But the question now presents itself, does Moses here legislate upon the case of a man who has two wives at the same time? That our translators themselves thought otherwise, and that they actually wrote "If a man have had," and not, " If a man have," and that the word had was omitted by some mistake, is highly probable from the fact, that they say in the same verse,—" and the first-born be hers that was hated," not, " hers that is hated: Cum fuerint viro duae uxores, et pepererint filios: Si fuerint viro duas uxores, et pepererint ei filios.
I will only add, that the words rendered have had, and have borne, both in the original and in all the translations, are in the same tense, and refer to events that have already taken place. Moses, therefore, does not here legislate upon the case of a man, who has two wives at the same lime, but upon the case of a man who has had two wives in succession, the second after the decease of the first.
The third passage which has been supposed to sanction Polygamy, is a part of the message from God, delivered by Nathan to David, after his conduct to Uriah, in 2 Sam. The only wives which Saul is said to have had, were Ahinoam, the mother of Michal David's wife, and Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, who was his concubine. According to this supposition, God authorized Pavid to marry his wife's mother, a species of incest expressly threatened by the Levitical Law with burning alive.
David also married Michal, the daughter of Ahinoam, when he was quite young. Her very age, therefore, precludes the supposition that he afterwards married the mother. Though David's wives are repeatedly enumerated, after the death of Saul, yet there is no intimation that the wives of Saul were among them, or that he had married them. David delivered the two sons of Rizpah to the Gibeonites, to be hung up at Gibeah, an event not very likely to have taken place, if he had made her his wife.
The phraseology, " I gave thee thy master's house family and thy master's wives into thy bosom," obviously means nothing more than that God, in his providence, gave David, as King of Israel, the possession of every thing that was Saul's,—his wives and all that he had: The history itself furnishes conclusive evidence that David never was actually married to the wives of Saul. The Levitical code, therefore contained no express repeal of that part of the Great Original Law of Marriage, which prohibited Polygamy, unless it is contained in the disputed passage of Leviticus xviii.
That passage will be examined on its own merits hereafter. We shall now inquire, whether the Practice of the Israelites proves that Polygamy was permitted by the Levitical Code; or, in other words, that the Original Law of Marriage had been repealed.
As the conduct of the best men falls far below the perfect standard of the Divine Law; it is obvious that it must be an unsafe criterion, from which to determine what the Law of God is. Especially unsafe must it be, to determine this from the conduct of licentious and profligate men; much more, if these men, live in an irregular, unsettled state of society, and are amenable to no human laws; still more, if they are possessed of absolute power; and most unsafe of all must it be, to argue from the conduct of such men, in such circumstances,— not what the Law of God is, in a case otherwise unknown, but—that an Express and Universal law, standing on the pages of the Divine statute-book, to bind the Human Race, has been repealed.
With these things in view, we will examine the actual Practice of the Israelites. Gideon, the third Judge of Israel, and a military. Jair, the fifth Judge of Israel, had thirty children. This is not conclusive evidence that he had more than one wife; and much less that he had more than one at a time. A citizen of North Carolina, a few years since, petitioned the Legislature of that state for exemption from taxes, because his wife, then living, had borne him twenty-nine children, most of whom he had educated.
One other case has been reported to me in this country, in which the same married pair had thirty children. That Jair should have had as many, by two successive wives, would have been in no respect surprising. Ibzan, the seventh of the Judges, had thirty sons and thirty daughters. This was unquestionably a case of polygamy.
Samson, the tenth Judge of Israel, after his lawful wife at Timnath had been given to another, associated with a harlot at Gaza, and afterwards with another in the valley of Sorek. But this was not polygamy. Elkanah, a man in private life, and a good man, had two wives. We are told however that he lived "in those days when there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
It is said of the children or descendents of Uzzi, the grandson of Issachar, that they practised polygamy. They also lived, when " every man did that which was right in his own eyes. It was of course singular, and did not prevail generally, either in Issachar, or in Israel. Saul, the first king of Israel, had a wife and a concubine.
He was judicially cut off for his wickedness. David, the second king of Israel, had eight wives and numerous concubines. In this conduct he transgressed an express law, which forbad the king of Israel, to multiply wives unto himself.
He was a good man, yet his life was deformed by various crimes of a very gross character. It is said, however, that he is styled the man after God's own heart, and that his conduct is declared to have been acceptable to God, except in the case of Uriah.
