Polygyny - Is It Scriptural?
Addressing Some Faulty Arguments That Try to Justify Multiple Marriages


The impetus for this page stems from an email I received from a Christian sister who recently was confronted on a Yahoogroup with some sort of pseudo-Messianic cult group that promotes and practices polygyny, and tries to justify their activity by twisting the Scriptures. She forwarded the email from this group to me. As such, I felt moved to provide a scriptural refutation of their arguments, by drawing from the whole testimony of the Scriptures on the matter of marriage, in its natural context, using exegetical and hermeneutic principles which do not do violence to the contextual meaning of the Biblical message about this issue. I trust that it shall become readily apparent, as I address the arguments in turn, that this group supporting polygyny takes the Biblical statements they use to support their position far out of context, and twist the Scriptures to make them say what they were not meant to say by God. Likewise, many of the arguments made are logically and theologically flawed when taken in light of the full message of the Bible.

Though the issue of polygamy, which can be either polygyny (multiple wives) or polyandry (multiple husbands), is not one which is commonly encountered in most places in America, it still is an issue that needs addressed. Certain fundamentalist LDS groups centred primarily in the western United States still practice polygamy, and recent years have seen the proliferation of small but growing pseudo-Christian groups advocating for plural marriage as a "Christian liberty". Missionaries abroad are certainly likely to encounter one or both types of polygyny if they are serving anywhere in Africa, South Asia, the Pacific Islands, or any places where Muslims make up at least a small minority of the population. I hope and pray that this response will be of use not only in refuting the particular arguments put forth in the email I received, but might also be useful in helping both missionaries and those of us on "the home front" know how to Scripturally deal with the issue of polygyny as the need arises.

One fundamental rule of Biblical hermeneutics (the science of studying the Bible systematically) is known as the "rule of first mention". It has been observed that the first place in the Bible where a doctrine, idea, institution, etc. is mentioned, a foundational truth is set forth that underlies all understanding gleaned from further revelation. In the case at hand, we see that the first place where the institution of marriage is set forth in God's Word is in Genesis 2:21-24,

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 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.

Marriage is God's plan for the relationships of companionship, fellowship, and sexuality among His most valued created beings, Man. And we see that God, in setting forth this plan, lays out several key understandings about marriage in this passage:

- It is monogamous. God did not create multiple wives for Adam. He created one. It seems like a rather simple point, true, but again remember that God is setting forth a pattern in this passage which defines His intentions for this institution. God's plan, through His act of creation while the world and all creation was yet perfect and without sin, was for a man to be married to one woman, and one woman only.

- This monogamy is affirmed in the starkest possible manner by the proclamation that a man shall cleave unto his wife, and that they would be one flesh. While the marriage relationship does entail the psychological cleaving of a man and wife together, the conjugal act is also well in view here. The sexual intimacy of a husband and wife is key to their cleaving to one another and becoming one flesh. Indeed, Paul states that if a man goes in to a harlot, he is joined with her in one flesh (I Corinthians 6:16). But yet, just because he has cleaved to her, this does not make their joining right. If multiple wives are introduced into the marriage arrangement, then the man may well cleave to his wives, but his attentions, affections, and physical intimacy are divided among several women, and the fundamental unity for the man which is intended by the covenant of marriage (see above) is destroyed as his flesh is cleaved to several women and his loyalties divided.

- Further, this pattern for marriage can be understood to have general application, i.e. it is not merely set forth for Adam, but for all his descendants as well. This is derived from the fact that, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Adam had no earthly father or mother. The statement applies universally to his descendents, and this further affirms that these verses lay out God's fundamental plan for marriage.

