An Open Letter to the Christian Church Regarding Polygyny

     We at Righteous Warriors receive lots of e-mails from fellow believers, some that believe in the lawfulness of polygyny and some that believe it is sinful. As a fellow believer in Messiah, I realize that not everybody is at the exact same point in their spiritual walk or has the same level of understanding on different matters. One may have a very solid knowledge of baptism, but lack a strong understanding of justification. Another may have studied the gifts of the spirit in detail, but have a limited understanding of the law.

     I only mention this because this particular subject material has a tendency to create strife and division in the Body, precisely because it can threaten our personal beliefs or traditions, whatever they may be. Rather than argue or debate the finer points of Scripture, I thought it would be helpful to establish some points that BOTH sides have in common; those Scriptures that BOTH points of view can agree on. My prayer is that we become unified in our Scriptural understanding of these passages and find some common ground, even if we cannot agree on every interpretation.

     I would also like to clarify that this letter is directed solely to mature fellow believers within the Church, those who are completely sold-out to our Master and Savior and His Word above all other sources of authority. I have no interest in discussing or debating these Scriptures from a cultural or secular point of view, but simply from a Biblical and Godly point of view. I ask my fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah to carefully check the following Scripture references to ensure that these facts are not in dispute:
  • Statement of Fact #1: There are several explicit commands from God in Scripture to not commit adultery.

         You do not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14, The Scriptures)

         And a man who commits adultery with the wife of another man, who commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, the adulterer and the adulteress shall certainly be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10, The Scriptures)

         You do not commit adultery. (Deuteronomy 5:18, The Scriptures)

         When a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman. Thus you shall purge the evil from Yisra'el. When a girl who is a maiden is engaged to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and shall stone them to death with stones, the girl because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he has humbled his neighbor's wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 22:22-24, The Scriptures)

         You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone looking at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28, The Scriptures)

  • Statement of Fact #2: There are several actual examples in Scripture of adultery.

         Re'uben, you are my first-born, my power and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of exaltation and the excellency of power. Boiling like water, you do not excel, because you went up to your father's bed, then you defiled it -- he went up to my couch. (Genesis 49:3-4, The Scriptures). [NOTE: The reference here is back to Genesis 35:22, where it says: And it came to be, when Yisra'el dwelt in that land, that Re'uben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine.]

         He who commits adultery with a woman lacks heart; He who does it destroys his own life. He finds smiting and shame, and his reproach is not wiped away. For jealousy enrages a man, and he does not spare in the day of vengeance. (Proverbs 6:32-34, The Scriptures)

         Why should I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken Me and sworn by those that are not mighty ones. When I had filled them up, they then committed adultery and they thronged to the house of a whore. They were like well-fed horses, every one neighed after his neighbor's wife. (Jeremiah 5:7-8, The Scriptures)

         "because they have done wickedness in Yisra'el, and committed adultery with their neighbors wives, and have spoken a word in My Name falsely which I have not commanded them. And I am He who knows, and a witness," declares Yahweh. (Jeremiah 29:23, The Scriptures)

         The wife who commits adultery who takes strangers instead of her husband! (Ezekiel 16:32, The Scriptures)

         So is he who goes in to his neighbour's wife; None who touches her goes unpunished. (Proverbs 6:29, The Scriptures)

         He who commits adultery with a woman lacks heart; He who does it destroys his own life. (Proverbs 6:32, The 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)

  • Statement of Fact #3: There are numerous examples in Scripture of men with multiple wives (polygyny), but NO examples of women with multiple husbands (polyandry).

         And Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her female servant, the Mitsrite, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Kena'an. (Genesis 16:3, The Scriptures)

         And Abraham took another wife, whose name was Qeturah. (Genesis 25:1, The Scriptures)

         but to the sons of the concubines whom Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Yitshaq, eastward, to the land of the east. (Genesis 25:6, The Scriptures)

         And when Esaw was forty years old, he took as wives Yehudith the daughter of Be'eri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. (Genesis 26:34, The Scriptures)

         and Esaw went to Yishma'el and took Mahalath the daughter of Yishma'el, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebayoth, to be his wife, besides the wives he had. (Genesis 28:9, The Scriptures)

         And in the morning it came to be, that see, it was Le'ah. So he said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rahel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?" And Laban said, "It is not done this way in our place, to give the younger before the first-born. Complete the week of this one, then we give you this one too, for the service which you shall serve with me still another seven years." And Ya'aqob did so and completed her week. The he gave him his daughter Rahel too, as wife. (Genesis 29:25-28, The Scriptures)

