I am having a REALLY hard time trying to understand this bible verse about polygamy


#1

"After King David sinned with Bathsheba God said to David if you had only asked "I" (God) would have given you more wives" 2 Samuel

I don't understand why God said that. He seems to be encouraging polygamy here.

Why was polygamy accepted (or just not condemned) back then by him?

I keep hearing people say that it was a different culture/there were a scarsity of people/ etc. etc......but I thought "the ends never justify the means"

Could someone please explain this to me. It's been bothering me for years. How am I supposed to explain this when a non-christian interrogates me about it?

and it kind of bothers me that there is no clear answer from the church on why it was allowed. aren't they the ones who made the bible and are infallible?


#2

To what chapter and verse precisely do you refer? I don’t see the above quote in 2 Samuel after a quick skim.


#3

"And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things."
2 Samuel 12:8.


#4

Haydock Bible Commentary on that verse

Ver. 8. Wives. We know of none that David married. But, as king, he enjoyed alone that privilege. (Grotius) (Chap. iii. 7., and xvi. 21.) --- Unto thee. Hebrew, "I would have given thee such and such." (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "I will moreover give thee like unto these;" a continuation of prosperity. (Haydock) --- This singular love, which God was still disposed to manifest unto David, touched his heart with peculiar force. (Salien)


#5

polygamy was and is never in God’s plan. While the OT Bible records what people did and lived like, that is not meant as an endorsement at all because the same thing could be said about slavery. The verse that you are misquoting was not meant as an endorsement of polygamy but was done by Nathan in confronting David over the adultery and murder of her husband. He had wives and it is more retorical than anything. Likewise, as you read about polygamy, the Bible is not shy at all about the results in the families. There was infighting, jealosy, favoritism, rape of a half sister by a half brother, etc etc etc. if polygamy was God’s plan then you would not be seeing the multitude of problems that it produced. It has nothing to do with shortages of people etc. Stop focusing on one verse which is taken out of context and is retorical and look hard at the disasterou results in people lives and families that the Bible records as practicing it.


#6

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:3, topic:320679"]
"And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things."
2 Samuel 12:8.

[/quote]

NAB: I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own. I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were not enough,** I could count up for you still more.**

"More" doesn't necessarily mean more of the same things. It could, of course. It still says that God gave him multiple wives.

God is quite a bit smarter than we are. He has not asked for wholesale overnight changes, as far as I can recall. He has mercy on us, allows us to grow and change and choose at a rate that makes sense to us. This kind of subtlety is lost on the prosaically non-religious mind, as is the depth and breadth of God's regard for His creation: us. So, people who argue are cherry-picking Scripture and looking for the ten-word answer. No such thing.

The answer is always the same: Jesus Christ, Who said we don't put old wine into new skins or patch old cloth with new. Who told us God allowed divorce before Jesus came to explain, and that informs this question of your and theirs.

There is only one relevant thing: Jesus Christ is our Lord and our God and He gave us some very specific commandments. So, once we have all assured ourselves we are doing everything He asked, maybe we'll have time to nitpick the Word. Ask your questioners what hungry people they fed this week. Then they will understand the meaning of "relativity."


#7

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:3, topic:320679"]
"And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things."
2 Samuel 12:8.

[/quote]

The passage to which you are referring has been interpreted by the Talmud, and particularly Rashi, to mean that David is entitled to a maximum of 18 wives, although he probably had only (!) seven, in addition to many concubines. This interpretation is based on the Hebrew wording that "I would have given you like, and like" so that the number 6 can be tripled.

I just submitted a question about this to a rabbi in an attempt to understand better why polygamy was allowed in Israel during those ancient times, especially by Jewish kings. I anticipate a reply in about a week. It seems, however, that Judaism is not really disturbed by this custom.


#8

The status or institution of simultaneous marriage of more than one woman to one man, or of several women to several men. The two forms are polygyny and polyandry. In ordinary use, the term is restricted to polygyny, i.e., where one man is simultaneously married to more than one woman.

Polygamy as polygyny is contrary to divine positive law governing the marriage union (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31). According to the natural law, even successive polygamy (as in societies that legalize marriage after divorce) hinders the proper care and education of children. And it places an intolerable burden on practicing mutual love between the spouses.