In contrast to this first mention of the institution of marriage in Genesis 2, let us now look briefly at another first mention, that of polygyny. We find this in Genesis 4,

"And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.....And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." (Genesis 4:19, 23-24)

Who was this Lamech? He was, in short, a rebel against God. This is shown in his action and statement in vv. 23-24. Lamech murdered a man for injuring him, following after the murderous sin of his ancestor Cain. He then adds insult to injury by proclaiming his own superiority to and independence of God's seal upon Cain (and hence, God's authority). If Cain was to be avenged sevenfold by God if someone were to kill him, Lamech is saying that he would avenge HIMSELF seventy-seven fold for even being injured by another. The act and statement indicate deep rebellion against God. The fact that the Bible specifically points out Lamech as the first to enter into polygyny, then, seems to be an introduction to the rebellious and wicked charactre of this man - hardly someone that polygynysts should want to point to as a role model.

These foundational understandings on marriage, both monogamous and polygynous, must be kept in mind as we approach the rest of what Scripture has to say about these issues. The fundamental element that monogamy is God's plan for marriage and polygyny is rebellion against that plan is the lens that brings the rest of what God's Word says about marriage into focus.

The Lord Jesus Christ reaffirmed the monogamous ideal for marriage when He quoted and argued from the Genesis 2 passage (Matthew 19:4-7, Mark 10:5-9). He quite clearly envisions marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. This is further illustrated when, upon further questioning, He states that to divorce a spouse and marry another is adultery. The ideal is monogamy in relationship and lifetime exclusiveness in sexual knowledge. To marry another while your divorced spouse is still alive is considered by God to be adultery, the same as if you were to go in unto another while still married. The only seeming exception to this is in cases of pre-marital fornication (Matthew 19:9), and the same principle applies to these - the spouse who has been unfaithful during the betrothal period has already violated the sexual exclusiveness that is supposed to exist between a married man and woman, and hence, the Law (because of the hardness of the Israelites' hearts, remember) allowed for the breaking of the marriage covenant in these cases. From all this it is clear that the inviolability of the marriage institution is understood from a physical, sexual ground as well as from that of a legal covenant, which is why any sexual congress outside of marriage is an assault upon God's plan for marriage and human sexuality, whether it be pre-marital fornication, extra-marital adultery, or the numerous varieties of unmentionable perversions that exist in the world. Indeed, the one instance in the Old Testament where divorce is commanded by God (Ezra 10:9-44) because many Israelites had married strange (i.e. foreign, pagan) wives, there is nothing mentioned that these men would, or could, remarry. The fact that God considers the marriage covenant permanent, even after divorce, is illustrated in Malachi 2:13-16 where men who divorced their first wives and married others were said to have dealt treacherously with the wives of their youth. This emphasis, then, on the inviolability of the marriage covenant and the sexual exclusiveness demanded in God's plan (extending even before marriage or after divorce while the partner is still living) demands monogamy on the part of a married person if they are to be within God's will in their life. To marry multiple partners is to, essentially, commit adultery in the sight of God, as it is a violation of His plan and the covenant relationship between man and his one wife that God established on the sixth day of creation.

The Scripture also uses the image of monogamous marriage to illustrate the relationship of Christ with His churches. In Ephesians 4, the argument and commandment had already been set forth that there should be doctrinal and spiritual unity within each local church assembly. In Ephesians 5:22-33 then, Paul teaches on the duties of the husband and the wife to each other, and likens their relationship to that of Christ with His church. Christ is the Lord of each local church body, likened to the husband, as the local assembly is to the wife. In each local assembly, due to the unity that should prevail in spirit and doctrine, Christ has only ONE wife, not many as if there were many different spirits and doctrines residing in the body of the same local church. Lest one be tempted, then, to suggest that the presence of multiple local churches suggests that Christ has multiple "wives", it is best to keep in mind that when all is said and done, the various local assemblies, the saints from all the ages, will be gathered together into one united body in heaven (Hebrews 12:23) which is the true and final embodiment of Christ's "wife", the collection of the church of saints which He has espoused to Himself through His shed blood. Each local assembly, for the time being, is contextually and logically to be considered as a foreshadowing of that final assembly of which its members will one day be part, and thus is one wife with Christ as her head.

