Is polygamy in accordance with the Biblical teaching on marriage?


God never promoted polygamy or intended that His followers should engage in that practice. Although the Old Testament records that several of the patriarchs practiced polygamy, it was never in accordance with God’s will and His intent for marriage. When a man took more than one wife, curses and punishment were the consequence.
Abraham sinned when he had sexual relationships with Sarah’s maid Hagar. This was not only a sin because he lacked faith in God that He could give him a son through his wife Sarah, who was barren, but he also sinned, because he was married to Sarah and therefore committed adultery with Sarah’s maid.

Even though Sarah had consented to this act, it did not in any way negate God’s law. And so, we read that Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham, “to be his wife” (Genesis 16:3), but when God speaks to and of Hagar, she is only referred to as Sarah’s maid (Genesis 16:8) or the bondwoman (Genesis 21:13). God never calls Hagar Abraham’s wife, but when God is referring to Sarah, He speaks of her consistently, even after the episode with Hagar, as Abraham’s wife (Genesis 17:15, 19; 18:9-10; 20:2, 7). In Genesis 21, it is recorded that Abraham sent Hagar away, as Hagar’s and Ishmael’s presence created problems for Sarah and Isaac. After the episode with Hagar, the Bible does not mention that Abraham had sexual relationships with any other women but Sarah, until Sarah’s death.

Isaac had only one wife – Rebecca. Although Isaac repeated Abraham’s mistake when he lied about his wife, by calling her his sister, he did not repeat the mistake of his father Abraham to try to produce offspring through Rebecca’s maid, but he waited on God to give him children through Rebecca, trusting in God that He would heal Rebecca who was barren (Genesis 25:21-22).

Jacob took more than one wife (Leah and Rachel), and he repeated the mistake of his grandfather Abraham and produced offspring through the maids of his wives, but he was unconverted at that time. His conversion apparently took place when he wrestled with God, as recorded in Genesis 32:22-32.

Israel’s first king, Saul, took more than one wife, and he thereby sinned, following the practices of the pagans all around him. He violated God’s specific command to Israel’s kings in Deuteronomy 17:17, not to “multiply wives for himself.”

David had more than one wife. We read of his wives Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, and of other wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13). At least ten of his concubines (2 Samuel 15:16) are also called his wives in 2 Samuel 12:11. It seems to follow from 2 Samuel 19:5, that David had even more concubines and wives, than just the ten whom he left in Jerusalem, to guard his court, when he fled from his rebellious son Absalom. David followed the practice of Saul and other kings, to multiply wives, against God’s explicit commandment prohibiting such practice.

We read in 2 Samuel 20:3 that David no longer had any sexual relationships with his concubines, after they had been disgraced by his son Absalom. We also read that Michal was once his wife (1 Samuel 25:44), but ceased to be so, when she had become the wife of another, namely Paltiel. When that happened, the Bible calls Paltiel her husband (2 Samuel 3:15), and David was not supposed to take her back, when he had become king, under the law in effect at that time (compare Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Update #73 discusses the question whether or not this law is still in force and effect today). David probably did so for political reasons, so he could say that he was the husband of King Saul’s daughter. The Bible does not refer to Michal as David’s wife, after he had taken her back, but consistently refers to her as “Michal, Saul’s daughter” (2 Samuel 6:16, 20, 23).

David’s son Solomon took seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, transgressing thereby God’s commandments, and they turned away his heart. What Solomon did was “evil in the sight of the LORD” (1 Kings 11:6).

These Old Testament examples only prove to show that polygamy always has been wrong and against God’s law. This fact is clearly confirmed in the New Testament.

Christ explained, in Mark 10: 6-9, that God’s intent for marriage was a relationship between one man and one woman. The “TWO” (verse 8) were to become one flesh. We don’t read that the “three” or the “four” are to become one flesh.

Human marriage is a symbol of the spiritual marriage between Christ and His Church, as Ephesians 5:25-33 brings out. There, too, we read about the fact that “each one of you… so love his own wife as himself” (verse 33). We don’t read about a husband loving his own WIVES as himself.

Christ will only marry ONE wife – not many wives. It says in Revelation 19:7: “His wife has made herself ready.” It does not say: “His wives have made themselves ready.” Christ’s Church is a spiritual organism, consisting of all in whom God’s Spirit dwells. But it is ONE body (Colossians 1:18) – not several bodies.

We read in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 that a minister or a deacon must only have one wife. But this does not mean that unordained Church members are permitted to have more than one wife. As we saw, God intends marriage to be a bond between one man and one woman. When addressing the requirements for ministers and deacons, Paul emphasizes God’s teaching, not to have more than one wife, as he emphasizes other character traits required of ministers and deacons (such as, to be “temperate,” “of good behavior,” “not violent,” “not greedy for money,” etc.). This does not mean that these are just requirements for ministers and deacons, and that other Church members don’t sin when they behave badly, or when they are violent or greedy for money.

The teaching of the Old and New Testament is clear and consistent: It is not the Will of God that a man should have more than one wife.

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