Facing the Issue of Polygyny

Biblical polygyny is a hot topic — and by that I mean, people tend to get passionate about it on either side of the debate. If you’d like to share what you think about it, come join our freshly launched (May 2020) polygyny forum!

Whether we like it or not, the problem of gay “marriage” is here to stay, and it’s only a matter of time until every one of these United States is forced to recognize gay “marriage” due to the decisions of judges or, less likely, the vote of the populace.

For years, Christians have objected to gay “marriage” for a variety of reasons, one of which being what some would call a “slippery slope” fallacy.

A slippery slope fallacy, if you’re unaware, is an error in reasoning which hypothesizes that if A happens, then B, C, D, and E (all of which are perceived to be increasingly worse than A) will surely happen. In most instances of logic and reasoning, this is a valid fallacy.

However, if gay “marriages” are recognized on the grounds of choice or equal rights, there’s no logical reason not to also see the recognition and legalization of a variety of other unions, such as group “marriages,” polyandry, or polygamy.

It’s sort of an ironic twist, though, that the one person I know of who is pursuing the legalization of polygyny — the marriage of one husband to multiple wives — is a fervent believer in the Scriptures: Hugh McBryde.

Recently, Hugh began chronicling his efforts in Vermont.

I suspect that within a decade the question of polygyny — if not other types of unions — will have snowballed to the point that churches will be forced to confront the issues, as they have had to do so with homosexuality.

There will be churches which take the easy route and recognize the imagined value and beauty of all types of love, as the more liberal churches are doing today with gays.

There will be churches which dogmatically defend the “marriage = one man + one woman” formula. These churches will still likely be spending more time fighting the beliefs of others rather than dealing with the plague of divorce within their own walls and denominations.

Then there will be churches which are willing to keep reforming their beliefs, using the Scriptures as their guide and rule. These churches will come to realize what men like Hugh have realized: the Scriptures may have strict guidelines on marriage, but they aren’t nearly as strict as the monogamy-only crowd would like to believe.

These churches will be willing to step out of their comfort zone — I suppose you could consider this entry me stepping out of my comfort zone — to critically analyze their traditions and doctrinal statements. Does their faith reflect the Scriptures, or is it culture colored?

These churches will accept polygyny as a biblical practice, and they will allow their men to have multiple wives.

That’s bigamy!, you may be thinking. Unless I’m mistaken, bigamy requires obtaining multiple marriage licenses — in other words, to have multiple state-recognized marriages. Search the Scriptures carefully, though; to be biblically married doesn’t require the state’s recognition, and so there are technically no legal blocks to practicing polygyny. The problem comes in that there are civil rights which are bestowed upon monogamist marriages which would be lost to whichever wives weren’t privileged with a state marriage license.

Yes, I recognize that plight is remarkably similar to the one gays are facing; the difference is that while God allowed, blessed, and even arranged polygynist families, He repeatedly condemned homosexuality.

I’m going to throw this in here to hopefully dissuade an obvious question: I am not interested in more wives. There are a variety of reasons I could give, the first being the most important: my wife wholly satisfies me, and I am happy giving myself singly to her. I suppose that’s a subjective reason, though, so for something a bit more objective, I vowed to “forsake all others” as part of our wedding ceremony. So feel free to not ask me whether this means I want more wives.

Incidentally, I don’t desire to be an overseer or deacon of a church, but I still advocate a biblical understanding of them as well. Advocating for a biblical understanding of polygyny doesn’t require that I be a polygynist any more than it would be required of Paul to be married when he spoke of marriage so heavily in his Epistle to the Ephesians.

I’m leaving the comments open for discussion, so whether you are curious about polygyny or objecting to it or whatever else, I welcome your questions and comments. And if you are a polygyny sympathizer hoping to see the state recognize it just as it does monogamy, I’ve no doubt that Hugh would appreciate your support.

20 thoughts on “Facing the Issue of Polygyny”

  1. Hi there Rick, the problem with human is they must have reasons for everything and worst, they have this fallacy that they have all the answers when they actually don’t – and started to reason out one. They cant just accept what God has commanded. When they see through flawed human eye and try to defy the perfect creator’s then we will see human lived in chaos.

  2. All this post does is make me very sad. Sad where our country is going, sad of what is being considered the norm. Last night I found out some really close friends marriage is in grave trouble and they are Christians. That alone grieves my heart to no end, but dealing w/ legalization of polygamy is not even in my thought zone. It just makes me sad.

  3. Lori,

    Why would it make you said, if it were in God’s will. I speak in the sense that God purposed it, is perfectly happy with it, and sees it as entirely moral.

    If this is so, your sadness would be a small sort of rebellion against God, whose purposes you see as somehow inappropriate.

    Of course, if you could demonstrate that God was displeased in small or large ways with polygyny, it would be correct to feel sadness. The whole question though, turns not on your sadness, but the rightness or wrongness of a practice that was the most frequent form of marriage found among those whose lives, God chronicles in his word, in the Old Testament.

