Posted by: edhensley | June 28, 2009

Can men have more than one wife at the same time?

The Right of the Firstborn

Deuteronomy 21: 15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

Nowhere in the bible is polygamy condemned. In the Old Testament, polygamy is never directly declared to be legal, but there are laws where it is assumed to be fine. The law above is one example. The law permits polygamy since it regulates how a man is to provide inheritance to children of multiple wives.

Almost every biblical patriarch had multiple wives. Jacob had 2 wives. David had 8 wives.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. There are many other examples.

I have heard many Christians claim in recent years that the bible has promoted a marriage as 1 man and 1 woman. The bible does not support these Christians’ claims.

I have heard many Christians claim that not following the bible will result in moral relativism. However, these Christians are being hypocritical regarding polygamy. Is polygamy wrong? Most Christians say yes. They do not get this moral value from the bible. The change in moral status of polygamy is a result of cultural changes over time. If we follow the bible, polygamy is fine. The fact that modern Christians claim polygamy is wrong is an example of moral relativism.



  1. Moral relativism: so true.

  2. where in the bible does it say a man can have more than one wife? and is it legal, or condoned by God?

    • There are many Old Testament men of God who had multiple wives, too many to list them all. The following text is from Deuteronomy 21. It is in the middle of a long list of laws. Notice that these verses presuppose that having two wives is fine! Nowhere in the Old Testament (or New) is there a single law that says men are limited to only 1 wife. Yet, here are verses of Jewish law that clearly assume that it is not wrong to have two wives as long as the man gives his inheritence to the firstborn son. If it were wrong to have more than one wife, the verses below would be irrelevant.

      Deuteronomy 21
      15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

  3. The Bible and the examples it presents are not an adequate guide to morality. This is simply one example of that.

    • Um…actually it is…but the ‘whole counsel meaning not ignoring NT!

  4. Anyone can pick out parts of the bible to satisfy their particular peculiarities, which is the case here, however if you were going to take for instance, the Christian view , one would have to stick to the New Testament of
    Jesus Christ the savior. You can only know God’s meaning for you through Jesus.

    • There are many verses in the New Testament covered in this blog.

    • No where in the NT does it say that Jesus replaced the OT laws. In fact Jesus was a good Jew, he was circumsized, obeyed the Sabbath, went to Jerusalem several times for the passover. After his death his own disciples were arguing if gentiles need to be jewish and circumsized. How did Peter get it so wrong ?

      • How did you get it so wrong. Lord Jesus fulfilled the OT…and God set forth a new covenant. How about believing 2 Timothy 3:16

      • Most modern critical scholars argue that 2 Timothy was not written by Paul but by an anonymous follower, after Paul’s death in the First Century.
        New Testament Letter Structure, from Catholic Resources by Felix Just, S.J.
        Collins, Raymond F. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. 2004. p. 4 ISBN 0-664-22247-1

        I copied and pasted from wikipedia, but you can read many sources on this. Since the authorship of this letter you reference is not trustworthy, why do you demand that I trust it?

  5. Greetings , as to more than one wife? I think it came about as people were trying to do as was being done in some of the early churches years ago ? Where they were trying to be an overseer of the church and some one made a requirement that the person that was to be an overseer have one wife ! Brother many people have to remember something ! That scriptures are only a part of the reality of a true relationship with Almighty God the creator and and also with the Lord Jesus !So as too more than one wife please seek Almighty God yourself as to having more ! Take care ! And may God richly bless you !

    • I will take up your suggestion and seek the answer from Almighty God. I asked Him or Her, and He or She did not reply. Perhaps He or She will if I ask in this blog.

      Dear Almighty God,

      Please post whether or not a man may have more than one wife. Your failure to post will be an admission that you do not exist.


      Ed Hensley

  6. 1 Corinthians 7:2, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”
    Notice how the words “wife” and “husband” are SINGULAR and not plural. That means one wife to one husband.
    No where in the Bible Does God tell us to marry two men or two women. That scripture in Deuteronomy is speaking of someone who already had two wives. Times have changed. I guess people back then had more than one wife.
    It seems to me like that would spark jealousy in a marriage.
    Also when God speaks to us about marriage in the Bible, he never adds an “s” to the word wife or the word husband.

    • You quoted this verse out of context. I will include verse 1 in the NIV:
      “1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. ”
      The purpose of the second verse is to allow marriage so that sexual immorality does not occur. The apostle Paul believed the end of the world was near and that it was better for people not to have any sex at all (“I wish that all were as I am” (7.6); “those who marry will have affliction in regard to the flesh, and I would spare you that” (7.28); “he who marries his virgin does well, and he who does not marry her does better” (7.38); “in my opinion she [a widow] is happier if she remains as she is [and does not marry again]” (7.40) ).

      By the time the New Testament was being written, marriage was becoming more and more considered only a one-woman, one-man relationship. But the laws of the Old Testament clearly assume that one man could have more than one wife, and nowhere in the bible does it say a man may not have more than one wife.

      • Good point it sure doesn’t. I think people just don’t want to believe its true.