Monogamy is also set forth in the Scripture as the pattern which Christians are to follow, which they are to see in the lives of godly pastors. Each pastor that God sets over a local assembly is to be "the husband of one wife" (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6). These same pastors are set forth to be emulated by the members of their assemblies, if they are living right with God (Hebrews 13:7, I Peter 5:3).

The arguments for polygyny included attempts to appeal to the authority of various saints in the Old Testament who were involved in polygamous marriages, such as David, Abraham, and others. The email included a rather long list of polygamists in the Old Testament, and notes that some of them were considered righteous by God. This argument falls flat. The simple fact of polygamy in the Old Testament cannot be rightfully taken as an approbation of the practice by God, in light of the clear principle of monogamy as ideal set forth in Genesis. The example of even righteous men who were involved in polygamy cannot be taken as evidence, in contravention to the words of Scripture, that polygamy is acceptable to God.

How does one explain the fact that men who were polygamists were yet considered righteous by God? By the fact that their righteousness came, just as it does for believers in our time, by God's grace through faith. "The just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). Just as saints today are not saved and justified by either their own ability to satisfy their debt of sin or their own ability to retain their salvation through their own good deeds, so it was with saints in the Old Testament times. Saints in any age are justified because God extends grace to them through faith and repentance. But, justification does not equal perfection. Every saint sins, even those considered just by God. David was a man after God's own heart, yet he murdered a man through treachery and lied about it, this after he had committed adultery with his wife. Does the fact that God still deemed David to be righteous mean that adultery, murder, treachery, and dishonesty are acceptable in God's sight? Of course not. It merely means that God, through His abundant grace, still forgives and justifies and preserves His saints, those who have trusted on Him in faith, even when they fail Him. As such, merely pointing to the fact that David or Abraham or Solomon was righteous while yet being a polygamist, does not theologically mean that God approves of polygamy.

Indeed, if we look at the lives of the Old Testament saints, we see two things. One, most of them actually were not polygamists, the norm for the faithful man in the Old Testament was monogamy. Two, those who engaged in polygamy had far from the idyllic, blessed home life that the author of the arguments for polygyny seems to intimate will come from polygyny.

Yes, some Old Testament patriarchs and saints had multiple wives, such as David, Solomon, Abraham (a concubine), etc. However, the norm was monogamy. Job was monogamous, as were Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Noah, Shem, Samuel, and many others, as well as was, of course, Adam.

Those who engaged in polygamy often saw their family lives ruined by strife and discord. Abraham's concubinage of Hagar, for example, was an act done because of a lack of faith (hardly a reason to hold him up as an example in this particular case). His act with Hagar brought about a child who was a competitor with the seedline God intended to bring the Messiah from, was a source of continual friction in his home life with Sarah, and produced a lineage which is to this day a thorn in the side of God's people. Likewise, Jacob's polygamy was the result of trickery, and produced familial discord between his two wives Leah and Rachel, and this discord may even have been the cause of the crime committed against Joseph (son of the favoured wife) by his brothers (sons of the disfavoured wife and the servant-concubines). It is also noteworthy that Jacob entered into his polygamous marriages during the time in his life when he was not walking with God like he should have been. David's home life certainly was harmed by his polygamy, as the succession squabbles, the rebellion of Absalom, and the rape of Tamar all illustrate. Solomon's polygamy, likewise, provides no positive example for the Christian, as we note that his hundreds of foreign wives and concubines drew him after their false gods, a situation which would likely not have occurred had he remained true and faithful to his original bride. Indeed, though the article tries to hold up David and Solomon as positive examples, even arguing that it must be right if David did it, we see that both David and Solomon were breaking God's explicit commandment of monogamy to Israel's kings,

"Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold." (Deuteronomy 17:17)

Indeed, we see that this is exactly what happened to both David and Solomon - they multiplied their wives, and this to a greater or lesser extent turned their hearts away from the LORD. Why would polygamy turn their hearts from God? Because by engaging in polygamy, they were sinning the sin of adultery, and shutting God's ears to them,

"But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)

Yes, they were still righteous because they had trusted in the Lord God and been justified, but their sin came between them and God, cutting them off increasingly from His intimate fellowship, making them susceptible to being drawn after further ungodliness.

