For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

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View October 2012 Issue >>
 

Who Was Cain's Wife?

The Bible does not specifically say who Cain’s wife was. The only possible answer is that Cain’s wife was his sister or niece or great-niece, etc. The Bible does not say how old Cain was when he killed Abel (Genesis 4:8).
Since they were both farmers, they were likely both full-grown adults, possibly with families of their own. Adam and Eve surely had given birth to more children than just Cain and Abel at the time that Abel was killed. They definitely had many more children later (Genesis 5:4). The fact that Cain was scared for his own life after he killed Abel (Genesis 4:14) indicates that there were likely many other children and perhaps even grandchildren of Adam and Eve already living at that time. Cain’s wife (Genesis 4:17) was a daughter or granddaughter of Adam and Eve.

Inter-marriage
Since Adam and Eve were the first (and only) human beings, their children would have no other choice than to intermarry. God did not forbid inter-family marriage until much later when there were enough people to make intermarriage unnecessary (Leviticus 18:6-18). The reason that incest today often results in genetic abnormalities is that when two people of similar genetics (i.e. a brother and sister) have children together, there is a high risk of their recessive characteristics becoming dominant. When people from different families have children, it is highly unlikely that both parents will carry the same recessive traits.
The human genetic code has become increasingly ‘polluted’ over the centuries as genetic defects are multiplied, amplified, and passed down from generation to generation. Adam and Eve did not have any genetic defects, and that enabled them and the first few generations of their descendants to have a far greater quality of health than we do now. Adam and Eve’s children had few, if any, genetic defects. As a result, it was safe for them to intermarry. 

Why Did God allow Incest in the Bible?

T  here are several examples of incest in the Bible. The most commonly thought of examples are the sons/daughters of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4), Abraham marrying his half-sister Sarah (Genesis 20:12), Lot and his daughters (Genesis 19), Moses’ father Amram who married his aunt Jochebed (Exodus 6:20), and David’s son Amnon with his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). It is important to note however, that in two of the above instances (Tamar and Lot), one of the parties involved was an unwilling participant in the incest.

A pure genetic code existed
It is important to distinguish between incestuous relationships prior to God commanding against them (Leviticus 18:6-18), and incest that occurred after God’s commands had been revealed. Until God commanded against it, it was not incest. It was just marrying a close relative.
If Adam and Eve were indeed the only two human beings God created, their sons and daughters would have had no other choice but to marry and reproduce with their siblings and close relatives.
The second generation would have had to marry their cousins, just as after the Flood the grandchildren of Noah would have had to intermarry amongst their cousins. One reason incest is so strongly discouraged in the world today is the understanding that reproduction between closely related individuals has a much higher risk of causing genetic abnormalities.
In the early days of humanity, though, this was not a risk due to the fact that the human genetic code was free of defects.

Incest was allowed until a certain historic point and then God condemned it when He brought in the Law
It seems, then, that by the time of Moses, the human genetic code had become polluted enough that close intermarriage was no longer safe. So, God commanded against sexual relations with siblings, half-siblings, parents, and aunts/uncles. It was not until many centuries later that humanity discovered the genetic reason that incest is unsafe and unwise.
While the idea of incest is disgusting and abhorrent to us today -as it should be- we have to remember one of the [several] reasons why it is sinful, that is, the genetic problems. The key point is that sexual relations between close relatives must be viewed differently pre-Law and post-Law. It did not become ‘incest’ until God commanded against it. 

Note from JOY! Magazine
The most comprehensive segment of the Old Testament dealing with this offense is in Leviticus 18:6-18. Sexual cohabitation was not permitted between a man and his mother, his sister, a granddaughter, an aunt, etc. The most serious punishment was execution (Leviticus 20:11-17), and in the New Testament era, disfellowship from the local church was enjoined for the offence (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).
The Christian worldview is that all sexual deviance: homosexuality, adultery, bestiality, polygamy, incest etc - violates God’s commands and is sin. Families depend on moral structure: Dad, Mom, kids. When you confound that structure - when Dad sleeps with a man, Dad sleeps with another woman, or Mom sleeps with Grandpa - the family falls apart. Kids need clear roles and relationships. Without this, they get disoriented and corrupted.


Why Did God allow Polygamy in the Bible?

The first [noted] instance of polygamy/bigamy in the Bible was that of Lamech in Gen 4:19: “Lamech married two women.” Several prominent men in the Old Testament were polygamists. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others all had multiple wives. In 2 Samuel 12:8, God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, said that if David’s wives and concubines were not enough, He would have given David even more.
Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (essentially wives of a lower status), according to 1 Kings 11:3. What are we to do with these instances of polygamy in the Old Testament? There are three questions that need to be answered: (1) Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? (2) How does God view polygamy today? (3) Why did it change?

Polygamy in the Old Testament
The Bible does not specifically say why God allowed polygamy. First, while there are slightly more male babies than female babies, due to women having longer lifespans, there have always been more women in the world than men. Current statistics show that approximately 50.5% of the world population is women.
Assuming the same percentages in ancient times, and multiplied by millions of people, there would be tens of thousands more women than men. Second, warfare in ancient times was especially brutal, with an incredibly high rate of fatality. This would have resulted in an even greater percentage of women to men. Third, due to patriarchal societies, it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself.
Women were often uneducated and untrained. Women relied on their fathers, brothers, and husbands for provision and protection. Unmarried women were often subjected to prostitution and slavery.

An ancient method of protection
So, it seems that God may have allowed polygamy to protect and provide for the women who could not find a husband otherwise. A man would take multiple wives and serve as the provider and protector of all of them. While definitely not ideal, living in a polygamist household was far better than the alternatives: prostitution, slavery, or starvation.
In addition to the protection/provision factor, polygamy enabled a much faster expansion of humanity, fulfilling God’s command to “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth” Gen 9:7.

