Monogamy vs. Polygamy in the Bible

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Submitted: January 20, 2017

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Submitted: January 20, 2017

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MONOGAMY VS. POLYGAMY IN THE BIBLE

When certain polygamist cults, notably Muslims and certain Mormon splinter groups, attempt to defend their "religious right" to practise polygamy, they are often quick to point out that several Bible characters, many of whom were God-serving men, had multiple wives of their own. Such facts are also sometimes used by anti-religion establishments in an attempt to discredit the Bible as a whole. However, anyone who would use these accounts to either support polygamist lifestyles or to discredit the Word of God clearly has not examined those accounts thoroughly enough.

By taking a more thorough analysis of the Bible’s polygamist characters and their stories, a reader will soon discover that the actions of those men in those particular matters were clearly not endorsed by God. Further, each of the following accounts also show quite clearly that the end result of practising polygamy will ultimately always have negative consequences, not only for those who practise it, but also for the innocent people who are surrounded by it.
 

Lamech vs. Noah:

Mentioned in Genesis 4:19-24, Lamech, a murderous descendant of the murderous Cain, took two wives, making him the Bible’s first polygamist. Yet, some critics are quick to point that this man, like his ancestor Cain, was under God’s protection. However, to argue that this man was favoured by God because of his plural marriage is absurd. For none of the descendants of Cain or Lamech were spared in the flood, but only the monogamist Noah, his three monogamist sons, and each of their wives – eight people in total – were preserved (2 Peter 2:5, Genesis 6:18).

The reason God did not destroy the descendants of Lamech and Cain much earlier is because of His ironic sense of poetic justice. In Genesis 4:22, we are told that one of the sons produced from Lamech’s plural marriage was Tubalcain, "an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron." These are skills which Noah would have needed to acquire in order to construct the Ark. Noah may have learned this craft directly from Tubalcain himself, or at least learned from someone who had been affiliated with the man. Another one of Lamech’s sons, who came from the other wife, was Jabal, a man whose descendants raised cattle (Genesis 4:20). This transferable skill is also one that Noah would have needed to acquire so as to care for the Ark’s animal population.

The reason the flood was sent in the first place is because people like Lamech had run rampant. In Matthew 24:38, Jesus states that one of the things people were doing in the days before the flood was "marrying and giving in marriage" – and this is most certainly a reference to polygamy and the human trafficking that goes with it. So, since these polygamists were at least partially responsible for the flood coming in the first place, it seems only fitting that they would then be unwittingly coerced by God into helping the righteous monogamists escape. What this story then reveals is that sinful people like Lamech and Cain can sometimes be used of God to fulfill an important purpose in this current world, but that they have no place in the Kingdom beyond and will instead eventually fall under God’s judgement and wrath unless they repent and change their ways.
 

Abraham:

When asked to name a "righteous" man in the Bible who had multiple partners, modern-day polygamists will often name Abraham first. However, when taking a closer examination of the fate that befell his additional wives and their sons, a reader will discover that, although Abraham was a good man, he did not have God’s support in these particular matters.

Until Abraham was 86 (Genesis 16:15), he was the monogamist husband of his only wife, Sarah. When God promised to make a nation out of him (Genesis 12:2 & 15:2-6), Abraham clearly assumed that such children would come from Sarah because he had no other wives or concubines at that time and showed no desire to acquire any. When Sarah found herself unable to conceive, she requested that Abraham take her maid Hagar as a wife/concubine who would bare a son, Ishmael, on her behalf. However, there is no record or indication that Abraham consulted with God on this matter before harkening to Sarah’s voice.

Fourteen years later, when Abraham was 100, Sarah eventually conceived and gave birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:5). Shortly thereafter, Sarah insisted the Hagar and her son Ishmael be cast out from Isaac’s presence – and this time, God commanded the same thing (Genesis 21:9-12). For as Abraham was told earlier in Genesis 17:18-21, God’s covenant was to be with Isaac alone, and that Ishmael was not to be his brother’s joint-heir. What this shows is that Abraham’s decision to take Hagar as a concubine was not part of God’s great plan for the salvation of humankind.

