Challenging the "God condones multiple wives" myth!
Ephesians 5:11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
There are many male teachers in the Messianic faith (including Yakov Levi of "Solomon's Porch", Moshe Koniuchowsky of "Your Arms to Israel" and Simon Altaf of "African Israel" who are teaching that "God condones multiple wives"....
But realistically, where in Scripture do we ever see YHWH condoning "plural marriages?" Is it really true that our Creator would go against His own Divine Instructions in Righteousness (Torah - which outlines holiness and purity of thought, word and deed) to suggest that adultery in marriage is acceptable in His eyes? Would He really suggest - as some of these men are teaching - that "women simply have to shut up and get used to the idea?"
Also, why would any married man want to "add another" wife except to feed his desire to commit adultery "legally"? Not to mention that, while one wife to support is already a handful (and today most wives have to work outside the home to supplement their husband's income!), several wives would take up all the man's time....which would leave no time for worship of the Creator....Not to mention, IF when one marries their first wife, they make a vow to love ONLY her - which is pretty standard marriage vow material. If you "take another wife" you are breaking your vow to your first wife. Simple as that!
As we see in Scripture, those who took more than one wife encountered nothing but problems as the lives of the "sister wives" were fraught with jealousy, anger and grief. YHWH set forth rules to the "polygynists" to keep the wives from suffering in some way - i.e., being neglected and/or ignored because their husband favored other wives, etc. Genesis 2:24 tells us the "two" become "one"...not the three four five, etc! Let's examine this a little further:
Polygyny did not work out for the patriarchs because the "sister wives" were regarded as slaves, as were their children (i.e., Hagar). Isaac only took one wife, in part, because of the conflict that Abraham had with his two wives. And we read that, even though Rebecca was barren, neither she nor Issac took things into their own hands to conceive. They trusted YHWH. Bigamy was actually introduced with the line of Cain, where we see that "Lemech took two wives (Genesis 4:19). YHWH didn't command that! Leviticus 18:18 tells us: "You shall not take a woman who is a rival to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while she is still alive".
Although several prominent men were polygynists in Scripture, they ALWAYS encountered jealousy, strife and turmoil! Penninah and Hannah battled a lifetime for Elkanah's love and devotion. Penninah found herself the object of Elkanah's lust, bearing his growing brood of children, while Hannah was barren but loved by her husband. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide a principle taught by the Essenes entitled, "The Principle of Creation" - and they used this principle to prove that the Pharisees were committing fornication by advocating more than one wife.
YHWH allowed David to have multiple wives; but He did not command it! MEN made bad choices - and they often suffered the consequences of those choices. David's palace, for instance, was a perfect pandemonium of intrigue, suspicion, jealousy, and hatred. In 2 Samuel we see David in a state of repentance, putting all his concubines in a house and refusing to have relations with them ... and the poor women ended up living as widows for the rest of their lives!
Author and Aramaic scholar Andrew Gabriel Roth - using nothing more than Bible hermaneutics - has written a refutation to the "YHWH condoned polygyny" nonsense, which he included as an appendix in his anointed project, the Aramaic-English New Testament. Published by Netzari Press, the AENT is a translation of a copy of the oldest known "New Testament" ever discovered (the Khabouris Codex) whose copious footnotes and appendixes were written from a Netzari/Messianic viewpoint. Mr. Roth has graciously given us permission to reprint his refutation of polygyny here.
By Andrew Gabriel Roth
As everyone knows, the Torah teems with stories of men who married several women: Kings David and Solomon, for example, along with many of the patriarchs. Using these illustrations, many modern day rabbis and pastors are teaching the false premise that YHWH condoned adultery, or more specifically, polygyny (the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time). An indepth study of the scriptures, however, reveals quite the contrary!
Basic information and definitions:
- Adultery happens when either the husband or wife in a marriage takes a second sexual partner to themselves, whether the third party is single or married to another person.
- Adultery is avoided if the husband takes his second sexual partner also as a wife while the first wife lives, but is guilty of it if he has sexual relations with a woman who is betrothed or married to another man. In this scenario the women must remain monogamous but the men do not.
From these two definitions we will also ask the following questions:
- Which definition of adultery was the original one as defined by YHWH at the creation of man?
- Was there a time when both definitions according to Scripture could have been valid?
