If God is really against polygamy why does Deuteronomy 21 allow it?

“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: 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.” (Deuteronomy 21:15-16) This verse raises a major question. If God is really against polygamy then why does the law of Moses allow it?

Adding to the argument for polygamy some of the great men of the Old Testament were polygamists. Abraham, Jacob, Caleb, David, and Solomon were Godly men who practiced polygamy. The Bible records no rebuke of these men for their polygamy. Are we to interpret the Bible’s lack of specific condemnation to be approval of polygamy? Is the Biblical definition of marriage not as fixed as modern defenders of marriage would have us believe?

The most compelling evidence that God intended marriage to be between only one man and one woman is found in the words of Jesus. When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, His answer was based upon the original created design of one man and one woman. Jesus considers the marriage of Adam and Eve as the prototype and the standard for all other marriages.

If the words of Jesus teach that God is against polygamy, then what is going on in Deuteronomy 21? The law of Moses contained different types of laws. Some governed temple worship, sacrifices and ceremonial uncleanness. Other laws were civil laws which instructed the the Israelites how to live as a nation. These laws dealt with murder, false accusation, disease, slaves, conquests, poverty and other issues that all governments have to address. The only marriage related laws address suspected adultery, divorce and inheritance in a polygamous family, except for the command of Deuteronomy 17:17. God forbade kings to multiply wives. Thus, David and Solomon were in clear violation of God’s command regarding marriage.

The law of Deuteronomy 21 gives commands regarding polygamy to ethically address one problem that would arise when a man was married to more than one woman. Polygamy was part of the culture. Those with power and wealth would often have multiple wives. A man would likely leave his inheritance to the son of his favored wife instead of to the eldest son of his household. This law was intended to protect against favoritism in the inheritance.

Though the Bible does record instances of Godly men being polygamists, the majority were not. Noah, Moses, Joshua, Isaac, Joseph and many other great names of the Old Testament were unmarried or married to only one wife. In short, polygamy may have been permitted, but it was never the standard for marriage.

Why did God not just forbid polygamy outright? Why not punish the polygamist and invalidate all polygamous marriages? We can only speculate on why God did not give more clear prohibitions against polygamy, but the ancient attitudes towards women would have made punishing polygamy incredibly hard on the wives. A woman who had been married and divorced was shamed. She would have faced destitution and scorn. It was better for her to remain in the marriage, protected and cared for, than to be cast out to her shame and poverty.

At times the Old Testament law gave instructions regarding things that God did not approve of. Jesus told the Pharisees that God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts. God disapproves of divorce, but gave instructions in the law of Moses to guide it. Polygamy is much the same. God created marriage to be between one man and one woman, but He gave a law concerning inheritance in a polygamous family to protect the rights of the children.

Advertisements

How should Christians respond to the recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage?

By this time Christians all across America have heard about and responded to the recent decision by the Supreme Court. Tens of thousands of words have been written on this issue, before and since the decision to make same sex marriage legal for the nation. A wide range of responses have been suggested. For some professing Christians, the response has been joyful. For many others, the response has been anything but glad. Those who have followed this ministry know that Everlasting Truths affirms the Biblical position that homosexuality in all forms is sin. Same sex marriage is not something to be celebrated but mourned.

A full discussion of the Biblical response would need to address several different levels of relationships. A few hundred words does not allow for a full discussion, so this article will consider the response of a Christian to a government which has completely run off the moral rails. Before getting into the Biblical instructions, it is worth noting the historical setting of the books of the New Testament. The Roman Empire was filled with depravity the level of which America has not yet reached. Things that would today be seen as heinous and criminal were accepted as normal throughout the Roman Empire. To those who opposed the wickedness of Rome, very few options were available. Dissent could easily result in imprisonment. Christians found themselves persecuted throughout the empire. The instructions of the Bible were not written to a Christian people in a Christian nation. They were written to Christians in the middle of an empire full of immorality and persecution.

To the individual Christian the Bible makes a number of very clear statements. Two passages summarize the main points of how a Christian should respond. 1 TImothy 2 teaches that Christians are to pray for the government. The Christian must pray earnestly and diligently for every level of governmental leadership. The Bible does not teach the believe to pray for power or prosperity in the nation. The prayers of the Christian are prayers for the promotion of peace in the nation and peace for the Christian so he can live a Godly life without opposition and so the gospel can be spread without hindrance.

Romans 13 teaches that every government, even a vile, wicked government, is of God. Therefore, submit to the government. Though in this matter, and maybe others down the road, the Christian will have to disobey the laws of the land, this does not excuse the Christian from obedience to the all the rest of the nations laws. A Christian cannot justly refuse to pay his taxes because the government promote wickedness. Submit to the government in all areas save those which would directly cause the Christian to violate the Word of God.

Honor the government. Every individual in leadership in the nation has been given his authority by God and is to be treated with respect and reverence. Though Christians should abhor certain morals, must oppose some decisions and will disagree with many policies, all such differences must be expressed in a respectful fashion. The Christian is commanded to show honor and respect to the individuals entrusted with rule in our land.

While the Christian must at all times honor the nation’s leaders and in most cases must obey the civil laws, the Christian cannot obey the mandates to support same sex unions. No Christian should support same sex marriage, regardless of the dictates of justices or the consequences to Christians. Fines and imprisonments are real possibilities. No matter the threats, Christians cannot go along with the flow. The Christian must continue to speak the truth, no matter the consequences. “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)

What does the Bible say about divorce?

