Moses As A Polygamist

Discussion in 'Biblical Issues Other Than Marriage & Family' started by Maegirl, Oct 10, 2017 at 12:09 PM.

  1. FollowingHim

    FollowingHim Administrator Staff Member Male

    I'm going to differ with @IshChayil regarding the likely scenario here - but ultimately, either way, Moses was clearly a polygamist regardless, all lines of reasoning end up with that conclusion!

    There is clearly a large gap in Moses' life (between adoption by the princess and banishment at 40 years of age) that is not directly addressed in scripture. Acts 7:22 shows that something interesting happened there, for him to be "mighty in his deeds". You can't live your entire young adult life as a prince and not end up doing something interesting - and God would have been using every part of his life to train him in various skills he would need to later lead the Israelites. In that context, Josephus' account is entirely plausible. It's exactly the sort of thing that you can imagine God doing with him, as perfect training for later leadership of Israel both through the desert and in war. It would also help to explain the respect everyone had for him - a random guy can't just turn up and tell a nation "listen to me", can't get an audience with Pharoah, can't try and tell the ruler what to do without instantly being beheaded for insolence. Sure, it could have all been just because he was adopted by the princess, but respect for past deeds does make this make a bit more sense.

    I try to minimise speculation. If a well-regarded historian has recorded a plausible series of events, that does not contradict scripture, and I have no other very solid evidence countering it, then I'll accept that is probably correct. I know full well that Josephus may well have had incomplete information, he may have filled in some gaps with his own imagination, he may have embellished it here and there. It's most likely partially factual and partially speculative - but I have no idea which bits are which. If I throw out the entire account and make up my own hypothesis, I know I'm probably throwing away facts. And I can't pick and choose and guess which bits are the facts, I'll probably still throw out facts. Josephus, having studied this in detail and having access to far more records than I do, was far more qualified to speculate and fill in the gaps. And he's already done that for me. So I just accept that his account, even if flawed, is more accurate than anything I'm likely to come up with, and run with it as the most likely scenario.

    Also, regarding polygamy, I highly doubt that Israel would have given it up under Egyptian rule. We're talking about a nation that came from a man with four wives, whose entire identity is built around the fact that he had 12 sons who became the tribes. This is all very recent family history at the time. Anyone wanting to emulate their forefathers would be thinking of polygamy as one of the key aspects of Jacob's life. They would have been influenced by Egyptian culture, and the rate of polygamy may have reduced, it may even have been hidden as many native African Christians do today (they are polygamous as per their culture but don't tell the church so they don't get kicked out). But what does scripture actually indicate?
    The Israelites were breeding like rabbits, within a few generations of immigrating they were starting to outnumber the Egyptians. So they were persecuted by killing off males. We all know the result, in Exodus 7:20: "...the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty." Just as before. Killing the males doesn't appear to have greatly changed the population growth rate.

    It sounds like they were using marriage arrangements that meant that regardless of how many men were killed off, every potential childbearing woman could still be utilised to her full breeding capacity.

    Finally, regarding Miriam's objection specifically, the wife being objected to is specifically identified as an Ethiopian, and this is considered such an important point it is stated twice. If Miriam was upset about polygamy, would this not more likely say "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the second woman whom he had married; for he had married a second woman." Why repeat a fact that is irrelevant, and not mention what Miriam was actually upset about? And why would she get so upset about Moses, as leader of the nation, simply emulating Jacob, the forefather of the entire nation? Could anybody in that time logically object to the leader of a nation being a polygamist, when the kings of most nations had harems? It's one possibility, but far from the most likely, there are so many reasons to question it.

    I think she was most likely upset about Moses' wife's race, simply because that is what scripture actually talks about. The simplest answer is most likely to be correct. Anything else is more speculative.

