Saturday, November 10, 2007

The "Polygamy Is NOT Sinful" Argument
Certainly the opinion that "polygamy has always been sinful" seems to be the most widespread position held among Christians today. This is evident from a
survey, where 37 percent of those surveyed took this stance. However, 37 percent is only a little over a third, which should be a red flag signaling that this matter is not totally clear in Scripture and thereby warrants further investigation. Therefore, let's address the key arguments given by the anti-polygamy side and see if they hold water.

Objection:
Polygamists Have Problems

One key objection to polygamy is that polygamists in the Bible had a lot of problems, such as jealous wives and bickering sibling rivalry.

Rebuttal:
Monogamists Also Have Problems

Of course polygamists have problems. Monogamists also have problems. And so do single people. Everyone has problems. The question we need to ask is, do polygamists have more problems than monogamists or singles? And would their lives be better if polygamy did not exist?

We read in the Bible how Sarah became jealous of Hagar and how Rachel became jealous of her sister Leah when they were being out-produced in the baby-making department. It's interesting that the cause of this rivalry seemed to have had little to do with the fact that their husbands were sleeping with someone else and everything to do with the production of children.

Since it was part of the sovereign God's master plan for Abraham to become the father of many nations, it was also part of God's plan for Jacob,whose name was changed to Israel, to become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel through his twelve sons, who were produced by Jacob having intercourse with his two wives and their handmaids. Would God's purpose have been accomplished just as expediently if Jacob had been a monogamist?

But what about jealousy? Shouldn't a man be monogamous to avoid having jealous wives?

This argument also does not hold water. Saying a man should not have more than one wife simply because his wives may become jealous of each other is like saying a couple should only have one child because the children might become jealous of each other.

Nobody would deny that sibling rivalry can and often does exist. The Bible gives us several prime examples. Jacob was jealous of his brother Esau. Jacob's son Joseph also had brothers who were jealous and hated him. As a result, they sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver (Genesis 37:28). Does that mean that Joseph's father Jacob made a mistake by having more than one son? Or wasn't this all part of God's master plan? Therefore, if we conclude that polygamy is wrong simply because wives can and sometime do get jealous of each other, then shouldn't we also conclude the same thing about having more than one child? Put another way, doesn't the Bible give us just as many examples of sibling rivalry as it does jealousy among competing wives?

We also know that sibling rivalry does not exist among all siblings. And I'm sure there are plenty of examples where wives of a polygamist get along splendidly. So the question is not, "Does polygamy work?" A better question is, "Can polygamy work?" I'm sure the answer must be yes.


Objection:
God created Adam and Eve; not Adam, Eve, and Betty.

It is often claimed that God set the idyllic standard of monogamy by creating Adam and Eve. If God wanted men to be polygamous, He would have created Adam, Eve, and Betty. Genesis 2:24 states that "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." This verse is often used to support the idea that a man cannot or should not be joined to more than one wife simultaneously because only through monogamy can a man and a woman become one flesh.


Rebuttal:
Genesis 2:24 Does Not Endorse Monogamy As The Ideal

First, let's consider that we are not living in a perfect, idyllic world. Mankind is composed of fallen creatures living in a fallen world. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, then perhaps polygamy would never have existed. But the cold truth is, Adam and Eve did sin. We are fallen creatures. This is a fallen world. Everything on this planet is not perfect. In such a world, there are advantages and disadvantages of both monogamy and polygamy.

Throughout most of history, there have been more women than men. The same holds true today in most nations. Right now today, in the United States of America, there are well over 4 million more women than men. If these women desire sex, which is a powerful drive within most women, then they have but three options:

1. Stay single and suffer.


2. Be promiscuous and sleep around.

3. Become a prostitute.

It can be clearly demonstrated that nations that only allow monogamy also have more prostitution than those which allow polygamy.

Of course, the imbalance in men and women has something to do with men dying in wars. And in an idyllic world, war would not exist. But again, this is not an idyllic world. What we need to ask, therefore, when we consider whether or not to make polygamy legal, is whether or not the plight of humanity would be made better or worse as a result. On the one hand, if we denounce polygamy, while on the other hand, we denounce prostitution, which would be eradicated, or at the very least, lessened substantially, if polygamy were made legal, we're talking out of moth sides of our mouth.

Dr. Joyce Brothers made a provocative point:



"Polygamy is not as bad as people think. I would rather be third in line of a good man than the only wife of a jerk." (Dr. Brothers was a guest on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect," which aired December 22, 1994.)

