What does the Bible
say about the legitimacy of having more than one wife?
Christians do not believe that
men and women should practice polygamy. We believe that it is was and
still is God's intention that men and women should practice the model that He
set up for man from the beginning. In Genesis we read that God made Adam
and Eve; when God did this He said that from then on should men should leave
their fathers and mothers and cleave unto their wives, and that they were to
be one flesh,
Gen. 2:24. God could have given Adam more than one wife, but He did
not for specific reasons.
First, when God made Eve for
Adam, He intended that Adam recognize that woman was not an object that could
be bought or sold, or 'possessed' by men. Woman was man's equal, with
man being the head of the family. Adam was to love and cherish Eve
as his equal and companion. Eve was to love Adam as her husband and
protector, recognizing him to be the leader of the household. Paul's
epistle to the Ephesians tells us that men are to love their wives as Christ
loved the church; and that wives are to love and reverence, or honour, their
Eph. 5:25, 28 33.
Secondly, when a man takes more than
one wife this reduces the woman to something 'lesser' than man. She
becomes an object that he can possess or own. Her status as man's equal
and man's companion becomes changed. Man becomes the 'boss' and she
becomes the thing owned. He therefore developed 'rule' over her.
Some societies still practice this form of marriage. In the Muslim
society, for example, men can legally beat their wives into submission.
In the western society men batter their wives; however, in our western
society it is illegal to beat or willfully hurt one's wife. This is what
happens when men practice polygamy. When men first began taking more
than one wife the Scriptures saw fit to make mention of it because it was not
the normal pattern that God had set up. We find this in
Genesis 4:19. Because women were generally weaker than men, they
could not fight back, and so due to the lusts of men they took whoever
All of this was not God's
pattern for men and women. The Lord Jesus Christ reminded men that God
had given to them one wife to whom they were to be joined together in one
flesh; and that no one was to part them,
Matthew 19:5, 6.
As the hundreds of years rolled
by, however, God, while not agreeing with polygamy, tolerated it.
Polygamy now became an economic way of life and not just a lustful way of
life. We find several good people in the Bible who had a multiplicity of
wives. God tolerated this, but allowed the consequences of polygamy to
be manifested, such as: hatred, confusion, partiality, and strife and
violence. Many now had to live with these other variables in their
family. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why there was so much
apostasy in Israel: parents were not able to properly train and instruct their
children due to the many conflicts polygamy would promote. We see this
pattern of apostasy particularly in the lives of the Kings of Israel who had
many wives and many children. Also Abraham is another case in point.
Had he not yielded to the wish of Sarah to follow the custom of the day, he
would not have gone in to Hagar; and the hatred that now exists between Jew
and Arab with all its terrible violence would not have existed.
Today, we believe, God wants
humanity to value each other as equals, and not demean the other, as does
polygamy. In the Scriptures He tells us that the leaders of His church
must be the husband of one wife, meaning that they should not be polygamous,
1Timothy 3:2. So while God may have permitted polygamy in the past,
and maybe still does in some non western societies, His wish for society, we
believe, is that we desist from this practice and live a better, happier, and
godly life. God's wish for us is that we be healthy, happy and holy,
because He is a holy God,
3John 1:2. May God grant us the wisdom to live healthier, happier,
and holier lives. God bless.
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