- Were there warnings in Scripture that these choices were going to change and/or revert back to the original definition of adultery, whatever it may be?
- Is there absolute proof as to which definition is binding today?
With these ideas in mind, let us begin then at the beginning:
They shall be one flesh...
So YHWH Elohim caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then YHWH Elohim made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:21-24)
The first question one needs to ask is: If plural marriage was the original model why was only one wife made for Adam? Why not two, ten, or twenty? After all, if Adam was supposed to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth with his descendants, wouldn't multiple wives for him make this task easier?
We will be looking at the way the Renewed Covenant deals with this precise verse a little later on. For now, let's focus on phrases like "united to his wife" and "they will become one flesh." We see here that woman is formed out of man's body and therefore the act of sex in a sacred context reunites man and wife physically as well as spiritually. In that same way a man can be said to have gone astray from his first wife by marrying another, as Malachi explains in graphic terms here:
Have we not all one Father? Did not one Elohim create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary YHWH loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may YHWH cut him off from the tents of Jacob--even though he brings offerings to YHWH Almighty. Another thing you do: You flood YHWH's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because YHWH is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not YHWH made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says YHWH, Elohim of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says YHWH Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. You have wearied YHWH with your words. "How have we wearied him?" you ask. By saying, "All who do evil are good in the eyes of YHWH, and he is pleased with them" or "Where is the Elohim of justice?" (Malachi 2:10-17)
Clearly "the wife of your youth" is the first wife, as long as she is alive. To take another is, in Malachi's pronouncement, to literally abandon YHWH. True, here the prophet is drawing an analogy between idolatry and infidelity, but the template of that example is still one man, one wife. When Judah marries another daughter who was previously a single maiden, he betrays his first wife! Furthermore, any man need only ask his own wife how she would feel at the prospect of him taking a second spouse under the guise of "righteousness." This obviously would not go over well in most households, and that being the case, it is right to ask just how this first wife is honored and cherished when wife number two invades her house! Malachi's passionate question then, has not YHWH made them one, is directly on point. There is also proof that, according to Rav Shaul, the wife has total power to stop her husband from seeking carnal pleasure from any other source:
And concerning the things of which you wrote to me, it is praiseworthy for a man not to approach a woman. But, on account of sexual temptation, let each have his own wife and let a woman have her own husband. And let the man render to his wife the kindness which is due; and so also the woman to her husband. The woman is not the sovereign over her body, but her husband: so also the man is not the sovereign over his body, but the wife. Therefore, deprive not one another, except when you both consent at the time you devote yourselves to fasting and prayer; and return again to the same disposition that Satan does not tempt you because of the passions of your body. (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)
If the wife rules the husband's body, it stands to reason she has quite a say in what he does with it, and vice versa.
At this point, as uncomfortable as it might be, we cannot ignore the delicate subject of the physical aspects of intercourse between a man and wife. What is not commonly understood is that sex is required in a marriage. Sex itself is the mechanism that allows a man to leave his mother, a woman leave her home, and the two to be united in the flesh:
Don't you know that your bodies are the members of the Mashiyach? Will one take a member of the Mashiyach, and make it the member of a harlot? May it never be! Or don't you know, that whoever joins himself to a harlot, is one body (with her)? For it is said, the two will be one body. But he that joins himself to our Master (Y'shua), is with him one spirit. Flee from sexual sin. (1 Corinthians 6:15-18)
Therefore, and in contradistinction to the idea that men according to Tanakh can now have multiple wives and not be counted as adulterers, it remains a fact of biology that the two women in such a union cannot unite their flesh in the same way one man and woman can. That is also one reason among many why homosexuality of every kind is condemned in the Scripture. If the two wives then cannot unite in flesh, then the marriage unit itself is not united in flesh either, and is therefore invalid. Also consider: Once the flesh between one man and one woman is united, how can another come and be one with it?
Much of the controversy on this idea, of course, concerns the word for "one" in Hebrew, echad, because it can sometimes allow for a compound unity of a plurality of things becoming one. While this is true, we need to look at some other basic facts. First of all, 99 percent of the time echad means just one. Even in Israel today, you would say echad when you meant "only" or "just one." The alternative word that means "only one" all the time - yachid - is extremely rare and not the normal phrase for "one" either in ancient or modern Hebrew.
