Is Polygamy a sin? Polygamy is not a remedy for adultery. Its sole purpose is to justify illicit affairs and it has marred what God intended for marriage to be. Moreover, It undermines the Christian principles of marriage and family.
“A man who is not satisfied with one woman will never be satisfied with many because that sin has no limits”Paul Washer.
God’s standard for marriage.
From the beginning, God intended marriage to be a solemn covenant between a man and a woman. He created Adam and presented one female to him as his wife. In Genesis 2:24, the Bible states,
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall become united and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
Notice that the Bible uses the singular form while referring to the wife and not wives. It is one lady for one man. The two shall be united as husband and wife and become one through a solemn covenant of marriage. Consequently, they shall be fussed together by consummating the marriage through sex for the covenant to be complete.
What Jesus taught on marriage.
Jesus taught that “whoever leaves his wife and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:1-7). When responding to a question from the Pharisees about divorce, Jesus puts it clearly in Matthew 2:4-6.
“He replied, have you never read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female. And said, For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be united firmly (joined inseparably) to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:4-6, NIV.
Here we understand that God intended for marriage to be a union between two, a husband and wife. It is in the coming together of the two sexually, that bonds them to become one flesh.
Paul’s teaching on polygamy.
Again, Paul, the Apostle put it clearly in I Corinthians 7:2 that,
“But because of the temptation to impurity and to avoid immorality, let each [man] have his own wife and let each [woman] have her own husband.” (I Corinthians 7:2)
In I Timothy 3:2, Paul describes to Timothy the qualifications of church leaders. One of them is that “the church leader must be a husband of one wife to set an example to other believers.” He acknowledges that the marriage union should be between a husband and wife and not wives, and therefore each man should have his own wife and each wife her own husband.
In Deuteronomy 17:17, God commands Moses to instruct the Israelites that, “a king shall not multiply wives for himself, lest his heart is turned away from God.”
Is Polygamy a sin?
No. Polygamy is not ideal; however, it is not a sin. It only disqualifies you from holding the office of the bishop and other administrative positions in the church, as stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-16.
In his letter to Timothy concerning this matter, it is evident that Paul acknowledged that some of his audiences were in polygamous marriages. This is the reason he addressed the issue to instill order in the church leadership.
Should you leave a polygamous marriage?
No. 1 Corinthians 7:20 states “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” If you were in a polygamous marriage before you came to Christ, you do not have to leave your spouse, unless the circumstances are different; especially if the other person is not a Christian and decides he is no longer interested in being with you anymore. In this case, you are free to leave (1 Corinthians 7:12-16, ESV).
God recognizes that you are married. For example, the Bible acknowledges that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. You are still a wife whether you are in a polygamous marriage or monogamous marriage. Unless there was no formal marriage; meaning that that man did not pay for your dowery price. In this case, you are just cohabiting and you are no wife. You are disadvantaged in every circumstance as a woman.
Polygamy in the Old Testament
God allowed polygamy in the Old Testament because of man’s fallen state. If allowed today, then it’s still because of man’s sin. Because the Bible records polygamous marriages, it doesn’t mean that God approves of such practices. Nevertheless, it is recorded in the Old Testament so that we may learn from the outcomes of such relations. That we may gain wisdom and refrain from such practices. There are over thirty important biblical figures who had more than one wife described in the Old Testament.
Related: Divorce is not a solution.
Biblical Examples and Their Pros and Cons.
- Elkanah (I Samuel 1:1-2)
He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. In verse 5 we are told that Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah. From this example, we learn that polygamy brings about partiality. This breeds envy, jealousy, and hatred leading to great evil in the family.
Jesus declared in Matthew 6:24 that, “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other.”
- King Solomon
He is known for having 700 wives and 300 concubines. They were married for different reasons such as lust or for the purpose of political alliance. These women turned his heart away from worshiping the one true God to the worship of idols.
From his example, we learn that polygamy is not a remedy for lust.
“Having many wives is not a guarantee for sexual satisfaction.”
- King David
He had eight wives and yet ended up fornicating with another man’s wife. From his life, we learn the better consequences of polygamy, as we see the chaos evident in his house. Amnon raped Tamar, and Absalom kills Amnon and tries to overthrow his father.
He also had two wives, Leah and Rachel. We know that he loved Rachel more than Leah and this only brought chaos and hatred between the two wives and their children. This is evident when Leah’s sons betrayed their half-brother Joseph and sold him as a slave.
Pros and cons of polygamy
Polygamy is a selfish act as the man only seeks to satisfy his sexual appetite. Anyone who uses his spouse merely to satisfy himself [his sexual appetite], insults his own dignity and that of his partner.
The legislation provides that a wife shall have an equal share of all that the couple acquired during their marriage. However, polygamy presents a challenge in determining what each spouse is entitled to when the man divorces one of his many wives. The woman in this marriage has little or no say and the few resources are distributed with partiality. It’s never a fair deal.
Polygamy perpetuates and sanctions gender inequality as in most cases women are treated as objects for sex and not defined based on their worth.
The only exceptions.
There is only one place where polygamy was justified. In the case of a Levirate marriage, which obligated a man to whose brother had left a widow without an heir, to marry her.
“If brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, his wife shall not be married outside the family to a stranger [an excluded man]. Her husband's brother shall go into her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the firstborn son shall succeed to the name of the dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” Deuteronomy 25:5
Isaiah 3 describes the judgment of the daughters of Zion because of her sin. Verse 25 declares that “her men shall fall by the sword and her mighty men in battle.” Consequently, the vast population of women left behind shall have no one to marry them. In their desperation, they will opt for polygamy as a solution to take away their reproach [of being unmarried]. In this case, polygamy shall be endorsed because of prevailing circumstances [as there will be very few men to marry the vast population of women].
“And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread and provide our own apparel; only let us be called by your name to take away our reproach (of being unmarried).” Isaiah 4:1
From this text, we understand that polygamy in such a case was allowed because of judgment [man’s sin].
I am not against polygamy, as people have the freedom to choose what they desire. Nevertheless, polygamy should never be used as a scapegoat to justify evil lustful desires. Polygamy is not evil, but it’s not God’s ideal for marriage. Looking at the demerits, it’s wise for one to reconsider their decision. From the beginning, God intended marriage to be a solemn union between a man and a woman, and this is the gold standard.
To be honest, no woman desires to be second, they all desire to be the first and the only lady of the house. Most of those who are second and beyond, only accept the deal because of the benefits package. Who won’t want to be the wife of a rich man to secure a future for their children and themselves? Most of the time the intention is not right.
Every Christian marriage is designed to depict Christ’s relationship with His church. Marriage sanctioned by God, only joins one man and one woman in a single union, as declared in scriptures. Period. (Genesis 2: 22-25). Any challenge to this teaching stands in opposition to God’s original plan for His creation, especially in marriage. This article cannot exhaustively cover all the issues related to polygamy and its evil. However, we can look to the Word of God as the gold standard to have a better and deeper revelation of God’s divine plan for the holy institution of marriage.