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Question and Answer

Since heterosexual monogamous marriage is God’s ideal for marriage, why did some followers of the Lord in the Old Testament have more than one wife?

It is true that some Old Testament saints practiced polygamy (1 Sam. 1:1–2; 30:5; 2 Sam. 3:2–5). King Solomon tops the list with 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1–6)! However, it is clear from Scripture that the polygamous marriage structure has built-in tensions and problems (Gen. 29:15–30:24). Even though Solomon’s marriages were really political alliances, the practice cost him dearly when he was an old man.

We must also keep in mind that just because the practice of polygamy is mentioned in the Bible, we cannot conclude that the Lord approves the practice. We know from the first two chapters of Genesis that monogamous heterosexual marriage is God’s plan and design for marriage (Gen. 2:18–25). The Lord’s plan is one man and one woman united in marriage for life. The Lord permitted the practice of polygamy in the Old Testament because of the hardness of men’s hearts, but it never had His approval.

BY Dr. Winfred O. Neely

Dr. Winfred Neely is currently working towards his third degree in at the University of Bristol, England. An ordained minister and full-time professor of pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute, Winfred has served churches across the City of Chicago, the near west subburbs, and Senegal, West Africa. He and his wife Stephne have been married for forty years and have four adult children and nine grandchildren. 

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