Skip to comments.Why does God allow polygamy in the Old Testament?
Posted on 02/02/2020 2:51:32 PM PST by SeekAndFind
Polygamy, which was common in the ancient world, has recently reemerged as a trending and hotly-debated topic. Popular TV shows such as Sister Wives and My Five Wives, along with our cultures evolving definition of marriage, have reintroduced polygamy as a topic up for discussion. For Christians, this means an important question must be answered why does God allow polygamy in the Old Testament, and what does that mean for us today?
Bible teacher and speaker Allen Parr helps us answer this question in his video titled, Does God Support Polygamy? In the video, Parr breaks down both the unique cultural circumstances people, especially women, faced in the ancient world, and he also shares some of the clear implications from scripture that apply to us today.
So why did God allow polygamy?
Its important to understand that the Bible was written to a culture that did not prioritize protecting or providing for women. So one possible reason Parr says that God may have permitted polygamy was actually to protect women.
In this culture, Parr explains, there were a lot of men who were going off to war, and they were dying, leaving a disproportionate amount of men to women. In the ancient world, women were generally not educated. So they relied on their fathers or husbands to provide for them. The alternative to marriage for many of these women was slavery or prostitution. Polygamy was considered a better, though imperfect, option to the alternative.
Parr goes on to describe other common reasons men married more than one woman in that culture, included continuing their family lineage if their first wife was barren and forming alliances between nations as was the case for King David and Solomon.
These cultural realities give some insight as to why God didnt explicitly condemn polygamy. However, just because the Old Testament never forbids polygamy outright doesnt mean it has nothing to say on the topic.
Four ways the Bible clearly shows that polygamy was never Gods perfect will for marriage
1. In the Bible, polygamy ALWAYS leads to major problems.
Almost every story involving polygamy in the Bible resulted in strained relationships and difficult marriages. Parr says, Each time in the Bible when a man took on an extra wife, it caused problems and actually ended up oftentimes dividing his home.
One example Parr shares is the story of Abraham, who took a second wife named Hagar to continue his lineage because his wife Sarah was barren. After Hagar, who was Sarahs servant, became pregnant, she began to despise [Sarah], (Gen. 16:4).
Another example Parr points out, which illustrates the problems caused by polygamy is in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. A man named Elkanah had two wives: Hannah, who was barren, and Peninnah, who had children. Peninnah mocked Hannah because she was barren and provoked her till she wept and would not eat.
2. The Bible defines marriage as one man and one woman.
While the Old Testament never expressly condemns polygamy, God does make His defining standard for marriage known from the very beginning of the Bible. As Parr says, If we look at the original institution of marriage, it is crystal clear that it is the joining together of a man and woman (Genesis 2:24). And so anything outside of that original intent cannot be considered Gods perfect will.
3. Dont confuse Gods permissive will with Gods perfect will
Its important to remember that the examples of polygamy we read in Scripture are Biblical narrative. In Biblical narrative, the authors rarely offer commentary on what they write. Instead, they tell the story as it happened and allow the readers to draw their own conclusions. So, as Parr says, Dont confuse certain things that are being described in the Bible as if God has prescribed it for every single Christian.
The Bible lays out a clear standard for marriage in Genesis, chapter two. Then in subsequent passages, it tells stories of people who fell short of those standards. Just because God didnt strike them down doesnt mean He condoned their actions, which leads to the final point.
4. God uses imperfect people without endorsing their actions
Gods patience is not permission. Throughout Scripture, God uses imperfect people in powerful ways. That doesnt mean He didnt care about their sinful actions, but it does mean that He was patient and gracious with them just like He is with us.
Parr closes with this thought: Just like God was patient enough to use and bless men who took on extra wives, which was clearly outside of Gods will, in the same way, God is patient to use us in spite of our sin.
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For your interest.
Allowing ≠ supporting.
Correct. Polygamous behavior was in defiance of God’s command, not in accordance with it. Reading the Bible as a whole makes it clear God allowed none of the behavior in question.
Polygamy is punishment via multiple wives. (Ducking for cover).
Yws. It is its own punishment.
For all of today’s outrage over polygamy the fact is that it is still widely practiced. Men any more are serial polygamists marrying or living with one woman after another and then abandoning them for another. The few men who commit to multiple women are for some reason considered deviant.
The article posted is not scriptural.
God does not “permit” sin because of human rebelliousness.
No, MOSES allowance of divorce does not demonstrate that GOD makes allowances for sin.
The author needs to study more scripture and less humanism.
Make your life much, much simpler.
Don’t get married.
God never wanted that and it was a failure of Man, just like divorce.
These things did not exist in the beginning.
Why does God allow polygamy in the Old Testament?
Because all men are born of a woman married or not.
"These cultural realities give some insight as to why God didnt explicitly condemn polygamy."
What about Deuteronomy 17:17?
"He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray."
Sure enough: God had Solomon pegged for what he would do later:
"He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray." (1 Kings 11:3)
I thought in the beginning it was to populate the earth? Adam and Eve had children. Who did their children marry/mate with to conceive children?
I have read different theories. The original family mated with one another to bear children.
The other, when they were kicked out of Eden they went out and conceived with people that God had also made.
I’ve heard, in context with the first theory you mentioned, that since Adam and Eve (Chavvah) were created genetically perfect, their siblings producing offspring would not incur the kind of chromosomal damage that incest causes today at least for a number of generations.
Science these days traces humanity back to a “mitochondrial Eve” and a “Y-chromosomal Adam”; in other words, just two ancestors for all of mankind.
Chavvah for Eve, is the Jewish name for her? Never heard her called that. Thanks for sharing your theory. Just was doing more reading. Jewish accounts say Adam and Eve had 33 sons and 23 daughters of which came the population of the earth.
BTW, the first bigamist in the Bible is named Lamech, a descendant of Cain (Gen. 4:19) who married two wives, Adah and Zillah. Lamech was also known for being an unrepentant murderer (vv. 23-24).
Interesting. Thank you. Will read up on Lamech.
1. Adam]s children did originally marry kin, as the effects of the Fall were progressive, and did not reach the point where marrying near kin would often have negative effects.
2. Since the average lifespan was hundreds of years, a man could marry a sister that was a 70 years younger or more, which would be less difference than a 50 year-old man marrying someone 25. Meaning that may be like mere acquaintances.
3. The potential problems with the above would be reduced with polygamy.
4. Children. In a mainly agrarian culture children were your laborers. The more the better.
5. Children were your social security. The more the better.
In contrast to early history, the trajectory of Scripture is toward one wife and even celibacy.
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. (1 Corinthians 7:2-5)
The above clearly is in the context of one wife.
But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. (1 Corinthians 7:6-7)
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (1 Timothy 3:2)
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