DEFINITION: Polygamy is having multiple spouses at the same time. While this is forbidden by law in many nations, it is still practiced in some cultures.
FACTS ABOUT POLYGAMY:
God’s plan is one man, one woman for life. God created a wife for Adam and His plan was that the two become one (Matthew 19:4-6). Divorce was not in God’s original plan, but was permitted later because of the “hardness of man’s heart” (Matthew 19:8). Polygamy was permitted in Old Testament times, but was not God’s original plan.
The first polygamous marriage was Lamech, who took two wives (Genesis 4:19).
Polygamous relationships, although common in the Old Testament, were not successful. For an example, study the family of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob. There was constant friction between his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and their children. Abraham did not officially marry his wife’s hand-maiden, Hagar, but he had sexual relationships with her and it resulted in trouble between her and Sarah and their children. The wives of Solomon caused great difficulties and eventually turned his heart away from God (1 Kings 11:3-4). Polygamous relationships in the Old Testament demonstrate the wisdom of God’s original plan for one man to have one wife for life.
Polygamy is adultery on a permanent basis. The New Testament says that marriage to another partner while the first partner is still living is adultery (Romans 7:1-3).
A polygamous person should not be a leader in the church. First Timothy 3:2 requires that an elder in a congregation be the husband of only one wife. This does not mean that if a former wife has died or he has a biblically justified divorce he cannot serve. It means that he should not have any polygamous unions.
Polygamy is sin. No one who continues in sexual sins will inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Sexual sin can be forgiven. As in the case of all sin of which you confess and repent, God will forgive sexual sin. First Corinthians 6:9-10 lists many types of sins, including fornicators and adulterers. Then 1 Corinthians 6: 11 declares: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” These believers repented of their sexual sins and were forgiven.
Who is the true mate? In a culture where a man is married to multiple wives, the first wife is the rightful mate if she desires to remain. Since the husband has actually committed adultery by taking additional wives, she has a right to leave according to God’s Word. If she chooses to remain, the other wives must be dealt with in an honorable way. The husband should provide financially for them and children of their union.
DEALING WITH POLYGAMY:
Repent of polygamy. As with any other sin, confession and repentance is required.
Change your lifestyle. A man with multiple wives should remain with his first wife–if she agrees–while continuing to provide for his other wives and children financially. Sexual relationships with all other wives should cease.
Cease any involvement with polygamy. This would include religions that foster it, people that practice it, and Internet websites, literature, or media that promote it.
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT POLYGAMY:
Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:22-24)
He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. (Deuteronomy 17:17)
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)
…by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. (Romans 7:2-3)
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Timothy 3:2-3)