Jewish Lords' Witness
If it is not already obvious to even the casual reader, the JLW has come out supporting the case for polygamy without reservation. The scriptures support polygamous marriage throughout both the Old and the New Testament times and continue through to this day. Any church not supporting this is clearly a false church; unsurprisingly this is pretty much every church (and synagogue) today with the notable exception of the Fourth and Only True Christian Church of the Lords' Witnesses. Therefore I find myself fully supporting the Lords' Witnesses' stance on this subject as referenced early on in this paper.
Polygamy is allowable for the congregation although the law of the land should dictate that the secular legal definition of bigamy is not contravened. Officials of the church, however, should only be monogamous. I have to say that I personally would not feel comfortable in a polygamous set of relationships; I find it hard enough as it is to manage the relationships within my own monogamous family. Thank goodness I am an officer of the church otherwise I should probably find myself in some serious personal grief!
I have written this paper hot on the heels of my previous paper on homosexual marriage. Is it not symptomatic of the perversity of man that same sex marriages, that God abhors, man is at some labour to condone as 'politically correct' whereas polygamous marriages, that God condones, man and men's churches outlaw. This verse from Paul says it all I think:
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (1Timothy 6)
1. The Lords' Witnesses' doctrinal position is that polygamy is allowed in the congregation but not allowed within the priesthood. It recognises, however, that for a family to formally practise polygamy is illegal in most countries and therefore does not recommend it even though it contends that the scriptures support the practise.
2. Polygamy is an excommunicating offence in today's Mormon Church. Joseph Smith received a revelation concerning polygamy and began the practice as written down in 1843. Despite claims to the contrary, its discontinuance appears to be a purely political motivation since not one scriptural passage is presented by the church in evidence as a new understanding of the matter.
3. God condoned polygamy for the Old Testament heroes including Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David. However, these polygamous arrangements certainly came with attendant problems, so in the early days of the scriptures, God blessed polygamous families although He might not have advised it as the most suitable family unit.
4. Solomon went a step too far by marrying an over-extravagant number of wives and concubines. This ended with his turning away from God towards the gods of his wives which was roundly condemned by Jehovah.
5. There are forty holy and unholy men named in polygamous family arrangements in the scriptures. None of these were condemned for their polygamy.
6. God's Law, as written down in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, unequivocally makes provision for polygamous families.
7. Polygamous marriages are used as symbolic prophecy in the Old Testament and as symbolic parable in the New Testament.
8. Whilst not a mainstream element in this paper's topic of polygamy, it has nonetheless been made clear in the scriptures analysed that divorce is only allowable under the Law in cases where extramarital fornication has taken place.
9. A man may be one flesh with more than one woman or wife.
10. Scripture foretold that today's churches would outlaw polygamous marriages such as those of Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David. How true that prophecy has turned out to be!
11. Paul criticises the practice of fornication within a polygamous family but does not comment that the original polygamy was in any way sinful thereby supporting the legality of polygamous marriage.
12. Despite the view of most (if not all) bible commentators to the contrary, it appears that even Adam and Eve were in a polygamous family!
13. The 'law of the land' argument against the legitimacy of polygamous marriage is false in that it does not appear to recognise what the legitimacy of marriage really is!
14. Lamech is the first polygamist explicitly named in scripture. He was also a self-confessed murderer and descendent of Cain. Despite the monogamist argument to the contrary there is no evidence in scripture that Lamech was considered unrighteous for his polygamy.
15. Noah's household was monogamous and considered by God to be 'righteous and pure'. This is probably one of the strongest arguments in favour of monogamy but, even in this case, no clear statement condemning polygamy was made by God.
16. Paul recommends that church officials should best be monogamous. While most commentators consider this to be a general call to monogamy, our interpretation is that monogamy was recommended for church leaders as distinct from the polygamy that was allowable generally for their congregations under the Law.
17. Scripture allows a widow to remarry if she so choses. This release is not specified for widowers since, under a polygamous regime, they would be free to marry again regardless of whether a previous wife had died or was still living.
18. Even Christ's marriage to a singleton (albeit corporate) wife cannot be taken as proof positive that polygamy is sinful.
The Adoration of the Lamb by Jan Van Eyck - 1432
Probably one of the best arguments in favour of monogamy is the description of Jesus' own prospective marriage:
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (Revelation 19)
However, although much is made of Jesus' monogamist ceremony we should not lose sight of at least three points. Firstly His one wife is actually made up of 144,000 individual angelic souls:
1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. (Revelation 14)
Secondly while Christ's marriage to a single (albeit corporate) wife may be seen as a tacit preference for a monogamous family arrangement it still does not, of itself, outlaw polygamy for earthling man.
Thirdly no marriages occur in heaven anyway for the purposes of angelic procreation. Christ's marriage is actually symbolising the administration for the future rule of law in heaven and earth in God's Kingdom. It does not represent the individual child rearing relationships between male and female angels in the Kingdom:
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22)
Visit the Fatherless and Widows
Upon the Death of a Spouse
There are several scriptures releasing a widow to enable her to marry again legitimately:
39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. (1Corinthians 7)
I can find no such scripture releasing the husband of a dead wife to enable him to marry again. Why? Well if polygamy is allowed then this would be a superfluous legislation since the man is free to marry again regardless of whether his wife has died or not. So once again we have evidence that polygamy is considered acceptable by the Holy Scriptures.
