Was polygamy a sin in the Old Testament that God overlooked?

Was polygamy a sin God overlooked in the Old Testament but he finally got rid of in the New Testament?  A broader question might be “Does God regulate and authorize behavior he thinks is sinful?”

If you have read many posts on this blog – you will know that I believe based on the Word of God(the whole Bible, not just the New Testament) that God never regulates or authorizes something he believes to be sinful, and therefore polygamy was not(and I would still argue today it is still not sinful when practiced Biblically).

Ever since I was a young man I have always been fascinated by three subjects – theology, history and human nature.  Specifically I wanted to understand what parts of our human nature(and even more specifically our male and female natures) are by the design of God, and which ones come from our sin nature corrupting of the God’s original design.

So question that needs answering is – “Is man’s natural instinct to be drawn to multiple women a corruption of his nature or part of his original design by God? ”

Most Pastors and theologians since the time Augustine(who brought Christian asceticism into the Church) have promoted a belief that this is part of man’s sinful nature, and not the nature he was originally designed with in the garden of Eden.  They argue that man was originally made by God with a monogamous nature, and only because of sin did polygamy enter the picture.

I have held this position on Biblical polygamy for 20 years(and no I am not a practicing polygamist) .  It always bothered me when I was a young man growing up in Baptist Churches(which I still love and attend ) when the Pastor would come to a passage about polygamy and say something like “This was a sin God overlooked in ancient times, but he finally got rid of it in the New Testament”.  This just bugged me! Since when does the God of the Bible regulate and authorize a behavior he believes to be sinful?  I have always believed that the God of the Bible can never authorize or regulate sinful behavior and I always will.

Recently I had a little debate about this issue in another forum with a Christian woman when we were discussing the subject of men looking at women.  Her name was Lucy.  This is part of the conversation where switch to the topic of polygamy:

Lucy started by quoting a statement I am made:

“men are naturally polygynous as God designed them.” Can you please provide verse and chapter for us? It seems to me that if that were true, anything but polygamy would be cruel for men and that decans, pastors, etc, should not have to be the husband of only one wife.”

This was my response:

Lucy – I would be happy to respond with Bible passages that support the concept that men are naturally polygynous as designed by God.

God allows and regulates polygamy in Moses law

If a man takes a second wife, he cannot deny the first wife food, clothing or sex. He must continue being a husband to her as well, even if he has more romantic attachment to his second wife.

“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.” – Exodus 21:10-11

A man could not take his wife’s sister as a rival wife while his wife lived:
“Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.” – Leviticus 18:18

If a man had two wives, and he did was not romantically attracted to or did not get along with one as good as the other, he still had to acknowledge the rights of her son if he was firstborn:

“15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:

16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.” – Deuteronomy 21:15-17

Leah was blessed by God for giving her husband one of her hand maids as a wife:

“9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife…17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.
Genesis 30:9 & 17-18

Lucy – many Christians because this does not meet with their preconceived notion that God always intended for men to be in monogamous marriages will say that that God only “allowed polygamy, but it was still sinful”.

The God of the Bible does NOT all sin – EVER. What he allows, he approves of – to say anything less is to question the holiness of God.

Now does God sometimes change his laws?

Yes. For instance God allowed the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve to marry(what we would call incest) and this practice was not condemned until later in the Mosaic law.

There was no sin Jacob marrying two sisters(Leah and Rachel) even though he was tricked. God had not yet forbid a man from marrying sisters.

God never condemned polygamy, but rather he regulated it which means he approved of it.

Some will try to point to Deuteronomy 17:15-17 where God says that a King shall not “multiply wives to himself” to say God was condemning polygamy. The problem with that interpretation is that the same man – Moses that wrote that wrote regulations on polygamy! So he certainly was not contradicting himself. Instead what he was saying is that king is not to “horde wives” – much in the way King Solomon did with having 1000 wives! King Solomon abused the concept of polygamy and his heart was indeed lead astray.

