STUDY ON POLYGAMY or POLYGYNY and BIGAMY
FURTHER INFORMATION ON POLYGAMY
The entire study on "Polygamy" is only available on audio tapes and consists of eight messages on four 90-minute audio tapes packaged in a convenient and attractive cassette album.
To obtain the album on "Polygamy" enter Tape Album A020 on the order form.
Is the having of multiple wives condemned in Scripture?
This study will be concerned with the words polygamy, polygamy and Bigamy and it is interesting to notice that none of these words appear in the Bible. We do find references to the words concubine, concubines, and handmaidens in the scriptures. We also finds references to men, such as Jacob, King Saul and David, having more than one wife and I will refer to these situations as men having “multiple wives.”
Polygyny means the same thing as the word Polygamy, however, this word is infrequently used. Polyandry is a word used to describe a woman having more than one husband. Bigamy comes to us from the Latin and French languages and is generally used in writing laws. For example, men are not charged with the crime of polygamy, they are charged with bigamy. When we read about polygamous marriages and polygamous families, what generally comes to mind is Morman polygyny, or Morman polygamy. In modern days most people are against polygamy and laws have been passed denying legal polygamy and polygamists are sometimes prosecuted even though biblically, a man having multiple wives was an acceptable biblical practice.
Several years ago a man in Utah named Tom Green became the center of attention and all because of his lifestyle -- which was having multiple wives.
Apparently what happened was that the Governor of Utah got into hot water by making statements that questioned whether anti-polygamy laws were constitutional. When the dust settled, the governor, perhaps in an attempt to save his position, made a statement that removed his support for polygamists, and that opened the door for the Juab County attorney, who just happens to be the governor's brother, to prosecute polygamists. I am sure there was some back room brother talk and hanky panky that inspired the prosecution of Tom Green
Tom Green had 5 wives and 25 children in one great big happy family. He has never hidden from the state and has even appeared on television shows to represent his religious beliefs and to defend his lifestyle.
But it was not until a few years ago that the county attorney filed paperwork charging Tom Green with four counts of bigamy, and in a surprise move he added one count of rape of a child that supposedly took place 15 years ago with one of his current wives. Also, another charge was added which was one count of criminal non-support.
I imagine that Tom, at this point, has few friends if any at all. Scripturally, wives were the norm in Biblical days, and God's laws regulated the abuse that might go along with having multiple wives. But in Tom's case, if what is reported in the news is correct, he has violated two of God's laws in that he has married the mother of one of his wives and he has married sisters.
It appears that Tom is being prosecuted solely because he is a polygamist, since his wives are standing by him (including the one he supposedly raped 15 years ago) and the wives say they are happy with the lifestyle they have chosen and they claim they are not victims as the county attorney claims.
It is interesting that Tom is being prosecuted because he is cohabiting with someone who the county attorney says is not his wife, yet I would suggest that no sodomites or unmarried couples who live together in Utah are being prosecuted. That is not what we would call "equal protection" of the law. And what is really sick about this is that Sodomites are condemned in Scripture and are to be put to death, whereas having multiple wives was a way of life in Bible days and God made rules to protect women who were in a multiple wife situation. In other words having multiple wives is Scripturally OK and sodomy is not, but yet the government protects the sodomites and persecutes a man having multiple wives.
Because of the news media attention to this case, as well as the controversy it has caused in our society, I have decided to do a study on the subject. The first thing I am going to establish is that a man having more than one wife was commonplace in Israel, and from there I will proceed to show that it was sanctioned by the word of God.
There is nowhere in scripture where it is commanded that men cannot have multiple wives, and on the other hand nowhere in Scripture is a man commanded to have multiple wives. However we do find places where it was highly encouraged and we even find places where God Himself gave multiple wives to men like David; and there is even one law that commands a brother to marry his dead brother's wife and bring up children in his brother's name.
We can search the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and we will not find one -- no not one -- prohibition against the having of multiple wives. Thus the Scriptures, with a few exceptions, leave the matter to the discretion of the man, and his ability to support more than one wife.
Again, this doesn't mean that a man must have more than one wife, it means that we must accept the fact that the practice of having more than one wife is something people are morally free to do. That being the case, if we are true believers in the Holy Word of God, then because someone has more than one wife, we have no right to exclude them from fellowship.
