We hear a lot about “Biblical marriage” these days, particular from right-wing conservatives battling the idea of same sex marriage or unions. The problem is that most of them are not clear on what that means. Here is a helpful article on the types of marriage found in the pages of the Bible.
The important thing for conservatives to realize here is that none of these models are described as being any better than any other. They all appear to have been accepted throughout the Bible.
So there you go. The next time someone opposed to gay marriage says that we need to stick with traditional Biblical marriage in this country, you can ask them which of the eight kinds they would prefer, and why.
Man + Woman (Nuclear Family, Monogamous, heterosexual marriage)
What you might think of as the standard form of marriage, provided you think of arranged marriages as the standard. Also remember that inter-faith or cross-ethnic marriage were forbidden for large chunks of biblical history. Genesis 2:24
Man + Women (Polygamy)
Probably the most common form of marriage in the bible, it is where a man has more than one wife. For example, Jacob had 2 wives and fathered 13 children. This is rarely spoken about when the subject of marriage and the bible is debated! Genesis 4:19
Esau (3 wives), Gideon (many), Solomon (700)
Man + Brother’s Widow (Levirate Marriage)
When a woman was widowed without a son, it became the responsibility of the brother-in-law or a close male relative to take her in and impregnate her. If the resulting child was a son, he would be considered the heir of her late husband. See Ruth, and the story of Onan. Genesis 38:6-10
Man + Wives + Concubines
A man could have one or more wives and any number of concubines. The definition of a concubine varies from culture to culture, but they tended to be live-in mistresses. Concubines were tied to their “husband,” but had a lower status than a wife. Their children were not usually heirs, so they were safe outlets for sex without risking the line of succession. Genesis 20:10 To see how badly a concubine could be treated, see the famous story of the Levite and his concubine Judges 19:1-30.
Abraham (2 concubines), Solomon (300)
Rapist + Victim
If a man raped a woman and she wasn’t married, she would be forced to marry him. A man could rape any woman that he liked and they would be considered married. The draw back? For the man OF COURSE! He could not divorce her!! Deuteronomy 22:28-29
Man + Woman + Woman’s Property
If a woman was “married” and infertile, she could give her property, her slave, to her husband as a wife. This is also referred to as the famous “handmaiden” sketch, as preformed by Abraham, Genesis 16:1-6, and Jacob, Genesis 30:4-5.
Male Soldier + Prisoner of War
As with many wars, women become the property of the victor. And that is how it was in biblical times. Female captives were forced to submit to their male captors, usually by force, RAPE. Deuteronomy 21:11-14 and Numbers 31:1-18
Male Slave + Female Slave
An owner could order a female slave to “marry” a male slave without any input from the female. The consummation of this “union” usually involved rape. Exodus 21:4