  4. Very well reasoned and written article.

    A common thread I have seen in some circles is that polygamy is only done due to a religious impetus or due to religious beliefs, with the Mormons (FLDS) and Muslims being examples, as well as some of the Hindu faith, but my question to you is how does you thinking apply to those whose desire for multi-partner relationships that are not at all necessarily religiously motivated such as in polyamorous/polyfidelitous based relationships that are in effect “married”, but not legally?

    I do definitely believe that the gay rights and poly rights movements are one in the same issue, but gay rights have had about 2 decades to work on mainstream acceptance, and poly has not, and they are just beginning rather quickly, especially if you look at what it happening in the UK and Canada.

    Here is a Google Knol article about polyamory.

  5. Kudos Rick.
    What a great article…God is good.

    What some mean for evil, God means for good.

    I object to only one statement in your blog.
    “…my wife wholly satisfies me…”

    How quaint? But what does it mean?

    Does it reflect your view that marriage is about her meeting your needs? I would suggest that the Bible teaches husbands to love thier wives, to nurish and cherish her.(Eph 5) The earliest Biblical regulations of marriage were about the husband supplying the needs of the wife.

    Exo 21:10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

    Christian men should never marry to satisfy thier own needs, but rather to fullfil the needs of his wife. To do otherwise is a formula for failure. Case in point: divorce in “the church” equals or excedes the unchurched depending on the souce you ask.

    Yet in scripture, we never see the heroes of the faith divorce.It is without a doubt evidence that something is wrong in “the church”. Could it be something as foundational as not understanding the nature of Biblical marriage?

    Anyway I hate to see “gay marriage” being recognised by government, but I know God is in control.

    Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

    God Bless,


  6. Kiyota: I honestly have no idea what you’re saying.

    Lori: Sadly, what the “norm” is in this country is all backward. Divorces are a dime a dozen, but are a deeply tragic occurrence which God hates and only allows in the narrowest of circumstances. Polygyny, on the other hand, is never spoken ill of in the Scriptures, and was practiced without repentance (or any hint of a need for repentance) by some of the Bible’s most notable men.

    Poly Friend: The types of unions you have described do not conform to the biblical model and are thus not marriage. The only thing that the gay movement has done is emphasize that government should have not have its hand in marriage; however, if I am to maintain that marriage is only truly marriage if it fits the description given in the Scriptures, then I reject not only homosexual “marriage” but also polyandrous and other types of marriages which are not monogamous or polygynous.

    Robert: I admire your ability to take a positive and turn it into, apparently, a grounds for divorce. Quite a talent you got there.

    Seriously, though, going back even further, to the creation of Adam and Eve, Eve was created for Adam. The wife is for the husband, to be a help suitable for him. My wife makes me happy and satisfies my needs, emotional or otherwise. If you want to think that’s selfish, then I suggest rereading everything Paul wrote about marriage; he repeatedly gave as a reason to get married the satisfaction of desire. Nothin’ at all wrong with that.

    sammy mchammy: Maybe you should stick to hanging around on Yahoo sites? Being out here in the real Internet may be a bit too overwhelming. ;)

    Hugh McBryde: Only swine flu. It’s all Bush’s fault of course, but if all of the afflicted could just touch but the hem of Obama’s garments, they would be healed.

  7. I certainly never gave any reason for divorce. I am bewildered by your comment. I oppose them unequivocally. After all God hates divorce, and I agree with him.

    Paul says a lot of things, among them are some reasons to marry. Paul however preferred the single life, and would prefer you to have self control. To suggest that marriage is only for the fulfillment of the mans sexual desire is the basest of reason for marriage. What do you do then when your bride cannot preform, for whatever reason? If you married to fulfill your need, and now she is incapable (perhaps an accident or illness), what will you do?

    Let look at the metaphor: Does Christ as the Bridegroom need the Bride? Or is He as you say, fulfilling his need? She was made for Him after all, but He fulfills her need.

    Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

    I never said the word “selfish”, but as they say, if the shoe fits…wear it.

  8. A few years ago, I clung to Matthew 19:9 as what I considered to be the only unanswerable proof against polygyny that I can find. Today, I’m willing to concede that the verse speaks against illegitimate divorce and that reading into a condemnation of polygyny isn’t wise, especially when the otherwise overwhelming testimony of Scripture not only supports polygyny but in certain cases demands it.

  9. Hey, Stephen. Long time, no talk.

    To answer your questions:

    1) In what way does polygyny contradict the Scriptures? Augustine, Luther, and many others throughout history found no contradiction and certainly didn’t feel the practice was “heresy.”

    Regarding the church, I’ve not been there for nearly two years, a separation which had nothing to do with views regarding marriage and more to do with views regarding organized church, as reflected in more recent entries on this site.

    2) The more important question is what does our Savior think, and the Scriptures repeatedly demonstrate the validity of polygyny. He likewise pictures Himself as a polygynist in the parable of the ten virgins.

    Regarding Alicia, though, today represents the fourth anniversary of a very happy marriage.

