Q. You are, as far as we know, the only polygamy ministry that acknowledges that sister-wives are more than just 'sisters' sharing the same husband. That's what we feel too. But this is very hard to explain to other people, especially other polygamists who see our husband as having 'two' marriages (one to each of us) rather than one joint marriage. Could you explain this a bit fully so that we can get a handle on it, and especially a scriptural one?
Thank you for both and interesting and an important question because here you strike at the heart of what we at HEM believe about plural marriage. And I think once this has been properly grasped that true polygamous marriage in Christ can begin.
But the only way we can possibly hope to understand your question (let alone an answer!) is by looking (once again) at the Mystical Marriage of Christ - the allegorical marriage of the saints to our Master - and the meaning of echad or 'oneness' as found in the sublime truths of the High Priestly Prayer recorded for us by the apostle John.
We begin, therefore, with the dual stresses - the dual imperatives of the divine:
These are the paramount goals of all Christians/Messianics. These are the dual tracks upon which Christian/Messianic discipleship run. These are the consummate desires of the true Body of Christ (Messianic Community).
- 1. Oneness (echad)
- 2. Mystical Marriage to Christ
Marriage is both a covenant (a vow, agreement) and a licence. It is a covenant between a man and his wife (or wives) to be true and faithful to one another for this life and (if you are of that school) eternity. It is a covenant to love, cherish, show loyalty unto death, edify, protect, support, and (at times) endure. It is, at very minimum, a tripartate agreement between a couple and with Yahweh-Elohim (one could even argue that it is a five-fold or even eleven-fold agreement but we won't get into that - we shall treat the Godhead as Echad - One - for the purposes of argument).
Marriage is also a licence for a special kind of intimacy that is not permitted outside its contract. For humans, that licence is primarily understood to be sexual, for the purpose of mutual pleasure and child-bearing. But it is also much, much more than that when seen in terms of the Mystical Marriage of the Messiah (MMM).
As we read the High Priestly Prayer in John, the deepest and most expressive of Christ's heart at the moment of imminent death in the Garden of Gethsemane, we understand that the consummate desire of Christ is ECHAD - oneness. Again and again He stresses His passionate desire that the kind of unity that exists between Himself and His Heavenly Father (Yahweh-Elohim) should obtain between not only Himself and His disciples but also between the disciples themselves. He wants, above all else, that His people should attain a Mystical Union in Christ. Oneness is, at the end, the 'name of the game'. This union, as Paul reminds us when he tells us that there is no 'male or female' in Christ, is non-sexual and transcends gender. It is the union of something sexless, since it does not respect the usual barriers imposed by marriage. It may be enjoyed between men as between women, or even between men and women, without it being adulterous in any way. It is not to be seen 'against' sexual love either but rather a degree of human existence which is above it. But it can be adulterous also.
Now herein lies a key. How can this mystical union be adulterous? It can be adulterous when the hub of its wheel, of which we the Body of Christ are its spokes, is not Christ. In other words, if the kind of spiritual intimacy shared between Christ and His people, and between His people, is transferred to someone else other than Christ, then we have transferred an intimacy which may only be enjoyed between Christ and the Redeemed and with each other to either man or Satan. In other words, this special spiritual intimacy is not unconditionally for everyone. It may only be experienced and lived within the paramaters of a life in Christ.
How does this reconcile with Yah'shua's (Jesus') teachings that we are to love even our enemies - those with whom we cannot enjoy this intimacy? Herein lies the next key. The agapé/ahavah/chesed love here is not marrital love but a unilateral, single-direction love, since it is a love that cannot be reciprocated until the enemy becomes a brother or sister in Christ. There is a different between love, covenant and released intimacy.
I can love my enemy but I cannot enjoy intimacy with him, because intimacy is reciprocating - it is a two-way expression and reality. To love your enemy is to initiate, even if it is not successful, an invitation to the Mystical Marriage of Christ. And likely, as Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself taught in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, it will be rebuffed with excuses. Intimacy costs, and the price is a death of pride and self-will.
The heart of Echad is LOVE-IN-COVENANT. I cannot stress the word 'covenant' strongly enough. We are members of a "New Covenant", not simply a 'New Truth' or a 'New Way', even though these are elements of it. The Bible story is one of covenant from beginning to end. It is the vessel that contains everything, even love and truth. And without it, love and truth would just spill uselessly into the void of the universe.
If it were not so important, Yahweh would not enter into covenants with us. Some of these covenants are unilaterally executed by Himself, others are mutual or bilateral agreements. The Bible is full of them. Take the Sabbath Covenant, one of the earliest, which Yahweh said would never be revoked, as indeed it has not, but rather reaffirmed by Moses and upheld by Christ and the apostles even after the Day of Pentecost. In a way, the Sabbath is one of the major Covenant Markers or signs that we are His people.
