Monday, October 04, 2010

What Does the Bible Say About Polygamy? (Part 3) - Genesis 4:19

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

Many will point out that when polygamy is mentioned in Scripture, it tends to simply be stated. While it is not explicitly supported, neither is it condemned. A good example of this is found in Genesis 16:3:
After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. (Genesis 16:3)
It is important to realize that this verse is part of a larger narrative (written by Moses). Moses was simply recording, through God's guidance, some of the earlier events of human history. While Scripture does not explicitly state that Abraham was in disobedience, this does not prove that Abraham's actions were acceptable to God.  When a narrative does not specifically condemn an action, this does not prove that the action is morally acceptable to God (for a better understanding of this statement read A Characteristic of Narratives - Hermeneutics).

But perhaps some may think I am avoiding the main question: Why didn't God directly condemn Abraham for practicing polygamy? (After all, God directly showed Abraham that he was in sin for lying about his wife.)

Men are not able to fully understand why God does one thing and not another thing. It may seem like a cop-out answer, and perhaps it is. But, as humans, we often question the mercy of God. Why did God allow Cain to live? And ultimately, why did God send Christ? Why the gospel? Why would God choose to love wicked men?

Anytime the Why question is asked, the reasoning behind one of God's actions is being questioned. While there is nothing inherently wrong with asking Why?— oftentimes Scripture does not specifically answer this question. Of course, the simple response to the Why question is that it happened that way (and not another way) for God's glory— but frequently, that is the only absolute response that can be given.

When the question Why is asked, oftentimes the only possible (specific) response is to speculate. Hours can be spent asking why God created the world in six days rather than ten days. Hours can be spent pondering why God chose to speak to Moses through a burning bush instead of some other plant. Hours can be spent speculating over why God did one thing and not another— but ultimately the specifics behind such questions cannot always be answered.

Why did God directly condemn Abraham for lying and not directly condemn him (in Scripture) for practicing polygamy? Perhaps the question will be answered in eternity. But for now, all that is known (absolutely) is that God was merciful to Abraham, as He is to many today.

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Related Posts:
A Characteristic of Narratives - Hermeneutics
The First Marriage - The Christian Worldview
Who Was Cain's Wife? - Genesis 4:17

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