Question: What is the Bible’s view of polygamy?


Answer #1:


In His divinely inspired and infallible commentary on the OT, Jesus stated that the ideal relationship was established by God as one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4-6, 9).  it is true that there were polygamous marriages in OT and in NT times, and the Bible has no problem in honestly reporting these.  Nevertheless, the ideal (benefiting man, woman, children, and ultimately, society at large) was the one-man-one-woman relationship described by Jesus.  


Wave Nunnally, Ph.D.




Answer #2:


1. Nowhere does the Bible explicitly forbid polygamy. However,

2. The original idea was one man one woman. God said "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). It does not say "joined to his wives." In Matt 19:5 and Mark 10:8 Jesus, referring back to creation, said, "the two shall become one flesh," not the seven.

3. All polygamy in the Bible is one man, multiple women. It is never multiple husbands for one wife.

4. Examples of polygamy in the Bible clearly show that it is a bad idea.
   A. Sarah and Hagar (Gen 21:9f).
   B. Rachel and Leah (Gen 29-30).
   C. Hannah and Peninah (1 Sam 1).
   D. Rivalries between royal offspring of different mothers:
      (1) David: Adonijah the son of Haggith and Solomon the son of Bathsheba (1 Kgs 1).
      (2) Josiah: Jehoahaz the son of Hamutal and Jehoiakim the son of Zebidah (2 Kgs 23-24).

5. The law of Moses has regulations to protect women who are are in polygamous relationships (Deut 21:15-17).

6. Most, if not all of the kings, had more than one wife (including Josiah). The law of the king in Deut forbids multiplying wives (17:17), but that probably does not mean that  he cannot have more than one wife, no more than the prohibition of multiplying horses (17:16, same verb) does not forbid a king to own 2 horses. God even offered David more wives than he had if David wanted more (2 Sam 12:8). However, it would preclude Solomon's situation of 700 wives and 300 concubines (or porcupines?).

7. Whatever one does with 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:6 (i.e., is it speaking of divorce or polygamy, or both?), church leadership should clearly be monogamous.

8. I have heard of Wycliffe Bible Translators who have encountered situations of polygamy. What they urged a polygamous society to do is fix it (i.e. monogamy) in the next generation, and for the moment install polygamous church leaders. To do otherwise would be to force men to divorce, thus putting women and their children into an extremely vulnerable situation.


9. Polygamy is illegal in the USA and most other countries as well.

Thus while polygamy was permitted in the Old Testament, monogamy is clearly God’s ideal.


William P. Griffin, Ph.D.