Biblical Polygamy

Mainstream Christians are quick to label Mormons weirdos for their polygamous past. Mormons are deeply weird, its true, but Bible believers calling polygamists strange makes no sense as all proper marriages in the Bible are polygamous, and the book never once mentions monogamy. Every Christian who proclaims the Bible as justification for their own belief that marriage is between one man and one woman has not read the book, as that concept is not in there.

King Solomon, a wise, temple-building man, with a busy home life. (Russian patchwork by Elena Rogacheva,

Because true biblical marriages are polygamous, their stories sound weird too. Wise King Solom had 700 wives and 300 concubines. So much for monogamy. More modern men could keep their marital vows if they had 3+ different women to service for each day of the year. David, on the other hand, not only slew the giant, but he also founded the unified kingdom of Israel and put its capital in Jerusalem. David also had many wives and concubines, along with a very special first love in his buddy Jonathon. (see the full version of the David story here).

Concubines are a fascinating part of a godly biblical marriage, not much mentioned by evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics, or Republicans. Concubines were women you owned, because in true biblical marriage and families the man owns his women, both wives and daughters, as property. Concubines lived in the household and the man can have sex with them without giving them the status of marriage. So in a good biblical marriage, you can sleep with the help. I’ve also heard concubines described as in-house whores, but that seems overly harsh. I think if we are going to define marriage by the Bible we have to bring back concubines. And eunuchs. Because God likes lots of concubines and nice cadre of eunuchs in a man’s household. Picture that the next time you hear an evangelical Christianist say he’s for biblical marriage.

As an example of how slippery the definition of marriage can be in the Bible, look no farther than the founding patriarch of the entire Judeo-Christian tradition, the prophet Abraham. It was his biblically-sanctioned sleeping with the help that created the whole Jewish/Muslim split we see today.

Abraham could not have a child by his wife Sarah, so Sarah gave Abraham her ladies servant, Hagar to sleep with. Abraham and Hagar had a son Ishmael, Abraham’s first son, a crucial title in matters of inheritance. But then Sarah conceived, and had a son Isaac, so Isaac was the first son of Abraham’s official wife. The question of who inherited Abraham’s legacy plays out to this day because the Jews (and therefore Christianity) are descended from Isaac, while Muhammad (and therefore Islam) was the descendant of Ishmael. Middle Eastern politics is a family feud still playing out across the millennia, originating in the funky definitions of marriage right there in the Bible.

The idea that biblical fundamentalists call Mormons weird because of polygamy is nonsense. Polygamy is the biblical concept and monogamy the secular one. It’s always a shame that the wiring of the conservative brain doesn’t get irony.