Paul dictated that officers of the Christian church should be monogamous. This was not to follow the law but was advised as we have previously surmised. Nowhere in Paul's epistles is this restriction placed upon the congregation. Indeed why mention that the church leaders need to be monogamous if polygamy were not allowed under the law?
6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; (Titus 1)
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (1Timothy 3)
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (1Timothy 3)
Paul advised the congregation at Corinth not to get married but that a member of the congregation should get married if the need was there. Some commentators use the wording at verse 2 below around the word ‘own' to indicate a monogamous marriage; however I think this is stretching the meaning of the Greek. I think the point here is that each should have his or her own spouse(s) not someone else's ‘to avoid fornication':
1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (1Corinthians 7)
Presumably it was Paul's recommendation that caused the Roman Catholic church to demand that it's priests remained celibate (but not so that they would molest children in their congregations instead of getting a wife!!!). As Paul states this is his advice not God's command:
6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. (1Corinthians 7)
Noah and his Wife - a Portrait by Guy Rowe
At the time of the Flood, Noah took his one wife into the ark together with his three sons who each took in one wife:
13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; (Genesis 7)
God had previously called Noah's family righteous and pure:
1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. (Genesis 7)
The argument runs that if polygamy were ordained of God, it would have made sense that Noah and his sons would have taken additional wives with them to repopulate the earth faster from the cataclysm. Whilst there is some merit in this argument, there is still no clear statement here that polygamy was condemned by Jehovah and our God is not known for being unclear where sin is concerned!
Cain Cannot Accept God's Favouritism Towards Abel
Although we have worked out, through the bible code, that Adam had to have been in a polygamous relationship with Eve and one or more of his daughters, the first man in the bible to be explicitly described as a polygamist was Lamech:
19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. (Genesis 4)
Lamech is a descendent of the cursed Cain and the first described to practice polygamy. Anti-polygamy commentators make a connection with the fact that Lamech was also a self-confessed murderer thereby linking polygamy and murder as both sinful:
23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. (Genesis 4)
Murder was clearly a sin as per Jehovah's curse on Cain:
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; (Genesis 4)
There appears to be no such additional curse on Lamech for his polygamy, only a clear indication from Lamech as to his crime of murder. There is no clear case here at all for God's outlawing, or even His disapproval of, polygamy.
Moses and Joshua coming down from the Mount
Law of the Land
A common argument, often used in trying to assert that polygamy must somehow be a sin, is what is known as the "law of the land" argument. Examples of this are to be found in the following scriptures which essentially tell Christians to pay proper tribute and respect to the ordinances in the countries which they inhabit in this system of things:
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. (Romans 13)
1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, (Titus 3)
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (1Peter 2)
In quoting the above scriptures, this attempted argument asserts that, because polygamy is perceptibly against the "law of the land", and because these passages instruct christians to follow the "laws of the land", this itself makes polygamy a sin.
Before addressing this argument directly, it is important to first address the details by which no "law of the land" is actually being broken. In a legal technical sense, polygamy itself is not usually specifically against the law. Rather, the legal term, "bigamy", is the outlawed act of a person having government-recognized existing marriages (i.e., government-recognized by "marriage license") with more than one living spouse at the same time. As such, as long as polygamist families do not obtain government-recognition (e.g., seeking a marriage-license), there is no breaking of any law.
To Christians, marriage is defined by God who alone has the authority. It is not defined by any government. In the Bible, there is not one single example of any marriage becoming "legitimate" because of definition or decree by government. The truth is, if marriage is defined by governments, then that would say that none of the men in the Bible were actually married.
The main churches have mistakenly acquiesced (even capitulated) their trust in God's authority (as sole definer of marriage), in their wrongly thinking that government has such authority to define marriage. It is, in fact, arguable as to whether any church actually has any right to sanctify a marriage at all.
Cohabitation is no longer against the law of the land of most countries in the modern era. If any government simply views a relationship as being that of cohabitating (which is not illegal), then even though Bible-believers and God know that the same relationship is indeed that of marriage before God, as defined by God alone, the truth remains: no "law of the land" is being broken. It is a common saying that marriages are made in heaven; unfortunately I suspect that most people do not fully realise what this really means!