Now I wish to provide some direct cut-and-pasted copies of several specific arguments made in this article, listed as "Biblical Support for Polygyny". These arguments will be in red, with my responses following.

Did GOD Compares HIMSELF to a Polygynist?

In Jeremiah 3:6-14, 31:31-34 and again in Ezekiel 23 the LORD compares HIMSELF to a man with two wives who are harlots Ė Judah and Israel. The Jews had turned away from GOD. GOD would not compare HIMSELF to a polygynist if polygyny were wrong.

It is a gross miscomprehension of the meaning and points of these passages to try and approach them, when they speak of spiritual adultery and God's covenant with Israel, as if they gave legitimacy to any polygyny. To understand them merely for the purpose of legitimising multiple wives is to take them wholly out of context and miss the whole point. The point to the passage is not to present a pattern for marriage acceptable to God, but to decry the spiritual whoredoms of God's people.

Technically speaking, the way God frames the discourse in Jeremiah 3:6-14, for example, the allegory would not even be depicting God as a polygamist, even if one wished to interpret the passage this way. Indeed, God presents a bill of divorcement to Israel for her adultery first, as the Law allowed, and then the passage speaks of Judah as the other unfaithful sister. Indeed, if one wishes to approach this passage the way the author of the article does and understand it as God depicting Himself as a polygamist, then they will attribute to God a CLEAR VIOLATION of His own Law, this being against the marriage of a man to two sisters at the same time (Leviticus 18:18)

Did JESUS Compare HIMSELF to a Polygynist?

In Matthew Chapter 25 JESUS tells a parable were he compares HIMSELF to a man betrothed to 10 women where only 5 are ready. This is a famous parable recited often in churches. It seems strange people readily accept the message to be ready for JESUSís return but ignore the fact that HE compared HIMSELF to a polygynist. All believers are (collectively) the bride of CHRIST 1 Corinthians 6:15. Since the bride of CHRIST is composed of many members, we see yet another reference to polygyny. JESUS would not compare HIMSELF to a polygynist if it were wrong.

Again, to understand this passage the way the author of the article does is to do injustice to the message that the Lord Jesus was trying to illustrate. Further, it displays a miscomprehension of the mechanics of the cultural norm behind the parable. Edersheim notes that as part of the activity surrounding a Jewish marriage festival in Jesus' day, ten (specifically and only ten) virgins would await the bridgroom with lamps held on long staves1. These ten virgins were not brides, but bridesmaids. Jewish marriage custom was such that the bridegroom would come to the home of his betrothed, take her to himself, and they would then go to the place of the marriage. The bride did not "go forth" to meet her groom, as the ten virgins do. The fact that the bridegroom goes to the place where the virgins are at and they come to him before he enters into the marriage feast indicates that the virgins are not brides. They are where the marriage is at, not being picked up by the bridegroom to be taken somewhere else. This, of course, in no wise lessens the impact and meaning of the parable, which is to be sure that we are ready, watching and waiting, for the coming of the Bridegroom.

Is Polygyny Commanded of Man?

Every man is commanded to marry his brotherís wife and give her children if his brother dies and she is childless. This obligation to marry is not reduced by the fact a man may already have one or more wives. Deuteronomy 25:5,6 "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husbandís brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husbandís brother unto her. 6And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel".

This argument is non sequitur. There is nothing in the Levirate marriage law which indicates that this commandment is binding on a man who is already married, and thus to argue that this passage "commands" men to polygamy is not legitimate. Indeed, the caveat "if brethren dwell together" would seem to suggest younger unmarried brothers living with an older brother who has already married and begun to build a life for himself. This is supported by the evidence in Matthew 22:24-28 where the Sadducees present their argument against the resurrection to the Lord Jesus about the seven brethren who all married the same woman, successively, after the previous had died. That question clear presupposes that the next younger brother, likely unmarried, is marrying the woman. If this were not so, the brethren would not be "dwelling together".

