So what exactly is polygamy? Polygamy is the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time. It is more common in our society for a man to have multiple wives, than a woman to have multiple husbands. So when we say polygamy we are referring to a man having multiple wives or to be more specific, polygyny. In African tradition, it is common for a man to have multiple wives. Also Islam allows polygamy to a maximum of 4 wives under certain conditions such as complete justice and equality among the wives. This means that financially, physically and emotionally, you need to treat them equally.
So how is polygamy viewed in Christianity? So when I say Christianity, I do not mean personal views of various scholars, but using the bible as the standards for measurement because some Christian sects like Mormons, practice polygamy. So the bible neither condemns nor commends polygamy, however we can infer the position of God from scriptures.
Several notable personalities in the bible were polygamous these include Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. So why did God allow polygamy? This brings us to the concept of Gods permissible and perfect will. The bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:23, ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” Let us keep in mind that there are things that God can allow, but may not be in our best interest. It is more permissible than perfect. So why was polygamy allowed?
First, NUMBERS – statistically, there are slightly more males than females, also women generally live longer than men. So in the olden days, many men died at war, leaving more women available for marriage than men. Also, many were young widows and would find it difficult to live without a husband. Therefore, men who were already married would marry the young women whose husbands died at war.
Second, PROTECTION & PROVISION – Women relied on men for protection and provision, in ancient days, it will be difficult for a woman to survive without a man, she will not be able to get a job and will be very vulnerable. So marriage was form of protection for her.She could be forced into slavery or prostitution if she did not have a husband. However, today it is not the same, women are now independent and can provide and protect themselves without having a husband.
Third, ECONOMICS – due to high infant mortality rate, need for large families for farming and the need to expand all over the earth, men had multiple wives. Also, a man can father several children from different women at the same time to rapidly increase his family.
So possibly, God had allowed polygamy for these reasons. However, look at God’s original plan when He created man in Genesis 2:24. It says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” It does not is says his wives but wife, which is singular. So perfect unity between husband and wife is one to one. Therefore, God’s perfect plan is for one man to be united to one woman not to two or three women.
Polygamy comes with challenges; the main issue is rivalry or competition and jealousy. The reason is that it is not easy to love and treat 2 or more wives the same. It also puts pressure on the man because he has to do the same things for all his wives and children and treat them equally.
Agreed some polygamous homes could be happy, but if given choice, most if not all women will prefer to have a husband that they do not share with anyone else. This is also the same for men. In summary, Christianity does not support polygamy. Wish you a blessed day.