I have discovered in my research, that there are differing points of view among Christians regarding the practice of polygamy and concubines in the Bible. Since it has already come up in the text a couple of times, and will continue to surface, I felt I personally needed to take some time to revisit the references and history before moving on.
Some believe that God allowed men to have concubines and/or more than one wife, because there is no evidence of a single reproach of the practice in the Bible. David is given as an example, as he is only punished after committing adultery with Bathsheba, another man's wife, but never for having concubines. Solomon had 300 concubines and 700 wives and was considered the "wisest man that ever lived". They argue that just as incest was allowed in the beginning in order to populate the earth, concubines and multiple wives fall into this category. Although incest is later banned, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is used to defend their position regarding multiple wives and concubines, stating that the Old Covenant made provision for it, and that we shouldn't question God's decisions or choices.
In regard to the Christian approach, they go on to state that plural wives/and or mistresses, is not appropriate behavior for a Christ follower, as the New Testament speaks of, and warns against, all kinds of sexual immorality. And that in Matthew 19:5, even Jesus makes a plea for monogamy. At least on these, I can agree.
I believe that when God created, He only created one man and one woman who would be in charge of "multiplying." To believe anything other than God must have allowed incest for a time, and then banned it, would be inconsistent with that viewpoint. So I am okay with that. When we read a narrative, one has to remember that it is not intended to teach a lesson on morality, or tell us what to do, or not to do. It is the telling of a story of what God did in history. The story doesn't necessarily directly teach, as much as it illustrates what is taught elsewhere in Scripture. The fact that multiple wives were accepted in the culture of the time, I don't believe means that God sanctioned it, just because the text doesn't say, "and such and such is wrong."
As stated in Fausset's Bible Dictionary, I understand that the insatiable desire for offspring was somewhat associated with the hope of the promised Messiah. And yes, concubinage was a natural part of a polygamous social system. But in the end, Solomon's lust destroyed him, David had multiple family problems and Abraham's relationship with Hagar set off a chain of effects that would trouble him for years. I haven't found one incident in the Bible that turned out well for the participants of these practices. Any provision made in the law, I think were meant as a "witness, against the hardness of man's heart," not the approval of God. On the flip side, Abraham's son, Isaac, and his wife Rebekah are in the same predicament as Abraham and Sarah were, except their response, is not to use a concubine. Barren for 20 years, they don't take matters into their own hands, rather, Isaac pleads with the Lord on his wife's behalf, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins, Jacob and Esau, (more about them tomorrow.)
Today's reading includes a list of Abraham's, Ishmael's and Isaac's descendants, and ends with the death of Abraham, at the ripe old age of 175, "having lived a long and satisfying life." He is buried with his wife, Sarah, on the only piece of property he owned. He bequeathed all the land to Isaac, the son of promise, even though he didn't possess any of it at the time of his death. Abraham's faith had some considerable bumps along the way, but it was especially evident when he packed up everything he owned, and left Ur of the Chaldees, (in modern day Iraq), one of the most advanced, impressive, sophisticated places of his time. He was obedient to leave a place he would never see again, to live in a place he had never seen at all. And then, once again, when he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, what he treasured most, in obedience to God, who he trusted would provide.
"Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith." Genesis 15:6 Taking God at His Word, he believed in God's covenant promise in Genesis 12:1-3. A covenant promise is not like a modern day contract between two people. God's covenant is eternal and cannot be broken. It was not dependent on Abraham doing all the right things. It was dependent upon the unchanging character of God, and is at the very heart of the Bible. The phrase, "I will be their God, and they will be my people" is a theme that goes all through Scripture right through to Revelation. It tells us that God wants to stick with us. He longs for a relationship, and He proved it by sacrificing His only Son, Jesus. Not a religion of "do this and don't do that," but an honest relationship of father and child. In spite of our failures and weaknesses, He is a forgiving, merciful Sovereign, Who is good all the time, and is persistently wooing us to draw near to Him...which is the only safe place to be.
Be Blessed...And Stay Tuned!