Biblical Perspectives on Polygamy and Polyamory

Why can't I have a biblically based family with multiple partners? Most of the great men of the Bible – Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon – had many wives. Given your ministry's strong commitment to the Scriptures, I can't see why you're against things like polygamy and polyamory. I consider myself a polyamorous Christian. I love several different women, and there's no reason we can't build a strong family together on a foundation of consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy. When did the "change" occur that established marriage as a covenant relationship between one woman and one man?

There never was any change. God intended that marriage should work this way from the very beginning: “Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24). As these verses show very clearly, monogamy was inherent to God’s plan for humanity from the moment of creation.

You’re correct, of course, to point out that several of the Old Testament patriarchs and kings had a number of wives. What you have failed to notice is that the Bible never really condones this practice. It simply describes it as part of the lifestyle of a typical ancient Middle-eastern chieftain. The Israelites probably picked up the custom of polygamy from their pagan neighbors.

If you study these biblical instances of polygamy in detail, you’ll discover that none of them is portrayed in a positive light. In every case, the practice of keeping multiple wives results in problems for the king or patriarch in question. In some cases those problems are very serious indeed. If you doubt this, take a closer look at the lives of Abraham, Jacob, and David. Solomon is the best known and most extreme example of this principle. In the end, it was his many wives who led him into idolatry and destroyed his faith in the Lord.

Add to this the fact that polygamy had all but disappeared in Israel by the time of Christ. Paul’s instructions in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, specifying that deacons and elders must be “the husband of one wife,” probably don’t have anything to do with polygamy per se. Instead, they grow out of a problem that is far more familiar to most of us as modern Americans: divorce and what has sometimes been called “serial polygamy.” The Romans were notorious for this kind of thing. It seems that their customs and habits had rubbed off on many of the occupied peoples of the Empire. This is part of the background for the question about the resurrection that the Sadducees brought to Jesus in Mark 12:18-27.

But enough of the historical perspective. Let’s get back to the heart of your question. The real issue here is your claim to be a Christian who “loves several different women” and who wants to build a “family” on the basis of “responsible non-monogamy.” That’s an extremely risky proposition as far as we’re concerned. Do you really believe you can make it work? Along with the biblical and theological difficulties, your plan has some serious practical, legal, and logistical flaws. What’s more, it raises big questions about your understanding of the exclusivity of sexual love (which the biblical writers often use as a symbol for the exclusivity of our relationship with God).

In short, we think it might be a good idea for you to sit down and have a serious discussion with someone about the personal motives behind your “polyamorous” designs. With that in mind, we invite you to call and speak with one of our pastoral counselors.


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The First Five Years 

Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy

Marriage Alive

Strong Marriages

Love and Respect


God’s Design for Marriage

Biblical Marriage

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