Second of all, paralleling the male-female union is the creation pattern itself, where evening and morning in Genesis 1:5 form the "greater yom" of day one. Five more individual sets of days and nights are similarly joined after this, in unity.
Let's move briefly to the Gospels to see what Y'shua had to say about this issue:
And the Pharisees drew near to him there, and were tempting him and saying, "Is it Lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?" But he answered and said to them, Have you not read, that He who created from the beginning, He created them male and female? And he said, Because of this, a man will leave his father and his mother and will be joined to his wife, and they will be both of them one flesh. Henceforth, they will not be two, rather one flesh. Therefore, what Elohim has united, man should not separate. They said to him, "Why then did Moshe command to give a letter of divorce and to put her away?" And he said to them, Because of the hardness of your heart, you were allowed to put away your wives. But it was not thus from the beginning. But I say to you that he who leaves his wife without a charge of adultery, and takes another, commits adultery. And he that takes a divorced woman commits adultery. His disciples said to him, "If such is the difficulty between husband and wife, it is not worthwhile to take a wife. But he said to them, Not every man can apply this word to himself, but only he to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who were born thus in the womb of their mother. And there are eunuchs who became eunuchs by men. And there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let him comprehend who is able to comprehend. (Matthew 19:3-12)
Y'shua is talking about the original marital arrangement that YHWH intended: As long as the first wife lives and is faithful to her husband, any other wife is to be considered an adulterous partner. He is reiterating YHWH's command that, unless the first wife commits adultery, a second partner after a valid first marriage with a living spouse is always considered adulterous!
Another consideration is this: What if the man doesn't "leave" his first wife per se, but simply allows another wife under his roof while taking care of both of them? The answer is here:
Blessed are all who fear YHWH, who walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears YHWH. May YHWH bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, and may you live to see your children's children. (Psalm 128:1-6)
This is the idealized picture YHWH demands: A monogamous family passing on its virtues through the generations as was the case in the beginning. And so the next important question to ask in this study can be summed up in two words:
The Tanach makes it clear that monogamy was the original paradigm for the married state. However, by the time of the Patriarchs, it seems that polygamy - or more precisely, polygyny - was pandemic. What happened in between?
There are only two possibilities: Either YHWH made some temporary concessions for marriage, or both models were acceptable at the same time. If the latter is the case, we must determine whether or not the two methods are both still acceptable marriage modes for us today.
Therefore, let's take a look at the genealogy in Genesis: According to Genesis 4:19, the first man to take two wives was Lamech, son of Cain, whose confessed to his wives that he had killed two men in cold blood (verse 23), even as his father Cain, who killed his own brother Abel, was the first murderer. Is this the kind of family that we really want to draw examples of proper moral behavior from? Is their template of intimacy between male and female the one we should emulate for all time? Think about it, because Scripture says that's where it came from.
Instead of a righteous choice then, this was the introduction of perversion into the Scriptural record that would force compromises away from the original Set-apart model. As we move forward, we see that only Cain's progeny continued this practice for many hundreds of years and it is from here that evil nations were born that would later corrupt the seed of Seth, who was the progenitor of a more righteous race. But it was only the line from Seth right on down to Noah that was monogamous, and it was only that lineage that was spared from the Flood!
After the deluge, Noah's three sons began re-populating the world and, for a time, the lineages of Shem, Ham and Japheth continued in exclusive monogamous practice for at least ten generations, into Awraham's day. But at this point, all gehenna seems to have broken loose for a variety of reasons, as a terrible precedent began to be set:
Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "YHWH has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May YHWH judge between you and me." "Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:1-6)
So we see this "experiment" - Lamech's Folly we will call it - that began in the belief of necessity, actually backfired! Instead of bringing reassurance that the tribal lineage would continue, the opposite happened. Sarai and Hagar became bitter enemies and Awraham later was forced to eject this same "security" - namely Hagar and her son Ishmael - straight out of the community they were supposed to help! The result is that four millennia later the children of Isaac and Ishmael remain at war with one another even to this day. So, in the first two polygamist/polygynist "tests" the result was utter failure and mass murder!
The Messenger added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count." The Messenger of YHWH also said to [Hagar]: "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for YHWH has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." She gave this name to YHWH who spoke to her: "You are the Elohim who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. (Genesis 16:10-16)
Worse than that, we can also see that, even though YHWH allowed this plural marriage to happen, it really only came about from a lack of faith in His promises:
After this, the word of YHWH came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."
