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.
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.
In the opening article in my new “Marriage Laws” series, I made the proposition that Yeshua clearly said that some things belong to YHVH only, and that marriage is one of those things that YHVH has reserved to Himself, and not given to Caesar (the government) to legislate. In forthcoming articles, I will explore how “Caesar” in America and other societies in the past has arrogated to himself the power to regulate marriage. In this second article, I am going to answer the question of what YHVH has said about marriage. It turns out that He has said a great deal, and nowhere has He said that Israel’s rulers have any legal jurisdiction on this topic. If they don’t, how much less jurisdiction do the nations have?
We will begin at the beginning during Creation Week in which we are going to analyze what He said and did through the aftermath of the Fall. Later, we will discuss what He put into the Sinai Covenant and the related statutes and judgments in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
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.
It is with deep regret that we find it necessary to refute 119Ministries for significant error in their most recent video regarding their (un)Biblical position concerning polygyny.
While we admit this is a third rail topic laden with cultural and emotional baggage, we also believe that Truth is more important than public opinion. And, defending our Elohim, His Word and the honor of our fathers, the Patriarchs, is well worth the potential cost.
In the interest of ‘Testing Everything’, we present our well articulated response to 119Ministries’ error laden video. We are deeply sorry to see 119Ministries sacrifice their once solid reputation by handling clear Scripture so very poorly.