Sin

God is not shy when it comes to telling us what He considers to be sin. Those things called sin in the Bible always have a penalty associated with them. Let’s look at a few examples.

The Decalogue, colloquially known as The Ten Commandments, is found in Exodus 20:3-17 and is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:7-21.1 (The way far too many Christians act, perhaps a better colloquial designation might be The Ten Suggestions.) We will look at only two of the ten, and then look at a couple of other laws found outside of the Decalogue.

The fifth commandment is found in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16. This is how the commandment is worded in Exodus: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” In Deuteronomy, it has slightly different wording, but the same meaning. The penalty for disobeying this commandment is found in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. After describing a rebellious son in vv. 18-20, v. 21a says, “And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.”

The eighth commandment is found in Exodus 20:15 and Deuteronomy 5:19. Again, the wording is slightly different between Exodus and Deuteronomy, but the meaning is the same: “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). The penalty varies according to what was stolen. In Exodus 22:1, we find the penalty for stealing livestock: “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” And in Exodus 21:16, we find the penalty for kidnapping: “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”

Outside the Decalogue, we find various other laws defining sinful acts, as well as the penalties for committing each of those sins. Because of the recent Supreme Court decision that made same-sex “marriage” the law in our once-great nation, we will look at Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Lev. 18:22 says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” 20:13 says, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” A homosexual lifestyle is called sin by God and the penalty for committing that sin is death.

Another law not found in the Decalogue is called “levirate marriage,” derived from the Latin word “levir,” meaning “husband’s brother.” It is found in Deuteronomy 25:5-6:

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.  (6)  And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.

The penalty for the sin of not obeying law of levirate marriage is found in Deuteronomy 25:7-10:

And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.  (8)  Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;  (9)  Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.  (10)  And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

All this begs two questions: (1) Where does the Bible call it sin for a man to have more than one wife? and (2) Where does the Bible tell us the penalty for committing that supposed sin?

The answer to both questions is the same: nowhere. Nowhere in Scripture is polygyny called “sin,” and nowhere in Scripture is there any penalty imposed on a man for having more than one wife.2

Notes

1 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the King James Version.

2 Romans 7:2-3 calls polyamory (a woman having more than one husband) adultery, which is forbidden by the seventh commandment (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18) and the penalty is death (Leviticus 20:10).

The Late Great M. R. De Haan, MD

Dr. De Haan

Dr. M. R. De Haan (March 23, 1891 – December 13, 1965) was the founder of the popular “Radio Bible Class” talk show. He authored a book, The Days of Noah…and Their Prophetic Message for Today (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963),1 that has been in my personal library for many years, probably given to me by my parents when I was a teenager (but I honestly do not remember exactly when or how it came into my possession). His discussion of divorce and polygamy is a great springboard to critique something that seems to be very common among monogamy-only advocates, both past and present.

The Problem

Like most modern evangelical Christian monogamy-only advocates, De Haan has much to say that is in perfect agreement with the Bible. But also like those same modern monogamy-only advocates, he confuses divorce and polygamy, using the obvious evils that result from divorce to claim that all polygamy is evil. Like most, if not all, modern monogamy-only advocates, he uses the term “polygamy” rather than the more correct term “polygyny,” effectively (but improperly) redefining the issue on which we disagree. We who advocate biblical marriage do not claim that all polygamy is allowed, because polyandry, which is another form of polygamy, is condemned as adultery in Romans 7:2-3.2 Polygyny is a man having more than one wife, and is never called “sin” in the Bible; polyandry is a woman having more than one husband, and as noted, is called “adultery” by Paul. Biblical marriage includes polygyny, but not any other form of polygamy.

After discussing city-building, mentioned in Genesis 4:17 as something Cain did, he turns his attention to the breakdown of the family: “In the wake of city building came the evil of divorce and polygamy and the breakdown of the home.”3 Note that he refers to divorce and polygamy as only one evil – “the evil”—not two separate evils, again effectively, but improperly, redefining the issue about which we disagree. He then launches into a discussion of the destructive results and prevalence of divorce in modern society. (Modern as of 1963, when the book was published; it is much worse now, in 2015.) What he says about divorce in correct, but he seems to confuse divorce with “polygamy.” (As already noted, some polygamy is evil, but polygyny is a form of polygamy that is not called sin in the Bible.) Just like modern monogamy-only advocates, he makes the dubious intellectual leap from the fact that God created only one wife for Adam to the supposed truth that monogamy is God’s perfect plan for the family, completely ignoring the many biblical passages, from both the Old and New Testaments, that clearly authorize polygyny, and in some Old Testament passages, actually require a man to have more than one wife under certain specific sets of circumstances. (More on this in a future post.)

