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If you spend any time on the Internet, I imagine
that you have all heard about a man named Tom Green who lives in
Utah. He seems to be the center of attention, at least in that part
of the country, and all because he is a polygamist.
Apparently what happened was that the Governor of Utah got
into hot water by making statements that questioned whether
anti-polygamy laws were constitutional. When the dust settled, the
governor, perhaps in an attempt to save his position, made a
statement that removed his support for polygamists, and that opened
the door for the Juab County attorney, who just happens to be the
governor's brother, to prosecute polygamists. I am sure there was
some back room brother talk and hanky panky that inspired the
prosecution of Tom Green
Tom Green has 5 wives and 25
children in one great big happy family. He has never hidden from the
state and has even appeared on television shows to represent his
religious beliefs and to defend his lifestyle.
But it was
not until April of this year that the county attorney filed
paperwork charging Tom Green with four counts of bigamy, and in a
surprise move he added one count of rape of a child that supposedly
took place 15 years ago with one of his current wives. Also, another
charge was added which was one count of criminal non-support.
I imagine that Tom, at this point, has few friends if any at
all. Scripturally, wives were the norm in Biblical days, and God's
laws regulated the abuse that might go along with having multiple
wives. But in Tom's case, if what is reported in the news is
correct, he has violated two of God's laws in that he has married
the mother of one of his wives and he has married sisters.
It appears that Tom is being prosecuted solely because he is
a polygamist, since his wives are standing by him (including the one
he supposedly raped 15 years ago) and the wives say they are happy
with the lifestyle they have chosen and they claim they are not
victims as the county attorney claims.
It is interesting
that Tom is being prosecuted because he is cohabiting with someone
who the county attorney says is not his wife, yet I would suggest
that no sodomites or unmarried couples who live together in Utah are
being prosecuted. That is not what we would call "equal protection"
of the law. And what is really sick about this is that Sodomites are
condemned in Scripture and are to be put to death, whereas having
multiple wives was a way of life in Bible days and God made rules to
protect women who were in a multiple wife situation. In other words
having multiple wives is Scripturally OK and sodomy is not, but yet
the government protects the sodomites and persecutes a man having
Because of the news media attention to this
case, as well as the controversy it has caused in our society, I
have decided to do a study on the subject. The first thing I am
going to establish is that a man having more than one wife was
commonplace in Israel, and from there I will proceed to show that it
was sanctioned by the word of God.
nowhere in scripture where it is commanded that men cannot have
multiple wives, and on the other hand nowhere in Scripture is a man
commanded to have multiple wives. However we do find places where it
was highly encouraged and we even find places where God Himself gave
multiple wives to men like David; and there is even one law that
commands a brother to marry his dead brother's wife and bring up
children in his brother's name.
We can search the Scriptures
from Genesis to Revelation, and we will not find one -- no not one
-- prohibition against the having of multiple wives. Thus the
Scriptures, with a few exceptions, leave the matter to the
discretion of the man, and his ability to support more than one
Again, this doesn't mean that a man must have more
than one wife, it means that we must accept the fact that the
practice of having more than one wife is something people are
morally free to do. That being the case, if we are true believers in
the Holy Word of God, then because someone has more than one wife,
we have no right to exclude them from fellowship.
modern-day society calls the having of more than one wife Polygamy,
and while we do not find, in our Hebrew and Greek concordances a
word which was translated as Polygamy, in the Greek we do find the
word polys (pol-oos') which is Strong's 4143 and means much or many,
and we also find that the Greek word gamos (gam'os) which is
Strong's 1062, means marriage or wedding, and putting the two
together we have -- pol-oos-gam-'os, which is close to our word
polygamy, which undoubtedly came from the Greek language -- not the
The word polygamy simply means "the plurality of
wives at the same time," and today the word is used synonymously
with bigamy. As far as I know polygamy is not a crime in any state,
since the criminal act has been created under the title of bigamy.
