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Scripture Reading:  Genesis 16:1-6


January 2004


Polygamy in the Bible



#1:  Why did God allow polygamy among His people in the Old Testament?



1.  Interesting question that deserves (and we believe has) a Bible answer.

2.  Why study what the Bible says about polygamy?

  a.  Prepare us to teach others – 1 Pet. 3:15.

    1)  Some advocate polygamy:  Joseph Smith, Jr.; Islam; “Christian Polygamy”.

    2)  Can you take your Bible right now and tell someone why polygamy is sin?

  b.  Some brethren wonder about it because of false views on God’s law & repentance as it relates to divorce and remarriage.

    1)  Homer Hailey (part of God’s “universal moral law”).

    2)  Salem, OR preacher meeting (1989).

    3)  Jim Puterbaugh (Tampa, FL, 1993).

    4)  What if a polygamist is converted today (Muslim, for example):  What would repentance require?  If his culture accepts polygamy as legal, would he have to give them up to please God?

    5)  Expose the error:  Repentance demands ending sinful relationships, including sinful marriages – 1 Cor. 6:9-11.

  c.  Strengthen our honor for marriage as God designed it – Heb. 13:4.

  d.  To better understand the forbearance of God in the OT & His will for all sinners at the present.

3.  Polygamy:  lit. “many marriages”;  Polygyny is “many wives.”

4.  Did God approve of/encourage polygamy in OT?  Was it a part of God’s law on marriage?  What about today?



  A.  Woman was Created as a Helpmeet for Man (helper answering to / suitable to) – 2:20-22.

      -Gen. 2:22 - God only made one woman for Adam; Mk. 10:6 - Male & female (not “females”).

  B.  The One Flesh Reality of Marriage Speaks Against Polygamy – 2:24 (Eph. 5:31).

    1.  Only one man & one woman can unite together in one flesh – 1 Cor. 6:16-18

    2.  Mal. 2:14 – Covenant of marriage is with one woman.

    3.  Under this figure, polygamy would imply that there are multiple bodies (fleshes) in marriage!  (2 become 1, not 3 become 1!)  (Cleave to “wife,” not wives!)

  C.  Joy Attends MonogamyProv. 5:18; Eccl. 9:9.

  D.  In the NT, Marriage is a Figure of Christ’s Relationship with His Church Eph. 5:23, 28-32.

    1.  5:23 - If husband can have many wives, then Christ can have many churches (bodies) – 4:4.

    2.  5:28 - If husband can love many wives, Christ can love many churches – But 5:25 says He loved “the church.”

    3.  If polygamy is valid, then Paul’s entire defense of the church is destroyed! – Eph. 5:31-32



    -(Wasn’t widespread; God warned against it & discouraged its practice.)

  A.  It Began in Worldliness - Gen. 4:19.

    1.  It began with man, not God!  Lamech, descendant of Cain (4: 17-18, great great great grandson).

  B.  It is Implied among the Sins of Genesis 6:1-2.  (Noah & sons had one wife each, 7:7; 1 Pet. 3:20).

  C.  The Practice of Polygamy brought Grief & Pain into the Home.

    1.  Sarah & Hagar - Gen. 16:1-6.

      a.  Sarah’s solution to her barrenness in view of God’s promise – Not God’s!!  (16:2)

      b.  Caused grief & pain for all concerned!

    2.  Isaac, the son of promise – One wife (Rebekah) (Gen. 24:67).

    3.  Esau deliberately entered polygamy – Gen. 26:34-35.

    4.  Jacob stumbled into it through the deceit of Laban (Gen. 29:18, 27-28).

      a.  Envy of Rachel & rivalry with Leah led to Bilhah & Zilpah (Gen. 30:1-13).

      b.  Jealousy, competition, hatred, and deception resulted from this polygamy!

    5.  Other notable polygamists:

      a.  Gideon (Jgs. 8:30-31):  Contributed to period of apostasy & civil war, with his ungodly son Abimelech leading the way.

      b.  Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:1, 2, 6-7):  Hannah & Peninnah were rivals, domestic discontent.

      c.  David (1 Chrn. 3:1-9):  Family life filled w/ turmoil (Amnon & Tamar; Absalom murdered Amnon/Usurped throne, David’s wives).

      d.  Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:1-4):  700 wives & 300 concubines – Turned heart away from God to idols.

  D.  The Law of Moses Discouraged & Limited Polygamy.  ("If..." - “Contingency legislation” that by no means endorsed the practice.)

    1.  Limited to the wealthy – Exo. 21:10-11; Deut. 21:15-16.  Cost necessarily limited its practice.

    2.  Kings of Israel were told not to practice polygamy – Deut. 17:17.

       -(Solomon:  1 Kgs. 11:1-4, 9-11; Neh. 13:26 – Sinned against God.)

  E.  The NT Reaffirms Monogamy as God’s Rule From the Beginning – Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:2 (Eph. 5:22-32).  One man & one woman for life – otherwise, commit adultery!



  A.  Like Numerous Other Things in OT, God Permitted Polygamy but Never Gave His Approval.

    1.  Polygamy was not God’s uniform will on the matter.

    2.  Polygamy was the invention of men and not God – Eccl. 7:29.

    3.  With the Law of Moses, God discouraged it & hedged against its practice.

  B.  Answer:  The Forbearance of God – Psa. 78:37-39.

    1.  The hardness of men’s hearts – cf. Gen. 6:5-8 (cf. Matt. 19:8).

    2.  God suspended the immediate rendering of His just penalty against sin – Acts 17:30.

    3.  God held up, endured, rather than immediately impose His wrath – Rom. 3:25-26; Acts 14:16.

    4.  We cannot conclude that God approves of polygamy today – or that He ever did!

      a.  Today He calls all sinners to repent – Acts 17:31.

      b.  Polygamy is a sin – a violation of God’s marriage law – Matt. 19:4-6.