One may also safely speculate that if Abraham lived in a more technological age, he would have used artificial insemination to impregnate Hagar, or, more likely, used the technology to help impregnate Sarah so as to avoid having to take another woman to his bed. This theory can be supported by the fact that, in the 14+ years following Ishmael’s birth, Hagar conceived no other children, which suggests that Abraham returned to his monogamist life with Sarah and bedded Hagar no more.

The reader may further observe that during the time of Hagar’s pregnancy (Genesis 16), she grew to despise Sarah, who, in turn, became very jealous and began to treat Hagar harshly. Although their feelings of despite and jealously under the circumstances can be understood, their actions and attitudes toward each other were nevertheless very unbecoming of godly women. Hence, this inevitable presence of jealously and bitter rivalry among wives in this polygamist household is yet another example of how destructive the practice of plural marriages can be.

Several years later, when Sarah had passed away, and Hagar remained in exile, Abraham took another wife named Keturah and had six sons through her according to Genesis 25:1-4. Although taking a second wife after the first one has died does not count as polygamy, modern supporters of the practice are quick to quote Genesis 25:6 which says that . . . "unto the sons of the concubines [(plural)], which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived. . . ."

The plural use of the word "concubines" can understandably leave the impression that Abraham now practised polygamy, and possibly did so even before Sarah died. However, this need not necessarily be the case. For in 1 Chronicles 1:32, Keturah is herself referred to a "concubine" which is sometimes interchangeable with the word "wife" – for example, Bilhah is referred to as a wife in Genesis 30:4 but is called a concubine in 35:22. Hence, the plural word "concubines" in Genesis 25:6 may simply refer to Abraham’s former concubine, Hagar, and his latter concubine, Keturah. It only takes two to make a word plural.

A reader can also observe that Abraham’s son Isaac never had any wife or concubine other than Rebekah. If Abraham was a man who acquired multiple women for himself, why did he not also acquire multiple women for his son as well?

Yet, even if Abraham did start taking multiple wives at some point, this cannot be used to argue that God favours the practice. After all, as stated in the aforementioned Genesis 25:6, all of Abraham’s sons, save for Isaac, were cast out and sent away, thus showing that God did not endorse any of Abraham’s relationships except for his first one with Sarah. In conclusion, these accounts of Abraham not only show that God is unfavourable toward polygamy, but they also, in all likelihood, reveal that Abraham himself preferred a monogamist existence as well.
 

The Family of Jacob:

Another righteous Bible character who had multiple wives was Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who eventually possessed two wives and two concubines – and all at the same time. However, a closer look at Jacob’s story easily shows that he only wanted one of these wives and that the others were forced upon him. In other words, Jacob would clearly have been a monogamist if he had his own way.

As the story goes, Jacob fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, and entered into an agreement with her father to serve the man for seven years in exchange for the right to marry her. But on the night of the wedding, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying the elder daughter Leah instead because he did not want his younger daughter married off first. Laban then promised to let Jacob take Rachel as a second wife after a week-long honeymoon with Leah, providing that Jacob serve him for another seven years. Having to keep Leah as the first wife was obviously also an unavoidable condition of this new bargain. When considering how Jacob always loved Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30-31), one may safely assume that if Jacob had known what Laban was plotting, he would have diligently sought out another man to wed Leah before the first set of seven years was completed.

Later in the story, when Rachel found herself unable to bare children, whereas her sister had produced several, she requested that Jacob take her handmaid Bilhah as a concubine to bare children on her behalf. Afterwards, when Leah stopped having children herself, she also gave her own handmaid Zilpah to Jacob as a second concubine for the same reason. However, much like in the case of Abraham and Hagar, Jacob probably would have used artificial insemination to impregnate these other women if the technology was available, or, more likely, used it to impregnate Rachel and Leah, thus avoiding the need for concubines at all.

The notion that Jacob was actually a firm supporter of monogamy is also seen in the fact that his son Joseph seems to have held a monogamist’s viewpoint as well. When Joseph became the Egyptian Pharaoh’s second-in-command, he took only one wife, Asenath, who bore him only two sons (Genesis 41:45,50). As second-in-command to the world’s then-most powerful nation, one would presume that if Joseph wanted to, he could have had as many wives or concubines as he wished. Yet, there is no mention of any additional women or children in Joseph’s life.

