Originally Published Online by Peter G Rambo, Sr. on 7/1/2019
[I wrote and published the following paper about a year ago, but never posted directly to this blog. Because of recent inquiries and a few questions, I find it necessary to put this front and center for deeper consideration. A full Biblical defense of my position is available through the resources at the end of this paper and various articles and papers both mine and many other authors on my Biblical Marriage page. Shalom!]
It’s been more than a year since I wrote and published my position on a most controversial topic, one I had studied, reluctantly, for the four previous years. In fact, I really didn’t want to publish anything or go on record with a Biblical defense and evidence, but my hand was forced by twittering voices more interested in stirring pots than seeking truth.
The subject, Biblical polygamy, or more precisely, polygyny – a man having more than one wife – is indeed controversial, at least in traditional Western Christianity. Yet, inspite of the stigma and the controversy, the subject, even practice, is popping up all over and sneaking into the fabric and conversation of both Christian and Hebrew roots people across the planet.
The purpose of this article is not to present a Biblical case for or against. Frankly, an honest look at Scripture, particularly in the original languages, demonstrates that there is no case against it anywhere in Scripture. God never condemns it, but regulates and in cases requires polygyny. He endorses polygyny at points and refers to Himself on at least three occasions as having two brides. Honest exegesis leads to no reasonable conclusion against. The bibliography has multiple online papers and in print books clearly and articulately defending Biblical marriage.
Maybe, instead of knee-jerk condemnation, because the Biblical evidence for polygyny is rock solid, we would be better served to ask two questions: Why polygyny? Why now?
Without question, the world is changing radically and rapidly. Abominations are rising at a frightening speed and man’s attempt at technological ‘salvation’ is leading to a Tower of Babel situation. Wars and rumors of wars abound while mankind entertains themselves at the temples of debauchery. Parallel to this is a rise in the pursuit of righteousness and rejection of tradition. Christians are leaving the church by the droves, not because of loss of faith, but in search of depth, truth and a return to the Word. This has led to millions who are in home fellowships, tiny congregations and even Sabbath-keeping Torah based fellowships answering the call to obedience in a Hebraic manner.
Interestingly, it is largely among those pursuing righteousness in the Christian and Hebrew roots home fellowships and small congregations that an awakening to Biblical polygyny is happening. One must ask, ‘is this a wicked attack by the adversary, or is there truly a Biblical basis and a God directed reason for this radical turn of events?’ More simply, “Why poly? Why now?”
I believe an entire book could be written with mounds of evidence to validate the following thoughts and possible answers, but in the interest of brevity and to give the reader fodder for their own research, I will simply list reasons with general descriptions and some source material. I will organize these in the order most see them, placing the most obvious first and so on.
Simple numbers game!
Boys and girls are born at about the same rate leaving a 1:1 ratio of marriageable people, right? Common wisdom thinks this, but actually, the facts prove otherwise. The truth is that in almost any time and place throughout history, marriageable women outnumber marriageable men. This is the result of higher infant mortality, more dangerous activities, jobs and pursuits as well as a higher incarceration and drug abuse rate among men. Dr. Patricia Dixon-Spear articulates these issues very well in We Want for Our Sisters What we want for Ourselves. Using US Census data and years of personal research in the African American community, she proves that there are simply not enough African American men to go around in a monogamy only culture. One has only to visit a few churches to find that the single women outnumber the single men, often by a wide margin, and the ratio gets even more skewed within very conservative Christian or Hebrew roots fellowships as demonstrated in Clyde Pilkington’s The Great Omission. Pilkington further demonstrates that the church has knowingly and willfully suppressed Scriptural truth to fit the cultural Greco-Roman monogamy only tradition.
Pursuit of truth!
The convergence of a number of phenomena, not the least of which is broad access to information through the internet, has fueled a rise of truth seekers from all socio-economic and theological strata across the planet. Even among non-Bible based thought groups, there are myriad people who are researching truths long hidden by historians and theologians. The rise and return of pagan practices exactly replicating ancient religions is one non-Biblical example.
Among Christians, there has been a growing desire to know God in a closer way and to walk according to His Word. Digging in His Word leads to keeping Shabbat, eating clean, and celebrating the feasts of the Lord. But, keep digging and discover that maybe some things the church calls sin are not only righteous, but bring blessings! Polygyny, wildly opposed by the church and culture is actually a big finger in the eye of the adversary and his feminist minions. And, it is shameless pursuit of deep and raw truth while being an open rejection of traditions.
Reaction to rise of radical feminism
Feminism, while claiming to seek the empowerment of women, actually is much more sinister in its open hatred of anything masculine/patriarchal, the very foundation of Scripture and God Himself. It is rooted in ancient goddess worship, especially evident in the worship of the Greek and Roman goddesses, Herra and Juno. Both were jealous, vindictive, controlling female deities of marriage and monogamy. Diana and her temple prostitutes were also objects of female worship absorbed into early christian worship through integration of philosophical thought and ideals as well as unBiblical doctrine codifying monogamy as the ‘gold standard.’
