The Rule of First Mention (continued)

Last month, the article about the “Rule of First Mention” (called the “Rule” in that post, as will also be the case for this post) closed with a promise to address the fact that, if God specifically allows something that the “Rule” might otherwise call “evil,” “forbidden,” etc., then obviously, that particular activity is not evil, forbidden, etc. Specifically discussed were five activities: 1) Working with metal; 2) playing musical instruments; 3) owning cattle; 4) living in a tent; and 5) polygamy (or, more accurately, polygyny).

When Moses was given instructions by God for building the Tabernacle, he was told that the Children of Israel were to bring to him very specific things as offerings, including brass: “And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass” (Exod. 25:3).1,2 Rather than just claiming that an offering of brass implies that God approves of working with brass, we see that God actually commanded that men work with brass. One such verse (out of many) should suffice to make the point: “And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one” (Exod. 26:11).

Playing musical instruments is also commanded by God. One verse, again, should suffice to make the point: “Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings” (Psalms 33:2).

God blessed Abram with great riches, including cattle: “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). If it were evil to own cattle, then God helped Abram to sin.

The Children of Israel lived in tents, as was commanded by God: “And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts” (Numbers 1:52).

So we see that the “Rule” is, in fact, not a rule at all, but just a clever device invented by those who desire to twist God’s Word to support their own beliefs. “But,” you are thinking, “God nowhere tells a man to have more than one wife. Therefore, the ‘Rule’ is not totally wrong.”

So, lest you accuse this writer of being inconsistent, here are several passages that either approve of, or require, polygyny. First, those passages that approve of polygyny.

If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: (16) Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: (17) But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Deut. 21:15-17)

Notice that God does not say, “If a man have two wives, he shall be stoned to death for violating the ‘Rule.’”  Rather than forbidding it, He regulates the practice of polygyny.

God also regulates the practice of taking more than one wife when the first wife was a servant before becoming the man’s wife: “If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish (Exod. 21:10). (Be sure to look up and read the various passages from which all of the verses quoted in this post are extracted. As we are taught in hermeneutics classes, “Context is King.”)

There are three commands of God that, under certain sets of circumstances, would require that a man have more than one wife if he is obedient to the command. The first is found in Exod. 22:16-17: “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. (17) If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.” The only exception given is “If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him,” in which case the man must still pay “the dowry of virgins.” There is no exception made if the man already has a wife. A very similar command is found in Deut. 22:28-29 (please read this passage), with the difference being that this situation can be interpreted as rape rather than seduction, and it has the added stipulation that he may not divorce her as long as he lives. Again, there is no exception made if the man is already married.

The third command of God that might require a man to have more than one wife is found in Deut. 25:5-10. Rather than quote the passage, it will be summarized here.(Please look up this passage and read it for yourself.) If two brothers live together, and one dies without having fathered a male heir, the surviving brother must marry the widow and raise the first male born to that union as his dead brother’s heir. As in the two situations involving virgins, there is no exception made if the surviving brother is already married.

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

2 As always, please read he entire context, not just the verse or passage quoted in an article. (This applies to all articles posted to this blog.)

The Rule of First Mention

In a recent post, as well as an earlier post, there was some discussion about the “Rule of First Mention,” although this “Rule” was not explicitly named. On a recent Sunday, after the evening worship service, the author of this post had a discussion with the Pastor about polygamy. The Pastor said that he believes in the “Rule” (as the “Rule of First Mention” will be called in the remainder of this post), and therefore, because God created only one wife for Adam, monogamy-only is what He intends to be the ideal marriage pattern for all men after Adam. (This author is not quoting the Pastor verbatim, but is distilling his words to capture the substance of his argument.)

Let’s explore the “Rule” and see if we can discover some things that are outside of God’s perfect will for us. Already mentioned in the two previous posts linked to in the first paragraph were gardening as God’s ideal occupation for man, animal skins as God’s ideal clothing for mankind to wear, and Adam having only one wife. In this post, we will look at the ungodly line of Cain to see what we should avoid.