    All this is splitting hairs. It's still clear Moses was a polygamist! But if I decide to spend hours pondering every unimportant detail of the matter, this is where I end up... :)
  2. IshChayil

    IshChayil Well-Known Member Male

    Often I save the "Moses scenario" until the point when someone says "well G-d tolerated polygamy back then".
    Once they start throwing around the word "tolerated" is a nice time to bring up Moses.
    His face glowed from the presence of G-d and Moses' closeness to G-d ... yet we are to believe G-d tolerated such and such with Moses.
    I've found it very useful in those kind of scenarios to subdue that tolerated goofiness.
  3. IshChayil

    IshChayil Well-Known Member Male

    Sorry if I'm gonna go line-by-line here. You wrote lots of interesting things and this helps me and others following to see what the discussion is about.
    Main thing is we totaly agree Moses was a polygamist and this is just about secondary issue about where his other wife/wives came from.
    Those of you who don't like long posts ... move right along please :p

    First I agree with you that the Josephus story is plausible ; it just smacks a bit fantastic to me for such a humble guy to have been a commander of myriads and I've been warned by scholars to be very careful trusting Josephus. Humble Generals are even harder to come by than humble shepherds. It seems to me like Josephus took a story from the book of Yasher and embellished it to make Moses more palatable to his Roman audience. Egypt was greatly admired by Rome (and Greece) and to have Moses serving Egypt rather than their enemies the Nubians would work out much better.

    Josephus is a cool resource at times; I just wish his Moses story was collaborated elsewhere (than the different account in Yasher I think Joe borrowed from).
    So let's look at Acts 7:22
    7:22 καὶ ἐπαιδεύθη Μωϋσῆς ⸂[ἐν] πάσῃ σοφίᾳ⸃ Αἰγυπτίων, ἦν δὲ δυνατὸς ἐν λόγοις καὶ ἔργοις αὐτοῦ.
    "And Moses was brought up by all the wisdom of the Egyptians; he became competent with his words and his deeds."

    Yes we can translate "mighty in work and deed" but I have chosen to provide another completely valid translation of these Greek words.
    I find the "competent" or "capable" of words part interesting here is that Moses does not represent himself to G-d in the burning bush as "mighty in words"; contrarily he presents himself as "slow of speech". This is what drives my choice to translate "dunatos" by it's first lexical entry "able, capable" rather than the alternative "powerful". See entry #1 (emphasis mine):
    δυνατός, ή, όν (Pind., Hdt.+; loanw. in rabb.).
    ① pert. to being capable or competent
    ⓐ in general sense, able, capable, powerful of beings and their attributes, esp. political power or influence.

    Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 264). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    Nothing wrong with the translation you listed I'm just sharing why I see the Greek differently there. I could be wrong.

    In Jewish tradition (may or may not be correct) Moses learned how to read and write Assyrian so I could see this as being on Luke's mind when he wrote "[Moses] was capable with words..." in Acts 7:22.

    Yeah I agree, but Moses wasn't a random guy. He was like an adopted cousin of the Pharaoh. SO with or without Joe's account that's taken care of. He also had some scary hocus pocus going on :)

    ***sorry for underlining I don't know what I did and kinda in hurry so will leave it****

    Yeah I agree it's totally plausible. It's really possible to look at from either of these perspectives; Joe is correct or he's not.
    It would be nice if with all the volume of Jewish midrashes there was something about this. Even the entire talmud is silent on the "Moses as general" part of his life.
    It would be good too if Josephus wasn't prone to try to make all things Jewish look good to his Roman hosts. Romans certainly valued military might and to take the humble, stuttering prophet and make him a military mighty man just rubs me wrong.
    I agree it's possible though.

    The talmud tells us that Israeli women were having 4+ babies at a time. Of course it's just tradition but I wanted to share with you that there is a Jewish answer to this.
    I think the 4+ babies actually would outpace polygamy especially if we are talking about such rapid growth.

    Could be. When I read that verse I just see the "Cushite" as a designator like "that one". It may be she was Moses' 5th wife and out of humility he did not want to record that.

