These last few weeks we have spent some time looking at the issue of polygamy in the Bible and trying to answer the question: Why did it seem God allowed polygamy in the Bible—specifically in the Old Testament?
Almost all of the great patriarchs of the faith, whom God blessed and used to advance His purposes, practiced polygamy. There was very little said in Scripture about their wrongful choice to practice this and as we looked in even greater detail, we learned that there were no specific verses stating that polygamy was wrong. This “silence” on polygamy in Scripture has led people (or false religions like Mormonism) to believe that it must be okay.
Many get to this point by twisting Scripture, like the weird verse we’ve been looking at for this series, Leviticus 18:18:
“And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.”
I would highly encourage you to go back to Parts 1 and 2 to understand the context around this verse, why people (like Mormons) are wrong about the practice of polygamy, and why we see so much polygamy with our ancestors in the faith (like Abraham, David, or Jacob).
Today, I want to tackle one last aspect on this topic of polygamy: Why did God seem to change His mind about the practice from the Old Testament to the New Testament? In other words, what changed? Why do we have so much polygamy in the Old Testament and none in the New Testament? If God can change His mind about this marriage practice, can He change His mind about others as well?
It’s safe to say that nothing changed with God. In fact, what changed was culture and the influence Christ had on culture while He was on earth, and with the institution of the New Covenant.
God did not simply “allow” polygamy, only to disallow it as we enter into the New Testament. Rather, He was restoring (through Christ) what was always the original plan. As we talked about in Part 2, Jesus told us what marriage was in Mark 10 and Matthew 19 and explained to the Pharisees that God only tolerated divorce (another corruption of marriage) because of the hardness of Israel’s hearts. He emphasized that God always intended it to be a one flesh union for the man and woman’s entire lives. Restoration.
Just as Christ restored so many things when He came to earth the first time, He also restored and re-emphasized what marriage was always meant to be.
Paul emphasizes the marriage union again in Ephesians 5:25-33, but he takes it a bit further and explains that this ONE flesh union is a picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church. This anaology does not work if polygamy is to be an accepted practice.
Another practical way to look at it is this: While there may have been a “need” for polygamy in ancient cultures like what we find in the Old Testament, there is no need for it now. In Part 1 we mentioned that women in these old cultures depended heavily on a man for provision and safety. Without marriage, a woman was often left on her own and forced into slavery or prostitution. So, a man would marry many women in order to provide a safe life for them. In today’s modern culture, women can easily live on their own and have no real need to depend on a man for a career, money, or housing.
Another practical way to look at polygamy in today’s modern culture is this: Polygamy is outlawed by the U.S. government (as well as in other modern nations). Romans 13 prevents Christians from disobeying the laws of the government UNLESS those laws contradict what God commands of us. Since God has told us in Scripture what marriage is to be, we don’t have a case to defy the government here since they are in accordance with what God teaches.
Why Make the Case Against Polygamy At All?
I know there are many Christians who have read this series or who might see the title and believe that polygamy isn’t worth discussing anymore. That it’s obvious from Scripture what God intended and those who practice it or who believe it’s okay in our modern day are just in the minority.
I think it’s safe to say that those who still practice polygamy today are in the minority, but I would also wager that the number is growing among those who look at God’s “silence” on polygamy in the Bible and use it as a way to justify other practices of marriage—and from there, they begin to unravel the inerrancy of Scripture. It can be quite a downward spiral.
I have seen, first-hand, among Progressive Christians a movement to undermine Scripture’s inerrancy and infallibility. It starts with many aspects of Scripture, but one in particular has to do with marriage. Progressive Christians, more often than not, accept homosexuality as an approved practice by God. While more brazen than the practice of polygamy, Progressives will use God’s silence on polygamy in Scripture as a way to justify their belief that homosexuality is justified.
They see (as we have debunked) God changing His mind about polygamy and if God can change His mind about that marriage practice, then He can also change His mind about homosexual marriage. If you haven’t encountered this argument among your progressive friends or on the latest Twitter trending thread, then you will soon enough. Many believe that the Bible is full of contradictions and that its meaning changes with time—and they will use this idea about Scripture to justify a number of things, homosexuality being just one of them (as an interesting apologetic point: the analogy of marriage Paul gives in Ephesians about the one flesh union between a man and woman also debunks the idea of a homosexual union).
Standing Firm on What We Know to Be True
My aim in tackling this polygamy topic over these last few weeks is—yes, to give you insight on an interesting topic you may have not thought about much—but more so to give you hope in the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of God’s Word and God’s character. Hopefully, you are more prepared now than you were before to handle these claims about Scripture, marriage, or God Himself.
We can’t be too neutral in the day and age we are living in. Something in Scripture may seem settled to you, but it’s only one viral post or video away from being the latest controversial topic. If you haven’t encountered push back on your faith yet, believe me, you will. Whether that pushback comes in the form of the idea that God changes His mind, homosexuality, polygamy, or any other cultural issue. It’s all seeking to do the same thing—undermine what we know to be true: God’s Word is our ultimate source of truth.
If progressives can undermine that and get people to believe ultimate truth comes from something other than Scripture, then they can begin to undermine the hope of the Gospel itself —which is found in the pages of Scripture.
Friends, we must “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). We must know our Bibles and we must never waiver from the hope of the Gospel. If even one portion of Scripture is said to be wrong or untrue, then how can we confidently say that any of it is true?
Instead, we must always boldly proclaim God’s Word is true and that includes the hope for salvation which comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Dingers, you can find Leanne on instagram @faithfuldefender where she posts much more scriptural content! She has also written some other blogs that are definitely worth checking out and she has been a guest on other podcasts as well!