Biblical Polygyny (part 4): Common Objections to Polygyny

CAUTION! This article contains many Scriptures which will likely require you to reconsider what you may have believed the Bible says about marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual conduct and related matters. If you are not completely committed to placing the written Word of Elohim above all other sources of information, it is highly recommended that you NOT continue reading this article.

Objections to Polygyny

     By looking at both the Tanak and the Messianic Scriptures, we have seen what kind of sexual relations are acceptable to Elohim and what kind of sexual relations aren't. Nevertheless, many people are still under the impression that somehow these laws regarding marriage were changed after Yahushua. Did the New Covenant annul polygyny? Let's look at the law which both Yahushua and Paul referred to in the Messianic Scriptures.
     For the married woman has been bound by Torah to the living husband, but if the husband dies, she is released from the Torah concerning her husband. So then, while her husband lives, she shall be called an adulteress if she becomes another man's. But if her husband dies, she is free from that part of the Torah, so that she is not an adulteress, having become another man's. (Romans 7:2-3, The Scriptures)
     This speaks volumes, both in what it says and in what it doesn't say. If there were no other Scriptures teaching that a man may have multiple wives simultaneously, this one law teaches this truth. Clearly, Elohim did not change His mind concerning polygyny in the Messianic Scriptures. If He had meant to change His definitions for what form of marriage is acceptable under the New Covenant, He would have had to change the law pertaining to the wife being bound to her husband, as well as extending that law to the husband. It is not inferred. It is omitted because Elohim established and regulated polygyny in His Word and He did not change it.

"One" Wife

     When first faced with a direct presentation of the Scriptural basis of Biblical Polygyny, fellow believers often try to refute this truth by referring to what are known as the three "one wife" verses.
     Trustworthy is the word: If a man longs for the position of an overseer, he desires a good work. An overseer, then, should be blameless, the husband of one [3391] wife, sober, sensible, orderly, kind to strangers, able to teach, not given to wine, no brawler, but gentle, not quarrelsome, no lover of money, one who rules his own house well, having his children in subjection with all reverence, for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how shall he look after the assembly of Elohim? (1 Timothy 3:1-5, The Scriptures)

     Let attendants be the husbands of one [3391] wife, ruling children and their own houses well. (1 Timothy 3:12, The Scriptures)

     If anyone is unreprovable, the husband of one [3391] wife, having believing children not accused of loose behaviour, or unruly. (Titus 1:6, The Scriptures)
     These three "one wife" verses, of course, are only instructions to overseers (bishops), attendants (deacons) and elders, and not to any others in the assemblies, or indeed to anyone else at all. Nevertheless, they certainly could be seen as a restriction that prevents multiple wives, or even divorce and remarriage, for those in leadership. Yet each of these verses suggest that having a family (wives and children) gives one experience in how to rule or manage or govern. These Scriptures might simply be saying that these leaders should be husbanding a wife and children, not necessarily ONLY one wife.

     In each of these "one wife" references, the word translated as 'one' is actually the Greek word 'mia' (Strong's #3391). This same Greek word (#3391, 'mia') can also be found in other Messianic Scriptures, where it is translated differently:
     Now after the Sabbath, toward dawn on the first [3391] day of the week, Miryam from Magdala and the other Miryam came to see the tomb. (Matthew 28:1, The Scriptures)

     When therefore it was evening on that day, the first [3391] day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the taught ones met, for fear of the Yehudim, Yahushua came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace to you." (John 20:19, The Scriptures)

     Reject a divisive man after the first [3391] and second warning (Titus 3:10, The Scriptures)
     The word mia can be translated to mean either "one thing", "a thing" or "first thing", depending on the context of its usage. Here is the definition of the Greek word mia, according to the Strong's Concordance:
3391. mia, mee-ah; irreg. fem. of 1520; one or first:- a (certain), + agree, first, one, x other.
     In light of all the other Scriptures permitting polygyny, those "one wife" verses could simply establish the principle that bishops, deacons and elders should not be divorced, and they should still be married to their "first" wife, namely the "wife of their youth" (Malachi 2:14,16). Clearly, translating mia as either "first" or "a" fits the context better, while bringing it into harmony with all the other Scriptures. For example, Revelation chapter 6 tells us about seven seals:
     And I saw when the Lamb opened one [3391] of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, like a sound of thunder, "Come and see." (Revelation 6:1, The Scriptures)
     Revelation 6:3 states that the Lamb "opened the second seal". Revelation 6:5 states that He "opened the third seal". Revelation 6:7 states that He "opened the fourth seal". Revelation 6:9 states that He "opened the fifth seal". Revelation 6:12 states that He "opened the sixth seal". Revelation 8:1 states that He "opened the seventh seal".

