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 […]
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Joab was a son of Zeruiah, King David’s sister (1 Chronicles 2:13–17) and was therefore one of David’s nephews. Joab’s brothers were two of David’s brave warriors, Abishai and Asahel. Joab was positioned as commander of David’s armies because of his victory over the Jebusites, resulting in the possession of the city of Jerusalem. It was through this victory that Jerusalem became “the city of David” (1 Chronicles 11:4–9).
Joab fought and won many battles for the king, but his personal lack of self-control was problematic. In a war against the forces of Ish-Bosheth, Joab’s brother Asahel was killed by Abner, the commander of Ish-Bosheth’s armies. Joab was furious and pursued Abner to kill him, but Abner escaped (2 Samuel 2:12–32). Later, after Abner swore allegiance to David, Joab’s fuse blew, and his desire to avenge his brother’s blood drove him to deceive and murder Abner (verses 26–27). This action deeply grieved David, but the king felt unable to bring justice against the mighty Joab (verse 39). Instead, David pronounced a curse over Joab and his future descendants: “May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food” (verse 29).
As the commander of David’s armies, Joab was provided many victories by God, but Joab caused much grief to the king and to Israel. His anger and perhaps the power of his position drove him to poor decisions at times. In addition to his murder of Abner, Joab killed his own cousin, Amasa—and his betrayal was Judas-style, accompanied by a kiss: “Joab said to Amasa, ‘How are you, my brother?’ Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died” (2 Samuel 20:9–10). Joab disobeyed King David’s command to spare Absalom’s life, himself striking Absalom with three javelins (2 Samuel 18). David mourned the death of his son Absalom, a response that was sternly reprimanded by Joab (2 Samuel 19:1–8). It was also Joab who, in accordance with David’s command, placed Uriah the Hittite at the front of the battle to be killed, so that David could feel justified in marrying Uriah’s widow (2 Samuel 11).
Joab, for all his faults, was obviously a capable man of war and valiant on the battlefield. And he ought to be given credit for his loyalty to David for almost four decades. Joab also counseled David when David sinfully desired to take a census; if David had heeded Joab’s advice, he could have spared his nation the plague that befell Israel (2 Samuel 24).
When David was on his death bed, Joab conspired with Adonijah to install Adonijah as the next king, instead of Solomon (1 Kings 1). This action, plus Joab’s other rash decisions, vengeful murders, and inability to take certain important orders, finally drove David over the edge. David commanded Solomon to ensure Joab’s execution, an act that was carried out by Benaniah as Joab was clinging to the horns of the altar in hopes of finding clemency (1 Kings 2:5–6, 28–34).
After the death of King Saul, Abner (the commander of Saul’s army) took Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth and made him king over the areas of Israel called Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, Ephraim, and Manasseh (2 Samuel 2:9). Ish-Bosheth was 40 years old at the time and reigned for two years (2 Samuel 2:10).
During this same time, David served as king over the tribe of Judah in Hebron, a city in southern Israel. David’s men and Abner’s men fought one another in battle. After about two years, King Ish-Bosheth accused Abner of sleeping with Saul’s concubine (2 Samuel 3:7). Abner became angry at the false accusation and promised to turn over all of Israel to David (2 Samuel 3:8–10).
Abner met with David and made an agreement to bring the entire nation of Israel under David’s control. Afterwards, Joab, the commander of David’s army, came before David and accused Abner of falsehood. According to Joab, Abner was only seeking ways to defeat David. Without David’s permission, Joab tracked down Abner and murdered him (2 Samuel 3:26–27). This deed was more than an act of supposed loyalty to David, however. Joab had been seeking to avenge his brother Asahel’s death at the hands of Abner (2 Samuel 2:19–23).
