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Polygamy In The Bible: Understanding The Nature Of Man's God Designed Sexuality

Many have been confused by the presence of polygamy in the Old Testament scriptures. Did God approve of this? Maybe he just put up with it. Surely this is not what God intended. The mystery of polygamy need not be a mystery. Polygamy represents the very nature of God and his relationship to his people. And Man being the very image of God, it helps us understand the true nature of male sexuality that is so despised in our culture today. It is so despised that the very title of this page likely ruffled your feathers. Is polygamy a sin as many suppose? No it is not. Neither is a monogamous marriage. The "monogamous only" crowd do have it wrong though as monogamous relationships is not the only type of approved marriage in scripture. Because polygamy is so frowned upon in our current society, it is easy to dismiss the idea of how this could possibly be apart of God's design for marriage. The ideals of feminism in our culture today leave no room for polygamy. There are so many false assumptions made upfront that cause many to never even consider the legitimacy of the idea being apart of God's design for marriage. If you have vowed yourself to a monogamous marriage than you should honor your vows. But even if you haven't, it would be rather difficult to live a polygamist lifestyle in our culture today. So with that being the case, why would this even be an important issue worth our time and consideration? Well first I'm not advising anyone to go marry multiple women. However, the subject does help us understand Christ and his relationship to his people. Second, it helps men and women alike understand male sexuality better and why God made us the way we are.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:22-24 (Marriage is a depiction of Christ's relationship with the church.)

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 (Many believe this verse means that marriage is only to be between one man and one woman based on the wording "one flesh." But notice the following verse...)

What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. 1 Corinthians 6:16 ("One flesh" is just referencing sex. This also shows that you can be one flesh with more than one person. In this case with a wife and a harlot. So polygamy is being one flesh with each individual wife and each individual and separate marriage.)

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-3 (We are certainly in the latter times. Now do you think any churches today would allow any of the biblical patriarchs into their churches with their many wives? I don't think so. Abraham, Jacob, David, Moses, and all the others would be tossed out. They would have been forbidden to marry multiple wives.)


Named Polygamists In The Bible

Abraham - 3 Wives - Genesis 16:1; Genesis 16:3; Genesis 25:1
Jacob - 4 wives - Genesis 29:23; Genesis 29:28; Genesis 30:4; Genesis 30:9
David - 18+ wives - 1 Samuel 18:27; 1 Samuel 25:39; 1 Samuel 25:43; 2 Samuel 3:3-5;     2 Samuel 5:13; 2 Samuel 12:24; 2 Samuel 15:16
Soloman - 1000 wives - 1 Kings 11:3
Rehoboam - 78 wives - 2 Chronicles 11:18-23
Moses - 2 wives - Exodus 2:21; Numbers 12:1
Abijah - 14 wives - 2 Chronicles 13:21
Ahab - 1 Kings 20:3
Ahasuerus - Esther 1:9
Ashur - 2 wives - 1 Chronicles 4:5
Belshazzar - Daniel 5:2
Benhadad - 1 Kings 20:3
Caleb - 5 wives - 1 Chronicles 2:18-19; 1 Chronicles 2:46,48
Eliphaz - 2 wives - Genesis 36:11-12
Elkanah - 2 wives - 1 Samuel 1:2
Esau - 3 wives - Genesis 26:34; Genesis 28:9
Ezra - 2 wives - 1 Chronicles 4:17-18
Gideon - many wives - Judges 8:30
Jehoiachin - 2 Kings 24:15
Jehoram - 2 Chronicles 21:14
Jerahmeel - 2 wives - 1 Chronicles 2:26
Joash - 2 wives - 2 Chronicles 24:3
Lamech - 2 wives - Genesis 4:19
Machir - 2 wives - 1 Chronicles 7:15-16
Manasseh - 2 wives - 1 Chronicles 7:14
Mered - 4 wives - 1 Chronicles 4:17-19
Nahor - 2 wives - Genesis 22:20-24
Saul - 2 wives - 1 Samuel 14:50; 2 Samuel 3:7
Shaharaim - 2 wives - 1 Chronicles 8:8
Simeon - 2 wives - Genesis 46:10; Exodus 6:15
Zedekiah - Jeremiah 38:23
Hosea - 2 wives - Hosea 1:3; Hosea 3:1
Terah - 2 wives - Genesis 11:26; Genesis 20:12
Abdon - 40 sons, by implication - Judges 12:14
Heman - 14 sons, by implication - 1 Chronicles 25:4
Ibzan - 60 children, by implication - Judges 12:9
Jair - 30 sons, by implication - Judges 10:4
Shimei - 22 kids, by implication - 1 Chronicles 4:27
Ziba - 15 sons, by implication - 2 Samuel 9:10
Issachar's Tribe - had many wives - 1 Chronicles 7:4

What About Adultery?