Still on the topic of Jacob’s offspring, some modern-polygamists occasionally try to use Genesis 34:25-30 to argue that Jacob’s other sons took multiple wives after Simeon and Levi slaughtered a city’s male population to avenge their sister’s rape. However, verse 29 of this chapter only states that the brothers took the wives and their little children captive, and does not specifically state that they took the wives for themselves. So, it’s quite possible that the captive women and their children were simply returned unharmed to their original birth-families after the violence had ended. Yet, even if the brothers did take wives for themselves from these captives, there’s no firm indication that they took any more than one each. Further to that, Jacob was clearly angry with Simeon and Levi for what they did, and excluded them from any entitled birthrights, thus showing that their actions were not favoured by God (Genesis 34:30, 49:5-7).

Jacob and his preference for monogamy can also be compared to his brother Esau who had multiple wives of his own and is vilified for his fornication and profanity in Hebrews 12:16. Back in Genesis 26:34-35, the two daughters of Heth whom Esau married are reported to have been "a grief of mind unto Isaac and Rebekah." The following dialogue between the two parents also shows that they preferred monogamy for Jacob as well:

"And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife [(singular)] of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me? And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife [(singular)] of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife [(singular)] from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother" (Genesis 27:46 - 28:2).

The constant use of the word "wife" (singular) strongly suggests that Isaac and Rebekah both came from monogamy-favouring families and did not approve of women from the polygamist families in Canaan. The above dialogue also suggests that Jacob likewise planned to only marry one woman even before he met and fell in love with Rachel.

In conclusion, Jacob’s polygamist life is ultimately forgivable and excusable because, unlike his brother Esau, he was only a polygamist by force and not by choice. Esau’s desire for multiple wives meanwhile, when compared to Jacob’s desire for only one, was no doubt one of the reasons, if not the reason, why God loved Jacob and hated Esau (Malachi 1:2-3, Romans 9:13). This can also be one of the reasons why the descendants of Jacob survive to this day as the nation of Israel, whereas the descendants of Esau, much like the descendants of the earlier-mentioned Lamech, have ceased to appear on the pages of history. (See also the short Old Testament book of Obadiah where God declares the total annihilation of Esau’s people).

Hence, the fact that Jacob had multiple partners cannot be used to support the notion that God favours polygamy today, or that He ever did or ever will. Instead, these stories further show that God favours those who favour monogamy, and that those who willingly follow the path of polygamy are eventually destined to incur the wrath of God.


Gideon and Sons:

In addition to Abraham and Jacob, modern polygamists are also quick to use Gideon to support their cause. Hailed as one of the greatest heroes of the Old Testament, Gideon, also known as Jerubbaal, is reported to have "had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives" (Judges 8:30). He also had a son named Abimelech from a concubine (Judges 8:31).

However, the claim that these verses reveal a polygamy-favouring God is ultimately baseless. For in the very next chapter (Judges 9), Gideon’s evil son Abimelech, who was jealous of his seventy brothers and their influences, hired assassins to slay them all in an attempt to make himself sole ruler over Israel. Only one of Gideon’s other sons, Jotham, managed to survive. Jotham then fled after first making an accurate prophecy that Abimelech and his followers would be destroyed for their crimes. What became of Jotham afterwards is unknown.

If Gideon’s polygamy was endorsed by the Lord, then one must wonder why God allowed for all but one of the man’s numerous offspring to be slaughtered. For even though God is given credit for destroying Abimelech in vengeance for the slain brothers (Judges 9:23-24, 56), readers may question why God didn’t rescue the seventy brothers from Abimelech’s assassins in the first place. The most likely answer is that, much like the additional children from Abraham’s concubines, the children from Gideon’s multiple wives were ultimately not to be part of God’s great plan.

