One of the benefits of the public stance I have taken regarding the Biblical positions of patriarchy and polygyny have been the number of people who have reached out to me with questions, support, or to share their story in how the Father opened their eyes in this challenging area. Currently, I am blessed to see the breadth of what the Father is doing as my connections and contacts now span the globe and cross multiple languages.
The recent video series on YouTube has been a particularly good connector with others, especially Torah teachers and keepers.
Benjamin, in a recent email conversation, shared some extremely insightful thoughts on rightly framing the argument. In his own words (and with his permission), here are the significant portions of one email:
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 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.
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.
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.
When Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 theses to a church door in Germany in 1517, he ignited a debate that led to the Protestant Reformation. Reading over the list of 95 theses, nothing there was said about marriage.
Yet, the Protestant Reformation over the next 30 years generated enough theological pressure that the Roman Catholic prelates convened the Council of Trent to create the Catholic Counter-Reformation. This Council met from 1545 to 1563 over 25 sessions.
In the 24th session, in the year 1563, the prelates considered matrimony. The text is available at this location: Council of Trent, 1563, Session XXIV. I quote from the preamble and the first three canons issued by this session below.
When the Reverend Martin Madan wrote the first volume of his seminal work, Thelypthora, he took the time to consider the case of Boaz and the kinsman who was nearer to Ruth than he was. This is recorded in Ruth chapter four. He offers a succinct and common-sense analysis of why the kinsman refused. Let’s read Ruth 4:1-12 (NASB).
Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, “Turn aside, friend, sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. 2 He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the closest relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 So I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am after you.’” And he said, “I will redeem it.” 5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.” 6 The closest relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.”7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. 8 So the closest relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” And he removed his sandal. 9 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10 Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.” 11 All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. 12 Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord will give you by this young woman.”
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.
From the colonial period to the second decade of the twenty-first century in the United States of America, marriage has been the subject of legislation and court decisions. Specifically, the question that I am exploring herein is how statutes and court decisions define or permit “who can marry whom?” The following is not intended to be a detailed overview of more than four centuries of history. Undoubtedly, there exist monographs and books written on this topic and the interested reader can search them out. I did a search through DuckDuckGo on “history American marriage laws”, which returned several hits. The first sites, including Wikipedia, contained some information about the changes in American law since the colonial period and several things jumped out at me and that’s what I want to discuss. The reader is warned that this might be “getting into the weeds” somewhat, but the overall trend addressing “who can marry whom?” is what I’m interested in sharing with you.