Bigamy, coming from the Latin, is another one of those Catholic
doctrines which is still with us. According to Webster's Dictionary,
in Cannon law bigamy was:
"the marrying of a second wife after the death of the
first, or once marrying a widow. This disqualified a man for
orders, and holding ecclesiastical
This is quite a different meaning than
our so-called modern-day society places on the word as my Webster's
Dictionary, College Edition, defines bigamy as:
"The criminal offense of marrying a second time while
a previous marriage is still legally in
This definition presupposes that the
marriage "still in effect," was a marriage granted by the state,
because if not granted by the state, then the state would not
consider the marriage as "legally in effect." Under certain
circumstances, States do recognize what they call a "common law"
marriage which is when the man and the woman cohabit and hold
themselves out to be man and wife.
But in these cases, the
state will also probably have a time period before it would
recognize the marriage. For example, the state may not recognize a
common-law marriage until the couple have lived together for two or
more years. The reason states were forced to recognize these
marriages was because after several years of marriage one of the
parties filed for a divorce, and children and the division of
property was involved, and in those cases, the state will always
become a party to the action.
I bring this up because I
wonder what the state would do if a man had two or more common-law
wives. Would the state consider one of the two marriages to be
"still legally in effect" in order to prosecute for bigamy? And what
if a man were to marry wife number 1 and after a few months divorce
her but never separate from her? And then he marries wife number 2,
and again, after a few months divorces her, and again never leaves
At this point the man is living with two women and yet
legally married to neither. In the eyes of the law would he be
legally married? I don't think so. But I would remind everyone that
the state acts from a position of power and not necessarily from a
position of law. However, in Utah they have a cohabitation law which
prohibits a man from living with two women at the same time. I guess
it is all right for one sodomite to live with two partners at the
same time, but we simply cannot have and will not tolerate a man
living with more than one woman at the same time. So sayeth the
state!!! Not me.
The first subject
I am going to deal with will be concubines. I have chosen this
subject because it is the easiest to deal with, and secondly I do so
because I want to prove to the best of my ability that multiple
wives was the common practice in the days of the patriarchs and in
the days of Biblical Israel, and that being the case, then it was
necessary that God provide man with rules to follow when he has
taken maidservants and concubines as wives.
To begin I am
going to give you a definition right out of Zondervan's Encyclopedia
of the Bible on the word concubine:
"In the Bible ... a woman lawfully united in marriage
to a man in a relation inferior to that of the regular wife. No
moral stigma was attached to being a concubine. It was a natural
part of polygamous social system. Concubinage is assumed and
provided for in the law of Moses, which tried to prevent its
excesses and abuses Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 21:10-14. ... free
Hebrew women might also become concubines. They enjoyed no other
right but lawful cohabitation. The children were considered
legitimate, although the children of the first wife were preferred
in the distribution of the inheritance."
important thing to notice here is that a concubine was not what we
would call a mistress -- she was a lawful wife but she had a lesser
position in the family than did a regular wife, in that normally her
children could not inherit. But other than that she was a wife equal
among regular wives. As an example you might recall Jacob's 4 wives,
which we will cover later in this study.
In Genesis 22 the
Lord finished talking to Abraham and he returned to Beer-sheba, and
there Abraham was told that to his brother Nahor's wife were borne 8
children, and their names are given, and then in verse 24 we read:
24 "And his concubine, whose name was Reumah
(Roo'mah), she bare also Tebah (Tee'buh), and Gaham (Gay'ham), and
Thahash (Thay'hash), and Maachah (May'uh-kuh)."
In this case a concubine and her children by
Nahor was considered significant enough that their names are
recorded in the word of God. Of course, as we read in the above
definition, concubines were "a natural part of polygamous social
system," and "No moral stigma was attached to being a concubine," as
it was a common practice in those days.
In Genesis 25, we
read that Abraham took another wife, Keturah, and she bore him
several sons, and in verse 5 we read that Abraham gave all that he
had to Isaac, and then we read in verse 6:
6 "But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham
had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son,
while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country."
Again, we see yet another concubine, this time
Abraham's, and that the fact he had her and children by her, was
considered significant enough that the event is recorded in the word
of God. But of course, as we read in the above definition,
concubines were "a natural part of polygamous social system," and
"No moral stigma was attached to being a concubine," as it was a
common and accepted practice.