Adam and Eve Engraving by Durer
Adam and Eve
One of the most commonly attempted arguments against biblical polygamy makes the assertion that polygamy is supposedly not the "original plan of God for marriage". This assertion is no doubt based upon the fact that Adam's ‘marriage' to Eve was monogamous as far as we know - or was it?? In Genesis we read:
20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. (Genesis 3)
So Genesis is saying that all of humanity was to come from Eve's loins. Eve is the only non-Adamic woman created by God for the only (ironically) non-Adamic man Adam. They started having kids after they sinned when both became Adamic thereby giving birth to Adamic children. The first three were named and effectively gave birth to all the biblical heroes that we read of in the scriptures:
1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. (Genesis 4)
25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. (Genesis 4)
These three, however, were not the end of Adam's fathering:
4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: (Genesis 5)
It is very interesting that these other unnamed children were not explicitly identified as Adam ‘knowing his wife'. So was Eve the mother of these children or not? From the ‘Ambiguity Principle' of the bible code, we know that where such a question is left unanswered then the answer will take each meaning in different threads. So we can assume that Eve probably only gave birth to some but not all of these unnamed ones.
So who else could Adam have had children with? Could it have been some pre-Adamic women(True Bible Code Introduction  Pre-adamic man)? Well Adam might have ‘married' one or more of these ones, but they could not have given him children so I think we must discount this possibility. The only other possibility would be some of his own daughters. Now whilst this sounds like anathema to us today and indeed comes up against God's laws on incest, the law was not in place at this time:
6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover [their] nakedness: I [am] the LORD. (Leviticus 18)
Also the genetic problem today would not have been the case at the start of Adamic man. The genes of the early generations of Adamic man would have been near perfect, apart from the aging aspect, so the genetic weakness of mankind would not have featured in God's thinking at that time. If this were the case and Adam did indeed father further children with his daughters, then Genesis 3:20 still holds since Eve would have had to have been the mother of those daughters.
So once again the bible code has helped us to understand a scriptural truth that would not have been possible without it. Adam and Eve were in effect in a polygamous family with Adam having children with his daughters as well as with Eve, his primary wife. This is not a comfortable tale for me to be writing today but it is fully supported by the scriptures of the times with the knowledge of the True Bible Code.
A Father's Wife
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthian congregation, comments that more than one son within the congregation had been reported to have fornicated with his "father's wife":
1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. (1Corinthians 5)
This does NOT refer to the man's mother. Indeed, the term, "father's wife", is a very specific term. Leviticus 18:8 refers to "father's wife" as specifically separate from "mother" in the previous verse of Leviticus 18:7. Note that the "nakedness" of a "mother" is referred to as her own "nakedness" while the "nakedness" of a "father's wife" is referred to as the FATHER's "nakedness":
7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness. (Leviticus 18)
A similar differentiation is observed in Deuteronomy 27:
20 Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife; because he uncovereth his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27)
Two verses later the differentiation between the daughter of the father and the daughter of the mother is drawn thereby confirming that the father may have more than one wife with daughters being conceived from each of the father's wives:
22 Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27)
Theoretically this situation could also exist where a monogamous husband had children with a first wife who died following which he remarried and had further children. However, what the fornicator had done as per 1Corinthians 5:1 was the same sin as that of Jacob/Israel's firstborn son. Reuben had committed the identical sin with Jacob/Israel's concubine, Bilhah:
22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:
23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: (Genesis 35)
Since Reuben was Leah's son his act was of "uncovering his father's nakedness" by fornicating with his "father's wife", Bilhah, for which offence Reuben lost his birthright as firstborn. 1Chronicles 5:1 reveals that this was because Reuben had "defiled his father's bed":
1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. (1Chronicles 5)
Indeed, the reference to "father's wife" in 1Corinthians 5:1 reveals that polygamy was indicated as not uncommon in the New Testament and I cannot see where Paul outlaws this practice in his letter to the Corinthian congregation. So the practise of polygamy is not commented upon whereas Paul deprecates the practise of fornication within a polygamous family.
Timothy Receiving the Epistle of Paul
The Latter Times
Paul's first letter to Timothy makes the following prophesy for ‘the latter times':
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (1Timothy 4)
Paul contended that the "Spirit speaketh expressly" and prophesied of the latter time of "forbidding to marry". So inspired scripture itself foretold of today's churches, "speaking lies in hypocrisy", would forbid the marriages of Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Moses, and David. So it appears that my earlier contention, that the Mormon Church is a false church for denying the doctrine of Joseph Smith, was spot on as now we know it is explicitly confirmed in scripture. However the Mormon Church should not feel alone in this hypocrisy. Pretty much every other church and synagogue today denies the right of its congregation to practice polygamy despite this being expressly allowed in scripture given all the arguments in its favour that I have found thus far. Certainly it is understandable that churches today need to abide by the law of the land in which they reside. Nonetheless their doctrine must support the practise of polygamy (for their congregations but not their priesthood) since they should not be in denial of the requirements of the scriptures. The Fourth True Christian Church of the Lords' Witnesses, probably alone among today's Christian churches, maintains this position.
Hagar and Ishmael by CF Vos
Abraham had three wives according to scripture although Sarah had died by the time that Abraham married Keturah:
3 Then Sar´ai, A´bram's wife, took Ha´gar, her Egyptian maidservant, at the end of ten years of A´bram's dwelling in the land of Ca´naan, and gave her to A´bram her husband as his wife. (Genesis 16)
1 Furthermore, Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Ke•tu´rah.
2 In time she bore him Zim´ran and Jok´shan and Me´dan and Mid´i•an and Ish´bak and Shu´ah. (Genesis 25)
Jehovah stayed silent on Abraham's polygamous family but continued to bless him and his heirs so we can only believe that God condoned such family arrangements. However, it is also made clear that the two later marriages certainly caused strains to appear in the family relationships:
4 Accordingly he had relations with Ha´gar, and she became pregnant. When she became aware that she was pregnant, then her mistress began to be despised in her eyes.
