Polygamy, Marriage and Divorce

In the beginning Yahweh God made Adam and Eve and they became one, this was the genesis of marriage. One man and one woman. But then it was the beginning of polygamy when Lamech the decedent of Caine married two women Adah and Zillah. (Gen 4:17-24).

We can see a true communion of marriages in Noah’s life who was married to only one woman and so did his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth.(Gen 7: 7and 13).

When we read the story of Abraham, he was married to one woman Sarai and Nahor the brother of Abraham was married to Milcah the daughter of Haran. (Gen 11:27-30).

Note: Inter relative marriages was not considered incest or sin but was accepted. One example is when Nahor marries his brother Haran’s daughter Milcah.

Yahweh God inflict sever plagues on Pharaoh and his household because he took Sarai (Gen12: 17).

Note: Taking other’s wife was a sin and because of this Yahweh God punished Pharaoh and this was before the law was given.

Sharing one’s spouse was it legal?

No, a great example was when Sarai told Abraham to go and sleep with her maid servant named Hagar. (Gen 16). Although, it was Sarai who permitted Abraham to sleep with Hagar but inwardly she cursed over her decision. (Gen 16:4-6).

Lot was married to only one wife (Gen 19)

Another incident of taking another person’s wife for oneself is in (Gen 20). Where Abimelech the king of Gerar took Sarah for himself. But before committing further sin he is intervened by Yahweh God and apologizes for it. This shows that it was a sin taking other’s wife for oneself.

Note: Abraham married Sarah who was the daughter of Abraham’s father but not mother (Gen 20:12-13). This proves that Abraham’s father Terah had two wives, and one of them could bore Sarah, so Abraham married his step-sister.

Abraham marries 2nd time and her name is Keturah (Gen 25:1-6)

Note: Abraham marries the 2nd time only after the death of Sarah and not before that.

Polygamy in the primitive age was unacceptable and one such example was when Esau the son of Isaac and Rebekah married two women Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite (Gen 26: 34-35).

Note: Isaac preferred Esau over Jacob (Gen 25:28) but after his marriage Isaac was disappointed (Gen 26:35)

Esau again marries, this time Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael (Gen 28:9). This again shows polygamy was unacceptable during primitive time.

When Jacob was tricked or deceived by Laban and made to sleep with Leah. Jacob did not like the idea and he questioned his father-in-law that he wanted Rachel and not Leah (Gen 29:25-26).

Trick doesn’t end here when Jacob was again forced by Rachel when she wanted him to give her child. Rachel gave her slave-girl Bilhah as a wife (Gen 30:3). Seeing this Leah also gave her slave-girl Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. (Gen 30:9)

Note: Both Leah and Rachel gave their slave-girls as wife and not as concubines. Similar, incident is when Sarah gave her Egyptian slave-girl to Abraham as wife (Gen 16:4)

Esau brother of Jacob had three wives namely:

  1. Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.
  2. Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, who was the son of Zibeon the Horite.
  3. Basemath the daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. So, it was polygamy.

Another great story was about Judah and Tamar (Gen 38). Although, Judah took Tamar has his daughter-in-law but he slept with her because it was Tamar who tricked him by taking off her widow clothes and wrapped a veil around her (Gen 38:14).

Note: The story of Judah and Tamar (Gen 38), Judah gave Tamar to his sons but this happened only when his sons died, so he passed his daughter-in-law to other sons only after their demise.

But a new covenant was made “a man who takes the wife of his brother, they shall die childless”. (Lev 20:21)

Note: Both man and woman will die childless.

Why did Tamar do so?

Because Judah promised her that when Shelah the younger son grows into an adult he will marry Tamar with him (Gen 38:11). But Judah fails to keep his promise (Gen 38:14)

Did Judah Repent?

Yes he did (Gen 38:26)

Note: Cheating on spouse was practiced in the primitive world; one such example is when Joseph was approached by his master’s wife to sleep with her (Gen 39: 7-20)

Moses was married to only one woman Zipporah the daughter of Reuel (Ex 2:21-22).


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