Even though Abraham and Gideon both had great faith in God and obeyed His commandments, their decision to take more than one wife was clearly a choice that God did not favour. What Gideon’s choice of polygamy actually shows is that even men of faith who fellowship with the Lord can still succumb to sinful desires and fall into disobedience. For such was also the case with Samson, a man of faith whom God endowed with great power (both physical and political), but whose lust for women led to his eventual downfall. Hence, the account of Gideon and his fateful offspring is not a story that favours polygamy, but is rather an example of how the practice eventually leads to jealousy and, ultimately, to tragedy.
 

Gideon and the Law of Moses:

The preceding example of Gideon can often cause both monogamists and polygamists to ask why God simply did not command the man to refrain from taking multiple wives in the first place. For surely a man of faith like Gideon would have obeyed the Lord if such an order was given. Polygamists will also often follow up this question by pointing out that the Law of Moses contains certain rules and regulations for men who acquire multiple wives, thus showing that God actually did permit, or at least tolerated, the practice (e.g., Exodus 21:10, Leviticus 18:18, Deuteronomy 21:15-17).

In response to such a stance, a monogamist can argue that permitting or tolerating something is not the same as approving it. For just like the laws that Moses had given in regards to divorce, which Jesus referred to in Matthew 19:7-9, the laws regarding polygamy were given "because of the hardness of [men’s] hearts" – but it greatly "suffered" Moses to provide them. If Moses had tried to enforce a more strict set of laws that thoroughly opposed polygamy and divorce, many men of Israel would have surely departed from the fold and assimilated themselves into a foreign pagan culture. As a result, the remaining Israeli men would have been too few in number to withstand an annihilating attack from their enemies. Hence, God needed to tolerate polygamy and divorce until such a time when the Israeli nation, and many Gentile nations too, would become civilized enough that they could view such behaviours as something to be frowned upon and even appalled by.

Historians will also argue that another reason polygamy was tolerated in Old Testament times is because sometimes the nation’s male population would start to diminish during or after a war. As a result, the few surviving men would then be obligated to marry and impregnate the now-numerous widowed women in order to rebuild the population quickly. This is the only time when a prohibition on polygamy would actually have been counterproductive. However, once the population had recovered and the gender numbers were equal once more, the practice of polygamy would be expected to discontinue.

Some monogamist might then argue that a drop in the male population is the reason Gideon acquired his own multiple wives. Unfortunately, since there is no record of him losing any soldiers during his miraculous military campaign, this explanation is sadly with merit. It’s more likely that Gideon’s contemporary leaders had developed corrupted hearts and were taking advantage of the polygamy laws that Moses reluctantly provided so they could acquire multiple wives for themselves. This then would have forced Gideon to likewise obtain multiple wives in order to maintain his own level of power and influence.

For in the ancient world, a man’s power and influence was measured not only by his financial wealth, but also by the number of his wives and concubines. This manner of thinking certainly did not originate with God, but had rather crept into Israeli philosophy during the various times when they forsook the Lord and embraced the gods and practices of the pagan people around them (Judges 2:12). Hence, if Gideon took multiple wives because of political necessity, and not because of selfish and lustful desire, then this would help explain why God did not command him to refrain, but rather tolerated the reluctant motion.
 

The Adversarial Wives of Elkanah:

The preceding arguments regarding political necessity or drastic drops in male population can be applied just as easily to any of the lesser-known Biblical heroes or elitists who took multiple brides. The other possible reason for why such men had more than one wife could simply be that their additional wives and concubines had simply been forced upon them, much like in case of the monogamy-preferring Jacob. Such may very well have been the case with men like Caleb (1 Chronicles 2:46-48), Ashur (1 Chronicles 4:5), and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1-2).

Although no reasons or motivations are provided for why Caleb or Ashur acquired multiple partners, the story of Elkanah and his two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, appears to be rather similar to that of Jacob and his wives, Rachel and Leah. The account given in 1 Samuel 1:1-8 begins by reporting that Hannah was unable to bare children, whereas Peninnah had produced several. (Though eventually, of course, Hannah was able to conceive, and gave birth the prophet Samuel, just as Rachel was eventually able to conceive and gave birth to Joseph). The scriptures clearly state that Elkanah loved Hannah deeply, despite her inability to conceive, and that he treated her better than ten sons ever could have (1 Samuel 1:5,8). Hence, just as Jacob only loved Rachel and was simply forced to also wed Leah, it’s very possible that Hannah was Elkanah’s one true love and that Peninnah was likewise put upon him. If so, then this would help explain why Peninnah became an "adversary" to Hannah and began to constantly mock and provoke her to anger for being childless (1 Samuel 1:6).