5 At this Sar´ai said to A´bram: "The violence done me be upon you. I myself gave my maidservant over to your bosom, and she became aware that she was pregnant, and I began to be despised in her eyes. May Jehovah judge between me and you."
6 So A´bram said to Sar´ai: "Look! Your maidservant is at your disposal. Do to her what is good in your eyes." Then Sar´ai began to humiliate her so that she ran away from her. (Genesis 16)
5 Later on Abraham gave everything he had to Isaac,
6 but to the sons of the concubines that Abraham had Abraham gave gifts. Then he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he was still alive, eastward, to the land of the East. (Genesis 25)
So Hagar's ability to bear a child to Abram while Sarai was still barren clearly caused significant tension between Abraham's first two wives. Also one understanding from Genesis 25 might indicate that Abraham recognised that there might be prospective tensions caused between Isaac and his other sons from Hagar and Keturah. So from these bible accounts of just one very important bible family, it would appear that, whilst God condoned Abraham's polygamous family, it was made clear through His Word that this was perhaps not the best approach to having a family. This did not, however, prevent God from blessing both Isaac and Ishmael and both were given their names by Jehovah God:
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 And Jehovah's angel went on to say to her: "Return to your mistress and humble yourself under her hand."
10 Then Jehovah's angel said to her: "I shall greatly multiply your seed, so that it will not be numbered for multitude."
11 Further Jehovah's angel added to her: "Here you are pregnant, and you shall give birth to a son and must call his name Ish´ma•el; for Jehovah has heard your affliction. (Genesis 16)
18 After that Abraham said to the [true] God: "O that Ish´ma•el might live before you!"
19 To this God said: "Sarah your wife is indeed bearing you a son, and you must call his name Isaac. And I will establish my covenant with him for a covenant to time indefinite to his seed after him.
20 But as regards Ish´ma•el I have heard you. Look! I will bless him and will make him fruitful and will multiply him very, very much. He will certainly produce twelve chieftains, and I will make him become a great nation.
21 However, my covenant I shall establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this appointed time next year." (Genesis 17)
This sounds like a clear approval for polygamy from God albeit with the aforementioned health warning regarding the relationships and rivalry between wives and offspring. If we examine the above two scriptures a little more deeply we can find much more meaning in them. In Genesis 16, Jehovah is advising Hagar on how she should conduct herself with respect to Sarai. Furthermore, in Genesis 17, Jehovah is very specific with Abraham that He is giving the more senior blessing to Isaac over Ishmael. So in these cases God is having to act as marriage counsellor to one of Abram's wives and is also having to be very clear about the specific heirlooms that each of Abram's first two sons will enjoy. Clearly polygamy presents problems that monogamy would not in that God had to intervene to help Abram ‘manage' his polygamous family. Knowing how difficult it is to manage one feisty wife and three individualistic daughters I can only imagine the difficulty of multiplying that by a factor of three or more!
Perhaps there is a bigger lesson here for all of us. We are all God's children but God has and will bless us all in different ways. We are not aware of the reasons for which we each receive our individual lot in life but it is up to each of us to determine how we will conduct ourselves with those around us in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Keturah is described as ‘Abraham's concubine':
32 Now the sons of Keturah, Abraham's concubine: she bare Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And the sons of Jokshan; Sheba, and Dedan. (1Chronicles 1)
The Chambers dictionary describes a concubine thus: ‘...(in certain polygamous societies) a secondary wife...'. Also we already know that Hagar was Sarai's maidservant so one might expect that Hagar also represented a ‘secondary wife'. This could explain the primary treatment from God that Sarai's son Isaac took over his siblings and might also explain why Sarai was buried in the same place with Abram whereas the burial place of Abram's other two wives is left untold:
10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife. (Genesis 25)
So certainly, in the case of Abraham, it appears that his wives had their formal pecking order within the family unit.
The Holy Bible
The Mormon Position
The next port of call reasonably would be to the Mormon religion to understand where they stand on polygamy today and why. This is from their official web-site at http://www.mormon-polygamy.org/: ‘Polygamy, also known as plural marriage or plurality of wives, is not practised by any active contemporary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1890, the Church (commonly known as the Mormon Church) officially disavowed polygamy as a practice and currently excommunicates any Latter-day Saint who embraces it. Polygamists have no rightful association with the Mormon Church and many, if not most, have never been members of the Mormon Church. Some groups who have split off from the Church practice polygamy, but their practice has nothing to do with the activity of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.'