Did GOD Really Give a Man Many Wives?

In 2 Samuel 12:8 GOD tells David that HE gave David his wives and that GOD would have given David more wives if David wanted them in HIS rebuke of David concerning Bathsheeba. 2 Samuel 12:8 "And I gave thee thy masterís house, and thy masterís wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things".

This example is taken out of context, and does not even indicate what the author thinks it does. The context is when David sinned with Bathsheba and is confronted by Nathan the prophet. He is reminding David of all that God had given him, and the underlying remonstrance is then to question why David had gone beyond and taken the wife of another man. One of the things, however, that God had NOT given to David was Saul's wives to be his own. The "giving" to David in context is control and kingship over, not personal ownership or possession. Saul's wives were "given" to David in the sense that their house and family lost the kingship and was made subject to David, as the rest of the verse indicates. David did not marry Saul's wives, anymore than he took personal possession of Saul's possessions and children, he merely became king over them, as he did over Israel and Judah. There is nothing indicating God giving a "gift" of polygamy in this text.

Some supporters of polygamy will try to point to the fact that Saul had a wife named Ahinoam, and that David had a wife named the same, as evidence that God was indeed giving Saul's wives to David. This is highly unlikely as the Scripture indicates that David was married to *his* Ahinoam while Saul was yet still alive and married to his (e.g. I Samuel 25:43, I Samuel 27:3).

Two Polygynist Found Blameless by GOD?

In 1 Kings 15:5 we see David was very close to GOD and without fault except in the matter of Uriah and his wife. Since David already had many wives when this was written we can see the LORD found nothing wrong with polygyny. Since GOD does not find fault with polygyny who are we to condemn the practice? 1 Kings 15:5 "Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite".

In Judges 6:12-27 we see that the LORD and HIS Angel talked with Gideon. The LORD told Gideon HE was with him and the Angel of the LORD called Gideon a Ďmighty man of valour". Gideon had many wives yet the LORD was with him.

The matter of David's righteousness despite his polygamy has been detailed above. However, the passage is not saying David was blameless, necessarily, but rather that he had not "turned aside" in any matter other than the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba. The verb translated "turned aside" is the Hebrew "suwr" (Strong's H5493), which has the idea of turning off, departing, rebelling, or declining. The particular reference to David's sin with Bathsheba is mentioned as his "turning aside" because it was an open and flagrant sin which brought great opprobrium to the name of God and gave God's enemies opportunity to slander and deride the name of the Lord. In other words, it was the most particularly grievous sin against God that was committed. That this passage is not meant to say that it was the ONLY sin David ever committed (as the author seems to argue to try to justify polygamy) can be seen in that David sinned by numbering Israel, as well as sinning by multiplying wives to himself (discussed above). Concerning Gideon, again, to call Gideon a "mighty man of valour" is not the same as saying he was blameless. Indeed, the passages about Gideon indicate that later on in his life, he erred by making the ephod which all Israel whored after (Judges 8:27).

Again, these men may have been blameless in the sense that they were both saved by grace and declared righteous by God, but that does not mean that the practical example of their lives was perfect, and as such, these passages cannot be rightly used to try to argue for God's approval of polygyny.

GOD Chose a Polygynist as Father of HIS People

Abraham was counted as a friend of GOD James 2:23. Most Jews consider Abraham to be the greatest man in scripture. Jews hold Abraham in such high esteem they refer to him as "father Abraham" (James 2:21, John 8:56). Abraham was very close to GOD. Not only did they have many conversations, but GOD regarded Abraham with great favor. Genesis 12:2,3 "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

Abraham had three wives and at least 2 concubines Genesis 11:29, 16:3, 25:1, 25:6. JESUS regarded Abraham favorably in Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28. JESUS referred to HIMSELF as a "son of Abraham" in Luke 19:9. JESUS refers to GOD specifically as the "GOD of Abraham" in Luke 20:37, Matthew 22:32 and Mark 12:26. How can any man condemn polygyny when GOD holds a polygynist in such high regard?