A simple acceptance of polygyny as Biblical will quickly expose roots of jealousy, control, manipulation, feminism and vindictiveness. Almost a miracle medication, polygyny is a radical lancing of feminist ideals and exposure of headship issues in a home.
Answer to marriage cocktail in culture
As previously mentioned, there is a well documented disparity in numbers between marriageable men and marriageable women. Because marriageable women outnumber men in society in general and in most churches and fellowships in particular, a rather potent hormonal cocktail is created. Single women, driven by God-given natural desires are actively seeking a male partner, even if they have to free him from an existing bond. In a monogamy only society, this leads to a divorce rate within the church that equals that of society at large. And, what we witness is a form of polygamy called serial monogamy.
Biblical polygyny would sop up the ‘free radicals’ in the cocktail while giving single women many more choices as they search for a life mate among all qualified men. The result is a much more stable social environment with far fewer divorces and fewer single moms.
Solution to fatherless homes
Often the ladies that have the most difficulty finding a husband are single moms because a single man with options will often choose a single lady over one with children. Biblical polygyny meets the challenge by allowing men with hearts to care for large families the freedom to care for more than one single mom and be a father to many children. This is the essence of caring for widows and orphans in a very Biblical manner.
An oft unrecognized advantage to polygyny is the family/team that can be very beneficial for sharing resources and abilities for the purpose of wealth building. In fact, one of the reasons Greco-Roman law sought to destroy polygyny was precisely to garner loyalty to state over family and prevent the coalescence of power and wealth. According to the Torah, ancient Israel was to have no poor, orphans or widows, nor was power to be collected to the state. Rather, because of polygyny, all of those problems in a monogamous society would build strength into families in a polygynous society.
Tribal and clan building
The logical follow on to building large strong family units is the creation of clans and tribes. One need only to look to our fathers Abraham and Jacob to see how they used this very model for building family strength and wealth.
The mere mention of polygyny elicits a broad spectrum of responses, the majority of which are unGodly. The first and most obvious is whether or not the hearer is even willing to search out what God’s Word actually says versus inherited doctrines and traditions that are decidedly unBiblical. Usually, right on the heels of this pushback comes a stream of emotionally based responses that are all rooted in sin. Jealousy, selfishness, control, manipulation, feminism/matriarchy, anger, pride and strife bubble, and sometimes explode, to the surface. Exposing these roots of sin is the beginning of addressing and removing them.
In a monogamy only paradigm, the real depth of heart is never tested because the illusion of egalitarian ideas as well as the worldly feminist ideas never have to truly be addressed. Instead, a facade of ‘ownership’ by the woman over the man, an idea nowhere supported in Scripture, is allowed to exist. The simple introduction of the idea, even if not actually practiced, will quickly expose and force to be dealt with the false ideas inherited from pagan doctrines absorbed by the early christian church.
Caring for the widow and orphan Biblically
From the Torah we understand that Levirate marriage was one of several safety nets for a woman. In fact, Scripturally, no woman was to ever be ‘uncovered.’ To be so was considered shameful. The way society was supposed to function, a woman was to remain in her father’s house until she came under the authority of another man, presumably her husband. If a woman was widowed, she was to live in her son’s house, or return to her father’s house. If there was not a son of age and her father was deceased, she was to live in the house of a brother until she was again under the authority/headship/covering of another man. Even Paul taught that widows under 60 were to be married. Considering men were more likely the victims of persecution and other forms of death, it is safe to assume that the women outnumbered the men and Paul instructed that they be married in the faith. How else would this conundrum be solved without an implied endorsement of polygyny, something supported directly by his other writings as well as by Torah law.
Simply, Israelite culture, flowing from the Laws of God, demanded that women come under the care of the men in the congregation. Polygyny is the Biblical solution that God promises to bless.
Understand Scripture (two House and Messiah/individuals)
An amazing side benefit to understanding polygyny is a markedly improved understanding of Scripture in multiple areas.
Foremost is beginning to really understand the role between Messiah and the Congregation (church). Where an egalitarian and feminist understanding of marriage from Scripture will teach otherwise, we begin to really understand submission and the fact that at no point does the congregation have the right to control, manipulate or even be jealous over the Head. (Numbers 5 has no corollary for a jealous wife.) He is the Head. We must submit. Period. End of discussion. To hear most Christians and even Hebrew roots/Messianics discuss marriage you hear terms like ‘equality,’ ‘fair,’ and ‘equal’ as if Scripture teaches this. However, if the relationship between man and woman in a covenant is truly a picture of the Messiah and the Qahal (church) then we can only speak in terms of total submission and His loving, caring for and saving others besides ourselves. We must acknowledge that He speaks of Himself in the parable of ten virgins or in Revelation with the seven churches in terms of having multiple brides. This very image is completely consistent with God referring to Himself as having two brides in Jeremiah 3; 31:34 and Ezekiel 23. He further gives that imagery in Hosea 1 and 2.
The second major understanding is that the Two Houses of Israel; the southern Judah and the northern Israel are actually two brides that the Father desires to mold into one family. This does not demand erasing or eliminating one bride, but bringing the two together to live and walk in harmony. It is the very essence of Isaiah 11:11-14. (vex, Lev. 18:18; envy, Numbers 5)
Many other passages and images unfold once the legitimacy of polygyny is accepted and factored into why God does certain things or gives us certain pictures. In particular, we begin to understand with clarity Two House Theology and the relationship between God and His people, both Jew and non-Jew.
