599.     As now rendered into English, 2 Samuel 12:8 seems to give Divine countenance to polygamy, but that is only on superficial reading. Nathan, as translated, says to David: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul, and I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom," etc. But Saul's wives did not become David's wives, and hence that comma should not have been placed after "house," and the word should have been translated "women," not "wives.” It is predicated both of the "house" and the "women" that they were given into David's "bosom.” The word might better have been translated "lap" as it is in Proverbs 16:33, instead of "bosom"; it means here simply "possession.” Saul's house and all his female court and domestics passed over into David's possession.

600.     Three things prove this. (1) The only two wives Saul had were "Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz" (1 Samuel 14:50) and mother of Michal (David's wife); and Rizpah  (2 Samuel 3:7). The penalty for marrying one's mother-in-law was to be burnt alive, Leviticus 20:14,¾so we may be sure David did not commit that crime. (2) As to Rizpah, David delivered her two sons, after the death of Saul, with five others, to be hanged (crucified) at Gibeah, on the demand of the Gibeonites. This woman has been famous in art, as guarding the seven bodies, for months, from the vultures. It is not credible that David should have treated his own wife thus. [Note: In this account of Rizpah, 2 Samuel 21:8, the other five are spoken of as "the five sons of Michal . . . which she bare Adriel.” It is thought that the word "sister" has been lost out of the text here¾see Margin¾for Adriel was brother-in-law, not the husband of Michal, 1 Samuel 18:19]. (3) David's wives are enumerated several times over (see 2 Samuel 2:2, 3:2-5; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, etc.), and that after Saul's death, but Saul's wives are never in the list. David, to be sure, had also a wife by the name of Ahinoam, but she is distinguished from Saul's wife as "Ahinoam of Jezreel," and David had her as his wife during Saul's lifetime (1 Samuel 27:3).

601.     Please turn to Exodus 21:7-11, and give it careful study as the only passage seeming to provide for polygamy. But studied by a candid mind, in the original, the English translation will appear forced. (1) The expression, "betrothed her to himself,” (8) reads, according to the original Hebrew text, not, "to him (low) betrothed," but "not (loa) betrothed," but the rabbis read "w" for "a" as the vowel-letter, into the word (see par. 6). But the order of the words "to him betrothed" is unusual, and seems strained. "Not betrothed" is the rendering of the Samaritan, Syriac and Persian versions; of many manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint; of the Greek versions of Theodotion, Aquila and Symmachus, and it receives the support of the Latin Vulgate and the Arabic. The teaching is, then, if the master does not betroth the girl, either to himself or to his son, he must let her be redeemed. This is the first error to be corrected in this tangled passage. The rabbis have perverted the sense here.[1]

602.     In verse 10 of this passage we find the second mistranslation; "If he take unto him another"¾that is all the phrase says. The translators insert "wife.” Not so; they should have inserted "as wife.” The thought is, "If he take unto himself another woman for his wife, instead of taking this girl,"¾not "If he take unto himself another wife in addition to this girl, who has become his wife.”

603.     In verse 10 occurs that expression, "her duty of marriage," which is explained by expositors after the unclean, polygamous manner of the rabbis as referring to intimate matrimonial relations. The single, short Hebrew word, 'onah, translated "duty of marriage," occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew unless it be identical with a word translated "furrows" in Hosea 10:10. It has been the habit, quite too much, of Christian translators to adopt, without question or due investigation, the meaning put upon these ambiguous words which occur but once or twice by the Talmud, or Jewish works based on the teaching of the Talmud. But the Talmud, in some of its teachings, is scarcely above the level of an unclean parody on the Bible; thus some most objectionable expressions have crept into the English Bible, and this is one of them. Then this salacious sense has cast its shadow forward upon the N. T. page at 1 Corinthians 7:3, and a special, sensual sense given to the word "due" there.

604.     The noun, 'onah, has been formed upon one of two Hebrew verbs. It is derived either from 'awun "dwell," or from 'anah, "afflict," in that form of the latter verb which means when applied to a woman, "to humble" that is, to outrage her¾the piel form, as it is called. In this sense it is the word found in Deuteronomy 21:14; 22:24,29; Judges 20:5 ("forced"); 2 Samuel 13:12, 14, 22; Lamentations 5:11; Ezekiel 22:10-11. The first verb, 'awun is obsolete, but it has one certain derived noun, monah, which means "dwelling place," in Psalm 76:2, which occurs nine times. The letter "m," when prefixed to a noun, often, as here, signifies "place.” But this "m" does not always occur when it is desired to transform an act into the place where an act is performed. For instance, 'ahal means "to pitch a tent," and 'ohel from the same root, means "tent" or ‘dwelling-place, Psalm 91:10. So here, monah and 'onah could both mean "dwelling place.”

605.     There is no connection whatever between that original word, translated "duty of marriage" and any other word from which the idea of "marriage" could be derived. Some would derive the word from 'anah, "to answer.” But this is very far fetched in our opinion. The second verb, "outrage," speaks only of abuse, violence and crime, when connected at all with the idea of the relation of the sexes. Aside from that relation, its general sense is "affliction.” The first word gives no hint of the marriage relation; it simply means "to dwell.”

606.     Now the translators cannot amalgamate the two senses, and get cohabitation out of them. They cannot have it both ways, after any such fashion. This noun means "dwelling place," pure and simple, or else it refers to indecent, God-defying wickedness. But what is more forced than to introduce the thought of "duty of marriage" along with a slave's food and clothing? And what is more natural than to mention "shelter" next after food and clothing, when speaking of one's obligations to a dependent? "Food, clothing and shelter" go so naturally together that one could have guessed what was said here, if no derivation could have been found for the word. The truth is, the other sense "duty of marriage," is only required, for this otherwise obsolete, word, because it was the sense desired by the early rabbis. The whole passage, then, should read: "If she please not her master, so that he hath not espoused her, then shall he let her be redeemed. . . . If he take another woman for his wife, her food and clothing and shelter he shall not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then she may go out free without money,"¾that is without paying for her freedom. And 1 Corinthians 7:3, cleared of the shadow of this perversion, means "what is due" in a more general sense.

Note by Dr. A.Mingana.

"'Her duty of marriage' is to say the least arbitrary. You should add in this connection that the Syriac version has Mashkiva which means 'place of resting, of sleeping, or of dwelling', and this corroborates your interpretation of the word."


[1] “What you say here is certain”—Dr A. Mingana.

Lesson 76  Home