Polygamy And Concubinage In Judaism

BBS: Stonehenge BBS
Date: 11-14-92 (13:13)
Subj: polygamy and concubinage
Conf: (12) RELIGION
By the first Christian century, MOST ordinary people in Judea and Galilee did NOT practice polygamy but it was far from dead. Usually, polygamy was practiced by certain wealthy people, under certain conditions. If a man loved his wife and she were an invalid for life or if she could not give him children, he might love her so that he would not want to divorce her but at the same time he would want a wife that could give him sex and children.

MB>>Does (or did) the wife have to consent?

At THAT time, no. Would she have to consent now? It depends. Several years ago, in Israel, a man asked permission of the rabbinate to take a second wife because his present wife was hospitalized as hopelessly insane. Because she is insane, he CANNOT give her a divorce. The woman must be in her right mind and understand what is happeneing in order to receive a divorce. Therefore, the rabbis granted him permission to take a second wife while remaning married to the first one. There was also another case in Israel in the 1970s where the rabbis allowed a man to marry a second wife. I dont remember the circumstances but the ruling was that each wife had to live in a separte home. That can be mighty expensive. I dont know if the wife's permission is needed now.

Jesus never addressed the issue of polygamy; and certainly never of concubinage. I do not believe it was much of an issue for him. He knew it was legitimate. He was once asked about a woman who had 7 husbands and which one would be with her in the afterlife. He answered that there was no marriage in the afterlife, but he did not address the polygamy issue itself.

The issue is that he simply stated that earthly marital circumstances do not affect the afterlife. He did not seem to be overly concerned with marriage in any Torah legitimate circumstance.

Look at John's attitude toward Herod's marriage to his former wife's sister. John's only concern is that the Torah forbids a man to marry the sister of his wife. He, like Jesus, does not seem to be concerned about polygamy. In fact, nowhere in THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT do I see any reference at all to the legitimacy or illegitimacy of presently accepted status. Neither Jesus nor any other N.T. personality ever addressed SLAVERY. It was an accepted status in those days. So was polygamy and concubinage. Believe me, Jesus had ample opportunity to address them but that he did not is instructive. As far as I know, his only concern was that once people are married, they can only divorce for adultery. This is a good Jewish attitude in that in Judaism, people HAVE to divorce for adultery. He said married men have to stay married to their wives in most cases. He did NOT say that they could not have another woman at the same time.

His only concern seems to have been with divorce and adultery, not polygamy and concubinage.

MB>>But what EXACTLY is concubinage?

Concubinage is difficult to describe but I will try.

Concubine is a legal STATUS just as WIFE is a legal status, but they are not the same. A concubine is NOT a wife. That is, the man is not married to the concubine but he is in a sexual relationship with her. While she is his concubine, she may not have another man. If she does, she is considered at adultress. She is not his wife yet he is responsible to see that she has food, clothing, shelter. He is financially responsible for her in all things. In essence, she is his "girl-friend" but with very stringent stipulations.

Imagine a scenario today in which a man has a girl friend and under the law, he must take care of all her basic needs else she can put him in jail. It's something like that. He must take care of any children he has with the concubine. He must provide for them in his will. Can you imagine a law today where a man has to include his children from his girl-friend in his will or else the government will step in and take away from his other children an amount needed to support the girl friend's children? It blows the mind yet that's what the rabbis did in olden days. THEY MADE THE MAN BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS GIRL-FRIENDS! NO MATTER HOW MANY HE HAD. AND IF HE WAS NOT FINANCIALLY ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF HIS GIRL FRIENDS (CONCUBINES) - THEY DISALLOWED HIM FROM HAVING ANY.

The question you are wondering is WHY people entered into a contract of concubinage. That is a good question and the only LOGICAL reason I can give you is that there may have been certain cases in which IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO GET MARRIED YET THEY WANTED TO BE TOGETHER. You can use your imagination to try to think of what cases they might be. One thing that comes to my mind immediately is that of the divorced woman. A divorced woman cannot marry a priest (KOHEN) but perhaps she can be his "girl-friend". Think about it.

Later on:
Spoke to a friend of mine who came up with other reasons.
1. A man may want another woman but his financial obligation to a concubine is less than that to a wife.
2. A man may love a non-Jewish woman; he cannot marry her but she may be his "girl friend".
3. A man may want a set-up relationship with a woman, commonly called "sugar daddy". He sets her up with an apartment and takes care of her financially; in return, she takes care of him sexually. He does not want to marry her - he wants her as one of his girl friends. In the case of a Jew, this "girl friend" has many more religio-legal rights than in non Jewish society.

Lets see if you can comne up with other possibilities.

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