Moral Controversies That Have No Right to Exist

Sexual sins: pornography, divorce, immorality, adultery and open marriage.

Marriage is one of the most sacred and fundamental of all human relationships. Each of the topics covered in this subchapter are an affront to biblical marriage and unconditionally result in degrading it, if not destroying it altogether.

[As will be seen in the Bible citations below, biblical marriage in this article (and on this site!) will strictly indicate heterosexual, monogamous, life-long marriage between a couple absolutely devoted to each other in love.]

In the NT, marriage between a husband and wife is used as a metaphor for the intimate, exclusive and permanent relationship which exists between the Lord Christ and His church. (Eph 5.25-32) Likewise, it is consistently taught in the Bible that human marriage is equally encompassing and is therefore the primary reason that all forms of marital infidelity are condemned throughout its pages. Nothing short of the death of one of the spouses can legally dissolve that beautiful relationship.

In today’s culture in the US, marital infidelity no longer evokes moral outrage (if it ever did?); it is largely true that today it evokes nearly nothing at all – a sort of “business as usual” attitude. It largely tends to be viewed merely as strictly personal behavior available to one’s own discretion without the need for the approval of anyone else — and without  any regard for anyone's disapproval. Infidelity has become so common that to commit adultery, for example, has been reduced essentially to the same moral level as changing one’s socks. To generalize these behaviors into mere amoral opinion, rather than as active trespass of the purpose and Law of God, has become the de facto norm in our society.

As I stated in the Introduction, moral/serious controversies are based on the fact that they are directly answerable to the teachings and authority of the Bible, away from the realm of mere human opinion. It is upon that foundation that we can and must say that all forms of marital infidelity are unmitigated evil, behaviors worthy of divine judgment and which are certain to receive their due punishment at the Day of wrath and retribution. (Rom 2.5-10)

The purpose of this subchapter is to deal with the topics of pornography, divorce, immorality, adultery and open marriage and to show what the Bible has to say about each of them.

 


Pornography

The phrase “uncover nakedness” is found in the OT in several places. [cf., below] It does not express merely a person being in an unclothed state; rather, the phrase is used specifically to highlight the fact that the external, reproductive genitalia are fully exposed to someone other than the person’s spouse (as we’ll see below).

[Many times, the phrase “uncover nakedness” is used to describe illicit sexual relations since the genitalia must be exposed in order to do so.

In these cases, the phrase is a shortcut since it emphasizes the necessary beginnings of the illicit sexual union.]

I’ll begin with an interesting use of the phrase “uncover nakedness” during the time of Saul. Remember that the LORD chose David to replace Saul; when Saul realized this, he hated and feared David and therefore sought to kill him. Complicating this was the fact that Saul’s son Jonathan and David were inseparable friends. (1 Sam 18.1; 2 Sam 1.26)

In one particular outburst of anger, Saul, in seeking to denigrate his son Jonathan (including especially his friendship with David) berated him by saying:

1 Sam 20.30
Then Saul’s anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?

Saul’s wife (Ahinoam is the only one mentioned in the OT, 1 Sam 14.50) is the woman who gave birth to Jonathan.

[Note that there is nothing in the divine record to support Saul’s vicious slander of Ahinoam’s character; indeed, Saul was the one lacking in character.]

Notice how Saul makes use of the implicit shame associated with the exposure of Ahinoam’s genitalia (in this case by unreasoningly citing the birth event!) in his attempt to shame Jonathan. This text specifically teaches us what was meant by the “uncovering of nakedness”, namely to make visible the external reproductive genitals (in this case, the female’s). The remaining citations below clearly teach the same.

It is important to note that the majority of the occurrences of the phrase "uncover nakedness" in the OT refer to the exposure of the female genitalia. Here are some examples from Leviticus:

While not directly stated in the texts, I believe that we can safely assume that the female was cooperative in some way in the exposure of her genitalia.

[Stated conversely, there is nothing in the cited texts that states or implies that the male was responsible for forcing the female to expose herself to him. (That circumstance is also covered in the OT: it's called rape and is not implicit in the context of the citations above.)]

