Bible Question:

I was having a conversation with my boyfriend, and he claimed that nowhere in the Bible does God condemn polygamy because all the great men of God in the Bible had more than one wife and concubines. He says this does not count as adultery because the other women is/are your wife/wives as well. I was so lost for words. It really disturbed me because I always thought that God meant husband and wife to be exclusively for each other only. I hope you can help me and give me answers from the Bible whether God condones or condemns polygamy because I'm really very disturbed by this issue. I've prayed about it, and I think the right thing for me to do is to seek guidance. Thank you so much for giving attention to my query.

Bible Answer:

The Bible does not approve of polygamy. The Bible contains historical accounts of past events, prophesies about the future events, and instructions from God about spiritual life. Just because the Bible records an event that occurred does not mean that God approves of the event. For example, the Bible tells us that the apostle Peter denied Jesus three times while Jesus was standing before the Jewish Sanhedrin. But that does not mean that God wants all of us to deny Jesus. The Bible also tells us that Jesus was crucified, Satan became proud, Herod killed all the babies under two years of age around Bethlehem, Abraham lied about his wife, Saul lied to God, King Nebuchadnezzar tried to force Daniel’s three friends to worship another god, but God does not want us to do any of these things. Just because the Bible records a person’s actions does not mean that God approves of what the person did.

Old Testament

Polygamy was practiced by several Old Testament men, most notably King David and King Solomon. But God did not approve. God had warned the Israelites before they entered the land of Palestine after leaving Egypt that their kings should not commit polygamy,

He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away . . . (NASB) Deut. 17:17

This was a negative statement and not a positive one. It was one among several negative statements. It was a warning to the Israelites.

New Testament

In the gospels, Jesus said this,

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH”? (NASB) Matt. 19:4-5

Notice that a husband and a wife become one flesh. How do one husband and two or more wives become one flesh? The answer is obvious.

In 1 Cor. 7:2 we also discover that the Holy Spirit commands a man and a woman each to have one mate. The Greek uses the singular and not the plural in the wording “own wife” and “own husband.”

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. (NASB) 1 Cor. 7:2

The implication is strong that they own each other.

Later in the New Testament, God states that the spiritual leaders of the church are to have only one wife.

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife . . . (NASB) 1Tim. 3:2

The Greek word translated as one means “one.” The spiritual leader of the church is to have only one wife at a time. Since 1 Peter 5:3 says that the spiritual leaders are to be examples to the members of the church, and Hebrews 13:7 tells the members to follow their examples, it should be clear that God wants each husband to have only one wife and no more.

Conclusion:

God does not approve of polygamy. The recorded actions of Old Testament men and women does not mean that God approves of their sin. Scripture accurately recorded what happened, but one cannot find God giving approval of their actions. But we can find scripture that shows God disapproved.

Reference Links:

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