Does the Bible Condemn Polygamy?
The Mosaic Law never condemned the practice of polygamy. In fact, it clearly allowed the Israelites to marry multiple wives as long as they did not neglect their first wives and all were treated equal (Deut 21:15, Ex 21:10, 1 Sam1:2, 2 Chr 24:3). The New Testament, however, informs us that this practice was not God's ideal, and that He merely tolerated it because of Israel’s rebellious tendencies and "hard-heartedness" (Matthew 19:4-8).
PERMISSIVE VS PERFECT
The Old Covenant can be easily characterized by the fact that it reflects God's PERMISSIVE will, which is distinct from His PERFECT will. While God's permissive will persisted in the Old Testament, His perfect will was not revealed until the coming of Jesus Christ to establish the New Covenant. Jesus came to break the former pattern and establish a new one. Honest Christians will desire to live in accordance with God's perfect will as revealed in the pages of the New Testament. The subject of polygamy largely rests on this principle and those who advocate for polygamy should not ignore it.
Yet even in the Old Testament God’s perfect will is sometimes brought into sharp focus. For instance, consider the prohibition against polygamy located in Deuteronomy 17. In this chapter, God decrees that kings are not permitted to multiply wives (polygamy) or riches:
Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:17).
The reason why God enacted this law is clearly explained in the same verse: “that his [the king's] heart turn not away [from God]”. Perhaps that's precisely why David and Solomon got into so much trouble when indulging their lust for more women and why Israel eventually turned to idols. God was keenly aware of the danger posed by polygamy, but tolerated it only because the "time of reformation" had not yet come (Act. 17:30; Heb. 9:10). Israel's moral failures would be allowed to continue as long as the Old Testament's imperfect law reigned. But Jesus came to put an end to this problem by restoring God's people back to His original design: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts PERMITTED you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” From the very beginning, both divorce and polygamy were intentionally excluded from God's program.
DEUTERONOMY 17 VS. 1 TIMOTHY 3:2 AND TITUS 1:6
Another important point to consider is the relationship between Deuteronomy 17 and the New Testament's prohibition on polygamy located in both 1 Timothy and Titus. While Israel's leaders were prohibited from multiplying wives for themselves, in the New Testament, the Church's leaders are prohibited from the same. Through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, Paul places a “one wife” prohibition on the bishops (pastors) and deacons of the Church (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6). The clear correlation between Deuteronomy 17's prohibition and the one expressed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 is unmistakable, yet often overlooked.
“ONE WOMAN MAN” (Mia Gunē Anēr)
In both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the Apostle Paul uses a specific Greek phrase when outlining his qualifications for pastors and deacons. This phrase is mia gune aner, which translates into English as "one woman man" or "one wife husband". The fact that mia gune aner has such a specific interpretation is proof that Paul had only one wife in mind for both pastors and deacons. So does this mean that polygamy is permitted for all but the pastor and deacon? Absolutely not! Every man in the Body of Christ is called to be either an older servant (pastor/elder) or younger servant (deacon). In fact, by reading through the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 it is easy to see that they apply equally to all male members in the Body of Christ. Bottom line, Paul's guidelines for service in the Church prohibit men from engaging in polygamy.
Note: To learn more about Church leadership and the roles of pastor and deacon click here.
HUSBANDS ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE THEIR WIVES SACRIFICIALLY
In Ephesians 5, we find the following command: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Clearly, the type of love prescribed here is entirely sacrificial and places the feelings and preferences of others ahead of ours. Now after reading this instruction, it's important to ask the following question: If husbands were to love their wives in the manner commanded, would they still be on the lookout for other wives or choose to remain faithful to their original wife instead? In other words, it's hard to imagine a man permitting his eyes to rove over other women while still maintaining a sacrificial love toward his wife.
MONOGAMY: GOD'S IDEAL ESTABLISHED AT CREATION
In Genesis 2:22, God forms Eve from one of Adam’s rib and then presents her to him. However, it's important to notice that God intentionally provides Adam with only one wife, not several. The reason why God chose only one wife for Adam is provided in Malachi 2:14-15, where we discover the following explanation:
Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. [NOTICE THAT ONLY A MAN'S FIRST WIFE IS RECOGNIZED AS HIS COVENANT WIFE] And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
According to the above passages, God created one mate for Adam because He was seeking after godly offspring. Now if we stop to consider this, it makes very good sense. Men with many wives have no time to carefully raise all of their children in a godly manner. They are simply too busy having to provide for their extra large families--never mind the time invested in pleasing all of their many wives without making any of them jealous! Sound like a familiar problem? If so, it’s because we are well acquainted with the biblical accounts of the patriarchs, and how their polygamous marriages resulted in great strife and animosity (Gen. 16; 29).