         And she said, "See, my female servant Bilhah; go in to her, and let her bear for me, and let me be built up from her as well." So she gave him Bilhah her female servant as wife, and Ya'aqob went in to her. (Genesis 30:3-4, The Scriptures)

         And Le'ah saw that she had ceased bearing, and she took Zilpah her female servant and gave her to Ya'aqob as wife. (Genesis 30:9, The Scriptures)

         And Gid'on had seventy sons who were his own offspring, for he had many wives. (Judges 8:30, The Scriptures)

         And he had two wives, the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. (1 Samuel 1:2, The Scriptures)

    [There are far too many verses in the Scriptures that demonstrate multiple wives for one husband, but if further references are needed, see King David (Michal, Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, etc.), King Solomon (700 wives and 300 concubines according to 1 Kings 11:3, and who incidentally wrote the Song of Solomon, a celebrated poem about marital love, to his 141st wife -- see Song of Solomon 6:8), Ashur (2 wives), Rehoboam (18 wives and 60 concubines), Joash (2 wives), Abijah (14 wives), etc.]

  • Statement of Fact #4: There is only one example in Scripture of a test for adultery (the "Jealousy Law", or test for unfaithfulness), and it only tests if a wife has committed adultery, never a husband.

         Speak to the children of Yisra'el, and say to them, "When any man's wife turns aside and has committed a trespass against him, and a man has intercourse with her, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and it is concealed that she has defiled herself, and there was no witness against her, nor was she caught..." (Numbers 5:12-13, The Scriptures)

  • Statement of Fact #5: There are no explicit commands anywhere in Scripture that forbid monogyny (one wife).

    [Obviously Scripture references cannot be provided for commands that do not exist.]

  • Statement of Fact #6: There are at least two explicit commands from God in Scripture that forbid a particular form of polygyny (more than one wife).

         And do not take a woman as a rival to her sister, to uncover her nakedness while the other is alive. (Leviticus 18:18, The Scriptures)

         And a man who marries a woman and her mother: it is wickedness, they are burned with fire, both he and they, that there be no wickedness in your midst. (Leviticus 20:14, The Scriptures)

  • Statement of Fact #7: There are at least two explicit commands from God in Scripture that regulate marital and inheritance rights when a man has multiple wives.

         If he takes another wife, her food, her covering, and her marriage rights are not to be diminished. (Exodus 21:10, The Scriptures)

         When a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and the first-born son is of her who is unloved, then it shall be, on the day he makes his sons to inherit his possessions, he is not allowed to treat the son of the beloved wife as first-born in the face of the son of the unloved, who is truly the first-born. But he is to acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the first-born by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength - the right of the first-born is his. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17, The Scriptures)

  • Statement of Fact #8: There are at least two explicit commands from God in Scripture that requires marriage (perhaps monogyny commands, perhaps polygyny commands; the existing marital status of the man is not specified).

         When brothers dwell together, and one of them has died, and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not become a stranger's outside. Her husband's brother does go in to her, and shall take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. (Deuteronomy 25:5, The Scriptures)

         When a man finds a girl who is a maiden, who is not engaged, and he siezes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty pieces of silver, and she is to be his wife because he has humbled her. He is not allowed to put her away all his days. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29, The Scriptures)

  • Statement of Fact #9: There is at least one explicit command from God in Scripture that places a limit on polygyny for the King of Israel.

         When you come to the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you, and shall possess it and shall dwell in it, and you shall say, 'Let me set a sovereign over me like all the gentiles that are around me', you shall certainly set a sovereign over you whom Yahweh your Elohim shall choose. Set a sovereign over you from among your brothers, you are not allowed to set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only, he is not to increase horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Mitsrayim (Egypt) to increase horses, for Yahweh has said to you, 'Do not return that way again.' And he is not to increase wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor is he to greatly increase silver and gold for himself. (Deuteronomy 17:14-17, The Scriptures)

  • Statement of Fact #10: There are at least two Scriptures where God uses the allegory of marriage (to two sisters) to describe His relationship to His people.