As to your point that it would be cruel then to make men have only one wife – you are right that it does make things difficult for polygynous men living a world that has now confined men to monogamous marriage.

However even in Biblical times not all men were able to marry more than one wife, and many did not have any wife at all.  This is because male slaves and servants could only have a wife if their master allowed them to. Also poor men often did not marry because fathers would not give their daughters to a man that could not pay a bride price and could not care for their daughters. This left many women that needed husbands and this is why wealthier men had many wives.

So while most men are polygynous in their nature, that does not mean all men should were able to act on that polygynous nature by taking multiple wives.

Lucy replied:

“I’m so disappointed to hear you’re back in the Old T. You have mistaken an allowance in ancient times for “men are designed that way,” but the Bible presents monogamy as God’s ideal for marriage.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” (Genesis 2:24). While Genesis 2:24 is describing what marriage is, rather than how many people are involved, the consistent use of the singularis used.

In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 give “the husband of one wife” in a list of qualifications for spiritual leadership.

While these qualifications are specifically for positions of spiritual leadership, they should apply equally to all Christians. Should not all Christians be “above reproach…temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2-4)? If we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), and if these standards are holy for elders and deacons, then they are holy for all.

Also, note how Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks of the relationship between husbands and wives. “Husband” is always singular. “Wife” is always singular.

In the above verse, If polygamy were allowable,the entire illustration of Christ’s relationship with His body (the church) and the husband-wife relationship falls apart.

Even going back to Adam and Eve, polygamy was not God’s original intent. God seems to have allowed polygamy to solve a problem in brutal times, but it is not the ideal. I can certainly find no proof God designed men that way.

This was my response to Lucy:

Lucy, as Christians we can sometimes be disappointed or surprised by what our fellow brethren believe. I am always disappointed when I find my Christian brethren believing God tossed the Old Testament in the garbage can when he gave us the New Testament and that is not the case at all.

You are absolutely right that Biblically speaking we are no longer under the Law, but under grace- Praise God!

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” – Romans 6:14 (KJV)

But what “law” is Paul speaking of? He is speaking of the cleanliness law, civil law, the sacrificial law, the priestly law that Moses gave to Israel as a theocracy.  The Scriptures tell us in Hebrews 8:13 that the old covenant has been replaced with the New – praise God!

In Galatians 3:24-25 the Apostle Paul tells us that the law (the sacrificial part of the law, the civil and the priestly law) was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ – but now that Christ is come we are no longer under that school master – again praise God!

That means we don’t have to stone people who commit adultery, or stone rebellious kids.  We don’t have to make sacrifices to cover our sins.  We don’t have to follow the cleanliness laws anymore.  We don’t have to stay away from certain meats, or practice the festivals.

But this does not mean that God’s moral law – contained with the Law of Moses is also obsolete. For instance while Moses law may prescribe death for someone committing murder – we are not required anymore to do that – as that is part of the civil laws of Israel that have been made obsolete.  But is murder still sin? Is it still a violation of God’s moral law? Yes.

Paul said this about the moral law contained in Moses Law:

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31(KJV)

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet…Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” – Romans 7:7 & 12

Over 350 times Jesus or his Apostles quote from the Old Testament – we don’t have New Testament without the Old Testament. We can learn many things about the character of God, as well as us as his creations through the Old Testament.  I hope and pray you and other believers will find a greater appreciation for the Old Testament as it is just as much the Word of God as the New Testament is.

Now on to the issue of polygamy – or to be more specific polygyny (a man having more than one wife).  Lucy you are absolutely right that God says they will become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  He does not say “one fleshes” as you correctly point out. You know why? Because a man has an individual marriage with each one of his wives.  If a man and all his wives were one together that would be something called “Polyamory” where multiple live together and sleep with one another.  Wives could sleep with wives, or sleep with their husband.  In fact you could have several men, and several women in a polymorous relationship.  But that is NOT what polygyny is.

