Because some people supposedly care so much, our nation spends hundreds of billions every year, and we have changed longstanding traditions. What if the people who care so much really only care about themselves? What if we have spent trillions of dollars and departed from fundamentally sound traditions for the sake of lies? Here are […]
In the past week or so we have discussed “Open Marriage” and “Polygamy [Polyandry]”. . There seems to be only one remaining topic concerning “shared marriages and shared relationships;” “Concubines”.
Why did God allow men to have concubines in the Bible?
A concubine is a female who voluntarily enslaves and sells herself to a man primarily for his sexual pleasure. Concubines in the patriarchal age and beyond did not have equal status with a wife. A concubine could not marry her master because of her slave status, although, for her, the relationship was exclusive and ongoing. Sometimes concubines were used to bear children for men whose wives were barren. Concubines in Israel possessed many of the same rights as legitimate wives, without the same respect.
Although it’s true the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns concubines, a condemnation can be found implicitly from the beginning of time. According to Genesis 2:21-24, God’s original intent was for marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that has never changed (Genesis 1:27). As a matter of fact, a study of the lives of men like King David and King Solomon (who had 300 concubines; 1 Kings 11:3) reveals that many of their problems stemmed from polygamous relationships [which begs the question: “why didn’t King Solomon take his own advice about women?” (2 Samuel 11:2-4).
The Bible never explains why God allowed men to have concubines. He allowed divorce and polygamy, too, although neither was part of His original plan for marriage. Jesus said God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matthew 19:8). We can assume the same hardness of heart led to polygamy and concubines.
We can also surmise a reason based on the culture of the day. Unmarried women in ancient times were completely dependent on their family members, such as their fathers, brothers, etc. If for some reason a woman had no family members or her husband had died or divorced her, she would be left with few options for survival. Most women in ancient times were uneducated and unskilled in a trade. Providing for themselves was very difficult, and they were vulnerable to those who would prey upon them. For many women in dire situations, becoming a concubine was a much more suitable option than prostitution, homelessness, or death. At least a concubine would be provided a home and afforded a certain amount of care.
It appears God allowed the sin of concubines, in part, to provide for women in need, although it was certainly not an ideal situation. Sin is never ideal. Christians should be reminded that, just because God allows a sin for a time, it does not mean God is pleased with it. Many Bible narratives teach that God can take what some people mean for evil and use it for good (e.g., Genesis 50:20).
Recently I posted on “Open Marriages” and the subject of polygamy/polyandry came up. I need tell the readers that there is a difference between an “open marriage” and “polygamy/polyandry”. Since being brought up by several readers I want to address the latter.
The question of polygamy is an interesting one in that most people today view polygamy as immoral while the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns it. The first instance of polygamy/bigamy in the Bible was that of Lamech in Genesis 4:19: “Lamech married two women.” Several prominent men in the Old Testament were polygamists. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others all had multiple wives. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (essentially wives of a lower status), according to 1 Kings 11:3. What are we to do with these instances of polygamy in the Old Testament? There are three questions that need to be answered: 1) Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? 2) How does God view polygamy today? 3) Why did it change?
1) Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? The Bible does not specifically say why God allowed polygamy. As we speculate about God’s silence, there are a few key factors to consider. First, while there are slightly more male babies than female babies, due to women having longer lifespans, there have always been more women in the world than men. Current statistics show that approximately 50.5 percent of the world population are women. Assuming the same percentages in ancient times, and multiplied by millions of people, there would be tens of thousands more women than men. Second, warfare in ancient times was especially brutal, with an incredibly high rate of fatality. This would have resulted in an even greater percentage of women to men. Third, due to patriarchal societies, it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself. Women were often uneducated and untrained. Women relied on their fathers, brothers, and husbands for provision and protection. Unmarried women were often subjected to prostitution and slavery. The significant difference between the number of women and men would have left many, many women in an undesirable situation.
So, it seems that God may have allowed polygamy to protect and provide for the women who could not find a husband otherwise. A man would take multiple wives and serve as the provider and protector of all of them. While definitely not ideal, living in a polygamist household was far better than the alternatives: prostitution, slavery, or starvation. In addition to the protection/provision factor, polygamy enabled a much faster expansion of humanity, fulfilling God’s command to “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth” (Genesis 9:7). Men are capable of impregnating multiple women in the same time period, causing humanity to grow much faster than if each man was only producing one child each year.
