What The Bible Says About Polygamy

Polygamist Warren Jeffs is in the news and in prison.  He is the leader of a cult here in Texas.  Many people are asking questions about the Bible’s teaching on polygamy.  The first mention of polygamy in the Bible was that of Lamech in Genesis 4:19: “Lamech married two women.”  Several prominent men of the Old Testament had several wives.  The prophet Nathan told David (after he had committed adultery) that if his wives and concubines were not enough, God would have given him more. (2 Samuel 12:8)  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (wives of a lower status), according to 1 Kings 11:3.

The Bible does not specifically say why God allowed polygamy in the Old Testament.  We could speculate that polygamy was permitted because there were more women than men.  Today statistics show that approximately 50.5 percent of the world population are women, with men being 49.5 percent.  Assuming the same percentages in ancient times, and multiplied by millions of people, there would be tens of thousands more women than men.  Warfare in ancient times was especially brutal, with an incredibly high rate of fatality.  This would have resulted in an even greater percentage of women to men.  In those times it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself.  Women were often uneducated and untrained.  Women relied on their fathers, brothers, and husbands for provision and protection.  Unmarried women were often subjected to prostitution and slavery.  So, it seems possible that God may have allowed polygamy to protect and provide for the women who could not find a husband otherwise.

Even while allowing polygamy in the Old Testament, the Bible presents monogamy as the plan which conforms most closely to God’s ideal for marriage. The Bible says that God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

In the New Testament, I Timothy 3:2,12 and Titus 1:6 give “the husband of one wife” in a list of qualifications for spiritual leadership.  If we are called to be holy (I Peter 1:16), and if these standards are for holy elders and deacons, then they are holy for all.

Most modern nations outlaw polygamy.  According to Romans 13:1-7, we are to obey the laws the government establishes.  It is against the law in American and that is why Warren Jeffs is in prison awaiting trial.

About Dr. Mike Harmon

Dr. Harmon began preaching at the age of 15 while living in southern California. He has conducted over 600 revivals and evangelistic campaigns nationwide, and has served as Senior Pastor at seven churches. Dr. Harmon has degrees from Central Baptist College, the University of Central Arkansas, and a Ph.D. From the Christian Bible College and Seminary. He has served as trustee for Southeastern Baptist College and Chairman of the trustees for the BMA Theological Seminary. He also served as Chaplain for the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas State Senate. His many sermons and articles on Christian Apologetics are widely published. He is married to one wife of 43 years; has two sons, and seven grandchildren. He considers the simple pleasures of cooking, dining with family and friends, and liesurely rides on his Harley through the Texas Hill Country to be some of the most enjoyable blessings from the Lord.
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