For even though Elkanah tried to do what was right by Peninnah and the children that she bore him (1 Samuel 1:4), the woman would still have had understandable reason for becoming jealous and cruel if Hannah was truly the favoured wife. Yet nevertheless, the rivalry between the two women was unhealthy and unbecoming for both of them, which only goes to further demonstrate some of the unnecessary headaches and heartaches that women in polygamist relationship are typically forced to endure.

God knows the heart of every man, and if men like Elkanah were indeed supporters of monogamy who merely had polygamy forced upon them, then the Lord would surely have forgiven their actions and disregarded any need for condemnation. For when a monogamy-favouring man is forced by his culture to enter a polygamist marriage against his will, he will no doubt feel stressed and burdened as he constantly strives to keep the peace between his battling brides and avoid showing favouritism. After dealing with situations like this on a regular basis, such a man would surely view the polygamist lifestyle as more of a punishment than a privilege, and so any additional punishments that God could send would hardly seem necessary.

As for the other type of man who actually favours polygamy and desires to have multiple wives, such a man would scarcely care at all about the feelings or well-being of his multiple brides. Instead, he would be more likely to take a perverted egoistic sense of pleasure in watching his wives vying with each other to become their husband’s favourite. True Christians should surely agree that such a man who views and treats women in this manner will receive no place in the Kingdom of Heaven, but shall instead find himself among those who experience the eventual wrath of a very angry God.

In short, if men like Elkanah, Caleb, and Ashur were in fact just like Jacob in that they favoured monogamy but were forced into polygamy, then they should neither be counted nor treated as polygamists at all. Hence, the reports that these men had more than one wife should not be used to support a polygamy-favouring God. Rather, the biblical stories of women who were forced to share a husband should instead be used to provide abundant evidence that women in similar plural marriages today will ultimately experience abuse and misery – either at the hands of their husbands or at the hands of each other.
 

The Era of the Kings:

As time went on in the nation of Israel, the act of taking multiple wives and concubines for political purposes continued to flourish in pagan cultures, particularly in royal circles, and thus continued to filter into the corrupted thoughts and egos of certain Israeli leaders. As a result, when the time came for Israel to establish a kingship, a monogamist monarch would have had practically little or no chance of maintaining power and influence for very long. This situation, however, was certainly displeasing to the Lord who had previously established a clear criteria back in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 for how a king should be chosen and how that king should behave. In verse 17 of this section, God clearly stated that an Israeli king should not acquire multiple wives for himself so that his heart would not be turned away from the Lord.

This prophetic statement would later prove true when the numerous wives that King Solomon amassed from neighbouring nations led him away from the Lord and into the worship of their pagan gods and goddess. In fact, it was this particular sin that caused the once wise and mighty King Solomon to fall from grace, resulting in his kingdom being divided, and then eventually conquered, in the generations that followed (1 Kings 11:1-13).

Another king who seems to have fallen victim to the same prophecy was Solomon’s grandson, King Abijah of Judah. At the beginning of his reign, Abijah appears to have been a great man of God as demonstrated by his overwhelming defeat of King Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:1-20). However, following his incredible military victory, Abijah is reported to have "waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters" (2 Chronicles 13:21). Such a move may very well have resulted in, or at least contributed to, his eventual corruption. For 1 Kings 15:3 clearly states that, unlike his ancestor King David, Abijah became a sinful man whose "heart was not perfect with the Lord his God." In short, Abijah is generally labelled by biblical historians as a bad (or mostly bad) king – and any bad or evil men in the Bible who had multiple wives cannot be used as examples to support a polygamy-supporting God.

