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Abraham and David had multiple wives. Does that mean polygamy is OK for Christians?

ED: HUMANS ARE UNIQUE among God’s creatures in many respects. One is the way in which they were created. God did not create a male and a female together, He created Adam and then He created Eve out of Adam, and in doing so He designed a lifelong partnership:

The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:21–24).

Jesus Christ repeated and reinforced this principle in his teaching (Mark 10:1–9).

The Apostle Paul reveals that this special human relationship is actually a picture of Jesus Christ and his relationship with believers: ‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish’ (Ephesians 5:25–27).

It’s therefore clear that men should have only one wife, and women should have only one husband.

It’s interesting then that a number of great men of faith in the Old Testament had more than one wife, for example Abraham, Jacob and David. There is no record that God reprimanded them for this, in fact He evidently accepted it (for example 2 Samuel 12:8). Although when you read the accounts of their lives it becomes clear that for these three men their polygamy was a direct cause of stress and disharmony in their families.

It’s not clear why God permitted polygamy in the Old Testament. Perhaps one reason is that, as the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the multitude of believers, it’s not spoiling the picture for a man to have more than one wife. (There are no examples of faithful families in which women had more than one husband.)

However, it’s clear that polygamy is not what God designed, or what He wants. If a member or members of a polygamous relationship come to Christ, they must work out their relationship as best they can according to Bible principles. But it would be wrong for believers to deliberately enter a polygamous marriage.

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