The more I look at some of the beliefs of contemporary Christian/Messianic polygamists and compare them with actual biblical teachings, the more surprised and alarmed I become. The pervasive influence of humanism in our Western thinking has so distorted our view of the Bible and things spiritual that I sometimes wonder if we will ever get back to the truth without much personal suffering first.
I remember, many years ago, reading the biography of a young Russian Comsomol man, the Communist Youth organization of the former Soviet Union. He was a man of high and selfless idealism who wished with his whole heart to build the perfect socialist society. He willingly sacrificed his time and labour in order to join with other Communist Youth to help build a new section of the trans-Siberian railway. His unswerving devotion to the Community Party gained the attention of the local party politbureau and he was invited to join the leaders in a fest. The decadence, debauchery, and indolence of the leaders shocked him out of communism and, eventually, to Christ.
We really do need to carefully examine some of the doctrines of marriage circulating amongst Patriarchal Christians/Messianics. As I have pointed out before, not only do we have a 'cold and harsh' version of polygamy which is undoubtedly oppressive to women ('polygamy-by-force') but a matriarchal version which is oppressive to men ('the-women-are-always-right'). Both are entirely unbiblical.
My questioning started in our chat room a couple of days ago when the question flashed before my mind: 'Under what circumstances is polygamy obligatory?' I think the question surprised the members of the chat room as much as it did me for we have been 'brought up' in certain patriarchal quarters to believe in a form of neo-humanist polygamy which teaches that polygamy must under all circumstances be voluntary. Well, as we shall see, there are at least four instances in the Scriptures where the very opposite is true.
But before I look at that, I want to ask a more general question: Under what circumstances does marriage become compulsory (remembering that the Bible makes no distinction between 'monogamy' and 'polygamy')?
A couple of generations ago in the West if an unmarried man had sex with an unmarried woman and she became pregnant he was 'expected' to marry her - it was considered the only 'decent' and 'honourable' thing to so. A generation before that, they would have been 'expected' to marry whether she had children or not. And of course, this code was absolutely correct. Today if a couple sleep together they are expected by many conservative churches to simple 'part' - but is that biblically correct?
The Bible teaches unambiguously that if a man entices a women to have sex with him that he is obliged to marry her (Exodus 22:16). There are simply no two questions about it - if you have sex with someone, you are married to them unless the women is already married to another man, in which case adultery has been committed. If the unmarried woman has been enticed to have sex against her will, then her father has the right to intervene on her behalf as her head and refuse her in marriage to the man who has violated her, and the man must pay a fine equivalent to the dowry price (Exodus 22:17), which I suppose in our day might be equivalent to the cost of a secular wedding.
Let me state it this way - if a couple have mutually consensual sex they are married in Yahweh's eyes. Every time a man sleeps with a woman the responsibilities of a husband to love, cherish, and care for her needs automatically devolve upon him for the rest of his life. That is what Yahweh expects of him! She belongs to him.
This Yahweh-ordained 'ownership' by the man of the woman is critically important to understand. When a single woman has consensual sex with a man, she is giving herself to him as her owner. She belongs to him because in agreeing to have sex with him she has given herself to him for life.
What this means is that if a married man has sex with an unmarried woman, the unmarried woman belongs to him automatically together with his first or other wives. There is no question of the women he is married to giving their 'veto' or 'approval' because they do not 'own' their husband ... he owns them, just as the husband is owned by Yahweh.
Think about it this way. Does a Christian/Messianic have the right to 'veto' or 'approve' an unbeliever becoming a Christian/Messianic? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it, since the convert belongs to Christ, not to the Church (Messianic Community). And yet this is the doctrine that is taught in many churches (assemblies) - they can 'approve' or 'reject' an application for 'church membership'. Whilst it is true that the Pastor and Elders, as the fathers of a local congregation, have the duty and responsibility to test the sincerity of any conversion, and to make sure once they are baptised that they are walking in the commandments, they cannot prevent them coming to Christ. That is nobody's business! Does Christ ask our permission before an unbeliever becomes a believer? Yah forbid! And yet this is what is happening not only in the monogamy-only churches (assemblies) but in a good many polygamous ones too! The husband is asking his first wife/wives for their 'permission' or 'blessing' before he takes another wife! This is a matriarchal doctrine and it is false!