And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.  (20)  And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.  (21)  And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.  (22)  And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah. (Gen 4:19-22)1

The most-used “Rule” in this passage is the fact that polygamy is first mentioned in connection with an evil man, Lamech. Therefore, according to the “Rule,” polygamy is evil.

Also mentioned in connection with Lamech, and totally ignored by the monogamy-only advocates, are four very specific things. It was the son of Lamech, Jabal, who is the first person mentioned to ever live in a tent. Jabal is also the first person mentioned to have cattle. Jabal’s brother, Jubal, is the first person mentioned in Scripture to play the harp and the organ (actually, any type of musical instrument). Their half-brother, Tubalcain, is the first-mentioned metal worker. Therefore, according to the “Rule,” all four of these activities are evil, because they are first mentioned in connection with Lamech.

“But,” you might say, “perhaps Jabal, Jubal, and Tubalcain were not evil, as was their father, Lamech, and their ancestor, Cain.” Not so, because Genesis 4, with the exception of 4:25-26, is the account of evil and how it became so widespread by the time of Noah (see 6:1-8) that God had to destroy all mankind except for Noah and his immediate family from the face of the Earth (see Gen. 6-9). If one or more of Lamech’s sons were not wicked, that would stand out like a candle in a dark room, and would therefore be explicitly stated, just as is Noah’s obedience to God’s commands in that very spiritually-dark time.

A better objection to the four mentioned activities being evil because of the “Rule” would be if God specifically allows those activities later in His Inspired, Inerrant, Infallible Word. Stay tuned for the next post, which will address exactly that.

Note

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

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Or, as Solomon put it, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” (Eccl 1:9 KJV)

I just acquired two Dead Sea Scroll books. One is a translation into English of the biblical manuscripts found in the caves at Qumran, and the other is a translation into English of all the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts. The two books are by different translators (see the bibliography, below).

A few weeks ago, I posted an article entitled “God’s Ideal Plan for Marriage?” in which I addressed the false concept that because God created only one woman for Adam, his ideal plan for marriage is monogamy. As it turns out, that idea is nothing new.

This is what the translator of The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English had to say about the Qumran community’s belief concerning polygamy:

Although Genesis was not the source for legal rulings in the Qumran community (as were the next four books of the Torah), it does play a key role in a rather intriguing discussion concerning monogamy. The Damascus Document (CD) 4:19–5:1—in an obvious polemic against the polygamy of the Pharisees—argues on the basis of Genesis 1:27 (“male and female he created them”) and Genesis 7:9 (“went into the ark two by two”) that one wife was the biblical norm. (Vermes 2011, 132)

Here is the translation of the Damascus Document (CD) 4:19-5:1:

The ‘builders of the wall’ (Ezek. xiii, 10) who have followed after ‘Precept’ – ‘Precept’ was a spouter of whom it is written, They shall surely spout (Mic. ii, 6) – shall be caught in fornication twice by taking a second wife while the first is alive, whereas the principle of creation is, Male and female created He them (Gen. i, 27). V Also, those who entered the Ark went in two by two. And concerning the prince it is written, He shall not multiply wives to himself (Deut. xvii, 17); but David had not read the sealed book of the Law which was in the ark (of the Covenant), for it was not opened in Israel from the death of Eleazar and Joshua, and the elders who worshipped Ashtoreth. It was hidden and (was not) revealed until the coming of Zadok. And the deeds of David rose up, except for the murder of Uriah, and God left them to him. (Abeg and Ulrich 1999, 4)

This article will not rehash what the post referred to above discusses. But the idea that because the animals went into the Ark in pairs also supposedly begs the same erroneous conclusion has not yet been addressed, and will be discussed briefly in this post. David’s polygyny and his sin with Bathsheba will be the topic of a future post.

