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Author Topic: Monogamy vs. Polygamy in the Bible  (Read 3913 times) Average Rating: 0
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JamesR
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« on: January 22, 2013, 11:43:04 PM »

...if you would like to start a thread about whether monogamy is taught in the Bible I will join in with some thoughts.

Here it is. This interested me as well. My thoughts are that monogamy is never explicitly taught in the Bible, with polygamy never officially being condemned. However, if one reads the Bible very closely, there may be certain passages that implicitly allude to monogamy. That being said, I've especially noticed that passages which use marriage in a way to teach a spiritual lesson and/or express something godly ALWAYS seem to be monogamous--take Song of Solomon for example (an allegory praising God's relationship to the Church), it expresses a monogamous relationship, and we know that neither of the parties had any other spouses because they are described as being virgins. Secondly, the Creation story. We know that in the beginning--before mankind had fallen--that when God sanctioned the first sexual relationship (Marriage I guess), it was between a single man and single woman. God's words are that I will make him a "helper" not "helperS"--although to be fair, I don't know if the Greek word is plural or not. Whereas now on the other hand, polygamous relationships are NEVER used in such a godly, special way to convey anything Sacramental or spiritual, but rather seem to only be mentioned in a lower, earthly sense. We see rules for polygamy and then we merely just see examples of people who had polygamous relationships--and oftentimes, bad things happen precisely because of their polygamous relations. Solomon is probably the greatest example of this. You also have Abraham who angered God by having sex with her maidservant--although to be fair, it could be argued that he was guilty for not having faith that God would follow through and allow his barren wife to become pregnant opposed to having sex with someone other than her. Either way, having sex with someone who isn't your wife is given a negative stigma due to this story. Going farther, you then have the fact that probably the most Saintly, ethically-developed, Christ-like figure in the entire Old Testament is monogamous. The figure I'm referring to is Joseph--as far as we know, he only had one Egyptian wife that was given to him, and we don't see anything else to suggest that he had anyone else.

What are your thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2013, 12:04:39 AM »

"And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. You ask, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offspring. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless."

Malachy 2:13-16
« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 12:21:21 AM by Romaios » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2013, 12:09:34 AM »

Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for sharing with strangers.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
May her breasts satisfy you at all times;
may you be intoxicated always by her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, by another woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21 For human ways are under the eyes of the Lord,
and he examines all their paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare them,
and they are caught in the toils of their sin.
23 They die for lack of discipline,
and because of their great folly they are lost.

Proverbs 5:15-23
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« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2013, 12:19:42 AM »

9 “If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door;
10 then let my wife grind for another,
and let other men kneel over her.
11 For that would be a heinous crime;
that would be a criminal offense;
12 for that would be a fire consuming down to Abaddon,
and it would burn to the root all my harvest."

Job 31:9-12

These should be explicit enough. There's probably more in the Wisdom of Sirach or Solomon.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 12:31:41 AM by Romaios » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2013, 12:36:57 AM »

Song of Songs, written by the man that had 2 birthdays every day for all his wives & concubines!
Well he's said to have had over 700..... but anyway.

James, it is an odd subject really.  It is true that the early Christians did NOT condemn polygamy, and that the church did later on.  In Jewish practice prior, it was not condemned.

I do not believe it is morally wrong honestly, if one is married and committed to his wives.  This goes against many teachings of many Christian churches... But James I struggle to find the "real church" (not meaning to insult any Orthodox), but I want to try to be very "ORIGINAL" and NOT "evolved" in my faith.

My wife has allowed me to be a real "head" of her, as Christ is the head of the church.  She knows that I really try to find truth and implement logic, history, and "try my best".  She has asked me about polygamy before, and what I thought about it.  I said sarcastically "hah, is this a trick question", but she was really serious.   After a couple hour conversation, she told me if I felt the calling for another wife (not on paper but in faith for legal reasons) that she would support me completely in that decision.

The truth of the matter is, I really don't feel the calling for another wife.  It's not my wife that prevents it, it's that i just do not desire it.  Perhaps it was because I was raised in a monogamous family....

Plus, the honey-do list...  Tongue   Can you possibly imagine two or more wives each giving their input on that??

I want to sleep next to the same woman and wake up next to her for the rest of my life.  God willing, I'd only want to sleep & wake up next to her in the next life.
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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2013, 12:56:37 AM »

It is true that the early Christians did NOT condemn polygamy, and that the church did later on.  In Jewish practice prior, it was not condemned.

You'd be hard pressed to substantiate those claims with actual Early Christian texts or even the Jewish Prophets or Ketuvim (see above). Polygamy was tolerated in the times of the Patriarchs and later on "permitted" only for the kings of Israel (having a harem was a sign of royal power and a must for any Oriental monarch). Anyways, quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi. Or is it licet Iovi, quod licet bovi in this case?

Some Jewish sage said that King Solomon wanted to remove one yod from Deuteronomy to alter the law that forbade the king to have many wives and many horses, but the Holy One Blessed Be He wouldn't allow it (of course, that would be an anachronism since Deuteronomy was written some 300 years after Solomon, at the very earliest - by the way, he couldn't have written the Song of Songs; there's solid linguistic evidence for that).
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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2013, 01:08:07 AM »

Stellet licht - an interesting film I just saw about a Mennonite exploring some sort of polygamy (bigamy, to be accurate).

