Q. I recently met a young woman who is planning to get married in a few months but who is looking for another woman about her own age to get married with polygamously at the same time in a kind of 'double marriage'. She was raised in a polygamous family herself, loves the lifestyle, and seems to genuinely want to find another sister-wife companion to start off her marriage. Is this acceptable biblically and do you think it is right?
For someone who has such a positive view of polygamy I would say, yes, it is definitely right. Her attitude is selfless and reflects the kind of 'us-ness' that is the true Christian/Messianic mindframe. As for biblical examples, there is the marriage of Leah and Rachel which took place within one week of each other, and though this was not the happiest polygamous arrangement initially because of trickery and concommitant favouritism, there is no biblical reason why two (or more) marriages should not take place simultaneously or very close to one another as with Jacob's.
As in all things, however, there must be (a) balances, and (b) the meeting of local needs. To go and marry half-a-dozen women simultaneously would probably not be a good idea, and for obvious reasons. Furthermore, those women who are still 'acclimatising' to polygamy, especially those coming out of a monogamy-only background, may find such a multiple arrangement personally threatening and may equally perceive it as a diminution and even degragadtion of marriage itself. A woman who is not secure in herself and who is still developping a love for polygamy (as opposed to mere acceptance of the principle) might very well conclude, as she looks through her own uncertain emotional lenses, that marriage had simply become reduced to an impersonal numbers game.
Egotistical and vain-glorious patriarchs aside (for whom multiple marriages of this kind might prompt less than a spiritual reaction), the concept of a double marriage seems to me to epitomise the beauty of what the spirit of polygamy is actually all about - if the wives feel comfortable with it. As ever, the husband must be sensitive and responsive to his wives' needs if they are reasonable, remembering always that marriage is supposed to be a happy and redemptive experience, bringing freedom, liberation and happiness.
I would certainly in this first generation counsel strongly against double or multiple marriages as a general rule but would make exceptions for those who are sufficiently spiritually mature enough for whom such an arrangement would not only not cause pain but actually bring joy. The young woman you speak of, who grew up in a happy polygamous family, would have good grounds for entering marriage in this way. That the wife/wives should initiate such a wish would seem desirable though not necessarily mandatory for me personally. If it is the genuine heart-desire of two women to enter a marriage simultaneously, then, as a pastor or counsellor, I would not stand in their way.
As to how you would do this practically, there are at least two if not more viable solutions. The first, would be the Leah-Rachel precedent, the two marriages being separated by a week. Another would be a simultaneous marriage but alternating nights during the 'honeymoon', if 'honeymoons' are what you believe in. Families seem to have many different solutions to this, some having traditional honeymoons that extend over months and others none at all (traditionally it's a week). It is not for me to say what is 'right' or 'best' in this regard because the choice must ultimately be tied up in the personalities involved. Those coming out of Western mindframes where romanticism has been taken to extraordinary extremes may decide on protracted honeymoons. Those coming from African or Oriental mindframes may not have a honeymoon at all but integrate new wives into the existing cycle. Whilst my personal preference is the latter, I have tended to make cultural concessions of one degree or another, though these have often been influenced by circumstances too. Do new marriages need intensive periods of exclusive bonding (with a husband sleeping exclusively with his new bride for a honeymoon period of one, two or more weeks) or is this to perpetuate the monogamy-only mindframe and create problems when the new wife is suddenly 'thrust' into the usual plural cycle? It usually depends on where each individual wife is in her emotional and spiritual development. I know of one man who spends the first year of a new marriage giving a very large percentage of the time to the new wife and less to the others, and this is an arrangement they have mutually agreed to and seem to thrive in. Personally I like to begin the way I mean to continue. So in my family we have pretty much followed the biblical practice of a one week honeymoon for a new wife and then integrated the new wife into the normal rotational routine.