Levirate marriage and God's unchanging moral standard

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Pergamum, Apr 17, 2019.

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  1. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

    "fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife". Why are you so certain that he married her, that the father had also married her, that the father was dead, and that she was not his mother? There are quite a few ways in which the actions described in 1 Cor. 5:1 could be understood as immoral within my framework that do not require marriage to be marriage after death.
     
  2. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    The WCF was not unique in setting forth who we are permitted to marry according to the teaching of the Bible. For instance, on the last page, in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, immediately after the Articles of Religion, is found a Table of Kindred and Affinity, which corresponds to what is found in the Westminster. Allow me observe that the Church of Rome had different rules of kindred and affinity which prohibited, for instance, first cousin marriages.
    www.justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1662/Baskerville.pdf
     
  3. SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929

    SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929 Puritan Board Freshman

    ---Does this argument check out? If sombody gave you this argument stating that polygamy was not sin, how would you respond?[/QUOTE]
    Dear Pergummum,

    Am I missing something?

    You keep saying, "God commanded".

    When God commands it is a sin to disobey.

    So if you are not a polygamist are you disobeying God?

    Silly question right?

    Well, if someone decides to be a polygamist because they want to be without God commanding them, then are they doing what God commands?

    But where does God command polygamy or ethnic cleansing other than the RARE occasions in rare circumstances in scripture? or in situations that were clearly for the Jews and for those times?

    Therefore, polygamy is a sin now and has been for a very long time!

    No polygamist today can claim that God commanded them to be a Polygamist.

    Am I missing something in this discussion?
     
  4. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    It has been more then 40 years since I have read him. But if I remember correctly what he said, Walter Trobisch had some insights that may be helpful. The conservative German Lutheran missionary, Walter Trobisch, labored in areas of west Africa where polygamy was an accepted indigenous practice. He thought that Levirate marriages should be discouraged, and talking second [multiple] wives should be prohibited to confessing members of the Church. He did not believe that those already in such a relationship, who had come to profess Christ, should be denied baptism
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
  5. SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929

    SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929 Puritan Board Freshman

    Some modern missionaries have been faced with this when a man comes to Christ in an polygamous marriage.

    For him to be baptized and accepted the polygamous marriage must be dissolved.

    Though all of the wives and children are certainly cared for with the help of the sending Church, or local church if already planted, and great prayerful hopes for the conversion of all of them.
     
  6. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    I understand this has historically been the practice of the church. Can you point to a clear teaching of the Bible on this point? When St. Paul wrote that a Bishop, Presbyter, & Deacon must be the husband of one wife, was St. Paul saying that there were men who would not be qualified to hold such an office because they were, or had been the husband of more than one wife?
     
  7. SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929

    SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929 Puritan Board Freshman

    ??? it certainly sounds like there were some men with multiple wives, and Contra-Mundum (Rev Buchanan) in a post earlier in this thread said they were not allowed to divorce them (I was shocked when I read that earlier and plan to research it because I never heard that before, have you?)
     
  8. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Yes.

    It is a pretty fair inference from 1 Tim 3:2 combined with Jesus' teaching on divorce, while considering the circumstances of the early Gospel era.
     
  9. SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929

    SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929 Puritan Board Freshman

    Are you saying that those who had multiple wives were required by Jesus to remain polygamous after becoming Christians? If so, would they have been required to continue having sex with all of their wives too?

    I think the early church leaders would have considered the only proper thing for them to have done after converting would have been to become celibate, live separately, but care for & provide well for the wives and children praying fervently that all would be converted.
     
  10. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Jesus requires: "let your yea be yea." In other words, stick to your promises and vows. Sin complicates things, but you cannot undo sin to get to some state of "purity." (Note, I am not going down the path of Ezra commanding divorce from non-Israelites--that was a unique circumstance, and God allows but does not command divorce from nonbelievers initiating divorce.)

    Early church leaders had a lot of things not well thought through.
     
  11. SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929

    SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank your for your time. Lord's blessings to you.
     
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    You wrote:

    "Dear Pergummum,

    Am I missing something?

    You keep saying, "God commanded".

    When God commands it is a sin to disobey.

    So if you are not a polygamist are you disobeying God?

    Silly question right?

    Well, if someone decides to be a polygamist because they want to be without God commanding them, then are they doing what God commands?

    But where does God command polygamy or ethnic cleansing other than the RARE occasions in rare circumstances in scripture? or in situations that were clearly for the Jews and for those times?

    Therefore, polygamy is a sin now and has been for a very long time!

    No polygamist today can claim that God commanded them to be a Polygamist."


    ---

    I respond:

    Yes, somebody (2 people actually) have given me this exact argument. One guy was a crackpot, but the other was a pretty reasonable guy.

    And yes, God COMMANDED the Levirate marriage, and therefore, God commanded polygyny (multiple wives) in this specific case-law. So yes, if you do not take the dead brother's wife and ty to produce seed, then you are disobeying God. In that context.