Polygyny is where a man has more than one marriage. He has several marriages.  But he has a separate and distinct relationship with each of his wives, and God points out in Exodus 21:10-11 he has a separate and distinct duty to provide food, clothing and to become ONE FLESH (have sex) with each of his wives.

Apparently God who inspired Moses to write about marriage being one flesh, and speaking of a husband and wife in the singular – saw no contradiction between that and a man having more than one wife.

Is the “husband of one wife” requirement (I Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6) for a Pastor speaking of monogamy or divorce? I would argue based the qualifications of widows who could be supported by (and became servants of) the church that Paul was speaking of a Pastor or Deacon not having been divorced from his first wife:

“Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.” – I Timothy 5:9 (KJV)

But let’s say you were right (which I don’t think you are), that Paul was forbidding polygamy by Pastors and Deacons.  If he was, then by forbidding it to Pastors and Deacons, he was acknowledging that Christians were actively practicing polygamy.  Why when he wrote so much about marriage and divorce, and he even forbid believers from marrying non-believers, why did he not just go ahead and tell believers “you cannot marry more one wife anymore(as God had previously allowed you too)”?”

As to Ephesians 5, I love that God designed marriage to a model of his relationship with his people.  In the Old Testament he pictures himself as a husband to his wife Israel, and in the New Testament he pictures marriage as the relationship between Christ and his Church. Beautiful!

However I respectfully disagree with you that polygyny destroys this beautiful model of Christ and his Church. In the New Testament the Church is often referred to in the singular, but other times it is referred to in the plural (churches).    Just as God referred to Israel as his wife (singular), he also referred to Israel as his wives (plural) when speaking of Israel and Judah in the book of Ezekiel:

“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother…And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and THEY were mine, and THEY bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.”  – Ezekial 23:2 & 4

In the same way while Christ often refers to his Church in the singular in the New Testament, he also refers to his Church in the plural much the same way God referred to Israel and Judah when he speaks of the 7 Churches in the book of Revelation.  He speaks to all but one of their unfaithfulness in different areas.  It appears that Christ has a separate and distinct relationship with each of his churches – does this somehow hurt the concept of Christ and his Church being a model for marriage – I think not.

When Christ speaks to his Church in the singular, it is in much the same way that a man with many wives would speak to his family (including all his wives) which is also what the Church is compared to in this passage:

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  – I Timothy 3:15

I say all this to say, from the OT to NT the concept of a man being married to more than one wife, and having a distinct relationship with each of his wives does not break the model of what God intended marriage to be. A man can be one flesh with each of his wives, as God is one with each of his churches.

As far as your assertion that God creating only one man and one woman (Adam and Eve) in the garden means that was his model for marriage, are you then saying that brothers and sisters marrying was his model for marriage? Because Adam and Eve’s children had to marry one another.  The fact is that God could have created two sets of couples so that incest would not have to occur just as he could have created more wives for Adam. He chose not to. But again I draw your attention to the fact that the same God who created Adam and Eve also gave Moses commands allowing men to take more than one wife – if that were a violation of his model he would not have allowed it.

I hope this helps clarify my position.


24 thoughts on “Was polygamy a sin in the Old Testament that God overlooked?

  1. Almighty God is omniscient over all His creation and does not over-look anything. As such He is all-knowing of all that is.

  2. Well now, that’s a fascinating debate! First let me say, I believe men are wonderfully and fearfully made, just the way they are. I think our culture has done a great deal to shame men, to mock their visual nature or to imply that their more polygamous design is somehow sinful. I really think that shaming is wrong, that God didn’t make a mistake, that he made men just how he wanted them. Temptation is not sin, desire is not sin, biology is not sin. Acting on some temptations may well be sin, however.

