Polygamy and the Bible


Polygamy is an interesting topic since it is allowed in some countries and banned in others. It is typically a religious practice. Many Muslims and Fundamentalist Mormons are known for the practice, but in recent times some groups claiming to be polygamous Christians have made headlines.

When we think through our Christian beliefs, issues such as marriage are bound to surface. This site in the past has dealt with arguments concerning same sex marriage and Christianity, but today we look at the issue of polygamy.

For Christians, the Bible is the moral guide for right and wrong. We must allow what the Bible teaches to trump cultural leanings and political sentiment.

With that being said, we must ask ourselves what the Bible has to say about Polygamy.

It is clear that there are polygamists in the Bible (Lamech, Jacob, Gideon, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Ashur, Joash, Abijah, etc.). It is not however as clear whether or not the polygamous relationships involving these characters receive God’s blessing.

In Genesis 2:24 we read that a man and woman are to leave their father and mother and become one. The idea here is that God designed humans to connect together in a marital way. Scripture suggests that Adam married Eve and had no other wives.

The first instance of Polygamy in the Bible comes in Genesis 4. One of Cain’s descendants is said to be worse than Cain. Like Cain he was a murderer, but it is noted that he also had two wives.

Next we find Abraham, who had one wife, going int to Hagar (his wife’s maid). This led to jealousy and bitterness between Sara, Hagar, and Abraham. Eventually Hagar was sent away. It does not appear in Scripture that God blessed the polygamous relationship and it shows a lack of trust in God on the part of Abraham and Sara.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob worked for a man named Laban for 7 years in order to marry his younger daughter. After the wedding, the woman he married removed her veil and Jacob realized that Laban had given him his older daughter instead. Jacob then worked for Laban an additional 7 years in order to marry the younger daughter. These daughters were Leah (the older one) and Rachel (the younger one). While Jacob was allowed to marry both, Scripture is clear that Leah is the better wife and Rachel causes Jacob nothing but heartache.

When Moses gave the Law to the people of Israel, he wrote in Deuteronomy 17:17, that the future kings of the people were not to have many wives. One reason given was that having many wives would turn the hearts of the kings away from the Lord. Later we read of a number of kings having multiple wives. Solomon had the most and it is noted in the Bible that his wives indeed turned his heart away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:3).

Deuteronomy 21:15-17 adds that if a man does have more than one wife, he must not show favoritism to the children of the wife he loves the most. This passage does not condone or condemn having two wives, but does recognize yet another problem of having more than one wife.

In the New Testament, Paul notes that leaders of the church must have only one wife (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6).

When looked at together, these passage tend to make a good case that the Bible, while recognizing that some practice polygamy, does not look favorably upon the practice itself.

Consequences of Polygamy:

  1. Must not show favoritism with the children of specific wives.
  2. Turn Hearts Away from the Lord
  3. Forbid to Act in Roles of Leadership in the Church

Is this is civil rights issue? Is this a moral issue? Is it a humanitarian issue? Is it a religious issue?

It is seemingly all of the above. But for Christians, it seems the practice is also out of the question.

For more info on the issue as it relates to society, check out the following link: