Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Why Did God Allow Men To Have Concubines In The Bible?

What Is A Concubine?

Question: What is a concubine? Why did God allow men to have concubines in the Bible?

Answer: Greetings in Jesus wonderful name! Concubine is a female slave who functioned as a secondary wife and surrogate mother. The Hebrew word for concubine (pileges) is a non-Semitic loan word borrowed to refer to a phenomenon not indigenous to Israel, but has been referred in Exodus 21:7-10 to put a regulative code for the justice of such women under the Law of Moses. Law of Moses was given by God and added to faith community to keep transgressions under control till Jesus would come and redeem all mankind forever (Gal 3:19). It was imposed on men only till the time of reformation in which Jesus would take charge of man to reform Him from the inside out, after which the law would become obsolete (Heb 9:10; 8:13). God's perfect will for man from the Garden of Eden is for Him to have one wife for life. Only one Eve for Adam God made, not two or more than that. This shows that God gave permission for man to have more than one wife and even concubines because Adam fell in to sin and begot children in his own likeness of sinful flesh which began to control humans, and the original likeness of God in which humans were created became marred and was lost due to voluntary transgression which is sin (Gen 1:27; 5:1, 3; 4:7). Having lost the heart of flesh which was created in the likeness of God, human heart became hardened like a stone because of sin and its deceitfulness (Matt 19:8), so reasonably God gave him the Law to convict him of his sinfulness, and keep him restrained from more blatant sin which would bring God's wrath immediately (Jam 1:23, 24; Ezek 36:26; 1 Peter 4:17-18, 19). So concubine is a phenomenon not indigenous to Israel, but rather it is a Babylonian and Assyrian way of life in which the law codes regulate primary and secondary marriages more specifically than do the Old Testament laws.

So Exodus 21:10 does mean that if a man by the hardness of his heart wants to marry another wife than the existing one, he is given a option in the Law of Moses to marry any woman but with a restrictive code for him to provide and give security to the weaker section of slaves/concubines, so that they could have justice as they are weaker than the owners who owns her (1 Peter 3:7). So according to each man's financial ability to take care of a slave woman or concubine he is allowed to marry any number of women without any limits.

God will for kings and leaders of Israel was not to multiply wives for themselves, but rather stick on to love the Lord and be faithful to the wife of their youth [i.e. one woman] as much as possible till their very end (Deut 17:16-17, 18-20; Pro 5:18; Eccl 9:9; Sos 4:12; Mal 2:14). We know that loving multiple wives would feed the lust but never will fill any man with true love that satisfies according to the perfect will of God (Psa 90:14), King David was a man who was never completely satisfied with a woman's love although he had so many beautiful, courageous and even some godly women in his life (2 Sam 1:26). In 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, 14:3, we see that King David had six wives and numerous concubines. We also know how within the family life of King David, there was so much hate, rape and incest, murder and all evil that were at loose because of David having more wives than one, which was not God's perfect will for him in his life. Even when David committed the treacherous sin of adultery and murder against God through Bathsheba, the Lord even asked him through Nathan the prophet that if he would have asked Him, He would have provided more wives and concubines legally than taking another man's wife illegally, thus bringing shame to the name of his God Jehovah, and thus giving an opportunity of great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme Him and His Glorious Name (2 Sam 12:7-8, 9, 14). God forgave the sin of David, but he reaped the wages of the immoral sin he committed against the Lord, even today in the New Testament times, the Lord God will forgive every believer who goes contritely asking pardon for his adulterous sexual sin or fornication committed against one's future wife, but the wages of that sin he has to reap later in his life just like king David. Nobody is a favorite for Him to cause to act unjustly to bypass justice (Rom 2:11), as He is the God of justice who upholds justice in all the earth (Ps. 50:6; Isa 30:18; Mal 2:17).

In 1 Kings 11:3, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. We know what happened to this wisest and the richest man who ever lived, Solomon's wives did indeed lead him astray after other gods, apart from Jehovah God who was the one and only true love of his youth (1 Kings 3:3). King Solomon was so distressed later in his life because of these polygamous relationships with so many wives and concubines, that his miserable life was expressed by him as "vanity", and he closes the book of Ecclesiastes which was written later towards the end of his life where he points out the eternal truth of God to all his readers saying, "fear God and keep His commandments, this is man's ultimate joy that will stay with him now and for eternity" (Eccl 1:1-2; 12:13-14, Paraphrased).

In 2 Chronicles 11:21, King Solomon's son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines. Sadly Rehoboam the son of Solomon followed the bad example of his dad, and therefore as a vain and foolish man longing to outdo his father in riches and wisdom expressed his idea to tax heavily to finance a luxurious lifestyle just like his father, not understanding that His Father was richest man of his times because God blessed him and made him to be like that, it was actually God's gift for his love and obedience in his youth towards Him (1 Kings 12:3-4; 3:3-15), his subjects of the nation of Israel which were the 10 tribes seeing such harshness towards those people, came to the conclusion that the king will never give ear to them and their need forever (1 Kings 12:16, 21-24), thus all the ten tribes except the two [i.e. Judah and Benjamin] of the nation of Israel got separated from the kingdom of Rehoboam the son of Solomon (1 Kings 12:16–20). Thus Rehoboam's bad example turned people away from God's perfect will and made them to walk in His permissive will, thus “he did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14). The root of lust in the life of the king Rehoboam was the root cause of the downfall of his life and in the downfall of all the lives of the people of God. What a sad reality!

