Thanks to everyone who gave me a feedback on my previous post. Even liberals responded in defense of monogamy which they saw as the American way of life. “Polygamy is illegal in America” I was told and I get it. What I did in my previous blog was to look back at events in my life and the questions that it raised for me then. Just like Morgan Freeman acting as “Red” in the movie Shawshank Redemption, “I can honestly say I am a changed man… civilized”. I support monogamy, but for a reason other what the culture or national law says but more for what God says in the Bible. National laws change, culture evolves but God’s word remains the same. So, it is within the context of the unchanging word of God that I would answer the question- is polygamy a sin?
Sin has been defined as “ missing the mark”; transgressions of the law or disobedience. Neal Platinga, the former President of Calvin Seminary, in his book the Breviary of Sin defined sin in terms of “corruption”, that which corrupts God’s creation and purposes. We learn from Genesis that God created the Woman afterwards as a helpmate to the man. After making Adam and Eve, God declared his human creation as “very good”. Since God said one man and one woman together was very good, then that union of one man and one woman was what was needed to meet God’s righteous plan for marriage. It can rightly be said that polygamy then misses God’s mark for marriage, a sort of corruption of God’s created order.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” Genesis 2: 24
The Lord Jesus affirmed this in Matthew 19, were he indicated that God’s plan from the beginning was for one man to be married to one woman for the rest of their lives. Even the law against covetousness raises questions on the righteousness of polygamy.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17
Consummation of polygamous relationships by its nature would involve a desire to have more, to get that which belonged to a neighbor. At a practical level, the fierce competition for the man’s affection between the wives comes with its many challenges and pain both for the man and for his children – constant in-fighting and disagreements. Polygamy undermined peace in my father’s household. It set the children up on a path of ungodly lifestyles, leaving trails of disaffection and distrust between children of both wives, even after my father has passed. The nature of serving two masters as pointed out by the Lord Jesus is that one will be loved more than the other or that one will be hated while the other is loved (Matthew 6: 24) So, polygamy cannot uphold the sanctified love of a husband for any of the wives. Only a monogamous marriage makes that sanctified love possible.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself”Ephesians 5:25 – 28
Since Polygamy is a sin, why did God allow it?
We do not find clear answer to this question in the bible. It seems to me however that with the patriarchal nature of the biblical times when people lived much longer, wars led to large unmarried female population. Most of these women could not provide for themselves due to limitations placed on them by the patriarchal era. I am inclined to believe that God allowed polygamy then as a means of providing for these women and protecting them from violent men. We might find a different reason when we meet God but for now I think that this reason aligns with the nature of God as loving, merciful, and gracious.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev Joshua Amaezechi, an ordained Minister in the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA), is the President of the LEMA Institute. He works as the Lead Chaplain at the Kalamazoo County Jail, Michigan through the Forgotten Man Ministries.
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