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    Is Polygamy a Sin?

    Dr. Eddy Cheong (Christian anti-polygamist from Malaysia) writes (blue text):

    First of all the Bible teaches that restitution is an integral part of one's repentance. The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'Restitution' as a process of restoring things to its original state. In the context of the bible, I would rather word it as a process of 'restoring things to a state which is right with God'. A few Scriptures to support this would include the following...

    Eph 4:28
    28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (NIV)

    Take note that a person must stop sinning before he can restitute.

    Exod 22:1
    1 If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. (NIV)

    Luke 19:8
    8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. (NIV)

    Sad to say, restitution is an oft-forgotten teaching in churches today. Notice from the verse above (Luke 19:8), that restitution was part and parcel of Zacchaeus' salvation. Nobody forced him to give up his ill-gotten gains, but he himself volunteered it in front of the Lord. Today, we are seeing a disproportionately small amount of restitution in comparison with the large number of souls saved. Is restitution really that optional after all? Does it mean that a bank robber who has a loot of one million dollars gets to keep the money when he comes to Christ? So what about the man who married more than one wife before he came to Christ? Wouldn't the arguments above apply to him also?

    Stanisław's responses (red text):

    We are always delighted to hear the doctrine of restitution preached and taught in the churches (assemblies). It is a fundamental part of the Gospel of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and, as you rightly point out, all too neglected by the churches (assemblies). It is worth pointing out, however, that sometimes restitution is beyond the power of an individual to fulfil and he must simply do what he can. It may be that the one he has wronged will forgive him.

    God's will for man in particular and mankind in general is to have only one wife...

    Gen 2:18
    18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. (NIV)

    Notice a helper not helpers.

    This is reading more into the text than is actually there. It is not logical to conclude that in Genesis 2:18 we are given an absolute standard of monogamy even though one may assume that such lies behind it. We must let the Scriptures speak for themselves. All we can deduce from this passage is that Adam was alone and Yahweh wished him to have a companion. There is nowhere any suggestion that Adam could not, at some future date, have more companions. We may, of course, observe that the Bible records only one wife, Eve, and deduce from that that in all likelihood Adam had only one wife. But we cannot do more than that. The option for polygamy is not excluded from the text.

    Gen 2:24
    24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (NIV)

    Leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (NOT WIVES)!

    This is stretching logic somewhat. Had the text read "united to his wives" then that would have been a divine command to practice polygamy and thus exclude monogamy. Genesis 2:24 is not a commentary on whether a man should practice monogamy or polygamy but instruction on the purpose of marriage in general, namely, to become "one flesh". If this is interpreted literally, then it can only refer to the making of children, since a wife cannot unite physically with her husband to form a being like Adam before Eve was created. If it is interpreted spiritually, it can only be to be united in mind and heart, to be "one". This 'oneness' can obviously be realised in both monogamy or polygamy without doing violence to the divine edict.

    Matt 19:4-6
    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." (NIV) Emphasis mine.

    Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman and covenants in the Bible are always made between two parties.

    Nonsense. The Bible is full of collective covenants too, such as those between Yahweh and Israel, and Yah'shua (Jesus) and the Church (Messianic Assembly).

    Verse 5 above is very clear that THE TWO becomes one flesh in matrimony. Therefore, three or four cannot be united into one flesh.

    If this statement is true, then the whole concept of the Body of Christ (Messianic Community) has absolutely no meaning whatsoever. One of Yah'shua's (Jesus') last commandments to His disciples was that they should be one with each other (collectively), and be one (echad) with Him (individually and collectively), as He was one (echad) with His Father (individually). Every member of the Church-invisible (Messianic Community) is, according to Paul, a part of a body, with different persons acting as arms, legs, brain, heart, etc. in that collective Body. Indeed, our figurative marriage to Christ is polygamous, not monogamous! This alone proves that not just three or four can be united into "one flesh" but that millions can be too -- and are.

    There are plenty of Christian/Messianic polygamous households that demonstrate this oneness (echad) principle admirably and thus fulfil Christ's requirements for familial discipleship, where love, unity and all the Christian/Messianic vistues prevail, evidencing the presence of the Holy Spirit by the easily visible fruits of righteousness.

    Polygamy, therefore, is not consistent with the teachings of our Lord or the New Testament Scriptures.

    Absolute nonsense. Yah'shua (Jesus) made very clear to His hearers that He had not come to abolish the Law (Torah) of Moses, which regulated in favour of both monogamy and polygamy (which are never distinguished), but to bring it to completion. He specifically stated that not one single letter of the Law (Torah) would be removed until the consummation of the age. He never altered the marriage Laws given through Moses but rather tightened up on the moral laxity of His time.

    Many of the examples of polygamy pertaining to the men of God in the Old Testament were cases of men who walked out of God's perfect will into his permissive will.

    This is quite correct. But by the same token there were even more examples of monogamy in the Old Testament where men walked out of perfect will and into direct rebellion, as in the case when Ezra had to bring to an end marriages between Israelites and pagans.

    That polygamy resulted in unnessary strife and contention could be clearly seen in the lives of Abraham, Jacob and King David.