Divorce is a major problem in our nation. The current statistics suggests half of all couples who marry will get a divorce. Though the recent marriage debates have been focused on homosexual marriage, divorce is an issue dealt with in the Bible. The Bible addresses divorce in clear and concise language. The Bible also makes a couple statements about divorce that are not immediately clear and understandable. In an article of this nature space and time do not allow a thorough discussion of all the passages related to divorce. Therefore, the focus in this particle article will be the clear Bible passages about divorce. The more difficult questions and passages relating to divorce will be left to be addressed by themselves in later articles.

God designed marriage to be permanent. Genesis 2 tells that God created man, woman and marriage. In God’s creation work He gave the parameters for marriage and by which all marriages are still bound. Genesis 2:21 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they two shall be one flesh.” In Mark 10 Jesus is asked about the lawfulness of divorce for any reason. In His answer, Jesus quotes Genesis 2 and then adds this statement, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put assunder.” Marriage is designed by God to be a permanent union of one man and one woman. Divorce is a violation of that Divine direction. The original created order still orders marriage.

Because of man’s sin God does at times permit divorce. The question about divorce brought to Jesus in Mark 10 found it’s Biblical support in Deuteronomy 24. The Old Testament law provided an orderly means for a man to divorce his wife if he found some uncleanness in her. The law of Moses provided reasonable instructions for civil divorces to maintain order in the state and to provide protection for those involved in divorce. These Old Testament instructions do not require or approve of divorce, but give direction for orderly civil conduction a difficult matter. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus refers to Deuteronomy 24 and tells the uncleanness for which divorce is allowable. “Whoseover shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.” Jesus says divorce is permissible in cases of sexual unfaithfulness.

One other Biblical passage seems to permit divorce, 1 Corinthians 7. In that chapter Paul says that in the case of an unsaved spouse leaving a saved spouse, the Christians is to let him (or her) go. The Christian is not to seek a divorce, but if the unbeliever divorces him, the Christian is not to oppose it. Sexual unfaithfulness and an unbeliever’s desertion are the only two exceptions found in the Bible which permit divorce. These exceptions are not indications of general approval for divorce, but provide a measure of protection to more or less innocent spouses in a couple specific cases.

God never commands divorce, even in those cases in which divorce is permitted. The one married to an adulterer is not bound by the Bible to get a divorce. In fact, the Bible gives specific examples of individuals who were married to serial adulterers and remained married to the glory of God. The believer was never to court divorce from an unbeliever. He was instead to promote a healthy, whole union for the eternal benefit of the children and the unsaved spouse. Divorced is at times permitted but never commanded.

In the end the issue when discussing marriage and divorce is not an issue of happiness, freedom, tolerance and mental health. The issue is what God’s Word says. God designed every marriage to be permanent. Man’s continued sin corrupts that design, but the plan remains unchanged. Every marriage is a union put together by God and should not be torn apart by any act of man. Though God gives a couple exceptions allowing for divorce, He does so for the protection of marriage and not the frivolous dissolution of the marriage covenant upon any pretext.

Why did God allow people in the Old Testament to have more than one wife?

He didn’t. God established the standard for marriage on the day He created man. God made one man and one woman. He put them together in the garden as man and wife. The Bible tells us because of God’s created design, “A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:25) The design of marriage, one man with one woman, has not changed since creation. The Bible also tells how man sinned and soon began to operate in opposition to God’s design for marriage. As a result, we find in the Bible men like Jacob, David and Solomon who had multiple wives and concubines. This fact is often brought up in arguments to show that Christians who insist marriage is a permanent union between one man and one woman are being foolish. According to this line of arguing, the Bible does not insist on one man-one woman marriage. Does the Bible allow for a different definition of marriage? Absolutely not. Certainly there were men in the Bible who did not marry according to God’s plan and design. Those men were not always condemned in the Bible for their disobedience. The lack of direct condemnation of a person’s example does not prove God did not view that action as sin. We can find in the Bible a number of examples of disobedience that are not directly condemned. For example, in the book of Judges a man killed a woman and cut her into pieces. The Bible does not explicitly condemn that specific act of murder, so are we to assume that the Bible actually approves of murder despite it’s clear commands to the contrary? Of course not. That would be foolish. Because people in the Bible do things that are forbidden elsewhere in the Bible does not mean the Bible has changed and now God approves of their actions. Second, those who make the case that God somehow approves of polygamy because he allowed it in the Old Testament make it sound like the Old Testament is filled with polygamists. The fact is, there are very few saints in the Old Testament who were polygamists. Two very common examples are David and Solomon. God did not approve of David’s sin, nor did He excuse it. God had commanded in Deuteronomy 17:17 that the kings of Israel were not to have multiple wives. David is called a man after God’s own heart, yet we know he had several wives. David and Solomon were in clear disobedience of that command and they paid an awful price for their disobedience. Because of David’s polygamy, his family was ripped apart and he had to deal with open rebellion by one son and covert rebellion by one of his generals. Solomon’s case was even worse. Solomon’s many wives led him away from the worship of God into idolatry. One other example is the patriarch Jacob. Jacob’s multiple wives are actually a part of his punishment for deceiving his father Isaac and result in great turmoil within his family. The Bible clearly defines marriages as one man permanently joined to one woman. The Bible never approves of polygamy and shows abundant examples of the dire consequences when we fail to follow God’s design.