I think we all know that Jacob
wanted Rachel for wife but ended up with Leah her sister as wife,
but he was also able to obtain Rachael as his wife. Then in chapter
29:30, we are told that Jacob loved Rachael more than Leah, and then
in verse 31, we read:
31 "And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he
opened her womb: but Rachel was barren."
this is important folks, for it was God who saw that Leah was hated
(actually loved less), and because of that God opened Leah's womb
and she gave birth to four sons, and during this time Rachael
remained barren. As we know Rachael was not a happy camper about
this and she had some harsh words with Jacob in chapter 30:1. These
words angered Jacob and he said in verse 2, "am I in God's stead,
who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" (meaning am I
greater than God, to give you what he has refused?).
Reachael got the message that while Jacob may provide the
seed, there were to be no children unless God so willed, and so she
said to Jacob in verse 3:
3 "Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she
shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by
The results are reported in verses 4-5:
4 "And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and
Jacob went in unto her.
5 "And Bilhah conceived, and bare
Jacob a son."
Then, in verse 7 we read that
later Bilhah bore Jacob a second son, and during this time Rachael
remained barren. This brings us to verse 9, where Leah saw that she
had quit bearing and we are told in verse 9 and 10 that:
9 "...she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to
10 "And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a
Reading on we learn that Zilpah bore Jacob
two more sons and still Rachael remained barren, and Leah also
remained barren during this time. After that God again opened Leah's
womb and she bore two more sons and a daughter to Jacob, and still
Rachael remained barren. But after this in verse 22 we read:
22 "And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to
her, and opened her womb."
And so finally
Rachael gave birth to a son. But the reason I went through all of
this was to see that opening of the wombs of these women was the
work of the Lord -- not Jacob, and so the Lord opened the womb of
two handmaidens and they each gave birth to two sons, who would
later become four of the twelve tribes of Israel.
then, that God used two handmaidens or concubines to accomplish His
purpose. In light of that, are we to suppose that for a man to have
a handmaiden or a concubine is against the will of the Lord, when it
was God who opened the womb of these two concubines that they might
provide sons for Jacob? I don't think so.
At this point, we
need to understand that concubines were generally handmaidens before
they were concubines, and scripture will also use these words
interchangeably. For example in Genesis 35:22 we read:
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
Here we see that Bilhah is called a
concubine, and back in chapter 30 they, both Bilhah and Zilpah, were
referred to a maid. The Hebrew word, which is Strong's 519, was used
56 times and translated as handmaiden(s) 23 times; as maidservant(s)
19 times; maid(s) 8 times, and bondwoman 4 times and bondmaid 2
times, and the word appears in Scripture from Genesis to Nahum, and
in any verse containing these words, it is very likely that these
women were concubines as well as maidservants.
things a little bit more there is another Hebrew word which was also
translated into these words: Strong's 8198, which was used 62 times
and appears in Scripture from Genesis to Joel, and so, we have 118
usages of both words and I do not know how many of these usages
relate to women who were also concubines -- but I suspect the number
is somewhere close to the majority of times.
And this does
not even consider the usage of the word "concubine." Those Hebrew
words, Strong's 6370 and 3904, were used 40 times and appear in
Scripture from Genesis to Ezekiel. The point that I am trying to get
across is that from the very inception of the twelve tribes of
Israel, having more than one wife was considered a normal practice
and a commonplace happening.
I am not going to take the time
to look at each and every occurrence of these words, but there were
many more prominent men of Israel who also had concubines.
This does not even take into consideration the number of
times that maid, maidservant, and so on referred to women that
became wives of their masters. But I think it is safe to say that
multiple wives was an accepted way of life in Israel and widely
practiced, and I want to address this in more detail, but I will do
so later as I do want to look at one verse on handmaids before I get
off the subject, and the verses in question are Exodus 21:7-11:
Establishes the rules for slaves who became wives:
7 "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant,
she shall not go out as the menservants do.
8 "If she [ a
maidservant] please not her master, who hath betrothed her to
himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a
strange nation he [her master] shall have no power, seeing he hath
dealt deceitfully with her.
