In my current sermon series, I’m answering questions submitted by FSBCA members. I won’t have time to answer all of them in a sermon, so I will be answering some of them in my blog. Here’s a good question that came in:
If God’s plan was and is for one man and one woman, then why was it okay for the Old Testament Patriarchs and others to have multiple wives and even concubines? Was this polygamy common in New Testament times? Do the Mormons and other groups use this to defend polygamy?
One of the things that I like about the Bible is its honesty. It tells the story of men and women as they really were and not how they were supposed to be. So it talks about Abraham and his wife Sarah as well as his relationship with Hagar. It tells the story of Jacob and his two wives. It tells David’s story honestly. He was a man after God’s own heart but he also committed adultery and was an accessory to murder. It tells of the excesses of Solomon with his many wives and concubines.
It tells the story accurately as it happened. But telling the story is not the same as showing approval. It wasn’t okay for these men to have multiple wives. As a matter of fact, their stories show the hurt and the pain that came from their abuses of God’s plan. Abraham had his heart broken when Ishmael was sent away, and his sin had negative consequences for centuries. Jacob’s wives burned with jealousy and this was passed on to their sons. David’s family was an absolute mess and his sons had serious issues that impacted the nation. And Solomon’s kingdom fell apart because the sons of different queens couldn’t get along.
The truth is that God showed his plan for one-man-and-one-woman to come together in marriage from the very beginning. He created Adam and Eve and brought them together. And after they were brought together, Genesis 2 tells us “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
That is God’s plan. And when it is broken, there are consequences, hurt, and pain. God knows what is best for us. He created us and He gave us instructions that work. When we do it our own way (whether it’s David of 3000 years ago or the couple down the street today), we find that there are harmful consequences in the long run.
God’s way is the best way. It works.
PS. Years ago, the Mormons did use the Old Testament as part of their justification of having multiple wives. They officially gave up that practice in 1890, though there are still unofficial groups that practice it. And there are still serious negative consequences to the practice that harm both young men and women. In the New Testament times, polygamy was still an issue in some cultures, though it wasn’t practiced in Jewish life.