Monday, September 27, 2010

What Does the Bible Say About Polygamy? (Part 1) - Genesis 4:19


This is the first part in a four part series.

What does the Bible say about polygamy? Is it right? Or is it wrong? The best place to start in answering this question is to go to the first polygamist mentioned in Scripture. The person who receives the "honorable" title of First Polygamist is a man by the name of Lamech, Cain's great-great-great grandson.

Scripture says very little about Lamech. We know that Lamech killed a man, possibly in self-defense (Genesis 4:23). We also know that Lamech was the father of three famous sons. One of these sons was famous for his work with livestock, the other for his work with music, and the last for his work with metal. Lamech, however, as was already mentioned, was a polygamist. He had two wives. Genesis 4:19 contains the account of the first recorded man to practice polygamy:
Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. (Genesis 4:19)
While this verse does mark the first time polygamy is mentioned in Scripture, it does not mark the first time that marriage is mentioned in Scripture. Two chapters earlier, at the creation of the world, God said this:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
Marriage, according to this passage, is the union of a man and a woman. And if this is the correct interpretation of this passage, it would be logical to conclude that a marriage which consists of something different than a man and a woman is a corruption of marriage. Some, however, would argue that such an interpretation is wrong.

There are some people who would argue that it is legitimate for a Christian to practice polygamy. Usually this is done in an attempt to discredit the Christian religion. Such people might claim that the Bible never explicitly forbids polygamy. After all, Abraham, Jacob, David, and others practiced polygamy, yet God never directly condemned them for it.

However, God did indirectly condemn them. Their sinful relationships had consequences. When Abraham decided to practice polygamy (with Hagar, Genesis 16:3), fierce family tensions arose. Hagar eventually gave birth to a son. Abraham thought that this new son (Ishmael) would become his heir. God, however, did not recognize Ishmael as the heir. Instead, God gave Abraham a son through the proper means, thus Isaac was born.

Isaac, who was not a polygamist, gave birth to a son: Jacob. Jacob, however, was a polygamist. The favoritism which polygamy caused in Jacob's family life can clearly be seen in Scripture. Jacob's favoritism not only had an effect on his wives, but also on his sons (for example: how Jacob's sons treated Joseph).

David's life was also filled with many problems because of his decision to practice polygamy. His family was a mess. And it is easy to see how his numerous wives influenced his son Solomon to marry a ridiculous number of women.

The information presented in Genesis 2 should be enough to prove the sinfulness of polygamy. Nonetheless, Scripture does not contradict itself. If polygamy is wrong in Genesis 2, it should be wrong throughout Scripture. The next three parts in this series will take you through various other passages in Scripture, all of which clearly demonstrate that polygamy is inherently wrong.

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Related Posts:
The First Marriage - The Christian Worldview
Who Was Cain's Wife? - Genesis 4:17
The City of Enoch - Genesis 4:17-19
Psalm 1:1 - Traverse Not With Wickedness
Why Is Sin Unavoidable? (Part 1) - The Christian Worldview

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