Why Didn’t God Condemn Polygamy?

This week I was listening to some radio interviews by Brannon Howse of Worldview Weekend.  I find Brannon very interesting, and for the most part I agree with him.  On September 13, 2011 his guest was Dr. John C. Whitcomb of Whitcomb Ministries Inc.

Dr. Whitcomb was the co-author with Dr. Henry Morris of a tremendously influential book “The Genesis Flood”, which is a scholarly examination of the evidence for a catastrophic worldwide flood, of Genesis chapter 6.  This book has been credited with sparking the modern Creation Science movement.  While I have not read it, I have read other books and articles by Dr. Morris, and if it is anything like his other work it is highly recommended.

As pertaining to Scientific Creationism, and the Genesis flood, I am in complete agreement with these gentlemen, but today I want to focus on some of the comments made by Dr. Whitcomb, regarding the biblical view of polygamy on Brannon Howse’s program.

One of the questions Brannon asked Dr. Whitcomb is “ Why did the Bible and God not condemn marriage to more than one woman at the same time?”  to which Dr. Whitcomb made several comments.  Among his comments was the statement that King David’s problems with his family, stemmed from the fact that he was married to several women at the same time.  The bible actually makes a statement as to where those problems came from, and it is not the same answer as stated by Dr. Whitcomb.

When David was confronted by Nathan the prophet, over his affair with Bathsheba, and his murder of her husband, Nathan stated specifically that David would suffer because of these sins.  There is no doubt that Amnon’s rape of his sister, Absalom’s murder of Amnon, and Absalom’s rebellion against his father were all the result of David’s sin.  The bible nowhere states that these problems were the result of polygamy, but the result of adultery, and murder.  We are adding something to Scripture, that God Himself has not added, when we try to make it say something it does not say.

2 Samuel 12:7-12

 7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

 8And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s 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.

 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

 11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

The neighbour spoken of in verse 11 was none other than David’s son Absalom, who slept with ten of David’s concubines.

Clearly, God takes credit for giving David his wives in verse 8, and given the subject matter, would have given him more had he asked.  If God is the one who gave David his wives then we have to ask “why would God take credit for leading David into sin?”  Of course the Lord didn’t lead David into sin.  We need to allow God to define the words He uses.  When Moses wrote “thou shalt not commit adultery“, we can be sure that God did indeed define adultery in the law.

To which commandment was God referring in verse 9, that David had despised?  It cannot be the commandment to only have one wife, because there is no such commandment!  Furthermore, if there was such a commandment, then it would have been God Himself who despised it, since He had just said that it was He Himself who had given David his wives!  No!  David had despised the commandment not to covet his neighbor’s wife, and then he had despised the commandment to not commit adultery.

We can also see God’s defining of the term “adultery” in this passage.  David committed adultery when he took another man’s wife, but not before.  That was the occasion when David fell into sin.  Then he compounded it by committing murder.  When we insert our own definitions into scripture we do violence to the Word of God!

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.

When you change biblical definitions to suit your culture, you actually insert apparent contradictions into the word of God!  In 1 Kings 15:5 we have a statement that David’s heart was right in the eyes of the Lord, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.  The time covered by this statement would include the time that David was practicing polygamy.  Did God miss so obvious a sin?  No!  God never missed anything!  I have heard modern Baptists state that polygamists have “hard hearts”, yet David is the only person in the entire bible who is called “a man after God’s own heart”. (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22)

When studying the bible we ought to be very careful to look for the answers to our questions, that are specifically given in the Word of God, and not to create answers out of our own reasoning, to conform to our culture.

Dr. Whitcomb asserted that David’s problems were the result of polygamy.  If he is correct then we should not see the same problems in families that practice monogamy.  How far do we have to look to find similar problems in monogamous families?  A passage I’m sure Dr. Whitcomb is familiar with comes to mind, Genesis 4, the very earliest part of the bible.

In this passage the very first child, from the very first monogamous family, living in a very beautiful, practically perfect creation, murders his own brother!  Cain was a monogamist himself, incidentally.

As you read the bible you find sin after sin in the lives of all people, except the son of God.  It doesn’t matter the origin of the people involved, whether they are from polygamous or monogamous families, they are all sinners.  The human heart is a very, very dark place.  It is ridiculous to imply that the only sinners are those born to polygamous fathers, or that if you are monogamous you will have no problems!  In fact if you study carefully you will find that God Himself actually identifies with these men!  Go and read Jeremiah chapter 3, and the first 12 verses of Matthew 12.  In both passages the same God compares Himself with a polygamous man.

