Bible Polygyny

Abimelech desired to
increase the number of women
in his household.
The Lord agrees this is an innocent and sincere thing to do, however, taking another man's wife is adultery and not acceptable.

Gen.2:24 does not demand one man and one woman

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh.. Gen.2:24.

 

A mere 18 chapters after we find the words, "they shall be one flesh" Gen.2:24, we find clear evidence that no implied command for monogamy can be assumed, inferred or in any way extracted from or eisogetically read into it.

We find the proof in two significant events in the life of Abraham, God's friend. These events show clearly the Law in operation centuries before it was given; they predate the written Law but vividly manifest it.

In Gen.20 the record shows Abraham had moved south and Abimelech, the King of Gerar, had taken Sarah after learning she was his sister, Gen.20:5. That he had taken Sarah with the intent of having her as another wife is clearly shown in the record. It needs to be noted that Abimelech already had a wife and slave women in his house;
And Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his slave women, and they gave birth. For the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife. Gen 20:17-18 

Now is the opportunity for God to make it clear that Gen.2:24 meant one man and one woman since Abimelech was a polygamist and intended to expand the number of women in his house.

Lamech was not condemned for having multiple wives which is a statement of acceptability in itself, but here we are left in no doubt since Abimelech was acknowledged directly by God Himself, as being sincere and innocent in the intent of adding wives to his household. Nothing can be clearer here.

In the Scripture passage which follows, Abimelech appealed as a "righteous nation", and we find God agreeing with him that taking another woman to be a wife was a sincere and innocent thing to do. Here is the record of God so stating directly to Abimelech and to us;
And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister. And Abimelech the king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, you are about to die, for the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man's wife.
But Abimelech had not come near her. And he said, Lord, will You also kill a righteous nation? Did he not say to me, She is my sister? And she, even she herself said, He is my brother. In the sincerity of my heart and innocency of my hands I have done this.
And God said to him in a dream, Yes, I know that you did this in the sincerity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me. Therefore I did not allow you to touch her.
Gen 20:2-6

Clearly the Lord agrees with Abimelech that he had innocently and sincerely taken Sarah potentially as another wife. In other words, taking another woman as an additional wife was sincere and innocent but what was sin was taking a married woman.

Nothing is made clearer, polygamy is acceptable to God, but adultery, that is intimacy with a married woman, is sin and not acceptable.

We cannot argue that Abimelech was not an Israelite under the Law since God spoke directly to him. Nor can we argue that it was simply culturally acceptable to have more than one wife for God identifies sin here, and the sin is adultery, not polygamy. Those who have forever considered polygamy adultery are found out of step with the Word of God.
And God said to him in a dream, Yes, I know that you did this in the sincerity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me. Therefore I did not allow you to touch her. Gen 20:2-6

Because of Abimelech's righteous intent, the Lord had prevented him from sinning against Him; He had not allowed Abimelech to touch Sarah. Had he done so he would have committed adultery by taking another man's wife. Later in the Law we find this definition of adultery made thoroughly consistently clear;
And a man who commits adultery with a man's wife, who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. Lev 20:10 
If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die, the man that lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall put away evil from Israel. Deu 22:22 

And by that same thorough consistency, look at these laws for any man who chooses to have more than one wife and these are followed by the law of the levirate;
If he takes himself another wife, her food, her clothing, and her duty of marriage shall not be lessened. Exo 21:10 

If a man has two wives, one beloved and another hated, and they have borne him sons, the beloved and the hated; and if the first-born son was of her that was hated, then it shall be in the day when he makes his sons to inherit what he has, he may not cause to inherit the son of the beloved first-born before the son of the hated one, he who is truly the first-born. Deu 21:15-16


If brothers live together, and one of them dies and has no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry outside to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as a wife for himself, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.

And it shall be, the first-born whom she bears shall succeed in the name of his dead brother, so that his name may not be put out of Israel. Deu 25:5-6 

 

It cannot be said that God permitted polygamy in the Old Testament as if this meant some inferior submissive response on the part of God to His willfully disobedient servants. Abraham obeyed God's voice, he kept God's Laws, Gen.26:5. When God permits something, it is because it is acceptable to Him.

In Gen.12 we find the same lawful definition of adultery enforced by the Lord's actions against Pharaoh;
And Jehovah plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she is your wife? Why did you say, She is my sister? And so I was about to take her to me as wife. Now therefore behold your wife. Take her and go. Gen 12:17-19 

Having another man's wife is adultery, having more than one wife is not and has never been adultery.

Returning to our opening passage we find that the Lord had closed up the wombs of the women in Abimelech's household;
And Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his slave women, and they gave birth. For the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife. Gen 20:17-18 

Children are a blessing, the Psalmist says so;
A Song of degrees for Solomon. Unless Jehovah builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless Jehovah keeps the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep. Lo, children are the inheritance of Jehovah; the fruit of the womb is a reward. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the sons of the young. Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psa 127 

A Song of degrees. Blessed is everyone who fears Jehovah, who walks in His ways. For you shall surely eat the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and all is well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine by the sides of your house; your sons shall be like olive plants around your table. Behold! So shall the man be blessed who fears Jehovah. Jehovah shall bless you out of Zion; and you shall see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yea, you shall see the sons of your sons. Peace be on Israel. Psa 128

 

The Lord shows forth clearly His acceptance of polygamy, for after Abraham had prayed for Abimelech, his wives again bore children. However, while the threat of adultery remained, the blessing of children was withheld.


How plainly does God speak to us in His Word? Very plainly. Polygamy is acceptable to the Lord, is not sin, but adultery is unacceptable and evil.

 

Yet when we demand one man with one woman as the only marriage option we have infested ourselves with traditions and cultural norms elevated above and contrary to the Word of Truth.

 

 

Polygamy is not adultery.

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