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Does the Bible Approve of Polygamy?

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“It’s not unusual to hear critics say, based on certain Old Testament texts, that God actually endorses polygamy/bigamy. However, if God commended or commanded such a practice, this would be a deviation from the assumed standard of heterosexual monogamy in Genesis 2:24 and elsewhere.”

Paul Copan

While the Bible acknowledges polygamy, it doesn’t approve of it. Every seminary student worth his salt knows that the Bible doesn’t approve of everything it records. That’s Bible 101. The Bible discusses lots of things that is doesn’t permit. And frankly, I’m thankful for that. The Bible is a transparent book. Rather than covering up the sins of those who lived before us, it records them so that we can learn from our spiritual predecessors.

From the very first book of the Bible, God’s plan for monogamous marriage is laid out, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Adding to this, the Bible warns Israel’s kings not to take multiple wives (Deuteronomy 17:17). Furthermore, in the New Testament, we read that church leaders must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2, emphasis added). Kings and church leaders were to set the moral temperature for their communities. What was expected of them was certainly desired for their community.

Not surprisingly, many of the leaders failed to uphold God’s standard for monogamous marriage. And the fact that God still graciously blessed Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others in spite of their polygamous relationships doesn’t mean He condoned their actions. It just means that God works with what He’s got and that’s because He’s a gracious and merciful God.

It’s a relief to know that God doesn’t allow our sin or the sin of our forefathers to thwart His overall redemptive plan. Regardless of our actions, God’s plans will still prevail.

OMA Blog #29