One of the most amazing truths about Christian/Messianic plural marriage or polygyny is that when it is lived in the Spirit of Christ it is one of the most wonderful catalysts for love that I have ever experienced. Some of my polygynist friends have been telling me how as a result of coming to the truths of patriarchal marriage that, even though they may still be monogamous (because they have not yet found a second wife or because their first wife isn't yet ready for polygamy), they have fallen in love with their first wives all over again. They are at a loss to explain why except that somehow Yahweh's grace has simply blessed them in a remarkable way for accepting more biblical truth.
Many people first coming to Christian/Messianic polygyny do not understand that marrying more than one woman is more than simply adding extra persons to your household. The most common fallacy, at least in the public mind, is that a man desires more women simply to have more sex. In other words, they assume that the motivation is lust. And to be sure, such men, who do not know what Christian/Messianic polygyny really is, are to be found, and either they abandon their pursuit when they realise just what it is they are pursuing or the Spirit of Elohim (God) turns them around and gives them a true perspective. I have met many who started as those seeking to legally (from Yahweh's point-of-view) to satisfy their libido ending up having that libido subdued and refined so that they enter the practice for the right reasons after all. How ought we to view such polygamists, one might ask? The same way that Yah'shua (Jesus) views all sinners who have made inner changes and are walking in the Ruach (Spirit) - as people justified by the blood of the the Lamb of Yahweh. So we should not dismiss a man who has entered polygyny for the wrong motives if, subsequently, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) has changed him into a true son of Yahweh walking as he ought to. After all, a great many Christians/Messianics come to the Gospel for the wrong motives and with all the wrong perceptions of what discipleship is, but Yahweh in His mercy changes their perspective and gradually eases them onto the true path.
Women may well come into polygyny for the wrong reasons as well. One common motivating factor has been practical assistance in the family - an extra babysitter, companionship, inability to fulfill her husband's sexual needs etc.. And whilst none of these are in any way sinful reasons for wishing to enter polygyny they are (if they are the main driving reasons) to miss the point as to why Yahweh instituted this principle in the beginning: for the purpose of polygyny is, quite simply, to increase love - and increasing love, to reveal something of the personality of the Creator.
Falling or Growing in Love
One of the greatest mysteries in the universe is the passion of 'falling in love'. In what would seem to be almost no time at all, a person can suddenly find themselves bowled over in love with a man or a woman. And when that happens they can think of almost nothing else. There is within the heart a consuming passion, blind and irresistable. It subsumes everything else, especially if you've got it really 'badly'. Men have been known to kill for it, ruin careers over it, and even lose thrones over it. Worse (except for murder), people who are totally incompatible have been known to be caught in its big net and, once the passion has died down and the stark reality of passion the persons who have been married because of it finally see who their partners really are, have experienced an implosion of what they thought would go on for ever. Most of the world's romances pursue this path and most of the world's romances end up in the incinerator.
Now don't misunderstand me - I am not by any means against 'falling in love'. Far from it - it's probably one of the last sane experiences in a world gone blind. However, what I do oppose is 'falling in love' without the Spirit of Elohim (God). I am against blind passion that knows no reason or sense. I am against those tempestuous storms of 'love' that leave wrecked lives in their wake.
Romantic love was not always so. To be sure, couples have fallen headlong into love from the beginning, but when this very powerful force manifested itself in ancient times where Yahweh's Law and Ruach (Spirit) prevailed, it found itself in a strong mental and emotional vessel or matric able to temper and control it. The ancients understood such forces and knew how destructive they could be without a proper spiritual foundation.
Marriage by Providence
Marriage by providence - that is, marriage in which Yahweh our Father in Heaven finds the couples and arranges their marriage - is without a doubt the Biblical ideal. Three are especially highlighted in Scripture:
Adam and Eve's marriage was literally 'made in heaven' for they were already married. There is no record of any romance at all because they were always one. They lived in blissful union mentally, emotionally, sexually and spiritually...until they decided to rebell against Yahweh and spoiled everything. The union they had before the Fall is the same union that we all subconsciously yearn for, playing out various dramas, of which falling in love is one, in our quest to realise it. In many ways the violent 'fall from grace' of Adam and Eve is paralleled by the sometimes insane 'falling in love' as we subconsciously desperately try to find our way back to that forgotten paradise. Thus in the story of Adam and Eve we understand both what we once had and what, in our heart of hearts, we would truly love to have again.
(1) Adam and Eve;
(2) Isaac and Rebekah; and
(3) Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah.