2) How does God view polygamy today? Even while allowing polygamy, the Bible presents monogamy as the plan which conforms most closely to God’s ideal for marriage. The Bible says that God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” (Genesis 2:24). While Genesis 2:24 is describing what marriage is, rather than how many people are involved, the consistent use of the singular should be noted. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God says that the kings were not supposed to multiply wives (or horses or gold). While this cannot be interpreted as a command that the kings must be monogamous, it can be understood as declaring that having multiple wives causes problems. This can be clearly seen in the life of Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4).
In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 give “the husband of one wife” in a list of qualifications for spiritual leadership. There is some debate as to what specifically this qualification means. The phrase could literally be translated “a one-woman man.” Whether or not this phrase is referring exclusively to polygamy, in no sense can a polygamist be considered a “one-woman man.” While these qualifications are specifically for positions of spiritual leadership, they should apply equally to all Christians. Should not all Christians be “above reproach…temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2-4)? If we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), and if these standards are holy for elders and deacons, then they are holy for all.
Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks of the relationship between husbands and wives. When referring to a husband (singular), it always also refers to a wife (singular). “For the husband is the head of the wife [singular] … He who loves his wife [singular] loves himself. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [singular], and the two will become one flesh….Each one of you also must love his wife [singular] as he loves himself, and the wife [singular] must respect her husband [singular].” While a somewhat parallel passage, Colossians 3:18-19, refers to husbands and wives in the plural, it is clear that Paul is addressing all the husbands and wives among the Colossian believers, not stating that a husband might have multiple wives. In contrast, Ephesians 5:22-33 is specifically describing the marital relationship. If polygamy were allowable, the entire illustration of Christ’s relationship with His body (the church) and the husband-wife relationship falls apart.
3) Why did it change? It is not so much God’s disallowing something He previously allowed as it is God’s restoring marriage to His original plan. Even going back to Adam and Eve, polygamy was not God’s original intent. God seems to have allowed polygamy to solve a problem, but it is not the ideal. In most modern societies, there is absolutely no need for polygamy. In most cultures today, women are able to provide for and protect themselves—removing the only “positive” aspect of polygamy. Further, most modern nations outlaw polygamy. According to Romans 13:1-7, we are to obey the laws the government establishes. The only instance in which disobeying the law is permitted by Scripture is if the law contradicts God’s commands (Acts 5:29). Since God only allows for polygamy, and does not command it, a law prohibiting polygamy should be upheld.
Are there some instances in which the allowance for polygamy would still apply today? Perhaps, but it is unfathomable that there would be no other possible solution. Due to the “one flesh” aspect of marriage, the need for oneness and harmony in marriage, and the lack of any real need for polygamy, it is our firm belief that polygamy does not honor God and is not His design for marriage.
Does the Bible address polyamory/swinging?
An open marriage is generally defined as a marriage in which one or both spouses are allowed by the other spouse to have sex with other people. The two primary types of open marriages are polyamory and swinging. Polyamory is when the extra-marital affairs purportedly involve emotional love. Swinging is when the extra-marital affairs only involve recreational/casual sex.
No, the Bible nowhere explicitly addresses polyamory, swinging, or the idea of an open marriage. The idea that one spouse should consent to the other spouse having sex with other people is absolutely foreign to the Bible. The Bible speaks of sex within marriage as pure (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible speaks of sex outside of marriage as immoral and adulterous (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18; 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
The question is sometimes raised as to whether a polyamorous relationship should be considered adultery if the other spouse allows, approves, or even participates in it. The answer is an unequivocal yes! God is the one who defines what marriage is and what adultery is. God, in His Word, has declared sex outside of marriage to be adultery (Exodus 20:14). A spouse’s giving permission to sin does not overrule God’s Law. We do not have the authority to create exceptions to what God has declared to be sinful.
Aside from the biblical declarations that they are sin, polyamorous relationships cannot fulfill what the Bible says a marriage is to be. A married couple cannot be “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) if multiple “fleshes” are involved. A married couple cannot fully love one another if that love is divided among other people. There cannot be true intimacy if what is supposed to be intimate is shared with others. Polyamory is not marriage. In no sense is a marriage supposed to be open to sexual activity outside of the marriage.