David made all of his people mourn and declared that he had nothing to do with Abner’s death. Joab had been acting on his own. However, when Ish-Bosheth heard that Abner had died, he and all Israel were troubled. Two men named Rekab and Baanah came to Ish-Bosheth’s home “at about the heat of the day.” King Ish-Bosheth “was lying on his bed at noon. And they came there, all the way into the house, as though to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach” (2 Samuel 4:5–6). The assassins then cut off Ish-Bosheth’s head and slipped away (2 Samuel 4:7).
Rekab and Baanah brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David, hoping for a reward. Instead, David had them executed, because they had “killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed” (2 Samuel 4:11). David also gave orders to bury the head of Ish-Bosheth in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.
This gruesome series of events paved the way for David to transition from leading the tribe of Judah to becoming king over all of Israel. Despite the violence around him, David remained innocent of the blood of his rivals. After Ish-Bosheth’s and Abner’s murders, David remained in Hebron for five more years until the elders of Israel came to him and made a covenant to establish him as king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1–5). At that time, David and his men conquered Jerusalem, making it the capital of Israel and the “City of David.” David ruled from Jerusalem for the remainder of his 40 years as king.
In the book of Joshua, we are introduced to one of the most thought-provoking and astonishing heroines of the Old Testament. Rahab, the prostitute of the Canaanite city of Jericho, ultimately is noteworthy for her great faith and for her place in the lineage of Jesus Christ. But a closer examination of the life of this remarkable Gentile woman can lead to deeper insights into God’s plan for His church and His dealing with individual believers in grace and mercy.
Rahab’s story is found in Joshua 2–6. This passage describes the conquest of the fortified city of Jericho by the Israelites. In its day, Jericho was the most important Canaanite fortress city in the Jordan Valley. It was a stronghold directly in the path of the advancing Israelites, who had just crossed the Jordan River (Joshua 3:1-17). Before entering the land west of the Jordan, Joshua sent two spies to look over the land. The king of Jericho heard that two Israelite spies were within his city and ordered them to be brought out to him. Rahab, the woman with whom the spies were staying, protected them by hiding them on her roof. She told them how the citizens of Jericho had been fearful of the Israelites ever since they defeated the Egyptians via the Red Sea miracle (some 40 years prior). She agreed to help them escape, provided that she and her family were spared in the upcoming battle. The spies agreed to her request, giving her three conditions to be met: 1) she must distinguish her house from the others by hanging a scarlet rope out of the window so the Israelites would know which home to spare; 2) her family must be inside the house during the battle; and 3) she must not later turn on the spies.
Safely escaping the city, the two spies returned to Joshua and reported that the “whole land was melting with fear.” The Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan where they laid siege to the city of Jericho. The city was completely destroyed, and every man, woman, and child in it was killed. Only Rahab and her family were spared. Ultimately, Rahab married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is her direct descendant.
Rahab was a young Canaanite prostitute and as such not a very likely candidate for a heroine of the faith. Jericho was one of the principal seats of idol worship, being especially devoted to Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. Here was centered all that was the vilest and most degrading in the religion of the Canaanites. Many Bible commentators, eager to remove the stigma of the designation “harlot” from one included in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:5), have described Rahab as a hostess or tavern keeper. But scriptural usage of the Hebrew word zanah (Leviticus 21:7-14; Deuteronomy 23:18; Judges 11:1; 1 Kings 3:16) and the authority of the apostles (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25), establish the credibility for use of the word “harlot.”
It is clear that Rahab was perceptive, intelligent and well informed. Rahab identified the spies for what they were, hid them, and had a plausible story ready with which to deceive the king’s agents. Rahab didn’t deny that she had entertained the men. She says that they left at dusk when it would be difficult for anyone to be sure of clearly seeing anything. The agents did not dare to risk stopping to search Rahab’s house because, if they did, the spies might get away. Finally, the Canaanite prostitute gives the two Israelites excellent advice. She tells them to hide in the hills for three days before attempting to cross the Jordan.