Note that in the King James bible the words “you”, “yourselves”, and “ye” always refer to more than one person, while “thee”, “thou”, and “thy” always refer to only one person.  When Israel split into two nations, God used the situation to compare himself to a man with two wives.  One wife leaves her husband and lives with other lovers, while the other wife stays with Him but is secretly unfaithful.  In this passage it is the polygamist who is innocent, wronged by both of his wives:

Jeremiah 3:1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

 6The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

 7And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

 8And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

 9And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

 10And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.

 14Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

God has always viewed human marriage as an analogy of His relationship with his people, but this is not the only reason why He allowed polygamy.  Both Muslims and Jews have the idea that men are more favored by God, and this is why He allows men to have more than one wife.  This is incorrect, and can be refuted by a careful study of the Word of God.  Chapter 8 of The Spirit of Prophecy goes into more detail than I can in this post, but I want to give you a brief overview.

As you read through the Old Testament books of Moses, Judges, 1 & 22 Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles you will notice the large number of conflicts that Israel was involved with.  You read of one war after another with a list of the number of dead from each conflict, usually rounded to the nearest thousand.  You will notice that in each conflict there were thousands of men killed.  It is usually men who are killed because it is usually men who go to war.

There is something else that is implied in these passages though is not actually spelled out.  Given that the birth rate always is around 50/50, male/female children, it is only logical that in each conflict there would be a  corresponding number of widows left behind.  Since many of the men killed would be young, a number of them would not have even married yet, but nevertheless would leave behind the young woman God had intended for him to marry.

Here are a couple of examples:

1 Samuel 4:10

And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.

Later when Israel split into Judah and Israel there was a war between them:

2 Chronicles 13:17

And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.

These are not isolated examples, and they do show a problem that Israel encountered.  For each man killed there was a woman left behind.  With thousands of unattached women in the country there would be a huge moral problem.  These women had the same desires that all women have had from the beginning of creation; to have a husband and children.  If monogamy were the rule those women would have to entice men into affairs, or to divorce in order to remarry.

Could those women leave Israel and go to Syria or Egypt looking for a man?  Those nations were constantly at war too!  They had the same problem that Israel had; a shortage of men.  In fact, if Israel did not practice polygamy, and these other nations did, the tiny nation of Israel would have been overrun by these nations in a very short time.  The nation had a need for these women to have male children to man its army!  This is a national security issue!

How were those women to be cared for in their old age?  Don’t forget that the half-million widows of 2 Chronicles 13:17 would have been close to an entire generation!  How was the nation to survive without families and children?  This is a problem that Christians have universally overlooked, but I can assure you, it hasn’t escaped God’s attention!

How would a Loving God react to the situation I have just described?  Would He create a bunch of new men from dust, like Adam?  How would God provide for a half-million widows, in their old-age?  Don’t forget that some of those women would have been widows from their teens!

God actually answers our dilemma in an end times passage from Isaiah, chapters 3 and 4:

Isaiah 3:25Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.

What war?  Armageddon!  What will be the result of their deaths?

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.

While the subject at hand specifically refers to Israel, this situation will be characteristic of the whole world, for every man in the Antichrist’s armies, and indeed all the armies that come against Jesus Christ, at his return, will be slaughtered.  Notice that these women are not asking for illicit affairs.  They want their husband’s name and a legitimate marriage, because Jesus will be ruling the world with a rod of iron!  Hanky-panky will not be allowed!

And how do we know that this passage is an End-Times passage, and has not been fulfilled already?  look at the next verses:

2In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.

 3And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:

 4When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.

In chapter 53 Isaiah informs us that Jesus is NOT beautiful at his first coming, just ordinary in His appearance, so this has to refer to his second coming.  Furthermore all the other conditions of these other verses have yet to be met, so we know for certain that this passage still awaits its fulfillment!

Some imagine that Jesus was condemning polygamy when he said:

“I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

The truth is that he was making a direct reference to Moses in Exodus 21:10, a passage that specifically refers to polygamy:

“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.” (raiment means clothing, and “duty of marriage” includes cooking, cleaning, friendship and intimate contact)

What is it when you diminish, or take away, your wife’s support? This is called divorce! Jesus was simply restating what Moses had written in Exodus 21:10! Essentially what it says is “when you marry your second wife you must continue to support your first wife, as well as keep up the relationship”. Furthermore he is adding that “just because you have a piece of paper saying you are divorced, it doesn’t mean you are truly divorced in God’s eyes”! This is not what is preached in most churches.