According to scholars like Claus Westermann, H. Gunkel, R. Smith, and others, Genesis 2:24 was meant to explain why men and women have a sexual attraction to each other. Women and men are attracted to each other because Eve was taken from man's rib and became, as Adam said, bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh(Genesis 2:23). Westermann contends that this passage is not intended in any way to be considered as a description of or an endorsement for any kind of marital institution, monogamous or polygamous. "For this reason" in verse 24 refers back to verse 23, according to Westermann (Westermann, Claus. Genesis 1-11: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House. 1984, page 233) .

If Genesis 2:24, which states that "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife" is used to forbid polygamy, then by the same logic, this verse should be used to forbid being single. But it should also be noted that, in the Hebrew, the word for "wife" is "issah." This same Hebrew word can be translated as: "wife," "wives," "woman," or "women." Therefore, Genesis 2:24 could also be legitimately translated: A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his "wives," [plural] and they shall become one flesh. This, of course, does not necessarily prove conclusively that issah should be translated as wives, plural; only that it could be translated as wives.

The same rule also holds for the word "wife" in the Greek. The Greek word for "wife" is "gune." Gune, like issah, can also be translated as: "wife," "wives," "woman," or "women." Therefore, when 1 Corinthians 7:2 states that a man should have his own "wife," this passage could also be legitimately translated as saying that a man should have his own "wives" [plural].

Objection:
Lamech was the first polygamist recorded in Scripture. He was also a murderer. Therefore, polygamy is a sin.

Rebuttal:
According to Genesis 4:19-24 (NLT):



Lamech married two women-Adah and Zillah. Adah gave birth to a baby named Jabal. He became the first of the herdsmen who live in tents. His brother's name was Jubal, the first musician-the inventor of the harp and flute. To Lamech's other wife, Zillah, was born Tubal-cain. He was the first to work with metal, forging instruments of bronze and iron. Tubal-cain had a sister named Naamah.

One day Lamech said to Adah and Zillah, "Listen to me, my wives. I have killed a youth who attacked and wounded me. If anyone who kills Cain is to be punished seven times, anyone who takes revenge against me will be punished seventy-seven times!"


Just because this passage is the first recorded example of polygamy in the Bible, and just because Lamech was a murderer, some jump the gun and use the example of Lamech to claim that since murder is a sin, polygamy is also a sin.

This is convoluted logic, which should be plainly evident. For example, Hitler was an evil man. Hitler also drank tea. Using the same logic, this must mean that it is a sin to drink tea. Ridiculous!

Some claim that because this is the first time polygamy is mentioned in Scripture, this somehow proves that polygamy is a sin. Using the same rational, the following must also be a sin:

1. Since Cain was the first child born of a woman, and since Cain was also a murderer, using the same logic, having children is also a sin.

2. The Lamech passage (Genesis 4:19-24) also records other "firsts" besides polygamy. Therefore, if polygamy is a sin simply because it is first recorded in this passage, then the following things must also be sinful:

  • dwelling in tents
  • owning cattle
  • harps
  • organs
  • brass
  • iron

Obviously, this whole line of reasoning is ludicrous. Nobody would conclude that these other things are somehow sinful simply because this is the first time they are mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, if polygamy is indeed sinful, the Lamech account does nothing to prove it, one way or the other.

Objection:
All the problems in the Middle East are the result of Abraham having a polygamous relationship with Hagar.

Rebuttal:
It was probably a mistake, and perhaps even a sin, for Abraham to impregnate Hagar with Ishmael. On the other hand, perhaps the Omniscient Sovereign God, through His providential purpose, had some good reason beyond the understanding of mortal man for allowing this to happen.

Both the Jews and the Arabs consider Ishmael to be the progenitor of the Arab race. Therefore, many attribute the tensions in the Middle East to this one ancient incident of Abraham having sex with Hagar. Therefore, this text is often used to assert that polygamy is a sin.

In defence of Abraham, it's totally understandable why he did what he did. God had promised him a son. Meanwhile, Sarah was way past the age of childbearing. Abraham grew impatient and he caved in to his wife's prodding to sleep with Hagar.

This one incident, however, does not prove that polygamy per se is a sin. For example, Joseph was the son of Jacob, a polygamist. Yet even though he was born in a polygamous family, Joseph turned out pretty good. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler was the son of monogamous union. Yet in spite of the fact that he was born in a monogamous family, Hitler didn't turn out quite as good as Joseph.

The Story Of Abraham And Hagar
For those not familiar with the story of Abraham and Hagar,

Abraham's wife Sarah (then called Sarai) was barren and unable to conceive a child, even though Abraham was promised by God that he would be the father of many nations. So Sarah took matters into her own hands and gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham in order to produce a son. Genesis 16:4 tells us that after Abraham slept with Hagar, she conceived. When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress Sarah with contempt. She despised Sarah. So Sarah said to Abram:

"You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me."

"Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best."

Then Sarah mistreated Hagar and she fled from her.

Hagar named her son Ishmael. The Bible describes Ishmael as a wild man, like a wild donkey. His hand was to be against everyone and every one's hand against him. Ishmael was sentenced to live in hostility toward all his brothers.

Objection:
God clearly disapproved of Solomon having many wives.
Polygamy caused Solomon to turn his heart away from God. Therefore, polygamy is a sin.

Rebuttal:
Although it is true that Solomon had many wives, and although it is also true that those wives caused Solomon to turn his heart away from God, the biblical record of Solomon does not prove that polygamy per se is a sin. In fact, it proves just the opposite. Here's why:

Why Polygamy Was NOT Solomon's Sin
King Solomon was the most famous polygamist of all time, with 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Although critics often use Solomon's harem to demonize polygamy, there are at least two good reasons to reject this notion.

But first, let's establish that Solomon did do many evil things that God strongly disapproved of. According to 1 Kings 11:1-14 (NLT):

1: Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh's daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from
among the Hittites.

2: The Lord had clearly instructed his people not to intermarry with those nations, because the women they married would lead them to worship their gods. Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway.

3: He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. And sure enough, they led his heart away from the Lord.

4: In Solomon's old age, they turned his heart to worship their gods instead of trusting only in the Lord his God, as his father, David, had done.

5: Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites.

6: Thus, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord's sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done.

7: On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, he even built a shrine for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites.

8: Solomon built such shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods.

9: The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.

10: He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord's command.

11: So now the Lord said to him, "Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my laws, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.

12: But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son.

13: And even so, I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city."

14: Then the Lord raised up Hadad the Edomite, a member of Edom's royal family, to be an enemy against Solomon.

So what was Solomon's sin? Was it having many wives? No, that was not the problem. The problem, according to verses 1 and 2, was that Solomon married many "foreign" women. Besides Pharaoh's daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. God had clearly instructed his people not to intermarry with those nations.

Why? Because, according to verse 2, the women they married would lead them to worship their gods. And that's exactly what happened. Nevertheless, Solomon disregarded God's instructions and married them anyway. And then what happened? Just as God had predicted, Solomon's wives led his heart away from the Lord (verse 3). In Solomon's old age, his "foreign" wives turned his heart to worship their "foreign" gods, which included Ashtoreth and Molech. Solomon should have trusted only in the Lord, but he didn't. God considers the worship of such "foreign" gods a detestable thing (verses 4-5).
Only the true God of Israel is to be worshipped. "Do not worship any other gods besides me" (Exodus 20:3).

So Solomon's sin was that he disobeyed God and married numerous "foreign" wives, which led him into idolatry. Having many wives per se was NOT Solomon's sin. How do we know this? The answer is found in verse
6:

Thus, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord's sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, "as his father, David, had done."

This verse says Solomon sinned because, unlike his father David, Solomon did not follow God completely. So at least in this regard, David did follow God completely and Solomon did not.

And guess what? David was also a polygamist, just like Solomon his son. According to 2 Samuel 3:2-15, David had seven wives before he began to reign in Jerusalem. Later, David took more concubines and wives (2 Samuel 5:13). Therefore, since Solomon's sin was that he did not follow God completely, and since David did follow God completely, and since David was also a polygamist, common sense and logic leads us to only one inevitable conclusion: The sin of Solomon was NOT polygamy per se. The sin of Solomon, according to Scripture, was that Solomon allowed his "foreign" wives to lead him into idolatry. David, however, did not allow his wives to turn his heart from God.

True, David did commit adultery with Bathsheba. He also repented bitterly of that transgression. However, there is no indication in Scripture that God disapproved of David's polygamy. In fact, 2 Samuel 12:8, which states that God gave David Saul's wives, indicates that God may have endorsed David's polygamous lifestyle, although the correct interpretation of this passage has been fiercely contested by opponents of polygamy.

Ample evidence has been given that Solomon's sin was NOT polygamy per se. It was marrying "foreign" wives and allowing those "foreign" wives to lead him into idolatry. Had the wives of Solomon been godly Jewish women, perhaps they would have even been a blessing.

Objection:
Solomon had too many wives. God warned kings not to take too many wives.

Rebuttal:
According to 1 Kings 11:3, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. That is a lot of wives. Some would say, it's too many wives.

Deuteronomy 17:17 says:


The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will lead him away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate vast amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.