The single reference to the exposure of the man’s genitalia is Lev 20.17 (“she sees his nakedness”).

[Note also that Lev 20.13 refers to a male homosexual with the attendant view of the male genitalia.]

The OT phrase the “father’s nakedness” does not appear to reference the exposure of the male genitalia; rather, note that in each of the references below, it is clearly the exposure of the (male's) spouse’s genitalia which is meant (particularly Lev 18.7-8):

Lev 18.7-8
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.

Lev 18.14
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother; you shall not approach his wife, she is your aunt.

Lev 20.11
If there is a man who lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.

Eze 20.10
In you they have uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in you they have humbled her who was unclean in her menstrual impurity.

As stated above, each of these references clearly refer to the exposure of a female genitalia (from the perspective of her husband) in contrast to the exposure of the male genitalia.

[The prominent mention of the female genitalia will have particular relevance in the discussion of “modern” pornography later in this section.]

There is a single reference in Isa 47 where the “virgin daughter of Babylon” is used in a metaphor; “her” skirt was to be ripped off and she would therefore be shamed because her genitalia was exposed.

There are several references in Eze 16 and Eze 20 where the feminine gender is used of the nation of Israel and her attendant shame when exposed:

  • Eze 16.8: infant Israel would be covered by the LORD’s skirt
  • Eze 16.26-27: Israel’s spiritual lewdness led to her uncovered nakedness

Particularly in Ezekiel, the phrase means specifically that the nation of Israel was to be humbled, shamed and devastated for her spiritual harlotries (also strongly implying the exposure of her spiritual genitalia in the same way a prostitute is exposed): Eze 23.10,18,29 Mic 1.11 Nah 3.5 .

There is a single reference to the outcome of being exposed as a result of becoming drunk (and therefore easily exploited sexually): Hab 2.15-16.

[How often to we hear of cases in which a female was sexually exploited or assaulted once she became drunk. This has been happening from the beginning of the human race.]

[cf., Gen 9.22-23; Lev 18.6-19; Lev 20.11, 17-21; Lam 1.18; Eze 16.8, 36-37; 22.10; 23.10, 18, 29; Hos 2.9; Nah 3.5; Hab 2.15-16]

 

Defining Pornography

For the purpose of this subchapter, my very simple definition of pornography in this subchapter is any representation of the genitalia, particularly the female genitalia, for the purpose of sexual arousal of someone other than the person's biblical spouse.

Note that this representation may be accomplished by imagery or by direct (in-person) view.

[I know that many will consider this definition to be very simplistic; it is and should be.

My purpose here is to conform to the definition taught in the Bible verses cited in this section rather than by modern legal definition, or even common use.

The LORD did not provide a tedious, lengthy and exact definition of every possible instance of pornography. Rather, He said simply: “Don’t uncover a person’s nakedness.” and "Don't uncover your nakedness.", and then made it very clear in the context of those statements that a person’s “nakedness” is his/her external genitalia.

Therefore, in one very simple phrase ("do not uncover nakedness") the LORD declares the sinfulness of essentially all sexually explicit images and behavior. For the purposes of this subchapter, this is pornography.]

I emphasize that the biblical view detailed above is that an exposed view of a person’s genitalia is reserved for that person’s spouse alone. Outside of that context, it was not to be done.

It should be obvious that the references to “uncovering nakedness” form the foundation for the brief discussion of pornography below.

 

The Biblical Issue with Pornography

The issue with pornography is that a person’s genitalia (the female’s primarily, the male’s secondarily) is to remain solely in the private domain of that person’s life-long, biblical spouse. Any exposure outside this very specific context is sin; any person exposing his/her genitalia to anyone other than his/her spouse will face judgment. Any person (a male particularly) actively and purposely viewing the female genitalia will face judgment.

[It is not my purpose here to delineate all the problems created by the consumption of pornography; it simply is not necessary to do so to make the point that pornography as defined above is sinful and is to be avoided under penalty of Divine Judgment.

The LORD, long ago, forbad the viewing of the genitalia of any person other than that by the lifelong, biblical spouse. It should be obvious that if this simple prohibition would be followed, there would be no pornography industry. (And, an unthinkably large number of pictures of women in various stages of undress would be eliminated from the internet!)

