A central thread that runs through the whole of Scripture that both Christendom and Judaism try to hide, minimize, or ignore is polygyny. So, to expose that thread and demonstrate how very central the subject is, let’s take a gander at it by considering various angles.
- Hebrews 11 names many of the following as ‘men approved by God’…
- Abraham had at least two concubines besides Sarah. (Genesis 25:6)
- Jacob had four wives, therefore, all who are descended from or grafted into Israel have a father who is polygynous.
- Moses married the Zipporah and the Cushite woman. The latter incurred Miriam’s displeasure and we see God’s response…. (Numbers 12)
- Caleb, Joshua’s righteous companion who entered the land, had …wives.
- Gideon had 70 sons, plus. (Judges 8:30-31)
- Elkanah, father of Samuel, had two wives.
- David, man after God’s own heart, had eight wives and ten concubines (1 Chronicles 3:1-9).
- Solomon, greatest king of Israel.
- Joash was given two wives by the High Priest and ‘did what was right in the sight of the Lord…’ (2 Chronicles 24:2-3, 15-16)
- Oh, God, by His own Word testifies to (allegorically) having two brides. (Ezekiel 23:2, 4; Jeremiah 3:8; 31:32)
Authors of Scripture:
- Moses wrote the five books of Torah
- David wrote many Psalms
- Solomon wrote Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes
- Others very likely…
- Samuel, son of a polygynous marriage (I Samuel 1)
- Likely, others…
Significant story lines:
- Nation of Israel descended from Jacob’s four women
- Yeshua, son of David, is descended from Bathsheba, David’s seventh (or, eighth) wife. (1 Chronicles 3:5 and Luke 3:31)
- Two houses of Judah and Joseph descended from Leah and Rachel, sister wives.
- God divorced the house of Israel but not the house of Judah and, He plans to redeem and restore them! (Jeremiah 3, Ezekiel 37 and hundreds of individual prophecies.)
In truth, I think Scripture only paints the tip of the iceberg. I honestly think many, many stories and characters involve polygyny though it is not directly mentioned in Scripture. Consider, David was the younger disliked and ruddy brother that was ignored and minimized. I would bet my farm he was the son of a second wife, but I can neither prove nor disprove…. same for Mary, mother of Yeshua. I’d bet my farm she was a second wife for Joseph, maybe even taken out of obligation…. Scripture doesn’t tell us that, but the underlying details have certain ‘marks’ that seem to point in that direction.. Ruth is another example. I can’t prove it definitively, but everything in that story indicates Boaz was a married man who had ‘maidens.’ There are many more such places that Scripture drops bread crumbs pointing to a highly polygynous storyline.
Why does this matter?
Christendom, in particular, has a very dim – if not outright condemnatory – view of polygyny, yet God does not ever speak even a single verse against it. Instead, He describes Himself as being polygynous and uses this particular family structure in multiple critical places in the formation and history of Israel as well as to produce the Messiah, son of David.
And, at the very heart of headship and patriarchy is the God ordained and instituted authority structure that images Him. By definition, the head has the authority to ‘grow/build’ his family/clan/tribe/people.
What this means is that for a healthy society and ultimately, the restoration of kol Israel, we must study and embrace God’s ways as righteous. Headship and patriarchy are key and polygyny is a necessary optional subset for every man. Period.