. 12). In this case, Isaac, the second-born, was to receive the inheritance. To repeat, if Deuteronomy 21:15-17 sanctions polygamy, then God did not follow His own statute given by the Deuteronomy text.

Sarah had influenced Abraham’s to take of Hagar for a concubine. When she saw the results, she realized her mistake. “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee” (Gen. 16:5). The result of this liaison and conception was that Hagar no longer respected Sarah. Contempt and tension developed in the household. This is the general result of polygamy. Such tension is highly likely in any triangle, whether one is married or not. The divine ideal is monogamy, and calling a concubine a second wife does not negate the penalty for ignoring this divine ideal.

To emphasize that monogamy was the divine ideal is seen in the instruction to the Aaronic Priesthood. Here is the law: “They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God” (Lev. 21:7). Note: The priest was instructed to take a wife, not wives. In brief, priests were prohibited from practicing polygamy. While all priests were Levites, not all Levites were priests. An example of the negative result of polygamy is seen in Judges, chapters 19-20. The concubine of a Levite played the whore and returned home to her father. The Levite went to her father’s home to bring her back. A series of convoluted events followed that led to the near extirpation of the tribe of Benjamin. A polygamous marriage contributed to this disaster.

Consider Exodus 21:7-11, another text quoted to “prove” that God sanctions polygamy.

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money. (Ex. 21:7-11)

First of all, the “he” found in verses 7-10 refers to the master. The statute states the following: (1) The girl could not be treated as a common laborer. (2) If the master betroths her to himself, and later changes his mind, she is to be redeemed. (3) If betrothed to his son, she is to be treated as a daughter. (4) If he take another wife, her “duty of marriage” shall not be reduced. And (5) If he refuses to comply with the above requirements, she is to be freed without any remuneration. So the question is: Does this text sanction polygamy, since in the Old Testament a betrothal is legally the same as a marriage?

Notice carefully, the word “wife” is in italics. This is an inserted word, not found in the original Hebrew text. The text should read: “If he takes another.” The question is another what? Is this referring to another wife or to another maidservant? Also notice the expression, “and her duty of marriage.” According to The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance, the word for “her duty for marriage” is translated “furrows” in Hosea 10:10. There the marginal rendering is “habitations.” Habitations appears to be the likely meaning of “her duty of marriage” (Exodus 21:10). See A Critical and Experimental Commentary Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown. Since the word “wife” is not used in Exodus 21:10, the text cannot be used to prove that polygamy is sanctioned. What then does the text say? By statute the master is liable for maintaining the maid’s standard of living. The indication is that if the master take another maidservant, he must not diminish the necessities of life that were provided for the first maid. If not, she was free to go. Again, keep in mind that God would not violate His own divine ideal, and no Scripture in the Bible indicates otherwise.

Another text to consider is Leviticus 18:18. It states: “Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.” Some interpret this Scripture to mean that while one was forbidden to marry two sisters at the same time, there was no prohibition in being married to two unrelated women simultaneously.

Notice this comment from A Critical and Experimental Commentary.

This passage has been interpreted in two very different and indeed opposite ways: One class of commentators, taking the words in an idiomatic sense, consider the law a prohibition of polygamy–`Neither shalt thou take one wife to another.’ Another [class of commentators], accepting the words in their natural meaning–`Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister’–view the statute as forbidding an imitation of Jacob in marrying two sisters, and understand it thus: ‘Thou shalt not marry the sister of thy present wife, to vex her in her life-time; although thou mayest take a stranger, and even her sister on her decease.’

The subject has provoked much discussion, and, whether viewed as a question of Scriptural interpretation or of social polity, is of great interest and importance . . . . We believe that the marginal reading is the true one, ['one wife to another'] and that this statute does not bear upon the quoestio vexata of marriage with a deceased wife’s sister.

Consider the word “sister.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary says the word “sister” can be applied in several ways. It may refer to the daughter of one’s father and mother, or to one’s half-sister. It may refer to an aunt on either the father’s or mother’s side. In the general sense, it may refer to female relatives. Metaphorically, it may refer to the nations of Israel and Judah. It is even translated “beloved.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, states that in Leviticus 18:18 the word “sister” can be a woman of the same nationality or a close friend. Since the same Hebrew word for “sister” is translated “one to another” in Exodus 26:3, some scholars regard Leviticus 18:18 as condemnation of polygamy, though TWOT disagrees. Since the marginal rendering for “wife” in the verse mentioned above is “one wife to another,” there is strong support for the view that polygamy, as such, is condemned in this verse. Certainly, this view coincides with God’s original divine ideal, and does not contradict His instruction in Genesis 2:18.