Spiritually, Rahab was not in an ideal circumstance to come to faith in the one true God, the God of Israel. She was a citizen of a wicked city that was under God’s condemnation. Rahab was part of a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture. She had not benefited from the godly leadership of Moses or Joshua. However, Rahab had one asset—she had heard from the many men she came into contact with that the Israelites were to be feared. She heard the stories of their escape from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the wanderings in the wilderness, and their recent victory over the Amorites. She learned enough to reach the correct, saving conclusion: “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). It is this change of heart, this faith—coupled with the actions prompted by faith—that saved her and her family.
It is often said that Rahab, while being a true historical person, also serves as a symbolic foreshadowing or “type” of the church and Gentile believers. She was, in fact, the first recorded Gentile convert. There are many ways in which Rahab depicts the church. First, she was part of a pagan world system, a prostitute, who by her conversion was enabled to become a legitimate bride. In like fashion, Israel was the first chosen people of God, but they were set aside temporarily so the Gentiles could be brought into the kingdom of God, and the church is now considered the bride of Christ (Romans 11; Ephesians 5:25-27). Second, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was saved because of her faith in “God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Hebrews 11:31). Likewise, Christians are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Third, although Rahab and Christians are saved by an act of grace through faith, true faith requires and is exemplified by action (James 2). Rahab had to put the scarlet cord out of the window. Christians must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and then go on to live in a manner that verifies that our faith is real. Fourth, Rahab could have indicated the location of her home in any number of ways. But the only way that she could be spared was to follow the directions given to her by the Israelite spies. The world tells us that there are many ways to God and salvation, all equally valid. But the Bible tells us, concerning Jesus Christ, that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Fifth, Rahab’s faith enabled her to turn away from her culture, her people, and her religion and to the Lord. Commitment to a true faith in God may necessitate setting priorities that are contrary to those of the world, as we are exhorted to do in Romans 12:2.
Finally, once we come to Christ, our pasts no longer matter. The slate is wiped clean for all who believe and accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross on our behalf. Rahab was no longer viewed as an unclean prostitute, but as one worthy by grace to be part of the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as she was grafted into the line of Christ, so we become children of God and partakers in His inheritance (Romans 11). We find in the life of Rahab the inspiring story of all sinners who have been saved by grace. In her story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save even the worst of sinners and bring them into an abundant life in Christ Jesus.
Ishmael is considered a patriarch of Islam based upon legends that have developed around him and information found in the Qur’an. But what does the Bible tell us about Ishmael?
Ishmael was the firstborn son of Abraham. God had appeared to Abraham and promised that he would have a son and that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 15). However, as time went on, Abraham had no children. His wife, Sarah, had been unable to conceive, and they began to question just how the promise would be fulfilled.
In Genesis 16 Sarah suggests that Abraham should have a child with her slave Hagar, an Egyptian. Apparently, this was a somewhat common practice at the time (also practiced in Genesis 30 by Jacob’s wives): the wife would give a female slave to her husband, but any children born would be counted as the children of the wife (perhaps an ancient version of surrogacy). While this may have seemed like a workable solution for Abraham and Sarah, in actuality it caused more problems than it solved.
Hagar did conceive a child with Abraham. When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to “despise” Sarah, and Sarah appealed to Abraham for help. Abraham told Sarah to do as she saw fit, so she began to mistreat Hagar, and Hagar ran away (Genesis 16:4–6).
The angel of the Lord found Hagar in the desert and told her to return to Sarah. He then told her about her yet unborn son: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. [Ishmael means “God hears.”] He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11–12). So Hagar went back and bore a son; Abraham was 86 years old.
In Genesis 17, when Abraham is 99 years old (making Ishmael approximately 13), God appeared to him once again and reiterated the promise that he would be the father of many. God told Abraham that Sarah, who was 90 years old, will have a son. Abraham had a hard time believing this and asked that God would fulfill His promises through Ishmael (verse 18). From this we can see that Abraham genuinely loved Ishmael. But God said the promise will be fulfilled through a son that Sarah will bear: “Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year” (verses 19–21).