I am not ignoring that females also consume that which in the definition of this section would be pornography. My statement only is that pornography is mostly consumed by the male: this conforms to the Bible fact that the commands cited above are mostly directed to the male viewing the female genitalia, not the other way around. Implicit in this command would be, of course, that the female should be careful to not inadvertently become exposed to anyone but her husband.

I am also not ignoring those cases in which the genitalia, while not completely exposed, are so scantily clothed (or form-fitting) so as to be so suggestive that the genitalia may as well be exposed. These cases work to encourage unrestrained lust, which is also a sin. (Mat 5.27-28) That is an entirely separate matter which is not a part of this article.]

The statutes and laws which the LORD sets are elegant in their simplicity and efficiency: a single command encompasses everything needed by a person to know how to live in a myriad of different conditions not directly addressed by the command. A good example of this is the “golden rule”:

Luk 6.31
Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

In the same way, the LORD did not enumerate the vast number of examples of what is and what is not pornography: He said simply “do not uncover your nakedness” (directed primarily to females, secondarily to males). That single phrase was all that was needed.

 


Divorce

A foundational element of the marriage bond is its permanence; this is established by the fact that the Lord Christ describes His relationship with His church as marriage. Just as He loves His church and will not abandon it, so also is the husband to love his wife and not to abandon her. Both husband and wife are to be fully and permanently committed to their mutual relationship.

One of the best texts to establish this principle is in Mat 19. The context is when the Pharisees, a group who had a notoriously lax opinion of the gravity (and “unnaturalness” for lack of a better term) of divorce, desired to test the Lord Christ concerning it:

Mat 19.3-9
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

There are at least seven components of the Lord’s answer (some stated here, some implied from the background truths of Gen 2 (from which the Lord Christ’s answer is derived) and one from 1 Cor 7.10-16 which is built upon Mat 19):

  1. There are exactly two genders: male and female; each has a unique and irreplaceable purpose in the marriage relationship. (More to the point, the reason for exactly two genders is the design and foundation of the marriage relationship.)

  2. The purpose of two genders fulfills the declaration that each of the created species naturally possessed all that was necessary to produce offspring, being thus inherently able to “be fruitful and multiply”. (Gen 1.28)

  3. In the human species, the biological design of the male and female guaranteed their ability to procreate to ensure the longevity of the species – specifically the fact that “two become one flesh” (a clear indication of the necessity of sexual intercourse in order to produce offspring).

  4. The procreation of the human species was based on the fact that it is the LORD Himself who joins the husband and wife (in contrast to sexual intercourse viewed merely a tryst between a male and a female) – “what God has joined…”. The sexual union between husband and wife was to be a biological union designed to produce life and continue the species!

  5. The “one flesh” joining was God-ordained (“let no man separate”) and was to be permanent.

  6. Infidelity was the only condition recognized to abrogate the marriage relationship, and then only with binding and life-long limitations to each of the spouses.

  7. Divorce which proceeds for any reason other than unfaithfulness permanently “morally marks” (my term) both the husband and wife and thereby renders each guilty of adultery if either remarries.

[In the case of a marriage in which one spouse is a true believer and the other an unbeliever, the LORD permitted the unbelieving spouse to leave the believing spouse without the true believer becoming guilty of adultery if he/she remarried after a divorce from the unbeliever (“the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace”).

Note, though, that in this special case the divorce must be initiated by the unbelieving spouse.]

[It is a well-known statistic in the US that approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce. For all those in which the reason was not unfaithfulness – probably a large percentage – this means that in the US there are many millions of marriages which are illegitimate in the eyes of God.]

[There are many times within the gospels at which the Lord’s disciples demonstrate considerable “spiritual dullness”. However, after the interchange in Mat 19 above, the disciples’ reaction was:

Mat 19.10
The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”

It is unclear whether their response intended this,

“If a marriage ends in divorce, and that divorce renders each of the spouses “unmarriageable”, then it would be better to remain single.”

or this,

“If the divorce of a marriage carries with it such a cost (unable legally/morally to be married again after a divorce), then it is better to think seriously about not marrying in the first place; perhaps the proposed marriage is not the right thing to do, at least not right now or to this person.”