One final text to be considered is 1 Timothy 3:2. This text, along with Titus 1:6, lists the qualifications for an elder. One of those qualifications is that he must be “the husband of one wife.” This text clearly forbids polygamy. The New International Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 2, 563-564, states that in keeping with conditions during the first century, the Catholic viewpoint was that Paul taught an elder or bishop may be married, but one who remarries after the death of his wife, or who has married after a divorce, is excluded from the office. Part of this view, which is incorrect, lends itself to the doctrine of a celibate priesthood. Later interpretations of this verse do not agree with the literal meaning of the text, which states that an elder should not have more than one living wife.

Some say this text does not prohibit polygamy because this supposedly was an acceptable practice during the New Testament period, and since a man may have multiple wives it is not wrong as a result of divorce to have successive wives. This view flies in the face of the historical facts. Some of the wealthier Jews had multiple wives, Herod is one example, but even this practice was not widely accepted.

Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and, aside from the book of Hebrews, his epistles were written to the Gentiles. Early Greek mythology depicts both polygamy and polyandry (multiple living husbands), but in this historical period monogamy was the only marriage practice (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, 575). In brief, polygamy was not a practice in the Gentile world during the New Testament period. Therefore, the argument that 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 justify polygamy is fatuous.

Paul allowed for remarriage after the death of a spouse (1 Cor. 7:39). Also consider 1 Timothy 5:9. Widows who served in a special class had to be married to one man. If 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 justify polygamy, then 1 Timothy 5:9 justifies polyandry, which is far fetched. Polyandry was virtually unknown in the Greek world. The only interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 that meets the divine ideal of monogamy is that a bishop can be married, and if he so chooses may remarry after the death of his wife. Note also, a bishop must have his children, not another man’s children, in subjection with all gravity, though that could be a possibility if after the death of his first wife, he marries a younger widow with children. Often children from different wives in a succession of marriages make “ruling well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” quite difficult.

What Bible Examples Reveal

The Genesis account regarding marriage is absolutely explicit. God created only one wife for Adam. Yet, some Bible dictionaries believe that polygamy is not forbidden in the Scriptures because God left it up to man to learn that His original institution of monogamy is the proper relationship. The fact is this: The Bible shows that polygamy does not have God’s approval, and the price that men paid for it was generally not worth it. Polygamy was certainly witnessed in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, many of the Judges, David, Solomon, and a host of other kings. What do these examples reveal? The ISBE (article “Marriage”) states that polygamy is treated as incompatible with the divine ideal; kings were specifically warned not to participate in it. And also domestic harmony is associated with monogamy alone. In this world the complications that arise in polygamous marriages are seldom considered, but the Bible makes them plain.

Take Abraham for example. He took his wife’s maid-Hagar-to wife. There was such contention between Sarah and Hagar that Hagar felt compelled to flee. God revealed Himself to her and told her to return and submit to Sarah (Gen. 16). The result of taking Hagar for a concubine eventually led to the following:

And the child [Isaac] grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. (Gen. 21:8-11)

Abraham was a kind man, and this turn of events was very painful for him. Jacob’s domestic life did not fare much better. There was constant competition between his wives-Leah and Rachel. Most of the sons became very hateful toward Joseph and took the opportunity to sell him into slavery (Gen. 29-30, 37).

During the period of the Judges, Gideon had many wives. After his death, a son of one of his concubines murdered all the other sons of Gideon, except one who escaped. This son of a concubine, named Abimelech, set himself up as a king, but his evil reign did not last long. There was much bloodshed along the way. Polygamy was a contributing factor.

Elkanah, the father of Samuel, had two wives who were constantly at odds. An examination of the account reveals this unhappy situation was brought on by polygamy.

Now there was a certain man . . . and his name was Elkanah . . . And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there. And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. (1 Sam. 1:1-7)

Like Jacob before him Elkanah favored one wife above the other and it provoked feelings of jealously. Hannah was so desperate to conceive she made a vow to God, and her wish was granted. She bore a son-Samuel-who became one of the great men of the Old Testament. Yet, a look at her domestic situation was certainly not the best.

The curses that befell David for his polygamy and adultery were extensive. Two of his sons competed for the throne, one eventually executing the other. Another son raped his half-sister and in turn was murdered by her full brother. Later, the son who murdered his rapist brother fomented a rebellion against David and almost succeeded. During this rebellion this same son cohabited with David’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. Earlier, David was used to having so many wives that it did not smite his conscience to take another man’s wife after committing adultery with her and having her husband murdered. Refer to 2 Samuel 11-13, 15-18, for the details. Because polygamy contributed to these events, David suffered much pain.

