What does Scripture say about Polygamy?
In Matt. 19:4 we are told by Jesus that God created one “male and
[one] female” and joined them in marriage. Mark 10:6-8:"But from the
beginning of the creation, God 'made them male and female.' 'For this
reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his
wife, 'and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer
two, but one flesh.
Eve was taken from Adams body and given back to him as his wife (singular) showing God’s approval of what the marriage union is to be like. God always spoke of man's “wife,” as singular, not wives. Notice it also states one father one mother.
It wasn’t until sin made man fall (Gen. 4:23) that polygamy occurs. Cain was cursed, Lamech is a descendent of Cain and the first to practice polygamy. The first time polygamous relationship is found in the Bible is with a thriving rebellious society in sin; when a murderer named “Lamech [a descendant of Cain] took for himself two wives” (Gen.4:19, 23).
The same Godly pattern of one man and one wife is lived by Noah. At the time of the Ark (Gen. 7:7), Noah took his one wife into the ark, all his son’s took one wife; God called Noah’s family righteous and pure. If polygamy were ordained of God, it would have made sense that Noah and his sons would have taken additional wives with them to repopulate the earth faster from the cataclysm.
This was to be a permanent union between man and woman that they might be helpful to one another (Genesis 2:18). Marriage represents a relationship of both spiritual and physical unity.
Hebrews 13:3-4: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
We have examples of saints in the Old Testament going off the commandment i.e Solomon, but this is not God approved. Many of the patriarchs took more than one wife. Abraham, by recommendation of Sarah, took her maid. Jacob was tricked through Laban, into taking Leah first, and then Rachel, to whom he had been betrothed. polygamy was not wrong in ancient cultures, but was a departure from the divine institution that God ordained.
In the Bible I count 15 examples of polygamy from the time of Lamech to 931 A.D. 13 of these men had enough power that no one could call into question their practice, they were unaccountable or no one dared approach them. Lamech Genesis 4:19; Abraham Genesis 16; Esau Genesis 26:34; 28:9; Jacob Genesis 29:30; Ashur 1 Chronicles 4:5; Gideon Judges 8:30; Elkanah 1 Samuel 1:2; David 1 Samuel 25:39-44; 2 Samuel 3:2-5; 5:13; 1 Chronicles 14:3; Solomon 1 Kings 11:1-8; Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 11:18-23; Abijah 2 Chronicles 13:21; Jehoram 2 Chronicles 21:14; Joash 2 Chronicles 24:3; Ahab 2 Kings 10; Jehoiachin 2 Kings 24:15; Belshazzar Daniel 5:2; 1 Chronicles 2:8; Hosea in Hosea 3:1,2. Polygamy is mentioned in the Mosaic law and made inclusive on the basis of legislation, and continued to be practiced all down through the period of Jewish history to the Captivity, after which there is no instance of it on record (Gen.29:15-30, Jacob and his wives.)
Was Abraham, David Solomon condemned or approved for practicing polygamy? Well they certainly did not get blessed for it! The fact that every polygamist in the Bible like David and Solomon (1 Chron. 14:3) were punished. This should be evidence that this is not God’s will.
God never condoned polygamy but like divorce he allowed it to occur and did not bring an immediate punishment for this disobedience. Deut. 17:14-17: “I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, 'You shall not return that way again.' “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.” This is the command of God, and he has never changed it.
1 Kings 11:3 says Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines violating the principle of monogamy that he was given through the law of Moses. Consider that Solomon at one time was the wisest man in the world. In I Kings 11:4: “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.” Notice Solomon became a polytheist because he was influenced in polygamy. In his case many wives, became many gods. Scripture has always commanded monogamy (Ps.128:3; Prov. 5:18; 18:22; 19:14; 31:10-29; Eccl. 9:9).
The fact is that God never commanded polygamy or divorce. Scripture says (Bible) He only permitted it because of the hardness of their hearts (Deut. 24:1; Matt. 19:8). Matt. 5:31-32: “Furthermore it has been said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” God hates divorce as well as polygamy, since it destroys the family (Mal. 2:16). Whatever the patriarchs or any Christian did wrong does not change the fact the Bible condemns it.
There are some stipulations in the law that are connected to this subject. Matt. 22:24: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.” This is based on the commandment found in Deut. 25:5-6: “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband's brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. “And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. ”
Multiple wives was tolerated but never with God's approval. Jesus told the Jews, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way" (Matthew 19:3-8). The Mosaic law aimed at mitigating, rather than removing, evils that were inseparable from the state of society in that day. Its enactments were directed to the discouragement of polygamy; to prevent the injustice frequently consequent upon the exercise of the rights of a father or a master; to bring divorce under some restriction; and to enforce purity of life during the maintenance of the matrimonial bond.
The Bible says adultery is not a choice, one does not have to acquire another wife to solve his urges. Jesus said if you look upon another woman with desire (married or not) it is adultery, a sin.
Paul insisted that a leader in the church should be “the husband of one wife,” a deacon or elder must have one wife... Titus 1:6.
The New Testament teaches that, “Each man [should] have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). Monogamous marriage teaches us the type of the relation Christ has between himself and His bride, the church (Eph. 5:31-32). The church is called the bride, collectively as one (singular) each person is not a bride, as in plurality of wives and marriages.
How many wives did Adam have in Gen.2:24? One, God did not take two wives out from his side. Monogamy has always been God's standard for the human race. From the very beginning God set the pattern by creating a monogamous marriage relationship -one man and one woman, Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:27; 2:21-25). It cannot be interpreted he became one with “each wife”; then this would mean he would be a husband to each, committing adultery. God certainly could have made two or more wives for Adam, this would have endorse the idea of polygamy, but he made only one.
The Bible clearly and decidedly states that God does not condone or allow the practice of polygamy over and over again.