“I’ve been thinking about this, and I have to wonder if God ever really intended for polygyny to be widespread or many men to have strongly polygynous designs. If He did, then one has to ask why he didn’t design us so that women conceive girls at least twice as often as boys. It seems unfair to make most men desire multiple wives and then not create enough women who could marry them.”
The question above was submitted to me from one my readers. This really is a great question and it is one that often stumps those who embrace the fact the God does allow polygamy in the Bible and that men naturally have polygynous natures.
Before I answer this question let’s first review the terms we are discussing.
Understanding the Terms
Polygamy refers to one man having several wives or one woman having several husbands. Polygamy is distinguished from polyamory in that polygamy is always a one to many relationship where polyamory is a group marriage with the possibility of multiple men and women all having sex with one another.
Polygyny refers to the type of polygamy where a man has several wives and polyandry refers to polygamy where a wife has several husbands.
The Bible only allows one type of polygamy and that is Polygyny. Polyandry and polyamory break the biblical model of marriage that women was made for man and that a woman can only have one husband at a time. If she were to attempt to marry a second husband she would be committing adultery against the first unless her first husband was dead or she was justly divorced from him(I Corinthians 7:39).
From this point forward I will use polygamy and polygyny interchangeably as there is only one type of polygamy that is allowed by God.
7 Biblical Facts about Polygamy
FACT #1 – God rewarded Leah with another child for giving her husband another wife (Genesis 30:18). Some try to say she just thought God rewarded her but the Scripture does not EVER record God condemning her for this so we take the Scriptures at face value that God did indeed reward her for giving her maid to her husband as another wife.
FACT #2 – God expressly allows polygyny and set rules for its practice. (Exodus 21:10-11, Deuteronomy 21:15-17,Deuteronomy 25:5-7)
FACT #3 – God while allowing polygyny warns against Kings “multiplying wives” meaning they were not to horde wives as Solomon would later do. – (Deuteronomy 17:17)
FACT #4 – God tells tells David through his Prophet Nathan when he sinned and took another man’s wife(Bathsheba) that he had given David the wives of his master and would have given him more wives (II Samuel 12:8)
FACT #5 – Jehoiada the high priest gets TWO wives for the young king Joash (II Chronicles 24:2-3)
FACT #6 – God pictures himself as polygamist husband to Judah and Israel in (Ezekiel 23:1-5)
FACT #7 – God divorces his first wife which was Israel as nation(Jeremiah 3:8) and in his seeking of his second wife(the church) seeks to make his first wife Israel jealous(Romans 10:19) and one day his first wife Israel as a nation will also be restored in the New Kingdom of God.
Many great men of God including Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, David and Joash were polygamists and NOT once did God offer a word of condemnation to these men for their polygamy.
Israel was still one of the most polygamist nations in the world during the time of the Roman Empire. At first Rome passed some laws exempting Israel from its monogamy policies but later it removed Israel’s exemption and it eventually forced monogamy only marriage on Israel.
While women and men are roughly equal worldwide the distribution of genders by countries is not equal
While worldwide they estimate there are slightly more men than women the population of men to women is not distributed equally by countries. There are far more women in eastern European countries like Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Russia then there are men. This is why women are trying to leave these countries in droves to seek men from other countries to be their husbands.
The reason I stated this fact is just so people understand that while worldwide the male to female population may be roughly equal that does not mean in various local populations of countries, provinces or states that it is equal.
3 Reasons God gave most men polygynous desires even if they may never be able to fully realize them
So now we come to Alex’s question. Why would God give most men polygynous desires to a greater or lesser degree when most men in the world will never be able to act on these desires?
- To help populate the world. In the beginning of creation it is very likely that we had more women than men as this would help the world population to grow faster as one man could impregnate several women at the same time.
- Because some men were too lazy, too stupid, too poor or slaves and could not have wives this would leave many women without husbands. Only men who had the brains or means to take care of a family could marry (and that is the way it should be now but unfortunately western society has chosen to subsidize monogamy).
- War and early death of men would leave many virgins and widows in its wake. Man’s polygynous nature would allow him to easily come in and make up for the imbalanced sex ratio and quickly rebuild the population.
The last point about war killing off most of the eligible men is an interesting one. In fact one of the contributing factors to the rise of feminism after World War I was that fact that millions of women in Europe and America could not find men because of the millions of men who will killed in the war. This same problem happened again after World War II. There were millions of young women that were never able to marry after both wars and many widows left to continue on their own with no male support.