    I tend to disagree with your argument about God condoning or allowing polygamy. God does sometimes regulate things that He does not necessarily approve of. Slavery for example or rape. Rape may well call for paying a fine of 50 shekals. That’s not condoning rape, that’s recognizing that something is being stolen and compensation should be paid. There are rules for owning slaves, that’s not God advocating for slavery, that’s God saying, hey, if you’re going to own slaves, you’re going to need to treat them humanely! God does change the rules on us sometimes. And sometimes He adapts His rules to accommodate the willful behavior of people. In Matthew 19:8 Jesus gives us a peek into that idea when He says regarding divorce, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”

    “…but from the beginning it was not so..” That is the key to most things for me. I try to think about the garden of Eden and how God designed us to be. Obviously sin came into the world and humankind has wandered off course quite a bit, but that original design is what He intended for us.

  3. If God intended polygyny to be widespread, why are there about as many men as there are women in the world? Furthermore, if men are naturally more polygamous in nature than women are, why do women commit adultery about as frequently as men do when they have the equal opportunity to do so? Finally, how come in one of your biblical examples demonstrating that men are naturally polygynous, the addition of extra wives and concubines was the wife’s idea? How come your passages about regulation of polygyny speak to husbands who only love one of their wives and hate the other(s) and forbid husbands from failing to provide for wives who have fallen out of favor because their husbands married other wives? Many biblical examples do show men who married more than one woman heavily favoring one wife and only tolerating their other wives and concubines because multiple wives increased their chances of having children. The story of Elkanah, Penninah, and Hannah also contains this theme.

  4. insanity,

    First all thank you for your respectful tone in your disagreements – you and I agree on a lot – but there are going to be these areas we will disagree on.

    Having said that I will try to answer your disagreements a bit(but I am not laboring under the delusion that I will change your mind as we both know the Scriptures well).

    I find it interesting how accepting you are of man’s “polygamous design” which you believe is not sinful(and I am glad you hold that position), yet you don’t think God allowed polygamy but did not approve of it. If God did not approve of it, then that would make man’s polygamous nature not a part of God’s design, but rather a corruption of his design.

    On the issue of God regulating things he disapproves of – if he does(like in divorce) the tone is made clear either in the passage itself or other passages that God does not wish for this activity to occur. No such passage exists about polygamy. God never says “I hate polygamy”, the way he said “I hate divorce”. God clearly says he hates divorce, so we know when he regulated it, it was not because he was approving that divorce had to happen, but rather because of sin he knew it sometimes must. I go into more detail on divorce in my new series on it(hopefully I can get it out tonight). But if God authorizes and regulates something to which he does not mention it negatively, then we know he approved of it.

    On the issue of paying the 50 shekals for rape, that was not God allowing rape(like he allowed divorce), rather he was setting the punishment for when the rape of a virgin girl that was not pledged to married occurred. Then the father could decide if the rapist had to marry the girl – and this was for her protection since very few men would marry a woman who was not a virgin. But in now way did God allow or regulate that rape, he was simply proscribing the punishment and restitution that would be necessary.

    On the issue of slavery – God did not consider it immoral or sinful for one person to own another person, the morality or immorality of owning slaves came down to how they were acquired and then how they were treated(humanely as you pointed out) If you have not already read it – I invite you to read my post https://biblicalgenderroles.com/2015/07/10/why-christians-shouldnt-be-ashamed-of-slavery-in-the-bible/

    As to Matthew 19:8 – when he said “but from the beginning it was not so” he was not referring to polygamy, but rather divorce. God hates divorce, and he only had to allow divorce because sin entered the picture and he new certain sinful activity would break the bonds of the marriage and make it nearly impossible to continue. He was saying “divorce was never God’s intention from the beginning, not polygamy was never God’s intention from the beginning”

  5. I stumbled on this article in my search for help. I have been married 5 years to my husband. Recently my husband told me that he believes God is instructing him to take another wife. I do not want him to be a polygamist, and I do not feel a calling to that life. This feels completely out of left field. When both of you are in disagreement, who makes the decision? This seems different than other family decisions where he would get ultimate say.