In the story of Isaac and Rebekah we discover a divinely ordained pattern for marriage in its simplest (monogamous) form. It was the custom of those days - a custom, incidentally, established by Yahweh for man's blessing but which has subsequently become abused in those fallen cultures that still have it - for a father to arrange the marriage of his sons and daughters. In Isaac and Rebekah's example we see how this principle was supposed to work when done right. An inspired man of Yahweh, Abraham, sends his servant out to find his son Isaac a wife with detailed instructions of what to do, according to a divine revelation he has received. The servant is to find the prospective wife from amongst relatives, observe her actions, test her character and, once he has found her according to the pattern revealed by the Ruach (Spirit) (the way she treats the servant hospitably at a well), enter into negociations with her father, obtain the girl's consent by non-compulsive means, and bring the girl back.
Isaac and Rebekah had never met one another. Everything was arranged without their ever having met to see whether they were 'compatible', 'attractive', whether they had a 'similar chemistry', etc.. The whole arrangement was done by faith in Yahweh's providence. And because Abraham desired only to do Yahweh's will, because Isaac was properly submitted to a godly father, because Rebekah was submitted to the godly custom, when the couple first set eyes on one another, they loved one another. It happened naturally. The Bible does not say they fell head over heels in love - I suspect they did not. The Ruach (Spirit) whispers to me that there was an instant bonding and that love simply grew and grew.
Thus in the story of Isaac and Rebekah we have the perfect example of divine providence for imperfect people (for they had their character flaws). It was not an Edenic marriage for Eden was long past, but it was a marriage after the divine pattern on this sphere.
My third example is a polygynous one which started all wrong but ended up basically right. And I suspect the reason we have been given it in this form is because it represents the way in which most polygynous marriages get started off. It is a story of trickery on the part of both the father-in-law as well as the son-in-law who, in a way, gets his just deserts. Jacob is in love with the youngest of two sisters but his father-in-law tricks him into marrying the eldest first. Not surprsingly the eldest, knowing that it is the youngest he really wants, spends much of her life trying to earn her husband's love by giving him many children, even to giving him her handmaiden. Though it is not a serious rivalry, it is plainly there. Jacob (whose name means 'deceiver') does eventually become a man of Elohim (God), and his tricky disposition is finally washed out by godliness. He ends up with four wives and learns to love them all, and they him. His story exists because it is one of those pivotal prophetic events that has meaning on every spiritual plane and in every prophetic dispensation of earth's history. Jacob is a picture of going about the right things in the wrong way, trying to do things in our own counsel and strength before finally yielding to Yahweh's way of doing things. And through this muddle of false and pure motives there arises a redeemed man on whose head is the very stamp of divine approval. He is the family man par excellence, the model of a nation and of a Church/Messianic Community. Jacob the deceiver and polygamist is transformed into Israel the polygamist and friend of Yahweh. He is the third phase of a prophetic unfolding that leads to a nation and a Redeemer. He is a picture of the future millennium as well, of paradise regained.
Jacob with Leah and Rachel
Throughout the generations our Father in Heaven has been known as the "Elohim (God) of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" and you will notice that although many godly men and women appeared after them, they are never added to this list. Thus never do you find Yahweh referred to as the "Elohim (God) of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David". Never. (The only exception would be "the Elohim (God) of Daniel" (Daniel 6:26) within a rather special context). The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) never permitted this designation to be used because the foundational spiritual elements, to which we are all moving, are in these three.
And observe how the women are blessed when they are married. Every Hebrew woman's blessing is to be fruitful like "Rachel and Leah" (Ruth 4:11) - they are not pointed to a mongamous ideal but to a polygamous one. Always. So whilst Rachel and Leah were at first rivals caused by a fickle man's heart (Jacob) and a deceiving father-in-law (Laban), they in the end became models of Yahweh's family women.
What, then, do we see in these three patriarchal marriages which are ever before our face when men and women of Yahweh bless one another? Firstly, we have the picture of the perfect foundational element of all marriage, the marriage of Paradise, where perfect oneness and companionship reigns between man and wife. Secondly, we have the pattern of seeking spouses in a fallen world of fallen men in Abaraham seeking a wife for his son Isaac by revelation. And thirdly, we have the polygamous family unit which Yahweh used to create a nation both in the days of imperfection and in the perfect millennial days to come. We have, in short, in these three marriages all the elements we need to understand how we should go about successfully building marriages and a few tips on what to avoid also.
Firstly, Yahweh wants godly monogamous marriages where there is genuine mutual love of spouses who are submitted fully to His will. Secondly, he wants those who are called to live successful polygamous marriages whose men are leaders and kingdom-builders and whose women are raisers of godly seed. These are the ingredients. In all of them, Yahweh provides the spouses, all the spouses love on another, and all (eventually) want to to Yahweh's will.