In the Old Testament, God tolerated polygamy for a certain time, as it appears from the examples of men such as Abraham, Jacob, and David. But with the proclamation of the New Law, this concession, almost wrested from by God by reason of the moral obtuseness of man, was revoked. Marriage was restored to its original unity. The language of Christ is very explicit (Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18). Catholic tradition has consistently interpreted Christ’s teaching as absolutely forbidding polygamy, and the prohibition was defined by the Council of Trent, pronouncing anathema against anyone who says that “it is lawful for Christians to have several wives at the same time, and that it is not forbidden by any divine law” (Denzinger 1802). (Etym. Greek polygamos, having many wives.)

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

This is from CatholicCulture.org (sorry, would have given a link if I knew how).


#9

Ok. I think I understand better now.

and another thing.....

....these people also bring up verses of God telling Saul to kill all the women and children of a tribe..or something like that. I don't remember the verse.

These few verses always stump me when brought up. I feel like if I'm stumped in a debate then its giving bad witness.


#10

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:9, topic:320679"]
Ok. I think I understand better now.

and another thing.....

....these people also bring up verses of God telling Saul to kill all the women and children of a tribe..or something like that. I don't remember the verse.

These few verses always stump me when brought up. I feel like if I'm stumped in a debate then its giving bad witness.

[/quote]

The best thing to do in informal debates when this happens is to say, "That's a good question, let me get back to you on that." This establishes another time to meet (and evangelize), and also allows you to learn and strengthen your faith.


#11

God is not bound by the sacraments nor by any law or laws of man.

In the Old Testament, polygamy existed not because of sexual pleasure but because of the high mortality rate of young men, and the idea was to protect family members who would be left behind.

To quote one philosopher, the ancient world was a very immoral place, and I would add an inhospitable one as well.

If a non-Christian interrogates you, it’s important to point out that Christians follow the New Testament.

“the ends never justify the means”

No, but there are allowances for certain things. During time of war, it is permissible to deceive the enemy even though it’s a lie. It’s also permissible to keep secrets along the lines of confidentiality or national security.

The Church understands these things are necessary for some semblance of stability and security in civil society.

It would be great “if we could all get along” as the saying goes, but it’s impractical without certain measures.

As far as the Church “answering” the question, the Church (Vatican) is usually careful in discerning such matters.


#12

[quote="robwar, post:5, topic:320679"]
polygamy was and is never in God's plan. While the OT Bible records what people did and lived like, that is not meant as an endorsement at all because the same thing could be said about slavery. The verse that you are misquoting was not meant as an endorsement of polygamy but was done by Nathan in confronting David over the adultery and murder of her husband. He had wives and it is more retorical than anything. Likewise, as you read about polygamy, the Bible is not shy at all about the results in the families. There was infighting, jealosy, favoritism, rape of a half sister by a half brother, etc etc etc. if polygamy was God's plan then you would not be seeing the multitude of problems that it produced. It has nothing to do with shortages of people etc. Stop focusing on one verse which is taken out of context and is retorical and look hard at the disasterou results in people lives and families that the Bible records as practicing it.

[/quote]

Sometimes I think that pagans hate the Old Testament because what they read mirrors their own lives. IAC, we learn by reading the Bible what the world is like but also what it ought to be like. We are God’s children, and if we get beyond the sentimental stuff about kids and reflect on the kid that was us, we see how we go from the is** to the ought and make it the is. . What was that old Chesterton line: *God writes straight with crooked lines. *


#13

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:9, topic:320679"]

and another thing.....

....these people also bring up verses of God telling Saul to kill all the women and children of a tribe..or something like that. I don't remember the verse.

These few verses always stump me when brought up. I feel like if I'm stumped in a debate then its giving bad witness.

[/quote]

You might try attending a Bible study. I'm going to one and we just studied the part in Numbers where the Israelites were commanded to kill all the people of a tribe they conquered who were inhabiting the promised land. This is tough to read. But it was explained that those tribes practiced child sacrifice and worshipped other gods. If they had been allowed to remain, as some were, their customs would have infiltrated the Jews and led to their corruption. God had a really hard time getting the Jewish people to see that He was one god, and did not want infant sacrifice or ritual prostitution, which were widely practiced.
It's kind of like cutting out a cancer, those customs had to be eradicated. And remember, death is not the same to God as to us.


#14

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:9, topic:320679"]
Ok. I think I understand better now.

and another thing.....

....these people also bring up verses of God telling Saul to kill all the women and children of a tribe..or something like that. I don't remember the verse.

These few verses always stump me when brought up. I feel like if I'm stumped in a debate then its giving bad witness.

[/quote]

why don't you start another thread with that question.


closed #15

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