So they consider polygamy to be an excommunicating offence in today's Mormon Church. But what did they believe before 1890 and what changed their position? It appears that one Joseph Smith, received a revelation concerning polygamy and began the practice. Whilst the timeframe for this is apparently uncertain, the revelation about polygamy was not written down until July 12, 1843, at the request of his brother Hyrum.
According to the revelation, Joseph Smith had asked God why ancient patriarchs and prophets like Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, David were permitted to have more than one wife and why the Mosaic Law, which both Jews and Christians believe to have been inspired by God, makes provisions for polygamy. At what date this prayer and revelation first took place is unknown, though circumstantial evidence suggests that it was as early as 1831.
The Mormon web-site waxes lyrical on the discontinuance of polygamy via the ‘Second Manifesto of 1904'. Despite claims to the contrary, its discontinuance appears to be a purely political motivation. There is not one scriptural passage presented in evidence as a new understanding of the matter. So either Joseph Smith did not have a true revelation and was therefore a false prophet or the Mormon church in 1904 changed its doctrine based on secular expedient political grounds therefore demonstrating itself to be a false church. Both of course could be true! Definitely a lose-lose scenario for anyone claiming the Church of the Latter-Day Saints to be the true church.
So, surprising to the writer, I have learned absolutely nothing of scriptural note from the church that claimed the doctrine of polygamy as their own in the 19th century. This is most disappointing and demonstrates further to the writer that this piece of work really does need doing since it looks as if no serious scriptural work has yet been done on the subject. If I have reached an incorrect conclusion regarding the position of the Mormon Church on the subject I should be delighted if any Latter-Day Saint would contact me and put me straight. Bear in mind, however, that I have reached this view after reading the Mormon's own official web-site on the subject! Oh, by the way Latter-Day Saints, do not expect me to read any of your false writings that were produced after the 1st century; God's Word is my only bible!
Actually the Lords' Witness position of saying little on the subject of polygamy is wholly more acceptable to me already than the Mormon one of writing vast reams of unscriptural heresy! Just in case the reader thinks this has biased my viewpoint already, quite the opposite is the case. Joseph Smith's curiosity on the matter matches my own. In this case, however, I trust that any revelation I get from our Lords will be based on hard and honest endeavour into all of the scriptures that I can uncover to be relevant on the subject. Perhaps we should start out by examining the scriptures relating to the patriarchs of the Hebrew nation, as did Joseph Smith apparently.
Bride in a Beautiful Garment with a Long Veil
The Lords' Witnesses' Position
I guess the first place for me to start is with the Lords' Witnesses' own position on the subject. Unusually, and this is a first as far as I am concerned, the Lords' Witnesses' web-site has one very small paragraph on the subject at:  Bigamy and the Latter Day Saints. The gist of this is that polygamy is allowed in the congregation but not allowed within the priesthood. It recognises, however, that for a family to formally practise polygamy is illegal in most countries and therefore does not recommend it even though it contends that the scriptures support the practise. I have to say, therefore, that this view is what I expect to discover as I complete this paper. However, given the unusual paucity of direct evidence given on the web-site and the variety of views to be found elsewhere, I consider the examination of polygamy to still be a worthwhile exercise. So I continue...
Samson's Wedding - Well we know how that turned out!
Once again, polygamy was not a topic area in which I had very much interest until I recently started watching the television series ‘Big Love' being newly shown on the Sky Atlantic channel in UK. For those of you not in the know, this is a series about the day-to-day trials and tribulations of a polygamous Mormon family in Utah. What it presented to me felt like a very strange way to run a family unit, fraught with confusion and almost unmanageable relationships between spouses and children. From this alone you can tell that polygamy is not something that I would favour at first sight. However I am also aware that our Lord certainly allowed polygamous families in Old Testament times at least, so, in time-honoured fashion, the JLW will tackle the topic of whether God's Holy Word allows for polygamy in this day and age or not in a hopefully open-minded and even-handed manner.
As always I trust that my only interest is to determine the truth of the matter since I do not have a personal agenda to fulfil. I should add that my interest in finally putting finger to keyboard on this issue was fuelled by my reading a couple of the web-sites already in existence on the subject. Two opposing views arrived at two opposing understandings of the same scriptures. Well at least one of these commentators is clearly wrong; even the correct one may well have reached the right conclusion for the wrong reasons since he had the answer before he had the evidence. Let us hope that my impartial view together with the Holy Spirit will allow me to make a correct interpretation of the scriptures on this matter. Clearly someone needs to!