A lot of people claim to know Jesus, and I would never say they don’t know him, but many Christians don’t know him very well!

By the way, Moses actually commanded polygamy in Deuteronomy 25:5, and Exodus 22:16. In the first instance a man who’s brother died without having children was to marry his brother’s wife, and in the second instance a man who had sex with an unattached woman is required to marry her. Combining either of these verses with Exodus 21:10 amounts to a command of polygamy. So, when did God change His mind? (See Malachi 3:6)

What about Paul? Surely the one man who had so much to say concerning the creation of the Christian Church would have said something negative about polygamy?

Well, actually, Paul did say something, somewhat negative, about polygamy, in a round-about way:

1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

He also mentioned it in regards to the qualifications of a deacon:

8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

And to Titus:

Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

Here we have three offices in the Church that are barred from polygamists; Bishop or Chief Elder, Deacon, and Elder (a member of the ruling body of a Church). Notice though, that this is never applied to Church membership, but only to higher offices. The intent here is simply that a man with several wives will not have enough time for his family, or his duties at the Church, and one or the other will suffer.

Please note that Paul also mentions other disqualifying characteristics that the Church is to avoid in their leaders. Very clearly there were people IN the Church who displayed some of each of these characteristics. There are some Christians who are a little too eager when it comes to wine. There are some Christians who are too quick to gossip, impatient, covetous, etc., but they are still born-again Christians. Very clearly then, there were some polygamists in the early Church. Paul wouldn’t have mentioned them if their presence was not an issue. For these men they are welcome in the Church of Jesus Christ, but these particular offices are closed to them. They can serve the Church in other ways, so long as they don’t neglect their families.

What of Muslims who convert to Christianity, who already have two or more wives? Should they abandon all but their first, as some churches say? Again Paul actually does have some advice for these men:

1 Corinthians 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

God is concerned about the spiritual welfare of women as well as men. He wants to save as many as possible before he brings down judgment on this planet, and that judgment is coming soon! If you are a former Muslim who is now saved by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ alone, and you had more than one wife as a Muslim, according to the Scriptures you need to stay with them all, and love them in Christ! Live Christ for them! The God of the bible is truly a God of love! The same advice goes for Mormons, and Hindus, and anyone else who is a practising polygamist.

I can tell you that this passage, and this subject, has a very specific application in the person of the Antichrist!  Most Christians will not understand who he is because they look at this subject the same way Dr. Whitcomb does, and not by study and comparing Scripture with Scripture!

Daniel 11:36-37 has a statement that directly contrasts Jesus Christ, and His millennial reign, with a specific policy of the Antichrist.  As we have seen, Isaiah 4:1 outlines a specific event of the early days of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ with regard to a request, or desire, of seven women to marry one man, because their men were killed fighting Jesus at his return.  The Antichrist will arise after a similar war, and his response to a similar request will be the exact opposite.  Read it for yourself:

36“And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

37Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.”

The God of his fathers is the Allah of the Koran, who has always allowed men to marry more than one wife.  By repudiating this Muslim policy, the Antichrist will appeal to Christians, especially those who think the God of the bible is against polygamy.  They won’t suspect the truth until it is too late!  Satan has been working a long time to get the Christian Church on his side, and I think this is the one subject that will actually work with most Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists!

If you want to know more on how this subject relates to the Antichrist you can get a copy of my book The Spirit of Prophecy.  Chapter 8 goes into far more detail than I can in this brief blog post.  Everything is backed up with Scripture, in context, and the challenge goes out to all professing Christians; Prove me wrong by the King James bible!  I dare you!

About dknezacek

An average, ordinary guy. Author, husband, father, pilot, aircraft builder, test pilot, machinist, artist, just ordinary stuff that lots of people do. Don't forget bible student. Dan's passion is bible study, especially including the End Times prophecies.
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6 Responses to Why Didn’t God Condemn Polygamy?

