Does God condone polygamy?
And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart (1 Kings 11:3).
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober–minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2).
As we look at Scripture, it is clear that polygamous relationships are presented in the Bible. But does that mean that they are acceptable in God’s eyes? We also see instances of lying, murder, and rape in the Bible, but these are clearly not acceptable. Just because the events are described does not mean they are condoned. There is no passage in the Bible that condones polygamy.
Beginning in Genesis, it is clear that God intended marriage to be between one woman and one man. Genesis 2 records the creation of one woman for Adam, and in verse 24 we see that because of this “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” If two makes one flesh, then three or more cannot also make one flesh. This is confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:3–9 as He is being questioned about divorce. Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 as support for the idea of marriage being between one man and one woman “from the beginning.” God’s plan, from the beginning, was not for polygamous relationships.
As the Israelites were in the desert after the Exodus, God announces a prophecy through Moses. The Israelites will eventually call for a king to be set over them (Deuteronomy 17:14). Following that, God pronounces standards for the kings to come. In Deuteronomy 17:17 we see the command that the king shall not “multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.” God clearly commands that the king should not practice polygamy. So why would He condone its practice for anyone else?
Many Jewish leaders and patriarchs, including kings, were recorded to have polygamous relationships. However, these relationships brought about judgment and hardship. David was punished for his relationship with Bathsheba; Abraham’s relationship with Hagar brought strife into the family; and other examples would also bear out this point. Some may argue that Jacob’s polygamous lifestyle was blessed by God, but just because God used a sinful relationship to fulfill His plan does not mean that that action was right. Likewise, Jesus’s lineage can be traced back to Bathsheba.
Polygamy was popular in many cultures, but that does not mean that it was right in God’s eyes. Divorce was also allowed because of the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites (Matthew 19:8), but it was not part of God’s “very good” creation. Jesus called the Jews of the day an “adulterous generation” who chose to live outside of God’s rules and instead, made their own. Just because the Jews (or any other peoples) tolerated polygamy does not mean that God condoned it.