  6. Susan,

    There are a couple of issues. There are some Christians who believe that while polygamy is allowable Biblically, they believe we as believers cannot practice it because it against the Laws of every state in our country. However some Christians such as myself and others, do not believe the government has any right to define the boundaries of marriage. God created marriage, and God defines it’s parameters.

    The government approves gay marriage – which God condemns, and the government condemns polygamy which God allows.

    I find it fascinating that our society tolerates men having a wife, and then sleeping around with different women making no commitment as husband to them and there is nothing illegal about this lifestyle. Yet if a man chooses to take a second wife and makes the commitment of marriage to her he is called the worst criminal and people are calling for his arrest. So if you call her you mistress – its fine, but if you call her a second wife our society wants to take you down. It so utterly ridiculous.

    I am not a practicing polygamist and I have no plans to pursue that lifestyle(one practical reason is that my wife would divorce me in a second if I did).

    But the Christian polygamists I know that have entered the lifestyle have done so with the consent of their first wife. That is not to say that the Bible requires such consent. In any area of marriage, Biblically speaking the husband has the final word.

    I agree with you from our modern cultural perspective – this is much different than any other decision you may face. If you believe that polygamy is not allowed by God anymore then you can take that stand against your husband, but in the end he may take a second wife anyway(a spiritual wife, not one on paper).

    If you don’t mind – what denomination are you and your husband?
    How long have you been believers?
    How long has your husband believed that polygamy is approved by God and when did he start talking to you about it?

  7. Men are naturally polygynous. Women tend to be monoandrous.
    One man can keep a dozen women reproducing.
    A dozen men cannot make a woman reproduce any more than one man can.
    When a man has two or more wives, the wives are married to him alone. They are not “married” to one another.
    Polygyny cannot go too far or many men will not be able to get even one wife. Social restrictions are necessary, even if informal, to limit polygyny. There are not enough extra women for many men to have two wives, even if no man has more than two.
    A man marrying sisters was a common form of polygamy. However, the sisters must not be inclined to be rivals to one another, competing for their husband’s favor.
    For Christians living in serial-polygamy countries, having only one wife is expedient as it avoids arousing the hostility of the surrounding population, which practice “musical beds” but approve of only one spouse at a time. Jesus abolished divorce and remarriage among His people, which had been tolerated among the Israelites. So, Christians should be very careful about what kind of person they marry, starting with a fellow Christian.

  8. Men are naturally polygynous. Women tend to be monoandrous.
    One man can keep a dozen women reproducing.
    A dozen men cannot make a woman reproduce any more than one man can.
    When a man has two or more wives, the wives are married to him alone. They are not “married” to one another.
    Polygyny cannot go too far or many men will not be able to get even one wife. Social restrictions are necessary, even if informal, to limit polygyny. There are not enough extra women for many men to have two wives, even if no man has more than two.
    A man marrying sisters was a common form of polygamy. However, the sisters must not be inclined to be rivals to one another, competing for their husband’s favor.
    For Christians living in serial-polygamy countries, having only one wife is expedient as it avoids arousing the hostility of the surrounding population, which practice “musical beds” but approve of only one spouse at a time. Jesus abolished divorce and remarriage among His people, which had been tolerated among the Israelites. So, Christians should be very careful about what kind of person they marry, starting with a fellow Christian.

  9. BGR,

    I found your website a few days ago from Rollo’s “The Rational Male” regarding MGTOW and TRP. I am so glad I found this, wanting to find a more Christian-based version of TRP. So far, I have found nothing to disagree with you on. You even interpreted correctly, in my opinion, the vexing sisters verse. And, you found the verse in Ezekial where God married to two sisters! You didn’t mention it, but there is also a sister verse (pun intended) in Jeremiah. I never heard these two verses mentioned in church and didn’t find them until I started looking into polygyny and biblical marriage myself.

