Which Wife?


A friend of ours who is working in West Africa wrote something that has provoked me to a great deal of thought.

A worker here, probably in his 50’s, had been a muslim all his life until he heard the gospel by one of the missionaries, was saved and is now active in his faith. The kicker is, as a muslim, he had two wives by which he has a total of 11 children. He loves them both and continues to live with them both today. What would you tell him to do? Which one should he leave….or both?????? hmmmmm

This really got my attention.  If the man would choose one wife over the other, what a shame that would be to the unwanted wife.  In that society, it could ruin her life.  It seems not only unloving, but a very poor witness, for a Christian to abandon the wife and chidren he has promised to care for.  Even if the women aren’t thrilled with having to share their husband, they are accustomed to it, and they would surely be much less enthused about being put out to live alone.  In our culture, it has been the norm to have only one wife for so long that we hardly consider it, but there polygamy is accepted, legal, and normal. 

So what does the Bible say about it?  Well, very little, actually.  There are places in the NT where the husband-wife relationship is discussed, and it seems that one husband/one wife is encouraged as the ideal, but there are actually hints that it may not be the only possibility.  Just the fact that it is even mentioned that elders and deacons should be the husband of only one wife (1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6, 1 Tim 3:12) is suggestive that perhaps some Christians didn’t fit that description!

I had never really thought of this until now–it’s a whole new idea to me–but perhaps people who came be Christians while in polygamy were expected to continue faithful to the wives they had.  Reading  1_Corinthians_7 with that in mind, it could certainly sound that way.

It also made me think that it’s not so very different from our own society, in a way.  How is this really any different from the practice of divorce and remarriage, which is widely practiced in among American Christians?  Both situations leave a person with two living spouses in God’s eyes.  Scripture clearly says, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Matt 19:6.  Obviously, Jesus taught against divorce, but many people believe that if the divorce and remarriage happened before one became a Christian, you are supposed to continue in the marriage you are currently in.  Whether or not you agree with that viewpoint, it seems to me that the situation of the Muslim man above is practically identical.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?  It’s been an interesting study for me.



About dayuntoday

I'm a wonderer. I spend a lot of time mulling, pondering, and cogitating. This is just a place to park some of those thoughts.
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33 Responses to Which Wife?

  1. Anonymous says:

    From the very beginning God intended one man, one woman for life.  It is man that has perverted that arrangement.You ask is there any difference in a man that divorces and remarries or a man who has two wives at once?   I suppose there is not.  Both are committing adultery.  The muslim man would have to stay with his wife that he married first.  The second one is an adulterous relationship.  Period.

  2. SpazzyMommy says:

    I have never thought of this from this perspective. Very interesting. I’m going to copy this post and send it to my dad who has dealt with some pretty strange situations before (LOL) and ask him what he thinks. I’m very curious. The second wife hasn’t done anything wrong-and to be cast away (as you said) would ruin her life and no doubt that of her children…it’s not like he’s married her in rebellion to scripture…it was BEFORE he was a Christian, right? Very tough situation indeed.

  3. homefire says:

    @SpazzyMommy – I’ll be interested to hear what your dad says!@Hecalmsthestorm – Can you find scripture that relates exactly to this situation?  We have the directive not to divorce–are you saying he should?  I think it gets a bit confusing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The institution of marriage is recorded in Genesis: “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). God created man and then made woman. God took one of Adam’s “ribs” (Genesis 2:21-22). The Hebrew word for “rib” literally means the side of a person.Therefore, Eve was taken from Adam’s side and it is at his side that she belongs. “So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (Genesis 2:20). The word “helper” is from the Hebrew ezer and means to surround, to protect or aid, help, succor. Therefore, it means to help, assist or aid. Eve was created to be alongside Adam as his “other half,” to be his aid and his help. A man and woman when married become “one flesh.” The New Testament adds a warning regarding this oneness. “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6).There are several epistles written by the Apostle Paul that refer to marriage and how born again believers are to operate within their marriage relationships. We find one such passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 and another in Ephesians 5:22-33. When studied together these two passages provide the believer with biblical principles that form a framework for a God-pleasing marriage relationship.The passage found in Ephesians is especially profound in its scope in reference to a successful Biblical marriage. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:22-23). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29). “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).When a husband and wife who are born again believers institute God’s principles, a biblical marriage results. This is not a lopsided relationship, but one that is in balance with Christ as the head of the man and the wife together. Therefore, the biblical concept of marriage is a oneness between two individuals that pictures the oneness of Christ with His church.I am saying the second marriage was a sin.  To correct that sin is to separate himself from the second wife. 

  5. @Hecalmsthestorm – I am saying the second marriage was a sin.  To correct that sin is to separate himself from the second wife.”Do you believe the same course of action should be taken by someone who was divorced and remarried before they became a believer?

