Polygamy - Was it a sin for David to have multiple wives?

Readers Question / Comment - Polygamy - Was it a sin for David to have multiple wives?


You are so thorough when giving answers and in looking down the list, I couldn't find an answer to the following. problem that I have been unable to resolve regarding David, so I decided to write.

As I have been hearing much from the Holy Spirit regarding people's (especially devout pentecostals) claim that if someone says they are Christian but persists in sin, then they are fooling themselves and really are not Christians at all, (yes, I have read what you have written on the topic. I have been on this topic for several years on and off) I believe The Spirit gave me an example where "a man after Gods own heart" lived in sin his entire life and not only was their never any discussion of whether or not God ever convicted him of it (that I know of), he went down in history as one of the most God-fearing, faithful, and "used by God" men of all time.I realize there were consequences for his having so many children in that they were uncontrolled and he was eventually warned that they would live under the sword for the rest of their lives but that mainly speaks in regard to his lack of good fathering and his sin with Bathsheeba. His sin with Bathsheeba
is really the only one we see in depth, but David was an unrepentant sinner in regard to his adultery and lived in his sin his entire life. God said "one man, one woman". David had many wives and therefore was an adulterer, living daily in his sin which is even warned against as one of the ten commandments. Now I know that it was something many of the kings did at that time so we can sort of say "Thats just how it was back in that culture", but then the problem that this has brought up to me is what about today's culture? Does Gods word change with the culture? I say a resounding "NO!" But why couldn't those who practice homosexuality within the church, use this issue with Davids unrepentant sin and that it didn't seem to matter to God, (until he killed a man to get one of the wives) to support their lifestyle and Christianity? We all know there are churches that now preach that this is not sin (or atleast ignore dealing with whether or not it is sin)
and some are even led by homosexual clergy. Now please don't think I am looking for proof of practicing homosexuality as ok with God, but I just cannot resolve this in light of David being considered a Godly man (and no doubt he was). Why would God never convict him of that sin? And use him in spite of it?

Thanks for your time.

JPN Reply:


thanks for writing in. Can't say that I'm an expert in polygamy (thankfully!) but I'll write a few things. It is an interesting topic and one that is not as clear cut as some would expect.

You are obviously correct that God's ideal, right from creation, was certainly 'one man, one women'. His ideal was for that one man and one women to live together and not divorce apart from adultery. But even under the law, God through Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of the people's heart.

Matthew 19:3-9 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" (4) Haven't you read, he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' (5) and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? (6) So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (7) Why then, they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" (8) Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. (9) I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

When Jesus came, He restored marriage to it's ideal in regards to divorce. It seems to me that polygamy falls into a similar camp. It wasn't God's ideal from the start, and certainly isn't today, but He did allow it without condemning those who had more than one wife for a season. Here is a list of Biblical characters (both good and bad) that had more than one wife:
(from http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp75.htm)

Lamech Genesis 4:19; Abraham Genesis 16; Esau Genesis 26:34; 28:9; Jacob Genesis 29:30; Ashur 1 Chronicles 4:5; Gideon Judges 8:30; Elkanah 1 Samuel 1:2; David 1 Samuel 25:39-44; 2 Samuel 3:2-5; 5:13; 1 Chronicles 14:3; Solomon 1 Kings 11:1-8; Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 11:18-23; Abijah 2 Chronicles 13:21; Jehoram 2 Chronicles 21:14; Joash 2 Chronicles 24:3; Ahab 2 Kings 10; Jehoiachin 2 Kings 24:15; Belshazzar Daniel 5:2;

So it is interesting to see if God commanded against polygamy. The only verse I know of that would warn against it (and it is specifically for the kings of Israel) is:

Deuteronomy 17:16-17 "Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, 'You shall never again return that way.' (17) "He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.

Obviously Solomon would be a clear (and extreme!) example of disobeying this command and his many, many wives did turn his heart away. But I'm not sure that this is a direct command against having more than one wife anymore than it is a command against having more than one horse. And it gets a little trickier for there are verses in the law that give instruction for those that have more than one wife (for example, Ex 21:10, Deut 21:15). And then we come to David... When David sinned with Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan came to him, here is what Nathan said to David:

2 Samuel 12:7-9 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. (8) I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! (9) Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.

So this word from the Lord says that the Lord gave David his masters house and his masters wives (plural) and goes on to say, that if this had been too little He would have given more! So we can't say that David was living in sin just because he had more than wife. It seems that the Lord allowed this (though again, not His ideal) and the Lord even gave His wives from His masters house to Him. Certainly David was living in sin after Bathsheba and his silence until confronted by Nathan and he did not lose his salvation during this time. Though he certainly lost the joy of his salvation (Psa 51:8-17) as well as fellowship with God and his sin had serious consequences for generations to come.

Now, going back to Polygamy, there are reason's as to why the Lord allowed this for a season as mentioned here:
http://www.gotquestions.org/polygamy.html (just as a side note, I find this to be a very good website on all sorts of questions)

But just as Jesus brought marriage back to it's ideal in terms of divorce, so Jesus and the New Testament in general reiterates God's ideal of "one man, one women" in various verses - back to how it was meant to be "as it was in the beginning". (Matt 19:4-6, 1 Cor 7:2, Eph 5:22-23, 1 Tim 3:12)

In contrast to Polygamy, commands concerning homosexuality in the Bible are clear and consistent in both Old and New Testaments and it is clear that it is sin in the eyes of God.

Hope this helps.

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