Solomon, the third king of Israel, had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. This was an outrageous violation of the same express law against the multiplication of wives. Rehoboam, the fourth king of Israel and the first king of Judah, had eighteen wives and sixty concubines; " and he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him.
Abijah, the second king of Judah, had fourteen wives; " and he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him. Ahab, the eleventh king of Israel, had numerous wives, and seventy sons: Jehoram, the fifth king of Judah, and the son-in-law of Ahab, had several wives; " And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab, and he wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord.
And he caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and he compelled Judah thereto. It is alleged that Joash, the seventh king of Judah, and the grand-son of Athaliah, had two wives at the same time; and that the account given of this fact in 2 Chron.
And Jehoiada took for him iJD, two wives; and he begat sons and daughters. The Rabbins render the passage, " And Jehoiada took unto himself i. This, if the passage refers to Jehoiada, is probable; for the language implies nothing more, than that he had two wives, without specifying when; and there is no instance on record of polygamy in a priest.
If we suppose that Jehoiada took two wives for Joash, and both at the same time; still the language here used will not prove polygamy to have been sanctioned by the law of God. It does not follow from the declaration, that " Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, all the days of Jehoiada;" for, in the parallel passage in Kings, we are told, that Joash refused to abolish idolatry, during the days of Jehoiada.
Of the better class of the kings of Judah, it is also said, that they did that which was right in the sight of lite Lord, during their reigns; and yet the prophets have recorded their numerous sins. The phrase, therefore, means only, that their conduct was generally acceptable to God; but furnishes no evidence of the lawfulness of any one specific act.
The fact too that Jehoiada took two wives for Joash, if it was a fact, does not prove this point. Athaliah and her son Amaziah had introduced a universal corruption of morals into Judah, and had made idolatry the religion of the court and of the nation. That, in such a state of things, he should have yielded, in this point, to the king's wishes, when he was forced to yield in points of so much more consequence, will excite no surprise, and can furnish no evidence that polygamy had been sanctioned by the law of God.
Zedekiah, the last king of Judahj had several wives. These, if I mistake not, are all the instances of polygamy on record among the Israelites. They amount, if we include Joash, to only thirteen single instances, beside that of the children Uzzi, in a period of more than twelve hundred years. That these cases prove that the law of God permitted polygamy, is argued on four different grounds, which we will now examine.
From the number of those who practised polygamy. The actual number on record, we have seen, is thirteen single instances, beside that of the children of Uzzi, in a period of more than twelve hundred years. Were the reasoning, thus applied to the Hebrew history, to be adopted in any other case, it would lead to singular results. The nations of Europe, during the last twelve hundred years and upwards, have professed to be Christians, and to respect the Laws of God.
Yet, were a prophet of God to write the history of any one of them during that period, not excepting that of Rome itself, of its popes, cardinals, and bishops, he would detail —not thirteen, but—thirteen hundred instances of open, acknowledged, long-continued, multifarious, and yet unpunished adultery. Yet this does not prove, that the Law of God forbidding adultery has been repealed, nor even that it is authorized by the laws of those countries. Nay, were a prophet honestly to detail the occurrences of the last thirty winters at our own capital, i.
From the Character of those who practised polygamy. It will hardly be insisted that Saul, Rehoboam, Abijah, Ahab, Jehoram, Joash, and Zedekiah had sufficient weight of character, to prove all that they did to be justifiable.
Gideon's setting up and maintaining an idol at Ophrah, and seducing the Israelites to Idolatry, is at least a suspicious circumstance in his case. The fact, that Solomon's wives turned his heart from God, and led him to erect high places to idols, is no very strong circumstance in his favour, or in favour of polygamy. We know of Ibzan and of Abdon, only that they were Judges possessed of absolute power, and that they practised polygamy.
We know also of the children of Uzzi merely that they practised polygamy, just as we know of the children of Dan merely that they practised idolatry.
The character of David did not justify his conduct with Ahimelech or Achish, with Bathsheba or Uriah. Elkanah was a good man, yet not a better man than Abraham. Yet the character of Abraham does not prove his falsehoods to Abimelech and Pharaoh to be in accordance with the Law of God; neither, therefore, does the character of Elkanah prove his polygamy to be in accordance with that Law.
Nhie of the thirteen single instances were instances of Absolute Monarchs, whom no earthly tribunal could call to an account, or punish, for their conduct; and three of the remaining four were those of Judges, or Military Chieftains—men equally absolute with the Monarchs of Israel.