In either case, it ended up being good advice…

I’d be willing to speculate that a majority of those who get divorced in this country probably lament their decision to marry in the first place as hasty and irresponsible, and would not repeat it – at least not to the same person.]

[cf., Mat 5.31-32; Mar 10.2-12; Luk 16.18; 1 Cor 7.1-5,12-15 ]

 


Immorality and Adultery

The Bible says quite a bit about immorality and adultery; I focus on the NT passages (below).

The root idea of both terms is any type of illicit sexual intercourse between people. That illicit “union” could be between two married persons (though not married to each other), one married and one unmarried person, or two unmarried persons. If one of the persons is married, that person is called an adulterer (if male) or adulteress (if female).

[There are masculine and feminine noun forms in the NT Greek language which imply this use.]

The terms do not primarily denote sexual unfaithfulness, though in the case of adultery at least one of the partners has been unfaithful to the other. The essential point to both terms is the fact each is the fulfillment of unbridled sexual lust which leads inevitably to the “uncovering of a person’s nakedness” (a serious sin by itself, see above), followed by sexual intercourse.

With one exception (Rev 2.22, a reference to the Jezebel of the church in Thyatira) none of the noun or verb forms of adultery are used in the Revelation. The noun and verb forms of immorality are used in the Revelation (a total of 18 places!), particularly in metaphorical contexts dealing with spiritual idolatry and harlotry, first in the section of the letters to the seven churches (Rev 2-3) and second of the Babylon of the future (Rev 17-19).

Outside of the book of Revelation, all other uses of adultery deal with the typical understanding of adultery: namely, unfaithfulness by a spouse in the marriage relationship which leads that spouse into an illicit sexual union with another person.

The Lord Christ uses the noun and verb forms of adultery in His teachings more than any other NT author.

[As stated above, the marriage relationship is a type of the spiritual relationship that the Lord Christ has with His church (Eph 5.25-32) His extensive teachings on marriage and divorce are a clear testimony of just how dearly He regarded the sanctity of the marriage relationship.]

Below is a complete list of the occurrences of both terms in the NT.

 

Immorality (52x)

πορνεία [G4202, fem noun; illicit sexual intercourse; metaph. the worship of idols]
Mat 5.32; Mat 15.19; Mat 19.9; Mar 7.21; Joh 8.41; Act 15.20, Act 15.29; Act 21.25; 1 Cor 5.1; 1 Cor 6.13, 1 Cor 6.18; 1 Cor 7.2; 2 Cor 12.21; Gal 5.19; Eph 5.3; Col 3.5; 1 The 4.3; Rev 2.21; 9.21; 14.8; 17.2, 4; 18.3; Rev 19.2

πορνεύω [G4203, verb; to engage in unlawful sexual intercourse; metaph. to worship idols]
1 Cor 6.18; 1 Cor 10.8; Rev 2.14, 20; 17.2; 18.3, 9

πόρνη G4204, fem noun; prostitute]
Mat 21.31,32; Luk 15.201 Cor 6.15,16; Heb 11.31; Jam 2.25; Rev 17.1,15,16; Rev 19.2

πόρνος [G4205, masc noun; a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse]
1 Cor 5.9-11; 1 Cor 6.9; Eph 5.5; 1 Tim 1.10; Heb 12.16; Heb 13.4; Rev 21.8; Rev 22.15]

 

Adultery (29x)

μοιχαλίς [G3428, fem noun; an adultress]
Mat 12.39; Mat 16.4; Mar 8.38; Rom 7.3; Jam 4.4; 2 Pet 2.14

μοιχάω [G3429, verb; to commit adultery with]
Mat 5.32; Mat 19.9; Mar 10.11-12

μοιχεία [G3430, fem noun; adultery]
Mat 15.19; Mar 7.21; Joh 8.3

μοιχεύω [G3431, verb; to commit adultery]
Mat 5.27-28,32; 19.18; Mar 10.12,19; Luk 16.18; 18.20; Joh 8.4; Rom 2.22; 13.9; Jam 2.11; Rev 2.22

μοιχός [G3432, masc noun; an adulterer]
Luk 18.11; 1 Cor 6.9; Heb 13.4

 

A reference in Hebrews 13 is helpful to illuminate the distinction between the terms:

Heb 13.4
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed [κοίτη] is to be undefiled; for fornicators [πόρνος] and adulterers [μοιχός] God will judge.