Polyamory is, in reality, “poly-lust-ory.” There is nothing loving about it. This perversion of marriage is confirmation that “every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually,” and that, without God, “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” (see Genesis 6:5 and Judges 21:25).
On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing gay marriage. Across the Atlantic, in mid-July 2013, the Queen of England signed into law “The Marriage Bill,” which allows same-sex couples to marry legally. Around the world, at least fifteen other nations have legalized marriage between same-sex partners. Obviously, the societal definition of marriage is changing. But is it the right of a government to redefine marriage, or has the definition of marriage already been set by a higher authority?
In Genesis chapter 2, God declares it is not good for Adam (the first man) to live alone. All the animals are there, but none of them are a suitable partner for Adam. God, therefore, in a special act of creation, makes a woman. Just a few verses later, the woman is called “his wife” (Genesis 2:25). Eden was the scene of the first marriage, ordained by God Himself. The author of Genesis then records the standard by which all future marriages are defined: “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
This passage of Scripture gives several points for understanding God’s design for marriage. First, marriage involves a man and a woman. The Hebrew word for “wife” is gender-specific; it cannot mean anything other than “a woman.” There is no passage in Scripture that mentions a marriage involving anything other than a man and a woman. It is impossible for a family to form or human reproduction to take place asexually. Since God ordained sex to only take place between a married couple, it follows that God’s design is for the family unit to be formed when a man and woman come together in a sexual relationship and have children.
The second principle from Genesis 2 about God’s design for marriage is that marriage is intended to last for a lifetime. Verse 24 says the two become “one flesh.” Eve was taken from Adam’s side, and so she was literally one flesh with Adam. Her very substance was formed from Adam instead of from the ground. Every marriage thereafter is intended to reflect the unity shared by Adam and Eve. Because their bond was “in the flesh,” they were together forever. There was no escape clause written into the first marriage that allowed for the two to separate. That is to say that God designed marriage for life. When a man and a woman make a commitment to marry, they “become one flesh,” and that is why they say, “Till death do us part.”
A third principle from this passage about God’s design for marriage is monogamy. The Hebrew words for “man” and “wife” are singular and do not allow for multiple wives. Even though some people in Scripture did have multiple wives, it is clear from the creation account that God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman. Jesus emphasized this principle when He appealed to the Genesis account to counter the idea of easy divorce (Matthew 19:4—6).
It should come as no surprise that the world desires to change what God has instituted. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). Though the world is attempting to provide their own definitions for what they call “marriage,” the Bible still stands. The clear definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.
The Bible is silent on the issue of spousal abuse as a reason for divorce, although it is obvious that God expects us to love one another and to submit to one another in love (John 13:34; Ephesians 5:21). Physical violence against a spouse is immoral and should not be tolerated by anyone. No one should remain in an unsafe environment, whether it involves a family member, friend, employer, caregiver, or stranger. Physical abuse is also against the law, and the authorities should be the first ones contacted if this occurs.
A spouse who is being abused should seek a safe place. If there are children involved, they should be protected and removed from the situation immediately. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that separation (not divorce) in this instance would be wrong. Although friends and family may suggest divorce, unless there is infidelity involved, the Bible only allows for separation.
The Bible gives two acceptable reasons for divorce: the first is abandonment of a Christian by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15), and the second is adultery (Matthew 5:32). Although God allows divorce in these circumstances, He does not command it. It is far better, in the case of infidelity, for two Bible-believing Christians to reconcile, extending the forgiveness and love that God freely gives us. However, in abusive situations, the circumstances are far different. While reconciliation with an abusive partner would be wonderful, it depends completely on the abuser proving his or her reliability, which could take years—if it happens at all—never on the abused party.
Once a separation has been enforced, the abuser has the responsibility to seek help. First and foremost, he should seek God. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks” (Matthew 7:8). No one has more power to heal individuals and relationships than God. He must be the Lord of our lives, the Master of our assets, and the Head of our households. Psychological aid and legal limitations on an abuser are also appropriate and important to his or her process of change.
