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    Is the 'Abrahamic Model'
    of Polygamy Correct?

    A poster in one of our Clubs posited that the true order of polygamy is the 'Abrahamic model', meaning that if a man wishes to take a second wife, his first wife must take the initiative as Sarai did in giving Hagar her maidservant to her husband. In short, the husband plays little or no part in the transaction as it is exclusively an affair of the women. I know of one patriarch who takes this view and simply 'receives' whoever his first wife picks for him.

    I have problems with this model for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, the Hagar transaction was far from normal and it is not, to my knowledge, repeated anywhere else in the Bible. Sarai's motivation was completely wrong inasmuch as she was trying to preempt Yahweh to send the promised seed ahead of schedule viā her maid instead of herself. The moving force was a lack of faith and the result was, as we know, a terrible rivalry with historical consequences whose effects we are feeling today between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael.

    Secondly, the model is matriarchal. Though Abraham acquiesced - no doubt to placate his frustrated and impatient wife - it lacked the hallmarks of divine directive. Though Yahweh undoubtedly knew that this was what would happen, and made provision for it, it was hardly ideal.

    Polygamous families approach the expansion of plural families in different ways. In the fundamentalist Mormon system, the husband invariably takes the initiative but must seek the permission of all his other wives before taking another one. Whilst superficially this appears a good model inasmuch as it ensures that a husband does not bring in a sister-wife who might disrupt family life and bring unhappiness to the other wives, it again incorporates an element of matriarchy. But it is, in my view, superior (at least from a sociological perspective) to the alternative man-decides-all method of many other polygamists I know and which not infrequently rides roughshod over wives' feelings and - not uncommonly - good sense of judgment. Though he may claim 'revelation' (and frequently does) too often the 'Spirit' that leads him turns out to be his own fleshy desires with disasterous consequences.

    In Echad polygamy we seek the consensus of all the wives and the husband makes the final decision. Since we believe that the family is eternal and was established by the Creator before we were born, what we seek is a common family identity or recognition ... a inner 'knowing' that everyone belongs together. And once this has been identified, we are on safe ground because Yahweh is undeniably in it. And whilst this does not mean that there won't be struggles as the carnal nature is combatted and subdued in Christ, it does mean that the end is certain, because the union is foreordained, as is salvation to whose whom Yahweh knows will accept it. Divine providence with the mutual knowing of all the parties, and the husband making the final decision, is in our view the correct model, and not one that we can particularly ascribe to any particular biblical personality - for the examples we know best (Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon) were fraught with difficulties - wifely impatience, trickery, adultery, and political expediency, respectively.

    I have been living polygamy now since the mid 1980's, have tried most of the models, and made not a few mistakes. We have come to where we are today as a result of much experience and experimentation - mostly unplanned. Expanding a family is one of the most challenging and risky human enterprises that I know of requiring great sensitivity to ones wives' needs and perceptions, attentiveness to the Spirit, and resolution to do what is right in spite of opposition. And the Patriarch must also watch his own health because of the potential stresses.

    A casual inspection of today's patriarchs - and especially those in leading ministries - will reveal much trial and tribulation as they seek to get this advanced form of marriage initiated and lived in the right way. The basket of abused and abusing men and women alike (for both have been guilty) is full to the brim. There are many hurting husbands and sister-wives who are suffering, There is also much propaganda and blame circulating on the internet, and not a few lies - of husbands blaming their wives, of wives blaming their husbands, and of ex-husbands and ex-wives blaming each other. Many investigating this lifestyle get embroiled in the pain of these failed marriages where passions are inflamed and where more smoke is generated than light. And we must not forget the demonic element too ... there are not a few Ahabs and Jezebels whose intent is to provoke contention and division, and to generally slurr a godly principle. There is very often a great lack of Christian charity, and precious little ministry for such hurting persons except in the anti-polygamy camp. We see in the world of polygamy, therefore, every kind of human blessing and problem that is found in Christian/Messianic ministry generally. We have, in many respects, come of age, but with precious few experienced and balanced polygamous ministers who can render a healing service.

    I do not think the Abraham-Sarai-Hagar Model is a good one for the reasons given. We must seek a New Covenant paradigm, and that, I believe, is the Holy Echad one.

    Author: SBSK

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    First created on 6 December 2002
    Updated on 19 March 2016

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