Israel doesn’t waste time and gets right to his subject material. He opens with an introduction to his topic and says what his thesis or focus is with the book. He is addressing the “bible believers [who] condemn polygyny because they view the text with a Western lens” (Israel, page 2.)
There are five chapters in this book.
What is polygamy
The emergence of Christian Monogamy
Prevalence of polygyny among the ancient Israelites
Fallacious biblical arguments against polygyny
Polygyny as a remedy for social ills
In each chapter, typically consisting of a few pages, Israel is very concise and makes his points very well. In the first chapter, Israel goes over the definitions of each form of polygamy. A very, very brief survey of the first few centuries of the Christian era with respect to the promotion of monogamy is the focus of the second chapter. Another survey of biblical men who had plural wives in Ancient Israel is the topic of the third chapter. Israel takes on six arguments against polygamy and offers short rebuttals to each in chapter four. Finally, for societies where marriageable women outnumber marriageable men as in the African-American community, Israel says that polygyny definitely should be an option; that is promoted in chpater five. Footnotes and a bibliography are provided.
If I have to quibble about something with Israel, it would be his statements on page 4 that India and China have more women than men due to female infanticide. I suspect that he got that backwards and meant to say more men than women in these two countries. Perhaps he might correct this in a future edition.
At 51 pages, this book is very readable, packed with the basic information and at $10 essentially an expanded pamphlet that polygyny advocates can distribute. This would serve very well as a concise introduction to the subject, and then the interested reader can move to more advanced and more exhaustive treatments already available on the subject.
During Hooper’s discussion, he mentioned one scholar’s attempt to tie the ban to the activity of the Roman Catholic Church in the two centuries prior to the ban. Either Hooper or the scholar Zeev Flak (or both) didn’t make the very likely connection between cause and effect as shown in the quote below.
Another approach to isolating the stimulus which necessitated Rabbenu Gershom to issue his ban against polygamous marriage is to look towards the Christian society which surrounded the Jews of Germany. This line of thinking is reflected in Zeev Flak’s work Jewish Matrimonial Law in the Middle Ages. In his work Falk goes to great length to provide the context for Rabbenu Gershom’s ban, starting in the mid ninth century when Pope Nicholas I (858-67) campaigned against polygamy in the Catholic Church. By the tenth century bigamy was not longer a problem among Christians, however, the Church attempted to curb concubinage and divorce among its devotees.
Pope Nicholas I’s campaign was successful. But then the Church saw the rates of concubinage and divorce increase to the point where it required the attention of the Church!
It’s really hard not to see a direct cause and effect here!
Ban polygamy and concubinage and divorce increases! Mandatory monogamy does not bear good fruit.
In 1869, a Christian philanthropist named James Campbell published a book titled The History and Philosophy of Marriage: Polygamy and Monogamy Compared. Filled with incredible wisdom and thought into natural law as well as Scripture regarding the societal effects of monogamy and polygamy. (Technically, the author always refers to polygyny, but uses the umbrella term polygamy.)
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.
When people put forth arguments against the polygyny laws of the Old Testament, one of them is that if there are laws on the books that make polygyny illegal, then even if it’s legal in the Old Testament, it’s not legal in the present day, and the secular law is the controlling authority and should be obeyed.
I decided to start writing down my journey from where I am right now in my life, to mine and Matthew’s end goal. The finish line if you will, where we find you. It is when God brings you to us. This process is not an overnight occurrence. This journal will be day by day, month by month journey. If God only has us on this journey to open our eyes to what His word says, to dig deeper into His word, to show others, God, through our life, then these letters will only be a journal for me. From where I started to where I am in the future. I pray maybe, I can also help shine a light for someone else and be of encouragement.
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)