     Considering that seals two through seven were all descriptively mentioned by number, and that seal one was referred to as mia, which can be translated either as "one" or "first", perhaps a better translation of the word mia within the context of Revelation 6:1 would be "first", since this would be consistent with the manner that the other seals were described when they were opened. Revelation 6:1a might therefore better read, "And I saw when the Lamb opened the first seal".

     There are many other places in Scripture where the word mia is translated as "first" or "a", but the point is that those "one wife" verses could just as easily be translated as "first wife" or "a wife" instead of "one wife". Considering the reference to family (wives and children) in each of these verses, it seems that the plain sense meaning in these Scriptures is that the man must have been married.

"Own Wife" Versus "Own Husband"

     Another common objection to polygyny in the New Covenant is found in 1 Corinthians 7:2.
     But because of whoring, let each one have his own [1438] wife, and let each woman have her own [2398] husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2, The Scriptures)

     and because of the whoredom let each man have his own [1438] wife, and let each woman have her proper [2398] husband (1 Corinthians 7:2, YLT)
     Some critics of polygyny believe that the wording "his own" and "her own" in this verse suggests monogamy over polygyny. It is sometimes argued that the phrase "let each woman have her own husband" implies that she must have ownership of her husband. Therefore, they reason, the husband couldn't be "owned" by another wife at the same time, since he would then be shared property.

     However, as we can see above, there are actually two different Greek words being translated as "own" in this verse. In fact, in the Young's Literal Translation, the original Greek word idios is more accurately translated as "proper", rather than "own" as in most English translations, signifying the different meaning. Again for clarity, let's refer to the Strong's Concordance for the definitions of these Greek words:
1438. heautou, heh-ow-too (incl. all the other cases); from a reflex. pron. otherwise obsol. and the gen. (dat. or acc.) of 846; him- (her-, it-, them-, also [in conjunction with the pers. pron. of the other persons] my-, thy-, our-, your-) self (selves), etc.: -alone, her (own, -self), (he) himself, his (own), itself, one (to) another, our (thine) own (-selves), + that she had, their (own, own selves), (of) them (-selves), they, thyself, you, your (own, own conceits, own selves, -selves).

2398. idios, id'-ee-os; of uncert. affin.; pertaining to self, i.e. one's own; by impl. private or separate:- x his acquaintance, when they were alone, apart, aside, due, his (own, proper, several), home (her, our, thine, your) own (business), private (-ly), proper, severally, their (own).
     There is a distinction between these two Greek words, signifying two types of ownership. Heautou implies sole "exclusive" ownership, that is, one entity solely owning a particular thing without sharing that ownership with another. Idios, by contrast, implies shared joint ownership, that is, ownership of a particular thing by more than one person. There is no word in the English language for exclusive ownership (heautou) versus non-exclusive ownership (idios), which is why they are both usually translated into English as "own".

     We have previously seen in Scripture that a wife is "owned" (heautou) exclusively by her husband and is not shared with other men, whereas a husband is "owned" (idios) jointly by his wives and is shared by each of them. To gain a clearer understanding of how this applies here, consider the same verse in context:
     But because of whoring, let each one have his own [1438] EXCLUSIVE wife, and let each woman have her own [2398] NOT NECESSARILY EXCLUSIVE husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2, The Scriptures)
     Another way to look at this is that Heautou stresses the exclusivity of the possession (the "owning"), whereas idios stresses the exclusivity of the relationship (the "being owned" or the "belonging to", as it were). In other words, a man might say, "That is MY wife, she belongs to me and me ALONE". A woman, on the other hand, might say, "That is MY husband; I belong to him and him ALONE".

