The Aberration of Polygamy

The Aberration of Polygamy


I’m J.K. McKee, editor of Messianic
Apologetics. If you are new to the channel, be sure to subscribe for future
teachings and updates. What is polygamy? While it is surely an
uncomfortable topic to discuss, a man having multiple wives is something that
one encounters in reading various parts of the Tanach. How should we as Messiah
followers approach this topic? Today’s Messianic people do read the Torah on a
fairly consistent basis, and doubtlessly encounter polygamy. No one who reads the
Bible denies that the practice of a man having multiple wives is seen within the
text. The Patriarch Jacob who was the progenitor of the Twelve Tribes of
Israel, had two wives and two concubines (Genesis 31:17; 37:2). King David had
multiple wives (1 Samuel 18:17-30; 25:38-43; 2 Samuel 3:2-5). King
Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines (1 Kings 3:1; 11:3) that
made up an entire harem (Song of Songs 6:8). From time to time, the thought will
indeed be expressed that since some of the most important figures in the Tanach
Scriptures had multiple wives, what is the problem if a man had multiple wives
today? There are, in fact, many problems to be explored
when considering whether or not polygamy is an acceptable practice for
today’s Body of Messiah. Was it the ideal at Creation for the man to have more
than one wife? When a man has more than one wife, is he truly fulfilled
emotionally and spiritually with his multiple spouses? Is the household where
one man has multiple wives and children from those multiple wives truly a place
of love and affection, or one of discord and suspicion?
Does the Bible portray men who had polygamous relationships as being
genuinely fulfilled, and children who were true examples of godliness? Does a
man having multiple wives expresse the sentiment that he places great value on
women, or that they are simply property to be acquired? And, how many in the
Biblical period actually had the financial means to afford more than one
wife? Does the Bible really lend support to the practice of polygamy today? These
are some of the vital questions that need to be considered when approaching
polygamy. While polygamy is recorded to have been practiced in Scripture–it by
no means is endorsed by Scripture! Not a single commandment
in the Torah condones polygamy. God never intended a man to have more than one
wife, families where the husband is polygamous have suffered immensely from
it, and male polygamists today are motivated by uncontrollable sexual urges
that demean women and the equality which has been restored to the genders in the
post-resurrection era (Galatians 3:28). Polygamy as a practice is seen in
various parts of the Tanach, but one which the Jewish Synagogue abandoned
long before the arrival of Yeshua the Messiah.
Deuteronomy 17:17 specifically warned the future kings of Israel, “He shall not
multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away” (NASU). With the creation
of the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden, the ideal state has been for
marriage to be between one man and one woman: “For this reason a man shall leave
his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one
flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NASU), a principle upheld by Yeshua the Messiah (Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7-8).
It is only after the Fall that we see forms of polygamy
practiced, and to argue that this is to be a normative, even encouraged practice,
skews God’s original intent at Creation. It is true that various Patriarchs and
monarchs of Israel did have multiple wives, and seemingly did not incur any
significant penalties from the Lord for doing so. Yet this must be balanced with
the fact that the whole nation of Israel was commanded to celebrate the Feast of
Tabernacles for seven days each year (Leviticus 23:33-34), and Nehemiah says
that “The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son
of Nun to that day” (Nehemiah 8:17, NASU)–which was after the Babylonian exile! The
Ancient Israelites did not always follow the commands of God, and because of His
love and grace He often overlooked their significant transgressions. Severe
chastisement to Israel often did not come until idolatry, gross child
sacrifice, and outright rebellion against the Lord were practiced. From a practical
standpoint while we see polygamy observed by some members of Ancient
Israelite society, it is far-fetched to think that every single Israelite man
could economically afford more than one wife. On the contrary, the fact that only
Patriarchs, leaders, and monarchs of Israel are portrayed as having multiple
wives, demonstrates how little this practice was actually observed. And
is it really worth it for them? When we read that Jacob had both Leah and Rachel
as his wives, or David and Solomon had multiple wives–were their households
places of genuine love and affection, or riddled with relational problems? Were
their children behaved or unruly? 1 Kings 11:4 is not very good evidence
in favor of polygamy: “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away
after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God” (NASU). A significant reason why Ancient Israel
was ultimately divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms goes back to
Solomon’s incessant polygamy, and the state funded idolatry he sponsored. The
Apostolic Scriptures make it abundantly clear that polygamy is something which
is not to be practiced by the people of God today. The significant passages in
the Gospels where Yeshua addresses marriage affirm Genesis’ teaching on one
man and one woman (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18).
The Apostle Paul stated candidly in 1 Corinthians 7:2, “each man is to have his
own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband” (NASU). He also instructed Timothy
in Ephesus that overseers and deacons were only to be allowed
one wife (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). Furthermore, and perhaps most
significant, he asserted in Ephesians 5:21-33 that the institution of
marriage is to be a reflection on the Messiah’s service for the ekklēsia. This
involved the Lord serving a single body of people, not multiple bodies of people:
“let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she
respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33, RSV). In many cases try to Biblically justify
polygamy–as though it is a good thing that God intended from Creation–is
almost always used as a way for men to fulfill sexual urges that cannot be kept
under control. Women are frequently the victims of such inappropriate and
ungodly behavior, often because of men who want to treat them as little more
than chattel or property. The discussion regarding polygamy has been unleashed
among Messianic people who are largely unsure about how what it means to
recapture a Torah foundation for one’s faith in Yeshua. Does it mean that only
the books of Genesis-Deuteronomy are relevant to one’s faith? Or does it mean
that the Pentateuch is one stepping stone–and indeed a largely overlooked
stepping stone–of God’s continually progressive salvation history
(Hebrews 1:1-2)? If it is the latter, then it is clear that the Torah’s
legislation is intended to be a significant step forward, but not the
only step, that is to return us to what the first man and the first woman had in
Eden. The ideal state that God wants us to have does not include polygamy, and
the Scriptures are clear that those who practiced it did not incur beneficial
and lasting relationships as a result. If anyone in the Messianic movement thinks
that polygamy is something to be embraced and encouraged, then such views
stand in direct contrast to God’s intention at Creation and the teachings
of Yeshua the Messiah. They are also degrading to the female gender, and the
equality of males and females in the Body of Messiah. If you all found this
content enjoyable and useful, please be sure to drop a thumb’s up for this video.
As always, we thank you for your continued support of our ministry
efforts. God bless and shalom, and we’ll see you again with our next update!

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  1. Sorry brother, but on this topic you teach a Catholic doctrine, not a biblical one. "The scripture says this, but…" is how they began to remove the Torah. Here are some passages I believe should be considered for anyone that seeking the truth on this matter.

    2 Samuel 12:7-8 NKJV Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. ‘I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!

    Exodus 21:10 NKJV — “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights.

    Isaiah 4:1 NKJV — And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying,
    “We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel;
    Only let us be called by your name,
    To take away our reproach.”

    1 Timothy 4:1-3 NKJV — Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry…

    Deuteronomy 25:5 NKJV — “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.

  2. I know this is off topic but can you please do one of these for the two house theologies! Cause it’s getting out of hand with all the many different ones that are all equally bad. I can’t get your articles to work on your site 🙁 about antisemitism in the two House theology or something of similar title

  3. I want to engage in dialogue with you brother, but first i must ask you a question. Please respond to it. If i were to prove to you that polygyny is not a sin and allowed to believers in Messiah, would you repent and support biblical polygamy?

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