  A.  Polygamy is Adultery Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:2.  Violation of divine law.

  B.  Repentance Requires the Polygamist to End His Adulterous Marriages – Acts 26:20 (19:18-19).

    1.  Repentance of sin requires that one stop practicing his sin (Rom. 6:1-2).

    2.  Other brethren say the alien is not under Christ’s marriage law; he is only under the “universal moral law.”

      a.  Some brethren have said polygamy didn’t violate God’s universal law of marriage in Gen. 2:24.

      b.  To be consistent, they must accept the polygamist in his polygamy when he obeys the gospel!

    3.  Some brethren have said that if a marriage meets the legal and moral standards of society then it can be continued in after baptism (hold that the alien not amenable to Christ’s marriage law).

       -What about the LDS polygamist; the Muslim polygamist; the “Christian” polygamist?

    4.  Brethren have forced themselves into these positions by clinging to the false doctrine that says people can stay in unscriptural marriages after they are baptized!  (Col. 3:5-8)



1.  God’s will has always been monogamy.  Jesus emphasized it, and we must conform to it.

2.  We must oppose any attempt to justify this adulterous practice & any doctrine that tacitly approves it.





Doctrine & Covenants 132:1:

“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines---Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.”


Doctrine & Covenants 132:38-39:

“David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the begin­ning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.  David’s wives and concu­bines were given unto him of me… and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife…”



The Koran:

And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.  (4:3)


Christian Polygamy Marriage Authorized by God


Mission Statement:

The purpose of this site is to inform all Christians
that polygamy is authorized by God,
to prove this principle using Scripture as the only authority,
to educate Christians interested in understanding Biblical marriage,
to encourage Christians wishing to pursue polygamy
as the marriage structure for their families,
and to support Christians living Biblical plural marriage.



The Divorced And Remarried Who Would Come To God (Homer Hailey, page 15):

“In Abraham’s case, God said, “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5).  Sarai gave her handmaid to Abraham “to be his wife”, and he went in unto Hagar and she conceived (Gen. 16:3, 4).  He also had concubines to whose sons he gave gifts (Gen. 25:6).  There is nothing in God’s universal moral law violated by Abraham’s having a plurality of wives and concubines.  Jacob had two wives, Leah and Rachel who were sisters, and two concubines, by whom he had twelve sons and one daughter.  Polygamy and concubinage were within the scope of God’s marriage law thus far revealed.”



Preacher’s Meeting – Salem, Oregon (Oct. 17, 1989):

Jim McDonald: “I was wondering, hypothetically, what some of us would do if David and Bathsheba were to be alive today and David brought his wife to one of us and asked to be baptized. Would we cease fellowship with David and Bathsheba or would we baptize her? Just curious, because David had three wives. He had no right to even marry Bathsheba in the first place. Their relationship began in adultery and was concluded in a marriage that God recognized and even blessed with the event of Solomon being born, the third king. How would we deal with that? I mean we’ve got the same problem there as we’ve got today. We’ve got two people that we see as being in an adulterous situation and God obviously didn’t see it the way we do. I’m just curious as to how we would handle that.


Bill Fain: “Well, I’d put the question back. If you know some man that has three wives and he comes and says, ‘God didn’t condemn David, so I want you to accept me for membership.’ You know, if it’s a person that is already a Christian and he’s got three wives. And he says, ‘I want to come down to Cottage Grove. Will you accept me?’ So you’re going to have to say since God accepted David, we’re going to have to accept him.” 


Jim McDonald:  Well, if I had an ironclad picture like that, I probably would.”


Harry Osborne:  “With three wives?”


Jim McDonald:  “I find nowhere in the Scripture where it condemns polygamy to the average citizen.  To the kings and to the priests, yes… We shouldn’t engage in polygamy because our civil law requires that we don’t.”


Harry Osborne: “How about in South Africa? They’ve got polygamy there though.”


Jim McDonald:  “Uh huh, we had polygamy under the Old Testament, too, and God condoned it. In fact, God blessed some of those relationships. Now, if God, he saw that as a violation of Genesis 2:24 where it was an absolute sin and God condoned those relationships, then God is a partaker in his own sin and that cannot be.  God obviously allows a whole lot of things that God does not approve of and that’s something we need to think about!”



Jim Puterbaugh (Tampa, FL, 1993):

“The Bible never precisely condemns polygamy.  It’s like slavery.  God allowed slavery in the law of Moses and then slavery just disappears when we get over into Christianity ... but is there a verse that says slavery is immoral? ... Even in Philemon Paul doesn’t condemn slavery.  And that’s the way I look at the concubines or polygamy, that they do not precisely violate moral law as God reveals it but once you have Christianity, it just seems to disappear, like slavery does… What about Abraham?  He had a wife and a concubine under the universal, moral law, as it was.  Was he in sin, then?  He was under the universal, original law and was he in sin?  I think we’d all have to say that he, that we couldn’t say he was in a state of sin that was going to keep him from going to heaven, at least ... that’s the only way I know how to deal with it ... I just confess to you that it is a struggle, that it is a problem.”


-Quoted by brother Jim McDonald in The Dyersburg Path Finder, June 15, 1997, page 5

-Cited by Thomas G. O’Neal, Walking in Truth, Vol. 21, No. 4, Oct/Nov/Dec, 1997