The Marriage Institution
What was one of the first institutions founded for the benefit of the human race?
"And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a
woman, and brought her unto the man." Gen. 2:22.
NOTE. - Marriage, like the Sabbath, is of divine origin, and was instituted in Eden.
Why did God establish the marriage institution?
(1). "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God
created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and
God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,
and subdue it." (Gen. 1:27, 28); for "He created it not in
vain, He formed it to be inhabited." Isa. 45:18.
(2). "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be
alone; I will make him a help meet for him." Gen. 2:18.
NOTE. - Man needs the refinement which comes from association with, true womanhood, as well as assistance in the temporal affairs of life. To populate the earth, and also to render man happy, were therefore the objects of the Creator in
bringing into existence the marriage institution.
To accomplish this two fold purpose, how many companions did God in the beginning ordain that
man should have?
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." Gen. 2:24.
"They two shall be one flesh." Eph. 5:31. "The rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man." Gen. 2:22.
With whom did polygamy originate?
The first recorded case is that of Lamech, who "took unto him two
wives, ...And Lamech said unto his wives, ...I have slain a man."
Tracing Lamech's ancestors back six generations, to Cain, of him it is
recorded that he "rose up against Abel his brother, and slew
him." To this class of men, with whom polygamy originated, this
scripture applies relative to their parentage: "Ye are of your father
the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer
from the beginning, and abode not in the truth" (John 8:44), and
being determined that his corrupt followers should outnumber the children
of God, he incited this murderous and incestuous Lamech to take "unto
him two wives." Let it be forever remembered that in the beginning
the Creator gave one wife, and the Devil gave two. Whether it was the Lord
who subsequently adopted Satan's plan, or only certain men who, although
chosen of God, were afterward deceived or drawn away of their own lust,
and enticed, is so important a question that to decide in favor of the
former without scriptural authority, thus attributing the work of Satan to
the unchangeable God, is but to unite with that already large family
referred to, whose sire is not only a murderer, but "a liar, and the
father of it."
What effect did the polygamous example of Lamech's descendants have on the children of God?
"And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of
the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the
daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all
which they chose." Gen. 6:1, 2.
Does this reference to wife plurality among those who were called "the sons of God,"
prove that the Lord had adopted Satan's plan?
"And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for
all flesh had corrupted His way upon the earth." Gen. 6:12.
NOTE. - As already proved, God's "way" concerning marriage was that a man
should have but one wife. His way "corrupted" brought a plurality of wives and other excesses, until because of the prevalence of licentiousness, strife, and murder, "God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through
them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth." Gen. 6:13.
This is the culmination of the first era of contest between the original
and the counterfeit.
FIRST REPETITION OF ORIGINAL PLAN
What was Noah's character? and considering the emergency, how many wives did he and his
sons take with them into the ark?
"Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and
Noah walked with God." Gen. 6:9. "In the selfsame day entered
Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's
wife, and the three wives of his sons with them into the ark."
Who knows but what they had other wives not good enough to be permitted to enter the ark?
"And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into
the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before this generation." Gen. 7:1.
SECOND REPETITION OF ORIGINAL PLAN
After the flood, when Satan, in trying to overthrow God's plan, had again led men into
idolatry and polygamy, why did the Lord choose as the progenitor of a
spiritual race, a man who had but one wife?
"Wherefore one? That He might seek a godly seed." Mal.
2:15. " Abram took Sarai his wife, ...and they went forth to
go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came."
When, through lack of faith, it seemed that God's promise of a son could not be fulfilled
because of Sarai's age, what prevalent evil custom of that day did she
induce Abram to adopt, hoping thereby to secure the promised heir?
"And Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian,
after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her
husband Abram to be his wife." Gen. 16:3.
Did this shameful proceeding make Hagar the wife of Abram?
Sarai soon after realized the folly of her act in thus trying to
change God's enduring plan, and never again alluded to Hagar as the wife
of Abram, but called her "my maid," and "this bondwoman" (not second wife). Abram never regarded Hagar as his wife, but when speaking to Sarai, said "thy maid" (not my wife). Hagar did not consider herself the wife of Abram, but only the maid of "my
mistress, Sarai." The angel of the Lord called Hagar "Sarai's
maid," and said unto her, "Return unto thy mistress" (not, Return unto thy husband). And the Lord Himself by inspiration declares her to have been only "Hagar the Egyptian," and Abram's "bondwoman" (not second wife). His second wife was Keturah,
married after the death of Sarai. Gen. 23:1, 2; 25:1. The foregoing
quotations from Scripture prove that, instead of being a polygamist, Abram
violated the seventh commandment. Although the Bible states that "he
staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief," it is
equally true that he staggered from the path of virtue at the instigation
of his wife. But he was not a polygamist.