    You wrote: "Well, if someone decides to be a polygamist because they want to be without God commanding them, then are they doing what God commands?"

    That is a good reply. Even if I were to say, ok, yes, God commanded it in the case of the Levirate, I can always then respond, "But he hasn't commanded you." Just like in the case of ethnic cleansing. It might have been okay in the case of an explicit command, and even sin NOT to do it in that case, but we do not expect that command ever to be repeated and, therefore, all cases of ethnic cleansing (and polygyny) now can be seen as sin.

    Thanks, that seems to be the best way to respond.
     
  13. SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929

    SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929 Puritan Board Freshman

    Dear Pergummum,

    A Pastor once told me that God uses examples of polygamy through scripture to show all the heartbreaks and heartaches it causes.

    He of course knew the OT like the back of his hand and was able to go through countless examples of grief and strife in amazing ways.

    He made so much sense, and said the wise should be able to discern from scripture the blessings God imparts to TRUE ONE FLESH marriages between 1 man and 1 woman.

    Sadly, I can't do his teaching any justice. It was beautiful.

    Have you heard this before?
     
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes. Just as God gave us laws on slavery, the OT examples of slavery show us the misery this brings. We should not bring it back if we can eliminate it in the world (which we've mostly done, except in Libya right now).

    God mitigates the evil and regulates it for a time beefore he does away with it totally in history through the Gospel.

    So slavery and war and polygamy, and maybe even a form of the Levirate, all existed in ancient Israel and so God puts down laws to make it less evil. It was a condescension and a permission, not a positive command to start doing it, but regulations upon a practice already being done (until such a time the practice was to be elininated once and for all).

    Thanks for your interaction. You and Bruce have been helpful.
     
  15. SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929

    SelfSuspendedDeuteronomy2929 Puritan Board Freshman

    Wow! Well spoken examples, especially regarding slavery. I have not been gifted with a good memory for scripture, or the ability to see it like a "fly over" as so many I know are able to. I have to really struggle constantly looking things up. Ugh. But I see you are blessed with those gifts and put them to good use. Lord's blessings to you.
     
  16. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    So maybe it would be equivalent to not making the sin (polygamy) worse by sinning more (divorce)? It almost reminds me of the command to avoid being unequally yoked, but if already married to an unbeliever you shouldn't seek divorce [edited: I see you you made that connection on your parenthetical]
     
  17. Hamalas

    Hamalas whippersnapper

    It's good to remember that some of our brothers have retained this teaching, but it's also worth noting that those two denominations combined only have 15 churches.

    I think the basic point still stands: virtually all American Presbyterian denominations have rejected that line.
     
  18. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

  19. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Listening to SD convinced me (exegetically) that Lev.18:18 was a prohibition of polygamy. That it did not come with a particular penalty probably made it simpler for those who study excuses, or simply conform to the world, to give themselves a pass. Those who so married were married even to multiple wives; but God demanded that they follow other regulation, such as supply of proper maintenance and the unlawfulness of arbitrarily denying the proper firstborn of his right, on account that his father hated his mother (Dt.21:17).

    I have still reservations on the matter of v16, combined with the "exception" of Levirate marriage. As one commentator says, "The prohibition here could not be based upon the ground of incest, since that which is inherently incestuous the Divine law itself would under no circumstances have set aside." That seems utterly obvious to me, and so entangles us in the question of under what circumstances "affinities" (in-law relations) persist beyond the deaths of key individuals; i.e. what is referred to as "indirect affinity" (as opposed to "direct affinity," which imposes natural, lasting moral duties via the marriage relation, and which overthrow violates those duties).

    Levirate situations, being a matter of indirect affinity, verge toward the interplay of civil polity and the moral question. In one case it was denied in ancient Israel, in another case it was ordained. We may compare it to the matter of first-cousin marriage: in certain polities (in the USA, variously by state) a limit may be observed; but it is not the same in every legal jurisdiction. Thus, another commentator observes, "It is not to be supposed that the more remote of the prohibited degrees were among the abominations for which the Canaanites were to be cut off." Those people had abandoned all restraint.

    In sum, 1. I am convinced (as I stated) on the prohibition of polygamy; its needful regulation being a matter of "hardness of heart." 2. I maintain my original position (stated in an earlier post) that levirate-marriage differed legally from ordinary marriage and from polygamy (as well as from concubinage, but in this thing men only invent cover for their multiplied marriage and status violations). 3. I am not presently persuaded that indirect affinity as it was regulated in Israel falls into the same category of moral responsibility covered by consanguinity and direct affinity.

    I further believe that the laws and customs of various civil polities are to be observed, when they do not violate the moral law (even if they extend the prohibitions beyond ancient Israelite limits). In this one particular, I am perfectly aligned with Calvin,
    He is commenting on Lev.18, and notes that ancient Israel did not prohibit such unions, but throughout Europe (under church law) for a long time they were. It was a widespread social more to regard them as "too close" (incestuous). So Christians should be careful about the terms wherein they might stand on any claim to this liberty.
     
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