Actually, the answer to this argument in favor of monogamy-only is rather obvious. The reason that the animals went into the Ark in pairs is because, for the unclean animals, one male and one female was enough to repopulate the Earth with that particular type. (According to the scientists at Institute for Creation Research, a biblical type of animal is not the same as modern science’s specie of animal. See http://www.icr.org/article/speciation-animals-ark/ [opens in new window].) In the case of clean animals, seven pairs of each went into the Ark so that Noah would have enough clean animals to offer proper sacrifices to God before they would be able to reproduce in sufficient numbers to no longer be “endangered species.” The reason for taking seven pairs of each bird kind is similar; apparently, the birds’ reproduction would be slower (and/or the expected life span of birds under the conditions that prevailed following the Deluge would be shorter) than that of other air-breathing animals. (See Gen 7:1-3.) The fact that the animals went into the Ark “two by two” has absolutely nothing to do with God’s “ideal plan” for marriage.

Bibliography

Abeg Jr., Martin, and Eugene Ulrich, trans. 1999. The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Vermes, Geza, trans. 2011 The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. London, England: Penguin Books.

A Question Mark Over My Head?

The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) had its 67th annual meeting last month, November 17-19, 2015, in Atlanta, GA. The theme was “Marriage and the Family.”  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this year’s event. I received a magazine in the mail called A Question Mark Over My Head, published by Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). Apparently, CBE mailed the rag to the entire ETS mailing list because of the theme of this year’s meeting.

CBE’s stated purpose is to promote what they call “biblical equality” among all Christians, regardless of race or gender. Racial equality is something to strive for, because the Bible, from the time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ forward, makes no distinction based on one’s skin color or nationality. Sad to say, but in general, evangelical Christians have a miserable record in that department. However, with respect to gender, the Bible very clearly teaches “complementarianism,” which teaches that while men and women are of equal value to God as redeemed saints, we have different roles in the home, in church, and in society. “Egalitarianism,” which teaches that men and women are equal in everything, including their roles in the home, in church, and in society, is the view promoted by CBE.

CBE either ignores or purposefully misinterprets passages such as 1 Tim. 2:8-15, 1 Cor. 7, Eph. 5:22-6:4, and other passages, while emphasizing passages such as Gal. 3:28, which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (KJV) Gal. 3:28 is not about egalitarianism, it is about our value to God as redeemed saints. If it were about egalitarianism, Paul would have been campaigning to free all slaves, which he did not do—see his epistle to Philemon, in which he exhorted Philemon to treat his slave, Onesimus, as a brother in the Lord, but did not exhort Philemon to free Onesimus.

To claim that Gal. 3:28 teaches egalitarianism is to put it in conflict with the passages already referenced that clearly teach complementarianism. When the interpretation of one passage contradicts the interpretation of another passage, at least one of those interpretations is faulty. When the interpretation of one passage contradicts the literal, plain, common-sense interpretation of several other passages, all of which agree with each other, guess which passage has been misinterpreted?

Ronald W. Pierce has an interesting (if flawed) article in A Question Mark Over my Head. His article is entitled, “First Corinthians 7: Paul’s Neglected Treatise on Gender.” (p. 34) He uses the TNIV version of the Bible (Today’s New International Version). After quoting 1 Cor. 7:2b, he says, “By calling each man to be faithful to his own wife and each woman to her own husband, Paul condemns in principle a wide range of ‘unsanctioned sexual intercourse,’ such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality—and, by extension, polygamy.”

Mr. Pierce is wrong on almost all points he makes in his article. I, for one, have not ignored 1 Cor. 7 in my studies of marriage (both monogamous and polygynous), sexual sin, and divorce. If you look at the Greek from which this passage was translated, you will find that polygyny is very explicitly authorized in this chapter by Paul’s choice of words. Granted, any sexual intercourse outside of marriage, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual, is wrong, but if a man has two or more wives, he is not having extramarital sexual intercourse by “knowing” (to use a biblical euphemism) every one of them. Only if he engages in homosexual activity (see Lev. 18:22, 20:13, and Rom. 1:27) or adultery (Ex. 20:14, Deut. 5:18) or visits a prostitute (the real meaning of “fornication”; see any good etymological dictionary) does he commit sexual sin. Even having sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman is not sin—under Mosaic Law, if a man seduced a virgin who was not betrothed, he was obligated to take her as a wife regardless of the possible fact that he might already be married (unless her father refuses, in which case he must still pay the dowry of virgins) and he could never divorce her. A betrothed virgin was considered to be a wife, and having a sexual relationship with her was adultery, which merited the death penalty. (See Exod. 22:16-17, Deut. 22:28-29; and Lev. 20:10 for the penalty for committing adultery.) [As a humorous side note: the penalty for “knowing” the wife of another man is death; the penalty for “knowing” a virgin who is not betrothed is life without the possibility of parole.]