    Yeah I fully agree. It's still interesting to me to have this discussion as I've thought about it before but some of your points I hadn't considered previously.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017 at 10:19 PM
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  4. Shibboleth

    Shibboleth Well-Known Member Male

    I obviously can't say whether Josephus' account is true or not, but I do tend to be skeptical. Yes, he had more sources than we do today, but he was writing about something more than 1400 years in his past. Looking back 1400 years from today, this is like a historian making claims of certainty about King Arthur; there's likely a historical kernel to the story, but it's hard to say what it is.

    Josephus isn't the only account of Moses in Cush. For comparison, here's the book of Jasher's account that Ish mentions:
    This story gives a different name than Josephus, and here she is given to him, while Numbers says he takes her. It also makes her another man's wife, making it adultery, only Moses doesn't actually sleep with her because she's a foreigner, so it's ok, and she's not really his wife. In addition, Jasher doesn't fit the Biblical timeline, since Moses stays reigning in Cush for 40 years, at which point, Adoniah decides their marriage really isn't working out, and blames her nobles for not ending it sooner.
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  5. FollowingHim

    FollowingHim Administrator Staff Member Male

    Yes, that seems less plausible for a number of reasons. If he had such an objection to taking a Cushite wife, he wouldn't have taken the wife mentioned in numbers. All the children of Ham were not cursed by Noah, only Canaan. And the timeline doesn't work as you say. On the whole, Jasher is a rather questionable resource in any case, and the book available today may be simply a recent forgery.

    So both accounts have issues, but I'm still more inclined to tend towards Josephus' version. Cautiously, I hear your concerns @IshChayil.
  6. ZecAustin

    ZecAustin Esteemed Member Male

    I would be surprised if Josephus' account was not an accurate reflection of what was mainstream Jewish thought at the time and was firmly rooted in responsible traditions. It just doesn't carry the authority that needs to be brought to bear right now.

    Just this week my father, who I have a good relationship with threatened to disown me and have no contact even with my children if I ever went down this road. You don't take Josephus into that situation. You take undisputed, infallible Word of God.
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  7. FollowingHim

    FollowingHim Administrator Staff Member Male

    I fully agree Zec, yet that isn't what anyone is proposing. We're just trying to better understand Moses for ourselves and for those intereated in digging deeper. This is not the best starting point to try and convince emotional family members, that's a completely separate question. Discussing Moses does not equal a recommendation to use him as a primary debating point in all situations.

    Sorry to hear about your father's attitude. People get so irrational over this issue. I expect if you "came out as gay" he'd be very upset also, but would want to be more involved with the kids rather than less, to teach them better than you would. Yet consider polygamy and people want to even punish your kids for it. It's inconsistent and irrational. The indoctrination runs deep.
  8. ZecAustin

    ZecAustin Esteemed Member Male

    Actually FH that was the original intent of the thread. It got a little off track and that's fine it's an interesting topic and I agree an excellent one to be familiar with but the original question was what proof there was to use this as an example to convince others.
  9. FollowingHim

    FollowingHim Administrator Staff Member Male

    Not by my reading, @Maegirl said simply that she had heard other people say Moses was polygamous and was wondering why they said so as she hadn't seen scripture saying that clearly. No mention of trying to convince anyone - read the OP. She can clarify, but that's how I understood the question, and what I have been responding to.
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  10. Maegirl

    Maegirl Member Female

    Yes FH that is correct, I was more interested in sources others were using that they felt were proof of Moses' polygamous state. I simply find it a fascinating new look at Scriptures that I had skimmed over carelessly before I came to see polygyny as an accepted form of marriage to God. I do agree with Zec that in general, it is a weaker argument for polygyny unless someone is already open to the idea. The mental block against it in the church and culture is so strong that even verses plainly promoting it, or praising the lives of those who lived it, have little effect on those I discuss it with. But I have gotten some excellent study information from y'all, and I thank you! :)
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  11. ZecAustin

    ZecAustin Esteemed Member Male

    I stand corrected.
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  12. Verifyveritas76

    Verifyveritas76 Moderator Staff Member Male

    Another interesting point is to use the two wives that Jehoiada (the high priest 2 Kings 11) takes for Joash in 2 Chronicles 24:2,3

    And Joash did that which was right in the sightof the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.
    And Jehoiada took for him two wives; and he begat sons and daughters
  13. Kevin

    Kevin Well-Known Member Male

    Thanks that's exactly what I've been looking for.