The verse  tells us that a sexual union is in view (clearly indicated by the use of the noun “marriage bed” [κοίτη, coite]).

[Our term coitus derives from the Latin coitus (which curiously has approximately  the same pronunciation as the Greek root in κοίτη). The “marriage bed” was that place upon which coitus took place, whether married or unmarried. Even now, “coitus” is clearly intended by such euphemisms as “sleeping with”, “going to bed with”, “lying with”, “getting laid”, “mount” and “coitus” (of course), etc.]

Since the context of μοιχός is specially the realm of the married, by implication in Heb 13.4 πόρνος is the realm of the unmarried (since the LORD made use of both terms for a reason).

Therefore, the point which the author of the book of Hebrews makes is that the LORD will judge all those who engage in illicit coitus. There are only two possible combinations: one or both persons are married (though not to each other), or neither of the persons is married. Whichever occurs, it clearly indicates that the sexual union is a mere sexual tryst, not the divinely-sanctioned union of that special intimacy which is to be enjoyed only by a biblically married couple.

So, the term adultery covers the former combination while the term immorality (fornication) covers the latter.

There are two texts from the statements of the Lord Christ which use both terms in the same verse. They also show the cause/effect relationship of immorality (πορνεία) and adultery (μοιχεία), namely that immorality in the marriage relationship leads to adultery.

Mat 5.32
but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity (πορνεία), makes her commit adultery (μοιχεύω); and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Mat 19.19
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (πορνεία), and marries another woman commits adultery (μοιχάω).

It is clear in that the sin of adultery began with the sin of immorality.

Note the warning given by James long ago:

Jam 1.14
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

This may be why the noun and verb forms for immorality (52x) occur nearly twice as often as the noun and verb for adultery (29x).

The NT Epistle of James is particularly severe to his audience (who were astonishingly morally careless in their lives). After telling his readers to “prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers” (Jam 1.22, the textbook definition of hypocrisy), he elaborates their sins throughout the epistle:

  • 2.1-7: their hypocrisy when dealing with the poor;
  • 2.8-12: their blatant partiality;
  • 2.13: their apparent lack of mercy to the poor;
  • 2.14-26: their claim of faith, but void of compatible works;
  • 3.1-12: the inference that they spoke of things not backed up by true faith;
  • 3.13-18: their humanistic, demonic wisdom which led to behaviors which were not gentle, as they should have been;
  • 4.1-12: their infighting
  • 5.1-6: their wanton and careless lifestyle;

along with many other sins. The point of these is summed up here in this scathing rebuke from chapter 4:

Jam 4.4
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The term is well-suited to the abysmal state to which his readers had fallen; their sin was nothing less than spiritual adultery against the One who called them out of darkness and graced them with his love. The audience to whom James directs his epistle were in very serious trouble, just as a married couple in which one of the partners has committed adultery.

The source of immorality is the darkened, dead heart of the lost (Mar 7.21); it is still “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2.1-2); lacking the application of the birth from above by divine grace, it is irredeemable and thoroughly corrupt. (Jer 17.9) It is capable of any sin, especially the most debauched and degrading of sexual sins.

Here is just a sampling of the sin of immorality.

[Note the other sins typically found together with immorality.]

Mat 15.19-20a
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man;

Mar 7.21-23
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.

1 Cor 5.1
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.
[This text cites the case of a man who shared (sexually) a woman who was probably his father’s concubine.]

1 Cor 5.9-11
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

1 Cor 6.9
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
[In our culture today, there are still a few laws which identify sexual sins (i.e.., incest and pedophilia] but gloss over immorality of most other sorts, including effeminacy and homosexuality. Note how those two sins are treated in the same way as the others. (Please see here for a subchapter on homosexuality.)]