Let’s look at the Greek in 1 Cor. 7:2 when Paul says, “His own” and “Her own.” “His own” is translated from “εαυτου” (“heautou”) which indicates exclusive “ownership.” “Her own” is translated from “ιδιον” (“idios”) which indicates shared “ownership.” Just to be sure that the Textus Receptus is not alone in using two different words where the Westcott-Hort and its derivatives (Nestle-Aland) use only one or the other, I looked at the an edition of the Westcott-Hort Greek text that includes Nestle27 variations as footnotes, and the same identical “heautou” and “idios” are used. The TNIV’s underlying Greek is the same as that of the KJV in this instance.

Therefore, what Paul is saying in 1 Cor. 7:2 is that each man should have his own wife—one who is his exclusively—and each woman should have her own husband—a husband who might be shared with one or more “sister-wives.” Further, every wife that a man might have is his exclusively (see Rom. 7:2-3.).

God’s Ideal Plan for Marriage?

Most people who stubbornly cling to the monogamy-only position refuse to discuss the topic with someone who, like the author of this post, believes that it is not a sin for a man to have more than one wife. But if one can actually get into a discussion with such a person, it will not be long before the monogamy-only advocate retreats to this fallback position:

God’s ideal plan for marriage is monogamy, because He only created one wife for Adam.

That statement makes an illogical leap from a biblical truth (God created only one wife for Adam) to an unwarranted conclusion (therefore, God’s ideal plan for marriage is monogamy). But, just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the stated biblical truth actually warrants the conclusion. Then, if we are to be consistent hermeneutically,1 there are at least two other very obvious things in the first three chapters of Genesis to which we must apply the same rule of interpretation:

  • After Adam sinned, he and Eve made garments from vegetable matter. (Fig leaves; Genesis 3:7).2 But God made garments for the couple using animal skins, replacing the vegetation they had sewn together with garments that required the shedding of blood in order to make them (Genesis 3:21), showing that anything that does not require an animal to bleed and die is less than God’s ideal plan for material to be used when making our clothing. Therefore, just as a man should have only one wife, we should only wear clothes that are made from animal skins.
  • Adam was told by God that he was to be a gardener (Genesis 2:15). Adam was also told that his task of gardening would be more difficult because of the curse (Genesis 3:17-19), which shows that Adam’s job assignment was not changed from gardener to something else after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Therefore, just as a man should have only one wife and we should only wear clothing made from animal skins, all men should be gardeners. Any other occupation is less than God’s ideal plan for man’s employment.

In actuality, of course, we cannot derive spiritual or moral laws solely from examples. God always explicitly tells us what He considers to be sin and what He requires of us. (For example, the Decalogue gives us ten of His explicitly stated laws.)3 Yes, He does give us examples in many cases, but He never gives us an example of something He wants us to do or not do without very plainly telling us that whatever the example depicts is a one of His laws. That law might be recorded much later in Scripture, but it is there somewhere if the example is an example of one of His laws. Cain was punished for killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-16), but we are not explicitly told that murder is sin until Genesis 9:6, after the Deluge has subsided enough that Noah and his family (and the animals, of course) can leave the Ark.

Notes

1 For the definition of hermeneutically, see http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Hermeneutically.

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

3 The Decalogue, known colloquially as The Ten Commandments, is found in both Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21.