Now regarding the aforementioned King David, modern polygamists will justifiably argue that this man also amassed multiple wives, and yet the scriptures clearly state that "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kings 15:5). A detailed discussion and examination of David’s character and motivations regarding his bride-collection is therefore in order:

As established earlier in this essay, ancient Israeli views had long-since become corrupted by outside pagan influences which taught that political power was measured not only by financial wealth, but also by the number of wives and concubines that a man possessed. Hence, if David was to be taken seriously as Israel’s new king, then being a one-woman man was simply, and sadly, not going to be an option.

This, no doubt, is the reason he began acquiring multiple brides even before King Saul had been deposed. Modern polygamists are often fond of recalling how David married both Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail from Paran while Saul was still on the throne (1 Samuel 25:42-43). But what they tend to forget, or ignore, is that during this time, David had begun campaigning across the countryside to gather support from the masses for when he would take Saul’s place as king. From a political point-of-view, in the culture of that time period of course, marrying women from different regions had certain tactical advantages:

If a king had a wife who came from a certain town, then the people of that town would usually have had a greater chance of being favoured and protected by that king as a means of keeping his wife happy. Hence, if someone campaigning to be king were to marry a woman from a certain town, then the people of that town would more likely choose to rally behind that particular candidate. In other words, David’s practice of polygamy, at the beginning of his career anyway, appears to have been for political reasons and had little or nothing to do with his religion or relationship with God.

In an attempt to refute the above point, modern polygamists will usually quote 2 Samuel 12:7-8 where God speaks through the prophet Nathan and tells the now-king David that: "I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things."

Now although this verse clearly shows that God permitted David to marry the multiple wives of the deposed King Saul, polygamists should still be careful not to confuse the permitting of something with the approving of it. For if these former wives of Saul had come from towns which provided political and tactical support, as in the case of David’s other aforementioned wives, then there would have been an obvious advantage, and perhaps necessity, to marrying them.

A reader may also observe that, before David had begun his campaign to replace Saul as king, he only had one wife – Saul’s daughter, Michal (1 Samuel 18:20,27-28). There should be no doubt among believers that David would have happily governed Israel as a one-queen king if his country’s corrupted political system had not dictated otherwise. Seeing this attitude in David’s heart was surely one of the leading reasons why God chose this particular man to become Israel’s monarch and to eventually become the man from whom the Messiah would be produced. For this reason, King David, much like his ancestor Jacob, could be excused for leading a life of polygamy for which other men would have surely been punished.

Yet, even though David seems to have been a monogamy-supporter who merely had polygamy forced upon him, the multiple decades spent in that lifestyle eventually, and regrettably, managed to corrupt him in his senior years. For having access to multiple and unlimited women over the decades apparently left him unable to be satisfied with whatever number he had already amassed, which is what ultimately led him to turn his heart from the Lord by pursuing another man’s wife and committing murder. If a king’s "privileges" did not include the possession of multiple wives, then David’s power and authority would most likely have never corrupted him in this manner.

As Matthew Henry writes in his commentary on this story: "Marriage is a remedy against fornication, but marrying many is not; for when once the law of unity is transgressed, the indulged lust will hardly stint itself. Observe that this evil disposition is called a traveller, for in the beginning it is only so, but, in time, it becomes a guest, and, in conclusion, is master of the house." (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, page 341).

A further problem caused by David’s multiple marriages would be the multiple children that these unions produced. For much like Gideon’s son Abimelech, who murdered his numerous brothers, so did the sons of David fight amongst each other and even commit murder in vain attempts to establish themselves as the heir to David’s throne. (See the account of Absalom in 2 Samuel 13-14 and the account of Adonijah in 1 Kings 1-2). This simply goes to show yet again that multiple children produced from multiple partners ultimately results in abnormally high, and often dangerous (or even deadly) levels of sibling rivalry.

Yet, despite the horrible effects that often resulted from polygamy, the Lord permitted the men of Israel, and particularly their kings, to continue the practice because, at certain times, it was (for lack of a better phrase) a "necessary evil." For as mentioned earlier, polygamy was practised by kings and other wealthy men in the surrounding pagan nations as a means of acquiring, maintaining, and displaying their power, wealth, and influences. So, if the king of Israel did not do the same by developing a large enough collection of brides, his kingdom would not have been taken seriously by the other nations. This, in turn, would have eventually generated various problems in regards to national security, the economy, and several other issues as well.