HAVING SAID THAT if a man took monogamy-only vows with his first wife he can not unilaterally break them and take a second wife for then he becomes a vow-breaker which Yahweh regards as an abomination. Though that is not a capital offence like adultery it does give his wife the right of veto since these were the agreed terms of their marriage. This means she has the right, according to the Law of Heaven, to demand that her husband abide by his vows. They may, however, mutually and consensually without force or pressure of compulsion agree to anull the monogamy-only vow which would then free the husband to take a second polygamous wife. A husband who refuses to acknowledge his monogamy-only vow becomes a lawless, Torah-breaker. It becomes the responsibility of his Pastor to enforce the vow as a condition of church/congregational membership. In our fellowship, we excommunicate any man who unliaterally breaks his marriage vows.
In the very earliest days of the patriarchs they had no formal rituals or marriage covenants - no dedication or betrothal. We read that when Rebekah journeyed from Harran to Canaan that she went into the tent of Isaac and they had sex - that was the 'marriage'. On the very simplest of levels, sexual intercourse makes a couple married in Yahweh's eyes. It is as simple as that. No licences were signed, no verbal convenants were made. This is marriage in its simplest, foundational form.
That is not to say that the covenants of betrothal are groundless. Far from it. They subsequently became very important as Yahweh stressed the binding nature of a man's (and woman's) word. But it is to say that you cannot pretend that sexual intercourse is not a part of the marriage equation, or justify fornication in any way. In fact, there is technically no such thing as 'fornication' ... unlawful sex between a married man and an unmarried woman, or an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. If they sleep together, they are married. Though the word 'fornication' came to be viewed as separate from adultery latterly, in the beginning there was no distinction at all. The Hebrew zanaw is typically translated 'fornication' in the KJV but invariably means 'whoredom'. Technically, then, there is no such thing as 'fornication' - if two unmarried people sleep together they are not sinning because they are MARRIED. The sin occurs when they abandon each other, go their separate ways and sleep with others, whence they become the cause of ADULTERY. If anciently an unmarried couple had sex, they were not stoned to death for sin but were considered MARRIED. Today, of course, covenants are expected in the presence of two or three witnesses (because of Torah), and anyone who is caught fornicating in the sense in which it is understood today is expected to enter such covenants immediately.
Our modern English versions of the Bible tend not to use the word 'fornicate' any more, confusing the issue somewhat, as various sexual sins are lessened in their importance.
What we have is a radical biblical doctrine of marriage and one we dare not ignore, particulary when it comes to polygamy. Let us examine this a little further.
The New Testament teaches compulsory polygamy just like the Old. We learn from Paul that if a wife leaves her husband and he remarries (takes a second wife), and the first decides to return to him, then he is obliged to receive his first wife back again (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). His second wife has no say in the matter, consistent with the biblical doctrine that a husband does not belong to his wife but that his wife/wives belong(s) to him. She may no more consent to her husband receiving back his previously estranged first wife than she may consent to him marrying a virgin he has slept with, because in both cases he is the owner of the wives, and not vice versa.
Finally, we must no forget the Law of Levirate which requires a man to marry the wife of his deceased brother if she has no male offspring. Any son born from such a union is said to 'belong' to the late brother and receives his inheritance rights as well as perpetuating the father's name (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
We see, therefore, several instances where polygamy is commanded or required. It could be argued that the Law of Levirate does not apply where an Israelite theocracy does not exist, and there may even be a case against it on the basis of the New Covenant where, according to my understanding, marriage is eternal. This, however, would need to be researched more fully.
Perhaps even more importantly than questions as to what marriage is, is the even more vitally important one surrounding the Force vs. Love positions which have polarised the Christian/Messianic polygamy movement.
There are, however, other aspects to marriage which must not be forgotten as we examine what marriage is. There are three different orders or covenants of marriage in the Bible:
Paul's Letter to the Hebrews teaches us that there are two Kingdom Orders and two Kingdom Priesthoods which are known, respectively, as the Melchizedek and the Levitical (sometimes Aaronic or Mosaic). The first is an eternal Order and Priesthood, and the latter is a temporal and therefore temporary Order and Priesthood. According to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the New Covenant Order is governed by the Melchizedek Priesthood of which Christ, and Christ alone, is the eternal High Priest. In the time before the Law of Moses was established (and subsequently brought to completion in the Christian/Messianic Melchizedek Order), there was a pre-Messianic Melchizedek Order presided over by a High Priest which included animal sacrifice but lacked some of the minutae of the Mosaic system. We are led to understand that the spirit of this early Melchizedek Order was, and is, much the same as the New Covenant one we find ourselves in today.