What is the very next recorded experience of Abram's which shows that he was not perfect,
like Enoch and Noah?
"And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord
appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk
before Me, and be thou perfect." Gen. 17:1.
Did he follow the example of Cain, the progenitor of murderers and polygamists, and try to
justify or excuse himself?
"And Abram fell on his face." Gen. 17:3.
NOTE. - Abram was blessed because of his humility and his desire to please God, not because he at times sinned against Him. On this occasion God changed his name to Abraham, and the record of his subsequent life shows that he was
also a changed man.
When Ishmael was about sixteen years old, and Sarah requested Abraham to "cast out
this bondwoman and her son" (Gen. 21:10), what instruction did the
Lord give which shows that He had not changed His original plan, one wife
for one man?
"In all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her
voice," for in Isaac shall thy seed be called." "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away." Gen 21:12, 14.
Had Hagar really been the wife of Abraham during these sixteen years, would he ever have
"sent her away" with the divine permission?
"What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Matt. 19:6.
After Abraham had profited by his bitter experience (Gen. 21:11), what did God say of him; and how was it in part fulfilled?
"For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." Gen. 18:19. "And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, ...Thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac." Gen. 24:2-4.
What was Isaac's last charge to Jacob, when the latter was about to leave home?
"Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel, thy mother's father; and take
thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban, thy mother's
brother." Gen. 28:1, 2.
NOTE. - He was not only enjoined to take one wife, but also to get the right kind of wife. See also 2 Cor. 6:14.
THREE EXAMPLES OF THE COUNTERFEIT
But did not Jacob have two wives?
He did; but whether he had two or forty does not affect the plain
counsel given him by God through Isaac, in harmony with the original plan.
There were two reasons why Jacob took a second wife: (1) Laban practiced deception,
giving Jacob the elder of the two sisters, Leah, for whom he had not
love; (2) Rather than conform to God's order, and be content with Leah,
suffering wrongfully a life long separation from Rachel, selfishness caused
him to take both of them. But selfishness and deception are not attributes
of God, therefore he neither directed the action nor became responsible
for the result. And as one wrong step leads to another, so polygamy led to
envy, jealousy, hatred, rivalry, and strife on the part of the sisters, as
the result of which first one and then the other urged upon the too
willing Jacob still further departure from God's plan, until the record
stares with dishonor and degradation. But who believes that because of
these things God blessed Jacob? Inspiration does not say so. And who does
not know that he was blessed because of his humiliation and repentance for
sin, particularly during that long night when by the brook he "was
left alone, and there wrestled a man with him until the morning?" The
record says it was the Lord, and that "He blessed him there,"
while confessing his sins, not while committing them.
Did Jacob enjoy his polygamous life?
"Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." Gen. 47:9.
Was David blessed of God because he was a polygamist?
"Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to
do evil in His sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword,
and hast taken his wife to be thy wife... Now therefore the sword shall
never depart from thine house: because thou hast taken the wife of Uriah
the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise
up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives
before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor." 2 Samuel 12:9-11.
NOTE. - The Lord would permit others to take David's wives the same as He permitted David to take the wives of Saul and the wife of Uriah, not that such actions were right; for they are there called "evil," and contrary to the "commandment of the Lord." The passage in 1 Kings 15:5, which says that "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him
all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the
Hittite," must not be so literally rendered as to show that it was
right for David to number Israel, for which act the Lord caused seventy
thousand of the people to perish. Yet this is proved by the text as much
as that it was right for David to take Saul's wives. In 1 Kings 14:8, the
Lord said of David, "Who kept My commandments, and who followed Me
with all his heart, to do that only which was right in Mine
eyes;" but that these texts apply to his life, generally speaking,
and not to every act he committed, is evident, otherwise the
last quotation proves that it was also right for him to commit the
greatest of all sins of which he was guilty, the murder of Uriah.
Because of David's evil example, what occasion did the Lord say had been given polygamists
and other evil doers?
"Because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme." 2 Sam. 12:14.
How, then, was David "a man after God's own heart," polygamy and murder being
violations of "the commandment of the Lord?"
"I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Ps.
32:5. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a
con- trite heart, a God, thou wilt not despise." Ps. 51:17.
NOTE. - David, like Jacob, had an evil nature, and sometimes strayed from the path of righteousness; but like him, also, he repented of his sins, and received
forgiveness. These were two of the "most favored men of whom the
Bible makes mention," not because they were polygamists, but because
he who is forgiven most is most favored. No more divine approval is to be
found for their polygamy, however, than for Abraham's violation of the
seventh commandment, Jacob's deception, or David's murder. If the example
of a few men was designed to supplant the precept of God with reference to
the marriage institution, then, by parity or reasoning, the deceiver,
adulterer, and murderer now have free license.
