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Fulton County Gospel News

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Polygamy and the Bible

By Barry O’Dell

On the origin of marriage the Bible records, “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:21-24). God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman, regardless of what the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled. However, we should not be surprised at the changes that man has made to this divine institution. Lamech, who was a descendant of Cain, “…took unto him two wives…” (Gen. 4:19). Genesis 28:9 reveals that Esau had multiple wives. Elkanah, the father of Samuel, had two wives (1 Sam. 1:1-2). King David had many wives (1 Chr. 3:1-9). For most people, Solomon is probably the most well-known polygamist in the Bible (1 Kgs. 11:1-3). Some have attempted to use Exodus 21:10 to justify the practice of polygamy. To use it for that purpose is to misunderstand and abuse the context. Hebrew slavery was being addressed in the immediate context (Exo. 21:2). It was sometimes the case that a Hebrew woman would be sold to a wealthier Hebrew with the intent of her getting married in the future. Exodus 21:7-11 actually provided protection in an instance of deceit on the part of the man (Exo. 21:8). The “maidservant” who found herself in this position was to be treated as a daughter by the one who bought her (Exo. 21:9). This passage does not condone polygamy as some have claimed.

First, we must understand that just because God’s word records an event does not mean that God approves of the activity. The Bible records the adultery between David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:1-5), but we know that adultery is a sin. The Bible records instances of murder (Gen. 4), but we know that God condemns murder (Exo. 20:13). The Bible records the history of the creation of man and man’s rebellion against God’s revealed will (Gen. 3). God’s word tells us all about sin and the fact that man can be saved from sin through the blood of Christ. Just because the Old Testament records instances of polygamy does not mean that God approves of such behavior.

Second, all men are amenable to the New Testament of Christ (Acts 17:30-31). Part of the teachings of the New Testament include the teaching of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 19:1-9. When teaching on divorce and remarriage Jesus used the term “whosoever,” which lets us know that His teaching on that subject applies to everyone, not just Christians (Matt. 19:9). Jesus emphasized that God’s marriage law has always stated that marriage is to be between one man and one woman (Matt. 19:8). There is not one accountable individual in the world who is not subject to God’s law on marriage.

Third, God’s way is better and higher than man’s way (Isa. 55:8-9). There are religions and doctrines of men that allow polygamy. Islam permits a Muslim man to have up to four wives at a time (Surah 4:3-4). Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses and the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants permit and encourage polygamy, even though their Scripture, the Book of Mormon, condemns it (Jacob 1:15; 2:24)! By inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul wrote, “…let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). God’s plan for marriage and the home is the only right plan.  

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