Our modern-day society calls the having of more than one wife Polygamy, and while we do not find, in our Hebrew and Greek concordances a word which was translated as Polygamy, in the Greek we do find the word polys (pol-oos') which is Strong's 4143 and means much or many, and we also find that the Greek word gamos (gam'os) which is Strong's 1062, means marriage or wedding, and putting the two together we have -- pol-oos-gam-'os, which is close to our word polygamy, which undoubtedly came from the Greek language -- not the Hebrew.
The word polygamy simply means "the plurality of wives at the same time," and today the word is used synonymously with bigamy. As far as I know polygamy is not a crime in any state, since the criminal act has been created under the title of bigamy. Bigamy, coming from the Latin, is another one of those Catholic doctrines which is still with us. According to Webster's Dictionary, in Cannon law bigamy was:
"the marrying of a second wife after the death of the first, or once marrying a widow. This disqualified a man for orders, and holding ecclesiastical offices."
This is quite a different meaning than our so-called modern-day society places on the word as my Webster's Dictionary, College Edition, defines bigamy as:
"The criminal offense of marrying a second time while a previous marriage is still legally in effect."
This definition presupposes that the marriage "still in effect," was a marriage granted by the state, because if not granted by the state, then the state would not consider the marriage as "legally in effect." Under certain circumstances, States do recognize what they call a "common law" marriage which is when the man and the woman cohabit and hold themselves out to be man and wife.
But in these cases, the state will also probably have a time period before it would recognize the marriage. For example, the state may not recognize a common-law marriage until the couple have lived together for two or more years. The reason states were forced to recognize these marriages was because after several years of marriage one of the parties filed for a divorce, and children and the division of property was involved, and in those cases, the state will always become a party to the action.
I bring this up because I wonder what the state would do if a man had two or more common-law wives. Would the state consider one of the two marriages to be "still legally in effect" in order to prosecute for bigamy? And what if a man were to marry wife number 1 and after a few months divorce her but never separate from her? And then he marries wife number 2, and again, after a few months divorces her, and again never leaves her.
At this point the man is living with two women and yet legally married to neither. In the eyes of the law would he be legally married? I don't think so. But I would remind everyone that the state acts from a position of power and not necessarily from a position of law. However, in Utah they have a cohabitation law which prohibits a man from living with two women at the same time. I guess it is all right for one sodomite to live with two partners at the same time, but we simply cannot have and will not tolerate a man living with more than one woman at the same time. So sayeth the state!!! Not me.
The first subject I am going to deal with will be concubines. I have chosen this subject because it is the easiest to deal with, and secondly I do so because I want to prove to the best of my ability that multiple wives was the common practice in the days of the patriarchs and in the days of Biblical Israel, and that being the case, then it was necessary that God provide man with rules to follow when he has taken maidservants and concubines as wives.
To begin I am going to give you a definition right out of Zondervan's Encyclopedia of the Bible on the word concubine:
"In the Bible ... a woman lawfully united in marriage to a man in a relation inferior to that of the regular wife. No moral stigma was attached to being a concubine. It was a natural part of polygamous social system. Concubinage is assumed and provided for in the law of Moses, which tried to prevent its excesses and abuses Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 21:10-14. ... free Hebrew women might also become concubines. They enjoyed no other right but lawful cohabitation. The children were considered legitimate, although the children of the first wife were preferred in the distribution of the inheritance."
The important thing to notice here is that a concubine was not what we would call a mistress -- she was a lawful wife but she had a lesser position in the family than did a regular wife, in that normally her children could not inherit. But other than that she was a wife equal among regular wives. As an example you might recall Jacob's 4 wives, which we will cover later in this study.
In Genesis 22 the Lord finished talking to Abraham and he returned to Beer-sheba, and there Abraham was told that to his brother Nahor's wife were borne 8 children, and their names are given, and then in verse 24 we read:
24 "And his concubine, whose name was Reumah (Roo'mah), she bare also Tebah (Tee'buh), and Gaham (Gay'ham), and Thahash (Thay'hash), and Maachah (May'uh-kuh)."
In this case a concubine, and her children by Nahor, was considered significant enough that their names are recorded in the word of God. Of course, as we read in the above definition, concubines were "a natural part of polygamous social system," and "No moral stigma was attached to being a concubine," as it was a common practice in those days.