In Genesis 21, Sarah’s son, Isaac, is born, and once again problems arise. Sarah sees Ishmael mocking the young Isaac, and she demands action from Abraham: “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac” (verse 10).
“The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring’” (Genesis 21:11–13). Once again, Abraham’s love for his son Ishmael comes through, and God promises to bless Ishmael. Abraham gathered some provisions and sent Hagar and Ishmael away. After the provisions had been exhausted, Hagar and Ishmael were overcome with grief, assuming that they would die in the desert. “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink” (verses 17–19). Once again, God appeared to Hagar and promised that Ishmael will be a great nation. Finally, we are told that “God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt” (verses 20–21).
Upon Abraham’s death, he left everything to Isaac, but Ishmael did help his half-brother bury Abraham (Genesis 25:9). Genesis 25:12–18 lists the descendants of Ishmael. They are indeed numerous, divided into twelve tribes, and, as God had earlier revealed, “They lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them” (verse 18). Ishmael lived a total of 137 years (verse 17).
Genesis 25 is the last mention of Ishmael as an individual (except for later genealogies); however, his descendants continue to be mentioned in relation to Israel. Esau marries a descendant of Ishmael since his mother did not want him to marry Canaanite women (see Genesis 28:6–8; 36:3). Ishmaelites are mentioned as a people group in Genesis 37—Joseph’s brothers sold him to Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt as a slave. Ishmaelites are mentioned incidentally a few more times in the Old Testament (as well as other, unrelated men named Ishmael), but the New Testament is silent about him. Ishmael is not held up as an example either to be followed or avoided.
Islamic lore reports that Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca, and Ishmael is considered a patriarch of Islam. While it is not accurate to say that all Arabs are descended from Ishmael, many probably are. There is still a great deal of strife between the descendants of Isaac and those who see Ishmael as their father. One wonders how things might have been different had Abraham simply trusted God to bring about His promise without any added “help” from Abraham and Sarah.
Ish-bosheth was a son of King Saul. His story is discussed in 2 Samuel chapters 2 through 4. David was king in the city of Hebron and over the tribe of Judah. Ish-bosheth was made king over the rest of Israel: “Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David” (2 Samuel 2:8–10).
Following a battle at Gibeon between Judah and Israel, Abner chose to join David. Abner was a military leader to Ish-bosheth, who accused Abner of sleeping with his concubine. In his anger over the false charge, Abner vowed to turn the rest of Israel over to David (2 Samuel 3:7–11).
During this time, “Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach” (2 Samuel 4:5–6). The assassins brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David, expecting to receive a reward. Yet David was displeased at their merciless action and had these men killed, their feet and hands cut off, and their bodies hanged beside a pool in Hebron. In contrast, the head of Ish-bosheth was buried in Hebron (2 Samuel 4:12). These events took place after David had ruled at Hebron for about seven and a half years.
The end of Ish-bosheth’s life, though violent, opened the door for David’s rule to expand from Judah to all of Israel. The prophecy of long ago finally came true: David was the king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:2). “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years” (2 Samuel 5:3–5).
Despite the many violent acts that took place between the people of David’s kingdom and the kingdom of Ish-bosheth, God was at work, preparing the way for His promise to be fulfilled. David ultimately reigned over Israel from Jerusalem. He served as an ancestor to Jesus Christ, the One who will ultimately reign forever.
King David had many wives, according to the Bible, although only eight of them are named. Of the eight, five are mentioned only once. The other three wives figure prominently in the story of King David.
David’s first wife was Michal, the daughter of King Saul. Her story begins in 1 Samuel 18—19. Saul gave Michal to David to marry after David defeated a hundred Philistines. But Saul, always fearful of young David’s popularity with the people, planned to kill his new son-in-law. However, Michal, who loved David, warned him of the plot and helped him escape. Following this, Saul gave Michal to another man. After David became king, Michal was restored as his wife (2 Samuel 3). She later despised David when she saw him dancing before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14–22). Michal had no children, perhaps in punishment for mocking the servant of the Lord (verse 23).
