BibleAsk Team

Did God approve divorce and the practice of having many wives?

God never approved divorce or the practice of having many wives. “From the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). But, for a time, God allowed it, and gave laws designed to protect the rights of women, to alleviate the suffering that resulted from these practices, and to protect the marriage relationship from uncivilized abuses (Ex. 21:7–11; Deut. 21:10–17).

Whereas on the one hand God did not prohibit Abraham, for example, to take his second wife, Hagar, on the other hand He did not guard him from the evils that resulted from that union which proved to be a pain to him.

God gave Moses instructions designed, not directly to eliminate polygamy, but to discourage it (Lev. 18:18; Deut. 17:17), to lessen divorce (Deut. 22:19, 29; 24:1), and to uplift the standard of married life (Ex. 20:14, 17; Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22).

Christ made it clear that the Old Testament requirements for a plurality of wives and for divorce were not the perfect situation, but, rather a passing thing that God allowed “because of the hardness”  of people’s hearts (Matt. 19:4–8).

Christ pointed to God’s ideal for Christian homes “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Thus, the only change made to the original marriage plan is the breaking of the marriage covenant by unchastity which was the only rightful basis for breaking the union.

And the Lord taught that monogamy is the ideal plan for the family: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:4–6).

The Christian, in the New Testament, should not be confused regarding God’s will concerning these matters and is therefore without even the slightest excuse and should live according to the light that God has given in His Word (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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