Is biblical marriage to be between one man and one woman? Are there ever exceptions?
It is certain that the earliest chapters of the bible speak of marriage partners in the singular;
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24
Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7, and used this as His reason to prohibit divorce.
I think it is safe to say that the bible does indeed teach that every marriage is indeed between one man and one woman, but this is different than saying it is wrong for a man to be married to two women at the same time; he has an individual relationship between himself and each wife, individually! The women in a polygamous family are NOT married to each other! Each is the wife of the one man.
We can see this relationship spoken of in the case of David and Bathsheba, after their first child passed-away;
And David comforted Bath–sheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the Lord loved him. 2 Samuel 12:24
You see, here Bathsheba is called David’s wife, in the singular. This does not mean that he had divorced his other wives, it only means that her status had changed from being Uriah’s wife, in verse 15 to being David’s wife later in the chapter. She had the status of a wife, just as Ahinoam and Abigail also had the same status with David. Each one was his wife.
David had an individual husband-and-wife relationship with each woman, and the women were not married to each other!
God sees this as analogous with His relationship with the believer; He is collectively married to the Church, but He is also individually married to each believer!
This is the same relationship that Jesus is using as an analogy of His own return for the Church in Matthew 25:1-13; there are 10 virgins to whom he intends to marry, but in the end he only marries 5. Why only 5? because of the ten professing believers only 5 have the Holy Spirit; all the others were false believers, only going through the motions.
Some would point to the phrase that says “and they shall be one flesh”, and they will ask “how can a man be one flesh with two women at the same time?”
My answer is to quote I Corinthians 6:16
What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
So clearly, in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:16, it is possible for a man to be one flesh with his wife, and also one flesh with a harlot, or a prostitute, at the same time. So if it is possible for a man to be one flesh with two women at the same time, one legitimately and one illegitimately, it is also possible for him to be one flesh legitimately with two women at the same time, by being married to both!
There is no contradiction here!
What about the second verse of the next chapter? Does it teach that a man can only be married to one woman at a time?
“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” I Corinthians 7:2
If it does, then this verse is also teaching that every Church throughout the Church-Age must have equal numbers of women and men! Is it? I don’t think so. Most Churches I have attended have generally more women than men in attendance. Very often Christian women, because they can’t find an available man in the Church, often marry unbelievers, and live a life of heartache!
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” II Corinthians 6:14
Very often Christians cause others to sin because of our misunderstanding of Scripture. The idea that polygamy is wrong has become so ingrained in Christian teaching that no one questions this concept. The result is that if there are not enough men in a Church that many of the young women end up marrying unbelievers, contrary to Scripture!
I Corinthians 7:2 is commonly used to say that polygamy is prohibited in the Church-Age, but is that what it says?
“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. “
So, as we have seen, there is rarely if ever, a balance in the numbers of men and women in Christian Churches. What would be God’s purpose in giving us this passage? Without even numbers of men and women in the Church how is it possible to obey this command?
Well, he stated his purpose in the very beginning “to avoid fornication”. But how can this be accomplished if there are more women than men in the Church? Do some of the women have to marry unbelievers, as is practiced in most Churches? Does God insist that some women must live without a husband, contrary to the desire that God gave her?
I don’t think so. I think God’s purpose hasn’t changed since the time of Israel until now. People haven’t changed, either. Like Rachel and Leah, God intends each woman to have her own husband, so she does not indulge in risky, sinful behaviour like sleeping around with many men!
When we look at women like Leah, we should ask “who was Leah’s husband?” The answer of course is Jacob. So who was Rachel’s husband? Jacob!
What about Ahinoam? Who was her husband? Was it not David? Of course it was! Abigail’s husband was David. After the fiasco of their beginning, Bathsheba’s husband was David.
In each case these men of God had a one-man/one-woman relationship with each wife. In the same way what Paul is teaching is that for every woman to have her own husband sometimes circumstances would dictate that women might have to double-up on their men.
God does not have a problem with this arrangement, it is only people who do!
This was God’s plan for the Church-Age, although very few Churches have followed this doctrine. Early on the Christian Church was infected by false doctrines from Rome.
Here’s the thing; when did God change His mind? My bible says He never changes!
