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Why was polygamy allowed in the OT?

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Monogamy

The Bible presents monogamy (not polygamy) as God’s ideal plan for marriage. Scripture has always commanded monogamy (Psalms 128:3; Proverbs 5:18; 18:22; 19:14; 31:10-29; Ecclesiastes 9:9). God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” (Genesis 2:24).

In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God also stated that it was His will that even the kings were not supposed to multiply wives (or horses or gold). “I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,” “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.” Sadly, men did not adhere to God’s original plan.

Polygamy

David violated this command (2 Samuel 5:13), but Solomon much more so (1 Kings 11:3). Many marital alliances conducted into by Solomon were done to acquire political power (1 Kings 11:1, 3). Consequently, when Solomon disobeyed God’s plan and practiced polygamy, he sinned and backslid. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father (1 Kings 11:4). Polygamy played a role in the fall of King Solomon. Thankfully, he repented of his sins later in his life.

God never condoned polygamy. Like divorce, it was tolerated but never with God’s approval. Jesus told the Jews, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way (Matthew 19:3-8). According to Jesus’ words the Old Testament law that permitted divorce was a concession allowed to meet circumstances that were not perfect (Deuteronomy 24:4). However, Jesus’ statement here makes it obvious that the provisions of Moses’ law regarding divorce are quite invalid for the New Testament believers (Matthew 19:9).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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