  1. Pingback: Dinesh D’Souza’s ethical faux pas | housetops

  2. JJ Usher says:

    I enjoy, result in I found just what I was taking a look for.
    You’ve ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  3. Daniel Julian DeLuca says:

    I would have to disagree with the assessment you gave on Matt 19:9. I used to believe that was what Jesus was saying, but after further examination of the Greek, it appears Jesus was talking about compelling the wife to commit adultery, which is merely reiterating what Jesus said in Matt 5:32. Notice that the man who marries the divorced woman is committing adultery with her, but the woman whom a divorced man marries is not committing adultery with him.

    • dknezacek says:

      Hi Dan,

      I still stand by my analysis. Why don’t we look at some other translations first?;

      9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” NIV

      9 I say that if your wife has not committed some terrible sexual sin,[a] you must not divorce her to marry someone else. If you do, you are unfaithful.” CEV

      9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, [a]except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: [b]and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery. American Standard Version

      ASV Footnotes:
      Matthew 19:9 Some ancient authorities read saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: as in 5:32.
      Matthew 19:9 The following words, to the end of the verse, are omitted by some ancient authorities.

      9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality,[a] and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

      NKJV Footnotes:
      Matthew 19:9 Or fornication
      New King James Version (NKJV)

      Note, that I have included the NIV, CEV, and the ASV simply for comparison. I do not endorse those translations, and I have numerous problems with the NKJV as well.

      The KJV is translated from the correct New Testament text, and it is a faithful representation of that text, the Textus Receptus, and is representative of the Reformation Bibles. The Textus Receptus is a faithful representation of the text that all Christians have used from the first century until 1881, when Westcott and Hort published their Critical Text. You should not be using the Critical Text, since it is a compilation of all the errors that have found their way into the bible over the last 2,000 years!

      So, can you support your contentions with the KJV? If not you need to drop your ideas:

      9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. KJV

      Matthew 5:32 also speaks about the same situation:
      But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

      It seems quite straight forward to me. The language is simple, and we have a large group of translators who are in agreement. God’s word is never saved in one or two documents, while the majority are corrupted! No, He doesn’t work that way! The Greek manuscripts we have came from the Byzantine empire who stood for hundreds of years against the errors of Rome and persecution of the Muslims. Of the almost 6,000 manuscripts we have only about 255 with variant readings, and these variants do not agree with each other!

      The sin of adultery is a sin against the marriage, and since God is the author of marriage, it is ultimately a sin against God. We can split hairs on whether it is against him, or against her, but really sin is still sin, and it is always against God.

      Notice also that in none of these passages does Jesus state that it is a sin to marry a second wife, while remaining married to the first wife! He never says it because it is not! Having said that, it is always a sin to break a vow, even a vow someone tricked you into saying!

      Of course Paul stated that if the spouse is an unbeliever and they leave, we are not under bondage! What bondage? The bonds of marriage! So if your unbelieving spouse left because you were a Christian, that is different, but if they left because you were abusive, on did not provide for your family its not the same thing!

      In the end we are all sinners, and we must confess our sins to God and trust that He will forgive us. Then we need to move on, trusting Him, repenting and living in faith.

      I would never say that one who started their marriage in adultery should leave their current spouse. Repent, and acknowledge that the marriage started wrong, and resolve not to do it again!

      • Harold Goings Jr says:

        If we are letting the evidence lead us what could possibly be wrong. I have begun to study outside the bible to understand the bible’s scripture, which includes historical and cultural concerns of the bible. Theology for me is not enough to understand the scripture. Can someone please tell how Christianity should be studied?

      • dknezacek says:

        Harold, I believe that the bible has everything we need. If you start following lost men, it will lead you nowhere!

        Usually people go to man-made traditions, or to some self-proclaimed “expert”, when they don’t like what the bible says! Everything cultural that you need to understand the bible is included in the bible itself! The bible is unique in that it defines the words that it uses, as well as defining the context!

        You can go to people who speak Hebrew and Greek as their first language, and you still won’t understand it, until you are willing to submit to the Holy Spirit! He is always available if you ask Him what He means in any passage! Don’t forget that the Rabbis still don’t understand the Hebrew Scriptures! It’s not that the words are unintelligible, but simply that they don’t like what it says, and so keep on looking for something else!

        Simply pray, in Jesus’ name, and then keep on reading! Accept what it says in humble faith, and He will give you the understanding you need! Read the whole bible! And, when you’re done start again! God never promises that you will like what you read, only that His word is the truth!


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