    One of the commentators above mentioned the “typical” three one-wife verses (1 Tim 3:2, 1 Tim 3:12, Titus 1:6). I like that you kept the explanation simple, but some may be more willing to delve into the language aspects. Specifically, the word Mia that was translate to one. The same word is also translated in other verses as first and the ever-so-weak indefinite article a/an. So one can see how those verses could read very differently just based on which word they choose. Also, most English versions which read “but one wife”, or “only one wife” will note (in the extremely fine print) that those words were added based on the scholars’ “interpretation” of what they thought it meant. Another fun cross-reference in the translation of Mia to one is that anywhere else it was used that way, you’ll notice that the “one” is usually part of a set or group (Mark 14:37 “Could you not watch one hour?”; Mark 14:66 “…there cometh one of the maids…”; Luke 17:35 “…the one shall be taken, and the other left.”; Matt 5:19 “…break one of these commandments…”; Luke 9:33 “…one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias…”; you get the idea.)

    You also didn’t mention it, but I’d like to, just because poor Paul keeps getting misquoted so many times, is the verse “let every man have his own wife and let every woman her own husband” (1 Cor 7:2). Sigh… Our English translations really do lack the full flavor of the original. The problem here is that the words “own” are actually two different words in Greek, heautou and idios. It can be a little confusing, but the short answer is easier if you think about ownership being directional.
    Heautou, the first one, is from the man’s perspective and is like pulling ownership. My own house, my own sandwich, my own wife, my own thoughts (John 6:61, John 20:10, Acts 7:21, Romans 8:3, 1 Cor 6:19).
    Idios, the second one, is from the woman’s perspective and is like pushing ownership or being apart of something bigger (and therefore potentially plural *wink*). My own family, my own country, my own language (Luke 2:3, Acts 13:36, Romans 14:4, Titus 2:9 and everyone’s personal favorite 1 Peter 3:5). Are there other members in “your” family? Of course. Are there other citizens in “your” country? Obviously. Do other people speak “your” language? Even if it’s Klingon. Are there other wives for your husband? Certain…. wait, what?

    Another fun story is Abimelech and Abraham (Genesis 20:5-6, 17-18). King Abi wants Sarah for a wife, Abraham doesn’t say no. God puts his foot down with King Abi and King Abi defends himself and pleads “…in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.” God agrees with him and echos back “Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart…” What’s the point? Look at verses 17 and 18: Abimelech was already married. God just said that taking another wife had integrity.

    Anyway. Thank you so much for this blog and the teachings you have helped spread. I can also see from the comments that you have people who are willing to challenge you on something that they disagree with and you’re not afraid to address the issue. Iron sharpens iron.

  10. Just Some Guy,

    I am glad my ministry has been and hopefully will continue to be a blessing to you.

    I believe the Bible was “red pill” long before there was a red pill. We have just buried its truths regarding God’s design and roles for the genders under a century of feminism.

    You would not believe how often I get accused of being a Muslim masquerading as Christian on Facebook because many people have never heard some of the passages of Scripture that I quote. Some day many moons from now I would like to do a series comparing and contrasting the Muslim views of gender and marriage with those of the Bible.

    Also it is on my to do list some day to write more extensively on the similarities and also differences between the Red Pill view of gender relations and the Bible’s view of gender relations.

  11. Amen to the Bible being the original TRP script. It was during my research that I found many resources that said basically the same thing. i.e. be a man and lead your family (but without the F-Bombs that often coincide with TRP. It absolutely kills me how emasculated modern Christianity has become. It’s hard enough to be a “secular” MAN let alone a compassionate and loving “Christian” MAN.

    You mentioned Facebook, but I haven’t been able to find your page on there. Do you have a Facebook front of this blog or did you mean your own personal FB page? If you do have a BGR Facebook page, can you list it somewhere on your site? I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Thanks much.

  12. BGR – you mentioned in an above comment:

    “But the Christian polygamists I know that have entered the lifestyle have done so with the consent of their first wife.”

    i’m curious about those you know. how does it work? how do they balance it all? how about jealousy with the wives? this is all intriguing to me.