Now it’s interesting that Adam never married another wife as long as he lived. Neither did his descendants up until Lamech, who descended from Cain’s sinful bloodline. Abraham also remained faithful to Sarah, at least until she encouraged him to take “seed” from Hagar, her maidservant, which was just as bad an idea as when Eve presented Adam with the forbidden fruit. But the Lord condemned the illegitimate union between Abraham and Hagar and broke it off. Isaac on the other hand, never trespassed in the same sin. He kept to his one wife Rebecca until death, and so did Moses, Job, Lot, and countless others.
When God wiped out almost the entire human race with a flood, He spared only eight people, among whom was Noah and his family. But it's important to note that Noah and his family were spared in perfect pairs: Noah and his wife, and their three sons with their individual wives. In total, four men and four women were spared, no more and no less (Genesis 7:13). So God created the world with perfect pairs, and when He destroyed the earth, He started all over again with perfect pairs. Was this a coincidence? I believe not.
A careful read of Matthew 19:4-9 and Mark 10:2-3, finds that a polygamous marriage is defined as a perpetual state of adultery with multiple women. And this is no small sin!!
MORAL OBJECTIONS TO POLYGAMY
1. Polygamy encourages hyper-sexuality or sex addiction.
It is a fact of biology that males will produce an excess of testosterone to accommodate frequent sexual activity, which then leads to even greater sexual lust or desire. This fact is based on the law of supply and demand. The more sex a man has, the more of it he craves--think King Solomon and his enormous sexual appetite! Sex addiction is formed by constantly feeding or gratifying sexual lust.
2. Polygamy violates the biblical principles of moderation and self-control.
According to the New Testament, Christians should be known by their moderation (Phil. 4:5) and self control (Gal. 5:22-23). How do the principles of moderation and self control factor into polygamy? They don't.
3. Polygamy encourages marital discontentment.
The Christian principle of contentment is expressed throughout the New Testament (Phil. 4:11 and 1 Tim. 6:6). Yet even in the Old Testament, the book of Proverbs instructs men to always be satisfied with the “wife of their youth” (first wife): "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love" (Pro. 5:18-19). Polygamy is the result of marital discontentment. It enables men to look elsewhere for more sex once their wife isn't satisfying enough.
4. Polygamy encourages selfishness and neglect.
It doesn't take into account the feelings and preferences of women and children. Husbands are called to selflessly love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave His life for her (Eph. 5:25). Men are naturally going to preference one woman's body over the other, resulting in emotional and physical neglect. They will be far too busy providing for their large families and attending to each and every wife's needs to have any time for engaging their children in any meaningful way, which will result in severe neglect. Does the child prefer one mommy or 5? Will the child have enough time to share with their dad? Will the child be subjected to serious economic hardship on account of the added financial strain? Does the father care about how the child will be raised in these conditions?
According to online sources, there are more men in the world today than women. That means that eligible wives are already in short supply. Imagine what would happen if polygamy would be openly encouraged in all societies. Selfish men would quickly scoop up all of the eligible young virgins, leaving none for others. Again, selfishness is at the core of this practice.
5. Polygamy encourages crime and homosexual behavior.
Neglected children turn to these vices. When boys do not receive the love and attention they require from a father, they will turn to other men to fulfil this void, often resulting in homosexual behaviour. In a similar manner, criminality is largely due to the negligence of parents in proper child rearing. God states that the purpose of marriage is to produce godly offspring (Mal. 2:14-16). Polygamous unions do not result in a healthy spiritual environment for children, but rather a harmful one.
6. Polygamy steals time from God.
Men with many wives and children simply do not have time for God or spiritual pursuits. That's why God restricts pastors and deacons from having more than one wife (1 Tim. 3 and Tit. 1). He did so also with kings in the Old Testament for the same reason (Deut. 17:17).
7. Polygamy devalues women, sexually objectifies them, and relegates them to the status of concubine or sex slave.
Men do not marry multiple wives because they are needy for companionship, but rather sexual gratification. This does not take into account a woman's feelings or preferences and devalues her to the status of concubine. No woman should feel that her husband only views her as a source of sexual pleasure. She should not feel as though his duty is to care for her because he has to, not because he wants to. All women crave to be the “apple” of their husband's eyes--to be regarded as his one and only. This is natural. Women must be brainwashed into accepting their concubine status as God's will for them or as a prerequisite for entrance into heaven before they will submit to this unnatural relationship.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I have personally witnessed the devastating effects of polygamy when my family happened to visit two "Christian" communities in Minnesota and Alaska, both of whom openly practiced it. Unfortunately, some of our dear friends were drawn into this lifestyle despite our earnest warnings. As a result, we were able to observe first hand the ugly fruit of polygamy from between 2005-2017. Occasionally, we still encounter Christians with a Torah based theology who try to promote this practice. It is my fervent prayer that this short teaching will be used to discourage men from believing the lie that God still allows polygamy.