Without question, the facts of what Scripture says regarding marriage make most people in western post-modern, post-Christian culture squeamish. Most Christian and Messianic teachers avoid the subject like the plague because the very idea is so counter-culture that it is regarded as ‘third rail’ material. BUT, on occasion, someone will say, ‘I see it in Scripture, however, it is just a minor issue. Why even talk about it?’ So, I want to share six very important reasons why polygyny, aka Biblical Marriage, is not a ‘minor’ issue.
Before diving into the deep end, there may be a few readers who have never even considered the topic and are not prepared to discuss the ‘whys’ when they are not even sure if this is a viable Scriptural discussion. If so, I have both written quite a bit on the subject as well as assembled a sizeable list of books and free resources available on the topic. You may want to spend some time in that archive before proceeding into the deep end of the pool. 😉
As we move forward, it is necessary for me to state very clearly that polygyny is not a requirement except in rare cases, according to Scripture, however, judging those who choose a polygynous family structure is not allowed. In other words, we must accept truth and those who walk in it, even if we do not personally choose to walk out this Biblical option. See the ‘Conclusion’ paragraph at the bottom of my Biblical Marriage page.
The Bottom Line, Up Front
Following are six reasons, in descending order of immediate importance, that I will then explain in more detail:
- Truth demands a proper understanding and acceptance of polygyny
- Headship demands the option of polygyny
- Caring for widows and orphans in a wholistic manner demands the option of polygyny
- Single women looking for Godly husbands demand the option of polygyny
- Understanding the rift and solution to the division between the House of Israel and the House of Judah demands an intimate understanding of polygyny
- Restoring the patriarchal and tribal people of kol Israel demands the option of polygyny
Each of the following reasons have links to supporting documentation or foundational articles that help to flesh out my somewhat short explanations. I strongly recommend chasing and reading each of the links as well to fully understand each point.
Truth demands a proper understanding and acceptance of polygyny
Several days ago, I saw a video by New2Torah concerning an LGBTQ+ preacher’s kid who currently has the top album in the Christian music category. Zach’s point, in referring to both the artist and an earlier video he made of an atheist lesbian daughter of a Christian apologist, is that most every person on the planet that wants to disregard some moral law in Scripture has only to point at the fact that Christendom has declared the law to be done away with. Therefore, we destroy ourselves and open the door for all manner of error when we ‘pick and choose’ which laws apply today and which do not.
Teaching that parts of God’s Law are ‘done away with’ or not important anymore immediately undermines the whole of Scripture. If one piece no longer applies, then any other piece can be justified away as no longer applying.
The Torah, and indeed, Scripture as a whole, lays out quite clearly that God values marriage and hates divorce. Interestingly, He never defines marriage as ‘one man, one woman,’ rather, He establishes guardrails for how a man is to treat his woman or women (e.g. Ex. 21:10-11; Deut. 21:10-17). Further, in Hebrews 11, God calls numerous men who had multiple wives, ‘righteous.’ Add that to David as a ‘man after God’s own heart,’ and Abraham being a ‘friend of God.’
God, further, refers to Himself as having two brides in at least three places in Scripture, two exceedingly critical to understanding theology and eschatology properly! Failing to understand this ignored detail warps almost all of both Christian and Jewish Scriptural interpretation. Once understood, the implications and foundation altering truths are staggering. In fact, the disaster of western culture’s sexual revolution and debauchery can be almost entirely laid at the feet of the monogamy-only fallacy, not lost on warning voices in previous centuries such as James Campbell and Dr. Martin Madan.
Simply, if God’s Word is true, everlasting, and unchanging, then we should be fearless to study, understand, and accept every facet, and implement them, when appropriate. This includes polygyny. God never judges it, therefore we cannot, else we place Him in judgment. Truth demands a proper understanding and acceptance of polygyny.
Headship demands the option of polygyny
Without question, the Bible is a book about authority structure and how God relates to His people. Certainly, there are many varied themes and threads that can be traced from beginning to end. One major theme, often minimized or even overlooked, is God’s authority structure and the interrelation of its various components. I recently published the 430+ page Authority, Headship, and Family Structure (According to Moses) that barely scratches the surface of this central theme through Scripture. It is undeniable that all of Scripture supports Paul when he says,
3 But I want you to understand that Messiah is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Messiah.1 Cor. 11:3
In every authority structure, whether business, military, or other, the head or master has the authority to add to his enterprise. A subordinate having sole position or limiting power effectively emasculates the head and implicitly limits his authority. Monogamy-only, codified in Greco-Roman law, was designed to limit the power of a man and make him beholden to the State.
Even if never exercised, the man, as head of his family, must always have the option of polygyny as laid out in Scripture and regulated by the Torah. Not having the option effectively gives his only wife a trump card for all decisions thus making her an implicit co-equal which is anathema to the image of Messiah and the Assembly that Paul describes in Ephesians 5:22-33. True headship demands the option of polygyny.
Caring for widows and orphans in a wholistic manner demands the option of polygyny
Among the chief sins of ancient Israel and of the Assembly today is not caring effectively for widows and orphans. (For the sake of this category, I will include divorcées, both with and without children, as there are many in the Assembly.) God points frequently to the need to care for widows and the fatherless, the Biblical definition of ‘orphan.’
A monumental challenge facing widows and divorcées is finding a Godly man who will care for them and shepherd their children as his own. Women faced with the task of earning an income, maintaining a house, and rearing children almost universally agree that ‘all the good men are taken.‘ Most will settle for far less than what they want or need to simply have security and shelter, thus exposing themselves and their little lambs to influences and situations that may be seamy or even dangerous.
Research supports their plight as nearly every census in every place and time records that marriageable women always outnumber marriageable men. With very few exceptions, women always outnumber men with increasing disparity as the genders move from late teens to late eighties. Therefore, a single man, given the choice between a single woman with no children and a complete family will almost universally choose the former.
The Western postmodern Christian answer to the dilemma is to pat the widowed or divorced woman on the head, offer her a few dollars and a prayer, never recognizing that her needs run far, far deeper. Paul said, if she burns (with passion) let her be married (1 Cor. 7:9, 39), only in the faith. The book of James offers even more precise counsel. The Church has no answer for the dilemma most widows and divorcées find themselves in. These precious women are caught between the false cultural doctrine of monogamy-only and the bottom of the barrel. Many resort to an illicit life on the side to save face while not ‘settling for’ someone they know will be a bad decision. It is a life of continual pain.
Acceptance of polygyny as both righteous and wholesome allows proven Godly men to add to their family and meet the needs of a widow (e.g. Boaz : Ruth) or divorcée as well as be a father to the fatherless. Not only is the woman benefited by not carrying the burden of being both father and mother to her children, but she also has her own needs met and can be shepherded as a part of a larger family unit that shoulders her burden together. Paul understood this solution very well. Caring for widows and orphans in a holistic manner demands the option of polygyny.
Single women looking for Godly husbands demand the option of polygyny
One need not spend much time in Church to discover that single women outnumber single men by a fairly wide margin. The numbers become even more skewed the more conservative the denomination or religious sect. No surprise, the Messianic movement has decidedly more single young women. Multiple factors contribute to this disparity that begins naturally in every time and culture from the cradle on. Infant mortality is higher in boys than girls, boys do more dangerous things than girls, they go off to war, prison, drugs, and homosexuality, further reducing their availability before the woman even begins to narrow the field to find a Godly man. Simply, in a monogamy-only system, a Godly woman is playing in a negatively ‘rigged’ game before she even begins the hope of finding Mr. Right.
While most everything written in the previous point regarding widows and divorcées applies, it is important to note that the option of polygyny for the single woman empowers her to search for a Godly husband from a much larger, and often proven, pond. No longer is she limited to the several singles she can find on social media or the dolts she encounters in the world, but she now has the option to find where her skillset and abilities will be most valued and shepherded. [Conversely, young men are forced to up their game as turning oxygen into carbon dioxide no longer makes them an eligible candidate for marriage.]
An important, but closely related, side issue is that an excess of single females in a monogamy-only society always leads to promiscuity of the worst sort. Available women have God-given desires that they are compelled to fulfill and men have God-given urges to meet those. The result is a hormonal cocktail that invariably feeds fornication. In a monogamy-only society, both men and women resort to illicit activities that a polygynous society would answer with a righteous covenantal relationship. Both James Campbell and Dr. Madan have lengthy interaction with this very important issue that drove both of them to further research what Scripture says regarding marriage. Simply, single women looking for Godly husbands demand the option of polygyny.
Understanding the rift and solution to the division between the House of Israel and the House of Judah demands an intimate understanding of polygyny
A significant portion of the Messianic and Hebrew roots Movement professes the Two House understanding of Scripture, however, precious few have processed the whole of Scripture deeply enough to recognize that the rift between Judah and Ephraim is actually a dysfunctional polygynous marriage. I know that I didn’t recognize it until after I had written Ten Parts in the King, The Prophesied Reconciliation of God’s Two Witnesses, a book explaining from myriad Scriptures the Two House truth.
Accepting and understanding polygyny as moral and righteous suddenly begins to unfold multiple different vistas into theology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. God, by His self description, is polygynous and the whole of Scripture is about Him building His house and bringing peace and restoration to the feuding brides. The rift between Judah and Ephraim cannot be fully understood until one has come to the epiphany that both believe their Husband is monogamous and that they are the only woman! In fact, both are quite wrong and the actions of each toward the other, Judah barring the door and Ephraim just wanting back in the house, are not fully understood until processing the cultural monogamy-only baggage women deal with when facing the truth of Scripture regarding righteous marriage options.
Simply, the Messianic and Hebrew roots teachers who accept Two House but reject polygyny are blind at best or willfully hypocritical at worst. Frankly, I avoid most like the plague on the topic of relations between Judah and Ephraim. They simply haven’t a clue because the rift between Judah and Ephraim can’t be rightly or fully understood without an acceptance and understanding of polygyny, the framework of God’s relationship with His people. Understanding the rift and solution to the division between the House of Israel and the House of Judah demands an intimate understanding of polygyny.
Restoring the patriarchal and tribal people of kol Israel demands the option of polygyny
Ancient Israel is, by definition, a tribal and patriarchal family. The Torah is a constitution outlining how they were to walk righteously and care for each other as well as the world around. Future restored kol Israel will again be a tribal patriarchal people. One has only to look at Ezekiel 37, 47 and 48, as well as multiple passages in Revelation, to clearly see that the tribes return and exist forever.
To be restored as a people demands obedience to Torah, including the marriage instructions, and a return to clan and tribal mindset. I previously demonstrated not only that monogamy-only jurisprudence has its roots in Greco-Roman law, but also that the very reason for implementing such was to garner loyalty to the State and disallow patriarchally minded men from building wealth and power blocks, or…. tribes.
Even secular research, as witnessed in the above image, knows that polygyny potentially leads to tribal and national coalescence. Restoring kol Israel demands that the God-ordained and blessed marital option of polygyny be available to every man who chooses to build a large family unit. Without it, kol Israel cannot and will not be restored.
Without question, polygyny is not a ‘minor issue’ to be ignored or swept under the rug. Every point listed above is major, and at least the first four are moral issues. The brief point is that adding to the Torah by creating a ‘monogamy-only’ rule where none exists, removing headship decisions from the man, as well as preventing a woman, whether single or previously married, from marrying again, are all definable sins. In three of the points, the Scriptures offer a readily apparent solution to clearly identifiable problems that Christianized Greco-Roman tradition rejects in favor of a blind eye toward feminism, broken marriages, and fornications of various sorts.
13 Then the Lord said,“Because this people approaches Me with their wordsIsaiah 29:13-14
And honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of the commandment of men that is taught;
14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
And the understanding of their men who have understanding will be concealed.”
Polygyny is NOT a ‘minor issue.’ Today’s Bible teachers and Bible readers will be held accountable for not studying out and following the overwhelming testimony of Scripture on this issue. Teachers that know this is true but haven’t the spine to take a stand, will pay doubly! Fear of man is the worst reason to adhere to false doctrine. I fear for your accounting before Yahweh.