Saturday, June 26, 2004

Polygamy and Wine

Some time back an anti-alcohol Baptist acquaintance of mine argued that wine is like polygamy. He said they are both something allowed by God in the Old Testament, but they are items that are no longer applicable for us today. He commented that "We don't live in Israel; we live in America." This person believed that the analogy he made between ancient Israel and modern America is a valid analogy on the subject of wine and polygamy. I believe his inference is not a legitimate one, and it shows, on his part, a lack of biblical understanding on both polygamy and wine.

Let’s begin at the beginning. At the end of the creation God ordained monogamy one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve). We were created to be monogamous from the start. In Genesis we read "The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed" (Gen 2: 21-25). Notice, in the whole account of the creation of Eve in the Bible is oriented toward monogamy. Man it to cleave to his wife (singular) the two become one flesh (its impossible for three or more to be one flesh). The first account of bigamy (2 wives) in Scripture is found in the line of Cain’s decedents — Lemach. Lemach was fifth in the line of Cain. It is very likely he is the first bigamist in all history, because the Scriptures makes such a point about it.

We know the pagan people in Abraham’s day practised polygamy. Remember Pharaoh tried to take Sarah for his harem. Abraham too becomes a bigamist when he doubts God’s Word and takes Hagar as a concubine to help God do what He had promised. This, as is every case of polygamy or bigamy that the Scriptures give details about, was a family disaster. Because of Sarah’s jealousy (and his weakness), Abraham casts his own son, Ishmael, and Hagar out in to the wilderness. The implications of Abraham’s sin of bigamy are still felt today. The Arabs count Ishmael as their father and the Jews count Isaac. The animosity that existed in Abraham’s tent between Sarah and Hagar and their sons (who were half brothers) still exists today, some 4,000 years later.

If you do a study on bigamy and polygamy in the Scriptures you will find that, in every case were we are given information, such multi-partner marriages are a disaster. In those cases the wives despise one another and most times so do the children. If you don’t want to go through the whole Bible than just take look at the families of Jacob and David (just two polygamist in the Bible). Their polygamy lead to violent sibling rivalries—kidnapping, rape, murder, rebellion are all linked to these families because these two men had multiple wives.

The Kings of Israel were, by God’s law, to have only one wife. The same is true of those who are ordained officers (elders/bishops and deacons) in the Church of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God does regulate polygamy. In this since polygamy is comparable to slavery. It is an evil that God regulated, but did not altogether outlaw. Just as we should not desire to be a slave, neither should we desire to be involved in polygamy. Like slavery it is never recommended to man, and the Scriptures seem to go out of their way to accentuate the destruction that such relationships naturally carry in their wake for those families where it was practiced.

Much more can be written on this topic, but I do believe that above is a fair presentation of the Scriptural view.

When we go to the subject of wine we find the Scripture are very clear. The misuses of wine (i.e. drunkedness) is strongly and constantly condemned in both the Old and New Covenant Scriptures. But in numerous places in the Bible God clearly blesses (even commands) the use of wine and strong drink. Wine (and other alcoholic beverages) is a good gift to us from God. When used rightly, as are all God’s good gifts, wine is clearly proclaimed to be a blessing from the Lord.

Love, sex, food, wealth, health etc… are all very good gifts from God that sinful man distorts and through sin pervert and the distortion of these good gifts are all very ugly things. But this does not mean that these gifts are not good after all. The gifts from God remain very good gifts and true blessings to God’s people.

Wine is the same. It is a good gift when used lawfully. God has made this obviously clear throughout the Scriptures. When used unlawfully, wine, like the abuse of the gifts mentioned above, can be very destructive. Still that is the fault of the sinner and is not to be blamed on God’s gift, because to do so is to impugn God.

Wine is a good gift from God and to deny this is to claim greater wisdom than God who gave and blessed the gift.

Coram Deo,

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