Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk
Monday, August 27, 2007
Does God condemn Polygamy?
Does God condemn polygamy?
Polygamy is a form of matrimony. It is difficult to understand the fear of most western women and even Africarinas (African woman living abroad) on polygamy. Africans did not decide to practice polygamy; it was their way of life. They were born in it; it was, and it is their culture. Every people are born with a culture, although cultures could be picked along the line of migration. My paternal great grandfather had - wives while my maternal grandfather had- wives. In Cameroon, late Mongo Faya had 101 wives. He did not die from marrying many wives though. Late King Sobhouza II- of Swaziland who died at age 83 had 120 wives and 280 concubines. The question today is does God approve or condemn polygamy? Would a polygamist go to heaven? Should he or she hold a church position?
Types of Polygamy
There are two types of polygamy; polygyny (a man married to many wives like in Utah, Africa and Latin America), and polyandry (a woman married to many husbands like in Asia). WM Branham advocated for polygyny because he believed authority rested with men than women, and that women were more a property of the man when you consider that the Bible seems to place a woman amongst the properties of a man (Num 32:26; I kings 20: 5). It is difficult to prove that the scripture is against polygamy, although it puts it in an undesirable position to be practiced.
The doctrine of one wife to one man (Gen 2:24) is the main base on which we vouch for monogamy. In that era, humanity had not yet fallen from grace. Yet unlike murder, idolatry, covetousness, stealing, adultery and other vices that God condemns, He does not condemn polygamy. If he does not condemn it; why and how can it be wrong? After all, polygamy is not illicit sex; fornication, digamy, bigamy, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, rape and incest are.
Causes of Polygyny in Africa
Polygamy first found its place in the African society due to the many men who died in inter-tribal wars, thereby leaving behind many women. It was befitting for one man to marry many women to provide for their needs. Then the advent of slavery helped to enforce it because many men were taken away and many women left behind. The scarcity of men was a great factor encouraging polygamy. Thus, polygyny has the interest of the woman economically and romantically. Do not forget that the modern woman today does not buy into that philosophy because she can work and earn money, and romantically there are all sorts of toys for self indulgence and gratification. These things were scarcer than the tears of a cat in those days.
Some people argue that there is competition in a polygamous home. There was no competition per se, apart from the normal jealousy that exists between husband and wife. Jealousy exists in monogamous homes too. That is because jealousy is the work of the flesh and has little or nothing to do with many women.
In addition, polygamy was the practice of levirate marriages. When a man died, his brother inherited his wife to take care of her. At times, the man was already married and so because of tradition, he became a polygamist.
Another reason was the booty of war. Women that were seized from the vanquished tribes were brought to the victors’ village, so they became their wives. That is why most Africans are almost interrelated. They became their wives as spoils of war.
Polygamy also found its way the more because of unpaid debts. When a man could not pay his debt, he surrendered his wife or his daughter to the creditor, especially if she was beautiful. If he was married, he automatically becomes a polygamist.
Nowadays, polygyny is gaining grounds because of the stigma placed on being single. Women want to be called Mrs., even if they are fifth or sixth wive.
Mischievously too, it is a means to cuckold a rich fellow. If he has many wives, he will not be able to satisfy them emotional but is more than able economically and financially. Thus, it enables them to keep their indolent boyfriends by the side while they carry the Mrs. and reap enough food and drinks for their real lover from the polygamist. That means to some women nowadays, Polygyny is more a means to earn a living.
Another important reason was that there was a high infant mortality rate and children were used in doing most of the farm jobs. In certain cases, a woman with 10 children could lose 8 and only two survived. So the man needed many wives to have many children who were at the same time too the pride of the man.
Who started Polygamy (Lamech or Eve)?
Some people say Polygamy or polyandry was begun by Eve when she had “sex” with the serpent, but biblical calculus does not support the theory, considering that she first ate the fruit before giving it to her husband.
Secondly, the Bible describes the setting showing the woman far from the serpent. How would both have had sex without coming into contact?
Thirdly, the serpent told the woman that the reason why God did not want them to eat the fruit was because they will become as gods. If sex was the sin, then since humans have been having sex, the human race would have been plated with gods and goddesses. On the contrary, it is due to sex that people make the most stupid decisions up to killing another human being.
Fourthly, if the fruit was sex, then man would have been immortal. Yet, we have heard of people who have died while in action. As such, the fruit would not be sex. If the fruit was not sex, then Eve did not start polyandry because she loved only Adam (monogamy).
After the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, the first person to take two wives: Adah and Zillah was Lamech (Gen 4:19). He did not do it for none of the reasons people advance but just because it is part of his sinful nature. The variety in culture is due to the initial fall of man .Else everything was made to be homogenous even up to language (Gen 11:1; Eccl 7:29). After his marriage, God does not condemn him nor does he condemn any polygamyist in the Bible.
The Pitfalls of Polygyny.
Does the Bible say polygamy is wrong like it says with digamy, adultery, homosexuality, fornication; in short illicit sex? If polygamy is a sin, then digamy is too. I believe digamy should be in the same infraction level with bigamy, swinging, phone sex and cohabitation. Polygyny in Africa and Latin American countries is not a crime. Are we going to interpret its sinfulness by applying the jurisprudence of the United States, thereby encouraging ethnocentric hermeneutics? Sin is not relative. In short, moral wrong is morally wrong, no matter the country. If polygamy is an accepted form of matrimony; whereby, the participants willfully and consciously sign for, then there is a problem quoting the laws of one country (US) as the standard law and making it perfect or superior to the laws of other states. If I don’t practice Polygyny and will never practice is because I don’t even see its importance and raison d’etre, but it is not because the Bible says so or a country pretends to be the scribe of the Bible or God’s Gendarme.
