Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cases of Polygyny Growing

Alice C. Linsley

Polygamy is against the law in the United States and rarely prosecuted, unless it involves sexual abuse of minors. The May 2008 intervention in the case of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints in Texas is about sex with minors, not polygamy. In fact, state officials in Utah, Arizona, and Texas are reluctant to prosecute polygamy cases. It means wading into religious waters and Constitutional challenges.

Polygamists find religious justification for polygamy in the Old Testament, although they clearly don't understand the tribal context that restricted the practice to rulers.

Afro-Asiatic chiefs maintained 2 wives in separate households on a north-south axis. These wives marked out the boundaries of the chief’s territory. Sometimes there were also concubines, but these women did not have the social status of the 2 wives. Abraham’s father, Terah, had 2 wives. By one wife he had Abraham and Nahor. By the other wife he had Sarah (Abraham’s first wife) and Haran. Abraham also had 2 wives: Sarah and Keturah. Isaac had 2 wives and so did Jacob. (For more on this read this.)

There is no evidence that all the men of Abraham’s culture had 2 wives. It appears to have been the case for the first born sons of rulers, those sons who would take over their fathers’ territories. So while there is no doubt that polygyny (multiple wives) was practiced by biblical figures, it was a custom of rulers, not the common man. It served to build up a man’s kingdom. And this is exactly what polygamist leaders in the US are attempting to do.

Read it all here.

Related Reading:  Polygamy More Common Than You Think

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