Was Solomon blessed because he was a polygamist?
"His wives turned away his heart after other gods."
" And the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned
from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice."
"Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of
thee, and thou hast not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have
commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will
give it to thy servant." 1 Kings 11:4, 9, 11.
NOTE. - The lives of these three men, particularly those of Jacob and David are
monuments to both the weakness of humanity, and the strength of divine
grace. While the Holy Spirit has made the dark and unchangeable record of
their failure under temptation, there appears on the opposite side, in
brighter lines, the history of their conflicts with evil, their earnest
prayers for help, and their humility and deep repentance, which secured
the favor of Heaven. For all this, grace is to receive the credit, though
by reason of the prominence of the characters, sin is most noticeable at
first sight. Hence, instead of investigating the subject, many have
entertained the idea that wife plurality among God's chosen people was a
very common thing, and that this custom prevailed with "many of
the best and most favored men of whom the Bible makes mention." But
this is not true. From Adam to the present time, thousands of cases are on
record of conformity to God's plan regulating marriage, against these few
instances of polygamy on the part of leaders among God's people. The plan
of the Creator was not only understood in the beginning, but was
reaffirmed at the deluge, the calling of Abraham, and of Moses, and in the
parentage of Christ. The attempt on the part of some to make it appear
that Moses was a polygamist, is not justified by the Scriptures; for there
is no evidence that Moses ever had any other wife than Zipporah. Either
she is the one referred to in Num. 12:1 as being an "Ethiopian
woman" by reason of her Midianite and Cushite ancestry (Ethiopian meaning
Cushite, see margin), or else Zipporah had died before this
"Ethiopian woman" was taken by Moses. But they are doubtless the
same person, as Moses would not be the first one to violate the command of
God that the children of Israel should not intermarry with strangers (see
Ex. 34:16), which instruction was given only about a year previous to the
jealousy of Aaron and Miriam.
NO DIVINE LICENSE FOR POLYGAMY
What are the principal texts used in attempting to justify polygamy by divine precept?
and what may be said of them?
(1) "And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall
deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife,
her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." Ex. 21:9, 10.
NOTE.- The word wife is not in the original, and should not be in this text, whose meaning, as seen from verse 9, is "another betrothed," not "another wife." Thus: "If he [the father] take him [take to his son] another wife [in betrothal] , her food, her raiment [the food and raiment of the one first betrothed, but not married] , and her
duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." This means simply that one
first betrothed should be provided for in case she was set aside and
another one married. But even if the word wife belonged in the
text, it would merely be God's counsel with reference to how such sinners
should be dealt with, as in Ex. 22:1, "If a man shall steal an ox or
a sheep," etc. "If" does not mean "thou shalt," nor even "thou mayest."
(2) "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no
child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her
husband's brother shall... take her to him to wife." Deut.
NOTE. - No further comment is necessary on this passage, than to say that
in accordance with God's law concerning marriage, the "husband's
brother" or kinsman here referred to must be a single man, as
was the case with Boaz, who married Ruth; for not a single instance is
recorded where God ever counseled any man to take more than one wife, or
gave a precept to that effect.
(3) "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man,
saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let
us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach." Isa. 4:1.
NOTE. - Whether this was fulfilled centuries ago, or applies to the
Mormons of today, does not prove that God now designs a man should have
seven wives instead of one. There are prophecies of evil as well as of
good; and because the crimes of Absalom, Ahab, Judas, and the persecutions
under paganism and the papacy were predicted, does not prove them divinely
ORIGINAL PLAN SUSTAINED
What further testimony is given by prophets, Christ, and the apostles relative to the
enduring nature of God's original plan?
"Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister [one wife to another, margin]
, to vex her, ...beside the other in her lifetime." Lev.
18:18. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal
treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of
Israel, saith that He hateth putting away." Mal. 2:15, 16.
Christ said: "From the beginning of the creation God made them male
and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and
cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so
then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined
together, let not man put asunder." Mark 10:6-9. "It hath
been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing
of divorcement: but I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his
wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery;
and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."
Matt. 5:31, 32.
Paul said: "Let everyone of you in particular so love his wife
even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her
husband." Eph. 5:33. " A bishop then must be blameless, the
husband of one wife." "Let the deacons be the husbands of one
wife, ruling their children and their own houses well." 1 Tim.
NOTE. - Not that others in the church might take more than one wife, but that if such as had a plurality of wives were to receive the gospel and become members
of the church, they should not be selected to fill these offices, for
which "blameless" men were required. Not an instance is on
record where God ever chose a man with more than one wife, to do any
special, important work; and, as already proved, only a few cases
are recorded of men who became polygamists after having been chosen
What then, is the inevitable conclusion regarding polygamy?
"Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they
have sought out many inventions." Eccl. 7:29.