We enter into a verbal covenant with Yahweh when we accept Yah'shua (Jesus) as our Lord and Saviour. Implicitly, even though we may not verbalise it (I think we should), it is a covenant on our part to walk in all His commandments. We covenant to obey every Word that comes forth from His mouth, whether written in the Bible or given as direct revelation for the governance of our lives, something wives should remember in their marriage relationship with their husband for they too are bound to obey the Word and their husband (which must be in agreement).
Yah'shua with Mary and Martha
We seal that covenant visibly and tangibly in the waters of baptism in the presence of human and angelic witnesses. The moment we confess with our lips in private to Yahweh that we will receive Christ as Lord and Saviour we are bound in an irrevocable covenant with Yahweh which only willfull rebellion can break leading to spiritual divorce, but that is not enough - we must also enter into a covenant of faithfulness to the Word and Commandments before a representative part or congregation of the Body of Christ, the Church (Messianic Community). Since we cannot assemble the whole Church (Messianic Community) to be witnesses, Yahweh has decreed that we should have two or three witnesses at least. Accordingly, when two or three or more Christians/Messianics witness our confession of faith and our water-baptism (along with a good many invisible angels, I suspect), we are covenanting with them, and through them the whole Body (Messianic Community), that we are accountable stewards for the rest of our lives. And they, in their turn, are silently covenanting to be our 'keepers' or 'watchers', supporting us like a mystical polygamous bride and, when necessary, rebuking, upbraiding, and leading us back when we wander from the path. These are the primary covenants of a believer and they are essential. Without them, we have no binding marriage contract with Christ!
This is not, however, the end of our covenants. Baptism is initiatory - it is the Christ-Alpha/Alef covenant - the beginning of our covenants. Either before of after this (after for most people, sometimes simultaneously), there is an anointing of the Ruach haQodesh or Holy Spirit such as occurred at Pentecost. That anointing confirms the actuality of the Baptismal Covenant by making those who are anointed by it of ONE SPEECH or ONE WORD. If we study the text in Acts of the day of Pentecost carefully we learn that what these first believers experienced was not the mumbo-jumbo "tongues" of the charismatics but comprehensible speech - it was known languages and dialects. The purpose of this outpouring was to unite all languages into one by showing that the earthly barriers such as language between believers were removed in this mystical union with Christ and that to all intents and purposes they were now speaking One Word and one Language - the Language of the Covenant of Love. This "oneness" or echad was symbolised by the identical tongues of flames above the heads of each believer. These men and women were henceforth echad, mystical 'sister-wives' in Christ, men and women alike. This was a special and unique seal of their BETROTHAL to Christ, and is the same seal of Betrothal that we also receive today. The FULL marriage - the grand spiritual consummation - awaits us in heaven at a future date when the whole Body of Christ is physically gathered together.
There is one final covenant-bearing ordinance that we cannot forget in all of this and that is the Lord's Supper. I am not talking about the Annual Passover which we share with our families, but what is known amongst us as the Johannine Communion (also see Reconstructing the Johannine Church). These are deep things that time and space do not permit an exhaustive treatment of here, but will at once excite the interest and longing of the elect, for this final communion signifies a marriage transition from Berothal to FULL UNION, which Yah'shua (Jesus) described as the change from servanthood to friendship (John 15:13-17).
There are therefore three principal marriage covenants in the Mystical Marriage of Christ:
Each of these involves both an individual covenant with the Saviour as well as a collective covenant with one another.
Translated into polygamy, the pattern is simple enough. There is a three-fold marriage covenant between a husband and his wife/wives, and between the wives. The husband is not only marrying his wives but his wives are also 'marrying' each other in a mystical or allegorical sense as well. The Echad or Union is three-way as illustrated in a simple model of a husband with two wives:
Thus Union involves THREE COVENANTS - (1) Husband-Wife:1, (2) Husband-Wife:2, and (3) Wife:1-Wife:2:
Finally, and critically, these three covenants are a SINGULAR COVENANT IN CHRIST:
This model is, however, slightly defective and must be improved. The covenant between sister-wives is not identical to that between a husband and wife because two women cannot obviously sexually unite. They do have a sexual unity but it is not between each other as between themselves and their husband, but is through their husband. Sister-wives are truly one-flesh with each other but viâ their husband. That which joins them to their husband also joins themselves to each other but in a different way. That is a crucial difference that must be stressed. Without it, we would be advocating a female bisexual relationship which we are absolutely not doing. Therefore we must modify our diagram to take this into account, thus:
What this means is that the covenant between sister-wives is, beyond the individual 1:1 unions they already have with their shared husband, to jointly seek union together with their husband, just as the Church (Messianic Community) covenants to jointly seek mystical union with Christ. Thus in Christian/Messianic plural marriage - in true Christian/Messianic polygamy (as opposed to the counterfeits) the object is joint union of wives, or a symbolic simultaneous grafting back in of metaphorical ribs into the rib-cage of Adam, in addition to the individual, one-to-one unions with their husband.
