Is Polygamy Sinful Today?

Polygamy is an issue that needs to be understood from the Bible as a whole. In the beginning of the creation, God joined one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve) in marriage together. When man sinned against God, man also began to change what God had designed for marriage. For instance, Lamech, from the line of Cain, was the first polygamist recorded in Genesis 4:19-24.

In Genesis 16 Abraham took Hagar as his wife. From what we understand, he was not committing adultery even though he had two wives. There were certainly less privileges for Hagar, and problems began to erupt between Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 21). Did Abraham die in a saved condition even though he was a polygamist? (Genesis 25:6-8) Matthew 8:11 and Luke 16:19-31conclude that Abraham was in a saved condition. Does that mean that polygamy is morally and scripturally right today? Here are some principles to remember:

  1. We know that polygamy often created hard feelings (Genesis 30:1) and conflict (Genesis 26:34) between the other wives. Is that what God would desire in a marriage?
  1. We know that the law of Moses regulated this less than ideal situation (Exodus 21:10; Deuteronomy 21:15). Under the law of Moses, a husband was to support and take care of her because God prevented irresponsible treatment. It regulated, but it did not prohibit polygamy.
  1. It was not the norm. Proverbs 5:15-20, Malachi 2:14-16, and Song of Solomon talk about how a husband is to enjoy the one wife of his youth.
  1. We know that it was less than an ideal situation. As we learn from Matthew 19, Jesus goes back to the beginning of creation and teaches that true marriage is between one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:1-13).
  1. God allowed/permitted polygamous behavior for some time under the Old Testament system (Acts 17:30). However, Jesus pointed back to the beginning of Eden and only authorized one man, one woman for life (Matthew 19:4-9).
  1. Further evidence is found in 1 Corinthians 7:2-3 in that every man is to have his own wife and every woman is to have her own husband. Ephesians 5:22-33 was a mystery that typologically prophesied of Jesus and His one church (Ephesians 1:22,23; 4:4). Jesus is not a polygamist! In 1 Timothy 3:2,12, a bishop and a deacon were to be a "husband of one wife." In 1 Timothy 5:9, a widow was to be enrolled if she fulfilled being the "the wife of one man."

Under the New Testament law, polygamy is unauthorized and sinful. Even though there are false religions that have crept up that taught that polygamy is morally right (such as the Mormon denomination - for a time between the mid-1800s and early 1900s and Islam), the Bible implicitly teaches it is wrong today.

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