    • So your telling people that what God see’s as one he would have the writers pronounced as plural? To my bible knowledge if two join they become one, so if one more is added and they are also Godly they become one, not three. For instance in our human state, if you married two different women with two different last names, when they take on the husbands last name they become his wife barring his last name. This is all in singular form.

  7. From a history stand point, the reasoning for the change in marriages is due to the over production of an unwanted people. Example, if you were concurred and had a new ruler or ruling nation, some of your old traditions would be outlawed and some some even forgotten. Multiple wives was abandoned because of this. (multiple marriages provide a range of positive benefits). I feel women would be happier to have a some what submissive life partner helping and loving and giving attention. I tell my wife all the time she is a super mom and super employee, but I can also see that her super role is wearing on her body, mind and spirit. Key words super mom and super employee but did you hear me say super wife? I feel that one person juggling to many hats will neglect something, but we’re working on it. I feel that after Eden and sin the perfect couple was no more thus entered God with a alternative to sinful nature making it pure. (Not of my understanding but his[Yahawa] These are the three things I get from ingesting the word- Love Yah/God, Love your neighbor- Love family. Thanks for your eyes

  8. Deuteronomy 17:17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

    1 Kings 11:1-4

    New International Version (NIV)
    Solomon’s Wives

    11 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

    • The verses I used in this blog clearly permit more than one wife. The first verse you point to is only for Kings, and it permits more than one wife, just not too “many” (not defined by a number). Of course, the kings had more than one wife anyway.

    • He must not take wives that are not true believers or yes his heart will be lead astray. There are many examples of men in the bible who did it right and that did it wrong, but you’ll never know if you don’t read for yourself, from cover to cover more than one time. Example:ABON,ABIJAH,ABRAHAM,AHAB,AHASUERUS,ASHUR,BELSHAZZAR, CALEB,KING DAVID, ELIPHAZ, ELKANAH, ESAU,EZRA, MOSES,LAMECH,JACOB,SAUL,SOLOMON,REHOBOAM, NAHOR, JEHOIADA, MERED, JEHOIACHIN, MACHIR,JEHORAM, JOASH, JERAHMEEL, SIMEON, SHAHARAM, ZEDEKIAH,GIDEON, aLL HAD MORE THAN ONE WIFE……..

  9. 1 Timothy 3:2 ESV

    Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

    This is the first explicit account in the above comments that actually says ONE wife

    • There was a definite difference in the attitude toward polygamy in the time the Old Testament was written and in the time the New Testament was written.

  10. Who are we to say how god will bless us. Many men in the bible who knew god were blessed with many wifes. Wifes are to bring gods spiritual children into this world. The husband who knows there is a god is to teach the children the same. That is why men who knew god were given more than one wife. Today I can have you as many girlfriends as I wont. I can leave single moms where ever I roam. But should I want to take responsibility for them ie:marry them feed them cloth them educate them the law wont let me. It is a blessing from god to have many wives and many children but one must know where the blessings come from and today men dont. Most men today are not worthy of such a blessing,just look at all the single moms

    • Only in the Old Testament and you can clearly see this was done away with during the time of Christ. Read Matt 19 please

      • So moral laws concerning polygamy are relative to time?

  11. We read in the Bible that many of God’s people had two or more wives e.g. Abraham, Jacob, David etc. We should note, too, that in every one of these families there was much friction and unhappiness. Sometimes there was tension between the wives, as in the case of Abraham (Genesis 16,21). Sometimes the husband loved the one wife more than the other, like Jacob (Genesis 29:15-35). It also happened that the children of the different wives argued and fought, as in the case of David (2 Samuel 13). Therefore, it appears that marriage with more than one wife makes for a difficult situation. Why is this so?

    To find the reason, we must go back to the institution, or beginning, of marriage (Genesis 2:18-24). In verse 18 God says very clearly “I will make a suitable companion to help him,” not two or three companions. His will is that two people, a man and a woman, should become one (verse 24). We find that in the New Testament, whenever marriage is spoken of, this verse is quoted. For instance, in Matthew 19:5-6, Jesus said “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one”.

    It is possible for two people to belong together in such a way that they become one in ideals, planning and service for the Lord, etc., but for three people to do this is impossible. Therefore it is clear that, from the beginning God intended that one man should marry one wife and that they should become one.

    For this reason, it is required in the Christian church that anyone who wishes to become a leader should have only one wife (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). No-one who has more than one wife may take responsibility in the church.

    So to answer your question, we can answer that the Bible teaches clearly that a man may have only one wife.

    If a person was married to two wives as an unbeliever, because tradition allowed it, and has since accepted Jesus as his Saviour, he will not be prevented from becomming a child of God. He will be accepted by God. John 1:12 says that those who receive Jesus and believe in him will be given the right to become God’s children. God will forgive all his sins, even those done in ignorance, (1 John 1:7, 9; Psalm 103:8-13).


    • Here is what 1 Timothy 3 actually says:

      2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
      12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.

      This does not “clearly teach that a man can have only one wife”, but rather says that if a man desires to be a church overseer then he should be faithful, etc.

  12. I guess you haven’t read Matthew 19 or do you just disregard the New Testament?

  13. Makes sense to me

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