However, as Deuteronomy 17:17 clearly shows, God would have preferred for the kings to have no need for polygamy at all, and so it surely must have suffered the Lord greatly to have endured this level of tolerance regarding the hardness of men’s hearts. Thankfully, in the fullness of time, the reluctant need for polygamy would cease to exist, and the Lord would eventually be able to directly command His people to embrace the monogamist lifestyle which He had desired from the start of creation. . . .
 

Monogamy in the New Testament:

When examining the lives of any Old Testament characters who had multiple partners, a reader may easily observe that none of them ever actually received a direct commandment from God ordering them to practice polygamy. By contrast, the New Testament does clearly contain direct commandments to practice monogamy. For example, verses like 1 Timothy 3:2,12 & Titus 1:5-6 clearly states that a candidate for Church leadership is to be the husband of only one wife. Verses like this are obviously ignored by Mormon fundamentalist groups where the church leaders have a significantly higher number of wives than their layman members.

Other kinds of polygamist groups who do acknowledge the aforementioned verses, might try to interpret them to mean that only Church leaders were restricted to having one wife each, whereas the layman members could have more. Unfortunately, such a desperate theory is easily refuted by 1 Corinthians 7:2. Here, the Apostle Paul, speaking to the church as a whole, commands that, in order to avoid fornication, members should "let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." This passage clearly shows that two or more wives should not have to share the same husband, and that two or more husbands should not have to share the same wife.

Upon further examination of the New Testament, a reader will come to observe that there is no evidence whatsoever of any Christian characters having more than one spouse at the same time. Theories that Jesus was the polygamist husband of Mary Magdalene and the two sisters of Lazarus are completed unsupported by any scripture.

Although there were periods in the Old Testament where polygamy needed to be tolerated due to the social conditions of the time, those conditions clearly had ceased to exist by the time of Christ. For in Christ’s time, Israel no longer had an earthly king and had ceased to be a wealthy nation. Hence, there were no longer any social conditions which required the Israeli elite to acquire multiple brides so as to impress their wealthy pagan neighbours. Likewise, the early Christians did not engage in any kind of physical warfare that would have decimated their male population, and thus there was no need for the remaining male Christians to marry multiple widows. As a result, the Lord was now, in the fulness of time, able to give clear and unmistakable orders that prohibited polygamy in every Christian community.

Even in Christian societies today, our leaders continue to have no need of polygamy in order to facilitate trade negotiations between countries or to strength national security. In fact, when the politicians of today do have multiple affairs, they actually end up destroying their reputations instead improving the status of their region. Similarly, people belonging to polygamist cults today do not improve their safety or well-being by having multiple brides. Instead, they find themselves having to run and hide from lawyers and others authorities who seek to incarcerate them for forcing underage girls into rape-filled relationship with perverted older men.

With no direct commandments found in the Old Testament to practice polygamy, and with several direct commandments found in the New Testament to have only one spouse, God’s stance on plural marriage is clearly shown to be an opposing one. For even in the relationships where the rape-factor is not an issue, being in a plural marriage will still cause a man to eventually turn his heart away from God, and will also invoke jealously and bitter tension between his wives and children.

Practising polygamy neither improves the life of the individual nor the community as a whole, but only serves to harm everyone involved in one way or another. The belief that having a high number of wives allows a man to achieve a higher-ranking level in Heaven has no biblical support whatsoever and is based solely on the false testimony of those who started the cult in the first place. Such false teachers are spoken of in 2 Peter 2:1-3 where the Apostle states that they will one day "bring upon themselves swift destruction" for their "damnable heresies" and the "pernicious ways" in which they turn people into "merchandise" for their own personal and perverted gain. In short, much like the Bible’s first polygamist, Lamech, those would follow the same path will likewise find themselves incurring the destructive wrath of an angry God while the righteous monogamy-supporters who follow Christ will be taken to a blessed life-eternal.


© Copyright 2017 Lt. Colonel Chad. All rights reserved.

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