WVW: Leviticus 18:18- Does the Bible Support Polygamy? Part II
Last week we began this journey of looking at polygamy in the Bible. Specifically, we were trying to answer the question of whether or not the practice of polygamy was supported in the Bible. There have been many in the past (and present!) that have sought to undermine the Biblical teaching on marriage (one man with one woman) by stating that the Bible does not condemn polygamy, therefore other “practices” of marriage are acceptable. Others have used verses in the Bible to suggest that polygamy is approved by God and have gone on to practice it themselves.
How do they get there? By misunderstanding our weird verse in Leviticus 18:18:
“And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.”
To understand more of the context surrounding this verse, I encourage you to go back and read part one of this series from last week!
This week we wanted to take a look specifically at the great patriarchs of the faith that practiced polygamy—like Gideon, David, and Solomon. Why did God allow for these men to be honored and used by Him though they practiced polygamy?
After looking at context and other Bible verses last week, we found that the Bible doesn’t directly prohibit polygamy with a specific verse. However, we can see all throughout Scripture how polygamy is always painted in a negative light and how it often ends in tragedy or tension.
What Were These Tensions?
With Abraham, polygamy led to bitterness between Sarah and Hagar, where Hagar eventually had to flee with Ishmael. It led to jealousy among Jacob’s wives of Leah and Rachel, which later affected Joseph being sold into slavery. With David, it led to the rape of one of his daughters by one of his sons; and with Solomon his many wives turned away his heart from God to worship other gods.
It’s good to remember that these men were sinful, just like you and me. Yet, despite their sin (whether it was polygamy or adultry or murder), God still chose to use them—just like He uses us today despite our sin. This is one of the great things about the Bible. Instead of hiding the sins, flaws, and mistakes of the people in the Bible, it often showcases them as a way to point to the only One who is truly perfect and sinless and worthy of glory.
What About God’s “Silence” on Polygamy?
Despite the inevitable tragedies that came from polygamous relationships in Scripture, it was still practiced and many commentators and theologians speculate about God’s “silence” on it. Some mention or bring up the fact that early Israel was a patriarchal society that did not allow women the same types of freedoms as men. So God may have tolerated polygamy as a means of protection for women.
Unmarried women in these societies were often uneducated and could not own property or make a way to provide for themselves. Many single women were forced into some kind of slavery or prostitution, some even starving to death. Women depended on their fathers or brothers for protection and marriage was the other way that they could ensure their own safety. Often a man would marry multiple women to make sure each was provided for instead of them being forced into a lifestyle that would bring them harm.
All of these instances or examples aside, we can rest in knowing that polygamous relationships were strictly forbidden by God simply by looking at the original law of marriage given in Genesis 2:24-25. However, because of hardened hearts, Moses tolerated polygamy (much like he did with divorce), as did other leaders in early Israel. We can conclude that just because Scripture records various polygamous relationships, we shouldn’t take that to mean that God approved of them.
As we look to the New Testament, though, we see Jesus (as he often did) condemn the traditions of man and affirm once again, the original design and plan for marriage. Not only is it for our earthly benefit, but it also matters as we look to Christ and what He has done and will do for the Church.
Marriage As a Picture of Christ’s Bride
In Genesis 2:18-25 God shows us the first marriage and it serves as a foundation for all marriages for all time. When God made the world, He looked at everything He had created and said it was “very good.” This included the creation of man, woman, and the union they would share. So, while sin eventually corrupted this union, it did not take away the original intent of what marriage was to be.
Jesus reiterated what marriage was in Mark 10 and Matthew 19 and even explained to the Pharisees that God only tolerated divorce (another corruption of marriage) because of the hardness of Israel’s hearts. Despite this though, He emphasized that God always intended it to be a one flesh union for the man and woman’s entire lives. Paul emphasizes the marriage union again in Ephesians 5:25-33, but he takes it a bit further and explains that this ONE flesh union is a picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church. This anaology does not work if polygamy is to be an accepted practice.
Paul tells us in Ephesians that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for the Church. Jesus was able to do this because He was the perfect, sinless Son of God. The law that David, Solomon, Gideon, and so many others could not live out perfectly, Jesus did. And so He took our place on the cross and died our death and took the wrath of God upon Himself so we didn’t have to in order that we may be sanctified and presented to Himself without any blemish (as Ephesians says). Three days later, He rose from the grave and He now sits at the right hand of God and will one day come back for His Bride.
While this passage in Ephsians is a beautiful picture of what marriage is, it’s also an even more beautiful picture of what Christ did for the Church so that she could be redeemed. It also begs the question: Are you a part of the Bride of Christ?
Repent and believe the Gospel! Trust in Him, friend, and be a part of the Bride that Christ loves so much and will return for one day soon.
Part 3 coming next week! Stay tuned!
Dingers, you can find Leanne on instagram @faithfuldefender where she posts much more scriptural content! She has also written some other blogs that are definitely worth checking out and she has been a guest on other podcasts as well!