More than once I have been told, ‘Oh, I see it in Scripture, but I don’t think polygyny is for now. Maybe it is for the Millennial Kingdom (Is. 4:1), or maybe just an illustration for us to better understand Scripture.’ As we will see in the following thoughts, while this may seem a safe compromise, in fact, it is not a valid position and is a dangerous negotiation with Elohim.
Restoration of truth
One hallmark of our time, theologically, is a restoration of truth. Many of us read about the feasts of the Lord and learned a bit about the spiritual truths hidden therein, but not until we actually reacted in obedience and did them did we experience the blessings and begin to learn deep truths. In fact, I think most all who come into Shabbat, clean eating and feast keeping, will agree that they continue to learn lessons as Abba used those actions to reveal heart issues and deep truths, both physical and spiritual.
God has certainly used the basics as a sieve to sift our hearts and expose who is willing to follow Him, no matter what! The widespread and increasing revelation of polygyny is another sieve that further reveals hearts. To what degree are we willing to follow? Are we submitted and willing to walk against the culture and feminist world system and toward total agreement with and submission to His plan for family and community structure?
While I do not believe the Father will call all men and women to walk this path, I do think He demands we all accept it as His revealed and acceptable plan in Scripture and we must walk at peace with others He calls and be willing to walk this out if He calls us! Unlike Shabbat, plural marriage is optional, …unless He asks it of us; then, it becomes a command. Refusing Him at this request becomes an immediate block of blessings and further instruction.
Prepare for Kingdom
If we guard the Shabbat and keep the feasts of the Lord in the diaspora as preparation for the Kingdom, in accordance with Deuteronomy 30:1-6, why would we not be open to the same for another clear set of instructions so central to the Torah and how the Qahal is to function? Do we honestly believe the Messiah will come and teach Torah while skipping over the commands of levirate marriage or how a man is to care for a second wife or treat his off-spring? If the new covenant is with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, do we really think that somehow God forgets they are two separate brides as evidenced in multiple places in Scripture?
If the jealousy and vexation between Judah and Ephraim is to depart, how do we best understand that and begin to address it outside of experiencing it in the context which it was given: plural marriage? Can healing really happen without truly understanding the nature of the wounds? On a micro-scale this can happen as the Father leads and guides us on this journey of learning and integration of what His Word says and how we implement it into family, community, clan and tribe.
Out of Egypt: Numbers.
Polygyny seems to be an issue that Israel was dealing with in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt. We see it as a subtext in several passages. Moses and the Cushite woman in Numbers 12 as well as the abundance of young virgin war brides in Numbers 31 seem to be two of several clear examples touching on this very Hebrew issue. If we are in the wilderness or headed into it, would we not expect the Messiah to use this very issue to purge us of sins of jealousy, selfishness, spineless masculinity, feminism, etc?
Obedience to Scripture
The restoration of kol Israel demands that we come into absolute subservient alignment to the Scriptures. Anything less will attract correction. Refusal to comply will be the point of removal from the family and a bar to entry into the Land. Will we wrestle with scripture and accept the given Torah instructions that are clear solutions to some of the pandemic problems in our society and within our fellowships, or will we reject His Word and continue to use the pagan and traditional solutions that foster sins and oppose His system?
Clearly, polygyny is a challenging issue that has some very serious implications that must not be ignored. Critics have no Biblical defense against that does not require Scripture be taken out of context. The questions, ‘Why poly? Why now?’ demand deeper research, but the quick answers explored here, demonstrate that there is much worthy of honest investigation and evaluation. Following is a list of resources for additional study.
I believe it behooves each of us to seek the Father in this matter and ask for detailed guidance and a supple heart to hear and be obedient to His voice.
https://natsab.com/biblical-marriage/ (Multiple linked papers not listed below, resources, articles, etc)
Dixon-Spear, Patricia. 2009. We Want For Our Sisters What We Want For Ourselves, BCP Digital Printing.
Luck, Sr., William F. The Morality of Biblical Polygyny. Online at Bible.org.
Madan, Martin. 1781. Thelyphthora, or A Treatise On Female Ruin, Volume 1. Ed. and republished by Don Milton, DonMilton.com
Milton, Don. 2009. Prince of Sumba, Husband to Many Wives. Born Again Publishing, Inc.
Ochino, Bernardino. 1736. A Dialog On Polygamy. Ed. and republished by Don Milton, DonMilton.com
Pilkington, Jr., Clyde. 2010. The Great Omission: Christendom’s Abandonment of the Biblical Family. Patriarch Publishing House.
Shipley, Tom. 2010. Man and Woman in Biblical Law. Institute for Christian Patriarchy.
Solomon, Hondo. 2014. The Polygamist Papers. The Full Court Press.
Stivers, James Wesley. 1991. Eros Made Sacred. Patriarch Publishing House.
Witte, John, Jr. 2015. The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy. Cambridge University Press.