First Century Divorce Certificate
Divorce, Adultery and One Flesh
The Law allowed divorce in the case where the husband has found ‘some uncleanness' in his wife:
1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (Deuteronomy 24)
The meaning of the wife's uncleanness seems a little unclear but the gospels help put us on the more specific item of her fornication. In the Old and New Testament scriptures here I think fornication can only mean some form of lewd behaviour presumably up to and including a full-on adulterous relationship:
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5)
There are also parallel accounts in the other gospels. The above scripture is interesting in that it effectively outlaws divorce except in the case of a woman having fornication with another man outside of the marriage. Excepting in that special case God clearly does not approve of divorce since it is deemed that the divorcing husband is making his ex-wife a target for adultery. This is demonstrated in Matthew 19 where Jesus is telling the Pharisees that divorce was not allowed prior to the Law:
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. (Matthew 19)
No such strictures on remarrying appear to be placed on the divorcing husband so one could certainly draw the conclusion that he could legitimately marry again and again.....or could he? The following verses from Matthew 19 and those from Mark and Luke appear to tell a different tale:
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with [his] wife, it is not good to marry. (Matthew 19)
11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. (Mark 10)
18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. (Luke 16)
The above three gospel passages at face value appear to change the message. They indicate that a divorce will also cause the husband to have committed adultery if he marries another woman having divorced a wife other than for reasons of fornication. Now if polygamy is allowed under the law, which we established previously is the case, then how can a man commit adultery by marrying another, presumably perfectly eligible, spouse? The only conclusion that we can come to is that if a divorced husband wishes to marry again then the next wife presumably takes the place of the wife he has divorced. If that divorce was not legitimate under the law then any subsequent marriage is adulterous in that the replaced wife is still married to her original husband under the law.
Oh and by the way just in case you ladies were getting worried it would appear that you are also allowed to divorce your husbands presumably with the same strictures and only on the same basis of fornication:
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. (Mark 10)
It is also noteworthy that the concept of one flesh is covered in the above accounts. Many commentators mistake this for indicating that a single combination of one man and one woman is meant here. This is not the case. The sole purpose of marriage is to procreate and raise children in a family environment. Each conception represents two people becoming one flesh in their offspring through the combining of their two sets of DNA into a new, single and unique DNA for each of their kids. Therefore a husband of two wives can become one flesh with each of his wives. The concept of one flesh appears several times in both the Old and New Testaments and has been used by most commentators to demonstrate that monogamy is the order of the day:
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2)
This is also referenced in Matthew 19:5-6, Mark 10:8, 1Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:31. A man is "one flesh" with EACH woman with whom he copulates, whether in marriage (wife) or in fornication (harlot). When a married man, who is therefore already "one flesh" with his wife, copulates with another woman, that does not then negate his being "one flesh" with the wife. This is evident by the fact that 1Corinthians 6:16 reveals that a man can be "one flesh" even with a harlot:
16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. (1Corinthians 6)
As even a married man, therefore, can become "one flesh" with a harlot, that proves that a married man can indeed be "one flesh" with more than one woman, without negating his being "one flesh" with his wife. As that is so even with a married man with an harlot, it is thus just as equally true regarding a man being "one flesh" with more than one wife. For further proof, the very next verse provides the context of the plural-to-one aspect:
17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (1Corinthians 6)
As EACH Christian is joined as "one spirit" with the Lord, that then demonstrates the context of the plural-to-one aspect. Namely, as EACH Christian is joined as "one spirit" with the Lord, so too may EACH woman be joined as "one flesh" with one man. For the official position of the Lords' Witnesses on the small matters of marriage and divorce please check out the True Bible Code web-page  Certificate of Divorce .
The Wise and Foolish Virgins
A Parable and a Prophecy
Let us look at the parable in Matthew 25:
1 Then the kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins that took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 Five of them were foolish, and five were discreet.
3 For the foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them,
4 whereas the discreet took oil in their receptacles with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom was delaying, they all nodded and went to sleep.
6 Right in the middle of the night there arose a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Be on YOUR way out to meet him.'
7 Then all those virgins rose and put their lamps in order.
8 The foolish said to the discreet, ‘Give us some of YOUR oil, because our lamps are about to go out.'
9 The discreet answered with the words, ‘Perhaps there may not be quite enough for us and YOU. Be on YOUR way, instead, to those who sell it and buy for yourselves.'
10 While they were going off to buy, the bridegroom arrived, and the virgins that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.
11 Afterwards the rest of the virgins also came, saying, ‘Sir, sir, open to us!'
12 In answer he said, ‘I tell YOU the truth, I do not know YOU.'
This is a symbolic parable and does not relate to a literal, physical marriage to literal, physical women. Whilst it was a parable relating to the fifty percent of humanity that will enter the Kingdom, even so, Jesus would never have described Himself this way in a parable as the bridegroom to five (or ten!) virgins if polygamy was a sin. Now let us look at the prophecy in Isaiah 4:
1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. (Isaiah 4)
That "seven women" would seek to be called by the name of "one man" is clear evidence of polygamy being allowed in the Bible, even in a prophecy such as this passage. Most bible commentators, probably correctly, believe that this prophecy is an image about arrogant churches rather than literally about arrogant women wanting to marry a polygamist. The "seven women" are understood as being seven churches who only want to be CALLED by the name of Christ, to be His brides. They want to feed themselves their own bread, instead of being fed on the bread of Christ. They want to clothe themselves in their own apparel, instead of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Even as the Isaiah 4:1 prophecy is indeed so perceived by most commentators as such a negative prophecy regarding the churches, it does still, nevertheless, demonstrate a key point about the topic of polygamy. That this prophecy would detail the idea of seven women who WANT to marry the one polygamist (in the context of churches unto Christ), that fact itself, that a prophecy of God would use polygamy in such an example, is further proof again that polygamy really is Biblical. That such a prophecy on christian churches should appear in the Old Testamant is also a wonderful statement about the oneness of the biblical texts both Hebrew and Greek. Hmmm....I wonder if the Church of the Latter Day Saints is one of the seven??
