Hi @KMac, thank you for your thoughtful reply. These points do give me some things to think about. I have heard many times that although polygamy was permitted, it was not necessarily approved of by God. It just seems odd that so many of the main characters lived that way without it being condemned as adulterous, when in other situations, God immediately addressed sins, even hidden ones, with things like failure in battle until the sin was found and rooted out, or in some cases, the ground opening to swallow them up. I know that sometimes, God’s rebuke or punishment came years after the fact, even on subsequent generations, and might not become obvious to the reader for several chapters, or even books. Who knows how long Eli’s sons sat outside the temple taking advantage of women before God took their lives? God’s reasoning is not always readily apparent, that’s for sure.
As far as Esther goes, this is the passage that indicates to me that all of the women gathered for the king’s selection were forced to at least be available to him sexually before he chose one as his queen:
Esther 2:12 Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women. 13 Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name.
From this, it seems quite obvious that they were made sexually available to him, whether he chose to sleep with them or not, and afterward, they were not released to go back home and have a normal life, but were relegated to the role of concubine. Granted, he was not a Jewish king and was not attempting to live by any Hebrew moral code. It’s just always stood out to me that the Bible records this very practically and without any judgment or condemnation regarding his actions. I also know that Esther in unique in that it was written in a time and place where the author was not free to even speak God’s name, so there’s that as well.
It has, of course, also been pointed out that the first marriage covenant was between one man and one woman, and there was never any directive that there could be more than two in a marriage covenant. But there is also what appears to be widespread acceptance of the practice of polygamy. I do find, in Leviticus 20, where sexual relationships are discussed, a direct ban against marrying a woman and her mother vs. 14 “If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.” But never anything against marrying two unrelated women.
It is also interesting that while it is “wickedness” for a brother to marry or lie with his brother’s wife, Deuteronomy 25 mandates that a brother marry his dead brother’s wife to carry on his brother’s line: 5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. 7 But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
In re-reading that passage, I realized that nothing is said about whether or not the living brother is already married, so perhaps the intention was that only an unmarried brother was obligated to marry his brother’s wife, though I seem to remember reading some stories in which married brothers also did so.
Kind of along the same lines, I saw a blog post a while back written by a man who claimed to be a pastor, but who accepted the practice of polygamy and polyamory in his church since in his view “God is polyamorous.” He used the concept of the Trinity, as well as the fact that God loves and is in a relationship with all Christians (his “bride” is a multitude of people, not one person), to justify and promote his views. Though rather abhorrent to consider, his comments were challenging and thought provoking.
I will also say that it has been comforting to notice that Job, whose heart was righteous before God, only had one wife, and as far as we know, Noah also only had one wife, at least at the time of the flood. So it does seem that polygamy became a widespread practice after human beings had scattered and pagan nations had formed.
One other point that I find curious, if not faintly disturbing, is that whenever divorce and adultery are discussed (I’m thinking primarily of the NT here), the teaching is that if a man divorces his wife for any reason other than sexual immorality, she should remain unmarried, otherwise she is committing adultery. (I believe it says that he - the first husband - has caused her to commit adultery.) But nothing is said about men who marry multiple wives committing adultery…when, realistically, it’s pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?
Sometimes it seems like there is a pretty significant double standard when it comes to men and sex and women and sex, partly, I’m sure, as a reflection of the practices and standards of the time in which it was written. One teacher I had, when questioned about this, mentioned something to the effect of “Chastity in women was particularly important because they bear the children. If the women were not chaste, the lineage and heritage of the offspring was at stake.” Which is a rather practical way of looking at it, but hard to see as fair when considering that God says he looks at the intentions of the heart.
But at the end of the day, I do agree that it ultimately comes back to the heart and the motive - as well as respecting other people as children of the King, and not seeing them as sex objects or a body. That is the crux of the issue, and is, I suppose, what bothers me the most about my personal situation and why I began looking for Biblical “proof” in the first place.
Since other people in the local Christian community, some that are older and have held positions of authority in some of the local churches, make light of premarital sex - or appear to, I have come across as unnecessarily prudish about the matter. My husband, who was raised as a sort of “nominal” Christian and did not truly come to know the Lord personally until adulthood, did not see it as a big deal, especially once they were engaged. No one else in our church addressed it at all, even though it wasn’t particularly hidden. And while my stepson (along with a few others in our church) is extremely harsh and judgmental toward anyone who is homosexual, has gender issues, or admitted SSA, he obviously did not hold himself to the same high standards of sexual purity when it came to his own convenience. It seems like the height of hypocrisy to me, and perhaps my heart has not been right, either, in my attempts to conclusively prove that he is just as much in the wrong. It has made me examine my beliefs more closely though.