Christianity and polygamy
Pastor Chinaemerem Ibezim
Dictionary.com defines polygamy as the practice or condition of having more than one spouse, especially wife, at one time. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time.
From the above, polygamy is not only about marrying two or more wives; a non married person can be a polygamist; a woman can be a polygamist; being married and having extramarital affairs makes one a polygamist. As long as you are in more than one relationship at the same time you are a polygamist.
What does the Bible say about polygamy?
The first polygamous man in the Bible was Lamech. In Genesis 4:19, it is recorded that he took unto him two wives. After Lamech it became a norm. Apart from a few men like Noah, Job, Moses, Isaac and Joseph, a number of men, including father Abraham, were polygamous. And God didn’t seem to have an issue with it. God actually seemed to endorse it when he said to David, “I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom… and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.” 2 Samuel 12:8. Of course, Solomon holds the record of having the most number of spouses: he had hundreds of wives and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Not up to a thousand; the seven hundred included wives and princesses (his daughters). There’s actually no commandment against polygamy in the Bible.
There was a commandment for kings though: Deuteronomy 17:17 NLT says; “The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.” They obviously didn’t heed that instruction. In fact, God blessed David and Solomon with both wives and wealth.
It’s quite interesting that Jesus told a parable of ten virgins and one bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13).
Is polygamy permitted today?
I used “permitted”, because that’s the best word for describing why God overlooked it. The perfect will of God was and is, one man and one wife. At the beginning God made them male and female, and the two became one flesh.
I read somewhere that polygamy is a sin because the law prohibits it. Law here doesn’t refer to the Law of God, but societal laws. The Romans prohibited polygamy, and since we are to be law abiding, it became wrong for Christians to practice polygamy.
As Christianity began to grow and spread, it seems to me that some members of the churches were polygamous. I say this because Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus that bishops and deacons had to be husbands of only one wife (1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6). If there were no polygamous men in the church, I doubt that it would have been a qualification. Jesus certainly saved polygamous men, so it’s not strange or absurd to say or think that such men, being NEW CONVERTS, were members of the church.
A Christian today should not practice polygamy. Here’s why:
1) In the beginning it was not so.
2) We are to follow the perfect will of God. Just because God permitted it in the Old Testament doesn’t mean that we should continue with the practice. Acts 17:30 says that God overlooked certain practices in the Old Testament and has now commanded everyone to repent.
3) It’s contrary to the model of marriage given to us. Jesus has only one bride – the Church.
4) Being polygamous will hinder us from being used by God in certain capacities, according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Everyone of us is called to work for God.
Now, I am of the opinion that polygamist men/husbands who get converted need not divorce their wives. I will change my mind about it if I am convinced through scriptures that it is necessary for them to. I base my opinion on 1 Corinthians 7:20, which says, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” The New Living Translation says, “Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you.”
Pastor Chinaemerem Ibezim
Able Ministers Chapel