9 "And if he [her master] have
betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the
manner of daughters.
10 "If he [her master] take him [his
son] another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of
marriage, shall he not diminish.
11 "And if he do not
these three unto her, then shall she go out free without
Selling a daughter into servitude was
usually done only under dire circumstances for the family, and yet
it appeared to happen quite frequently. But in verse 7 we see that
she is sold as a maidservant, and as we see it was expected that she
become a wife of either the master or his son.
The rule for
male menservants was that if sold into servitude, they were to be
released at the start of the seventh year of their servitude. But
the man-servant was not to "go out" empty handed and we read in
Deuteronomy 15:14, that he was to be well paid for his service and
receive "liberally from thy flock, and out of thy threshing floor,
and out of thy wine press."
But as we read in Exodus 21:7,
this was not the case for a maidservant, who in many cases was
literally adopted into the family, and in this verse we are told
that "she shall not go out as the menservants do," meaning that at
the end of six years she shall not be released from service.
It was expected that sometime during her first six years of
service that one of three things would come to pass: 1) the master
would take her for wife, 2) the master would give her to his son for
wife, or 3) she would be redeemed, and if none of these came to
pass, then she would be set free.
If the master took her for
wife and she pleased him during the six years, then she remained his
wife for life. But if she displeased him then at the end of the six
years, she could be redeemed by her family -- if they wanted to
redeem her and if they could afford to redeem her.
the master could give her to one of his sons for wife anytime during
the six years, and if he did so, then the master was to deal with
her after the manner of daughters. That is by virtue of becoming his
son's wife, she was to be as a daughter to him.
during the six years, the master gave his son another wife, then,
"her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not
diminish." This means not only must the master insure that she has
proper food, clothing, shelter, but also that she receive normal
conjugal rights from the son, and he would not allow the son to put
her away or treat her badly.
So if the father had taken her
as wife during the six years, his only option was that she would be
redeemed at the end of the six years. Secondly, the master could
give her to his son for wife, and if he later took for his son
another wife, she was still entitled to all rights of a wife, and
they were not to be diminished. But if they are diminished, then the
master must see to it that she is set free, and she is set free
because the master was said to have "dealt deceitfully with her."
Tthis was the law of God as given to Moses, and this law, in
verse 10, was that a master could take for his son more than one
wife. We have seen that Nahor had a concubine or a maid-servant, and
we have seen the same to be true of Abraham and Jacob, and we have
seen that the appearance of these words are from Genesis to Joel,
and now we have the law of God settling the issue early on in the
history of Israel, and if this is not the confirmation and
ordination of a man having multiple wives, I don't know what is. Nor
do I think it can be made any clearer.
Now, I guess the
question is, if having multiple wives is in violation of God's law,
then why does God's law also allow a master to give his son more
than one wife, and why does God's law make provisions for the care
of the first wife, to include matrimonial rights?
in making this law is very significant. You see, Exodus 15:22-19:2,
covers Moses' three ascents and descents up and down Mount Sinai,
and the very next thing is the giving of the law from chapter
20:1-24:8, and this first thing that is given the people is the Ten
Commandments in 20:1-17. Next we are told that Moses draws near the
people in verses 18-21.
And in verses 21-28 God's
instruction is to not make other gods in the form of images, and He
tells them to make an earthen alter, and that closes chapter 20.
Chapter 21 begins with the laws pertaining to persons, and
specifically servants, man servants in verses 1-6, and in the
seventh verse we find the law of maid servants. Now I do not know
how God could have possibly put more emphasis on a subject than He
has by placing it immediately after the 10 Commandments.
will tell you something else -- you do not normally dream up things
to make laws about. No, when you make a law to regulate some kind of
activity, you do so because it is a common and widespread custom of
that society. I have left the discussion pertaining to multiple
wives, and I did so to establish that having multiple wives and
maidservants and concubines was a well established way of life in
Israel, and provisions were needed to protect women who were wives,
maid-servants, and concubines.
I am not suggesting that
every man had more than one wife and/or several concubines. Perhaps
a man only wanted one wife -- then so be it, and I defy anyone to
find scriptural proof that this practice was ever abolished by the
word of God.
