Friday, October 01, 2010

What Does the Bible Say About Polygamy? (Part 2) - Genesis 4:19


This is the second part in a four part series, to go to part one click here.

In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed that at the very beginning God had established marriage to be between one man and one woman. When the Pharisees came up to Jesus and questioned him regarding the legality of divorce, Jesus responded by quoting from the second chapter of Genesis (Matthew 19:4-Genesis 1:27, Matthew 19:5-Genesis 2:24). He also added, What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. (Matthew 19:6) Later in the passage, Jesus stated under what circumstance divorce is permissible:
"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9)
When a man and a woman marry they become one flesh (Matthew 19:5). If a man divorces for an illegitimate reason and marries another woman, he commits adultery because, in God's eyes, he is still one flesh with his former wife. Is it possible for a man to be one flesh with more than one woman at once?

Someone may attempt to argue that it is possible for a man to be one flesh with two women separately— that it is possible for a man to be one flesh with one woman, but also one flesh with another woman. The contradiction in such reasoning is plain. When a man marries his first wife, he becomes one flesh with her. They are no longer two, but one flesh. It takes an entire man and an entire woman to become one flesh.

Imagine two magnets being attracted to one another. One magnet represents a man, the other a woman. These magnets join together to form a single united magnet. The two magnets are no longer two separate magnets, but are a single magnet.

Now imagine that a third magnet (another woman) draws near to this single magnet. The first magnet (the man) becomes attracted to the third magnet. However, the first magnet is still attracted to the second magnet. And so the first magnet cuts itself in half so that it can also join together with the third magnet. Would it be accurate to say that the entire first magnet was "one magnet" with both the second magnet and also the third magnet? No! Rather, the first magnet attempted to give part of itself to the second magnet, and part of itself to the third magnet. And what was the result? That the magnet was no longer truly "one magnet" with either of the magnets. Clearly this illustration disproves the idea that a man can be one flesh with two women separately.

But perhaps someone may attempt to argue that while a man cannot be one flesh with two women separately, the three can together be one flesh. Just as Adam and Eve were no longer two, but one flesh, so a man and two wives could also together be one flesh. An illustration with the same three magnets in this scenario would look something like this: the first magnet would not have cut itself in half; it would not have divided itself between the second and third magnets. Rather, the three magnets would have all been joined together; all three magnets together would have been "one magnet".

This argument, however, is also faulty. What if, like the first magnet, a man became one flesh together with two other women? What would be the result? The man would be one flesh with one woman, and one flesh with the other woman... But the one woman would also be one flesh with the other woman! Such a relationship would clearly be sinful. If the three are one flesh together, then there can be no separation of genders.

When polygamy occurs, man tries to separate what God put together. Is it possible for a man to break this bond? The answer to this must be no, or at least, a man cannot break the bond himself (this bond can be broken by God in the case of a legitimate divorce). Scripture speaks of Abraham being married both to Sarah and to Hagar. It seems from this that while God saw Abraham as one flesh with only Sarah, Abraham had tried to break this bond. Abraham artificially joined with Hagar, but they were not truly seen as one flesh in God's eyes. This relationship must have corrupted Abraham's true marriage with Sarah to a certain extent.

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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

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