But Abram said, "O Sovereign YHWH, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." Then the word of YHWH came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abram believed YHWH, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)
A son coming out of Awraham's body, as YHWH put it, could only mean through Sarai, the only wife he had at that moment! Furthermore, YHWH saying that "your servant won't inherit" should have been a huge hint that YHWH preferred Awraham not take Hagar as a wife. Later on YHWH gets even more specific:
Elohim also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her." Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" And Abraham said to Elohim, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" Then Elohim said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." When he had finished speaking with Abraham, Elohim went up from him. (Genesis 17:15-22)
So we see here that not even faithful Awraham could believe his wife would bear him a son, let alone be a mother of nations, apparently because he didn't totally understand what was being promised to him. As a result of failing this test of not just faith but pursuing the ultimate intent of the revelation he was given, Awraham would have to face a much more frightening trial to see if he would sacrifice his own son Isaac! This is clear from the text, since YHWH only then said basically: "Now I know you really believe me!"
Sarah didn't do much better in the faith department, either, as the following scripture shows:
Then YHWH said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" Then YHWH said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for YHWH? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh." But he said, "Yes, you did laugh." (Genesis 18:10-15)
We see also here another dimension to this critical juncture. YHWH had given Awraham a choice: Believe that somehow He would make an elderly couple have a male heir, or use "worldly wisdom" to second-guess YHWH and not believe in His Power, and go around His original intentions. But, because YHWH was determined to keep His favor with Awraham to bless the rest of the nations, He gave him another chance and proceeded with those intended blessings once it was clear Awraham finally understood. However, the bad choices of Awraham and Sarah initially forced YHWH to make certain concessions for a time that would take almost two millennia to rectify, as our next section shows.
The temporary compromise
As stated above, the practice that began with Cain's son Lamech grew so widespread that YHWH wiped those people out with a flood. However, it is clear from the genealogical records in Genesis 10 that the sons of Ham were the first to go astray spiritually. Cush, Ham's eldest son, was the father of Nimrod, whose people would build the Tower of Babel in an early challenge to YHWH's authority. Another son of Ham, Mizraim, gave his name to Egypt, a well-known early center of polygamy. Yet another son of Cush, Canaan, gave birth to an equally perverse polygamist group that YHWH would later vomit out of the land, and all these would be surrounding the ancient Hebrews wherever they went!
As a result, Awraham, who hailed from these same areas in Ur and Hebron, was bound to have some of this polygamist ideology seep into his thoughts, making it that much easier for him to listen to Sarah's suggestion over YHWH's.
The dilemma that YHWH faced was enormous: If he cut Awraham off for his lack of faith/understanding then His whole plan would go awry, but if He didn't, YHWH had vowed to bless all Awraham's descendants with nationhood and prosperity, whether they had pure origins or not. The answer, then, was to bless all the clans that came from Awraham's loins but to reserve special status for the intended lineage through Isaac in matters of special purity and inheritance in Canaan, later to be known as Israel. It would also be YHWH's intention that Israel would teach the other nations around her, but unfortunately the opposite happened and Israel became corrupt.
Then, as YHWH predicted to Awraham, his people would go to Egypt and eventually become enslaved - once again, in a society where polygyny was the norm. Complicating matters, by the time of their emancipation under Moshe, the Hebrews had grown into what Exodus 12:40 calls erev rab, a mixed or multi-racial multitude, among who were no doubt other polygynists!
Because the entire nation had to leave quickly then, there was no time to try to separate those engaged in plural marriages from those who were in monogamous ones. Instead, Moshe had to accept the current state of his population that was following him into the wilderness. He would have deal with them first and try to make the best legislation for all concerned later on. That is why you get some Scriptures that read like this:
If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father's strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17)
Since the plural marriages were already in his midst, Moshe didn't want to add to the problems he was already having with a discontented populace who kept pining for Egypt by taking children away from their mothers. The tumult that would have arisen there, in combination with the all too familiar record of the backsliding multitude, would have put the entire redemption plan in jeopardy.
But didn't Moshe have two wives himself?