     For a clearer understanding of the usages and meanings of these terms, we'll need to see how these words are actually used elsewhere in Scripture. First, let's look at some examples of heautou:
     "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, and his own [heautou] life too, he is unable to be My taught one." (Luke 14:26, The Scriptures)

     And not having grown weak in belief, he did not consider his own [heautou] body, already dead, being about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb (Romans 4:19, The Scriptures)

     Love is patient, is kind, love does not envy, love does not boast, is not puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not seek its own [heautou], is not provoked, reckons not the evil (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, The Scriptures)

     For each one shall bear his own [heautou] burden. (Galatians 6:4, The Scriptures)
     "His own life", "his own body", "seek its own", "his own burden" - all implying exclusive ownership of the object in question. Now let's look at some examples of idios:
     And entering into a boat, He passed over, and came to His own [idios] city. (Matthew 9:1, The Scriptures)

     For Yahushua Himself witnessed that a prophet is without appreciation in his own [idios] country. (John 4:44, The Scriptures)

     And when this sound came to be, the crowd came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own [idios] language. (Acts 2:6, The Scriptures)

     Who are you that judges another's servant? To his own [idios] master he stands or falls. But he shall be made to stand, for Elohim is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4, The Scriptures)

     And the messengers who did not keep their own principality, but left their own [idios] dwelling, He has kept in everlasting shackles under darkness for the judgment of the great day. (Jude 1:6, The Scriptures)
     In each case of idios, the concept of a shared, common or joint ownership is understood. When Yahushua went to his own city, he jointly "owned" it with the other inhabitants of that city. Other residents also termed that city their own (idios). The same is true in each of the examples, whether country, language, master or dwelling. Each of these was jointly "owned" by others, which they shared. It is clear from the context of the verses that these people didn't exclusively "own" the country, or the languages, or the master, or the dwelling. These things were obviously shared with others.

     Therefore, the clear implication of 1 Corinthians 7:2, as determined from the usage of the Greek words heautou and idios in various Scriptures, is that while a wife is not allowed to be owned by more than one husband, a husband, on the other hand, is allowed to be owned by more than one wife. If a husband were owned by more than one wife, the ownership of him by those wives would be shared, common or joint ownership, as demonstrated by the term idios in 1 Corinthians 7:2.

     We understand that a master can have more than one servant, but a servant can only have one master. We also understand that the husband is called to be the leader of his family. But just as "no man can serve two masters", no wife can serve two husbands. A woman cannot have two husbands because she cannot follow two leaders. But a man can have two wives because it is perfectly possible to lead more than one person. This principle can be easily understood using the imagery, "A head can have more than one member, but a member cannot have more than one head".

     We've already established that the Greek word 'gune' (Strong's #1135) can be properly translated into English as either "woman", "women", "wife" or "wives", depending on the context. This is relevent because 1 Corinthians 7:2 could just as correctly be translated as:
     But because of whoring, let each one have his own wives, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2, The Scriptures)
     In light of the correct understanding of this passage, the original Greek word gune could legitimately be translated into English as either "wife" or "wives", given the established context of ownership.

One Flesh

     Some people have claimed that the passage regarding "one flesh" in Genesis 2 somehow rules out polygyny. While the text does show something of the fundamental marriage pattern, it mentions neither monogyny or polygyny. Let's take a look at each of these "one flesh" Scriptures:
     And the man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one is called 'woman', because she was taken out of man". For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24, The Scriptures)
     The first occurrence of the term "one flesh" in the Bible is a prophetic declaration concerning the sexual aspect of marriage and the union of Messiah with His people. In this first recorded marriage in Scripture, the pattern is that husband and wife become one flesh in sexual intercourse. These words were written by Moses, who not only recorded Genesis but also the Torah. Moses, who was expected to conform to Elohim's highest standard, did not see a contradiction between polygyny and the "one flesh" reference of Eden. In fact, Moses himself had two wives, as we saw earlier.
     And He answering, said to them, "Did you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what Elohim has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6, The Scriptures)

     "However, from the beginning of the creation, Elohim 'made them male and female'. 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh', so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what Elohim has joined together, let man not separate." (Mark 10:6-9, The Scriptures)
     In these parallel verses from Matthew and Mark, we find Yahushua making reference to the same Scripture from Genesis 2, describing the "one flesh" relationship between man and woman. He was not discussing polygyny, but rather He was answering a question about divorce. He never mentioned polygyny at all, although He certainly would have done so if Elohim were making such a radical move away from something already written in His Word.