Some people claim that this verse is saying that "too many wives" means more than one wife. That, however, does not make sense. If this verse meant to say that a king should only have one wife, it would have been less confusing and more to the point for God to simply say "a king can only take one wife."

So how many wives is "too many wives?" According to Exodus 21:10, "too many wives" is defined as simply "more wives than a man can adequately provide for."


If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.


Since Solomon was exceedingly rich, surely Solomon was able to provide financially for all of his wives, way beyond the biblical mandate. As far as providing adequately for their sexual needs, we can only speculate.

Objection:
The "Polygamy Is Like Slavery" Comparison

Polygamy is like slavery. We all know that slavery is wrong, yet nowhere does the Bible say so specifically. Yet many believers were both slaves and slaveholders. The same holds true with polygamy. Although the Bible never specifically says polygamy is a sin, and although many believers were polygamous, it is still evident that polygamy is a sin.

Rebuttal:
There are numerous things wrong with comparing polygamy with slavery.

First, although the Bible condemns the mistreatment of slaves (Ephesians 6:9 ), slavery per se is never condemned in Scripture. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad that slavery no longer exists. I do not believe in racism. However, there were situations in biblical history where slavery was a practical solution to a real problem.

For instance, according to biblical law, someone who became bankrupt was allowed to voluntarily indenture himself as a slave for a period in order to earn enough money pay his debt. This seems better than begging on the streets. Also, in biblical times, people who were so poor that they couldn't afford food or clothing was allowed to sell their his daughter to another family, with the possibly of marrying that person's son. So although slavery can be a horrible thing, and although it can be and often was subject to abuse and the mistreatment of slaves, and although I am thankful that slavery has been abolished in the United States, nevertheless, it did provide a viable solution to problems that were very real in ancient times, such as poverty and bankrupcy.

Like slavery, polygamy is subject to abuse and misuse. Wives are sometimes treated unfairly and aren't provided for adequately by polygamous men. The Bible unequivically condemns this (Exodus 21:10). Nevertheless, there are also numerous benefits to polygamy:


  • Most women don't want as much sex as most men. Having more than one wife alleviates this problem.
  • There are more women than men in most parts of the world. Having more than one wife alleviates this problem.
  • An over-abundance of women tends to cause some of the excess women living in those societies to resort to prostitution. Having more than one wife alleviates this problem.
  • Some people want lots and lots of children; the more, the merrier. Although this is not my cup of tea, if they can afford it, then why not? Having more than one wife allows those people to have more children.

Objection:
Polygamy promotes misogyny.

Rebuttal:
Although I have no doubt that some polygamists are misogynists, I'm also persuaded that others are not. And let's face it, even some monogamists are misogynists.

Here is what a women involved in polygamy says:

Jessicapete says: "This [polygamy] isn't affecting us [her and her husband] in a negative way. In fact, we have a somewhat better realtionship." (To read Jessicapete's entire comment, CLICK HERE.)


Here's what a woman considering polygamy says:According to mmgnes:

"I think the idea of a large poly family with many people to give their love to you sounds wonderful." (To read mmgnes's entire comment, CLICK HERE.)


According to mmgnes:

"I think the idea of a large poly family with many people to give their love to you sounds wonderful." (To read mmgnes's entire comment, CLICK HERE.)


HOME PAGE

HOT TOPICS

Is Polygamy A Sin?

RELATED TOPICS

How Does The Polygamy Issue Affect Missions?

What Do Surveys Say About Polygamy?

What Did Augustine Say About Polygamy?

What Did Thomas Aquinas Say About Polygamy?


What Did Luther Say About Polygamy?

What Did John Calvin Say About Polygamy?

What Did Billy Graham Say About Polygamy?

What Did John MacArthur Say About Polygamy?

What Did R.C. Sproul Say About Polygamy?

What Did John G. Reisinger Say About Polygamy?

The "Polygamy Has Always Been Sinful" Argument

Was Polygamy A Sin In The Old Testament?

Was Polygamy A Sin In The New Testament?

Was Moses A Polygamist?

Did God Disapprove of David's Polygamy?

Why Did God Allow Polygamy?

Is Polygamy Unwise?

Is Polygamy The Preferred Form Of Marriage?

Is Polyandry A Sin?

Is Polygamy A Mormon/ Islamic Heresy?

Would God Portray Himself As A Polygamist If Polygamy Is A Sin?

Was Levirate Marriage Only For Single Men?

THE SIN OF ADAM AND EVE

What Was The Sin Of Adam And Eve? Why Is It Relevant To Us Today?