How could He go from commanding polygamy in certain circumstances to prohibiting it? Well He didn’t, of course. Here are a couple of instances where polygamy is actually commanded in the Old Testament;
“If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.” Deuteronomy 25:5
You should read the entire passage, but please realize that this was a command from the Lord. It was a sin to disobey this command, although the punishment was merely public humiliation. There were various punishments for different sins. This one is minor in comparison to others, but it was still disobedience!
Notice that there is no exemption if the man was already married! He was still commanded to do his duty toward his dead brother’s wife.
Here is another one, and this time polygamy is the consequence of fornication;
“And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.” Exodus 22:16
Notice that there is a disqualifying condition for the woman, but not for the man; If she is not betrothed this passage applies. If she was betrothed then this act was adultery and the appropriate punishment applied, otherwise the man has obtained a wife. It does not matter if he was married already or not, the law still applied, and at times this would result in polygamy, by the command of the Lord!
So when did God change?
Well, He didn’t!
A Nation of Priests?
The law stated that priests were to be married to only one woman, and some have told me that since we are “a nation of priests”, that therefore this command for Levitical priests would also apply to us.
Notice the selective application of the law.
Christians do not follow any of the other Levitical commands for priests! There were a whole bunch of them, having to do with ceremonial washing, not touching the dead, the clothes they were to wear, etc. No one says that Christians, because we are all priests, must now follow all the laws regarding the Levitical priesthood, so why this one law?
You see, God is very specific in His commands. We don’t have to interpolate between them. If he doesn’t say something to one group, it is because that command does not apply to that group! God does not miss things!
In Titus and Timothy we are given the qualifications for deacons and elders, and among those qualifications we are told that he must be “the husband of one wife”. Again, many Christians say that all believers should follow all of these commands, but how can we do that when there are differences between them?
The overseer (head elder), in 1 Timothy 3:3 is told that he must not be “given to wine” but in verse 8 the deacon must “not be given to much wine”. Again in Titus 1:7 we are told that the overseer, or head elder, must “not be given to wine”, but in 2:3 the aged women are told that they must not be “given to much wine”.
Which one should we follow?
The command “be not drunk with wine wherein is excess” is found in Ephesian 5:18 and it is a general command for all Christians, we can drink wine, but must guard ourselves from getting drunk. So, there is no need for us all to follow the commands meant for those who hold a particular office. If you are a pastor and don’t like the fact that others can do what you cannot do, you are free to resign!
Anyway, there is no evidence in Scripture that pastors can’t participate in the Communion wine, so if you are a pastor you can leave it at that!
So, just one quick question; Why do you think God approves of polygamy?
I think it is because…
“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” Isaiah 45:18
You see, in many instances throughout history, usually because of war, there are situations where there are many more women than men. God loves people, and He wants to see the world full of them!
And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men. II Chronicles 13:17
Given the natural birth rate close to 50/50 male/female children, this war between Judah and Israel left a half-million women without a man! God’s plan for them was that they would all marry, so none would go without a family, and none would attempt to seduce men who were married to other women! His plan was to benefit everyone, and the society as a whole! Think about it; how would a society of a half-million old women defend itself if they had not had any children?
Every time a baby is born there is another person who will glorify God for all eternity, and another person who has the chance to be saved and to spend eternity with Jesus Christ!
This is why God not only allows, but actually approves of, polygamy!
This is also why He is opposed to homosexuality and Lesbianism. These lifestyles are designed to prevent the conception of children! They never have children…ever!
It is exactly this result that has the global elites excited about these lifestyles! There is a nature worship commonly practiced by elites around the world, and these people hate people! Ultimately it is because of the fact that they hate God, and would rather worship His creation, than Him, that motivates them!
People are made in the image of God, so the existence of people on this planet is a constant reminder that God will one day judge us all!
So yes, every marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman, it has always been this way, even among polygamists like David, and Jacob.
God sees this relationship as symbolic of His relationship with the believer! Yes! God is a polygamist! Don’t believe me? Here are some selections from Jeremiah 3;
6 The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
7 And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.
11 And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.
12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever.
13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.
14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
Yes, God is a husband to every believer, and He sees in a man like David a man after His own heart! David loved his wives the same way that God loves the believer!