Explaining Polygamy

Posted: September 17, 2014 in Ma-Papel (Paperworks), Theology

How do you explain polygamy in the Bible? Is polygamy acceptable to God? Why or why not?

Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon. What do these men have in common? They were heroes of the faith. They were men who we would like to be associated with. There’s a problem though. These guys are polygamist, or having more than one wife. So how do we explain polygamy?

First, not everything recorded in the Bible is approved in the Bible. As far as the authors were concerned, they wrote with the intent of writing what happened, as a narrative. They did not just paint heroes but show the cracks and dents of the men with feet of clay. They were regarded in high esteem, yes, respectable in some ways but they also have their faults. This is why we can talk about inspiration in a sense that it guarantees the accuracy of the words of Scripture but not always the thought that is expressed (Paraphrased from my notes in Ecclesiastes regarding Inspiration, Hebrew Poetry, p.1).

Second, the men mentioned did have problems when it comes to their complicated marriages. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, got into a fit (I wanted to use the word “tantrum” here) over Hagar (see Genesis 21:10). Jacob had to deal with the rivalry between his wives, Rachel and Leah (see Genesis 30). David had to deal with the family squabble with his sons (and I presume that the mothers were in part, responsible for that too). It was also a problem for Solomon with his wives as they turned his heart away from God (see 1 Kings 11:3-4). Although God blessed these men materially, the consequences of having multiple wives was experienced by these men. (paraphrased from the idea in http://www.gotquestions.org/polygamy.html)

Third, God never designed polygamous relationship. He created man and woman, Adam and Eve (See Genesis 2:21-22). When God punished mankind through the flood, He allowed monogamous couple to enter the ark, Noah and his wife, Noah’s son with their wives (Genesis 7:7). He also specified in the tenth commandment, “not to covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). That is with an idea of a singular wife. In Deuteronomy, while the kings were not around yet, God already specified that kings are not to multiply their wives (Deut. 17:14-20). Then going further to the New Testament, God speaks through Paul’s writing that one who would lead spiritually must be a husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6). In Ephesians, Paul speaks of a relationship between a husband and a wife, in singular form (Ephesians 5:22-33). (paraphrased from http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp75.htm)

Lastly, God tolerated polygamy in a way he tolerated divorce because of the hardness of the hearts (Matt. 19:8). In the Mosaic law, polygamy was not encouraged, and it was done conditionally with the word “IF” (see Exodus 21:10). God placed a number of obligations on the husband to discourage polygamy. (paraphrased from http://creation.com/does-the-bible-clearly-teach-monogamy)

In a nutshell, God did not design polygamy, man did, in the hardness of his heart. Though it seems that those who practiced polygamy were “blessed”, that was not entirely the case as trouble erupted because of their sin. In the end, what we should remember is that God designed one man for one woman, and the lesson here is that if we are looking for a partner, the best person to ask is the designer himself. After all, He holds the hearts.


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