Q. Is there a scriptural precedent for a honeymoon period in the Bible? And how does this apply to polygamy? May a man marry two women at the same time? And what is the 'seven year trial' that you talk about in your community?
The concept of a "honeymoon" is a pagan one and is one that we do not use, being derived from the Mithraic cult which revered the moon goddess who was believed to be the maker of honey used in religious purification rites. There is, however, what is called by us as the "marriage week", a practice deriving from the patriarchal period and which we observe, which is the nearest equivalent to the secular "honeymoon", a seven day period in which the bridegroom makes exclusive love to his new bride.
You will recall that Jacob laboured for his uncle Laban for seven years in order to win the hand of his daughter Rachel with whom he was in love. But on the wedding night Laban substituted the younger Rachel for his elder Leah whose eyes, the scripture records, "had no sparkle" (Genesis 29:16, Berkeley). Laban's excuse for the trickery was: "It just is not done in these parts, to marry the younger before the older" (v.26). And whilst Laban certainly had a good point, the way in which he went about fulfillling the patriarchal practice was dishonest, as we alll know, for this planted a seed of resentment in Jacob who did what a patriarch must never do in giving preferential treatment to one wife over the other. We must remember, however, that Jacob was young and lusty, and, as his name reveals, a deceiver. Not until later when he battled with Yahweh or His angel at Peniel and obtained a permanant spiritual centre to his life, receiving the new name Israel, do we find him finally behaving as he ought and showing impartiality to his two wives.
So Jacob is cheated but you will notice that he is given his beloved Rachel after he has fulfillled his marital duties to Leah after the required week. Many wrongly assume that he had to wait another seven years before receiving Rachel. Not so. For it is written:
Thus Jacob was given Rachel in advance, not after another seven years' labour. So Jacob first married Leah, lay with her for one week, and after this period of time he was given Rachel too, and lay with her for one week, paying off his debt for another seven years subsequent labour.
"'Complete this one's [Leah's] week ["honeymoon"] and for another seven years of service we will give you the other one [Rachel], too.' Jacob did so: he completed her week and Laban gave him his daughter Rachel, too, for wife. He also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel for her maid. Jacob went into Rachel, too, and he loved Rachel more than Leah; so he worked for him seven more years" (vv.27-30).
The one week period is a law in our community. A patriarch may marry as many women as he wishes "at the same time" but there must be a minimum of one week between each one. He could theoretically betrothe them all on the same day but would lie with each for an exclusive period of one week.
The "seven year trial" is a spiritual testing period. That is not, of course, to say that a marriage may be terminated after seven years if it does not work out (as the carnal mind might be tempted to interpret this saying amongst us). We traditionally say amongst ourselves that if a plural marriage survives seven years that it is usually sure and firm. It takes time for two people to grow together and become one and it is our experience that seven years is the essential formation period. Though it does not always happen, we have discovered that the seventh year of a marriage can be fraught with many different kinds of problems as the mettle of a marriage is tested by the Holy Spirit. It is our firm belief that once Jacob had become Yahweh-centred and he saw how faithful Leah was to him that he repented of his partiality towards Rachel and truly loved Leah for herself, and that this took place through the seven years. Their family was definitely united even though there was rivaly and competition in the beginning as Leah desperately sought for the affection she was entitled to by giving her husband as many sons as Elohim (God) permitted her. As we know Jacob was punished for his unspirituality by having his younger wife made infertile for a period of time. And Rachel, as we know, grew envious of Leah's productivity (Genesis 20:1). Thus in this story of an immature polygamist family Yahweh was teaching both Jacob and future generations of polygamists what to do, and what not to do, to be aware of the pitfalls of partialiality and of the spirituall dangers of rivalry, envy and jealosy. Yahweh does not favour a patriarch's partiality to one wife over another and so Jacob was lovingly punished to teach him to become a man of Yahweh. And I suspect many modern polygamists, who will not do things Yahweh's way, are discovering the same things and learning the painfull lessons of the sin of partiality.
The story of Jacob and his wives is jam-packed with prophetic symbolism and keys for the aspiring polygamist. The Christian/Messianic polygamist must order his family and his own affections Yahweh's way or suffer the consequences. To begin with, polygamy is most definitely both a temporal and a spiritual labour. Jacob did not obtain his wives for nothing but had to work seven years for them before he obtained them and than another seven years afterwards. In this piece if prophetic symbolism we understand that before a patriarch is ready to live polygamously (or even monogamously, for that matter) that he must expect a time of arduous preparation, in Jacob's case, seven years. The patriarchs being birthed in our time need a lot of scriptural, spiritual, ethical, moral and practical preparation if they want to have successful polygamous marriages in an increasingly pagan world. It is not simply a question of following in the steps of the hedonists which consists of falling in love, jumping into bed, and hoping for the best. Even in monogamy, there is a 50% failure rate today because there is little or no spiritual sense of marriage anymore. Add to this seven years another seven years in adjusting to the polygamous way of life.
Every polygamous marriage will have, on average, a seven year struggle (give or take a few years based on personality, surrenderedness and other choices) as the parties learn what Christian/Messianic polygamy is truly about and to wrestle with their fallen carnal natures (as Jacob did at Peniel) before they can enter their promised land of marital rest. And I would suggest that it takes a full seven years for husband and wives to really get to know each other and to be at rest together. It is therefore at best naïve, and and worst folly, to suppose that a Christian/Messianic polygamous marriage will suddenly all "come together" simply because the parties are all believers and are filled with the best of intentions to make the marriage work. No matter how good the intentions, no matter the sincerity or commitment to Christ, each human being will be bringing a carnal nature into that marriage which will be laying land-mines under the feet of every member of that family.
The carnal nature has to be confonted, wrestled with, and overcome, before polygamy can be truly successful and restful. There are many monogamists and polygamists who never seem to be at rest because they have not dealt with the fundamental issues of what it is to be a son or daughter of Adam, and because of this negligence their marriages remain a constant war zone filled with stresses and tensions that seem to permanently elude resolution, and which frequently result in separation and divorce. Confronting the spiritual issues is therefore the primary task in any marriage, and most especially polygamy where the necessity of a resolution for family harmony's sake is forced much more quickly (and which may be said therefore to be its greatest asset for the serious spiritual seeker after truth).
My first marriage failed after exactly seven years. I am only now, 38 years later, beginning to understand what it was all about. Though both of us, of course, had our agency as well as our faults (not to mention ignorance), I see now that Yahweh was using me as a prophetic sign for future polygamists, as I was, as far as I know, the first evangelical/messianic Christian to enter this principle back in the early 1980's. Though always a believer in the principle, my first error was to compromise with my monogamy-only first wife by denying it and then attempting to secretly practice it behind her back in order to "un-deny" what Yahweh had told me to do. It cost me my marriage. Ironically, I later learned that she would have accepted a second wife in the family (Yahweh had prepared a second wife who was more than willing to share me with my first) even if it had meant suffering for it, because she would have been prepared to trust my love for her. The trouble was I did not trust her trust of my love. In short, I had a few nigglling doubts as to the legitimacy of Christian/Messianic plural marriage, surrounded as I was by only monogamy and with no other polygamists to fellowship with and get advice from. That was my first error. And with it I issue a warning: if you're not 100% sure Yahweh has called you into plural marriage, avoid it like the plague, because it will become a time-bomb ready to explode in your face, when it is supposed to be a healing balm.
Having pointed out this "seven-year trial" I would not want anyone to approach this in the wrong way. It is not some occult "curse" during which we must all tremble in fear wondering if our marriage will survive! Rather, it is simply an observation which appears to have a good spiritual grounding. All marriage is fragile, so fragile in fact that we must carefully tend it like a careful gardener. This means constant weeding to make sure that wrong thoughts, feelings and motives never get a chance to root and so overwhelm our marriage garden with noxious weeds. I like to look at the seven year period as a time of intense cultivation - of taking untamed land, ploughing it, removing those stumbling-block rocks and digging out those weeds of envy, impatience, lovelessness, partiality, and the like. If you've ever cleared a wild patch of ground you'll know how much effort it takes. Once the back-breaking work has been done maintaining the garden gets a lot easier provided you aren't negligent. So long as we are in these vessels of clay there will always be work to be done. Just as the world was created in six days, so even after the seventh there was maintenance work to be done. Though the Father may have rested after the sixth day, yet the Son had to come and do a vital restoring (atoning) work in the meridian of time, and the Holy Spirit has never been idle at all, but is sustaining all the while. So it is with us. There are definite phases in both one-to-one monogamous marriages as well as in polygamous ones. There is back-breaking rock clearance as well as the weeding out of sin to be done, of adding the manure of spiritual nourishment from the Word and watering copiously with agapé-love.
I initially became conscious of Christian/Messianic polygamy back in the late 1970's when its first seeds were planted in my heart. It grew very slowly in pebbly earth and was finally planted in the early 1980's when I married monogamously. In 1988 I went public, as it were, and so the long waiting became a reality. And what a lot of lessons I have learned! Take heed that you learn your lessons also, doing things according to Yahweh's pattern if you desire heaven's approbation and support. Do it any other way and you will get a sound whipping.
Polygamy is both a spiritual as well as a practical exercise because it is more than simply "man meets women, settles down, has children, and lives happily ever after". Quite apart from the fact that there are no fairly-tale marriages it is much more important to understand that Christian/Messianic plolygamy is not just an "alternative" form of Christian/Messianic marriage but is verily a prophetic type of Christ and the Church (Messianic Community) as well as the training ground for godly leaders in this the end-time. Plural marriage is the crucible, I firmly believe, not only for the raising of Yahweh's end-time ministers but the school for the coming society of the Millennium. Out of it a new spiritual order is being raised to replace the dying one which has so adamantly opposed polygamy for so long. The monogamy-only heresy is being rooted out in preparation for a new social order where society is to once again to be built on the patriarchal model as the old Nimrodian world order, which is based on power, compulsion and corruption, crumbles. Christian/Messianic polygamy is more than simply restoring a gift of Elohim (God) - it is about the usshering in of a new dispensation. And as such, therefore, it is vitally important. Though not all may agree mith me in this vision of patriarchal marriage I do hope that these thoughts will be grist for the mill.