A common objection thrown up by those who argue against Biblical polygyny is the fact that in Biblical polygynous families, we see a lot of family difficulties and sometimes, outright pain. Setting aside the equally common rebuttal that in monogamous families, we see the same kind of pain, there’s something about the difficulties that polygynous families experience that naysayers are not considering, and quite possibly that’s due to a monogamy-only translator bias, as well as the all-too-human reflexive avoidance of pain.
Before we go into the weeds with the Greek-to-English translations, I want to note that a recent story broke about when a Tanzanian miner became an overnight millionaire when he sold two of the largest chunks of Tanzanite ever found in that African country. The BBC article that reported the find also mentioned that the miner had 4 wives and 30 children. The Fox News article that reported the same story linked to the same BBC article mentioned the 30 children but was silent on the 4 wives. This is an excellent current example of how discomfort with polygyny will lead to suppression of relevant facts.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.Matthew 7:13-14 KJV
Our primary Bible version here is the NASB: and the same passage is rendered as:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.Matthew 7:13-14 NASB
However, I think that the NKJV rendition takes best of show here:
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV
The Greek word translated as “strait” (KJV) and “narrow” (NASB/NKJV) is stenos (G#4728). The Greek word translated as “narrow” (KJV, NASB) and “difficult (NKJV) is “thlibo”(G#2346).
BibleStudyTools.com provides us with the meanings of these two Greek words. Via my hardcopy “The Word Study Concordance”, I can look at related words. Let’s dig in.
Stenos (G#4728) means obstacles in the way.
- narrow, strait
Other words related to stenos are:
Stenagmos (G#4726) is translated as “groanings.”
Stenazo (G#4727) is translated as “sigh”, “groanings”, “grief”, “grudge”.
Stenakoreomai (G#4729) is translated as “distressed”, “straitened”.
Stenokoria (G#4730) is translated as “anguish”, “distress”.
Thlibo (G#2346) is translated as “narrow”, “throng”, “afflicted”, “troubled”, “suffer tribulation”.
- to press (as grapes), press hard upon
- a compressed way
- narrow straitened, contracted
- metaph. to trouble, afflict, distress
Thlipsis (G#2347) is translated as “tribulation”, “afflicted”, “affliction”.
We should then understand that the Way we must walk is the way of obstacles, of distress and groaning. As Yeshua said, the Way is difficult, but it leads to life.
Let’s apply this understanding to the objection that families who implement polygyny have issues. Surely, that’s an understatement! The husband feels pressed hard on like grapes in a winepress, to have to manage the needs of his wives and their children, and to have to lead his family through a life where people in the present day are opposed to his marrying more than one wife. Each plural wife may have to deal with negative emotions of jealousy and fear of the legal system for an “unapproved lifestyle choice”. The children will also have emotions, concerns and fears. All of this adds up to a walk where there is affliction and tribulation, with pressures on every side.
Doesn’t this sound like the process in nature for forging diamonds? Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and David were all married to more than one wife. All of them had serious family issues. All of them are great heroes of the faith. Perhaps the critics are missing the point, that what seems to be a negative, is actually a great positive for making polished diamonds (see Isaiah 62:3) in the hands of the Most High?