     In fact, Yahushua had the perfect opportunity to speak against polygyny, if ever He was going to, when He was questioned about levirate marriage. Under the Torah, if a man died without an heir, his brother was required to marry the dead man's wife and raise the first son as heir to the dead brother. This law relied on polygyny, because in most cases, the living brother would already be married and the dead brother's wife would have to come into the family by a polygynous marriage.
     On that day Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying, "Teacher, Mosheh said that if anyone should die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise offspring for his brother. And there were with us seven brothers, and the first died after he had married, and having no children, left his wife to his brother. In the same way the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died too. At the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven shall she be - for all had her"? And Yahushua answering, said to them, "You go astray, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of Elohim. For in the resurrection they do not marry, nor are they given in marriage, but are as messengers of Elohim in heaven." (Matthew 22:23-30, The Scriptures)
     If Yahushua was going to institute a change regarding polygynous marriage, this is where we would expect to find it. Yet He made no attempt to correct or change this practice as He had corrected His questioners about divorce. His choice to refrain from doing so allowed levirate marriage, along with its resulting polygyny, to stand as a legitimate component of the Jewish social structure.

     But does the statement "the two shall become one flesh" mean that a man can be "one flesh" with only one woman? Certainly, he can physically only be "one flesh" with one woman at a time. But notice how Paul warns against becoming "one flesh" with a whore. One could certainly do this while being married to another.
     Do you not know that your bodies are members of Messiah? Shall I then take the members of Messiah and make them members of a whore? Let it not be! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a whore is one body? For He says, "The two shall become one flesh". And he who is joined to the Master is one spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:15-17, The Scriptures)
     Paul understood that the passage in Genesis was a statement concerning sexuality. When you think about it, prostitution is really a worldly substitution for marriage. What if two different men lay with the whore? Weren't they both "one flesh" with her, or are we not to believe the Scriptures? Paul's usage of the phrase "the two shall become one flesh" demonstrates that it was and is a purely sexual statement, regardless whatever it may point to in terms of spiritual things.
     For no one ever hated his own flesh, but feeds it and cherishes it, as also the Master does the assembly. Because we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh". This secret is great, but I speak concerning Messiah and the assembly. (Ephesians 5:29-32, The Scriptures)
     When Paul used this statement in his letter to the Ephesian believers, he showed that the relationship between the Messiah and the assembly of believers was a marriage relationship. Paul was using this spiritual reality as an example to further define how the husbands were to love their wives and how the wives were to respond to their husbands.

     This marriage relationship consists of one bridegroom, the Messiah, married to a plurality of individuals, collectively called the bride of Messiah. The bride is comprised of several individuals who both individually and collectively call the Messiah their spiritual bridegroom.
     "Then the reign of the heavens shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five foolish. Those who were foolish, having taken their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their containers with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom took time, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard, 'See, the bridegroom is coming, go out to meet him!' Then all those maidens rose up and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us of your oil, because our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, 'No, indeed, there would not be enough for us and you. Instead, go to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. And later the other maidens also came, saying, 'Master, Master, open up for us!' But he answering, said, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, because you do not know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Adam is coming" (Matthew 25:1-13, The Scriptures)
     What do you think the bridegroom did with his virgins? "Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast". They went in and were joined together with Him to become ONE FLESH! As a pattern, this parable teaches us that the marriage of the Bridegroom is polygynous. Therefore, it is within the divine nature for men and women in Messiah to be polygynous.

     Which of the virgins becomes "one flesh" with the Bridegroom? Obviously all of them! Just as Jacob was "one flesh" with Rachel, he was also "one flesh" with Leah, "one flesh" with Bilhah, and "one flesh" with Zilpah. Scriptually, a husband is "one flesh" with his first wife, and if he takes a second wife, he and the second wife are "one flesh" as well. Therefore each wife becomes "one flesh" with her husband.