  6. @Hecalmsthestorm – question….what about all the old testament people who had more then one wife?

  7. BooksForMe says:

    This is a FASCINATING and AWESOME example of the sovereignty of God!  Of course he should keep both wives and care and provide for them.   What a HORRIBLE testimony to turn her and her children out.  That would not be God’s will.  Where is the justice of God in that?I think it’s really cool how God challenges us and our “wisdom.”  He rocks!  We so do not get His mercy.  His ways are so much higher than our own.  Our little brains just don’t have a clue.  

  8. Like_A_Tigah says:

    Wow, that’s a very interesting subject. I really have no idea what I would suggest to the man.

  9. Anonymous says:

    @Kristenmomof3 – There are LOTS of OT people living in sin.  Even David, a man after God’s own heart, was messed up in some pretty serious stuff.

  10. @Hecalmsthestorm – but they normally repented of their sins. You see that over and over and you never see them repent of having more then one wife. (Just a note….I am not saying more then one wife is right…just asking questions…sometimes I like talking for the opposite side to cause thinking lol that what this is right now….I don’t do it often but every now  and then)

  11. homefire says:

    @BooksForMe – I know what you mean.  Just when we think we’ve got things all figured out, God throws us a new twist so that we have to go back and lean on HIM.   

  12. Anonymous says:

    @Kristenmomof3 – There are lots of things we do not see repentence for in the scriptures.  Does that mean they are acceptable?  No it doesn’t.  It just means that God chose the context of the scriptures for the fulfillment of His glory.  Why we don’t see repentence for that I do not know.  But since it is clear that God meant for marriage to be one man and one woman we have to infer from those scriptures that living in marriage any other way is not acceptable.

  13. Anonymous says:

    @Kristenmomof3 – Besides, what man in his right mind would want more than one wife!!!!   One is a big enough hassle!!!  ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. BooksForMe says:

    @Hecalmsthestorm – @Kristenmomof3 – We are ALL living in sin every single day.  If anyone thinks they are living a sinless life, they are deceived—and deceivers.  When we are born-again, we cannot “fix” our past sin.   if we could, we would not need the blood of Jesus, would we?  When we come to Christ, we have to live with the consequences of our sinful past.  That’s the way it works. 

  15. homefire says:

    @Kristenmomof3 – Good point.  I’ve wondered about that many times.  The only explanation I’ve heard was that God allowed it for a time in order to populate the earth faster.  BUT I can’t find a lick of scripture to support that.   

  16. Anonymous says:

    @BooksForMe – I am VERY well aware of that.  I did not mean to imply that we do not live in sin.  My point is that we should try and not live in any intentional sin such as being with two wives at once.  It is hard enough trying to live for God and not sin but we can make the consciense decision not to live in some sins.  Does that make sense?? Probably not!

  17. BooksForMe says:

    Besides, what man in his right mind would want more than one wife!!!!   One is a big enough hassle!!!  ๐Ÿ™‚That’s a disgraceful, ungodly thing to say.  Sticking a smilie face at the end doesn’t make it OK. 

  18. BooksForMe says:

    @Hecalmsthestorm – His second wife is a consequence of his old life.  To reject her and her children would be a sin—a very conscious sin.

  19. homefire says:

    @BooksForMe – I have wondered how different it is from a child born before marriage?  Yes, the child was conceived in sin, but after the woman comes to Christ, she doesn’t abandon the child.  I realize there is a difference, but both are responsibilities that result from sins in the past.  Not a perfect parallel, by any means, but still something to consider.

  20. BooksForMe says:

    @homefire – Exactly.  This kind of stuff rubs us the wrong way, but we have to leave room for God to do His work in a life.  Isn’t He able to resolve this issue in a way that honors and glorifies Him?  Is God really so small that He cannot work this out?  Perhaps, the answer is for that man to abstain from marital intimacy until then.  I don’t know!  And, I don’t think anyone knows.  I do know, though, that God is able.I just finished reading The Savage My Kinsman by Elisabeth Elliot. It was eye-opening.  I have never read a missionary story so honest. And, I’ve read many!  (If you buy it, order it from them at her website.)  We are fools to think we have all the answers.  God gave us His Word, which is all we need to know. Not, all there is to know. 

  21. nidan says:

    Actually the Greek commonly translated (And done so because those are the exact words used) “only one wife” are an ancient greek idiom meaning Bishops are not to be known cheaters.In actuality it was more encouraged by the first church leaders that new member try to remain single. Paul did, and most believe Yeshua did as well. However I know of no place where it’s forbidden to have more than one wife. (Though I admit I could be missing something.) The one wife rule was handed down to us by the romans. Most civilizations since them, have just followed their laws on the subject.If any of your readers gives you a verse on the subject, let me know and I’ll look up the oldest Greek I have at my disposal. Maybe that would give a clue in.But Based on what little I know on the subject as is, I would give him the same advice Paul gave “Stay as you are.” ( I Cor 7 ) At the very least until I could research further. After all when it came to a choice between following the harshest letter of the law or compassion, Yeshua always chose compassion.