Some people contend that polygamy is more expensive because in those days the polygynist made provisions for his family: wives and kids to be self supporting. In terms of expenditure, the amount of debt owed by modern monogamous homes outweighs what the polygamous homes in those days owed. Other people say that polygyny is a manifestation of the flesh or lust of the flesh. The fact that a man has ten wives does not mean he has sex everyday. A man with one wife could even have sex ten times a day as we know.
Other people say that it will be difficult to manage the home. The Bible does not have a problem with homes where polygamy: polyandry or polygyny is practiced. In the case of polyandry, the first husband was usually the head of the household, so there was no problem. Knowing that I am an African, people always say “polygamy has brought many problems than homosexuality”. To them I say this: are the children in Downtown Atlanta who live in rodents’ infested and roaches-friendly communities from polygamous homes? Are the families in Alabama and New Orleans who are living in a Tanga Nord and Tanga Sud; segregated from benefiting from the educational and economic success of the US from polygamous homes? Polygamy like monogamy have their migraines but to prime them with the ills of the society is sheer provincialism to avoid rebuking a wayward compatriot attempting to permeate sodomy.
Polygyny was and is still a problem in the US due to the background of the founding fathers who were greatly influenced by their puritanism. This reminds me of the days of The Salem Witch Hunt. I am still to find where the Bible says marrying more than one wife is bad. 2 Tim 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6 do not make a polygnist deportment wrong. Just because someone is rebuking a behavior they consider wrong does not mean they are right. Their stance could be the error Paul was talking about. If a polygynist stays faithful to his wives, he will go to heaven. He is only deprived from holding a church office (I Tim 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6), but he is not considered out of the heavenly race (Rom 10:9-10,13; Eph 2:8-9; Gal 2;16 ). The unfaithful monogamous homes where boyfriends and girlfriends are frequent are not better than the faithful polygynous homes. In the US where polygyny is illegal, it may be reasonable and biblical to say it should not be practiced for respect of authority, but it should neither be taken as a biblical position nor should be adopted or forced into the constitutions of other countries as the law of God. There are some unlawful behaviors that are not sin. For example in Atlanta it is unlawful to feed the homeless in the park. Is feeding a homeless man a sin (Mt 25:35)?
The passage in Ezekiel chapter 1 is a parable. Nonetheless, it still shows that God was and still is not against polygamy. God was against intermarriage between heathens and Christians. It is the same thing we see when Paul uses wine as a form of medicine. If wine was that bad why would God through Paul ask Timothy to use it to cure his stomach age? If polygamy was and is that immoral, God would not has used it for didactic purposes else we would be saying that God could as well ask an unmarried Christian to sleep with male prostitutes since it will regulate her hormone to give her a normal menstrual cycle. If God cannot and did not say that, it is because inherently he disapproves of fornication. Consequently, by using the parable of a polygamist he implicitly approves it, albeit does not recommend it. There is a huge different between approving an act and recommending it or approving and recommending simultaneously.
Whether the word only is used as an adverb (exclusive) or a correlative conjunction (except), it establishes a limit. The only place where there is limit is for those aspiring to be church leaders as in I Tim 3: 2,12. By citing the number one, Paul establishes the numerical limit, something he does not do with the Corinthians (I Cor 7:2). In Cor 7:2, the pronoun his own is used as a reflexive pronoun connoting possession. The subject is simultaneously the actor and the sufferer, both the subject and object at the same time. Consequently, in the latter passage rather than have a common woman as was the practice in the Temple of Aphrodite with temple virgins, he encouraged everyone to have each a wife or a husband and stop the sexual deviance of people going to pay money into the temple to sleep with the same woman that everyone has slept with. It had nothing to do with the delimitation of the number. One thing the church of Corinth faced was sexual impropriety and debauchery where the worship of Aphrodite made sex with temple virgins rampant and flagrant. The temple virgins were a communal possession. It was what Paul was decrying.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses for marrying Zipporah - an Ethiopian woman: black (Num 12:1). Their anger was due to racism not because Moses was married to many wives. Humanity and Christendom should worry more about racism than polygamy. If monogamy was the perfect matrimony, then there will be no divorce.
Solomon marrying 700 plus 300 concubines was a search for a perfect woman. The Bible does not attribute failed marriages to the practice of multiple wives. The condemnation is on having foreign women (I Kings 11:1; Deut 17:17; Neh 13:26; 2 Chr 1:12; 2 Sam 12:24). When the Bible cautions people not to give their strength to women, it is referring to prostitution or illicit sex (Prov 31:3). A man with one wife could have the sex that a man with ten wives does not have. After all, even if a man had one hundred wives he will not have more hours in his hand than the one with one wife. All of them have just twenty-four hours in a day. So to claim that because someone has many wives will use his strength more than the one with one wife is unfounded. The caveat is against excess.
The fact that the Bible says a man should be married to one wife does not mean it annuls marrying many wives. It does not say it is a sin or wrong to be married to many wives. On the contrary, it says illicit sex is wrong. In Africa and Latin America, polygyny is accepted by law. Though I believe that economically and emotionally polygamy is a burden, it is not the biblical position. If one woman is not enough, even two or ten will not be enough. I would not encourage polygamy for whatever reason.
Until then, let every man be married to one woman.
Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk
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