Solomon was even worse. Like his father, David, he too disobeyed the command not to multiply wives to himself. If there was ever an example of self-indulgence, a lack of self-control and extravagance, this is it. His obsession with women bordered on utter folly, and the consequences were disastrous.

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (1 Kings 11:1-4)

Because Solomon loaded his harem with these strange women, he lost all sight of right and wrong. “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin” (Neh. 13:26). Solomon’s program to build pagan temples to these wives contributed to the bankruptcy of the nation. When he needed to raise funds he taxed the people excessively. Discontentment set in, and after his death ten tribes of the north revolted and formed a new kingdom-all the result of sin brought on by polygamy and excessive overindulgence.

The Evils of Polygamy

Informed people know that little has changed throughout the history of mankind, and the evils of polygamy continue is some nations and religions to this day. The following summary from the ISBE gives the evils of polygamy under the subject “Woman.” It says that the historic treatment of women is the culprit behind polygamy, and that women have been taken for granted, compelled into enslavement and degradation. This mistreatment of women is the result of the conceit, ignorance, and moral perversion on the part of men. All history must be viewed in the light of the mistaken estimate of the endowment given women, as well as their worth and rightful place. The ancient Hebrews did not entirely lose sight of this revelation from God, and did above all other nations hold women in high esteem, honor, and affection. Christianity completed a restoration to equality of opportunity and place. The teaching of true Christianity, when practiced, makes women companions, confidants, and advisors to their husbands.

Under the subject “Polygamy,” the ISBE says that this institution denies the rights and privileges of a monogamous marriage to women, as well as interfering with the rights of men. Every harem denies the right of a man to seek out among women a wife according to the dictates of the heart. The harm done to eunuchs who serve as custodians in harems is an effrontery to God. In effect, polygamy has reduced women to a near zero in all areas of life, holding her to the lowest and most primitive of industrial pursuits, She is deprived of intellectual development, and barred from society as she stares through the lattice of her domicile. If abroad she is clothed in body and face, her bounds set for life. Her highest office-a breeder of children-and her daughters have no possible hope or ambition. The “help-meet” God created to assist man in life has been relegated to a degraded position.

In the Greek and Roman world, the view regarding women was not at all like that of the ancient Israelites. For example, Hellenistic philosophers held if the claim women that were the equal of their husbands was implemented, the state would be radically disorganized. Aristotle considered women to be inferior to men, located intermediately between freemen and slaves. Both Demosthenes and Socrates deprecated women, and Plato advocated a community of wives (though this idea was never accepted). The same general views prevailed in Rome. Marriage was regarded as a public duty only, and prostitutes were shown more honor than wives. Both chastity and modesty, highly regarded in Israelite society, were foreign to the Greek concept of morality. It took some time for the Greek view of morality to penetrate Roman culture, but eventually it did. The Greeks lifted up their hands to public prostitutes when praying in their temples. Pagan culture relegated women to an inferior and degrading lot in life, and every decline in the status of women in Hebrew society was due to pagan influences. Idolatrous and heathen customs were borrowed from surrounding nations (ISBE, s.v. “Woman”).

While the Hebrews did not inherit polygamy from the heathen nations, its consequences were oppressive toward women. The reader merely has to read 2 Samuel 20:3 to see what happened to David’s concubines after Absalom’s rebellion-an indirect result of David’s polygamy. “And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in unto them. So they were shut up unto the day of their death, living in widowhood.” These women were victims of a degraded system which King David himself had participated in.

Polygamous nations have contributed little overall toward the invention of industry and science. With a system that appeals to the most primitive instincts and vices, such nations have been weighed down in lethargy. The forceful nations are the monogamous ones. The frenzy of bloodshed and lust of the Mogul and Turkish empires, as well as Western Asia, display the consequence of their religion, and the enjoyment of lust is what they hope for in the life to come. The fact is: Mankind is indebted to these nations for nothing (ISBE, s.v. “Polygamy”).

To summarize: It is clear from the Bible that monogamy is the divine ideal. Every Bible example depicts the consequences of polygamy as unhealthful and harmful, and in no way justifies it. Texts that supposedly support or authorize polygamy have been misinterpreted and contradict the divine ideal established at Creation. Polygamy-a degrading institution-gives license to lust and passion, and it must be recognized for what it really is!

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