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while others, indignant at having been attacked, have sallied forth to batter down the whole Law of incest.
The language of this Section—" Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness beside the other, in her life-time"-has received the two following constructions :
1. Neither shalt thou take one wife to another, to vex her, in her life-time:
2. Neither shalt thou take a second wife, who is the sister of thy first wife to vex her in her life-time ; although thou mayest take one who is not her sister, as that will not vex her; and after her death, her sister also.
As these two constructions are directly contradictory: the first involving an express prohibition of Polygamy ; and the second containing an express permission of it, as well as of the marriage with the sister of a deceased wife: it is obvious, if Polygamy was lawful, under the Old Dispensation, that the First construction is unsound; and, if it was not lawful, that the Second construction must be given up. Hence, in order to decide which of the two is the correct construction, we must first determine, whether Polygamy under the Old Dispensation was lawful or not. In this way the Lawfulness of Polygamy becomes necessarily connected with an investigation of the Law of incest; and, to prevent it from rising up in the shape of an objection hereafter, it should be previously examined. If, as the result of such an examination, it shall appear that Polygamy was not lawful ; it will not be difficult to ascertain the exact limits of the Scriptural Law of incest.
ESSAY ON POLYGAMY.
POLYGAMY is That state, in which a Man has two or more wives, or a Woman has two or more husbands, at the same time. The question to be answered is this, Was Polygamy lawful under the Old Dispensation ? As the Old Dispensation embraced two periods—the Patriarchal, and the Levitical—this inquiry naturally resolves itself into two others : 1. Was Polygamy lawful to the Patriarchs ? 2. Was Polygamy lawful under the Levitical Code? Each of these questions claims, and shall receive, a distinct answer.
I. Was Polygamy lawful to the Patriarchs ?
It will be conceded by all, that, under the Patriarchal Dispensation, there is no express permission of Polygamy, on record. Previous to the promulgation of the Levitical Code, there is no law or dictum relating even remotely to the subject, except the GREAT ORIGINAL LAW OF MARRJAGE, found in Genesis, ii. 24, “ Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” The import of this Law will be sought hereafter. It is sufficient to remark, here, that it certainly does not contain a permission of Polygamy.
If, then, it can be shown that Polygamy was law. ful to the Patriarchs, the evidence must be derived from their Practice. In examining this point, however, we must distinctly remember, that the question before us is not, Whether Polygamy was permitted, by the customs or laws of the tribes, among whom the Patriarchs lived ? but, Whether Polygamy was permitted by the
Law of God ?—The best human laws authorize, and the best men sanction, conduct, which is directly prohibited by the Divine law. To argue what the Law of God is, from the Practice of men, even of the best men, seems, therefore, a hazardous course, in any case; but especially in the case in question. None of the Patriarchs lived in a regular state of society, governed by established laws; but each was the head of his clan-a petty chieftain, acknowledging no superior. The surrounding chieftains, also, as well as the tribes whom they governed, all practised Polygamy. With these things in view, let us see what the Practice of the Patriarchs actually was, on this subject, both before and after the Deluge.
1. Adam was placed in a situation, in which Polygamy was neither lawful, nor possible.
2. No one of the Antediluvian Patriarchs, from Adam to Noah, in the line of Seth, is mentioned as a polygamist.
3. The same is true of Noah and his three sons.
4. The first polygamist on record was Lamech, the fifth in lineal descent from Cain; and, as the Introduction of Polygamy into this world is an important event, we will examine the account given of it by Moses. The passage containing it is found in Genesis, iv. 19, 23 and 24. As the Hebrew manuscripts have no Notes of interrogation, the original is equally susceptible of the two following translations :
1st. “And Lamech took unto him two wives, Adah and Zillah. And Lamech said unto his wives, “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech : For I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged seven fold, truly Lamech, seventy and seven fold," This is the common version :
2d. “And Lamech took unto him two wives, Adah and Zillah. And Lamech said unto his wives, 'Adah and Zillah, hear my voice ; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech. Have I slain a man to my wounding, or a young man to my hurt? If Cain shall be avenged seven fold, truly Lamech seventy and seven fold.”
If we take the former version as the correct one, then the first polygamist was a murderer ; and when his two wives expressed their apprehensions lest vengeance should fall upon him for his crime, he consoles them with the reflection, that God had threatened seven fold vengeance on any one who should kill Cain. But this abrupt and most incongruous version is obviously errone
Moses does not intimate that Lamech had been guilty of murder, nor that his wives had any apprehension on account of it. Nor, if Lamech had been guilty of murder, would he have had any right to suppose that God would inflict on the man, who should kill him, eleven times as exemplary vengeance, as on the slayer of Cain. The only act charged on Lamech by the historian, is his Polygamy; and when his two wives ex. V pressed their apprehensions, lest, for this, some one would kill him, he might well reply, " Adah and Zillah, hear my voice ; ye wives of Lamech, hearken to my speech. Have I slain a man to my wounding, or a young man to my hurt? If God shall avenge Cain seven fold, truly Lamech seventy and seven fold." His crime then, obviously, was his Polygamy. In either case, however, Polygamy was introduced into the world under very bad auspices.
5. The second and only remaining account of Polygamy before the Deluge is found in Gen. vi. 1–7, “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the
sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair, and they took them wives of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, "My spirit shall not always strive with man. There were giants in the earth, in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children unto them, the same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually; and it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.”- The fact, that Polygamy became general, or that men took them wives of all whom they chose, is here obviously assigned as the cause of that universal corruption and violence, which occasioned the Deluge. « These are the only two examples of Antediluvian Polygamy.
6. After the Deluge, no mention is made of the practice of Polygamy among the descendents of Ham or Japhet, though their genealogies are given; nor had any of them such a number of children, as to indicate his possession of several wives.
7. No example of polygamy is mentioned in the ten successive patriarchs in the line of Shem, from Shem to Terah the father of Abraham; nor does the number of their children lead us to suppose that either of them had more than one wife.
8. Nahor, Abraham's brother had a concubine ; but we are not told, whether during the life of his wife, or after her death.
9. Abraham had one wife, Sarah, who had no children. “And Sarah said unto Abraham, I pray thee