What to do if husband has 2 or more wives when converting to Christ?

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by monoergon, Feb 10, 2018.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I don't quite understand the phrasing of your response. Can you restate your point?

    Yes, societal upheaval will result by the missionary encouraging divorce. Never in the Bible is polygamy explicitly said to be sin, but God is said to hate divorce. Therefore, getting back to the ideal of one-husband-one-wife monogamy can occur in the 2nd generation to prevent family disintegration, the instantaneous making of formerly legitimate children into illegitimate bastards, and the reduction of former wives into second-class citizens (on the level of concubines instead of honorable wives) without a husband to provide for them. This method of letting polygamy die a natural death in the 2nd generation is the better method at ending polygamy than to suddenly end it and create many sudden further social problems.

    In II Samuel 12 Nathan the Prophet says that God would have given David many more wives, "And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife.."

    Nathan calls David's adultery evil but says God would have granted David many more wives if only he did not do this sin of adultery. Therefore, we can prove that adultery is far worse than polygamy and that polygamy is not merely contractualized adultery, as some claim, but that it is true marriage.

    Also, we can see that adultery is not an awful abomination as, say homosexuality is, by the fact that God would not have offered something that heinously evil to David. The wives of the former king became his, and God had so richly granted so much wealth, and so many cattle, and so many wives to David that David's sin of taking what was not his was even worse because of it.

    In Ezekial 23 and Jeremiah 3 God portrays himself as a polygamist by way of illustration to show the unfaithfulness of his two kingdoms. We cannot fathom that God would portray himself as a homosexual or an adulterer, and yet God paints himself as married to two daughters of the same mother.

    Eze 23:1 The Word of Jehovah came again to me,
    Eze 23:2 Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother.
    ...And they were Mine, and they bore sons and daughters.
    Eze 23:36-37 And Jehovah said to me: Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah, and declare to them their abominations, that they have committed adultery,

    Foreign sins always appear as more sinful than familiar sins.

    I would argue that Western promiscuity and adultery and divorce are worse sins than the polygamy of the Patriarchs. We read the OT and we marvel that these polygamist patriarchs could be God's people....but they, in turn, would marvel that sex-saturated modern Westerners who engage in sexual encounters freely with people who are not one of their many wives could be saved. We are at the stage in Western history where a return to the polygamy of the Patriarchs would be a moral improvement.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  2. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, assuming that while in a polygamy marriage, the husband is fulfilling his sexual and financial and all other activities for each wife, this would be seen as being superior to cheating while only married to one wife. The ideal marriage standard would still be one woman and one man relationship as God originally created and intended it to be from the very beginning, as Jesus said that it should be.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  3. Berean

    Berean Puritanboard Commissioner

    That's one incredible sentence.
  4. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I have modified it to keep a proper flow of thought.
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior


    I have appreciated a number of your responses on this topic.

    Regarding the portion above, I think God is talking about blessing David with things, though it doesn't necessarily mean God is approving of polygamy. "Much more," not "many more."
  6. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    God seemed to have blessed David in spite of his many wives.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Nevertheless, we read:

    "And I GAVE thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things."
    2 Samuel 12:8.

    God gave David his wives, and would have given him more. If only David would not have sinned by adultery.

    The point is to see how God views polygamy in comparison to adultery or divorce. One is so much worse than the other from this context. But because remote tribal peoples do it, we see foreign sin as more heinous because it is unfamiliar, even as sexual promiscuity is not considered too bad in the West anymore. Our culture clouds our sense of which particular sins are worse than others.

    Add to this, the law of the Levirate and also God's willingness to portray himself as married to two wives, and we can gain a proper gradation of which sins are worse than others.

    My main point here is not to excuse polygamy. It naturally dies off everywhere the gospel is spread. But I just want to put it into proper perspective when compared to the sins of the West. If we overemphasize how bad polygamy is, we can do more harm to tribal societies trying to suddenly rid the society of this evil overnight...and cause many worse problems in our sudden efforts. The better course is to exercise patience.
  8. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    When the scriptures are promoted and practiced among the recently evangelized say in nations that allow for many wives, God will be able to weed that out from among the people, and get back to one man for one wife over a process of time.
  9. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree with everything you have said so far.

    But what about if the situation were reversed, a situation of polyandry (one woman with multiple husbands)? Would the same standard apply? Or should the surplus husbands be told to divorce and move on? I would assume it would be less economically devastating for a husband to move on in this situation than for a wife. I know the situation is more rare, but it does happen. Have you ever encountered it or heard about it in a missions context?
  10. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Paul's instructions are the same. If you become a Christian you are not to break your marriage vows. If the non-believing spouse leaves due to your faith then that is on them. Why is it different for a woman in this case? By what authority does she have to flick off her husbands if they don't leave?