    Inherent in marriage is the potential for strife whether monogamous or polygamous because two (or more) units of fallen human nature must live in close proximity to one another. Indeed it would seem that these three illustrious patriarchs fared considerably better than the majority of monogamous marriages today. That they had as little strife as they did is all the more remarkable when you consider that the strife in Abraham's family was not caused by polygamy per se but by Sarah's lack of faith in Elohim's (God's) Word and thus for her motive for bringing Hagar into the family. A lack of faith in Elohim's (God's) Word always has negative consequences whether in a monogamous or polygamous context.

    Jacob's troubles stemmed from the fact that he was tricked by his father-in-law into a marriage he did not want (to Leah -- but which he nevertheless acted honourably in) and David's because he committed ADULTERY, that is, he lusted after, and murdered to possess, another man's wife. To suggest that he lusted because he was polygamous is mere supposition -- the statistics available which compare monogamous cultures with polygamous ones all show that the latter are far more stable.

    Thus the "unnecessary strife" was a result not of entering into polygamy but rebellion against Yahweh's Law. Indeed, we ought to soberly note that the prophet Nathan, conveying Yahweh's Word to the fallen monarch David, specifically said that Yahweh Himself GAVE David his wives. To suggest that Yahweh's GIFT is His "permissive will" and not His "absolute will" is rank blasphemy -- Eolohim (God) did not turn a blind eye and sigh, "O, the fool, look what he's doing ... maybe he'll learn that polygamy is wrong the hard way". On the contrary, it was His good PLEASURE -- His GIFT -- to give David His wives.

    Now according to my Oxford Dictionary a 'gift' is a 'voluntary transference of property with compensation' or simply a 'present'. Would Yahweh present David with something sinful? Yah forbid! Let us be clear here -- ELOHIM (GOD) IS GIVING DAVID HIS WIVES.

    To say anything else is make void the Word of Elohim (God). If Yah'shua (Jesus) said that the Word of Elohim (God) would not be altered one jot or tittle (Matthew 5:18), then we certainly have no right to do so, no matter whether we may like what it says or not, and no matter how painfully that Word might rub against our cherished traditions.

    In the case of King Solomon, his spiritual downfall was primarily due to his many infidel wives..

    This is incontestably right. His pagan wives did turn him away from pure Yahweh worship and into religious syncretism. But this isn't the fault of polygamy, any more than monogamy could be blamed had Solomon married one pagan woman as wicked King Ahab did (you will remember the Baal-worshipper Jezebel, I am sure). The problem is disobedience against the statute not to marry those outside the covenant. The same Law applies to Christians/Messianics.

    I King 11:4
    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. (NIV)

    So in the light of the teachings in the New Testament, is a born again christian sinning if he physically cohabits with more than one woman. To say 'Yes' would seem to come down pretty hard on those who appear to have commited sins unknowingly (in their non christian state). Or did they really unknowingly commit the sins? A bank robber is a sinner irrespective of his born-again status. A non-christian man with two wives is living in adultery (according to Biblical standards and also according to the laws of most countries).

    This is utterly perverse logic because it assumes that polygamy is sinful whereas the Bible nowhere says it is. For every sin there was a penalty in the Law (Torah) - where in the Law is there a penalty for polygamy? Name me one person in the Bible accused of adultery and stoned to death for it? Perhaps you should remember what happened to Miriam and Aaron when they criticised their brother Moses for having two wives and inferring that he was a sinner (she turned leprous). THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE THAT A MAN, WHETHER CHRISTIAN OR NON-CHRISTIAN, IS LIVING IN SIN IF HE IS MARRIED TO MORE THAN ONE WIFE. None whatsoever. If he goes behind his wife's back and sleeps with another (single) woman without entering into marriage covenants with that second woman then he is committing fornication. The Law of Moses (whose marriage clauses Yah'shua (Jesus) did not repeal save to tighten up the the law of divorce) states quite clearly that if a married man sleeps with another woman he is bound to take her into his home and support her for life. He is, in other words, MARRIED to her. To be sure this is not the way Yahweh would have it because it tramples on the tender feelings of the first wife. THIS form of 'marriage' may be said to be 'permissive' because it is far from the ideal and is unlikely to lead to domestic bliss.

    Should we condone such a state of affairs when this same man comes to Christ? If it is a sin for a non christian to cohabit with two wives would'nt it be also a sin when the same person becomes a Christian and carries on the same state of affairs?

    No, it wouldn't. But it would be a sin to separate from their husbands and fathers those whom Elohim (God) had joined together! To divide a polygamous family because of cultural prejudice is, in my opinion, a grave sin if the parties, having come to Christ, wish to remain together. There are, of course, going to be cases of unhappy 'arranged marriages', 'shotgun marriages', and others, which will in all likelihood fall apart when a polygamous family comes to Christ. That is inevitable, if the grace of Christ cannot work out a reconcilliation, and in our opinion, if the wives wish to leave, they should be free to.

    Once again, remember that the marriage covenant is a covenant between two parties only.

    Incorrect (see above).

