[b-hebrew] Leviral marriage

George Athas gathas at hotkey.net.au
Tue Oct 25 07:18:30 EDT 2005

2 Samuel 12.8 (ESV) - Yahweh's words to David through Nathan:

And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your
arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too
little, I would add to you as much more.

This suggests that Yahweh, at least in the Hebrew Bible, is not opposed
to polygamy. He may not like it, but he certainly permits it. In a
patriarchal society like Ancient Israel (and other such societies),
polygamy was sometimes the only means of social welfare for some women.
That is, one man would marry multiple women in order to grant them
social refuge and security. The Tamar (Gen) and Ruth narratives intimate
this quite well.

If you take a canonical approach, then you could say that while Yahweh
permits polygamy, it's not his preferred option. Gen 1 and 2 certainly
proposes one-man-one-woman as the ideal. That is, it only takes one man
and one woman to form the adequate social unit to uphold society and to
give each other companionship. When there were women vulnerably outside
this unit, polygamy would have provided a means for social incorporation
and wellbeing. Polygamy needs to be seen in its context. It does not
seem to be condoned, but it is permitted for reasons of social

Best regards, 
(Sydney, Australia) 

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