It's really beautifully filmed and the dialogue is in Plautdietsch, the Low German dialect spoken by (some?) Mennonites.
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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2013, 03:05:30 AM »

My wife has allowed me to be a real "head" of her, as Christ is the head of the church.  She knows that I really try to find truth and implement logic, history, and "try my best".  She has asked me about polygamy before, and what I thought about it.  I said sarcastically "hah, is this a trick question", but she was really serious.   After a couple hour conversation, she told me if I felt the calling for another wife (not on paper but in faith for legal reasons) that she would support me completely in that decision.

Would Christ be head over more than one Body/Church?

If a man should be allowed to have more than one wife, then women should also be allowed to have more than one husband - for in Christ, there is no longer male or female. Do (concede) unto others as you would have them do (concede) to you...   
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« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2013, 10:51:43 AM »

If a man should be allowed to have more than one wife, then women should also be allowed to have more than one husband - for in Christ, there is no longer male or female. Do (concede) unto others as you would have them do (concede) to you...  
Excellent point.

The hoary ancient Near Eastern logic of an "exclusively patriarchal polygamy" (with multiple spouses allowable "for males only") would in our present cultural context very quickly give way to not only matriarchal polygamy (women with multiple husbands), but group marriage, for if men can have multiple spouses, and women too, what logic would forbid both having multiple spouses at the same time? One can almost hear Oprah asking us such a question in the near future "why should just the man have a second (etc.) spouse?" By what logic?

What argument then would one advance against simply having one giant marriage bed for the whole human race as per the ancient Canaanites?
« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 11:22:48 AM by xariskai » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2013, 10:59:25 AM »

This reminds me about Sister Wives?
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« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2013, 11:03:17 AM »

It seems that for all the OT Patriarchs their polygamy didn't work out very well.  Many of the Kings fell into idolatry or had too many heirs.

Can we assume Adam was only "knew" Eve?
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2013, 02:37:01 AM »

...if you would like to start a thread about whether monogamy is taught in the Bible I will join in with some thoughts.

Here it is. This interested me as well. My thoughts are that monogamy is never explicitly taught in the Bible, with polygamy never officially being condemned. However, if one reads the Bible very closely, there may be certain passages that implicitly allude to monogamy. That being said, I've especially noticed that passages which use marriage in a way to teach a spiritual lesson and/or express something godly ALWAYS seem to be monogamous--take Song of Solomon for example (an allegory praising God's relationship to the Church), it expresses a monogamous relationship, and we know that neither of the parties had any other spouses because they are described as being virgins. Secondly, the Creation story. We know that in the beginning--before mankind had fallen--that when God sanctioned the first sexual relationship (Marriage I guess), it was between a single man and single woman. God's words are that I will make him a "helper" not "helperS"--although to be fair, I don't know if the Greek word is plural or not. Whereas now on the other hand, polygamous relationships are NEVER used in such a godly, special way to convey anything Sacramental or spiritual, but rather seem to only be mentioned in a lower, earthly sense. We see rules for polygamy and then we merely just see examples of people who had polygamous relationships--and oftentimes, bad things happen precisely because of their polygamous relations. Solomon is probably the greatest example of this. You also have Abraham who angered God by having sex with her maidservant--although to be fair, it could be argued that he was guilty for not having faith that God would follow through and allow his barren wife to become pregnant opposed to having sex with someone other than her. Either way, having sex with someone who isn't your wife is given a negative stigma due to this story. Going farther, you then have the fact that probably the most Saintly, ethically-developed, Christ-like figure in the entire Old Testament is monogamous. The figure I'm referring to is Joseph--as far as we know, he only had one Egyptian wife that was given to him, and we don't see anything else to suggest that he had anyone else.

What are your thoughts?

Oh excellent James!  Thanks for starting one.  I saw Brother Aidan's request, but wasn't sure how to begin or what to say. 

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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2013, 02:52:38 AM »

9 “If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door;
10 then let my wife grind for another,
and let other men kneel over her.
11 For that would be a heinous crime;
that would be a criminal offense;
12 for that would be a fire consuming down to Abaddon,
and it would burn to the root all my harvest."

Job 31:9-12

These should be explicit enough. There's probably more in the Wisdom of Sirach or Solomon.

Those are interesting, but it doesn't seem to have made it into law?  Does the New Testament speak to this at all?  How did the Christian world get to the point of accepting monogamy as a standard? 

Sometimes I think Proverbs refers to things at different levels, so it isn't an absolute law, or was monogamy the standard at that time? 

I've often meant to try to study more about the surrounding culture of the time, but you know, so many books...
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« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2013, 03:52:29 AM »

Those are interesting, but it doesn't seem to have made it into law?  Does the New Testament speak to this at all?  How did the Christian world get to the point of accepting monogamy as a standard?

1 Corinthians 7:2.
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« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2013, 03:55:12 AM »

God hates polyandry but is quite ok with polygamy .  That's my impression. And patriarchy is sacred.
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« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2013, 04:00:53 AM »

God hates polyandry but is quite ok with polygamy .
That's not what He says.
That's my impression.
no, your caricature.
And patriarchy is sacred.
your impression?
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« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2013, 04:04:30 AM »

God hates polyandry but is quite ok with polygamy .

I believe you mean 'polygyny' there. The answer is still no, though.
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« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2013, 05:27:58 AM »

Those are interesting, but it doesn't seem to have made it into law?  Does the New Testament speak to this at all?  How did the Christian world get to the point of accepting monogamy as a standard?

1 Corinthians 7:2.

Thanks.  That looks pretty clear to me.  I wonder why my friend thought there was no basis for monogamy in the Bible...hmmm.  I'll talk to him again sometime and see what he was thinking. 

I tried to look it up on Google, but oddly enough it keeps deleting the "script" part, no matter how the search words are arranged. 
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