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. Leviticus 20:10
(
This is the biblical definition of adultery. It can only occur when involving a married woman. Adultery is a property rights crime against the husband. An unmarried woman can not commit adultery. Therefore a man taking on additional wives is not considered adultery according to how the Bible defines the term. Just as Christ can not commit adultery against the church. He can unite himself with as many churches as he wants. He is head of the church. It is up to the church to stay faithful to Christ and not go whoring around.)

And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. Mark 10:11-12. (This is a dangerous verse to take on it's own. You must match it against other verses to get the full context and full meaning.)
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. Luke 16:18 (Same thing as the verse above in Mark 10:11-12.)
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. Matthew 19:9 
(This verse adds clarification to what was revealed in Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18. Fornication is an exception and justified means of divorce.)

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Matthew 5:31-32 (This is a teaching of polygamy because the man can marry multiple women and not commit adultery doing so. But if a woman remarries and her previous marriage was not justifiably terminated by means of fornication, then the man is causing the woman to commit adultery because she is still married in God's eyes. But this does not apply to the man because polygamy is still a valid form of marriage straight from the mouth of Jesus.)

Did God Ever Give Approval?

And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 2 Samuel 12:8 (God gave David his many wives. So not only does the Bible not condemn polygamy, it also clearly approves of it. It wasn't just allowed to take place against God's wishes.)

"Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." 1 Kings 15:5.(This is another nod of approval from God himself regarding David's polygamist lifestyle.)

Bible Regulates Polygamy

"If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." Exodus 21:10. (Food, shelter, and sex are the duties that should remain for all wives when another wife is taken.)

“ ‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness. “ ‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living. Leviticus 18:17-18 (These laws are unnecessary if polygamy was unlawful to God.)

"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: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his." Deuteronomy 21:15-17. (Does God regulate how to dispose of bodies after you murder someone? Of course not, because you shouldn't be committing murder in the first place.)

Jesus Depicted As A Polygamist

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Matthew 25:1 
(Jesus is the bridegroom getting married to multiple wives in this parable. Jesus is being depicted as a polygamist.)

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. Isaiah 4:1 (This is a negative prophecy of churches/wives/women taking hold of one man/husband/Christ and wanting to do things their own way. They only want to be called Christians. But yet again, Christ is depicted as a polygamist husband to many church wives.)

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD. Jeremiah 31:31-32 (Once again one husband with multiple wives. This is God we are talking about.)

They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD...And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks...Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: Jeremiah 3:1,8,9,14 (Again God depicted with 2 wives being Israel and Judah.)

And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah. Ezekiel 23:4 (Again God figuratively baring sons. I hope he's married. Oh he is, to both Jersalem and Samaria.)

Man's God Designed Sexuality

Now that we see that polygamy is not a sin, what impact should this have on our perception of man's sexuality? Our society today often refers to men as "pigs" or "dogs" because they have "wondering eyes" for other women. Well the fact is that God made man that way by design, because that is how God is. God is not a one person God. God has many children. God has pleasure in the diversity of his people. He did not create them all the same nor would he pleasure in just one kind of being in which everyone was the same. Men are the same way with their sexual feelings toward women. While this may be repulsive to many of the feminist persuasion as most people are in our society today, this is how God designed men. It is not wrong for a man to fully love his wife, yet still feel sexual attraction toward other women. We should not be shaming men for how they were designed by God. It's in man's DNA to have these feelings. This does not make them "dogs" or "pigs." No this doesn't mean men have free reign to sexually express themselves however and whenever they want, but we should understand that men are not messed up by having these feelings. 

Society often times has it backwards. We say that homosexuals and transgenders were made that way at birth. But even if that were true, the Bible is clear that those acts or feelings are a perversion of God's design. God's actually designed men to have attraction to a variety of women, yet our society says this is not permissible. They say that that is the perversion of God's design. The fact is that we have it backwards. We must believe what the Bible says as it is God's word, not what society teaches us.

Please understand that I myself and happily married to one woman and will happily fulfill my marriage vows to remain with one woman the rest of my life. Being a polygamist today has too many negatives associated with it in our society to make it a viable option for most men. But that doesn't change how we are wired to feel by God's design. Having an understanding of this can help men not feel the shame that we often feel. And it can help women better understand men, if they are willing to accept God's design and not be so influenced by the world around them. 

Women often have multiple children and they love them all the same yet in different ways. One child doesn't dilute the love of another. This is how men are able to marry multiple women, yet their love of one isn't diluted by another. Women are not created this way so it is hard for them to understand. When a man cheats on his wife that is sinful because he is not only most likely violating his marriage vows, but this is also sex outside of marriage, not polygamy. So don't get it twisted. This is not a plea for men to change their lifestyles, but a plea to understand God's design for how we feel attraction to multiple women yet still love our wife. 
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