  13. BGR –

    Susan said:
    AUGUST 16, 2015 AT 4:12 AM
    I stumbled on this article in my search for help. I have been married 5 years to my husband. Recently my husband told me that he believes God is instructing him to take another wife. I do not want him to be a polygamist, and I do not feel a calling to that life. This feels completely out of left field. When both of you are in disagreement, who makes the decision? This seems different than other family decisions where he would get ultimate say.”


    would it make a difference if he stated in his marriage vows that, “he would keep himself only unto her”?

  14. @BGR,

    I have a question that’s only tangentially related (since you’ve mentioned in your articles on polygamy that God initially allowed but later banned incest) but I’ve been somewhat curious to hear other Christians’ take on this issue. Just Some Guy mentione the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Abimalech in Genesis 20. In verse 12, after Abimalech has learned that Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife, Abraham adds, “She is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father, though not of my mother, and she became my wife.” There’s a lot of Jewish commentary on this issue. My husband and I have discussed this a little bit (more out of curiosity than out of serious theological questions on incest between siblings, which was clearly banned in the laws given to Moses), and we tend to think that Abraham was either still lying to placate Abimalech or that Sarah was a step-sister rather than a half-sister to Abraham. Perhaps she was the daughter of another one of Terah’s wives from a previous marriage. We prefer this interpretation because Genesis 11:27-30 lists Terah’s children and his three grandchildren through his son Haran. Then Genesis 11:31 describes Sarah as his son’s wife but not as his (Terah’s) daughter. We don’t think that this passage would have failed to mention that Sarah was Terah’s daughter because the passage names two other female descendants of Terah (Milcah and Iscah). We’re also not convinced by the Midrash that identifies Sarah as Iscah, both because it doesn’t make sense to refer to her by two separate names in the same passage and because Sarah, unlike Lot, is not described in Genesis 11:31 as Terah’s granddaughter. But we’d both be interested if someone has a different interpretation based on a better understanding of Hebrew.

  15. Alex,

    While I value going to the original Hebrew sometimes the language of the text is clear enough:

    “And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.”
    Genesis 20:12 (KJV)

    Abraham used a “half truth” which was a lie about his “half-sister”. While it was true she was his half-sister – she more importantly was his wife and he was using this lie to protect himself from harm.

    The Bible shows us in this passage that his first statement on his sister Sarah was only half true and the full truth is revealed in Genesis 20:12. It does not give us even a hint that he was lying about her being his sister – only that he left out an important truth that she was his wife.

    On the subject of her not being listed in the daughters of Terah I do not believe that is enough to contradict Abraham’s clear statement in verse 12 that she was his half sister. The Bible does not always list all the sons and daughters of various Biblical characters just like with Adam and Eve God does not list all their children.

    So my personal belief is that the clearest statement of Scripture shows Sarah was indeed Abraham’s half sister. But there was no sin in his marriage to her as God did not condemn marriage to siblings or half-siblings until many centuries later in the law of Moses.

  16. @BGR,

    Thanks for the reply! I asked about the Hebrew because I was wondering if the genealogical information given in Genesis 11:31 should have or could have described Sarah as a daughter rather than a daughter-in-law. But I’ll acknowledge that it’s still very possible that Genesis 11 chose not to emphasize Sarah and Abraham’s familial relationship because their marital relationship was more important from a theological perspective. I could also see how their familial relationship may have seemed unimportant–they hadn’t violated any of God’s laws because marriage between half-siblings hadn’t yet been banned, and their marriage can’t be used post-law to defend marriages between siblings or half-siblings.

  17. This is an excellent article, really informative & awesome information presented with biblical backing! I do have one question for BGR – how would you say Matthew 5:27-28 figures into this? Here Yeshua/Jesus is speaking of adultery in that even looking @ a women with lust is already committing adultery with her in your heart. If that’s the case, would that outlaw polygamy? I’ve heard others say this passage speaks of lusting after another man’s wife rather than just any woman. But from what I read in this passage, it doesn’t seem to say “looking @ another man’s wife” but just any woman, right? I’m in full agreement with you in all you’ve said thus far. Anyway, just an honest question & would love to know your thoughts, thanks!

