Christianity.com: Why does God seemingly allow polygamy in the Old Testament?-Charles Dyer

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COMMENTS(10)

  • 2013-08-15T23:32:04

I commiserate with Dr. Dyer in his effort to answer this question that is becoming more important as the days go on. There was a day when I would have answered the question as Dr. Dyer has. However my own further research proved not to support such an answer. Indeed, that answer given here, while interesting, is troubling and inadequate. First, Dr. Dyer interprets Jesus’ words in an unacceptable way. He has Jesus informing us that God says of divorce in Deut. 24:1: “Well … boys will be hard hearted boys, so I’ll wink at their sinful act of divorce till My Son comes and provides a better way.” Hardly. What about Jesus’ coming gives a basis for changing that permission? On the contrary, Jesus meant that, with Deut. 24:1-4, God provided a response to hard hearted boys. God “allows” for sinful acts such as unjust divorce every time sin occurs without immediate judgment. In the case of Deut. 24:1-4 He reserved the judgment of those men (as he does most sinners) while legally allowing their action so that the hated wives might find the sort of provision that the divorce denied them and remarriage might provide. The alternative would have been to disallow their divorces (as He did of some in Deut. 22 twice), but this would only have established the same situation that God had already dealt with in Exodus 21:10, where God required freeing a wife (=forced divorce) by a man who diminished her provisions IN marriage. In that sense Deut. 24:1 complements the earlier regulation. The Father was not, then, temporarily morally validating divorce on the grounds stated in Deut. 24:1 but (in context with Matt. 5:31-32) Jesus was saying that his Father condemned such divorce even BACK THEN as well as in his day. As the Greek makes clear (“From the beginning all the way till now,” not “From Eden till Moses, and now, back to Eden”). Jesus was NOT annulling Moses. He states in 5:17-19 that had no intention of annulling any Mosaic law. So Dr. Dyer’s major argument is an analogy based on a misunderstanding. Second, even if Dr. Dyer is correct about the sort of divorce mentioned in Deut. 24:1, Jesus condemns that practice in the gospels (Matt. 5:31-32, et passim). Dr. Dyer has no similar basis in the teaching from Jesus (or any other point of Scripture) in regard to polygyny. Perhaps he thinks that he can give it, but he doesn’t in this video. We don’t need opinions and speculations…even devout feelings. What Dr. Dyer needs is a verse which states something like this: ‘lo yiqah lo ishah aher ka'asher yesh lo ishah’ (he shall not take for himself another wife when there is to him a wife). I await such a verse. Third, while there may be some merit to the argument that an Edenic Ideal exists. That sort of argument must be carefully assessed, since it may merely be an example of the logical fallacy moving from the “is” to the “ought.” What happened in the Garden was perfect for God’s purposes at that time, but clearly, as Dr. Dyer admits, conditions changed. God didn’t continue to hold man to a single partner during their lifetime, though Adam, as Dr. McArthur says, got no spares in Eden. And if another marriage may be added consecutively, perhaps it could be concurrently as well. But my point is that Dr. Dyer has the burden of proof as to moving from fact to trans-dispensational ideal, and this video does not give it. Fourth, in regard to his opinion that God could have allowed polygyny in regard to being fruitful and multiplying, I’m not sure how polygyny does that. Since men and women are more or less equally distributed through history, women could have produced children just as frequently by marrying single men as married ones. Of course he could supplement his argument by speaking of frequent male death in wars, but then that would still apply. So another justification for an interim ethic would need to be found. His concluding statement that God allows some things at one time that He disallows at another, requires Biblical support. And, again, an appeal to the Edenic ideal misses the mark completely in the very points that he mentions. Every marriage of a polygynist is a one man to one woman cleaving. Each is the same sort of covenant into which a monogamist enters. The polygnist just has more than one of them. And the fact that God acknowledges that man “can” do this multiplying of one flesh relationships without improper diminishing is implied by Exodus 21:10. Beyond this, Dr. Dyer, needs to address the fact that in defining adulterous relationships (Deut. 22), the text of Scripture consistently defines them by specifying the woman’s marital status, never the man’s—which allows for polygyny. To make matters worse, the remedies for uncovenanted sex (Ex. 22:16 and Deut 22:28-29), required forced marriage, and the law lacks an exemption for married men, which would require polygyny for them as a secondary effect (unless the father vetoed the marriage—and one cannot assume that he would not have if the man was already married). Similar analysis could be made for the obligation of the kinsman redeemer in the law of the Levirate (Deut. 25:5-10). Finally, perhaps he can explain why, if his conclusion is Scriptural, God tells David that He would have provided even more women to David if David had needed them as an alternative to Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:8), and why God even speaks of Himself as a polygynist husband in Jer. 3 and Ez. 23. Does He do that of Himself with any other “sin”? If we wish to use the analogical language of God to Israel (monogamistic) or of Christ to the Church, then we must be willing to accept the analogical language of those poly passages as well. Personally I have no interest in either advocating or practicing polygyny. But God didn’t ask me what I thought or wanted to do. I am constrained to give God’s opinion, not mine, and that ethic should work for all peoples, not just evangelicals in the US. William F. Luck, SR. former Associate Professor of Bible (and Christian ethics) at the Moody Bible Institute.

