Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Polygamy Question

In the emotional debate over gay marriage, traditionalists often base part of their objection to it on the fear that such a move will lead to the legalization of other non-traditional sexual unions, most notably polygamous unions. Of course, traditionalists have a very strong point. If society says yes to gay marriage, how can it say no to any other non-traditional marriage? However, traditionalists are on shaky ground in placing polygamy under the same immorality umbrella as homosexuality, and the veryBible they use to oppose homosexuality proves it.

Traditionalists are right when they say that the Bible has given Western civilization its definition of marriage. And they are right to defend that definition. What they don't realize is that their definition of "traditional" marriage isn't as Biblical as they think. To put it bluntly, the Bible does NOT oppose polygamy, and the defenders of Biblical marriage need to know that.

Most people just assume that the Bible condemns polygamy. They base their view of polygamy almost exclusively on media reports of abusive polygamous Mormons and conclude, rightly, that the Bible is against such abuse. But being against abusive polygamous marriage isn't the same thing as being against polygamy itself. There are abusive monogamous marriages, but opposing abuse in such marriages doesn't mean opposing monogamy. So, traditionalists and others who think that the Bible teaches that polygamy is immoral need to stop making media-based assumptions and read what the Bible acutally says.

And what does the Bible say?

Even a cursory glance at the Good Book reveals that polygamy was alright with God. Some of the Patriarchs, for instance, had multiple wives. Abraham had a wife, Sarah, and a concubine, Hagar. His grandson, Jacob, had two wives and two concubines. God didn't object to these arrangements. Later, Moses had two wives, the Midianite woman Zipporah, and a Cushite woman. In the Mosaic Law God had ample opportunity to condemn polygamy, but He didn't. He regulated polygamy instead, forbiding men to marry sisters or a woman and her daughter.

Perhaps the best proof that the God of the Bible accepts polygamy is David. We all know that David killed Goliath, but most people don't know that David was a lusty fellow. He had at least three wives before he became king of Israel, and alot more after he became king, all given to him by God! That's right. God gave David multiple wives. Nathan the prophet reminds David of that when he condemns him for murdering Uriah to take his wife, Bathsheba. So, if polygamy is a sin, as most traditionalists believe, then God commited sin by giving David many wives.

But what about Solomon? Didn't God condemn him for taking many wives? No. God condemned Solomon for taking many foreign wives, women who worshipped idols and led Solomon to worship them, too. It was idolatry, not polygamy, that drove God away from Solomon.

There are other examples of God accepting polygamy. Gideon, whom God used to defeat the Midianites in the time of the Judges, had 70 sons with his wives and concubines. The prophet Samuel, whose mother was Hannah, was born into a polygamous family. All of these men: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon, were considered righteous by God, even though they practiced polygamy or were born into it. And they weren't the only ones.

So, what are traditionalists to do? Almost their whole argument against gay marriage is that it violates the Biblical standard of marriage that America, and Western civilization, has always followed. But now we see that the Biblical standard of marriage includes polygamy. Traditionalists have some hard thinking to do. They have to admit that, when it comes to marriage, the "traditional values" they stand for are NOT the Bible's values. They then have to ask themselves if they're prepared to do the only honest thing: change their morality to conform to the Bible, or reject the Bible and cling to their tradition. If they really love God and His Word, the choice is obvious.

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