  10. Mr. (Or is it Rev?) Baker,

    I used to think leaders of the Church, particularly leaders in reformed venues were disciplined enough to not ask questions that amount to “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

    I have some vacation time coming up. If you wish to state a public debate for a week, I will make an effort to come to where you are, and if Rick wishes to, engage is a formal structured debate on the topic with him and whomever you wish to bring to the table.

    Please name the time and place. We can begin to negotiate the format now.

    Rick is correct to say that Augustine and Luther held similar “heretical” views. The blatant polygyny of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne says that polygyny remained an extant practice throughout the history of Christendom.

    The fact that it did not enjoy official support from a Church we have all broken with for good reason, a Church that did not see fit to enforce it’s own supposed views, is simply more reason to suppose that better Church fathers like Augustine and Luther, had it right.

    In any case you are naming it heresy, without DEMONSTRATING it to be heresy and I am calling you out, and calling you to be the coward that you are. Put up, or shut up.

  11. Why not just have one wife to be on the safe side to going to heaven….All this pulling out bible scriptures is just making many people out to be just smarty pants. It is wiser to listen than speak. Blessed in a man who finds himself “A” wife……Why bother to prove a unknown fact or point when your better off being safe with knowing one is truly ok? That is one wife..In other words better safe than sorry!!!

    1. Incidentally, it’s the “better safe than sorry” path which caused the Jews to forever lose what the name of their god is. To this day, Jews & Christians worship a deity, the name of which we can only guess at (typically pointing to “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”).

      Contrary to what many people believe about the Bible, it often does grant freedom rather than restriction (such as in the case of polygyny… and slavery, for that matter).

      Finally, according to the Levirate Law, polygyny is inevitable (indeed, commanded by the Judeo-Christian god) under certain circumstances.

      If you’re going to be a Christian, is it better or worse to enjoy the freedom your god gives you or to invent sin where there is none? Bear in mind there are no Scriptures which prohibit the taking of multiple wives in the first place.

  12. Gods intentions for man is to have one wife and a wife to have one husband and the TWO are to become ONE. That is Gods plan and desire for man. Polygamy is clearly something God allowed, howerver it was not His plan. God is not specific in Scriptures in regards to this. It does make those specific qualifications for certain people in positions as you have all posted, making it stick out as something negative that would get in the way. Maybe simple too much responsibility outside, scripture is not clear on the subject. So if God allows something it cant be a sin. right? Yet can something be against Gods plan and will and not be a sin. Very confusing topic. As nothing is really clear. Except for the Fact that God mad man for one women and women for one man and the TWO shall become ONe. Interesting discussion . Thank you

  13. ONe more thing. You say enjoy the freedom God has giving us. I dont see freedom in being a 2nd 3rd 4th wife and having to share the love of my husband. Or for him to get a newer model and just leave me to work for him. Sounds like slavery to me. So i guess its just the man who should be happy and enjoy the freedom. One thing that was really amazing that Jesus did, was show Himself first to Mary and told her to go tell the men He had RISEN. That was really something unusual for the time to do.
    Im not a feminist. I belive in the order of God. And i find it a wonderfull place to be submisive to my husband and be in Gods perfect will.

  14. Thanks for your comments, tami, and you are right, it is a confusing topic for many. Honestly, I think the source of most confusion is this:

    Most Christians believe that polygyny is a sin; however, most Christians have no (zip, zilch, nada) scriptural arguments against it. Therefore, they are left in a state of confusion as to how to defend their beliefs.

    Eventually, they depend on an argument similar to yours: that polygyny just isn’t a good idea.

    Unfortunately, that isn’t how Christian theology is supposed to work. Given the ample evidence for polygyny, most Christians I’ve interacted with regarding the topic end up frustrated.

    Polygyny was natural & accepted in the Judeo-Christian world for thousands of years. Being against the practice is a recent & unfounded development.

  15. Does God sin? : It is a very interesting question. Some say “EVIL” and sin go hand in hand, The devil is Evil, Sin is evil, Man is evil and since sin is an evil work then by this definition God does “SIN” because he works evil. and oddly he tends to repent as well.

    Can iniquity be found in the Almighty?: well yes but I would imagine what ones definition of Iniquity or interpretation of iniquity. If you go by the implied definition from the bible then yes of course god is full of it.

    Does God change? Yes all the time. If one actually takes the time to read the bible one can watch god do all kinds of change ups and backward morality shifts and loads of favoritism.
    One can say that God has shown fear and failure even if one looks closely enough and dares to ask if it is possible. I am even so bold to say the bible not only tells of this but also God makes mistakes and even sometimes he eats food, walks on the earth and gets foot rubs. He makes bargains, enjoys wrestling, and yes lives in darkness. and remember folks the word of god is described as “The SWORD of the spirit” but also look closely at the catch 22 phrased in the passage “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” as if to say, if you be bound by these laws you will be charged and slain by these laws.

    So far there is a lot of division of Men,and the church and god among men. The bible says: a kingdom divided against itself can not stand”.

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