What does the Bible say about polygamy (when a man has more wives)?

Once I was going by air to Tajikistan and near me was a man who told me he was working at the Tajikistan Consulate in Almata, was married and had four children and he went to marry. I told him: “I don’t understand… You say you are married and that you go to marry. How is it?” He told me: “My wife lives with our children in Dushanbe, but I am in Almata. I need a woman, and because I don’t want to commit any sin, I am going to marry another woman. My parents and my wife agreed. But what, is it anything wrong with it? The holy prophets as Abraham, David, Solomon and Mohammed (he was a Muslim)” did the same thing. What is your opinion about marriage with the second woman?” I had a long discussion with him then and he thanked me for it. I have recently received a message from the readers of the portal Moldova Creștină where I am asked again what the Bible has to say about polygamy and I decided to write this article to touch this subject.

God instituted monogomy in marriage (a man and a woman)

When the Word of God relates about creation, it says:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)(NASB)

God created a single male, Adam and a single female, Eve, and together they formed the first married couple. God did not create more women for a man or more men for a woman. After God created the first couple, He decided the following for all the couples from this earth:

For this reason a man (one) shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife (one); and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)(NASB)

The reason of polygamy is the hardness of heart

This thing will be more evident when we read a case from the life of Jesus Christ:

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “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’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. (The Gospel of Matthew 19:3–8)(NASB)

The Lord Jesus says that the reason of divorce is the hardness of heart. In other words, God allowed men with hard hearts to give their wives a certificate of divorce than to keep that wife bound by a man with a hard heart, that treats her with no respect, affection and care, so that He might protect her and her future, because those certificates indicated the reasons of divorce. My opinion is that when a man has more wives, this comes from the hardness of his heart, that is not satisfied by the wife that God has given him.

Polygamy and immorality are different things

The Bible never lists polygamy as an iniquity or as a sinful thing that will impede someone inherit the Kingdom of heavens. Some people tend to qualify polygamy as immorality, but these are different things. Since a man marries the second or more wives, he entered a covenant with each of them and he is obliged to keep them and to fulfill their needs, providing equally for all children he has with each of these women.

Polygamy doesn’t satisfy a man

The man Tajik whom I met in the plane told me that the reason he wanted the second wife was his sexual need. He said that his wife was in Dushanbe but he was in Almata and he needed a wife there to fulfill his sexual needs. But, in this case, if he had a good heart, and not a hard one, he could also think about the sexual fulfilment of his wife and he could bring the whole family in Almata. But he thought only about his sexual pleasure and I suppose that in almost all cases when men choose to have the second wife, they have the same reason. The tragedy is that they are fulfilled the way they want to be. The Bible relates about the King David, who had more wives because of some circumstances, then he himself chose to increase their number. Being extremely anxious about the sexual aspect, he took concubines because he did not have sexual fulfilment from the wives whose number was growing continually. Even worse, he commited adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a brave men from his army (2 Samuel 11). After this, he wanted to leave no trace and chose to kill Uriah. These sins affected David’s life drastically and they brought grave consequences for him and for all his family. And all this began with a simple exaggerated concern about the sexual aspect of life and the fact that he looked for fulfilment in another woman than the one who was his wife.

Polygamy brings much pain and discord

Patriarch Jacob lived in polygamy, but not by his will, but by his father-in-law’s deceit who promised to give his younger daughter, Rachel as his wife after he was going to work seven years for him. In the wedding night he brought his elder daughte, Leah, in the bedroom and she remained his wife. Then he gave him Rachel, so that Jacob might work for him for seven more years. So, two sisters became the wives of the same man and all their life was a terrible competition to have more affection and love from husband. This competition passed to their sons too, so that they were ready to kill Joseph and only through a divine intervention he was sold as a slave in Egypt. Look and follow other examples from the Bible when one had more wives and you will see that all these cases brought much pain and discord.

Can the porpose of polygamy be charity?

God set in the Old Testament the following rule for the people of Israel, that could imply polygamy:

When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (Deuteronomy 25:5–6)(NASB)

This law was set by God to save the name of the dead and to assure care for his family.

Muslims say they practice polygamy to take care about widows and orphans. The New Testament teaches us to take care about widows and orphans, but not to look for a profit from this, but to do this for God’s glory and it says:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)(NASB)

A man who has more wives can not be a model for others

After the Ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven, the Gospel was spread powerfuly to all nations and people returned from darkness to light. Men who had more wives were also repenting, that’s why, Apostle Paul gave them instructions concerning the choise of the overseer, and he said:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2)(NASB)

Apostle Paul doesn’t say those men to leave all their wives and to keep only one, that would be a great injustice, but he said they could not be models for others in the body of Christ and so, they can not have leading positions or teach others. The expression “the husband of one wife” has a deeper meaning also, that requires a man to be sexually anxious in his heart only about one woman – his wife.

How is your relation with your wife? Are you devoted to her in your heart? If you decided to marry, choose to be the husband of one wife and don’t ever admit your mind be anxious about another women.

Translated by Felicia Djugostran