  • 2012-03-22T22:23:41

I don't think while we are here on earth we will totally understand the wisdom and ways of our Lord Jesus Christ.We are sinners saved by grace and I believe it is more important to focus on the wonderful gift of salvation that his death and resurrection has gained for us instead of focus on things we might never understand.Also, reading and claiming all the wonderful promises that are available to us in his written word the Holy Bible.Gods ways are not our ways and I am humbly thankful for the wonderful gift of his shed blood on the cross has obtained for me, my name written in the Book of Life.

  • 2012-03-21T19:11:33

by the way you have no clue I have read a wonderful retired Moody Prof. that has nothing to loose and he wrote a book about marry and divorce and in there he talk about the morality of polygany and you can read it for free on Bible. org his name is William Luck.

  • 2012-03-20T04:26:28

Sometimes God leaves the human societies to deteriorate and take their natural courses fully before He reforms them with His truth or destroy them by either natural disasters or wars, while saving the victims from some utmost misery that comes from the natural barbarism. God's Word and His standard never changes; we humans corrupt all systems such as marriage and labor order. All we have is just some time duration to watch ourselves, repent, reform and come back to God. Existence of polygamy and slavery are against His design for humanity but reveal or signify our very human nature. The spiritual battles for Chritians are personal as well as collective and social.

  • 2012-01-17T07:50:03

#2 - Today's Westerners have no idea how hellish it is to be married to a mean man and just live with him alone where divorce is not possible especially in a childless state! Absence of God's severe punishment on polygamy was rather a compassion on women just for a time until mankind was brought into the new dispensation of grace by Jesus, because humans are indeed evil. The Hebrews/Israelits have known God's standard all along, though. For example, Samson's father and John the Baptist's father and many other men kept God's will and design of monogamy. Slavery, the same reason. In most ancient societies, without being under someone's umbrella, starvation or death was inevitable for orphans, incapable people, foreigners, and prisoners. It's far better to be slaves and live, rather than facing starvation. Slavery still continues today as the employer-employee relationship which will never disappear as long as a human society requires order of any kind and some humans function as the society's brain.

  • 2012-01-17T07:17:37

#1 - Polygamy has been a common practice among mankind, especially for rich or mighty men, until Christian missionaries came and made fuss about it. True, all men and women are equal under God, and a man must love one woman for lifetime. God's Word is right. So we pagans were educated and made civil by Christian missionaries for the first time. I think polygamy in a way reduced some women's misery when a society has the following features: 1)starvation is common due to drought 2)heavily depends on constant warfare for survival 3) is man-dominated since man is physically superior 4) deems securing off-springs by male-child is the utmost importance{lineage through a son after the father} 5)divorce is literally impossible since it means the wife's immediate destruction from the lack of means of survival. We mankind have been always fighting for mere survival for the longest time everywhere. Let's not forget that.

  • 2012-01-17T07:10:18

Please read my 2 comments above regarding slavery and polygamy. Non-believers especially young ones in the West have huge ignorance on human nature, history and human societies. Incests and homosexuality have been always forbidden by God. Brother-sister marriage was inevitable only for Adam and Eve's direct first set of children and it disappeared as practice eventually.

  • 2012-01-09T20:22:02

This is a difficult question. It ranks right up there with such questions as, Why does God permit divorce? Why does God permit crime in general? Why does God permit quarreling among Christian denominations? In my opinion, as far as my human mind can ascertain, Mr. Dyer was correct in citing Jesus' answer to the Pharisees concerning divorce, as recorded by Matthew: because of men's willfulness, they took on more than one wife, going against God's Will; but God was merciful and did not punish them. This shows God's Love for people, working through and in spite of our disobedience to to bring good out of our less than perfect lives as His people down through history. I have no comment about Mr.Dyer's comments about God using polygamy as a means for the increase of the human race; I am not wise enough to render an opinion there, though I did have to scratch my head at that part of his commentary. God was never surprised in such cases and left dumbfounded; He is Perfect, and He makes no mistakes; He has always simply "worked out all things for the good of those who love Him and are awaiting His return". He knew what He was doing in His Merciful Actions then, and He still does, whether we understand it or not.

  • 2012-01-09T17:50:46

I agree! God is perfect and we as the clay cannot say why God? what we can is although I do not understand certain things! god is Sovereign ,Righteous and Holy! Amen.

  • 2012-01-09T16:45:27

Then you are saying that GOD changed His mind. That GOD was an opportunist, or had His morality dictated by circumstance. I cannot agree with that. What I know of GOD is that He is perfection and has no need to change. I don't understand a lot of the Old Testament laws and I won't until I reach Heaven. GOD's understanding I know to be perfect however - and I cannot wrap my 20th century mind around His ways. I have no problem telling non-believers who bring up incest and slavery and polygamy in the old Testament that I don't understand it at all. I walk by faith, not sight.

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