“Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die!’ ” (Genesis 30:1).

A marriage involving more than one spouse is called polygamy. A marriage between two spouses alone is called monogamy. In most countries of the world polygamy is illegal. It is more widely accepted and practiced in Africa, along with parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

A growing body of research reveals the negative effects of polygamy on women and children. Many wives report feelings of neglect and jealousy. A large-scale study in Malaysia shows that polygamy harms everyone in the family. There is often child neglect. Quarrelling and resentments are common. Father absence is high. In summary, polygamy leads to unstable families.

Jacob could have told you all of that. When his father-in-law Laban tricked him by substituting Leah, his eldest daughter, for Rachel, on the honeymoon night, Jacob was enraged. Laban insisted that the eldest daughter should always be married off before younger ones. He told Jacob not to get rid of Leah because it would bring shame to the family. Jacob worked another seven years for the hand of Rachel.

The sister-wives arrangement would make good fodder for a soap opera series. Leah and Rachel were jealous over their husband. The race to produce offspring prompted both of them to give Jacob their handmaids in order to produce more sons. Today we would call Jacob’s family dysfunctional. Family strife is the inevitable result of polygamy. Though practiced by some Bible characters, it was never God’s original plan and resulted only in grief and pain.

The divine ideal is that one man and one woman be joined together. God created marriage and performed the first wedding ceremony. In the beginning the Lord decreed, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his [one] wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Father in heaven, may I choose to trust Your plans and follow Your ways.

For Further Study: Gen. 29:15–30:24; Proverbs 3:5; Matthew 19:4–6

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