In Genesis 25, we read that Abraham took another wife, Keturah, and she bore him several sons, and in verse 5 we read that Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, and then we read in verse 6:
6 "But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country."
Again, we see yet another concubine, this time Abraham's, and that the fact he had her and children by her, was considered significant enough that the event is recorded in the word of God. But of course, as we read in the above definition, concubines were "a natural part of polygamous social system," and "No moral stigma was attached to being a concubine," as it was a common and accepted practice.
I think we all know that Jacob wanted Rachel for wife but ended up with Leah her sister as wife, but he was also able to obtain Rachael as his wife. Then in chapter 29:30, we are told that Jacob loved Rachael more than Leah, and then in verse 31, we read:
31 "And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren."
Now this is important folks, for it was God who saw that Leah was hated (actually loved less), and because of that God opened Leah's womb and she gave birth to four sons, and during this time Rachael remained barren. As we know Rachael was not a happy camper about this and she had some harsh words with Jacob in chapter 30:1. These words angered Jacob and he said in verse 2, "am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" (meaning am I greater than God, to give you what he has refused?).
Rachael got the message that while Jacob may provide the seed, there were to be no children unless God so willed, and so she said to Jacob in verse 3:
3 "Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her."
The results are reported in verses 4-5:
4 "And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
In this case, we see that Rachel actually gave Jacob her handmaiden to be his wife.
Then, in verse 7 we read that later Bilhah bore Jacob a second son, and during this time Rachael remained barren. This brings us to verse 9, where Leah saw that she had quit bearing and we are told in verse 9 and 10 that:
5 "And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son."
9 "...she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.
Now we read that Leah actually gave Jacob her handmaiden to be his wife. Bilhah and Zilpah are both referred to as "maid," but later will be referred to as wives. Reading on we learn that Zilpah bore Jacob two more sons and still Rachael remained barren, and Leah also remained barren during this time. After that God again opened Leah's womb and she bore two more sons and a daughter to Jacob, and still Rachael remained barren. But after this in verse 22 we read:
10 "And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son."
22 "And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb."
And so finally Rachael gave birth to a son. But the reason I went through all of this was to see that opening of the wombs of these women was the work of the Lord -- not Jacob, and so the Lord opened the womb of two handmaidens and they each gave birth to two sons, who were fathered by Jacob and would later become four of the twelve tribes of Israel.
So it was that God used two handmaidens or concubines to accomplish His purpose. In light of that, are we to suppose that for a man to have a handmaiden or a concubine is against the will of the Lord, when it was God who opened the womb of these two concubines that they might provide sons for Jacob? I don't think so. No where in Scripture is the taking of these two handmaidens and siring children throught these two women condemned.
At this point, we need to understand that concubines were generally handmaidens before they were concubines, and scripture will also use these words interchangeably. For example in Genesis 35:22 we read:
22 "And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:"
Here we see that Bilhah is called a concubine, and back in chapter 30 they, both Bilhah and Zilpah, were referred to a maid. The Hebrew word, which is Strong's 519, was used 56 times and translated as handmaiden(s) 23 times; as maidservant(s) 19 times; maid(s) 8 times, and bondwoman 4 times and bondmaid 2 times, and the word appears in Scripture from Genesis to Nahum, and in any verse containing these words, it is very likely that these women were concubines as well as maidservants.
To complicate things a little bit more there is another Hebrew word which was also translated into these words: Strong's 8198, which was used 62 times and appears in Scripture from Genesis to Joel, and so, we have 118 usages of both words and I do not know how many of these usages relate to women who were also concubines -- but I suspect the number is somewhere close to the majority of times.
And this does not even consider the usage of the word "concubine." Those Hebrew words, Strong's 6370 and 3904, were used 40 times and appear in Scripture from Genesis to Ezekiel. The point that I am trying to get across is that from the very inception of the twelve tribes of Israel, having more than one wife was considered a normal practice and a commonplace happening.
I am not going to take the time to look at each and every occurrence of these words, but there were many more prominent men of Israel who also had concubines.