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. "Has YHWH spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And YHWH heard this. (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
At once YHWH said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you." So the three of them came out. Then YHWH came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of YHWH is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of YHWH. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" The anger of YHWH burned against them, and he left them. (Numbers 12:1-9)
When polygamists try to prove their case scripturally, this is often one of the first places they come to. Their argument goes something like this:
- Moshe only has one wife listed by name, Tzipporah, the daughter of Jethro.
- Tzipporah's death is not recorded anywhere from the time she marries Moshe to the opening moments of this verse and therefore she must be alive at this time.
- Now, instead of his Midian (Arabian) wife, Moshe has taken a total foreigner from Cush, which can mean Ethiopia.
- Therefore, Moshe has two wives at the same time: Midianite Tzipporah and this unknown Cushite wife here.
There are a few fatal flaws to this sham argument: First of all, Tzipporah's death is unrecorded, period! Therefore, if this Cushite is in fact another woman, there is no reason to suppose that Tzipporah has not passed on, especially given the fact that Moshe is already well past 80 at this point. Secondly, Cush was not confined to Ethiopia: Numbers 12:1-9.
As a result, the much stronger case can be made that this is simply Tzipporah being called a derogatory name. Moshe's sister was considered a prophetess and his brother Aaron was high priest. They were clearly used to running the show and being the stars of it. But now, although the inciting incident is not recorded, it is easy to see how Aaron and Miriam would be more jealous of Tzipporah than they would against some pretty young thing that just came on the scene without power; reason being, Tzipporah's father is also a kohen of the most high El (Exodus 3:1), and Mount Sinai where they all received the Ten Commandments was in her backyard! It is certainly the case that Jethro gave Moshe counsel that Moshe did not take from others (Exodus 18:14-27), thus perhaps nursing a long-standing jealousy between the two religious groups attached to Moshe that served YHWH.
Whichever the case may be, this text does not prove Moshe was a bigamist. One can only arrive at such a conclusion through a series of false assumptions and erratic leaps away from logic.
So when did the perversion end?
As mentioned earlier, the end of the tolerance of plural marriage was about a thousand years after Moshe's time. YHWH would have to wait for an appropriate time when circumstances would essentially allow Him to press a kind of re-set key for the re-constitution of the nation of Israel from the ground up. But first, Israel would have to pass through its Monarchy period where, in addition to all these cultural cross-currents of history, we must add other traditions that allowed royalty to enjoy multiple spouses:
Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. Then the king's personal attendants proposed, "Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." (Esther 2:1-4)
Like the King of Persia, Israelite kings Dawid and Solomon kept multiple wives, concubines and harems. Sometimes this was done to showcase their prosperity. At other times it was strategic to quell dissent both from within and beyond the borders of Israel. Whether we like it or not, these examples of polygyny were considered normal for Eastern kings (e.g. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11), which may be why the Monarchy period is completely contained during the period that plural marriages were tolerated by YHWH.
On the other hand, Moshe foresaw this trending as well and still did his best to limit its damage even if the secondary marriage was a remedy against war:
The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for YHWH has told you, "You are not to go back that way again." He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:16-17)
Now while pro-polygynysts can argue that "not multiplying wives" can still allow a few extra ones, provided the numbers don't get excessive; the fact remains that Moshe was looking well beyond his days, and attempting to rein in the royalty who was engaging in polygyny. As Solomon himself would discover, the foreign wife that brings you peace today may very well lead you away from YHWH tomorrow.
In any case, while monogamy has always been held in high esteem throughout the ages, we don't see the Scriptural record turning back to it and away from plural marriages until the main prophetic period, when voices like Isaiah and Jeremiah would frequently compare YHWH as a husband fettered to an unfaithful wife that was either Israel or Judah:
During the reign of King Josiah, YHWH said to me, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense," declares YHWH. (Jeremiah 3:6-10)
Jeremiah's rebuke is as sharp as it is sweeping, encompassing events for the past two and a half centuries. In 722 BCE, "faithless Israel" was taken into captivity by the Assyrians essentially because the Northern Kingdom's deep idolatry was counted by YHWH as "spiritual adultery". But Jeremiah himself would live to see an equally great catastrophe befall the remaining Hebrew kingdom of Judah, as the Babylonians came in and burned Solomon's temple also to the ground.