    If what you are describing is real, then the immediate social fabric would depend on this and the best course be the slow, multigenerational death that Perg wrote about.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I speak with no confidence about polyandry because we have no biblical examples, and those societies are quite rare. But I suppose, to be consistent, I would have to also urge the same principles to be followed. I have never heard of a missionary dealing with polyandrous marriages. As an example, according to the Ethnographic Atlas, of 1,231 [tribal West African] societies noted, 588 had frequent polygamy, 453 had occasional polygyny, 186 were monogamous, and four had polyandry. I would love to research this further, though.
  12. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Some more recent research, Trevor, purports to find dozens more of such cultures (that practice polyandry).

    But they're still quite negligible. I've only done a bit of research on this question but have found the one or two "reputable" reports of this sort to be suspect in their motives and goals. Bottom line: apart from the "multiple brothers marrying one woman" types of Tibet and like poor (and land-poor) cultures, there's very little clear evidence of more widespread polyandry.

    My answer, frankly, is that we should, missiologically, cross that bridge when we come to it, and I am not aware that we have. I don't think that we should allow ourselves to get trapped by saying that we would treat it the same way as we would polygamy.

    I'd want to see all the facts on the ground, like we have in polygamous contexts. Claiming that polyandry is more widespread than previously thought may well have ideological motivations of which we should be suspicious. I would want to look very carefully into this matter before committing. Thus I am not prepared to say that I would regard this the same way in the context of the mission field.

  13. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    Multiple husbands cannot simultaneously have a valid marriage to the same woman, so divorce doesn't apply. Rather, the woman has committed adultery from her first husband. I think this would need to be corrected within the discipleship process, rather than tolerated, just like homosexuality would.

    Those "husbands" who came later cannot be properly married to her, as it is a property violation. She belongs to her first husband, who is improperly sharing her with other men. Multiple wives, however, involve multiple contracts by the same man, which was tolerated, but was never the original model. It is better to honor the contracts instead of breaking them. The "head" of a household can theoretically make multiple contracts, but the beneficiary of that "headship" cannot be under two headships.

    That's how I understand it.

  14. beloved7

    beloved7 Puritan Board Freshman

    Common sense would dictate that the original marriage is the authentic one, and the ones that followed are null in void.
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Your common sense is not informed by Scripture then, which calls all wives as wives and not as adulterers or partners in adultery.
  16. beloved7

    beloved7 Puritan Board Freshman

    What did Jesus say to the woman at the well?

    John 4:17:18
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    They must have been living together and not married.

    The OT speaks of multiple WIVES. Under your logic you could not have WIVES but a wife and then many illicit lovers. But the OT speaks of these women as true wives. And when David sinned with Bathsheba God answered by saying (In 2 Samuel 12), "I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!"

    God tells David he woudl have added even more wives to him...if only he did not sin the sin of adultery with Bathsheba.....therefore, multiple wives if not as great a sin as adultery. And thus these women were counted as wives and not anything else less than wives.
  18. beloved7

    beloved7 Puritan Board Freshman

    What exactly is your assertion, that you are a polygamist and that God encourages you to be so? Is that the end game here? Paul teaches that for someone to be an elder they are to be the husband of one wife, that' a good indication. Also the account in Genesis says we are to become one flesh. Ever think that Israel broke rank and fell into sin, and therefor their customs changed?
  19. beloved7

    beloved7 Puritan Board Freshman

    Never in the Bible is premarital sex explicitly said to be sin. Never in the Bible is masturbation explicitly said to be sin. By this logic, were gonna have a whole lot of depraved liberty going on.
  20. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior


    Have you read this thread and the contribution to it of Trevor [Pergamum]? You unfairly characterize him and his position here, warranting revision and/or retraction.

    Trevor is a missionary and has been discussing how to handle the exigency of multiple wives on the mission field. He in no way believes that the Bible condones multiple wives but is seeking to deal pastorally in the situation where such exists, especially when a man having multiple wives comes to Christ and has a continuing responsibility to his wives and children.

    This is not an unusual position that Trevor is taking but one present throughout the history of the church, in the missionary context especially. We we all agree that a man with more than one wife cannot serve as an office-bearer. But this does not mean that he is not to continue to care and provide for his wives and children: his newfound faith renders him more not less responsible, and conversion does not reverse the consequences of all that one has done in the past. He has continuing obligations and Trevor has been seeking responsibly and pastorally to address such.

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  21. beloved7

    beloved7 Puritan Board Freshman

    I did not know that.


    I extend my most humble of apologies. It was my impression that you were defending polygamy, I am sincerly sorry.

    In Christ,
  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    No problem, brother. Foreign and strange sins often seem more heinous than our "normal" and everyday sins. The ideal is a monogamous loving marriage. Pray that my tribal group would end up at that goal instead of their occasional polygyny and child-bridism and casual neglect and occasional beatings of their wives (not to mention the widespread adultery). This is a broken world, but its breaks look different in different parts of the world.
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