Polygamy in the Bible: What You Might Not Know

It’s no secret that the mainstream Christian faith is not accepting of polygamy. What many people don’t know is that there is quite a bit of evidence present in both the Old and New Testiment that establishes polygamy as an accepted practice under Christianity.

The first instance of polygamy in the Bible was that of Lamech in Genesis 4:19: “Lamech married two women.” It’s a fact that several prominent men in the Old Testament were polygamists. These would include Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others.

Here are several examples from the Old Testament that support the conclusion that polygamy was practiced and was accepted in the times of the Old Testament:

Exodus 21:10: “If he take him another wife, her food, her rayment, and her duety of mariage shall he not diminish.”

2 Samauel 5:13: “And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.”

1 Kings 11:3: “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”

2 Chronicles 11:21: “And Rehoboam loved Maachah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives and his concubines: (for he took eighteen wives, and threescore concubines; and begat twenty and eight sons, and threescore daughters.)”

Deuteronomy 21:15: “If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:”

To dispel any confusion as to whether or not Jesus taught his followers the laws of the Old Testament, consider the words of Jesus. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (the Old Testament) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law (the Old Testament) until everything is accomplished.” This is taken from Matthew 5:17-18.

Often times, Christians will argue that polygamy simply does not exist in the New Testament, but only in the Old Testament.” According to Matthew 5:17-18, it is clear that Jesus honored the writings of the Old Testament, and taught that Christians are to follow the unmodified laws that have not been replaced by newer ones penned in the New Testament. So, in summary, the New Testament does, without a doubt, allow for polygamy.

The truth regarding polygamy and the New Testament is that there is not a single verse within it’s pages that prohibits the practice of polygamy. Skeptical Christians often mistakenly present the following verses to attempt to prove that polygamy in the New Testament is forbidden:

Matthew 19:1-12:

1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

These verses speak to the laws regarding divorce for arbitrary reasons, and the laws that pertain to marriage for eunuchs (meaning those that have been, for whatever reason, castrated, are unable to procreate, or those who choose celibacy in favor of serving the church.)

Lastly I wish to address Deuteronomy 17:17 which states:

“Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.”

The entirety of Deuteronomy 17 establishes rules for the modest existence of kings chosen by their brethren to rule earthly lands. There is nothing there to suggest that what is written is a set of restrictions intended to be adhered to by non-rulers. This is noting more than a framework for establishing rulers that are not distracted by things such as the needs of many wives, greed, and the living of a lavish lifestyle.

So there you have it – a sensible and reasonable biblical argument for the acceptance of polygamy.

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