Steven Webster's reply to George Don Spruill's commentary, "We Are a Religion, Not a Social Club," reflects the minimalist mindset of liberals who are desperate to eliminate biblical standards concerning marriage and sexual morality. Webster asks, "Is it not obvious that the Old Testament Patriarchs are often spoken of as having multiple wives[?]" The answer is not as obvious as Webster would have one think.
Of the three Hebrew Patriarchs, only the mischievous Jacob had more than one wife at a time--and he was bamboozled into such a dilemma by his scheming uncle. Isaac, as far as the biblical record is concerned, only had eyes for Rebekah until his dying day. Abraham, whom Webster claims was a polygamist, was anything but. True, he fathered Ishmael through a concubine, but that was Sarah's idea. God made it pretty clear to Abraham that this was not to his liking, and history bears witness to this very day--in the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews--what a tragic mistake this was. Abraham did eventually take another wife, but that was after Sarah's death.
Polygamy is not a common practice in the Old Testament--at least among the principle characters--until the period of the kings. David had several wives and concubines but his life was hardly made more pleasurable by their company. Solomon was the all-time champion of polygamy--700 wives and 300 concubines--but the Scriptures make it very clear that his insatiable appetite for women was his downfall.
Contrary to Webster's over-confident assertion, polygamy was NOT "clearly a recognized and legitimate form of marriage in the Hebrew Scriptures." It was recognized in Hebrew SOCIETY for several hundred years, but the Hebrew SCRIPTURES offer no support for the assertion that it was "legitimate" as far as God is concerned. God's ideal for marriage is spelled out in Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." The fact that it took human beings hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to come to the realization that God intended marriage to be the union of one man and one woman faithful to each other for life does not diminish the signficance of God's ideal for this most sacred of human relationships. Adam and Eve were one man and one woman united as one flesh long before some of the more colorful Old Testament characters began taking matters into their own hands.
The trouble with George Don Spruill's commentary is that while claiming to speak the absolute truth about the scriptures he makes a rather obvious mistake. Is it not obvious that the Old Testament Patriarchs are often spoken of as having multiple wives. Marriage is not always in the Bible an institution involving only one man and one woman. Polygamy was clearly a recognized and legitimate form of marriage in the Hebrew Scriptures. The only comment made on monogamy in the New Testament is that Bishops and Deacons should have only one wife. Otherwise, there seem to be no rules in scripture against polygamy, and plenty of examples including righteous Abraham our father in the faith (according to Paul) who were polygamous. Apparently polygamy didn't do Abraham any lasting harm either, since Jesus tells us that the blessed will rest in Abraham's bosom in the afterlife!
Having said all this, I don't think Biblical approval of polygamy makes it right--so much for so-called Biblical standards for marriage (which seems to be the perfect example of a human institution which is ever evolving and never the same in any age including the ages during which the Bible was written.)
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