         And the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, "Son of man, there were two women, daughters of one mother. And they whored in Mitsrayim (Egypt), they whored in their youth. There their breasts were handled, and there their maiden nipples were squeezed. And their names were: Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. And they were Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And their names: Shomeron (Samaria) is Oholah, and Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) is Oholibah. And Oholah whored while she was Mine. And she lusted for her lovers, the neighbouring Ashshurians...So she gave her whorings on them, all of them choice sons of Ashshur. And with all for whom she lusted, with all their idols, she defiled herself...And her sister Oholibah saw this, yet she became more corrupt in her lust than she, and in her whorings more corrupt than her sister's whorings." (Ezekiel 23:1-5,7,11, The Scriptures)

         Elohim said, "If a man puts away his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man's, does he return to her again? Would not that land be made greatly unclean? But you have committed whoring with many lovers. And would you return to me?" declares Yahweh. "Lift up your eyes to the bare heights and see: where have you not lain with men? Besides the ways you have sat for them like an Arabian in the wilderness. And you made the land unclean with your whorings and your evil. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain. You have had a whore's forehead, you refuse to be ashamed. Shall you not from now on cry to Me, 'My father, You are the guide of my youth? Does one bear a grudge forever? Does one keep it to the end?' See, you have spoken and done the evils that you could." And Yahweh said to me in the days of Yoshiyahu the sovereign, "Have you seen what backsliding Yisra'el has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there committed whoring. And after she had done all these, I said 'Return to Me.' But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Yehudah saw it. And I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Yisra'el had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Yehudah did not fear, but went and committed whoring too. And it came to be, through her frivolous whoring, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and wood. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Yehudah has not turned to Me with all her heart, but falsely," declares Yahweh. And Yahweh said to me, "Backsliding Yisra'el has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Yehudah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, 'Return, O backsliding Yisra'el,' declares Yahweh, 'I shall not look on you in displeasure, for I am kind,' declares Yahweh, 'and I do not bear a grudge forever. Only, acknowledge your crookedness, because you have transgressed against Yahweh your Elohim, and have scattered your ways to strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed My voice,' declares Yahweh. 'Return, O backsliding children,' declares Yahweh, 'for I shall rule over you, and shall take you, one from a city and two from a clan, and shall bring you to Tsiyon.' (Jeremiah 3:1-14, The Scriptures)
     Please understand that these Scripture references are not an exhaustive list of all applicable verses. Additional facts may be added as we receive further input from others in the Christian community. We look forward to getting feedback from both pro-polygyny and anti-polygyny believers in order to help us improve our list. In addition, if there are any errors or disagreements regarding these statements of facts, please let us know so that we may correct them.

Additional Points for Your Consideration

  • Every explicit reference of adultery in the Old Testament involved a man with the wife of another man. There are NO references or examples of a woman committing adultery with the husband of another woman.

  • Every single example of adultery in the Old Testament involved a man, either married or unmarried, and a woman who was either betrothed or married. There are absolutely NO examples of the term "adultery" that involve a man (married or unmarried) with an unmarried woman.

  • In the Bible, there are numerous examples of men with multiple wives but no examples of women with multiple husbands. Why? What is the distinction? Upon what principle?

  • Both wicked and righteous men were polygynous in Scripture and God never called either to repent of it. Why not?

  • Instead of God forbidding certain forms of polygyny in Leviticus 18:18 and Leviticus 20:14, why didn't He simply forbid polygyny altogether, as He did with adultery?

  • And for that matter, does polygyny constitute adultery? If it does, then David's marriage to Abigail, etc. was just as much adultery as his adultery with Bathsheba. How can one case of adultery be worse than another case of adultery? If it doesn't, then what is the ground of its condemnation? Was adultery (sometimes) tolerated in the Old Covenant? If so, what is the point of the seventh commandment?

  • Morality is that which is permitted by Divine Law. Immorality is that which is forbidden by Divine Law. Which case is it with monogyny or polygyny? Based on precisely what law?

  • Mandatory monogyny is unscriptural. We don't want to think of it in those terms, but it's true nonetheless. There are countless examples in Scripture of Godly men with multiple wives -- even the nation of Israel (the very root and foundation of true Christianity) sprang forth from Jacob and his four wives. Are we to believe that God simply never noticed men marrying multiple wives? Or is it possible that God's definition of marriage is literally "a man and his wife" like He said in Genesis 2:24, instead of the popular error of "ONE man and ONE woman" (which is found nowhere in Scripture)? Adultery, by definition, precludes the possibility of a wife having multiple husbands, so where exactly did we get the idea that a man can only have one wife? Mandatory celibacy used to be preached just like mandatory monogyny is preached today, but that too was unscriptural. We need to get our thinking lined up with God's Word, instead of side-stepping those parts of Scripture that we don't like or understand. Think about it.



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