This does not even take into consideration the number of times that maid, maidservant, and so on referred to women that became wives of their masters. But I think it is safe to say that multiple wives was an accepted way of life in Israel and widely practiced, and I want to address this in more detail, but I will do so later as I do want to look at one verse on handmaids before I get off the subject, and the verses in question are Exodus 21:7-11:
Exodus 21:7-11 Establishes the rules for slaves who became wives:
7 "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
Selling a daughter into servitude was usually done only under dire circumstances for the family, and yet it appeared to happen quite frequently. But in verse 7 we see that she is sold as a maidservant, and as we see it was expected that she become a wife of either the master or his son.
8 "If she [ a maidservant] 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 [her master] shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
9 "And if he [her master] have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
10 "If he [her master] take him [his son] another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
11 "And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money."
The rule for male menservants was that if sold into servitude, they were to be released at the start of the seventh year of their servitude. But the man-servant was not to "go out" empty handed and we read in Deuteronomy 15:14, that he was to be well paid for his service and receive "liberally from thy flock, and out of thy threshing floor, and out of thy wine press."
But as we read in Exodus 21:7, this was not the case for a maidservant, who in many cases was literally adopted into the family, and in this verse we are told that "she shall not go out as the menservants do," meaning that at the end of six years she shall not be released from service.
It was expected that sometime during her first six years of service that one of three things would come to pass: 1) the master would take her for wife, 2) the master would give her to his son for wife, or 3) she would be redeemed, and if none of these came to pass, then she would be set free.
If the master took her for wife and she pleased him during the six years, then she remained his wife for life. But if she displeased him then at the end of the six years, she could be redeemed by her family -- if they wanted to redeem her and if they could afford to redeem her.
Secondly the master could give her to one of his sons for wife anytime during the six years, and if he did so, then the master was to deal with her after the manner of daughters. That is by virtue of becoming his son's wife, she was to be as a daughter to him.
And if during the six years, the master gave his son another wife, then, "her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." This means not only must the master insure that she has proper food, clothing, shelter, but also that she receive normal conjugal rights from the son, and he would not allow the son to put her away or treat her badly.
So if the father had taken her as wife during the six years, his only option was that she would be redeemed at the end of the six years. Secondly, the master could give her to his son for wife, and if he later took for his son another wife, she was still entitled to all rights of a wife, and they were not to be diminished. But if they are diminished, then the master must see to it that she is set free, and she is set free because the master was said to have "dealt deceitfully with her."
Tthis was the law of God as given to Moses, and this law, in verse 10, was that a master could take for his son more than one wife. We have seen that Nahor had a concubine or a maid-servant, and we have seen the same to be true of Abraham and Jacob, and we have seen that the appearance of these words are from Genesis to Joel, and now we have the law of God settling the issue early on in the history of Israel, and if this is not the confirmation and ordination of a man having multiple wives, I don't know what is. Nor do I think it can be made any clearer.
Now, I guess the question is, if having multiple wives is in violation of God's law, then why does God's law also allow a master to give his son more than one wife, and why does God's law make provisions for the care of the first wife, to include matrimonial rights?
The timing in making this law is very significant. You see, Exodus 15:22-19:2, covers Moses' three ascents and descents up and down Mount Sinai, and the very next thing is the giving of the law from chapter 20:1-24:8, and this first thing that is given the people is the Ten Commandments in 20:1-17. Next we are told that Moses draws near the people in verses 18-21.
And in verses 21-28 God's instruction is to not make other gods in the form of images, and He tells them to make an earthen alter, and that closes chapter 20. Chapter 21 begins with the laws pertaining to persons, and specifically servants, man servants in verses 1-6, and in the seventh verse we find the law of maid servants. Now I do not know how God could have possibly put more emphasis on a subject than He has by placing it immediately after the 10 Commandments.
I will tell you something else -- you do not normally dream up things to make laws about. No, when you make a law to regulate some kind of activity, you do so because it is a common and widespread custom of that society. I have left the discussion pertaining to multiple wives, and I did so to establish that having multiple wives and maidservants and concubines was a well established way of life in Israel, and provisions were needed to protect women who were wives, maid-servants, and concubines.
I am not suggesting that every man had more than one wife and/or several concubines. Perhaps a man only wanted one wife -- then so be it, and I defy anyone to find scriptural proof that this practice was ever abolished by the word of God.
Numbering of the Firstborn
In chapter 3:40, Moses was commanded to number "all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward," and the results of that count were given us in verse 43.
43 "And all the firstborn males by the number of names, from a month old and upward, of those that were numbered of them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and threescore and thirteen."
