A common misconception regarding polygyny is that a man cannot love more than one woman. This common objection has caused me to spend a good bit of time puzzling over how this is supposed to work and why God allows what seems an inequity. Recently, a solid answer has come into view.
In my early research and conversations regarding polygyny, I often heard the illustration that a man or woman can have a child that they love so much that they think they could never love another the same way. Then, a second child comes along and they love that one just as much and somehow their heart is not divided between the two, but the love is multiplied. And, it happens again with a third and so forth.
It makes sense, but, how?
Originally, I thought the hearts of men and women function a bit differently. However, recent studies in a related area suddenly explained it as I realized that the hearts of men and women are the same. What I was not accounting for was a key factor: God’s created order.
Recall, 1 Corinthians 11:3 is our clear and concise guiding verse that reveals:
God <- Messiah <- man <- woman
Culturally, we are ingrained with an idea of equality between men and women and an assumption that mutual love and respect are due. Such is not the case according to Scripture. I will address this momentarily.
Here’s a chart that we can use for illustration in our discussion.
Barring a sinful case of favoritism, we culturally assume that a woman with two or more children can love and treat fairly more than one child, yet somehow assume a man cannot do the same for more than one woman. We believe a man can love multiple children in fullness and fairness, yet believe that he cannot do the same for more than one woman.
The error committed by both culture and the monogamy only mindset is that the relationship between man and woman is based in equality, however, God’s created order says otherwise.
Notice in our illustration that Messiah loves, provides for, and protects multiple covenant relationships with men. Men, likewise, have the ability to love protect and provide for more than one covenantal relationship.
Interestingly, in the illustration, everyone has only one master! All can have one or more subordinates. And, therein is the solution!!
A woman who is expecting her head to love her exclusively as she loves her head/husband exclusively, is violating the headship model and order. The relationship between man and woman, even in a monogamous relationship is not parallel or mirrored.
We, as humans, are hardwired to understand that we cannot have two masters! Therefore, a woman’s understanding of her love for her husband does not take into account her innate understanding that he is her master and therefore must be singular. She cannot, therefore, comprehend that while she can only love one master, he can have and love more than one woman in the same way she can have and love more than one child.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.Matthew 6:24
Yeshua is saying a man cannot serve God and an idol, however, the principle of serving two masters holds!
Simply, man is created to respect and serve Messiah, while he is also created to be fruitful and multiply!! In the created order and in his hard-wiring, he is fully equipped to serve One and love more than one.
Woman, in like manner, is created to respect and serve her husband while tending to and caring for a bevvy of children. In her hard-wiring, she can only serve one master, but love many children.
Now, returning to the second illustration.
In the world, man and woman are generally regarded as co-equals, not demonstrated in the illustration above. But, the assumption is that ‘love’ is due in both directions. In truth, Scripture commands respect from woman to her husband while the man is commanded to LOVE the woman. Ephesians 5:23-33 most clearly points this difference in calling/role out while parallelling the image of Messiah and the Qahal/ Assembly..
Man and woman are a parallel picture of Messiah and the Assembly. Respect/reverence flows up, love flows down.
22 Wives, subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,…33 Nevertheless, as for you individually, each husband is to love his own wife the same as himself, and the wife must see to it that she reverences her husband.Ephesians 5, select
A final thought, regarding a man loving his wives equally… Besides the fact that at no point is perfect equality or fairness ever commanded, each woman’s wants and needs can and do vary in a relationship. There is an ebb and flow.
Following is an insightful quote that addresses the necessary maturing of a man’s heart as he leads and guides his family.
Most men believe in plural marriage that they can love all wives the same or more than one; in theory that’s the goal but the heart needs time to be matured and trained to see that a man needs all his wives and not feel guilty about the ebb and flows of a heart. Like monogamy I believe a man can divide his heart in love but its not an instant thing or the second I’m called to plural marriage thing. If the heart is tender and led by the Ruach it does happen but don’t be disappointed if its not instant.Moshe Koniuchowsky
I think what I wrote above helps to understand how the individual relationships with each woman will ebb and flow, but the man, if he is walking as Messiah, he will seek to treat each woman as the unique and special creation that she is with specific and unique needs and wants that she has. He must do so in balance, according to the time and resources Yah has given him, but he cannot be constrained by a possessive expectation that he ‘belongs to’ one or another woman. They have no claim over him. Only Messiah!
This is challenging territory, but it is important to grasp so that we can orient our lives according to the ways of Messiah and the Torah that will rule the Kingdom of kol Israel.