Vision of Judgment upon Jerusalem - Ezekiel
Even Jehovah God describes himself in several scriptures as having two wives albeit of a symbolic nature. Surely God could not present this model of His earthly family and condemn mankind's polygamy; would this not be the height of hypocrisy? It has to be said, however, that God also had problems with His ‘wives' although I do not think it is the polygamous nature of the family so much as the imperfection in each of the wives that caused God's displeasure:
1 And the word of Jehovah proceeded to come to me, saying:
2 "Son of man, two women, the daughters of one mother, there happened to be.
3 And they began to prostitute themselves in Egypt. In their youth they committed prostitution. There their breasts were squeezed, and there they pressed the bosoms of their virginity.
4 And their names were O•ho´lah the older one and O•hol´i•bah her sister, and they came to be mine and began to give birth to sons and daughters. And as for their names, O•ho´lah is Sa•mar´i•a, and O•hol´i•bah is Jerusalem. (Ezekiel 23)
8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.
11 And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.
12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.
13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.
14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: (Jeremiah 3)
I would have to admit however that, although symbolic, these marriages do nonetheless appear to break God's commandment in the Law that we reviewed in the previous section. In both these examples the marriages are to sisters! Perhaps I have not yet teased out the full meaning to these symbolisms?
Image: www.biblepicture gallery.com
Moses Teaching the Law to Israel
God's law explicitly protects the first (and previous) concubine(s):
10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. (Exodus 21)
The passage of Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is a specific instruction in the Law Itself to any man with "two wives". If polygamy was a sin, then it would not be possible for a "man to have two wives" in the Law. Furthermore it defines the rules of engagement for sharing the heirloom between the offspring of two wives thereby overtly legalising such an arrangement:
15 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. (Deuteronomy 21)
On a second point of the law , some people apparently confuse the meaning of verse 18 below and assert that it is "proof" of some prohibition of polygamy:
17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. (Leviticus 18)
Actually, of course, it proves the very opposite! Verse 18 merely prohibits a man from marrying two sisters while both of them are alive. Moreover, the phrase, "beside the other", in that verse, rather emphatically makes it clear that this is speaking in terms of the man being married to them at the same time. The fact that this verse is even instructed actually PROVES that polygamy is otherwise a valid marriage possibility! After all, if polygamy was really a sin, it would be completely irrelevant and unnecessary to specify a prohibition against marrying sisters anyway! That is, if it was truthfully a sin for a man to marry more than one wife anyway, then OBVIOUSLY he would not be able to marry two sisters beside each other in their lifetime!
It is additionally important to also note something about the previous verse and its relevance to this verse 18. Namely, the previous verse 17 prohibits a man from uncovering the nakedness of a mother and her daughter and/or grand-daughter. That is also, by such implied instruction, clearly also meaning that it is a prohibition from marrying both mother and her daughter and/or grand-daughter. That makes another proof that polygamy is Biblical by the fact of it even being instructed.
The law also makes provision that a brother-in-law should marry his deceased brother's widow in the event of his brother dying childless:
5 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)
There is no stipulation that the brother-in-law needs to be unmarried. Indeed if all his brothers are married then this commandment would not be capable of being obeyed if polygamy were outlawed!
Idolatry of Solomon by Italian Painter Sebastiano
Solomon et al
The arch-polygamist of all time has to be David's son Solomon who, we are told, had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines:
3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (1Kings 11)
Clearly Solomon multiplied the number of his wives beyond all reason which was prohibited and prophesied that a king would do:
17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17)
The passage in 1Kings 11:3-4 below says that Solomon's heart was not perfect whereas his father David's heart was "perfect with the Lord". If David's heart was in such a condition as judged by God then his marrying at least eighteen wives and concubines was clearly adjudged to be acceptable to the Lord. Expanding on the 1Kings 11 passage we can see that one thousand wives was clearly considered to be an excess which helped turn Solomon's originally wise heart away from God:
1 And King Sol´o•mon himself loved many foreign wives along with the daughter of Phar´aoh, Mo´ab•ite, Am´mon•ite, E´dom•ite, Si•do´ni•an [and] Hit´tite women,
2 from the nations of whom Jehovah had said to the sons of Israel: "YOU must not go in among them, and they themselves should not come in among YOU; truly they will incline YOUR heart to follow their gods." It was to them that Sol´o•mon clung to love [them].
3 And he came to have seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives gradually inclined his heart.
4 And it came about in the time of Sol´o•mon's growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father.
5 And Sol´o•mon began going after Ash´to•reth the goddess of the Si•do´ni•ans and after Mil´com the disgusting thing of the Am´mon•ites.