How does God view polygamy today?
The Bible presents monogamy as the plan which conforms to God’s ideal for marriage. The Bible says that God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” Gen 2:24.
While Genesis 2:24 is describing what marriage is, rather than how many people are involved, the consistent use of the singular should be noted. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God says that the kings were not supposed to multiply wives (or horses or gold). It can be understood that having multiple wives causes problems - this can be clearly seen in the life of Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4).

God’s design for marriage is monogamy
In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 3:2,12 and Titus 1:6 give “the husband of one wife” in a list of qualifications for spiritual leadership. There is some debate as to what specifically this qualification means. The phrase could literally be translated “a one-woman man.” Whether or not this phrase is referring exclusively to polygamy, in no sense can a polygamist be considered a “one-woman man.” While these qualifications are specifically for positions of spiritual leadership, they should apply equally to all Christians.
Should not all Christians be “above reproach...temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” 1 Tim 3:2-4? If we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), and if these standards are holy for elders and deacons, then they are holy for all.

The New Testament pattern:  marriage is between one man and one woman

Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks of the relationship between husbands and wives. When referring to a husband (singular), it always also refers to a wife (singular). “For the husband is the head of the wife [singular]...He who loves his wife [singular] loves himself. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [singular], and the two will become one flesh....Each one of you also must love his wife [singular] as he loves himself, and the wife [singular] must respect her husband [singular].”
While a somewhat parallel passage, Colossians 3:18-19, refers to husbands and wives in the plural, it is clear that Paul is addressing all the husbands and wives among the Colossian believers, not stating that a husband might have multiple wives.
In contrast, Ephesians 5:22-33 is specifically describing the marital relationship. If polygamy were allowable, the entire illustration of Christ’s relationship with His Body (the Church) and the husband-wife relationship falls apart.

Why did God choose to disallow polygamy?
It is not so much God’s disallowing something He previously allowed as it is God’s restoring marriage to His original plan. Even going back to Adam and Eve, polygamy was not God’s original intent. God seems to have allowed polygamy to solve a problem, but it is not the ideal. In most modern societies, there is absolutely no need for polygamy. In most cultures today, women are able to provide for and protect themselves - removing the only “positive” aspect of polygamy.
Further, most Western nations outlaw polygamy. According to Romans 13:1-7, we are to obey the laws the government establishes. The only instance in which disobeying the law is permitted by Scripture is if the law contradicts God’s commands (Acts 5:29). Since God only allowed for polygamy in the Old Testament, and does not command it, a law prohibiting polygamy must be upheld.

Are there some instances in which the allowance for poly­gamy would still apply today?
It is unfathomable that there would be no other possible solution. Due to the “one flesh” aspect of marriage, the need for oneness and harmony in marriage, and the lack of any real need for polygamy, it is our firm belief that polygamy does not honour God and is not His design for marriage.

Note from JOY! Magazine
The Bible records many things that it does not recommend (such as murder, incest, polygamy etc). Polygamy originated in the lives of the murderers Cain and Lamech. Christianity has always rejected polygamy because it inhibits, and in fact exterminates, exclusive, devoted love. Christians have always maintained that love between a man and a woman must be exclusive.  Otherwise marriage is degraded, in essence, to mere physical lust. 
No woman who loves her husband, and wishes to be loved in return, can tolerate “another wife. Polygamy erodes the concept of a Biblical family. Christianity has always maintained that monogamy alone gives the woman the recognition, status and value that she needs. Monogamy provides the environment for raising children in a stable and loving home.

 

If a Man has Multiple Wives and Becomes a Christian, What should he do?

Since polygamy is frowned upon in most societies, this is not a question too many people think about. But there are still numerous places in the world where polygamy is accepted. Many Muslim countries allow polygamy. For a man to have multiple wives is somewhat common in several African nations, [India and the Middle East] as well.
Even in the United States, there are some communities which endorse polygamy. However, virtually all Bible scholars agree that polygamy is not for Christians. What, then, should a polygamist do if he places his faith in Jesus Christ and becomes a Christian?

A challenging dilemma
Most people immediately give an answer like: “He should divorce all of his wives but one.” While that seems to be an ethical solution, the situation is usually not quite that simple. For example, which wife does he keep? His first wife? His last wife? His favourite wife? The wife that has borne him the most children? And what about the wives he divorces? How do they provide for themselves? In most cultures that allow polygamy, a previously married woman has very little opportunity to provide for herself and even fewer possibilities of finding a new husband.
And what happens to the children of these wives? The situation is often very complicated. There is rarely a simple solution.

Polygamy was allowed in the Old Testament but it is not God’s intent for mankind
We do not believe polygamy is something God approves of in this era. In the New Testament, a polygamist is ineligible for church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6), but polygamy itself [does not prevent church membership]. Polygamy was not God’s original intent (Genesis 2:24;Ephesians 5:22-33), but it was also something He allowed (see the examples of Jacob, David, and Solomon). [Polygamists who are converted to Christ must not add any further wives and they must still care for all the wives they have responsibility for].

There is no simple answer
If polygamy is illegal where he lives, he should do whatever is necessary to submit to the law (Romans 13:1-7), while still providing for his wives and children. If polygamy is legal, but he is convicted that it is wrong, he should divorce all but one wife, but, again, he must not neglect providing for all of them and their children. They are his responsibility.
If polygamy is legal and he has no conviction against it, he can remain married to each of his wives, treating each one with love, dignity, and respect. A man who makes this decision would be barred from church leadership, but it cannot [prevent his baptism or acceptance into the Church]. 

 

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