Is God the Author of the Bible Part 11 Does the Bible support polygamy?

The Bible does not support polygamy

In part 10 I answered Michael Coogan’s allegations concerning slavery and now I move to the issue of polygamy.  He writes, “But the majority of modern Jews and Christians no longer accept the biblical view of women as men's property and hence subordinate to them, as they have also abandoned the biblical practice of polygamy[1].”

Here he says Christians, who no longer practice polygamy, are abandoning a Biblical mandate.  As with slavery, what we see in the Old Testament is polygamy is again a cultural practice tolerated by God.  In the historical narratives of the Old Testament we find kings or rulers with multiple wives (King Solomon 700 wives).  And yet not a single verse commands anyone to practice polygamy nor do we see God promoting the practice of polygamy.  I would expect God to praise polygamy if Coogan is right and if it was a God ordained practice.

What we do find is the Bible sets up a few guidelines for the nation of Israel in order to protect wives involved in polygamous relationships.   In fact the practice of polygamy seemed to always end poorly for the man.  Solomon with all his wives was drawn into idolatry by the influence of their pagan beliefs.  This eventually led to the fall of the once mighty nation of Israel.

The truth is God established the guidelines for marriage soon after he created Adam and Eve.  We read in Genesis 2:24-25 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Here we see the ideal standard by God for marriage; one husband and one wife.  This was God’s plan from the beginning but man chose to disobey.

In the New Testament we see marriage reinforced repeatedly as one man and one woman.  We begin with a situation where the Pharisees tried to test Jesus about marriage and divorce: Matthew 19:3-9 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ 4 And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 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‘? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ 7 They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” 8 He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9’And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’”

Jesus begins his defense of marriage by quoting the Genesis passage to reinforce God’s formula for marriage; one man joined to one woman.  He then tells the Pharisees that Moses allowed for divorce because of their sinful hearts.  Just like slavery, polygamy, and divorce, God hates these practices but tolerates them because of the sinful hearts of Israel.  Jesus finishes by saying if you divorce, except for sexual immorality, you are committing adultery if you remarry.  Therefore, it is logical to conclude marriage of more than one wife is adultery.

The Apostle Paul continues to support marriage of one man and one woman in 1 Corinthians 7:33 “…but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” This verse doesn’t say, how he may please his wives, but wife singular.  Paul writes in Timothy about the characteristics of male leadership: 1 Timothy 3:2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” For a Deacon, another leadership position, Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.” Finally, Paul writes about the qualifications of being an elder to the church, Titus 1:5-6 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.” Over and over again Paul admonishes the church to make sure the leaders of their congregation practice God’s design for marriage from the beginning; a committed relationship between one man and one woman.

Michael Coogan again tries to pull the wool over the eyes of the readers who don’t know the Bible.  He tries to show the inconsistency of Christians by pointing to the passages that give historical reports of polygamy in the Old Testament.  Slavery, polygamy, and divorce were tolerated for a period of time but denounced in the New Testament.  Christians are consistent in their opposition to polygamy.

Go to part 12 here

[1] Coogan, Michael, “Bible has some shocking ‘family values'”October 26, 2010 12:53 p.m. EDT

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