Although everyone is familiar with
the story of Adam and Eve, this narrative has been interpreted and re-interpreted countless times and numerous ways throughout Judea-Christian history. Precisely what mankind's first sin was and how it subsequently effected the human condition continues to be a source of debate.

RELATED TOPICS

Biblical Account Of Adam And Eve

Is Clothing A Result Of The Fall?

Did The Serpent "Really" Lie?

In What Sense Did Adam And Eve Die?

Difficult Questions Posed By The Eden Saga

I. What Was The Forbidden Fruit?

Four Ways Adam And Eve May Have Misused Sex

Why Did The Sexual Interpretation Go Out Of Vogue?

What Did The Eden Narrative Mean To Ancient Israel?

Top Ten Reasons Why The Sin Of Adam And Eve Was A Sexual Transgression

1. Symbolic Significance of Trees

Eve And Asherah: What's The Connection?

All About Asherah

Tree Worship:What's Sex Got To Do With It?

2. Figs as Aphrodisiacs And Phallic Symbols

3. The Garden Was A Metaphor For Both The Female Body And The Female Sex Organ

4. An Enclosed Garden Was An Idyllic Environment For Lovemaking

5. The Serpent Was a Phallic Symbol

6. The Apple Has Long Been A Sexual Symbol

7. The Serpent Was A Universal Fertility Symbol

8. Eve And Asherah Shared The Title: "The Mother Of All Living"

9. To "Know" Can Mean "To Have Sex"

10. Adam And Eve Were Ashamed Of Their Nakedness After They Sinned

The Modern Telephone Game Illustrates The Possible Validity Of Ancient Interpretation

How Could Eve Have Sex With A Serpent?

II. Was The Forbidden Fruit Literal, Symbolic, Or Both?

Can Eating A Piece Of Literal Fruit Contaminate The Human Race?

III. Were The Other Elements In The Story Literal, Symbolic, Or Both?

(b) Was The Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil Literal, Symbolic, Or Both?

How Did Adam Partake Of The Forbidden Fruit?

Are There Female Demons?

(c) Was The Tree Of Life Literal, Symbolic, Or Both?

IV. How Did The Sin Of Adam And Eve Effect Humanity?

Was The Forbidden Fruit Only A Test?

V. In What Way Did Adam And Eve Become Like God?

What Did It Mean To Freely Eat Any Fruit In The Garden?

The Sin of Adam and Eve According to Martin Luther

The Sin of Adam and Eve According to St. Jerome

The Sin of Adam and Eve According To Aquinas

Eve According to Tertullian

The Sin of Adam and Eve According to Augustine

The Sin of Adam and Eve According to St. Gregory

The Sin of Adam and Eve According to Theophilus of Antioch and St. Irenaeus

The Sin of Adam And Eve - John of Damascus

The Sin of Adam And Eve According To Justin Martyr


NUDISM

Does The Bible Condone Nudism? Does God think it's okay for Christians to prance around naked in a public setting? Are nudist resorts nothing more than havens for perverted social misfits? Most Christians would probably answer "no" to the former and "yes" to the latter. Nevertheless, many followers of the Christian faith are, and probably always have been, a part of a widespread clothing-optional movement. (CLICK HERE to continue.)

RELATED TOPICS

Benefits Of Nudism

Nude Exercise In Ancient Greece

Nudity At The YMCA

How Queen Victoria Influenced Nudism

How Platonic Asceticism Impacted Social Nudism

Public Bathing In The Time Of Jesus

When Nudism Is Not Okay

Scriptures Used To Support Nudism

Do Christians Clothed In Christ Need Clothes?

Is Nudism Healthy For Children?

How Do Nudist Resorts Deal With Erections?

Why Was God Unhappy With The Fig Leaves?

Was Jesus Nude After His Resurrection?

Was Jesus Crucified Nude?

Was Jesus Baptized In The Nude?

Nude Baptism In Early Christianity


MISCELLANEOUS

Why The Church Fathers Were So Negative About Sex

The Sex Life Of Jesus: Was Jesus Married?

ALL COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED!

All comments are welcomed and appreciated, as long as those comments are thoughtful, constructive, and reflect a Christian perspective. Please, no profanity. And be respectful of others. Also, please stay on the topic. The comment button is located below on the right.

2 comments:

Alex said...

What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher's interpretation of the story? (here: samsonblinded.org/blog/genesis-37.htm ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that the argument that men want more sex then women may or may not apply to certain people. Researchers have found that women have as much a sex drive as men do, and for me personally, I want sex more than my husband does. So, this argument could be applied to only some couples. Also, for countries like China, what are all the men going to do? I mean there are sooooo many compared to the women, is it right for polyandry then in this case?