Then in Numbers 1:45-46 we read:
45 "So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel;
In the count of firstborn males, it was revealed that there were a total of 22,273 firstborn males in all Israel. Then there was the second count, which was made of men who were 20 years of age and older, and who were able to go forth into war.
46 "Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty."
We must remember here that there were exemptions as a man could not go to war if he had been married less that a year, or just planted a vineyard, and there were other reasons, and then there were those who were simply too old to go to war.
But what we need to understand here is that, because of the men who were excluded from the count of men of fighting age, then the actual number of men of fighting age would be much higher. What the number of the exclusions was we do not know.
Now this is very interesting because I think we all realize that there could be only one firstborn child in a family, and it mattered not how many wives a man had, because there was still only one first-born male, and since there were 22,273 firstborn males in Israel, that means there would have also been 22,273 families in Israel.
The census tells us that there were 603,550 fighting men in Israel who were able to go to war, and again that would not include those excluded for various reasons, and if we divide the fighting men up equally and distribute them among 22,273 families, then we have over 27 fighting men per family.
Again, this omits the exclusions who were not eligible to go to war, including those who were too old, which means that the number of fighting men per family would even be higher, and this does not even include the women in Israel, and if we presume there were an equal amount of women from the age of 20 and up, then there would be 27 fighting men per family and another 27 women per family, which means there would be 54 children in every family. Any mothers out there listening to me? Are you getting the picture?
Now, unless you are willing to believe that every married Israelite woman gave birth to 27 girls and 27 boys for a total of 54 children per woman, then we must look for another solution, and since it is highly unlikely that any woman had that many children, then the only other possibility is that the Israelite men had more than one wife -- enough wives to give birth to an average of 54 children per family.
For example, if a man had 10 wives, then each woman would have to have an average of 5.4 children per wife, and if he had 5 wives, then they would have to average 10.8 children per wife. If we accept the concept of multiple wives in Israel, then the having of more than one wife was not as rare as we are led to believe. In fact, the numbers would indicate that the practice was very widespread in Israel.
Now I realize that I have taken some liberty with the numbers here, but even if they are off by 50% which I do not think they are, but if they are, then we still need a lot more women than one wife apiece to account for this population explosion.
But the question we are looking at is basically this: is polygamy a moral or an immoral practice? Well, if it is an immoral practice, then it is immoral forever, and the opposite is also true, because if it is a moral practice, then it is moral forever, and if we can find in Scripture where God condemned the practice, then it is immoral. But, on the other hand, if we can find just one case were God did not condemn the practice, or where such practice took place with his approval, then the practice is moral. It is as simple as that. You see my friends, if there is such a thing as a moral absolute, then we cannot have one exception, because if we do then it is not a moral absolute.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON “A BIBLE STUDY ON POLYGAMY or POLYGYNY and BIGAMY”
What you have read is only the first message of 8 messages on this subject. The entire study on “A BIBLE STUDY ON POLYGAMY or POLYGYNY and BIGAMY” is only available on audio tapes. It consists of eight 45 minute messages recorded on four 90-minute audio tapes and is packaged in a convenient and attractive cassette album.
The following list of topics will give you some idea as to what you may expect to be explained in the study.
To obtain the series “A BIBLE STUDY ON POLYGAMY or POLYGYNY and BIGAMY,” enter Tape Album A021 on the order form.
01. Scriptural history of multiple wives
02. A Scriptural definition of wife and marriage
03. A Scriptural definition of adultery which is vastly different than modern day understanding
04. Man's one-wife one-flesh doctrine
05. Women men could not marry
06. Rights of the 1st born in multiple wife families
07. God's law which protected unmarried virgins
08. When a Brother was required to marry his sister-in-law
09. Christ and the law
10. Christ and the prophets
11. Christ and the Pharisees
12. An analysis of 1 Timothy 3:2
13. The lust of a woman in Matthew 5:28
14. 20th Century Cultural Conditioning
15. Man's law and Polygamy
16. The Hidden Third Party in Your Marriage
17. The government's intrusion into martial affairs
18. A Few family benefits in Polygamous families
19. A Statistical analysis (explains the men:women population imbalance -- in some countries women so outnumber men that 25% of women between the ages of 25-35 have no men to marry simply because they do not exist)
To obtain the album on "Polygamy" enter Tape Album A020 on the order form.
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