You will find exact and precise parallels between Sanctified Plural Marriage and the Mystical Union of Christ with His Church (Messianic Community) which can be illustrated, using two believers, using exactly the same pattern:
In many respects, therefore, I think the term "sister-wife", which was coined by the Mormons incidentally, is inadequate. At the same time it would also be wrong for one wife to speak of a sister-wife as 'my wife' as is done in polygamous 'marriages' involving bisexual women that I have come across. Finding a term to describe the HEM vision and revelation is probably, therefore, not going to be easy. Possibilities might be 'Echad Wife', 'Union Wife', or 'Covenant Wife' as these most closely reflect the concepts involved. Of the three, I am bound to say that I think Covenant Echad Wife, a combination of two of them, best depicts the heart and spirit of what I have been trying to convey as it is a term that could be used by both husband and wives of one another.
What would be really nice is if we could find a uniplural English word for 'Wife' as we have in the Hebrew for 'God' (which is elohim, 'God' or 'Gods'). For not only do I consider myself married to several 'wives' but also, simultaneously, to one corporate 'wife' just as Christ is mystically married to us as a singular 'Church', 'Messianic Bride', or 'Messianic Body' ('Body of Christ') which contains plural believers as a 'Messianic Community'. But perhaps that is expecting too much of our language for the present.
For myself, I wish to honour my wives with a word that reflects more than 'multiple monogamous wives' as the word 'wife' does. They are not, after all, an assembly or collection of 'wives' but also, additionally, something much, much more.
I believe the Bible comes to our help here for in the Hebrew there are at least three words for 'wife'. There is pilegesh, which is commonly translated 'concubine' or 'half-wife'; there is ishshah which is the most common word for 'wife' that may also be translated 'woman', and finally there is a very special word, hardly ever used, but which is present in what is for me one of the most beautiful of all the Psalms because of its three-layered meaning. It is a Messianic Psalm not only pointing to King David and to Christ, but also, I believe to end-time Christian/Messianic polygamists like ourselves ... and it's a psalm I know many so-called 'Christians', who love their traditions more than the truth, probably wish wasn't there:
This is one of the most deliberately mistranslated scriptures in the whole Bible because it is so embarrassing for traditonalists. The Geneva Bible (1599) and an Anglican Bible from 1636 render the passage correctly. Just look at any number of modern versions of this verse and see how they try to fudge it.
"King's daughters were among thy honourable wives [KJV, 'women']; upon thy right hand did stand the queen [shegal] in gold of Ophir" (Psalm 45:9).
The Messianic implications aside (about which I have written elsewhere), what I really want to draw your attention to today is the word shegal which properly rendered is Queen-Wife and not simply 'queen'. King David had a Queen-Wife just as Christ Does, that Queen being His Church (Messianic Community) or Uniplural Wife. Since Yah'shua (Jesus) is our King, it follows that the elect are His Queen. The other 'wives' (ishshah) and 'concubines' (pilegesh) may be said to be those who are abiding, respectively, the lesser glories of the Kingdom of Heaven according to their works, which Paul likens to the glory of the sun, moon and stars in their relative brightnesses (1 Corinthians 15:41-42):
One could write numerous articles describing the theological implications of this relationship so this I shall leave for another time. My reason for bringing this subject up was solely in the context of suggesting a suitable word to describe a trulely Christ-purchased echad polygamous wife. Might not Shegal Wife be appropriate?
- 1. SHEGAL (Queen-Wives) = Sun = Full Marriage = Lord's Supper = Christ-Omega/Taw (corresponds to Yom haBikkurim);
- 2. ISHSHAH (Wives/Women) = Moon = Betrothal = Confirmation/Bar-Mitzvah (corresponds to Shavu'ot); and
- 3. PILEGESH (Concubines) = Stars = Dedication = Baptism = Christ-Alpha/Alef (corresponds to Sukkot).
What I would like to think now is that those men and women supporting the HEM vision of Christian/Messianic Polygamy will see their wives as "Queens of Ophir" in the fullest sense of the word, for that is their calling, bearing in mind that the Hebrew ophir means 'rich'. Brethren, those living this covenant properly are truly solar queen-wives worthy of deep respect. Sisters, I hope you will look at your sister- or Covenant-wives as truly joint-queens, just as we are joint heirs of salvation in Christ (Romans 8:7). The challenge, as always, is that everyone in this relationship cultivate deep love and respect for one another, remembering to what we have been called. Polygamy is for a Royal Priesthood in the Royal House of Israel (1 Peter 2:9). Let us conduct ourselves accordingly.