"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rosenblatt on the Bible's Presentation of Polygamy

See introductory post on this book, After the Apple by Naomi Harris Rosenblatt.

The author notes polygamy and the fact that this is a polygamous society a number of times throughout the book. 

From chapter 1 when God creates one woman for Adam's partner, she writes, "Another point the Bible suggests is that monogamy is more rewarding than polygamy. God creates one, not multiple, companions for Adam. Anthropologists tell us that men are generally polygamously inclined in consequence of a genetic drive to procreate whenever the opportunity arises. Yet it seems to me that by creating just one woman for the sole man the story is telling us that monogamy is the preferred state and that men need to curb, tame, and control their instinctive sexual drive.  Monogamous marriage has been referred to by the psychologist Ned Gaylin as 'the institution for civilizing' sexuality.  The Bible suggests that human beings are most nurtured by deep and lasting emotional relationships and the more we put into a relationship the more we get out of it.  Multiple or serial relationships dilute the intensity that a monogamous relationship can develop because it concentrates the emotional, sexual, and intellectual aspects of human beings into a single focus. Each time we read of a biblical polygamous family, we read of suffering and pain."  (pg. 6)

In the chapter of Jacob with his wives Leah and Rachel -- "In this story the Bible demonstrates a preference for monogamy by detailing the miseries of polygamy. Polygamy is shown to encourage rivalry among multiple wives to gain the single husband's sexual and emotional attention, to have the most children, to receive the most kudos, and to gain the most favor for their children...Modern men may fantasize about a plethora of available women, but the Bible depicts polygamous men as forced to deal with the politics and rivalry among their wives and their children, a rivalry that often extends into the next generations. It offers the sobering suggestion that the husbands (such as Jacob with Rachel, Abraham with Sarah, and Elkanah with Hannah) endured unhappy domestic lives because they had to deal with the misery and suffering of many women..."  (pg. 91)

Through the laws of their days, Leah and Rachel each owned a servant given to them by their father. And as permitted in their times, they could give their servants to their husband in order to have children through the servants. Thus Jacob not only dealt with the politics of sleeping with his own wives, but was told by those wives to sleep with their servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, in order to have more children for Jacob.  (Rachel was barren at this time so Bilhah was the only way she could have children.)  (pg. 97)

You'll also recall Sarah came up with the plan to have children through her servant Hagar since she was barren and she decided to take matters into her own hands and have children through Hagar. Of course that all backfired and got rather ugly.


Amber said...

I don't think it's as simple as saying that monogamy is best for everyone or that polygamy is bad for everyone. Depending on the people involved, each situation has pros and cons. It's unfair to say that people who are in a 'multiple' relationship (assuming all parties are on board with the concept and aware of what is going on) are unable to bond at as deep a level as those who are in single relationships is unfair. There are plenty of polygamous families who are happy and loving. How can we say that their love is any less than that of a single-spouse relationships love?

Susanne said...

True. But apparently this lady thought the Bible's presentation of it was not very favorable.

But you have a valid point. and some may enjoy it and actually prefer it.

Amber said...

Well, sure. I'd like to point out that I was typing that response at 2 in the morning! Sleep deprivation!

Anyway. Part of what I was trying to put together in a coherent thought but abandoned was that, if we assume the 'rule' that women desire monogamy and that it makes them happier, etc. etc., then the parts of the Bible that are anti-polygamy (no matter how subtly) are feminist in nature.

Susanne said...

I like that you write sometimes when you are sleep-deprived. :) Really, I always enjoy your thoughts. Thank you!

Suroor said...

I think polygamy is fair. What I mind is polygyny being allowed and polyandry being banned. Some women are capable of loving more than one man but as women we are taught that it is unnatural. So if men and women have same (not similar but same) rights then I'm fine :)

observant observer said...

I always think that when some people seen to be happy at least in the outside being in a multiple relationship, there must be something hidden and lied about. There must be some sacrifices that should be dealt with but perhaps being in a culture that those things are permissible, they should be acting on accepting the consequences as normal and tolerable.
Well, this is what I presume. Perhaps we should make a research on this. In Indonesia, even though majority is Muslims, only a very small percentage thinks that polygamy is accepted norm.
I remember reading in a news somewhere about the "obedient wives club" that is also established here (and in some other countries, I suppose this is a movement made by some Islamic organization intending to foster Islamic teaching), that being unhappy and suffering is a state of submitting the will of Allah and part of the devotion and must be rewarding hereafter. Well....you know what I think I suppose. Hahahaaa...

Susanne said...

OO, perhaps some people are happy with it since they have grown up with it being normal and they don't know any different.

Yeah, I remember hearing about that club! Wow!

Thanks for your feedback!