Why did God allow people in the Old Testament to have more than one wife?

He didn’t. God established the standard for marriage on the day He created man. God made one man and one woman. He put them together in the garden as man and wife. The Bible tells us because of God’s created design, “A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:25) The design of marriage, one man with one woman, has not changed since creation. The Bible also tells how man sinned and soon began to operate in opposition to God’s design for marriage. As a result, we find in the Bible men like Jacob, David and Solomon who had multiple wives and concubines. This fact is often brought up in arguments to show that Christians who insist marriage is a permanent union between one man and one woman are being foolish. According to this line of arguing, the Bible does not insist on one man-one woman marriage. Does the Bible allow for a different definition of marriage? Absolutely not. Certainly there were men in the Bible who did not marry according to God’s plan and design. Those men were not always condemned in the Bible for their disobedience. The lack of direct condemnation of a person’s example does not prove God did not view that action as sin. We can find in the Bible a number of examples of disobedience that are not directly condemned. For example, in the book of Judges a man killed a woman and cut her into pieces. The Bible does not explicitly condemn that specific act of murder, so are we to assume that the Bible actually approves of murder despite it’s clear commands to the contrary? Of course not. That would be foolish. Because people in the Bible do things that are forbidden elsewhere in the Bible does not mean the Bible has changed and now God approves of their actions. Second, those who make the case that God somehow approves of polygamy because he allowed it in the Old Testament make it sound like the Old Testament is filled with polygamists. The fact is, there are very few saints in the Old Testament who were polygamists. Two very common examples are David and Solomon. God did not approve of David’s sin, nor did He excuse it. God had commanded in Deuteronomy 17:17 that the kings of Israel were not to have multiple wives. David is called a man after God’s own heart, yet we know he had several wives. David and Solomon were in clear disobedience of that command and they paid an awful price for their disobedience. Because of David’s polygamy, his family was ripped apart and he had to deal with open rebellion by one son and covert rebellion by one of his generals. Solomon’s case was even worse. Solomon’s many wives led him away from the worship of God into idolatry. One other example is the patriarch Jacob. Jacob’s multiple wives are actually a part of his punishment for deceiving his father Isaac and result in great turmoil within his family. The Bible clearly defines marriages as one man permanently joined to one woman. The Bible never approves of polygamy and shows abundant examples of the dire consequences when we fail to follow God’s design.

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