Gal 5.19
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Col 3.5-6
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,

1 Tim 1.9-10
realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
[Here is another list which groups homosexuality with other grievous sins. It is evident that there is nothing in it in which to be "proud" and march in public parades.]

Rev 21.8
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Rev 22.15
Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Immorality is a serious sin! It ranks with the worst of human behavior and will face the full wrath of the LORD during the judgment at the end of the age.

The enumerations above are the true nature of the lost sinner; they are still bound by their fallen nature. Adultery and immorality are but two facets of the myriad of moral abominations which constitute the core of the lost heart.

 


Open Marriage

[The following section is what the Bible records of the practice of polygamy, specifically the practice of one man having multiple wives. There are no Biblical examples of one woman having multiple husbands.

It is provided as the backdrop from which I handle the topic of this section: open marriage.]

From the beginning of creation, the pattern which the LORD put in place was that marriage was to be the lifelong union between one man and one woman. In the details of the creation of Eve, the Word specifically says:

Gen 2.21-22, 24
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. … For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

It was within a few generations of that event when men began taking multiple wives:

Gen 6.2
that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
[Even though the plural is used of the men, the meaning does not appear to be that each man (of the men) took a wife (of the women).]

This pattern appears to be the basis of the OT practice that frequently a man would have multiple wives (including the patriarchs of the ancient nation of Israel).

It is also noteworthy that during this ancient period, the LORD did not forbid the practice of multiple wives. (Deu 17.17; 21.15)

The ancient King David, the “man after God’s own heart", had multiple wives. (2 Sam 2.2; 2 Sam 5.13)

[I have found that modern Christians have difficult time accepting this; they somehow want to believe that David was in disobedience because of that fact. The truth is very different: the LORD provided the multiple wives to King David. Note this extraordinary statement that the LORD made to David after he sinned by the taking of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, when he was confronted by Nathan the prophet:

2 Sam 12.8
I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!

Did you notice that last statement? The LORD would have given more wives to David if he had wanted them – he should not have coveted another man’s wife!]

The pinnacle (for lack of a better term!) of this practice appears to be King Solomon: he had 700 wives and 300 concubines! (1 Kin 11.3) It should be obvious that Solomon did not heed the LORD’s warning to “not multiply wives”; as OT history tells us, it was his wives who led him into idolatry. (1 Kin 11.4)

The practice continued, to some extent, until the deportation of the ancient Jews to Babylon; after that, we have no official, biblical history of the ancient Jews.

[And yes, I’m very familiar with the NT command to Christian elders, that they are to be “the husband of one wife”. (1 Tim 3.2) However, I will not automatically assume that that command is to be applied to the lost (since that is clearly not the context!). To do so would not be unreasonable, however: one man/one woman was the pattern made evident from the creation of Eve. All that had taken place in the OT history of bigamy was, I believe, an allowance the LORD made for OT men, in a principle identical in concept to the LORD’s allowance of divorce.]

We are now ready to handle the topic of open marriage.

[In this subchapter, open marriage is defined very simply: it is “sanctioned infidelity” by all parties involved (married or unmarried). An open relationship typically, though not always, involves a full sexual relationship among the participants.]

Open marriage ignores the sacred union of one man/one woman that the LORD designed during the creation. There is no longer any meaningful commitment in the way the LORD designed it.

[I know that some of the proponents of open marriage will maintain that they are committed to each other in the same way a monogamous couple is; this assertion is a sham, a mere playing with words.]

Since an open marriage is infidelity as defined by the Bible, it will be subject to the same judgments as adultery and immorality. It was the “marriage bed” (as defined by the LORD) which was to be “undefiled”; it was also the marriage bed upon which the adulterous and immoral engaged in illicit sexual relations and were therefore condemned.

Regardless of how the proponents of open marriage wish to euphemistically define their behavior, it is nothing less than unrestrained lust operating from a set of self-defined, self-promoted "rules" permitting such behavior but among persons who willingly ignore the Scripture to their own condemnation.

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