Divorce and Having Many Wives
God never approved divorce or the practice of having many wives. “From the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). But, for a time, God allowed them, 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 (Exodus 21:7–11; Deuteronomy 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 (Leviticus 18:18; Deuteronomy 17:17), to lessen divorce (Deuteronomy 22:19, 29; 24:1), and to uplift the standard of married life (Exodus 20:14, 17; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 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 (Matthew 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” (Matthew 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” (Matthew 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 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).
In His service,