The story of David’s second wife of note, Abigail, is told in 1 Samuel 25. She was originally the wife of Nabal, an evil man who disrespected David. In his anger, David planned to attack and kill Nabal and all his household. Abigail, a wise and prudent woman, met David as he and his men were approaching. She bowed down to him and convinced him not to seek revenge and cause bloodshed. David recognized that her good judgment was a gift to him from God. Abigail returned to Nabal and told him how close he had come to death. Nabal’s “heart failed him and he became like stone” (verse 37). Ten days later, God struck Nabal and he died, and Abigail then became David’s wife.
The sad story of David’s wife Bathsheba is well known (2 Samuel 11:1–17). She was originally the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a trusted soldier in David’s army. While Uriah was away at war, David saw Bathsheba bathing in her courtyard one night; she was beautiful, and David lusted after her. Even knowing she was another man’s wife, David summoned her to his palace and slept with her. When she found that she was pregnant, she informed David, and the king, rather than repent, added to his sin. David ordered that Uriah be placed on the front lines of the battlefield where he was abandoned by his fellow soldiers and killed by the enemy. Then David married Bathsheba, but their child died shortly after birth. David chronicled his sin and repentance over these evil acts in Psalm 51. David and Bathsheba had four more children (1 Chronicles 3:5). Their son Solomon ruled after his father’s death.
The other five named wives of David were Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah (2 Samuel 3:2–5; 1 Chronicles 3:1–3). According to 2 Samuel 5:13, David married more wives in Jerusalem, but how many is unknown.
Michal was the younger daughter of King Saul and is first mentioned in 1 Samuel 14:49. Michal is important in biblical history because she fell in love with David, even though her older sister, Merab, had been promised to David as a wife as a prize for killing Saul’s enemies (1 Samuel 18:17). However, when the time came for Merab to be given to David in marriage, Saul double-crossed him and gave her to another man (1 Samuel 18:19). Seeing that his younger daughter, Michal, loved David, Saul considered her a way to ensnare the future king, of whom he was insanely jealous. So Saul agreed to give her to David as a prize for another attack against the Philistines (1 Samuel 18:24–25, 27). Saul hoped that David would be killed in the attack.
David, however, succeeded in defeating the Philistines, and Michal was given to him as a wife. Michal’s father’s jealousy of his rival escalated, and Saul tried to kill David. Michal helped her new husband escape when King Saul’s men came to kill him (1 Samuel 19:7–11). For reasons we are not told, Saul later gave Michal to another man, Palti son of Laish, while David was running for his life. Years later, when Saul was dead and David was preparing to step into his rightful position as king, he ordered that Michal be taken from Palti and brought back to him. David had other wives and children by this time, and there is no indication that he asked Michal’s input on this decision. She was forcibly returned to him, while her husband Palti followed after them, crying (2 Samuel 3:14–16).
This act seems to have destroyed whatever love Michal had once felt for David, because the next time we see her, she is caustically critical of David when he dances before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:16, 20). Rather than address the source of her bitterness, which was most likely his heartless act of taking her away from her husband, David defends himself and puts down her father. Because of her sarcastic and dishonoring attitude, Michal never had any children (verse 23). It can be gathered from this that either she and David did not share intimacy or the Lord closed her womb due to her verbal attack against His anointed servant.
We can learn from Michal’s sad story what happens in a marriage when offenses go on for years, unaddressed. Michal’s youthful infatuation with Israel’s hero turned to bitterness when he treated her like property, tore her away from a loving husband, and apparently never made it right. Even someone like David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), could also be selfish and cause pain in someone he should have loved. Although David was used greatly by God, he was also a sinful human being who made tragic mistakes. God placed stories like Michal’s in the Bible to remind us that heroes are also human and bitterness can destroy even a queen.
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.