Talking about divorce and polygyny is actually talking about two things that are functionally opposite. If Jack gives Jill, his one-and-only wife, a bill of divorcement (see Deuteronomy 24:1) and then marries only one new wife, Jane, does he now have two wives (Jill and Jane), or only one (Jane)?4 So why do monogamy-only advocates (both those from the past, such as De Haan, and those from the present) use Scripture passages that talk about how God hates divorce to say that polygyny is a sin?

My Challenge to Evangelical Christian Monogamy-only Advocates

God is not shy about telling us what He considers to be sin. He does not require us to infer from some reference to a certain action taken by a sinful character in a biblical narrative that the action under consideration is sin, He tells us in no uncertain terms. For example, the Decalogue clearly calls various things sin, saying, “Thou shalt not…” Where does the Bible tell us, in language that is as plain and clear as the Ten Commandments, that it is a sin for a man to have more than one wife? So far, all that you have been able to show me is some passage of Scripture taken out of context and twisted to fit your preconceived ideas of what biblical marriage is or is not. But what does God’s Inerrant, Inspired, Infallible Word actually say, you who, like me, claim that the Bible is our only authority (some of you might say “final” rather than “only”) for matters of doctrine and Christian living? You who, like me, believe that the Bible must be interpreted as literally as the context allows? You who, like me, believe that the Bible must be interpreted in light of the historical-grammatical context of the audience to whom it was originally written?

Please show me where the Bible clearly calls polygyny “sin” so that I can change my mind on this issue without violating my conscience, and thereby stop being persecuted by Christians who believe Pope Benedict VIII rather than believing what the Bible says when it tells us that David, a man with at least eight wives and ten concubines,5 was a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). Benedict VIII is the Pope who, in AD 1018, declared polygyny to be a sin, adopting secular Roman law about marriage. Secular Roman marriage law was based on the pagan goddess-worshiping Greco-Roman cults’ doctrines and beliefs, not on the Bible.

Notes

1 The Days of Noah is out of print, but can be found used on Amazon’s website.

2 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the King James Version.

3 M. R. De Haan, MD, The Days of Noah…and Their Prophetic Message for Today (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963), 43.

4 My apologies to anyone named Jack, Jill, or Jane who might be reading this.

5 David and his wives and concubines will be the topic of a future blog post.

Bibliography

De Haan, M. R. The Days of Noah…and Their Prophetic Message for Today. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963.

Marriage

On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court published its opinion which effectively legalized same-sex “marriage.”

Was I Surprised? Not in the least. You see, our nation has been running away from its Christian heritage as fast as our collective legs can carry us. If the Bible calls it sin, then make it legal. If the Bible demands that we do certain things, then make those things illegal.

The Bible calls adultery sin. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)1,2 To the best of my knowledge, every law that once existed in the US prohibiting a man from having a consensual sexual relationship with a woman who is married to another man  has been repealed.

The Bible calls it abomination for a man to lie with another man as with a woman. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) As already noted, thanks to five of our nine Supreme Court Justices, same-sex “marriage” is now the law of the land.

The Bible actually requires polygyny under certain circumstances. Here is one:

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. (Deuteronomy 25:5)

There is no exception given AT ALL. Not even if the surviving brother already has a wife, which means he might be required to have two (or more) wives in order to be obedient to this particular law. God feels so strongly about this that He actually killed one man for refusing to obey it—and that was before the Law was given to Moses, so this law, like the prohibition against murder, dates from Adam’s fall into sin.

And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. (Genesis 38:9-10, emphasis added)3

 Yet every state in the US has laws prohibiting plural marriage.

Space prohibits presenting a comprehensive Scriptural apologetic for allowing (and in some cases, requiring) a man to have more than one wife. Perhaps, over the next few months (and if my time permits me doing so), that will be done in a series of blog posts.

Notes

1 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the King James Version.

2 Do not take my word for it. Look up every biblical passage I quote or reference and read not only that passage, but also, the context.

3 Contrary to popular belief, Onan’s sin was not masturbation; it was refusing to obey the law requiring him to take his late brother’s widow as a wife and to raise up the first son from that union as his brother’s heir.