Why Did God Allow Some Men to Have Multiple Wives in the Old Testament?

A Daily Little Lesson

Read the transcript of this video below.

We’re going to talk about the question of polygamy, which is an all-encompassing term that just means having more than one spouse. It can apply to a man having more than one wife or a woman having more than one husband.

Polygamy concept - Why did God allow men in the Old Testament to have multiple wives?

There are specific terms that describe each one of those phenomenon, but, regardless, what’s common in the Old Testament to a degree is some men having more than one wife. There are some pretty well-known Bible characters who had more than one wife. Abraham did and Caleb did and David, of course, did. I think he had like eight wives and 10 concubines.

His son, Solomon, took the prize with 700 wives. I always jokingly say he was the very first member of the 700 Club, if you’ve ever watched the 700 Club. He had 300 concubines, so 1,000 women altogether.

There’s no way he even knew all their names. It does sound sick. You know, here Solomon was the wisest man, given wisdom from God, but God had said in the law many, many, many years before Solomon was even born, “When you get a king for yourself, O Israel, don’t let him multiply wives for himself.”

Solomon clearly did not use God’s wisdom and disobeyed God, but God permitted it. God didn’t stop him. Why? Why did God let these men have more than one wife?

Some Biblical Principles to Understand Polygamy

That’s a good question. The Scripture doesn’t specifically say so we have to take Biblical principles and see if we can extrapolate something elsewhere and apply it to this situation.

I think we can safely say from Scripture that it was never God’s perfect will for a man to have multiple wives. God created Adam and then he created Eve. He didn’t create Eve and Ethel and Emily. He created Eve. So it was clearly one woman, one man from the start. That was the divine pattern that was set. I think the first guy who had two wives was a guy named Lamech, who I think was also a murderer, so he didn’t get off to a good start there.

Other people had more than one wife. David was a man after God’s own heart. Caleb was a guy who trusted God and entered the Promised Land and so forth. You just can’t say everyone who was a polygamist was a mean, ugly person.

Polygamy Is a Violation of the Golden Rule

I think we can also say generally it wasn’t God’s will because God calls us to treat others like we want to be treated. I think Abraham or David or Caleb and these guys should have asked, “How would I feel if my wife brought home another husband and then another one and then another one?” Probably wouldn’t have liked that too much.

If I’m bringing home additional wives, I’m not really treating my wife like I want her to treat me. It’s a violation of the Golden Rule. It’s a violation of the second greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Right? Right. Solomon it could be said effectively robbed 999 other men of wives because God generally creates about the same number of males as he does females, you see. That’s another reason you’re not walking in love towards other men to have multiple wives. Generally speaking, I’d say not God’s will.

Polygamy Is Demeaning to Women

It’s also demeaning, obviously, to women. Any woman who’s married to a man who brought home another wife had to have been hurt by it. Their relationship obviously was affected by it. Solomon, God only knows how his wives felt.

They weren’t wives at all. They might as well all been concubines, you know, to have 700 wives. Ridiculous. Just absolutely ridiculous. Why did God allow that? Well, a general way to answer that is: Why does God allow anything that people do that are stupid or sinful? He allows it because he gave us freewill.

Built-In Punishment

Why doesn’t God punish these guys? Well, I submit to you punishment is built in to many sins. That’s why God calls them sins because he loves it. He says don’t be stupid.

I can just imagine every time some idiot married another woman, God looked down from heaven and said, “What is wrong with you? You’re a knucklehead. You think you’re getting another wife and this is a blessing, a benefit. You just hurt the woman who loved you, your first wife. Now you’re going to have all kind of problems because they’re going to be competing with each for your affection. There could be jealousy and rivalry between them.”

You find within the polygamist marriages of the Old Testament. Those guys had trouble, big trouble. They were punished. It was built into it. You can read their punishments and you can learn just like you read some of the built in punishments of other things, other sins. You watch people who don’t obey God and God goes, “Okay. Have it your way.”

God said to the nation of Israel one time, he said, “I don’t want you to have a king. I want you to serve me. I’ll be your king.” They said, “Nope. We want a king like all the other nations.” God said, “Okay. All right. Have it your way. I’ll even handpick the guy for you.” They started a kingdom and they thought they were blessed, but they were like other nations and God said, “You knuckleheads. Why don’t you listen to me?”

God’s Mercy

God is very gracious and God is very tolerant. Jesus said God causes the sun to shine on the good and evil, sends his rain on the righteous and unrighteous. Both sun and rain are blessings to people that are growing crops, so that’s how they interpreted that when Jesus said that. God’s just being good to people who don’t deserve it. God’s being merciful and long-suffering with people who don’t deserve it. He’s up in heaven while Jesus …

Jesus, yeah, he got angry and got that whip and drove them out of the temple because He was angry. One time he looked over Jerusalem and He wept.

You think sometimes God is angry when sometimes he’s probably just weeping, saying, “I hate to see you guys go through this. You’re doing a stupid thing and you’re going to reap what you sow. That’s why I gave you these commandments to guide you so you will be blessed.”

Enjoy the Blessing of One Spouse

This is a Little Lesson. Don’t you be thinking about getting another woman. You’d be stupid to do that. Don’t be thinking about getting another man either. Enjoy the blessings of having one husband, one wife. If you’re having trouble, then grow up and learn to communicate.

If you need some counsel, get some counsel. You can work it, amen, because you’ve got the Holy Spirit in you. Praise the Lord.

I wrote an e-teaching, Everything You Wanted to Know About Polygamy but Were Afraid to Ask. You can get more info from this article than what I gave you in this Little Lesson. Thank you for joining me. God bless.