Gen 17: 2-7, Gen 15:5, Gen 13: 15,16

Again, this misses the point that a righteous man is not a perfect man. Abraham's example does not legitimise polygyny, especially as the clear testimony of so much of God's Word is against the practice, and the foundation text relating to the marriage institution speaks against it.

Also, Abraham technically only had one wife at a time, but two concubines (Hagar and Keturah). Keturah is called a wife in Genesis 25:1, and a concubine in I Chronicles 1:32, and it is likely that he married her formally after Sarah died. However, the "sons of the concubines" mentioned in Genesis 25:6 would be the sons from Hagar and Keturah. This passage doesn't suggest further concubinage beyond those two.

One last attempt at a Biblical argument is made near the beginning of the article,

Today polygyny is still practiced in at least 167 countries but remains uncommon in the west. Polygyny has only been practiced by a minority of people in any society throughout our 6000 year history. Absent a war, the LORD has provided only a small percentage more women than men of marrying age. For this reason polygyny is likely to remain less than 5% of all marriages until the end times when Isaiahís prophecy comes true: "Isaiah 4:1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach".

This passage does not necessarily indicate polygamy as much as it does intense competition for the small number of men remaining after the wars that decimate Israel's male population. And certainly, a passage describing the effects of God's judgment upon His people hardly seems like a desirable passage from which to derive a doctrine supporting polygyny.

Lastly, let us consider some of the ethical and practical considerations surrounding polygyny. The author of the article writes,

Polygyny is all about family. The first command from GOD recorded in the Bible is to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:22, 28; 9:1,7, Jeremiah 29:6 ). While this command applies to all married families, polygyny, by itís very nature, makes it possible to have and raise more children than monogamy.

When a woman is abandon through divorce or widowed and is unable to find a new Christian husband it is a Christian manís duty to marry her if he is able provide for her and her children (1 Timothy 5:8-10, 14-16, Ezekiel 44:22, Deuteronomy 25:5-8).

This obligation to marry is not reduced by the fact a man may already have one or more wives.

Finally, A Christian wife is one of the greatest blessings GOD bestows on men. Who among us would choose to reduce or limit the number of blessings we receive from GOD? Proverbs 18:22 "Whomever finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD". Most of the great men in the Bible had multiple wives. They were not great because they had multiple wives rather they had multiple wives because they were close to GOD and the LORD blessed them. In a large plural family love abounds. Polygyny is a tremendous blessing for the entire family provided it is GODís will.

First, we see that some of this is stretching the Scripture quite thinly. To use the institution of Levirate marriage to justify polygyny (especially in light of the arguments made above) is not feasible. Neither is the commandment for the church to care for older widows and for younger widows to remarry in I Timothy 5. Indeed, there is nothing that indicates polygamy in this set of verses, they ONLY say that the younger widows should remarry, but there is NO indication that it should be to a man who already has a wife. In light of all that has been said above, the full context of scripture would forbid this, not demand it. And Ezekiel 44:22 merely stipulates that priests should marry either a virgin of the daughters of Israel, or the widow of a priest - nothing in this verse even suggests polygamy by any reasonable and normal reading of the verse.

Further, the author makes the argument that polygyny actually helps to fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, since it allows a man to have more children. It is true that a polygamous man can indeed have more children than a monogamous one, though in primitive societies this is usually done with a mind towards increasing the power and prosperity of the communal father, who benefits from having extra sons to work and fight for him2. This argument, however, neglects the fact that all the other men who cannot find a wife because of the polygamy of the others end up not producing any children, thus destroying their ability to carry out the command. Likewise, the command to be fruitful and multiply is to be understood as a general command, given to humanity, not just individual members of the race. A polygamous man married to, say, ten wives would not be likely to produce a much different number of children than would ten men each married to one wife. As such, polygamy would not yield any real "net gain". In fact, polygamy can be harmful to societies that practice it widely. The high rates of venereal diseases, and the subsequent sterility associated with many of those, in many tribal African societies is thought to be connected with the promiscuity endemic in polygamous groups3. Also, polygamy would actually be HARMFUL to the long-term health of the human race if practiced widely as it would limit the genetic variability of the succeeding generations. Inbreeding results in enhanced, accelerated deterioration, and polygamy would result in much the same deterioration, though at a slower rate.