A Stupid Question

Probably the stupidest question I get asked when someone finds out that I do not believe it is a sin for a man to have more than one wife is, “Why aren’t you a Mormon?” The first time I was asked this, it was asked by the Pastor of a rather large church I was attending at the time. When I said, “The Bible does not say that it is a sin for a man to have more than one wife,” he stopped listening to anything else I was saying and displayed his ignorance (and/or his lack of respect) by asking that stupid question. To make matters worse, he just barely stopped short of calling me a child-molesting pervert! All because I believe God’s Inerrant, Infallible, Inspired Word (something he also professes to believe) instead of something some Pope said during that period of time, known as the Dark Ages, when it was a death-penalty offense for a layman to own a copy of the Bible. Then, on Mother’s Day, a few weeks after that “conversation,” he preached a message about the supposed evils of polygamy, drawing so many unwarranted inferences from I Samuel 1:1-9 that it made me wonder if he actually read that passage.

His stupid question made me wonder what he actually knows about the LDS cult. They officially disavowed continuing the practice of plural marriage in 1890 so that Utah could be admitted to the Union. (Then-LDS President Wilford Woodruff conveniently received a revelation from God that polygamy should no longer be practiced, and it was unanimously approved on October 6, 1890, by the Church in General Conference. Utah was subsequently admitted to the Union, on January 4, 1896.) Only a few break-away FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) groups, who make up only a very small minority of all those who mistakenly believe that the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price are God’s Word, still practice polygamy.

Seems like someone who holds a position as an under-shepherd of Jesus’ flock would know better than to act as he did. I stopped attending his church, but so far (more than four years later), have not found ANY church that really believes what the Bible actually says about marriage. Without exception, every Protestant church that claims to hold the conservative evangelical view of Scripture (the three “I’s” in the first paragraph) also holds the same view of polygyny that has been espoused by the Roman Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years, and which is also proclaimed by nearly all non-Christians in America who are not FLDS or Islamic, including (especially) those who applaud the recent Supreme Court ruling that effectively made same-sex “marriage” the law of our once-great nation.

Why does secular American society (led by, among others, the so-called “Hollywood elite”) think that same-sex marriage, something that the Bible calls an abomination (see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27), is the greatest thing since sliced bread? If for no other reason, because it is something that is forbidden in God’s Word, and as a generality, that group hates anything resembling true Christianity. And why is that same crowd vehemently opposed to polygyny? [insert tongue firmly in cheek] Is it because the same Bible that forbids the homosexual lifestyle also forbids all forms of plural marriage? [/remove tongue from cheek] So far, all I have found in the Bible about whether or not polygyny is sin is several Mosaic laws that regulate polygyny (Exodus 21:10; Deuteronomy 25:5; Malachi 2:14-15), and some that actually require it under certain sets of circumstances (Deuteronomy 22:28-29; 25:5; Exodus 22:16-17). And God’s statement, through Nathan the prophet, that He gave wives to David, and would have given him more if those David already had were not enough (II Samuel 12:7-8). And three passages where God portrays Himself as (figuratively speaking) having two wives (Jeremiah 3:6-14, 31:31-34; Ezekiel 23:1-4). And (in the New Testament) polygyny is authorized in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 15. (Check the Greek Received Text from which these NT passages are translated. The English translation, even in KJV, is not exact—a common problem with any translation from one language to another.)

The next time some self-professed “evangelical, conservative, Bible-believing Christian” asks that stupid question, my answer will be another question: “If you think that polygyny is a sin, why aren’t you a Roman Catholic?” (Or maybe, “Why aren’t you a homosexual?” After all, both the pro-gay crowd, who hates the Bible, and the Romish church, which gives greater authority to the Pope’s words than to the Bible, believe the same thing about polygyny.)

By the way, polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband, is called “adultery” in Romans 7:2-3. But there is no corresponding passage anywhere in God’s Word that calls polygyny, the practice of a man having more than one wife, any kind of sin. (Both polyandry and polygyny are, technically, a form of polygamy, but most people actually mean “polygyny” when they say “polygamy.”) Sorry, folks, the Bible is not egalitarian; rather, it is complimentarian.

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 is 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.