One thing we can be sure in a polygamous relationship of wives and concubines in the lives of these great Old Testament saints is that they were not the perfect will of God when they had more wives than one in their lives and also for us in the New Testament the same applies. Though God allowed them to have more wives/concubines so that the hardness of their own heart which will always bring emptiness may be experienced by them to make them realize their need for God always, and also for them to realize their need to do His perfect will which may be revealed to them further to seek the help of God to bring wholeness to their broken lives. For us in the New Testament God has revealed his will more than these Old Testament saints through the finished and completed Word of God, and have also give us all the strength to keep his commandments by giving us the Holy Spirit within us, God expects more from us the New Testament saints than the Old Testament saints. 

Concubine in a polygamous society is a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives, in other words are called mistress in our present time. While concubines did not have the same status as wives, yet God clearly revealed through His Word that they were not to be mistreated (Exod 21:7-10) nor could they be violated by other males (Gen 35:22) they lived with impunity and freedom to decide but not face its consequence (Gen 49:3-4). They seem to have received higher status if they bore sons, and at least in this one case of Abraham's life seemed to present a threat to the primary wife and her son (Gen 21:10), though later the full inheritance was given by Abraham to Isaac, and he gives only gifts to his concubines' sons (Gen 25:6). These concubines were at least remembered by name (Gen 21:10; 22:24; 30:3; 36:12).

The story of Judges 19-20 shows that the relationship of the concubine to the man she was connected to was given a equal status as in the regular marriage set up, the man is called the concubine's "husband" (19:3; 20:4) and the woman's father is referred to as the man's "father-in-law" (19:9). The Bible evidence during the time of king David, suggests that royal wives (i.e. concubines) were inherited by succeeding kings (1 Sam 12:8). Thus approaching the royal concubines (1 Sam 16:21-22), or even requesting the king's female attendant for a wife (1 Kings 2:13-22), can be understood as the act of one attempting to take the throne away from its designated occupant who is the ruling king (1 Kings 2:22).

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology says, "The practice of taking concubines as "wife" was used to provide a male heir for a barren wife (cf. Gen. 16, 30:1-9, 36). In addition, the practice provided a social safety net for poor families who could sell their daughters in dire times when they were not able to take care of them and their families themselves (Exod 21:7-10; Judges 19:1)." But we also know from other areas of the Bible, that concubines were taken to meet the sexual desires of the males who were rich enough  to take care of them physically and also carnally in their houses. And primarily in those days concubines were taken and kept safely in a separate house named as 'harem' which were financially maintained by kings who ruled a nation, so that along with fulfilling their fleshly desire for more sex they can also be able to cement political alliances between nations. These Kings and extremely rich men did not see the children of concubines as ones who would complicate their inheritance lines, but rather as a workforce to take care of their family wealth without which all the wealth might get distributed in their own generation or in the next generation without proper care towards it.

So the bottom line is that, God respected man's choice even though He knew, to have more than one wife in a man's life will not be the best for them in their lives, because it will never give them a satisfied and joyful life of wholeness on earth as long as they live in such a polygamous relationship. Though it is legal under Old Testament standard, and therefore is not a sin to have wives and concubines. Yet we see from the result of those who had them in their lives, that it was not God's perfect will for their lives even during the Old Testament times to have more than one wife for life. Now in our times of the New Testament, how do we honor God in our lives? Do we live pleasing to Him, by doing His perfect will for our lives, or are we choosing the second best or the third best or so on and so forth in our lives, and just avoid being sinful in our lives? Do we live by the Old Testament standard by asking ourselves which is Biblically right or wrong according to the law?, you see, if we live according to the law like in the Old Testament times it will bring nothing more than death to our spiritual lives (Rom 4:4, 15; 5:20-21; 7:10; 2 Cor 3:6). Or are we living according to the Spirit to keep the law of the Spirit in all truth (Rom 8:2), bearing forth much fruits for the Glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave His very life to redeem us from sin, self and Satan (Rom 6:22; 7:6; Gal 5:22-23, 25)? Living according to the law of the Spirit in our times of the New Testament brings without fail more and more abundant life of peace and joy and righteousness which leads to rest and refreshment spiritually always in our earthly lives (Rom 8:2; John 10:10; Matt 11:28, 29-30). In other words, a life of heaven lived on earth itself, and experience it perpetually and daily day in and day out to supernaturally live for the Glory of God. 

So can we ever willingly go for the option of choosing wives or concubines during our New Testament times, knowing we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us and overcome lust unlike the Old Testament saints who did not have Him within them, though they had Him with them and even upon them to do great and powerful works for the Lord? Remember the consequence of it we will have to reap if we give in to the fleshly life of indulgence, we will have to receive the wages of doing God's permissive will, and thus avoiding His perfect will by denying to give ourselves and our body to God as living sacrifice for Him to live in it (Rom 12:1-2). God is never partial to anybody unlike humans, to us whom God has given much by giving His Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ as our personal teacher and guide (John 14;17), He will expect much more than the Old Testament saints (Acts 10:34; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9; Luke 12:48). Only one life we have, so let us give it all to Jesus and be sold out to fulfill God's perfect will for our lives as His bond-slaves, considering ourselves as having no rights of our own because of our love for God. May our spiritual ear be pierced for the Glory of God and be rewarded for eternity by pleasing God in all things especially in the area of our married lives which must honor God with one wife for life just like Christ chose the Church for life as His one and only bride for eternity ahead (Eph 5:25, 28-30)!

Much Blessings....


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