- A. The Pre-Mosaic Patriarchal (Melchizedek) Old Covenant;
- B. The Mosaic (Levitical) Old Covenant; and
- C. The New Covenant (Melchizedek).
A careful study of Genesis, which records the history of the earth before the Law was given at Mt.Sinai and which spans a period of time almost as long as the rest of the Old Testament period, reveals that this early Patriarchal Order revolved around the Ten Commandments, even though these are nowhere recorded as a list as we find in Exodus. Most of what we subsequently learn in the Sinai Statutes is therefore already presenent in nascent form in the Great Patriarchal Era. This Patriarchal Code, though never stated in legalistic terms in the kind of way we find in Leviticus, for example, is nevertheless clearly revealed in the behaviour of the patriarchs and their families. A simple study of the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reveals a very clear Order or Marriage where polygamy is entirely normal and expected.
There is a very true saying which says that the more wicked a society is, the more laws it needs. Yah'shua said that a person walking in the fullness of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) needs no more than two rules of thumb, namely, to:
This, He said, was a summary of the entire Law and teachings of the Prophets. It is the smallest Law Book in existence and is unique to the New Testament.
- (1) Love Elohim (God) with all your mind, might and strength; and
- (2) To love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:25-27 cp. Deuteronomy 11:1,13,22; Joshua 22:5; 23:11).
The next 'level' of Yahweh's Law is to be found in the pre-Mosaic Patriarchal Era where we find all Ten Commandments plus the occasional statute.
Finally, we come to the Mosaic era where we find the Two which was Ten has now become Hundreds. The Law of Moses contains several hundred laws.
Why this three-fold 'view' of Law? Simply, to reflect the spiritual maturity of Yahweh-believers. The more carnal and spiritually immature, the more laws are required. Which is why small children need lots of household rules.
A person walking in the Twofold Law of Christ is automatically and unconsciously walking in the Ten Commandments. And someone walking in the Ten Commandments is automatically and unconsciously walking in the non-ceremonial statutes of the Law of Moses.
The reason that so many marriages are defective is because men and women are not walking in the Messianic Law of Love for Yahweh and Others. And the reason they aren't doing that is because they aren't walking in the Ten Commandments. And the brutal truth is that most Christians aren't. The vast majority of Christendom has rejected the Sabbath Commandment, to name but one. Little wonder, then, that they are ignoring nearly the whole Torah, and little wonder that their marriages aren't paradise on earth.
When Yah'shua (Jesus) issued His Twofold Summary of the Law and Commandments He did not, as many foolishly proclaim, abolish the need to obey the Ten Commandments. To the contrary, He reaffirmed every single one of them in His ministry. More than that, He affirmed the whole Torah, declaring in no uncertain terms that until heaven and earth disappear (which they never will, incidentally, though transformed they may be - He was not preaching nihilism), that not one letter of the Law (Torah) would pass away (Matthew 5:17-19).
As human beings we operate on three different levels, what Paul calls 'spirit, soul and body' (not to be confused with Old Testament concepts of "soul") (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He also testifies that in the Kingdom of Elohim (God) there are three degrees of glory, which he compares to the sun, the moon, and the stars in terms of their brilliance of lack of it (1 Corinthians 15:41). This threefold division you will find throughout Scripture. There may also be said to be a threefold division in marriage:
which correspond to our three natures. The kind of believer you are will reflect on the kind of marriage you live. And both these will point very clearly to your spiritual maturity or lack of it.
- Messianic-Melchizedek - spirit - Two Commandments - sun - Marriage-by-attraction
- Patriarchal-Melchizedek - soul - Ten Commandments - moon - Marriage-by-consent
- Patriarchal-Levitical - body - Law of Moses - stars - Marriage-by-compulsion
One thing that I have noticed in my family is that the need for rules and regulations have almost entirely disappeared as the Law has become written on our hearts by the pen of the Ruach (Spirit). There was a time when we were very meticulous about commandment-keeping because our spirits had not been trained to respond to them in a natural and accepting way.