Numbering of the Firstborn
chapter 3:40, Moses was commanded to number "all the firstborn of
the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward,"
and the results of that count were given us in verse 43.
43 "And all the firstborn males by the number of
names, from a month old and upward, of those that were numbered of
them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and threescore and
Then in Numbers 1:45-46 we read:
45 "So were all those that were numbered of the
children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty
years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in
46 "Even all they that were numbered were six
hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and
In the count of firstborn males, it was
revealed that there were a total of 22,273 firstborn males in all
Israel. Then there was the second count, which was made of men who
were 20 years of age and older, and who were able to go forth into
We must remember here that there were exemptions as a
man could not go to war if he had been married less that a year, or
just planted a vineyard, and there were other reasons, and then
there were those who were simply too old to go to war.
what we need to understand here is that, because of the men who were
excluded from the count of men of fighting age, then the actual
number of men of fighting age would be much higher. What the number
of the exclusions was we do not know.
Now this is very
interesting because I think we all realize that there could be only
one firstborn child in a family, and it mattered not how many wives
a man had, because there was still only one first-born male, and
since there were 22,273 firstborn males in Israel, that means there
would have also been 22,273 families in Israel.
tells us that there were 603,550 fighting men in Israel who were
able to go to war, and again that would not include those excluded
for various reasons, and if we divide the fighting men up equally
and distribute them among 22,273 families, then we have over 27
fighting men per family.
Again, this omits the exclusions
who were not eligible to go to war, including those who were too
old, which means that the number of fighting men per family would
even be higher, and this does not even include the women in Israel,
and if we presume there were an equal amount of women from the age
of 20 and up, then there would be 27 fighting men per family and
another 27 women per family, which means there would be 54 children
in every family. Any mothers out there listening to me? Are you
getting the picture?
Now, unless you are willing to believe
that every married Israelite woman gave birth to 27 girls and 27
boys for a total of 54 children per woman, then we must look for
another solution, and since it is highly unlikely that any woman had
that many children, then the only other possibility is that the
Israelite men had more than one wife -- enough wives to give birth
to an average of 54 children per family.
For example, if a
man had 10 wives, then each woman would have to have an average of
5.4 children per wife, and if he had 5 wives, then they would have
to average 10.8 children per wife. If we accept the concept of
multiple wives in Israel, then the having of more than one wife was
not as rare as we are led to believe. In fact, the numbers would
indicate that the practice was very widespread in Israel.
Now I realize that I have taken some liberty with the
numbers here, but even if they are off by 50% which I do not think
they are, but if they are, then we still need a lot more women than
one wife apiece to account for this population explosion.
But the question we are looking at is basically this: is
polygamy a moral or an immoral practice? Well, if it is an immoral
practice, then it is immoral forever, and the opposite is also true,
because if it is a moral practice, then it is moral forever, and if
we can find in Scripture where God condemned the practice, then it
is immoral. But, on the other hand, if we can find just one case
were God did not condemn the practice, or where such practice took
place with his approval, then the practice is moral. It is as simple
as that. You see my friends, if there is such a thing as a moral
absolute, then we cannot have one exception, because if we do then
it is not a moral absolute.
The following list of topics
will give you some idea as to what you may expect to be explained in
01. Scriptural history of multiple wives
02. A Scriptural
definition of wife and marriage
03. A Scriptural definition of
adultery which is vastly different than modern day
04. Man's one-wife one-flesh doctrine
men could not marry
06. Rights of the 1st born in multiple wife
07. God's law which protected unmarried virgins
When a Brother was required to marry his sister-in-law
and the law
10. Christ and the prophets
11. Christ and the
12. An analysis of 1 Timothy 3:2
13. The lust of a
woman in Matthew 5:28
14. 20th Century Cultural
15. Man's law and Polygamy
16. The Hidden Third
Party in Your Marriage
17. The government's intrusion into
18. A Few family benefits in Polygamous
19. A Statistical analysis (explains the men:women
population imbalance -- in some countries women so outnumber men
that 25% of women between the ages of 25-35 have no men to marry
simply because they do not exist)
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