Re: Polygamy Questions

Question from Will:

David and Solomon (for example) had many wives and concubines (all legally I presume). And my question is are we limited to one wife only because the law of the US limits that number to one? If I lived in another country where there is no such law limiting how many I can marry, and I marry 10 wives, then would this be ok Biblically speaking?

My reply:

Hi Will,

In the Old Testament, God did not specifically say anything about polygamy being a sin, although He did provide some rules (for example, not marrying two sisters, mother and daughter, close relatives, etc.). In the New Testament, Paul specifically said that a man with more than one wife should not be allowed to serve in a church role. Paul tended to discourage marriage if the people could resist, because the extra responsibilities could easily distract people from their faith.

Polygamy was not illegal in the United States until 1822. If I recall correctly, it was in response to the spread of Mormonism, which strongly encouraged polygamy. The Mormon church later reversed its stance, but those who still wanted to practice it either moved to other countries or continue to practice in secret.

So legally, yes, it is based on the country you are in. Biblically, it is allowed with some restrictions. Practically, one should assess his emotional ability to handle the many complicated relationships that can result (Jacob’s story is quite enlightening), and his physical ability to support the large families that tend to result from such marriages (the Patriarchs tended to be wealthy men).

Hope that helps,

John

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