The Question/Issue/Argument: How can the Bible condone polygamy?
Well this is a interesting question with a couple of statements in it that sort of branch it into two different topics.
The first is the statement that the Bible ‘condones’ polygamy or bigamy. The second is how can God ‘accept’ this type of lifestyle.
So starting with the first part, this is another classic point of view that a lot of people seem to try and take and use to ‘prove’ to other’s that the Bible is a barbaric and outdated text, not suited to our modern, sophisticated and ‘evolved’ society.
Well, lets first establish the: does the Bible condone polygamy (the practice of having more than one wife or husband at the same time) statement? The Bible certainly has record of numerous ‘Godly’ or ‘righteous’ men who had multiple wives (David, Isaac, etc.)… So, if they were ‘Godly’ or ‘righteous’ and they had multiple wives… That MUST therefore mean that God approves of polygamy… Right?
I would say no, it does not. Am I saying polygamy is then a sin? No, surely not as the Bible doesn’t specify that and if it was I am supremely confident it would say so (why wouldn’t it after all?) So what then? If it’s not a sin but God doesn’t ‘approve’ of it, how does it fit into God or the Bible and why did these ‘righteous’ men who were supposedly following God practice it?
Here is an article I found that shed some light on the issue for me. I think the bottom line is we need to take into account the culture and time period for which this practice occurred in order to properly understand ‘why’ it was practiced.
There are a number of verses in the Bible that support God’s intended plan was for a single man to be married to a single woman; Ephesians 5:22-23 talks about husband and wife in the singular, not plural, and 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12 and Titus 1:6 list the qualifications of spiritual leaders as having one wife. If that is the required attribute of a leader who is following God’s will, then it stands to reason that this attribute is in line with God’s true plan for our marriages/lives as well.
So then, the question becomes this: if God intended for only one husband and wife in a marriage relationship, why did He ‘allow’ polygamy in that culture/time period?
Well, the article I cited above talks a bit about the reasoning as to why polygamous relationships would have been beneficial and more or less necessary for women during that time period/culture and I think that is certainly relevant. In our society/culture, women are not dependent on men for survival/well-being, so the ‘benefits’ or necessity of polygamy are essentially none. That being said it’s still difficult to wrap our heads around such a drastically different view, similar to the aspects of slavery during that time period/culture.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that God didn’t ‘intend’ or ‘design’ for society/culture/people to do a lot of the things they do/did. Evil is ultimately at the heart of our culture just like it was back then. It’s why we have wars, murders abuse, slavery, etc, etc. All those things didn’t occur because it was God’s intention for us to do them or act that way or whatnot, they occur because we chose evil instead of good.
Saying God promotes war and slavery and mistreatment of women and all these other things just isn’t true if you read what the Bible actually says. Yes those things happened during Biblical times, and you are only fooling yourself if you believe those things don’t happen in our time as well, even in our ‘civilized’ cultures… However that doesn’t mean God’s plan was for us to act that way or do those things. If everyone were to live according to how the Bible/God instructs us too, we would have no war, no poverty, no divorce, no need for courts or police, etc… It would be a perfect world.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while to experience what that is like. As for now, we are living in a world with evil in it and as such we have to deal with the consequences of that evil. All we can do is strive to live according to how God instructs us.