More Wives Than One?

Polygamy (more wives than one) is a problem in Kenya. But some preachers say that it is not a sin. Did not many Old Testament figures have more than one wife? Does not polygamy help us to “multiply and fill the earth” faster? If a wife has no children, how can a man’s family name continue without another wife?

No Christian should have doubts about this question. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke very clearly and directly about marriage. In Matthew 19:3 the Pharisees came to him with a question about divorce. When Jesus answered it, he did not only explain that divorce was wrong. He also laid down essential principles about marriage. Our rule for marriage is not to look at what was tolerated under the Old Covenant, or another time. Our rule is to look at what God did at the very beginning in Eden. Jesus asked, “Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning…?” He reminds the Pharisees that God made Adam and Eve to come together in a permanent union, which man should never separate. He tells us that Genesis 2:24 is the key verse for understanding God’s purpose for marriage.

If what God did at the beginning is a pattern for everyone else afterwards, then this means polygamy is wrong. God did not make two or more wives for Adam – only one. The Bible says that the two shall becomes one flesh. More than this, it tells us directly that if a woman marries a second husband, she has committed adultery (Romans 7:3), and the same is true when a man marries two wives. Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22-30) – Christ has only one bride. Paul forbade any saved polygamists in the churches from becoming leaders (1 Timothy 3:2, 12).

Failure to produce children is not a valid reason for taking another wife. The account “at the beginning” in Genesis 2:24 does not make children the number one reason for marriage. Genesis 2:24 speaks about companionship – two lives joined together. It does not even mention children at all. Therefore (lack of) children cannot be made a reason to begin another marriage. Abraham went many years without a child by his wife Sarah, but when he took Hagar and had a son (Ishmael) God ignored that son in his plans. It was a sin for the kings of Israel to take many wives, because God had explicitly forbidden them to do so (Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon’s many wives were not a source of blessing to him – instead, they led him into the worship of idols (1 Kings 11:4). God’s tolerating of these sins during the Old Covenant is no excuse for us today.

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