    I have a few guys who admit that polygamy is never condemned and therefore not a sin, but a couple still want to argue that is was never seen as right in the eyes of the Lord. I'm still gonna point this out to them. Two of them are pastors and will in private admit polygamy is not a sin, but are challenging me to show how it glorifies God. They're stance is that even if it isn't a sin if it doesn't Glorify God then it shouldn't be done.
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  14. FollowingHim

    FollowingHim Administrator Staff Member Male

    Joash is my go-to first example. And, to use the New Testament for those who ignore the "Old", the list of polygamous men that are held up as great examples of faith in Hebrews 11.
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  15. Shibboleth

    Shibboleth Well-Known Member Male

    I mentioned this elsewhere, but Abimelech (Gen 12) is another good example. God revels in a dream that an intentionally polygamous action was done in innocence. (edit to clarify: would have been done in innocence, if Sarah had not already been married.)

    But as far as PM glorifying God, ask how a single marriage does that, and find out why that wouldn't also apply to PM if it isn't a sin.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017 at 9:42 PM
  16. Verifyveritas76

    Verifyveritas76 Moderator Staff Member Male

    The challenge to show how it glorifies God is a misleading premise, kind of like asking someone to prove how going to work glorifies God, though I would counter with pure religion and undefiled is to take care of the fatherless and husbandless.

    The importance of Joash and Jehoiada cannot be overstated. Joash is the catalyst for the greatest revival in the history of Israel and as best I can tell, it seems that Jehoiada is the high priest of Israel.

    I wish I knew more about the history of Joash's wives, who they were, their lineage, etc. The way the passage reads, Joash was married to them on the same day. I can't help but think that these two young women are significant.
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  17. Verifyveritas76

    Verifyveritas76 Moderator Staff Member Male

    Just noticed this, according to this passage, Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.

    So if Jehoiada brought the two women to Joash to marry, then this also is included in "that which was right in the sight of the Lord".

    Can it be any simpler?
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  18. Kevin

    Kevin Well-Known Member Male

    Thats exactly what i saw earlier and pointed out to several of the staff of a Mens Ministry. Now, i had one guy kinda flip flop on me and quoted Romans 13:13-14 to me, but I shut that down because orgies are not part of biblical polygamy. Then he quoted Romans 13:1-7 and i pointed out several instances where disobedience was approved by God. Exodus 1:17 Disobedience to Pharoh
    Joshua 2 Disobedience of Rahab to King of Jericho
    1 Samuel Disobedience to Saul
    1 King 18 Disobedience of Obadiah to Jezabel
    2 King The revolt
    Daniel 3 Disobedience to Nebuchadnezzar
    Acts 4:19-20, 5:29 Civil Disobedience of Peter and John
    Revelations 13:15

    I was then accused of cherry picking. Any suggestions.
  19. rustywest4

    rustywest4 Well-Known Member Male

    My mind just exploded reading those verses! :eek:

    No lord Veritas... I really don't think it could be any simpler! ... :rolleyes:

    ...Totally using Joash now! :cool::bible:
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  20. eye4them

    eye4them Member Male

    Point out that in most cases (states), biblical polygyny it is simply not against the law (which I suppose is what they're arguing). From my read, it is against the law to hold two (or more?) legal marriage certificates (or some like document) at the same time, but to cohabitate with one or more women and treat her/them as a wife/wives for life, is not illegal that I know of (in those states)

    Though, my understanding is that even in some of the states where cohabitation is legal (or not illegal), there is another thing to consider, which is common law marriage. This seems to be where the state deems you legally married after some period of cohabitation.