With the Sanctity of Marriage currently struggling, there is always a debate raging on what “marriage” is. In this debate, those who stand opposite Christianity often throw “polygamy” in our faces.
After all, we claim that God set up marriage as between one man and one woman, but the Old Testament is FULL of men and kings with multiple wives and concubines! So, aren’t we being a little hypocritical?
And many of us become flustered, unable to answer how God could allow the definition of marriage to be changed back then and but He couldn’t do the same thing now.
But if you read the Bible carefully, you’ll notice something. God never once sanctions, approves, or encourages the practice of polygamy and you’ll notice that in all the polygamous relationships in the Old Testament, something always goes horribly wrong as a result.
Take Abraham. His barren wife told him to sleep with the maidservant to have a child. He did, but Sarah, his wife, soon hated the maidservant, Hagar, and the son, Ishmael. It caused a huge problem for all parties that lasted years and led to the eventual split between the Chosen People and the creation of Islam.
Then, there’s Jacob, who was married to both Leah and Rachael. They waged birthing wars against each other to earn Jacob’s love, and neither was ever satisfied.
Then, David, who took about a thousand wives and concubines, which was fueling a sexual addiction he had, which led to the seduction and impregnation of a married woman (who was married to a close friend), despite the death penalty in place. He killed the husband to cover it up, but the child died, and his son also dealt with sexual addiction issues, raping his own sister.
You see, those unfamiliar with it seem to think of the Bible as a rule book, meaning that anything in it must be good. That is not the case.
The Bible is an account of how people really lived, which includes making big mistakes, even if they were “big heroes” of the Bible. God uses this Book as a testimony for all these men and women, showing us the consequences of actions such as these and living life for our own pleasure instead of in obedience to God.
Why would God allow polygamy if it was a sin? The same reason He allowed murder, slavery, theft, and all the other sins. Free will. He laid out the rules but left it up to us to follow them. It’s the same now as it was then.
So, no, polygamy was not “okay” at any point in Christian history. From the very beginning, God made His plan for marriage clear:
Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
-Genesis 2:22-24 NIV
One man. One woman. One flesh. Marriage.
Matthew Coker is a Media Director at a church in his hometown, where he also is a leader at a Celebrate Recovery program. He’s a huge comic book nerd, Whovian, and Funko Pop Collector. Matthew and his wife live in New Mexico.