God prescribed a way for women to be protected and provided for by men especially during times of war, famine and disease when men are being killed off. His answer was polygamy. That my friend is one of the big reasons God gave men polygynous desires. In fact if we practiced Levirate marriage as found in the Old Testament(Deuteronomy 25:5-10) if a man’s brother was killed in war or some other way he would marry his brother’s wife to care for her and raise up an heir for his brother’s estate. And no there was no prohibition of if he was married he could not do this – if did not do it – it would be a shame to him.
So yes during times of relative peace as the world has seen for several decades where we are not losing men by the millions we seem to question God’s wisdom. But I can tell you if another world war broke out and millions of men were being killed over several years the truth of what I am telling you would be very real.
But let’s leave war and disease taking out all the men and talk about why polygamy is needed even in times of peace like we have today.
Even if there was an exact ratio of 1/1 males and females there is a great possibility that many men will not want to marry. In fact a lot of women talk about this today- “Where are all the guys that want to marry?” That is a different topic for another post. But I can tell you for a fact when I was going through my divorce they told us that divorced men had a far easier chance of getting married and often got married faster than the divorced or widowed women. It is just harder for divorced or widowed women to get married again especially if they have children for a variety of reasons.
Now if polygamy were legal it would solve this problem by allowing wealthier men to come along and have multiple wives and be able to care for them and their children.
So is it unfair that few men today can fully act on their polygynous natures in a Biblical way?
I think in some ways it is unfair(unjust) and in other ways it is not. If a man is lazy and lacks ambition and lives in his mom’s basement at the age of 30 – no it is NOT unfair that he can’t act on his polygynous desires. In fact he should not able to act on his sexual desires even with one wife because he cannot provide for a wife and family.
I think our ban on polygamy is unfair to a single mom whose husband was killed or abandoned her and she has to scrape by just to put food on the table and care for her children. I am sure that if you gave many single moms who are in hard economic straights the choice to be a second, third or fourth wife to a wealthy man they would take that opportunity in second! But we don’t give them that choice.
I think it is unfair to men who are very successful in their business endeavors who in centuries past would have been able to not only to fully realize their dreams in business but their reward for being successful would have been to be able to have multiple wives and more children.
It is an utter waste to me that wonderful successful men are limited to only one wife when so many women out there struggle to make it alone on their own. Also it is a fact that most successful men whether they be in business or politics have very HIGH testosterone levels and very high sex drives.
So basically you have a man who has the means to take care of multiple wives and their children and has the high sex drive to want multiple wives. Many women would love to be one of his wives but our society stops this and then we wonder why these very successful men often have affairs when in Biblical times they could have just had many wives.
I am not defending men that go whoremongering – but our culture as well as our churches have set up men for failure with our attitudes toward male sexuality and specifically man’s polygynous nature.
But wasn’t polygamy only allowed because of sin in the world
Some Christians believe the only reason God allowed polygamy was because of the existence of sin in the world. After all, we only have wars, famine, disease and other things that wipe out men and leave women with no support because of sin in the world.
However, the first reason for man’s polygamous design was to populate the world. You would have a much slower world population growth if you had an even number of males to females born in the beginning of the world. Also the fact that males were so prized in early civilization seems to be an indicator that in the early days of humanity males were more rare than females.
God’s first command to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply – he wanted lots of babies being born. Now some have asked why did he not give Adam many wives if that was his design and that is a good question.
But the original creation in the Garden of Eden also had these things as well:
Sibling marriage was made necessary by the creation of only one man and one woman. Adam and Eve’s children had to marry each other(sibling marriage). Later God would outlaw this practice. So we all would agree that sibling marriage was only a temporary part of God’s design in the beginning.
God created Adam and Eve naked yet later in the Bible he commanded that clothing was to be worn. And the Bible never says clothing was only made necessary because of sin as we see in Revelation that the Saints and Angels are clothed in white robes. If humans only needed to where clothing because of sin then we would all be naked in heaven and in the new world. So we see that Adam and Eve being naked in the beginning was also only a temporary part of God’s design as well.
Instead we understand that God always intended to cloth Adam and Eve as clothing separates mankind from the rest of God’s creations. Clothing is a sign of dignity and it sets humans apart.
So the first reason apart from sin in the world that God made man polygynous in his nature was to help populate the world.
But there is another reason apart from populating the world that I believe man was made with a polygynous nature. Despite all the claims that “God only has only one bride” the fact is God has two brides. His divorced wife Israel and his new bride the Church. The Bible tells us he took on his new bride the church to make his ex-wife Israel jealous(Romans 10:19). The fact is no matter how you cut it – we serve a polygamous God. It is a one to many relationship. God has relationships multiple people, multiple nations and multiple churches. Yet God expects all these groups to have only one God as wives are expected to have only one husband.