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The October edition of Lutheran Witness includes a lengthy article on the difficult teachings of the Scripture. Over the next few weeks, I will summarize each “difficulty” discussed. I encourage you to get your own copy of the Lutheran Witness by visiting and subscribing.

Polygamy in the Scripture

We all know the Six Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.” We should know Luther’s explanation of the commandment. “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent [disciplined in German] life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”

We also know of the many stories in the Old Testament surrounding the kings and the judges and their seemingly constant breaking of this commandment. We also know of St. Paul’s words in Galatians 5, that it is no way a fruit of the Spirit to live unchaste lives, sexually impure lives, undisciplined lives, but that such things are works of the flesh.

In the beginning, God established marriage. Sure, the government likes to take credit for marriage and even gain advantage from it, but in the beginning, it was God who said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). God created it this way so that husband and wife be a symbol of Christ and His church to their children, family, and community. The sexual relationship/physical relationship was always meant to be reserved for the marriage bed. Yet, society — through media and Hollywood and Freudian propaganda — has turned sex into a recreational activity, something that anyone can engage in as long as he’s “responsible,” and often seen as the first step toward a more loving relationship. But this is not how God created us, or established marriage. The male-female relationship is first about sacrifice, commitment, and trust and THEN the physical side of things has a proper foundation, so no one is deceived by the desires and passions of the flesh. Society has this all-flipped upside down so that the physical side comes first, and maybe a relationship with trust and sacrifice come later.

As God’s children and His servants, we are not to serve the ideologies and paths of society, but we are to instead follow and serve Christ, even if it means death. But as we see in Scripture, the sins of the sixth commandment are pervasive and substantially more alluring than all the rest, and we so quickly and unbridedly make a god of sex and adulterous living that we no longer consider it a big deal in the eyes of the Lord. They apparently didn’t in the Old Testament either.

According to this establishment, it’s not difficult to wonder about all the polygamy in the Old Testament or how God put up with it. There was much polygamy among the people of God beginning all the way back in the 4th chapter of Genesis.

Some of the polygamy we experience in the Bible was for…practical reasons, to quickly grow the human race and to establish lordship over other kingdoms. We see this in the case of Lamech in Genesis 4. Other times it was out of practicality. Abraham conceived a child with his servant Hagar because Sarah thought she was too old to conceive, and that God couldn’t fulfill His promise by her.

And we could list several more examples of either simple polygamy such as Jacob and Leah…and Rachel, Samson and his many “conquests,” that is, concubines, or the many concubines and wives of the kings. Yet even as the line of Israel’s kings was born, the prophet Samuel warned them that they were not to live polygamous lives, to have more than one wife. Even Solomon, in his early years as king, understood that the marriage bed was to be between one man and one woman. When we read his poetry in Song of Solomon, we discover that he and his bride to be chose to refrain from sexual activity until marriage, which was not only honorable to one another but also to God. Of course, we know this was a short-lived commitment; it is said that Solomon at one time had over a thousand wives! Solomon gave into his passions and into the pattern of the world around him; he stopped trusting in God and instead turned Israel into a nation of idol worship.

One would think that an “enlightened” age such as ours, that polygamy would be a distant memory. Not true! Mormonism celebrated (and in some areas still celebrates) polygamy for decades. Islamism still relishes in polygamous relationships, even promising faithful male followers “70 rooms of 70 virgins each” should they make it to heaven. But more relevant to our society, America is very much polygamist! You may not think so, but we are. And it is fueled by our staunch individualism!

See, sexual relationships with more than one person — in marriage or outside of marriage — is polygamous, by definition. God created sex FOR MARRIAGE, and we are not designed to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage. Teenagers who are engaged in multiple sexual encounters with multiple partners are literally bringing all those past encounters into their eventual marriage. This is quite likely the cause behind our steep divorce rate in the USA, and certainly what is behind two generations no longer marrying. Sex and the marriage bed is no longer sacred, no longer considered honorable to God, and folks are literally ENCOURAGED to break the sixth commandment without reservation and we see it every day on TV in video games, on social media, everywhere!

Phrases such as, “well you need to test the waters,” or “you need to date a lot before you find the right person,” or “it’s just sex,” these are not God’s teachings but the teachings and philosophies of men.

We know what the Lord teaches, at least we should if we claim to be His children. Yet we are so inscribed with the teaching of Sigmund Freud, with evolutionary theories, with humanism and secularism and the doctrines of the sexual revolution, that we have lost any sense of the sacredness of our bodies which the Lord calls His temples. We don’t even know what it’s like to live chaste and pure and disciplined lives because so few alive today has ever been taught chastity.

Yes, we have become very narcissist when it comes to sex and relationships. We are more than willing to throw out the window what the Lord teaches for the sake of what we want, right now, even if it means our very eternal souls are on the line.

But God remains faithful to us, even when we are so unfaithful to Him and to one another. When we are living as polygamists, guised in the lie of “it’s just sex,” our Lord Christ sees this and He says, “I will lay down my life to save you.” It is only by God’s grace that we die to our old selves, to our obsession with sex and unchaste relationships outside of marriage (and even in marriage) and we live renewed in the forgiveness and mercy and righteousness of Christ so that, through daily repentance, we might overcome these desires and passions of the flesh and instead abide and find satisfaction and fulfillment in Christ and His Word and Sacraments.

But this is a HUGE uphill battle in our culture today. It’s not going to be easy; it’s not going to be fun. But for the sake of He who calls us His own, for the sake of His only Son who gave His body for us, we must fight this fight in our homes, our churches, and in our communities.