If it is determined that the abuser has truly changed, the relationship may be resumed, but with much caution. Both husband and wife must commit themselves to God and then develop a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (John 17:3). This commitment to God should be accompanied by intensive counseling from a trusted and well-equipped pastor or believing licensed counselor, first individually, then as a couple, and finally for the entire family to help heal the trauma all have endured. Change is possible for people who truly repent and humbly surrender to the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
There are a number of “red flags” to look for before entering a permanent relationship. Unfortunately, these indicators may not be visible until after a marriage takes place, since many abusers are highly skilled at hiding their true natures. However, a short list to look out for includes irrational jealousy, the need to be in control, a quick temper, cruelty toward animals, attempts to isolate the other person from his or her friends and family, drug or alcohol abuse, and disrespect for boundaries, privacy, personal space, or moral values. If you believe you may be entering a relationship with someone who evinces these qualities, please seek the advice of someone familiar with abusive situations such as a counselor or trusted friend.
If you are in an abusive situation right now, whether the abuser is a spouse, parent, child, caretaker, teacher, relative, or anyone else in your life, please know that God never wants you to remain in a physically or psychologically damaging situation. Find someone who will help you develop a plan to leave the situation safely, and involve government authorities immediately. God has put these resources at our disposal, and we have a responsibility to use them.
The Bible does not use the term “verbal abuse,” but it has much to say about the power of our words. Succinctly stated, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).
Verbal abuse is one weapon in the arsenal of emotional abuse. While the tactics of abuse are many, the ultimate goal is to gain control over someone in order to establish dominance in a relationship. Verbal abuse is not the occasional flare after a bad day or temporary lack of verbal self-control in the midst of a tense moment. It constitutes psychological violence. Verbal abuse is a habitual sin that seldom goes away on its own and can potentially escalate into physical abuse.
Overt verbal abuse could include angry outbursts, screaming, swearing, ridicule, name calling, blaming, accusation, criticism, threats, orders, mockery, manipulation, coercion, put-downs, shaming, word twisting, rewriting history, and attacking personal character. Covert verbal abuse is more subtle and cloaks hidden aggression. It feigns concern and has the effect of brainwashing, leaving the victim confused, off balance, and questioning his or her value and abilities.
Over the long term, any kind of abuse can leave the victim feeling uncertain, unable to make decisions, and drained of any sense of personhood or value. The victim begins to accept the blame and believe the crushing words that are convincingly and repeatedly thrown at him.
The old adage “Sticks and stones can break a bone, but words can never hurt me” is not true. Abusive language has a deep, long lasting effect that can “pierce like swords” (Proverbs 12:18).
The Bible contrasts healthy and unhealthy verbal communication. God knows our weaknesses, and has given us His Word to teach us how to use ours in a life giving way.
The words we speak reflect what is going on inside of us. Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Words affect the speaker as well as the receiver. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . . With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:6, 9).
Matthew 5:21–22 categorizes verbal abuse as a serious offense with eternal consequences: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt meaning “worthless, empty”] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
God’s heart on the subject of how we use our words is evident in Scripture. There is no question about the seriousness of the effects on the hearer or the speaker of violent, abusive words. When the words of others have hurt us, we can find healing in the true words of God. When we have hurt others with our words, we can find forgiveness in God and should also seek it from those we have harmed. Those who have been victims of serious verbal abuse may need the help of a counselor or pastor in the healing process.
God’s desire is that we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and that we “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29). God intends that our words and our relationships be healthy and life giving. Keep in mind, God created the universe with His Word (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24) and Jesus Himself is called the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). His desire is that we recognize the power our words carry and use them as He would.
The Bible does not specifically use the term child abuse. What the Bible does tell us is this: children have a special place in God’s heart and anyone who harms a child is inviting God’s wrath upon himself. When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from coming to Jesus, He rebuked them and welcomed the children to His side, saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). Then He took the children in His arms and blessed them (verse 16).
Children are abused and mistreated in several different ways, all of which are abhorrent to God. Too many children are the victims of angry beatings and other physical abuse as their parents take out their own anger and frustration on their children. Though some forms of physical discipline may be biblically acceptable, such discipline should never be administered in anger. Paul reminds the Ephesians, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26–27). Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” There is no place for unrighteous or uncontrolled anger in the life of a Christian. Anger should be confessed to God and appropriately handled long before it comes to the point of physical abuse against a child or anyone else.