That of Elkanah, and those of the children of Uzzi, occurred, as we have seen, in times when " every man did that which was right in his own eyes," or, in other words, had no one to call him to an account. In each of the instances, therefore, punishment was wholly out of the question. Other crimes, however, not less heinous than this, and expressly forbidden, also escaped punishment. Yet surely this fact furnishes no evidence that murder, adultery, rape, and idolatry, were permitted, either by the laws of Israel, or the law of God.
From the fact, that no Censure is pronounced on those who practised Polygamy by the scriptural writers. We have already seen that the Original Law of Marriage universally forbad it; that Malachi severely censures the conduct, and declares that God forbad it to Man because of its demoralizing efficacy, and that Christ pronounces every one, who practises it, an adulterer.
In the instances of Jacob and Elkanah, it is exhibited as one of the principal causes of the misfortunes of their lives. Of the wives and concubines of Solomon, it is expressly said, that they turned his heart away from God. And in the cases of Saul, Rehoboam, Abijah, and Ahab, the general character of each is described as dreadfully wicked, and their polygamy is mentioned as one of the incidents of their lives.
The supposition, that those, who practised polygamy, are not censured for it, in the Scriptures, is therefore an entire mistake. Yet it is true, that various instances are recorded, in which the individuals mentioned are not censured at the time.
If, then, there be any force in this argument, it grows out of the truth of the general principle, that whatever actions are recorded in the Scriptures, without any direct censure at the time, are lawful.
So far, however, is this principle from being true, that, with the single exception of the crime of idolatry— an exception growing out of the peculiar enormity of the crime, which was direct High-treason against Jehovah, as the acting Governor of Israel,—it is the customary mode of the scriptural writers, in recording crimes, simply to mention them as actions or events which occurred, without expressing an opinion as to the character of these actions.
This is often true indeed, even in the case of idolatry. The idolatry of Terah. But does this fact prove that intemperance, lying, incest, fraud, prostitution, idolatry, adultery and murder, were lawful? It may not be improper to mention, in this place, a remarkable example of this nature. Yet we are told by Nehemiah that, from the days of Joshua B. Yet not a word of censure, for this neglect, has escaped those, who wrote the history of that long interval. From these considerations, it is evident, if I mistake not, that no solid argument, in favour of the lawfulness of Polygamy to the Israelites, can be derived, either from the Number, or the Character, of those who practised it, or from the fact that they escaped Punishment from the government, or Censure from the scriptural writers.
The result of our inquiry then is this, that Polygamy was universally forbidden to mankind by the Great Original Law of Marriage; that no evidence of any repeal of that law, so far as it prohibited Polygamy, is found in the scriptures; and of course that Polygamy was unlawful both to the Patriarchs, and to the Israelites. I will now subjoin a few considerations, confirming these conclusions. That that peculiar species of Polygamy was unlawful in Israel, will doubtless be admitted; yet, should it be denied, the proof is at hand.
But, if it was unlawful for a woman in Israel to have two husbands at the same time, some law had forbidden it. I then ask, What was that law?
The prohibition, in Levit. But this obviously cannot be alleged by those, who deny this construction. I call on them, then, to point out the law,. That law, therefore, was in force under the Levitical Code. This fact then proves that the Original Law of Marriage, so far as it forbad polygamy, was in force in all its length and breadth under the Levitical Code. The same thing is evident from the fact, that Polygamy was expressly prohibited, by Moses, to the future kings of Israel.
My only reply to this suggestion shall be this—The mind, which. If the Original Law of Marriage was in force in Israel, this prohibition had a definite meaning. But if that law was not in force in Israel, I ask, What law limited the number of wives, which might be lawfully taken, either by king or subject. The Rabbinists indeed allege, that David had 14 wives and 18 concubines; and insist, because he was a good man, that this was theultimatum, beyond which the monarch might not lawfully go.
But if the lawful number was not definitely settled, the king might well ask the prophet, who suffered him to take twenty, and who came to reprove him because he was about to take the twentyfirst,—11 What! If then this prohibition was not absolutely nugatory, and in effect prohibited nothing; the Original Law of Marriage was in force in Israel. The surrounding nations all practised polygamy. The monarch of Israel was absolute, independent of the nation whom he governed, and amenable only to God.
Though the people at large had been forbidden to practise polygamy, still, from the example of surrounding kings, from the power and wealth of the monarch, and the passions of the human breast, there was the strongest reason to fear that, notwithstanding the general law, he would " multiply wives unto himself," and thus corrupt himself and the nation.