As I have stated in this essay, there is no such thing as 'monogamy' and 'polygamy'. Such artificial distinctions belong to the flesh, being made by the same in order to justify its sinful tendency, viz, the propagation and preservation of the Cult of Self. As a soul grows in the Christ, so a noticeable evolution of thought takes place when it comes to marriage:
Monogamy-only > 'Monogamy' and 'Polygamy' > Christian Marriage
In many respects the old title of this website, "First International Christian Polygamist" became a misnomer since, in the fullness of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), there is no such thing as 'polygamy' which implies there is something called 'monogamy' too, as though they were two separate species. In the end we opted (2016) for the Holy Echad Marriage (HEM) page. We have, I hope, grown up:
Maturity is about expanding and deepening inter-personal relationships in harmony with the codes of behaviour laid down by the Creator. We see the same processes at work in the Body of Christ as a whole:
- CHILD: Monogamy - Baptism - New Birth - Deacon - stars
- YOUTH: Monogamy and Polygamy - Chrism - Sanctification - Elder - moon
- ADULT: Christian Marriage - Lord's Supper - Fullness - Apostle - sun
Solo-Christian > Presbyterian > Apostolic
remembering that there are counterfeits to each of these.
As we look at the pardigm of marriage in the Bible we see that in the childhood of the world, only monogamy exists, in the form of Adam and Eve. In the youth of the world, as it learns to grow up, we see a new pattern of both monogamous and polygamous marriages alternating, especially in the key Patriarchal figures:
Just as there was rivalty between northern Israel and Judah, so there has been rivalry between monogamy and polygamy. And just as Israel disappeared, so also did polygamy from our western Christian world, as forced monogamy triumphed. This has been the victory of Talmudic Judaism which is basically monogamy-only. However, Talmudic Judaism is a counterfeit, as is monogamy-only. Now we see Messianic Israel reborn along with polygamy, and at this time there is a metaphorical locking of horns between Israel (polygamy) and Judah (monogamy).
- Abraham (polygamous)
- Isaac (monogamous)
- Jacob (polygamous)
- Joseph (monogamous)
Some interesting things have happened in this battle. 'Judah' has compromised a little by saying that polygamy is not a sin but is inferior. And 'Israel' has compromised a little by saying that not everyone is called into polygamy, but that we have three options: celibacy, monogamy or polygamy. WRONG! There is only ONE option, represented by THE grand consummate paradigm of all, namely, POLYGAMOUS MARRIAGE TO CHRIST. The truth is that all marriage is polygamous, only some never mature into it, and others are just too damaged to enter into marriage at all:
To claim that we can 'choose' to be 'celibate', 'monogamous' or 'polygamous' is no different from saying that we can 'choose' to be an unbeliever, a solo-Christian, or an Assembled Christian as though they were of equal value. They are absolutely NOT! We can choose to reject Christ, we can choose to be a solo Christian, or we can choose to gather with other Believers but under no circumstances does Yahweh regard them as 'equal' - Yah forbid!
- THE LIE: Celibacy OR Monogamy OR Polygamy [your 'choice']
- THE TRUTH: Celibacy (child) --> Monogamy (youth) --> Polygamy (maturity) [Yahweh's Choice]
What this means is that MARRIAGE (1 man + 1 or more women) is required of all in the same way that sex between married spouses is supposed to fulfil the mandate to bring forth righteous offspring whether one child or many it makes no difference. In the same way that nobody has the right to tell Yahweh: 'Right, I will have sex with my spouse in order to have one child and no more, and thereafter I shall use contraceptives!', nobody has the right to say 'Right, I will marry monogamously for companionship and to raise a family, but thereafter no more wives, and therefore I shall deny other women to come in the family!' It just isn't allowed. Indeed, the use of CONTRACEPTIVES is a prophetic symbol of the false monogamy-only mindframe. Families shouldn't be using artificial preventative media but be exercising self-control just as a family shouldn't be excluding more than one wife but adding more wives but not to excess. Monogamy-only marriage is a form of matrimonial contraception.
No true Christian/Messianic marriage can leave polygamy out of the equation. Every Christian man and woman should be taught that polygamy is the norm, and that a couple embarking on marriage should be doing so with polygamy in mind but always leaving it in the hands of Yahweh to add or not to add to their family.