6 And Sol´o•mon began to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, and he did not follow Jehovah fully like David his father. (1Kings 11)
Without feeling the need to look into any more specific examples of polygamy in the Old Testament scriptures at this juncture, it is worth just commenting on the list of all the polygamists identified by the Bible. It includes holy and unholy men for which there appears to be an occurrence of polygamy described in scripture either directly or by implication and with no evident condemnation from Jehovah God. This list is forty strong thereby demonstrating that polygamy was almost certainly normal in the society of the day: Abdon, Abijah, Abraham, Ahab, Ahasuerus, Ashur, Belshazzar, Benhadad, Caleb, David, Eliphaz, Elkanah, Esau, Ezra, Gideon, Heman, Hosea, Ibzan, Issachar, Jacob, Jair, Jehoiachin, Jehoram, Jerahmeel, Joash, Lamech, Machir, Manasseh, Mered, Moses, Nahor, Rehoboam, Saul, Shaharaim, Shimei, Simeon, Solomon, Terah, Zedekiah, Ziba.
Michal and Friends
Now in some contrast to his forebears, it seems that David took the polygamy approval from God to a somewhat further level. As far as we can make out he had eight named wives and at least ten concubines:
27 Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king's son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife. (1 Samuel 18)
39 David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. (1 Samuel 25)
43 David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives. (1 Samuel 25)
3 And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
4 And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
5 And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron. (2Samual 3)
24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife... (2 Samuel 12)
13 And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David. (2Samual 5)
16 And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house. (2 Samuel 15)
So it appears that David probably had at least eight primary wives and at least ten secondary wives. It also appears that God condoned David's extravagant polygamy although he roundly condemned David's methods in gaining wives particularly in the case of Bathsheba who was originally wife to Uriah the Hittite:
7 Then Nathan said to David: "You yourself are the man! This is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said, ‘I myself anointed you as king over Israel, and I myself delivered you out of the hand of Saul.
8 And I was willing to give you the house of your lord and the wives of your lord into your bosom, and to give you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if it were not enough, I was willing to add to you things like these as well as other things.
9 Why did you despise the word of Jehovah by doing what is bad in his eyes? U•ri´ah the Hit´tite you struck down with the sword, and his wife you took as your wife, and him you killed by the sword of the sons of Am´mon.
10 And now a sword will not depart from your own house to time indefinite, as a consequence of the fact that you despised me so that you took the wife of U•ri´ah the Hit´tite to become your wife.'
11 This is what Jehovah has said, ‘Here I am raising up against you calamity out of your own house; and I will take your wives under your own eyes and give them to your fellowman, and he will certainly lie down with your wives under the eyes of this sun. (2 Samuel 12)
It should be noted that God's condoning of David's polygamy occurred some time after the Law had been given to the Israelites, so this was God's approval that polygamy did not contravene His Laws as given to Moses.
Hebrew Bridal Procession (Ethiopean Also?)
It would appear that even Moses, the one that God chose to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and who was given the law, opted for a miserly two-wife polygamous family albeit again with associated relationship issues. Moses' two wives were Zipporah and the unnamed Ethiopian Woman:
21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. (Exodus 2)
1 And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
2 And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.
3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
4 And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.
5 And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. (Numbers 12)
I have given an extended scriptural account of Moses' marriage to his second wife, the Ethiopian woman. (NB. I should point out that there are many commentators that consider Zipporah and the Ethiopian woman to be one and the same. Clearly I am not of that school since I believe that Zipporah, being a Midianite, came from an Abrahamic line via Keturah and Ethiopians came from a line extending back to Noah's son Ham.) God was at great pains to express His anger with Moses' siblings who complained about this second marriage albeit because it was to an Ethiopian and, therefore, not a Semitic woman as was Zipporah. This was not a mere condoning of Moses' polygamy, it was a complete expression of approval. I have to say that thus far the ‘yes' camp really seems to have my vote at the moment. But let us continue.
Jacob With His Two Wives
Extending the example set by his forebear Abraham, Jacob (the father of the twelve patriarchs of the tribes of Israel) went one better and took four wives - Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah:
21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. (Genesis 29)
28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. (Genesis 29)
4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. (Genesis 30)
9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. (Genesis 30)
In common with Abraham's polygamous problems there was a bad feeling between Leah and Rachel since Leah was forced upon Jacob by his father-in-law, Laban, although he had requested the hand of Rachel not that of Leah:
30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. (Genesis 29)
Also there was considerable rivalry between the two in regard to their child-bearing abilities, although God appears to have intervened again acting as both marriage and family counsellor:
31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. (Genesis 29)
Whilst Rachel clearly had pride of place in Jacob's affections, it would appear that he nonetheless appears to have recognised Leah as his primary wife since she was his only wife that was buried with his forefathers:
31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. (Genesis 49)
So Jacob appears to have followed the path of Abraham in that his polygamy, it also coming with some practical relationship issues, was nonetheless fully blessed by God in that the twelve tribes of Israel were distributed amongst his four wives:
23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun:
24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin:
25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali:
26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram. (Genesis 35)