The comparisons of idolatry with adultery, then, which permeate the writings in this period obviously make no sense without a one man/one woman template to hang them on. The same can also be said in the Renewed Covenant where the faithful are now portrayed as the Bride of Mashiyach.
The toleration for plural marriage clearly ended when the Hebrews were allowed to return to the Land under Ezra and Nehemiah. At that point, in about 515 BCE, YHWH really could start over with them and set things right. Whereas before Moshe had been forced for reasons of expediency to deal with the plural marriages from the mixed multitude that came up from Egypt, under Ezra and Nehemiah YHWH could use his people's eagerness to return as an incentive to finally get rid of those foreign wives that confused them:
And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of Elohim, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel's guilt. Now make confession to YHWH, the Elohim of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives." The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: "You are right! We must do as you say. But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our Elohim in this matter is turned away from us." (Ezra 10:9-14)
With these preparations now in place, the entire nation of Israel could finally start fresh and return to the original monogamous model of marriage that Torah demanded: One man and one woman exclusively united to one another in flesh and spirit. From this point on there is not a single mention of bigamy being tolerated in Israel, including the time of Y'shua and the early Netzarim movement. For those reasons, the words of Y'shua that we quoted in the beginning bear repeating now:
Because of the hardness of your heart, you were allowed to put away your wives. But it was not thus from the beginning. But I say to you that he who leaves his wife without a charge of adultery, and takes another, commits adultery. And he that takes a divorced woman commits adultery.
The Return of Monogamy is all in the KHADs
As referenced in the beginning of this essay, much of the discussion on this topic has centered on the use of echad, the Hebrew word meaning "one". In Aramaic, the cognate word is khad, and it carries the same meanings. Like its Hebrew counterpart, 99 percent of the time the normative reading is "one/only". The problem that has arisen is that pro-polygamists/polygynists take the one percent of the time that a compound unity is being drawn on and use that as a default usage to pervert plain readings that one wife really does mean just that!
And concerning the things of which you wrote to me, it is praiseworthy for a man not to approach a woman. But, on account of sexual temptation, let each have his own wife and let a woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1-2)
The wording "his own" and "her own" derived from Aramaic khad, clearly refer to an exclusivity of sexual access between husband and wife. Such a point is even more forcefully made here:
I would that you could bear with me a little, that I might talk foolishly: and indeed, bear with me. For I am jealous over you, with a righteous jealousy for I have espoused you to a husband as a chaste virgin whom I would present to the Mashiyach. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
The wording here is l'gabra, khad or "to one husband". This is not exclusively figurative language. Rather, the spiritual message makes absolutely no sense if it is not built upon the physical monogamous model between husband and wife. After all, there is only one Y'shua for the bride to go to and he is exclusively bound only to the collective "virgin" represented by his followers - and, please note, this is NOT a sexual relationship! Some other verses that show Torah upheld monogamy are as follows:
It is a faithful saying that if a man desires the eldership, he desires a good work. And an elder should be such that no blame can be found in him; and he should be the husband of one wife, with a vigilant mind and sober and reliable (in his behaviors), and affectionate to strangers, and instructive, and not a transgressor in regard to wine, and whose hand is not swift to strike; but he should be humble and not contentious, nor a lover of money; and one that guides well his own house and holds his children in subjection with all purity. For if he knows not how to guide his own house well, how can he guide the assembly of Elohim? (1 Timothy 3:1-5; see also Titus 1:6)
And my personal favorite for keeping the husbands in line:
It is fitting for men so to love their wives as (they do) their own bodies. For he that loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own body; but nourishes it and provides for it, even as the Mashiyach (did for) the assembly. For we are members of his body and of his flesh and of his bones. For this reason, a man should leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife; and the two should be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I am speaking of the Mashiyach and of his assembly. (Ephesians 5:28-32)
Furthermore we have this important statement:
For there is neither Jew nor Aramean, nor slave nor free, nor male nor female, but you are all one in Y'shua the Mashiyach. And if you are of the Mashiyach then you are seeds of Awraham and inheritors by the promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)
The meaning here is simple. If all are one in Mashiyach, including male and female, then the previous accommodations that favored men and discriminated against women in this regard are also abolished, and in fact, have been for some centuries by this time. The dividing wall is gone (Ephesians 2:14-16) and while the roles and functions of men and women will never be identical, neither will they exalt one gender to the detriment of the other in an unfair manner.
