[b-hebrew] Leviral marriage

Bill Rea bsr15 at cantsl.it.canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Oct 12 16:34:25 EDT 2005

Yigal wrote:-

>The Torah makes several provisions for co-wives and
>their children. I admit, polygamy was probably rare, since the population
>is divided pretty evenly, but it certainly was not unheared of.

It was probably more common than we moderns believe. In ancient
society males tended to die younger than females, particularly
through warfare whether that be on raiding parties or as state
sanctioned wars, but also through disease and accidents. In
so-called ``primitive'' societies the male-female ratio is
often around 1 to 1.2. This would make polygamous marriages
quite common. I believe the Torah provisions are there because
there were enough polygamous marriages in Israelite society to
require regular legislation to deal with them and the problems
of inheritance and so on which are unique to them.

We should also remember that the Israelites had a two-tier system
of marriage -- full wives and concubines. There were a number of
Hebrew Bible characters who had both. In Judges 19 there is a
Benjaminite who has a concubine but there is no mention of
him having a wife.

Bill Rea, IT Services, University of Canterbury \_
E-Mail bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz               </   New
Phone 64-3-364-2331, Fax  64-3-364-2332       /)  Zealand
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