The "Polygamy Has Always Been Sinful" Argument
The opinion that "polygamy has always been sinful" seems to be the most widespread position held among Christians today. This is evident from a survey, where 37 percent of those surveyed took this stance. However, 37 percent is only a little over a third, which should be a red flag signaling that this matter is not totally clear in Scripture and thereby warrants further investigation. The"Polygamy Has Always Been Sinful" argument goes something like this:
Argument Against Polygamy
Although nothing in Scripture specifically prohibits polygamy, it is clear that the Bible condemns the practice of a man having multiple wives and concubines. Not only does the Bible hold up monogamy as the standard from the very beginning of Genesis, but we can see the many sorrows caused by engaging in this forbidden practice. God gave the first man one woman to be his lawfully wedded wife. God created Adam and Eve, not Adam, Eve, and Betty. From the very beginning, monogamous marriage was clearly the ideal for mankind.
But then something happened, something awful. Man fell into sin. He rebelled against God's perfect will and ate the forbidden fruit. And rebellious humanity has been sinning ever since. And what better example of man's total depravity than the abominatible practice of polygamy. Polygamy clearly demonstrates man's decision to turn his back on God and have things his own way.
Consider sinful Lamech. Lamech was the first polygamist recorded in Scripture. He was also a murderer. By the time of Noah, polygamy had degenerated into promiscuity of the most illicit kind.Also consider the many problems recorded in Scripture associated with polygamy. First, there's the story of Abraham and Hagar. Abraham's wife Sarah was barren and unable to conceive a child, even though Abraham was promised by God that he would be the father of many nations. So Sarah took matters into her own hands and gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham in order to produce a son. Well, we all know how that turned out. Not good! Genesis 16:4 tells us that after Abraham slept with Hagar, she conceived. Then, when she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. So Sarah said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me."
"Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best."
Then Sarah mistreated Hagar and she fled from her. Hagar named her son Ishmael. The Bible describes Ishmael as a wild man, like a wild donkey. His hand was to be against everyone and everyone's hand against him. Ishmael was sentenced to live in hostility toward all his brothers. All of this because Abram became embroiled in a polygamous relationship with Hagar.
Another prime example of the evils of polygamy is Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah. Jacob loved Rachel, and was promised her hand in marriage by her father Laban. Jacob had bargained with Laban to serve him seven years for his daughter Rachel. Upon being deceived by Laban at the end of that seven years, Jacob was given Leah, the older daughter of the family. Through further bargaining and mutual agreement, for seven more years of service Jacob was given Rachel, the woman he loved. Thus Jacob ended up with two wives.
Was this polygamous family a happy one? Not hardly. Leah was outproducing Rachel in the baby department, which promoted a bitter sibling rivalry. Rachel was barren, while Leah had produced four sons. So just like Jacob's grandmother Sarah, she offered Jacob her handmaid Bilhah.
Not to be outdone, Leah later offered Jacob her handmaid, Zilpah. When all was said and done, Jacob had twelve sons. These are the sons of Jacob: Jacob's first son was born to Leah and was named Reuben. His second son was also born to Leah and was named Simeon. The third time's a charm with Leah, as she gives birth to a son named Levi. Leah then gives birth to her fourth son in a row and names him Judah. Unable to take it anymore, Leah's rival sister brings in her handmaid Bilhah, who gives birth to Dan, son number five. The sixth son, also born to Bilhah, was Napthali. Now, Leah decides to fight fire with fire and brings in her handmaid. Viola! A seventh son is born to Leah's handmaid Zilpah. He was named Gad. Now Zilpah is on a roll. The eighth son, born to Zilpah, was Asher. The ninth son was born to Leah, and he was named Issachar. The tenth son, born to Leah, was Zebulon. Finally, Rachel is able to conceive again, giving birth to Jacob's eleventh son, Joseph. Finally, Rachel also gives birth to Jacob's twelfth son, Benjamin. So the birth of Jacob's twelve sons, as recorded in Genesis 29:31-30:24, are the offspring of four different women: Leah and Rachel, his wives, and Zilpah and Bilhah, their respective handmaids.
And last but not least, we have the example of Solomon. Although Solomon is described as the wisest man to ever live (apart from Jesus, of course), Solomon did a very foolish thing. He took 700 wives and 300 concubines. God had warned Solomon against this, but he didn't listen. The Bible records that the wives of Solomon caused him to turn his heart away from God and turn to idolatry. In Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus said, "Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female? For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh." Jesus said nothing about three or more becoming one flesh. He said two shall be come one flesh, not three, not thirty three, not a thousand.
Yes, God allowed men like Abraham, Jacob, David, and others to take multiple wives. Yes, these men were righteous men; but none of them were perfect. They made mistakes. Some of them made serious mistakes. David committed adultery. Solomon committed idolatry. And even Abraham, the father of the faitful, allowed his faith to waiver by giving into his wife's request and sleeping with Hagar. The Bible shows us the Old Testament heroes of the faith, warts and all. By the time we reach the New Testament, polygamy is not even mentioned. Bishops are instructed to be husbands of only one wife.
We can all learn valuable lessons from the triumphs of Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others. We can also learn lessons from their mistakes and their sins. And the lesson that Scripture teaches us over and over again is simply this: Polygamy is a big, serious mistake. Polygamy is also a sin.
Although the previous argument has a number of seemingly valid points, when examined under the lens of careful scrutiny, I believe it slowly but surely unravels. To consider "The Polygamy Is NOT Sinful Argument," CLICK HERE.