The argument that there aren't enough women to go around for universal polygamy is made null and void by the fact that few Christians/Messianics ever reach spiritual maturity. Even fewer want to. Most Christians you will discover are content to remain in the womb of their born-again experience and go little further. They do not want to eat the meat of Torah but to keep on sipping the milk of their new birth. But that is not in Yahweh's mind. We are to go on to perfection, running the race of life like an athelete (1 Corinthians 1:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-2), struggling to overcome (e.g. 1 John 2:14), working out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). It is not a case of 'one saved, always saved' (OSAS), but of being saved as a baby (Alef/Alpha), being saved as a youth (Mem), and being saved as an adult in Christ (Taw/Omega). And this is verily the lesson of human growth, a living outward parable of what should be happening within.
Because humans are lazy by nature, they prefer to be static, remaining where they are, never moving, and never growing unless forced to reluctantly by one form of disaster or another. Yahweh never designed us to be monogamists, yet most Christians would rather hearken back to the Garden of Eden. We can never go back there. We are to have our eyes on another garden and a city, called the New Jerusalem, a place where polygamy is.
This whole battle to have polygamy accepted is not so much to allow a man to have more than wife and for a woman to share her husband with other wives, but to bring us to spiritual maturity in Christ. Actual polygamy is an instrument as well as a reality. It is the instrument of our perfection - to make growth more 'natural' - as well as a preparation of the way the redeemed live in heaven. Polygamy exists to bless, not retard or curse. Polygamy exists to help both men and women to overcome their carnal, selfish dispositions. How many times have I heard women coming into our former chat rooms and saying, "Oh, I could never share my husband"? It happened all the time. And that is the key issue - not whether women are willing to share their husbands but whether they are willing to share - for sharing implies a letting go of self-interest. It means learning to be the way Christ is.
Accordingly, it would be perfectly true if I were to say that polygamy is compulsory for everyone who names the Name of Christ and desires to come to perfection in Him. It simply isn't an option. However, Yahweh will not force us to perfection and into the most intimate kind of fellowship possible, but gives us the choice to stop along the way if we want to. That is why He has created three different Kingdoms of Glor:
I realise that people will accuse me and others of starting an 'Úlitist club'. They will say that we consider ourselves 'superior' because we are polygamists. But they would be missing the point entirely. For what I am saying is this: that those who are called into polygamy are those who realise that they are nothing, that salvation is not by works but by grace (Ephesians 2:8), that man's puny efforts are insignificant. Polygamy - true polygamy - is the complete negation of self-interest, for it acknowledges only that we must be completely crucified in the flesh so that Christ can fully live in us (Galatians 2:20). What we have, ultimately, is nothing to do with 'greatness' or with what we have 'done' but what we have relinquished, namely, selfishness. To be a polygamist is to acknowledge that Christ is everything, and nothing more.
- (1) The kingdom which has the brilliance of the stars for those who chose celibacy or who were unworthy of marriage;
- (2) The kingdom which has the brilliance of the moon for those who chose monogamy or who were unworthy of marriage,; and
- (3) The kingdom which has the brilliance of the sun for those whom Yahweh deemed worthy to be called into polygamy because they were willing to forsake everything for Him and walk the Way of the Cross (1 Corinthians 5:41; Mark 10:21).
This is the only compulsory form of polygamy there is in the New Covenant. This is what I mean by Messianic Echad Polygamy. There are other forms of polygamy but they belong to a Covenant long dead and gone. The other forms of polygamy are abolished. They simply don't exist in Yahweh's eyes.
What this means is that there are three forms of polygamy in the world, two of which are spiritual adultery and self exaltation, whereas the third is the exalted path of the Messiah, Yah'shua (Jesus). Distinguishing between them, therefore, is of the utmost essence, since all three claim the name of Christ.
The three forms have their own distinguishing characteristics. They have their own spirits, and unless you posssess the Spirit of Yahweh, you will not be able to discern them. Each soul who believes he is, or actually is, called into polygamy, will be led to the type of polygamy which is his soul-nature, and there he will either be justified or destroyed.
When this ministry first began we were unquestionably of the middle 'monogamy and polygamy' variety. Yahweh's tutoring has been incessant, though, bringing us to the 'Third Way' of Christian/Messianic polygamy and separating us out from the others. It is this Third Way that I have tried to explain in this and earlier articles. It is the way which is eternal, where marriage is forever, as Christ is forever.