    And sex outside this covenant is straightforward Adultery in every sense of the word.

    Almost right - if the women are unmarried, it is fornication; if married, then it is adultery. If a man is sleeping around for mere sexual gratification he is most certainly committing the sin of fornication "in every sense of the word". But if the wives have agreed to share a husband, and have entered marriage covenants, they are completely justified in the eyes of Yahweh and the Bible.

    The only Scriptural solution for a man (with more than one wife) when he comes to Christ is to cohabit only with the first and legal wife and to support any others contracted to when he was a non christian.

    The number of broken-hearts that this sort of unchristian, quasi-legalistic action has caused in many African and Asian countries by misguided 'Christians' is a blot on the good Name of Christ. It is to rend apart what Elohim (God) has joined together and those who enforce it are participators in the very adultery they supposedly are revolted by. Anyone who deliberately breaks apart a family, whether for sexual gratification or because of a misguided and erroneous theology is a wicked man himself. I pity such a person, but I pity him less than the sobbing hearts of husband, wives and children torn from one another's bosoms by a callous and unbiblical doctrine that owes its origin to Greek and Roman aesceticism and not to the Word of God.

    Remember that Adultery is a very serious sin in the Bible. In the Old Testament it is punishable with death (Lev 20:10) and in the New Testament it is a damnable sin....

    Amen. And woe unto him who enters its spirit. But polygamy is NOWHERE EVER classified as either a sin or as adultery. Nowhere!

    Gal 5:19
    19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, (NKJ)

    Gal 5:21
    21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJ)


    1. Death of a spouse

    1 Cor 7:39
    39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. (NIV)

    2. Divorce on the basis of the exception clause in Matthew Chapter 19:9

    Matt 19:9
    9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (NIV) Emphasis Mine.

    3. Desertion by an unbelieving spouse

    1 Cor 7:13
    13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. (NIV)

    1 Cor 7:15 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (NIV)

    .....AND VIOLATION OF A MARRIAGE COVENANT that is still in force, is therefore ADULTERY

    I would like to conclude with the words of our Lord again...

    Matt 19:9 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery" (NIV)

    All of this is absolutely correct. But none of its invalidates polygamy or infers that it is a sin.

    If you examine the Lord's words above very carefully, you will find that he does not make any provision for two wives at all.

    There isn't a shred of evidence for this contention. Your whole argument hangs (and falls) on one erroneous assumption: that covenants are only between two parties.

    In the light of the Scripture above, a man can only marry again if he divorces his wife for right or wrong reasons (RE: WHO DIVORCES HIS WIFE....AND MARRIES ANOTHER). Second and third wives are not recognised by our Lord at all.

    If Yah'shua (Jesus) does not recognise second and third wives, then He does not recognise the Law of Elohim (God). And since He testified in the New Testament (to counter the false charges of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Torah-teachers) that He had come to UPHOLD the Law (Torah), not abolish it, what you say is a complete contradiction in terms.

    My sincere advice would be to let the Bible speak for itself and not to invest it with man-made reasoning and prejudice. Polygamy is NOT a sin anymore than monogamy is, because both are BIBLICAL MARRIAGE. To abuse either is. Both are gifts from Yahweh. Yahweh is Himself the great spiritual polygamist, being the metaphorical husband of both Judah and Israel, as well as the husband of the whole Body of Christ (Messianic Community).

    To reject polygamy is to reject the whole concept of the Body (Christian Community) and to reduce religion to the personal. True Christianity is intensely communal, being a union of souls in Christ. That wives can find a similar union with a single husband and know the blessedness of salvation is attested to not only in holy writ but by thousands of Christian/Messianic polygamists worldwide.

    I say these things not to promote polygamy for everyone but to recognise what Yahweh has said, and no more. Monogamy is clearly the norm for most people and is one of the three conditions recognised by Yah'shua (Jesus) in the Scripture: Celibacy, Monogamy, and Polygamy.

    Let us not be the instruments of unwitting adultery and sorrow by promoting a doctrine that arose in the heyday of Christian apostacy in 6th century Europe and became legalised by a corrupt Roman Emperor, Justinian. Whilst we should be sensitive of the cultures around us for the sake of promoting Christ let us not, because of the fear of man, promote a an anti-polygamy doctrine which is antichrist and which may become the instrument of persecution in the "good" tradition of those "sons of love", the Catholic Inquisition.

    Dr Eddy Cheong, PO Box 441, 75760 Malacca, West Malaysia.

    Internet:[email protected]

    Web Page: http://www.agape.com

    8 June 1997

    With the verses below, I rest my case...

    Rom 7:2-3
    2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
    3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

    Dear Dr. Cheong,

    Thank you for your response though I must admit I am baffled by it! If the topic under question were polyandry (a woman being married to more than one man) then I would have to agree that your case was established beyond doubt. But this passage says nothing about monogamy or polygamy at all -- it is merely reminding us that a woman is only bound to her husband for as long as he is alive! Thereafter she is free to remarry.

    All that remains now is this: will Elohim's (God's) Word be the 'last word' or our traditions?

    Author: SBSK

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