Sexual abuse or molestation is particularly devastating and is soundly condemned in Scripture. Warnings against sexual sin abound in Scripture. To force sexual acts upon a child is a horrible, evil offense. In addition to committing a sexual sin, the perpetrator is also attacking the innocence of one of the world’s most vulnerable persons. Sexual abuse violates everything about a person from his or her understanding of self to physical boundaries to spiritual connection with God. In a child, these things are so barely established that they are altered for life, and without appropriate help may not ever heal.
Psychological and emotional abuse are also forbidden in Scripture. Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to “exasperate” or provoke their children, but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” Harsh, unloving verbal discipline, emotional manipulation, or volatile environments alienate children’s minds from their parents and render their instruction and correction useless. Parents can provoke and exasperate their children by placing unreasonable requirements on them, belittling them, or constantly finding fault, thereby producing wounds that can be as bad as or worse than any physical beating can inflict. Colossians 3:21 tells us not to “embitter” our children so they will not become discouraged. Ephesians 4:15–19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow rotten or destructive words to pour from our lips, especially toward the tender hearts and minds of children.
It is abundantly clear how God feels about the issue of all forms of child abuse. Anyone who suspects a child is being abused has the obligation to report it to appropriate authorities. Anyone who has been abused or who has abused children can find hope, healing, and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Talking to a pastor or finding a Christian counselor or a support group may be a good place to begin the journey to wholeness.
The word abuse has taken many meanings over time. Immediately, most assume abuse involves anger or some form of physical violence. This is a simplistic and often misleading view of abuse. Anger is an emotion God gave us to alert us to problems. Righteous anger is not sinful and should not be associated with abuse. Anger mishandled can certainly lead to a sinful, abusive response, but it is a sinful heart, not the emotion of anger, that is the root cause of abuse.
The word abuse is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of virtually anything. We speak of abuse of trust, drugs, institutions, and objects. These forms of abuse are sinful for the same reason that abuse directed at people is sinful. Such mistreatment is motivated by selfishness and results in damage and destruction. People abuse others for a variety of reasons, but selfishness underlies all abuse. We tend to lash out when things do not go our way.
Some abuse can be subtle. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect because, on the surface, there is no observable evidence of the abuse, but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less painful or destructive. Examples of emotional abuse include verbal attacks, criticism, favoritism, manipulation, deceit, threats, and withheld expressions of love.
Anyone can be an abuser, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Victims of abuse can be ensnared in a cycle that is very difficult to break. Children have no responsibility for abuse suffered in childhood but often carry its effects into adulthood by repeating the patterns. Children need to be protected from abuse. Abusive parents are cursing their children rather than blessing them as they ought (Psalm 112:2; Proverbs 20:7).
The Bible regards abuse as sin because we are called to love one another (John 13:34). Abuse disregards others and is the opposite of this command. An abuser desires to satisfy his natural selfishness regardless of the consequences to himself or others. Several passages in the Bible strongly condemn taking advantage of or abusing others (Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 10:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).
Everyone is guilty of abuse at some level, because everyone falls short of God’s command to love others sacrificially. Only the love of Jesus in us can truly love others; therefore, real love only exists in those who have accepted Jesus as their savior (Romans 8:10).
Only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse (Psalm 147:3). Sadly, many hurting people are waiting for the abuser to come repair the damage he caused. While it is good for the abuser to take responsibility and make amends to those he hurt, it is Jesus who grants peace to those in pain. He is neither unaware nor apathetic to those who suffer, especially children (Mark 10:14-16). That should give us pause, knowing we are accountable for the suffering we cause to others. The Lord Jesus cares for His followers and has laid down His life to demonstrate His love for them (1 Peter 5:7). He will most assuredly comfort, vindicate, and heal them (John 10:11-15).
Believers need to own their abuse of others in order to break the cycle while receiving help to recover from past hurts. A safe place to do that is in pastoral or biblical counseling or in a small group of believers where people can help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-10). The Lord will enable us to do what He called us to do, which is love one another as He loves us.