In this point of view, the command appears most merciful; and the histories of Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah and Ahab, prove, that it was most necessary; for even this.
But we have seen, that, if it did not limit the king to one wife, it did not limit him at all; and of course had no binding force. The king, then, was forbidden to practise polygamy, if the people were not. It did not lie in the fact that it was unlawful in itself; for in itself it was as lawful to the monarch as to his subjects. The monarch was certainly as able, as his subjects, to maintain numerous wives, and provide for them as he ought.
The heart of the monarch was no more liable to be turned away, by the practice of polygamy, than the heart of a subject. I agree, " it hath cast down many wounded, yea many strong men have been slain by it;" but, while this is the best of all reasons for prohibiting it universally, it is a very bad one for confining the prohibition to kings. It was in effect to say—" Neither shall the king practise polygamy, because it will turn away his heart; but all his subjects may practise it, because it will not turn away their hearts!
Such a restriction, therefore, could not have been laid on the monarchs of Israel, without being also laid upon their subjects. Polygamy has been supposed to be forbidden, in the New Testament, in the six following passages—Mat. The first five of these passages are all alike. They are all founded on, and appeal to, the Original Law of Marriage, and merely explain the binding force of that law upon mankind: As to the passage in Corinthians, " Now concerning the things ye wrote unto me,—It is good for a man not to touch a woman: That every man has his own wife, and every woman her own husband, as truly in polygamy as in marriage; and 2.
That the Apostle expressly declares, that he speaks the paragraph of which this is a part, by permission, and not by commandment, and that it is himself that speaks it, and not the Lord. No alteration of a General I jaw of God was ever introduced by a passage in a writer, declared by himself to be mere private advice. The only remaining passages in the New Testament, alluding to this subject—1 Tim.
They allude, however, doubtless, to the fact, that some of the converted Heathens had several wives; and enjoin that no one, who had more than one, should fill the office of bishop or deacon. If then polygamy was lawful, under the Patriarchal and Levitical dispensations, it is equally so under the Christian. Wherever marriage is spoken of in the scriptures as a state, it is always spoken of as the union of one man with one woman; and in language utterly inconsistent with the supposition, that more than one of either sex could be lawfully united with one of the other.
This is true, alike, of both Testaments. A few examples will show the common current language of the whole Bible. The fact that Isaac should marry a woman of Padan-Aram, he evidently regards as complete security, against the dreaded connection. But if Polygamy had been lawful, it would have been no security whatever. Isaac was heir to princely possessions, and could easily have maintained many wives. In these circumstances, had Polygamy been lawful, his father, in order to prevent all hazard of connection with the women of Canaan, would have directed Eleazer to bring—not a wife, but—as many wives as Isaac would probably wish to include in his family establishmsnt.
From the fact, that he regarded Isaac's marriage with one wife of Padan-Aram as effectual security against future marriages with women of Canaan, it is evident, that Polygamy was not then regarded as lawful. These are a part of the curses, denounced against the Israelites as a nation, to take effect upon them, during the long progress of their history, whenever they should become disobedient and rebellious.
The husband and wife here mentioned are any husband and wife, who should thus disobey. The language is accommodated to the actual laws and state of society in Israel, not only as they were in the age of Moses, but as they were to be in every succeeding age. Here then Moses, or rather God himself, when making laws relative to marriage, as it then existed, and as it would lawfully exist in Israel in successive generations, not only represents each husband as having one wife, and each wife as having one husband; but uses language, which could have no meaning, in a country where Polygamy was general or lawful.
Thus, in the preceding Psalnij it is said— " Lo, children are an heritage from the Lord, as arrows. Happy is the man, that hath his quiver full of them. But, if writing for a country, in which Polygamy was customary, instead of saying, " Thy wife shall be a fruitful vine," he would have said, " Thy icives shall be as fruitful vines. Let thy fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
J ask then every one, who has read the preceding directions, whether they could have sense or meaning, if addressed to a man, living where Polygamy was lawful and customary? In short, could these directions be possibly obeyed by the man, who had so many other wives, beside the wife of his youth. Could her breasts satisfy him at all times, when, during most of his time, he was lawfully and necessarily devoting himself to the other women of his haram?
Could he be always ravished with her love, when usually she was supplanted by her rivals? Would not obedience to these directions have been a gross abuse and injury to his other lawful wives? Surely, then, if Polygamy had been customary, he would have said, " Every one neighed"—not "after his neighbour's wife"—but "after his neighbour's wives," or " his neighbour's haram.
Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth! The conduct, to which this high reward is promised, is the cheerful surrendry of every thing dear and valuable, for the sake of the Saviour.
The word, used in each case, denotes the entireity of the sacrifice. Butwhenhesays, "If you forsake not your father, and mother, and wife," there is no such defect; because each word, though in the singular, is all of the kind, that any individual could possess or forsake.
Surely a Jew could have no merit in preferring the Saviour to one wife, if he loved his other wives more than the Saviour. It is plainly impossible, therefore,. These passages are a few, taken from a great number found in every part of the Bible.
They show the customary phraseology of the scriptural writers, and are susceptible of but one construction. They exhibit an account of lawful wedlock, as it actually existed in every period of biblical history, among the Patriarchs, the Israelites, and the Jews.
The writer or speaker, in every instance, lakes his countrymen and their marriages 'is he found them. Every reader will at once say, that such an account of the subject could not possibly have been written respecting a state of society, in which Marriage was Polygamy. It presupposes, that Marriage is in itself, and was, as it actually existed, the union of one man with one woman. It never explains the duties of a state of polygamy, nor supposes it to exist It is an account of Marriage, just as it exists in Christian countries, and utterly irreconcileable with such a state of Marriage, as exists in Turkey, and in Southern Asia.
Divorce was therefore available to women who were unhappy in their marriages; remarriage was also readily available. Almost all women married, and so did a large percentage of men.
In fact, it appears that a larger percentage of men in Utah married than elsewhere in the United States at the time. Probably half of those living in Utah Territory in experienced life in a polygamous family as a husband, wife, or child at some time during their lives. The experience of plural marriage toward the end of the 19th century was substantially different from that of earlier decades. Beginning in , the U. Outside opponents mounted a campaign against the practice, stating that they hoped to protect Mormon women and American civilization.
For their part, many Latter-day Saint women publicly defended the practice of plural marriage, arguing in statements that they were willing participants. Supreme Court found the anti-polygamy laws to be constitutional in , federal officials began prosecuting polygamous husbands and wives during the s. When convicted, they paid fines and submitted to jail time. To help their husbands avoid prosecution, plural wives often separated into different households or went into hiding under assumed names, particularly when pregnant or after giving birth.
But the demographic makeup of the worldwide Church membership had begun to change. Beginning in the s converts outside the United States were asked to build up the Church in their homelands rather than move to Utah.
In subsequent decades, Latter-day Saints migrated away from the Great Basin to pursue new opportunities. Plural marriage had never been encouraged outside of concentrated populations of Latter-day Saints. Especially in these newly formed congregations outside of Utah, monogamous families became central to religious worship and learning. As the Church grew and spread beyond the American West, the monogamous nuclear family was well suited to an increasingly mobile and dispersed membership.
For many who practiced it, plural marriage was a significant sacrifice. Despite the hardships some experienced, the faithfulness of those who practiced plural marriage continues to benefit the Church in innumerable ways. Through the lineage of these 19th-century Saints have come many Latter-day Saints who have been faithful to their gospel covenants as righteous mothers and fathers, loyal disciples of Jesus Christ, and devoted Church members, leaders, and missionaries. Although members of the contemporary Church are forbidden to practice plural marriage, modern Latter-day Saints honor and respect these pioneers who gave so much for their faith, families, and community.
The Church acknowledges the contribution of scholars to the historical content presented in this article; their work is used with permission. Originally published October For instances of plural marriage in the Bible, see Genesis The Church President periodically set apart others to perform plural marriages. See Official Declaration 1. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, — Urbana: University of Illinois Press, , —9; Thomas G.
Alexander, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, — Urbana: University of Illinois Press, , 60—73; Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. Studies have shown that monogamous women bore more children per wife than did polygamous wives except the first.
Fertility at the societal level, however, was enhanced because of the near universality of marriage among women and the abundant opportunities for remarriage among previously married women of childbearing age. Berg, , 62— Daynes, Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, — Studies of the 19th-century Mormon image in the United States have found the Mormons were most closely associated with plural marriage.
Jan Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons Urbana: University of Illinois Press, , 51— For an exploration of some of these difficulties, see Jessie L.
Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families:
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Jun 25, · View and download polygamy essays examples. Also discover topics, titles, outlines, thesis statements, and conclusions for your polygamy essay. This essay primarily addresses plural marriage as practiced by the Latter-day Saints between and , following their exodus to .