  18. IPS,

    Matthew 5:27-28 definitely figures into this.

    “27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
    28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

    So the question we must ask is – what is lust?

    Romans 7:7 tells us what lust is:

    “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

    So we know that Biblically speaking lust is covetousness. There are two Greek words in the original text of the New Testament that are synonyms for “desire” and depending on the context it can be “good desire” or “bad desire”. It is interesting to note that the word translated as “covet” in Romans 7:7 that I just showed you is translated as “lust” in Matthew 5:28 so this illustrates the point that they are in fact interchangeable.

    Now that we have established that lust is bad desire – or bad covetousness we need to find out how the Bible defines covetousness. As with many words in the Bible – besides looking at the Greek and Hebrew meanings we must also look at the context in which a word is used to determine its full meaning. To find out what covetousness is we need to look back to the 10 commandments and specifically the 10 commandment:

    “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
    Exodus 20:17 (KJV)

    So as we can see here a man can covet his neighbors house, his wife, his man servants and maid servants, his oxen, his donkeys and anything that belongs to his neighbor. So lets take a house as an example. Is it wrong to find your neighbor’s house desirable? No. Is it wrong to wonder what it would be like to live in your neighbor’s house? No. Would it be wrong to desire to purchase your neighbor’s house? No. Covetousness is when you desire to UNLAWFULLY possess your neighbors house perhaps by killing him and taking it or taking it by some other unlawful means.

    Covetousness like lust is the desire to unlawfully possess something.

    So bringing this full circle back to polygamy – if a man is married to one woman and finds another woman desirable that is NOT lust. If he desires to possess her by seeking her hand in marriage(as in asking her father if he is still alive or asking her if she is divorced or widowed or not living in her father’s house) then his desire is not sinful or unlawful and therefore his desire toward this woman is NOT lust.

    Therefore Christ’s admonition for men not lust after women is NOT a command against polygamy. His words don’t make sexual arousal, finding a woman sexually desirable or having a sexual fantasy about a woman sinful either. They make a man having an evil desire to unlawfully possess a woman outside of marriage a sin. Christ is basically tell people that not only committing physical adultery is wrong – but even desiring to commit adultery is wrong. He is connecting the 10th commandment(thou shalt not covet) to the 7th commandment(thou shalt not commit adultery).

    Hope that answers your question.

  19. Matthew 19:9 is what Christians will try to use to condemn polygamy by saying there is no room for polygny there. Saying if a man put away his wife except Fornication he commits adultery

  20. I don’t know if you wrote about it in your other posts, but I think you’ll like this information.
    In 1 Corinthians 7:2 two different Greek words are used for man and woman.
    1 Corinthians 7:2 “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own (heautou) wife, and let each woman have her own (idios) husband.”
    The Greek word for “own” (heautou) in the phrase “have his own wife” indicates that the man’s wife was a personal exclusive possession to the extent that a man possesses a wife. The Greek word for “own” (idios) in the phrase “have her own husband” is not exclusive. Apparently idios carries the idea of a communal or shared ownership.

  21. Komizar,

    Yes I was familiar with this and it is good point. The Bible never contradicts. A mans wife is shown to be his property in the 10th commandment as well as how the Bible talk about marriage and adultery. For a woman to be married was for a woman to be owned by a man – her husband. And adultery was the greatest property crime a man could commit in violating another man’s property.

    “30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;
    31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.
    32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
    33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.
    34 For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.”
    Proverbs 6:30-34 (KJV)

    You can steal a man’s food when you are hungry and his will accept restitution. If you stole his wife he would probably kill you (and back then it would have been legal to do so).

  22. Sadly, these days, it’s, “the best punishment you can give to the man who stole your wife is to let him keep her.”

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