Falling in Love with Righteousness
As I said, I believe in 'falling in love' but I do not believe a man and woman can successfully fall in love with each other and maintain that love in an ever growing condition without first falling in love with righteousness, and the giver of that righteousness, our Father in Heaven. Now I know one or two readers will be able to point out some 'ideal couples' who never knew Yahweh and who were devoted to one another, whose love for one another simply grew and grew, and I will not quarrel with the facts. But I will say that marital love is an intensely selfish thing if the love that is created within it cannot be shared with others in acts of Christian charity. I believe most emphatically that the true love of Yahweh can never stand still - not only must it be in constant motion reaching out to those who do not have it but it never reaches a plateau and settles down. The love of Yahweh, as revealed through His Son Yah'shua (Jesus), is a love that is constantly growing and building. There is a dynamic behind it that never ebbs because it is a love that will not be satisfied to simply advance 'so far' and then stop. It must, by its very nature, grow upwards, grow deeper, and be shared. There are many unbelieving couples who certainly adore one another but their love is often only for themselves, and were you to suggest, for example, that they might like to think about taking another wife into their family, the reaction is more often than not predictably in the negative.
What I most adore about polygyny today is its inherent righteousness. It's the principle itself that delights me as much as the women and children who are a part of it in my life. That is not to say that I am, in a way, 'in love with love' (the ultimate selfishness), but rather to hint to you that I am gaining a deeper awareness of the Creator of the principle and what actually moves the heart of Yahweh. With the false stain and guilt of 'monogamy-only' long since washed out of my system, I have been freed to see a quality in the Almighty which is altogether beautiful and glorious. And this is by now means just an abstract meditation but an experience rooted very much in time and with real people.
Something rather special happened about a week ago which I have been looking forward to for a very long time. Many years ago Yahweh told me in a revelation that true Christ-like marital love should grow and grow, that 'falling in love' was deceptive because it implied something negative and blind ('falling' never was a particular positive thing scripturally). I have, for at least twenty years, been teaching Christians to seek a romantic love that grows UP and always with a consciousness of Christ. I have taught that true Christian marriage is polygamous from beginning to end because it involves the Godhead from beginning to end. Thus even what Christians call 'monogamy' (a non-existent term in the Scriptures, incidentally) is in fact polygamy because Yahweh is a part of the marriage equation. Indeed, as I have also been teaching, there is no such things as monogamous marriage, only marriage involving one or more women...and the Creator and Sustainer of all godly marriage.
Now what happened a week ago is something I have been teaching for years but which has now happened for real. I have 'fallen' in love with my (current) first wife all over again. And this was at a time when friends and acquaintances in the patriarchal Movement were experiencing the same thing themselves. It was as though my marriage was reborn. Do not misunderstand me - I had not 'fallen out of love' with my first wife, nor had our marriage stagnated. We have always had a good, successful and happy marriage. Rather, my love for her suddenly got booted up a quantum level. Just like that. Call it 'renewal' if you like. But it just suddenly happened. I will not attempt to explain the mechanism to you at this stage, for in truth I have not yet worked it out. Rather, I wished to share a simple testimony so that you might be encouraged, especially first wives who have watched your husbands love other women, and experienced love multiply in your own life as a result. My message is that once you have experienced romantic love at the beginning of a marriage you should not suppose that it is an ABC process that begins at courtship, grows during the honeymoon, and then stabilises in early married life. Rather, that the ABC will repeat itself again and again if you are living in the Spirit of Christ, so that you are elevated to new spiritual and romantic heights. Plural marriage in Yahweh should never stagnate but be constantly growing and upbuilding for each person in the marriage.
This last week I have not only rediscovered my first wife but learned to love her on a new spiritual plane. It is quite, quite thrilling. Many women believe (with some justified concern) that polygyny is just about adding women to a type of impersonal 'stamp collection' - that love is just a single unit of experience which once experieced is always experienced. It's not like that at all. There is no end to love, no end to growing, no end to new experience until a person has become totally like Christ Himself and the Shekinah (Spirit). And given there is such a gulf between our imperfection and His perfection, surely there is an eternity of growth yet to come!
My first wife is getting older and even putting on a little weight - she is not, by worldly standards, the physical beauty she was when she was younger, but in the love of Christ I haven't noticed that. For me she is getting more and more beautiful day by day - and not just in an abstract spiritual sense, because I observe that the Spirit actually shines through the physical frame and transforms it. So you see, this love has nothing to do with outward forms in the ultimate sense, but about a divine love that transforms our every perception.
As my reborn love for my first wife grows, so it 'rubs off' on my second wife and on my whole family. My love for my estranged wives has simultaneously grown too and my hope for their restoration has similarly grown. I am experiencing a miracle at work. May you also experience this miracle and praise the Creator for His goodness and love, knowing that marriage in Him is never final but always growing, always reaching up to the stars.