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Why was Elkana was allowed to have two wives?

Elkana, the father of Samuel, had two wives. Why was that?

1 Samuel 1:2

NKJV - 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Clarify Share Report Asked June 08 2023 Mini Anonymous

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Mini Aurel Gheorghe
The Bible does not say anywhere that God permitted Elkanah to commit polygamy. It’s highly likely that Hannah was the first wife and because of her sterility, Elkanah took Peninnah to secure offspring. 

The Bible explicitly limits marriage to one man and one woman (Gen 2:24). In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus confirms the same standards for marriage: one man, and one woman. 

Furthermore, polygamy is never endorsed or approved in the Bible. Like Elkanah, Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon also had multiple wives, but there is no indication that the practice was pleasing to God, to the contrary all these life stories are full of conflict, grief, and contention. The biblical record is a history of what they did, not necessarily of what they should have done.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that following the introduction of Elkanah’s record of polygamy, Hophni and Phinehas, the two sexually immoral priests, are mentioned (1 Samuel 2:22). Taking into consideration Israel’s spiritual leaders’ promiscuous inclinations, it is not surprising that Elkanah had two wives, especially in those days when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).

June 14 2023 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Justin Hale
There is nothing in holy scripture indicating that having more than one wife is sinful or displeasing to God. However, when a man takes a wife, God holds that man to account for her treatment. He accepts no excuses from the man for any mistreatment of his wives based on his decision to take on too much responsibility by having more than one.

You will find that in each case where men make this decision in scripture, there are similar scenarios and factors in play. The man is usually quite wealthy through righteous action and fully able to support more than one family. This is because when wealth is earned righteously it is stable and there is no risk that the families will be suddenly disrupted by poverty or want. The lifestyle is also peaceful and without violence or intrigue.

Secondly, the man is almost always brokering peace between his tribe and another potentially warring tribe. Romantic love and the sharing of lineages is perhaps the best and most powerful of all possible ways to establish and maintain peace among regional tribes. This remains true today. 'Make love, not war' is not just a clever slogan.

The most famous example of this is king Solomon, whose name literally means, 'peacemaker.' 

In the New Testament era, the Holy Spirit forbids Christian leaders from taking on both the mantle of ministry and the great responsibility of having more than one wife, even if they are wealthy enough through righteousness commerce and otherwise able to maintain both families in stable peace, (1 Timothy 3:2,12, Titus 1:6). 

There is no such restriction placed on Christians who are not in positions of Church leadership, but the Holy Spirit is quite clear that in social environments where fornication is widespread, (sexual practices without love or commitments of peace), every man should have one wife and every woman should have one husband, (1 Corinthians 7:2-4).

In our modern society, for the sake of social order, God has also instituted laws against maintaining multiple legal marriages and we are obligated to obey those laws, (Romans 13:1-2).

This means that anyone choosing to 'marry' more than one person must do so in a manner that does not constitute a violation of these laws, which can make such an arrangement even more difficult. Since the likelihood of this kind of marriage arrangement facing no social difficulties is remote, Christian leaders primarily teach that God forbids marriage to multiple people. That is not actually true, though the teaching is understandable given the current circumstances.

When Jesus tells us that we may not marry a divorced person without committing adultery, He is not condemning being married to more than one person. What Jesus is doing is requiring that we face the failure of a marriage as evidence that if we cannot maintain one marriage successfully, we have absolutely no business trying to take on the responsibility of more than one at a time, whether doing so might potentially broker peace, encourage love, or bring other good consequences. We have already demonstrated that we lack the commitment and resolve to even do this with one person, let alone numerous people.

In the specific case of Elkana, it is clear that he fell in love and married a woman who was unfortunately barren. He did not stop loving her or wishing for her to bear his children, but he also had to face the reality that his lineage was in jeopardy if she did not. So he married a second woman for this purpose while continuing to hope for Hannah his love to conceive. 

Ultimately, God did bless Elkana with a son through Hannah. We know him as the great prophet Samuel. If Yahweh was displeased with this arrangement, it is unlikely that He would have blessed Elkana or us with Samuel through this multi-family union.

June 10 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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