So what does Yahweh-God actually say about having multiple wives? Is there so much as a hint that He is displeased with a man having multiple wives? Let's see what He Himself has said:
"If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights" (Ex.21:9-10, NKJV).
Well, that's pretty clear, isn't it? If I take another wife, I shall not lower the standard of living of my other wives, or deny her her nuptial rights. In other words, I had better make sure I can afford to take another wife and have the ability to be as physically affectionate with the previous wives as before! It means that I have to work harder! There's a price for me to pay.
Is Yahweh hinting here that having multiple wives might be wrong? People, of course, like to read all sorts of things into scriptures that they don't like. It's called 'twisting the scriptures'. We have to ask ourselves: what is the plain sense of the scripture under study? And does this agree with what the other scriptures say? For surely Yahweh doesn't contradict Himself!
Married men have many obligations. For instance, if a wife leaves me and then wants to come back home to me again, I am obliged to have her back even if I have married again since. And do you know where it says that? In the New Testament!
"Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife" (1 Cor.7:10-12, NKJV).
Men can't dump their wives. Their wives have a claim on them. That's Yahweh's ruling. If you refuse to have her back - or your second wife refuses to have her back - and your first wife goes off and marries another, you are both forcing her to commit adultery and you become adulterers yourselves! Here is an instance of where refusing to have multiple wives can be adultery, not the reverse.
As we know from the history of marriage, sometimes the various parties can be unloving or unloved. It can happen in marriages where there is one wife or more. Where that happens, and where a husband may be tempted to show partiality, Yahweh specifically protects the second wife. Note that he doesn't tell the husband to release the second wife because he is living in a sinful, adulterous relationship, but to at the very least force him to be fair when it comes to inheritance rights:
"If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his" (Deut.21:15-17, NKJV).
Here Yahweh is protecting an unloved wife from discrimination. He doesn't tell her to leave, because that would go contrary to the marriage covenant, but forces the husband to be fair at least as far as property inheritance is concerned. This passage not only recognises the legitimacy of multiple wives but legislates to protect the children raised up in such an arrangement.
He also protects women against unscrupulous men just out to have a bit of sex on the side, making clear that sex is the act of marriage and nothing else:
"If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days" (Deut.22:28-29, NKJV).
Whether this man is unmarried or already married is besides the point: the Most High is simply saying that sex and marriage are indistinguishable, and that you cannot separate the right to have sex from the responsibility of being a husband and a wife, and all the Laws Yahweh has created to protect the estate of marriage. In fact, Yahweh repeats this commandment, saying: "If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife" (Ex.22:16, NKJV).
A man who sleeps around is a great sinner. He is responsible for the care of every woman he has slept with if she is a virgin! To take a woman's virginity away is the act of marriage. Like it or not, you're married to her and must take care of all her needs! That is the price for sex.
Did you know that if you have a brother who dies without leaving a male heir to inherit his property that you are obliged to marry the dead brother's wife? It's called the Law of Levirate:
"If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband's brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.' "Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him; and if he stands firm and says, 'I do not want to take her,' "then his brother's wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother's house.' "And his name shall be called in Israel, 'The house of him who had his sandal removed'" (Deut.25:5-10, NKJV).
Many ministers will tell you that Christ abolished this Law but He didn't. In fact, it was cited in a discussion on the resurrection (Mk.12:19ff). It makes no difference that the state has created its own laws about property rights in place of Yahweh's Laws. Does Yahweh change for the state? Is India, Britain, Kenya, Singapore or the USA more important than God?
There was a time when the Jews were being pretty faithless to their wives. Indeed, the Jewish leaders had invented their own laws outside the Bible (called the Talmud) which said that a man could divorce his wife if he didn't like the look of her. Yah'shua (Jesus) harshly condemned these man-made laws and traditions. And Yahweh ordered those men who had divorced their childhood sweethearts in order to marry pretty young wives to take their first wives back home again:
"Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because Yahweh has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. "For Yahweh-Elohim of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one's garment with violence," Says Yahweh of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously." You have wearied Yahweh with your words; Yet you say, "In what way have we wearied Him?" In that you say, "Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of Yahweh, And He delights in them, "Or, "Where is the God of justice?"" (Mal.2:14-17, NKJV).
The state may allow you to abandon first wives but Yahweh doesn't. And certainly a man who deals treacherously with his first wife doesn't deserve a second. How can he take care of a second wife if he can't take care of the first one?
There are many laws in the Bible about who you can and can't marry (like not marrying near relatives, and not marrying a widow and her daughter simultaneously). And you are only permitted to marry two sisters provided the sisters are not jealous of each other (Lev.18:6ff; 20:8ff).
Now if having more than one wife were a sin, would not Yahweh have said so directly, instead of legislating to protect this form of marriage?