  22. nidan says:

    PS: An idiom is a phrase native to a language that has a meaning completely separate for the definitions of the words that make up that phrase. For example: “What’s up?” taken literally would mean “what is above you”. However most americans know it to be a greeting similar to “How are you?”.

  23. homefire says:

    @nidan – Ah, thank you for that tidbit!

  24. @Hecalmsthestorm – I’m still curious to know the answer to my question above.  I’ll repeat it… I am saying the second marriage was a sin.  To correct that sin is to separate himself from the second wife.”Do you believe the same course of action should be taken by someone who was divorced and remarried before they became a believer?

  25. The reason that I ask that is because I have actually heard of a couple of churches that tell converts that are in a condition of being divorced and re-married that in order to “repent” and become members of their church they need to SPLIT UP their current marriage!  I was so appalled when I heard that!

  26. josaju says:

    @Kristenmomof3 – I always wondered about that.  When did monogamy really become the norm?  It certainly wasn’t in the old Testament.

  27. This has been a very intriguing read. All the different opinions and tidbits were very thought provoking. I tend to agree with the ones who think God would be compassionate with them all staying together under one roof. David (a man after God’s own heart) had many wives and kept them all. The idea of sharing my Beloved with another women is apalling but, if this is their culture, who are we to judge?

  28. BooksForMe says:

    @davidpendleton – I have heard that, too.  Insanity.

  29. AngelAware says:

    The sad thing is the very first comment is true..harsh but true. Its sad because the musslim women did not have the same beliefes as the man does now because hes the one who found GOD, so she did not in her mind commit adultry. But now as he does believe He is . Its hard. I wonder what will happen….alot of new christians take awhile to see the sin in there lives expecially when they have been habbits for so long. God has to work on there hearts in HIS own time.

  30. the_grat says:

    why does he need to correct the ‘sin’ ?   is it ‘unforgiveable’ bydivine standards, and god is short, and it must require man to do harmagainst his 2nd wife and children now, by putting them out, in order toatone and appease the gods  ?even if his initial position were not ‘best case scenario’ – what role does divine forgiveness play ?i found hecalmsthestorm’s comment to be very frustrating.  because there is no ‘period.’  there remains the questionmark, which our narrow minds may never be able to answer, in this life.so some of you canquote a couple scriptures – but you overlooked quite a few, as well. instead of playing the know-it-all on divine orders, answer thesequestions.- was jacob in sin for marrying leah and rachael both ?- was david in sin, for his multiple wives (disregard bathsheba, who was acquired with murder) ?  even WITH bathsheba, he was accused of sin by the prophet nathan, and repented.  and was forgiven.  and he did not ‘put her away’ in order to ‘correct the sin’.  and we know they also had solomon, later, so yes, they were involved.- and don’t answer that it was somehow ok then, but notnow.  what difference does how many revolutions the earth has made sincethen make ?  is god so inconsistent, that after the world the world goesarounda few times, it all changes ? – furthermore, paul specifically says that the ELDERS must be married toonly one wife.  is it not plausible, then, that the man is not’unsuitable’ for the christian life at this point, but would be, in hisstate, unsuitable for certain positions of leadership ?- jesus words on divorce should not even apply here.  this was notdivorce (banishment of a wife).  this was inclusion.  if god joined jacob and rachael, is it not possible, that this man and his second wife are also recognized.  if that were indeed the case, to divorce hernow, he’d better be prepared for the possibility that putting her away (assunder) … well, THAT could be thegrevious sin.   ?these are just my questions.  i’d value any thought put into the answers.

  31. dovenurse says:

    Very thought provoking! I really don’t know what to say. Although when I get married I really want to be the ONLY wife.

  32. homefire says:

    @AngelAware – Thanks for your comment. So true–GOD must do the work!   And I’m so glad Miley is better!  @the_grat – Thanks so much for a well-thought answer.  I appreciated your point about David.  And I guess my first reaction and my (admittedly slightly flippant) reply to our friend was that I guess he couldn’t be an elder or a deacon!  Really, that’s about the only reference to it in the NT, and I can’t find any definite point where the custom changed from multiple to single wives.  And dh says that probably plural wives was what God intended, since he says in Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives…”    Just kidding, of course!  I agree with @dovenurse – Don’t think I’m much interested in sharing!

  33. homefire says:

    And another comment from a friend who e-mailed me:  The muslim who’s now a Christian….could he not continue to care for the 2nd wife and her children without living as husband & wife.  If you get my drift…..;)That’s a decent option in our society.  I wonder if it would be in theirs, or if that would be a great shame to the wife socially?  It would certainly be difficult, either way.

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