Most people understand that YHWH revealed Himself through male and female attributes so that humans could see components of His attributes in the physical world which extend into the spiritual world. YHWH is not a person; He is referred to according to the male gender because He is all the attributes of the perfect Father. However, both the male and female attributes of YHWH point to Mashiyach and are Mashiyach. Mashiyach was born of a woman, and he was the ultimate seed of a woman which, of course, validates the human spirit within an eternal purpose. However, Mashiyach himself stated that the male and female elements of human life are temporal: "For in the resurrection of the dead, men do not marry women, nor are women given to husbands. Rather, they are as the Messengers of Elohim in Heaven." (Matthew 22:30) Neither the male or female nature will have relevance in the olam haba (world to come), which means they must then point to the world to come.
Had God wanted Adam to have more than one wife, Adam would have lost a few more ribs....
Understanding the male and female attributes of YHWH according to Torah and Mashiyach allows men and women to advance toward the Perfection of Mashiyach. When a husband and wife are married and joined together in Mashiyach they become one; the sum of the two is neither male nor female, but echad, one. This new entity of one portrays the perfection of the spiritual body that is in harmony with YHWH. Marriage is a covenant that is made in Mashiyach and witnessed by YHWH and all the wedding party for the purpose of bringing the will of YHWH from heaven to earth (Genesis 1:28).
Man and woman as husband and wife together rebuild what was lost by original sin and subdue the enemy who, of course, is on a fulltime mission to rip their marriage apart and then turn the children from obedience to rebellion. Marriage is clearly the single largest contributor within the human race to loving and belonging to one another! Marriage also pictures each person's love and belonging to Mashiyach as the "bride of Mashiyach," as footnoted earlier.
When a husband and wife individually press into the things of Mashiyach they are conformed into the Image of Elohim as their unique male and female attributes are merged into one. From this unity of one their children are able to discern and recognize the Image of Elohim because they are literally witnessing and experiencing trust, honor, love, respect, etc. - attributes that are protected by a covenant according to the perfection of Mashiyach and emulated by their loving father and mother.
Therefore, a monogamous relationship is a heavenly-based covenant made on Earth wherein one man and one woman marry once and for life; it is a covenant that thoroughly demonstrates the spirit of Torah according to the high calling of Mashiyach. Polygamy and polygyny, on the other hand, are man-made traditions that elevate the male gender, distorting the balance and harmony that is revealed within YHWH as male and female. Those who seek Mashiyach to endorse their polygamist/polygynist ideas are clearly deficient in understanding the Spirit of Mashiyach.
The "freedom" of the individual to sin has led many down the path of destruction. But the fact is, one can only find true sexual freedom in the security and unity of a monogamous marriage, which includes freedom from the fear that their intimacy and hard-earned goals might at some point be destroyed by their carnality. Unfortunately, some individuals have chosen to cloak their lusts in religious garb, and attempt to “read into” the Scriptures in order to fool themselves and others into believing that YHWH condones multiple partners in a marriage.
The Torah, however, proves otherwise. Whether Jewish or Gentile, leader or follower, anyone who perverts the Word by twisting adultery into a meaningless restriction runs the risk of being condemned. All who engage in, or teach others that polygamy or polygyny is condoned by YHWH are guilty of lying and they will be held accountable before YHWH come Judgment Day! This goes double for teachers who are in turn held to a much more severe judgment (1 Corinthians 6:9; James 3:1). True freedom comes not via the way of Cain, but from intimate Set-apart marital love between husband and wife as equals, which is the bedrock of our civilization.
Exodus 20: 14 "You shall not commit adultery"....
Matthew 19: 9 But I say to you that he who leaves his wife without a charge of adultery, and takes another, commits adultery. And he that takes a divorced woman commits adultery.
Revelation 22: 11 He who is unrighteous (unjust, wicked), let him be unrighteous still; and he who is filthy (vile, impure), let him be filthy still; and he who is righteous (just, upright, in right standing with God), let him do right still; and he who is holy, let him be holy still. 12 Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit.
2 Peter 2: 1 But in the world there have been also false prophets, as there will likewise be false teachers among you who will bring in destructive heresies denying Master YHWH that bought them; thus bringing on themselves swift destruction.
1 Corinthians 6: 9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters NOR ADULTERERS nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.