Finally, the author argues that polygyny can be a "tremendous blessing" in which "love abounds" in a large, plural family. However, the Scriptural evidence delineated above does not support this contention. David's plural family caused him much heartache and difficulty. Jacob's plural family caused him much anguish, and the bigamous relationships of Esau were a grief of heart to Isaac and Rebekah. The experience of modern day missionaries in foreign lands where polygamy is practices also testifies to the detrimental nature of the practice. Polygamous families in these lands tend to be characterised by strife and discord between wives competing for place and attention and for the advancement of their particular children. Often, the senior or first wife will encourage her husband to find "secondary" wives as this increases her power, prestige, and authority in the household, to the detriment of these other wives, who often are resentful and insubordinate4. It is for reasons such as these that polygamy has been declining, even among heathen societies, such as the Islamic society, where it has been traditionally practiced and supported by explicit theological approval.

Polygamy contributes to social ills, as well. Women are often reduced from being the valued and beloved helpmeets which God intended, to being mere commodities or trophies. Hitchens quotes from Ellwood this observation made from primitive societies that practice multiple marriage,

"While often adjusted to the requirements of barbarous societies, it seems in no way adjusted to a high civilization. Polygyny, indeed, must necessarily rest upon the subjugation and degradation of women. Necessarily, the practice of polygyny must disregard the feelings of women...."5

Relatedly, the fulfillment of sensual desires for the male becomes a primary concern in a polygamous society where women are considered more "tradable". This observations seems to be more or less explicitly affirmed in the hadithic traditions of Islam, perhaps the most well-known civilization to advocate polygamy:

"Allah permits you to shut them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not severely. If they abstain, they have the right to food and clothing. Treat women well for they are like domestic animals and they possess nothing themselves. Allah has made the enjoyment of their bodies lawful in his Qurían."6

Indeed, the reason polygamy is practiced in many primitive societies is that a man seeks to replace a wife who has grown old and less attractive. Polygamy has proven to be a powerful cause of war, since men who are deprived of the availability of wives at home will often seek them abroad, as history shows from the quasi-mythical ravishing of the Sabine women by the wifeless Romans 800 years before Christ to the taking and keeping of Korean and Chinese "comfort women" by wifeless Japanese soldiers during the imperial conquests of the 1930s and 1940s. Familial bonds in plural marriages are actually weaker than in monogamous ones, since the husband and father's affections are divided among the several wives and children, thus leading to the oft-time strife mentioned above.

In summation, the arguments made for polygyny in the article under discussion are very weak, relying both upon the twisting and decontextualising of the Scripture, as well as argumentation which begs many questions. The clear testimony of the Scriptures, even the example of the lives of polygamist men in the Bible, shows that the practice is one which is outside the will of God. The clear testimony of God's foundation of marriage and the superstructure built upon this foundation in the rest of the Bible indicate that God's plan for marriage is monogamous. One of the topic headers in the article asks, "When is Polygyny Forbidden?". The answer would be, "In every case".

End Notes

(1) - A. Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Ch. 9
(2) - see R.J. Hitchens, Multiple Marriage: A Study of Polygamy in Light of the Bible, pp. 106-107 for several aspects of this general idea.
(3) - R.H. Reyher, Fon and His Hundred Wives, p. 224
(4) - R. Clignet, Many Wives, Many Powers, p. 35
(5) - from C.A. Ellwood, Sociology and Modern Social Problems; cited by R.A. Hitchens, Multiple Marriage: A Study of Polygamy in Light of the Bible, p. 123
(6) - al-Tabari, Vol. IX, no. 113