By Loren Seibold | 11 August 2023 |
Whenever I write something that is a little, um, adventurous, I get a scolding from some of the dear saints for not following the literal words of the Bible.
For example, when I’ve said we should fully accept LGBTQ people, these precious readers remind me—with not inconsiderable spleen—of the handful of texts that say that such people should be despised, isolated, pushed out of church, and according to at least one passage, put to death.
“That’s what the Bible says,” they tell me. “Follow the Bible.”
How about women? The Bible, these interpreters tell me, makes it clear that women had better know their place, which is to do nothing that makes us men feel threatened, but everything else that we want them to: obey your husband, have babies, keep the house, work like a horse—but (let us be especially clear on this point) never, ever aspire to gain a foothold in church leadership, because the church belongs to men.
“It’s right there in the Bible,” they say.
Finally, you’ve convinced me
You’ve won me over. From now on, I’m going to take the Bible literally.
So the first thing I’m going to do is marry an additional wife.
You really can’t argue with me on this. It’s in the Bible.
Abraham had more than one woman. So did his sons—Jacob had four! These spiritual giants didn’t necessarily stop with legal wives, either (whatever passed for legality in those days): they added slave girls as concubines.
(Think about this: those of God’s chosen people who weren’t descended from incestuous cousin marriages or incestuous half-sister marriages were descended from mistresses!)
The Bible describes multiple wives as a gift from God:
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 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.’
Well, there ya go. Very clear. Not just Saul’s wives, but however many women Saul had in his bed, God would bless David with double the number.
That seems like way too many women—but who am I to question a prophet? And then Solomon, supposedly the wisest man who ever lived, surpassed his old man by a factor of 100!
I think it’s safe to say that if these great biblical role models (they’re important enough to be in the genealogy of Jesus, remember) had more than one wife, then I should, too.
This is totally biblical
If you tell me there are passages discouraging polygamy, my first response will be to say, “Who are you to argue with Abraham?”
Abraham is regarded as the father of three world religions, which is more than you can claim.
But if you insist, let’s look a bit more closely at some of those polygamy texts. Here is instruction to Israel’s kings.
Deuteronomy 17:16-17: He must not acquire many horses for himself … And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
I’m not a king, so I’m in no more danger of acquiring an excessive number of wives than I am of having too many horses or too much gold.
Horses are expensive. I can afford more wives than I can horses.
Then there’s this:
1 Kings 11:3: [Solomon] had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.
I don’t want 700 princesses and 300 concubines. Can you imagine the wardrobe? The crowns? The glitter? The sheer air-borne estrogen? It sounds noisy and crowded and demanding. Neither my house nor my income nor my aging body could handle it.
No, one additional wife will be enough. And because I don’t want my heart turned astray from my faith, I will settle for nothing less than an exemplary Adventist woman. She’ll have to provide a reference from her pastor.
In fact, this extra wife might keep me out of trouble:
1 Corinthians 7:2: Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
If we read this in the context of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon, it undoubtedly means not just one wife but at least one wife. With this logic, more than one wife means more protection against temptation!
In your heart, you know I’m right.
Undoubtedly someone will bring up this passage:
1 Timothy 3:2: A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach…
A few years ago this would have prevented me from going through with my plan. Not anymore! I’m retired. I’ve never been a bishop, and I’m not even an elder or a pastor anymore. I’m just an ordinary guy now. I can have all the wives I want.
But I say again, my expectations are modest. All I want is two: the one I’ve got and a spare. God doubled Saul’s wives for David, and after a lifetime of pastoral service, I think it only fair that he should double mine, too.
I suspect some of you won’t stop arguing with me, though. (That’s how you Adventists are: you can never leave well enough alone.)
First, you might say “But that’s the Old Testament. Lots of things in the Old Testament don’t apply now.”
Well, okay—but that’s true of a whole passel of rules many Adventists regard as present truth, such as not eating bacon (never mind Jesus in Mark 7 or Paul in Romans 14), as well as most of the passages about LGBTQ people.
I don’t know anyone who actually follows every word of the Old Testament anyway. You would have to have built parapets on the roof of your house, even if no one walks around up there.
Second, someone will likely argue, “But morally we know it’s not right, even if the patriarchs did it.”
Hey, if it’s actual morality you’re concerned about, you’ll have to adopt a different biblical scheme, one where we start with the highest ethical principles such as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and see where they take us.
Which means you might have to do things a bit differently than those folks in the Bible did—for example, you’ll have to free all your slaves.
(Wait—you don’t have slaves? You should. Having slaves is extremely biblical.)
Honestly, I don’t think this is a line of argument you want to pursue, though, because it will undermine our case against gay organists and uppity women.
And finally, “But that was their culture. It’s not our culture.”
Oh dear. Now you are sinking knee-deep into something you may not be able to pull your wellies out of. If you are to take the Bible as it is, word for word, you cannot use the excuse of culture. Because, as you might have noticed, it is currently our culture for women to get educated and achieve without men dominating them. It is our culture for gay, lesbian, and trans people to have fulfilled lives with the partners of their choice.
And, might I remind you, it isn’t the Bible culture to be reading on an iPhone, as you might be doing right now.
Come on, people! You’ve fully won me over. So I’m joining you in doing what Adventists have long done: using texts of my choosing, without any backward glance at context or larger principles, to prescribe how we should live.
In short, “right” is whatever my chosen text says it is! And the Bible says I can take a second wife.
That’s my hermeneutic, and I’m sticking to it.
But what will my original wife say?
I confess, I have been a little concerned about this part of the plan. Because when I told Carmen about it, she just laughed—rather disrespectfully, it seemed to me. It made me think she isn’t terribly worried about my chances of finding a second wife.
That’s unkind of her, don’t you think? She’s not taking my God-given superiority seriously. The Bible would probably let me divorce her just for that.
(Though I probably won’t. She’s been around for, well, decades. I couldn’t even find the coffee filters without her.)
She did mention one thing, though. She said that the biblical model, as she understands it, is that the first wife gets to be the undisputed boss of the second wife. She already has a list (just in case I do land that second wife, though she’s not counting on it) that starts with you, my potential new wife, washing windows. They really need it, and neither of us like working up on ladders.
Anyway, apply here for the position of Loren’s second wife. Say something about your cleaning skills, your health, your willingness to obey a couple of quite delightful people, and include a sample of your cooking.
As I said, I’m doing this because I’m just a really biblical guy.
Loren Seibold is the Executive Editor of Adventist Today. He’s been married to Carmen for a long, long time.