Law of the Land

     One of the final accusations leveled against polygynous marriage is that it is illegal to have more than one wife in Western countries, as well as many Eastern ones. Since we are to obey the law of the land, polygyny should not be practiced.
     Let every being be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from Elohim, and the authorities that exist are appointed by Elohim. (Romans 13:1, The Scriptures)

     Be subject to every institution of man because of the Master..." (1 Peter 2:13a, The Scriptures)
     First of all, we need to keep in mind that there are believers throughout the world living in countries where polygyny is recognized as a legitimate form of marriage. Scripture does not condemn the man for having more than one wife, and neither should we.

     However, the argument that believers are bound to every civil law is flawed. Preaching the Gospel of Messiah is illegal in some countries too. It is illegal for believers to assemble to worship in them, or build churches, or hold baptismal services. It is illegal in some countries to convert a Muslim. There are many laws in many countries that would make preaching, let alone living the Gospel, impossible without breaking the law.

     We are to be subject to our higher powers, but only to a point. The first believers were banned by the Talmudic Jewish leaders of the day from preaching the Gospel of Messiah, but they broke these rules nonetheless. For their defiance, they were dragged into religious courts (the Jewish equivalent of the Catholic Inquisition), charged with rebellion against the local authorities, beaten, and sometimes murdered. What was the response of these disciples?
     And Kepha and the other emissaries answering, said, "We have to obey Elohim rather than men". (Acts 5:29, The Scriptures)
     Let's cut to the chase here. We should not obey man's law when it conflicts with Elohim's law. We should certainly obey the governing authorities, UNLESS their laws unjustly contradict the laws of Elohim. After all, there are things that belong to Elohim and not to the government. Our souls belong to Him, for one. If we were to literally obey every law of man, then believers would be required to disregard the direct commandment of Yahushua to preach the Gospel to every creature. Another example might be that the government could force ministers to marry gay and lesbian couples, or force obstetricians to give abortions on demand. We need to remember that Elohim's law is the highest law. Marriages are not something that should be given to the government.
     Render therefore to all what is due to them: tax to whom tax is due, toll to whom toll, fear to whom fear, respect to whom respect. (Romans 13:7, The Scriptures)
     What Paul is saying here is that while we have certain obligations to the government, they are not absolute. Our minds, hearts and spirits belong to Elohim and not to the state. It is our choice to whom we give these things. Even if we despise and hate a government because it is wicked, we are nevertheless to continue to pay taxes and levies (even if we believe they are unrighteous) and to show respect for the offices of state (even if we believe the officers are evil). In short, we are to acknowledge the need for law and order of a secular type, even if it is poor or plain evil. A communist or fascist government is still better than no government at all where anarchy prevails.

     If our governments order us to deny the Law of Elohim, we are under absolutely no obligation to obey them. The Roman Empire tried to force the first believers to worship the Roman gods in addition to their own and they rightly refused and paid with their lives. We are not commanded to unconditionally obey every statute of government, because we should obey Elohim before men. Polygyny may be 'illegal' in most countries, but so what? Governments do not have the right to legislate marriage in the first place.
     Therefore, what Elohim has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:6, The Scriptures)
     Marriages have been happening since Adam and Eve, way before governments came about. As we see in Genesis 24:67, Isaac simply took Rebekah into a tent and became one with her, and they were married. Marriages are between the husband, the wife and Elohim, NOT the husband, the wife, Elohim and the government. A marriage is made when a man takes a woman and becomes one with her, physically and spiritually.

     Taking that into account, believers do not have to break the law in the first place. Bigamy is when a person is 'legally' married to more than one spouse. It is the act of having government-recognized existing marriages with more than one living spouse at the same time. Polygynists do not need to 'legally' marry their wives in the government's eyes, but rather marry them in Elohim's eyes. A person does not need the state's license or permission to marry. Why should we need the state's permission to participate in something that Elohim instituted? A license, by definition, confers permission to do something. The state cannot grant the right to marry, because that right comes from Elohim alone.

     Some believers have actually said, "If someone is married without a marriage license, then they aren't really married." Given the fact that some states have legalized same-sex marriages, we need to reconsider our position. If a man and a man marry with a state marriage license, and a man and woman marry without a state marriage license, who is really married? This contention that people are not really married unless they obtain a marriage license reveals just how Statist we are in our thinking. We need to start thinking Biblically. If fellow believers say that such a person is living in fornication or adultery, you can politely tell them that they do not know their Bibles and educate them as to the truth.

Continued in part 5...




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