Alice C. Linsley
Before reading this post, I recommend reading Abraham's Complaint.
Question number 7 of the Nine Meaty Questions is: "If marriage is between one man and one woman, as Gen. 2 seems to be saying....what is all this about men having two wives one North and one South? Is this disobedience or part of God's design, and if so, why doesn't Christianity accept polygamy now?"
Answer: Marriage, as we know it in the West, is not instituted in Genesis 2. Or, to express this a different way, Genesis 2 is about the order of creation, not about the institution of marriage.
It is also important to note that the practice of having 2 wives pertained only to ruler-priests. The context is more African than Asian. In traditional African societies, rulers are expected to have more than one wife. Were Henry VIII to have followed this practice, he would have had his male heir and spared the lives of his wives (we can hope). So we see the practicality of the custom.
The actual term for the kinship pattern of these ruler-priests is "polygyny," that is, multiple wives. Noble women did not take multiple husbands, at least not legally. In fact, were a priest's daughter found in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, the law required that she be burned alive. This is why Judah ordered that Tamar should be burned. Tamar was the daughter of a priest.
The placement of wives on a north-south axis is both practical and religious. It is practical because the wives' settlements marked the northern and southern boundaries of the ruler's territory. These households were guarded by trained soldiers who intercepted all who crossed through the ruler's territory. Between the 2 settlements were the grazing lands for the ruler's herds. The herds drank at major water systems that were about halfway between the wives.
This arrangement is found in the cases of Cain, Seth, and Na'hor the Elder, and characterized the the Horites of living between Mt. Hor (northeast of Kadesh-barnea) and Mt. Harun (in Jordan).
We recognize the religious significance of the placement of the wives when we remember that the Sun was a symbol of the Creator for Abraham's Horite people. The Sun appears to make a circuit from east to west. They perceived of this as the Creator making a daily inspection of His territory. So the Creator's territory stretched from east to west. Out of reverance for the Creator, the ruler-priests placed their wives on a north-south axis. Only the braggert Lamech, who set himself up as God, placed his wives on an east-west axis. (Adah means dawn and Zillah means dusk.)
I believe that this was part of God's plan as it speaks to us about the Kingdom of God. Ruler-priests had two wives who lived in separate households yet belonged to and shared jointly in the same Kingdom. Likewise, the Kingdom of God consists of the Bride of Christ (New Covenant) and the Beloved of God (Old Covenant). Together these bear witness to the Truth: Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son of the Father, came into the world to save sinners (such as me).
Christianity stresses the humility, simplicity and servanthood of Christ. Multiple wives are a status symbol, as only rulers had more than wife. Christian men don't pattern themselves after such worldly pursuits. They are content to be the husband of one wife or to be celibate.
From the beginning of Christianity none who came to faith in Christ Jesus was required to follow any custom other than to "abstain from food offered to idols, from blood and from sexual immorality" (Acts 15:29). As priests during the time of Jesus had multiple wives, that clearly was not regarded as immoral.
Related reading: The Marriage and Ascendancy Pattern of Abraham's People; Sent-Away Sons