15. Do Not Multiply Wives
In the Torah - the Law given to Moses by Yahweh - kings are warned not to take too many wives:
"When you come to the land which the Yahweh your Elohim (God) is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' "you shall surely set a king over you whom Yahweh your Elohim (God) chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for Yahweh has said to you, 'You shall not return that way again.' Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself" (Deut.17:14-17, NKJV).
There are many Christians who say that this means a king cannot have more than one wife, nor any other man. But this is a very stupid thing to say, because if this is right, it means that a king cannot have more than one horse or more than one piece of silver or gold. The word rabah, which we translate into the English "multiply", means to 'increase to a very large number'. In other words, kings are told not to be greedy because it will turn their hearts away from Yahweh. Solomon disobeyed this commandment, married one thousand wives and concubines - many of whom were pagans - and was led into idolatry. This particular sin - which was both marrying too many women and marrying pagans, is spoken of elsewhere:
"In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by Elohim (God), saying, "You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his Elohim (God); and Elohim (God) made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our Elohim (God) by marrying pagan women?" (Neh.13:23-27, NKJV).
What caused Solomon to fall was clearly in marrying pagan women, not for being polygamous per se. It is not a sin to have more than one horse, more than one wife, or more than a certain amount of gold or silver. When these things become wrong is when we want too much of them - in other words, when we get greedy, because greed turns men's hearts away from Yahweh. And in the case of polygamy, marrying an unbeliever is likely to turn your heart away too (see 1 Kings 11:2-4).
Another line of attack is a proverb of King Lemuel:
"Do not give your strength to women, Nor your ways to that which destroys kings" (Prov. 31:3, NKJV).
Is this a passage a condemnation of polygamy? If it is, then it contradicts everything else that has been said on marriage, for God's Word does not contradict itself! What we have to do is look at those passages which speak of kings and women and see what they say. We have already looked at two. We have seen warnings to kings not to marry too many women and not to marry pagan women. According to the great Bible Commentator, Matthew Henry, this is a mother's warning to her son, the heir-apparant,
"... not [too] be soft and effeminate, nor spend that time in a vain conversation with the ladies which should be spent in getting knowledge and despatching business, nor employ that wit (which is the strength of the soul) in courting and complimenting them which he should employ about the affairs of his government. "Especially shun all adultery, fornication, and lasciviousness, which waste the strength of the body, and bring into it dangerous diseases. Give not thy ways, thy affections, thy conversation, to that which destroys kings, which has destroyed many, which gave such a shock to the kingdom even of David himself, in the matter of Uriah. Let the sufferings of others be thy warnings." It lessens the honour of kings and makes them mean. Are those fit to govern others that are themselves slaves to their own lusts? It makes them unfit for business, and fills their court with the basest and worst of animals. Kings lie exposed to temptations of this kind, having wherewith both to please the humours and to bear the charges of the sin, and therefore they ought to double their guard; and, if they would preserve their people from the unclean spirit, they must themselves be patterns of purity. Meaner people may also apply it to themselves. Let none give their strength to that which destroys souls" (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.).
The warning is clearly against having too many women to satisfy sexually as this would wear the king out (as it evidently did Solomon who laments the folly of lust in Ecclesiastes), and getting side-tracked from one's responsibilities as a national leader. And hinted within it is a warning against adultery (the cause of David's fall) and harlotry. Nowhere is sensible polygamy warned against!
Whether we are men in influential vocational positions that require us to give proper attention to our duties, or just ordinary men living a simple life pleasing to Yahweh, we are warned not to do anything that would distract us from our first love, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ):
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place -- unless you repent" (Rev.2:4-6, NKJV).
If taking more than one wife would lead you away from Christ, don't become a polygamist! Since none of us knows exactly how many wives we can reasonably love and take care of without neglecting our duties and responsibilities as leaders in our homes, churches (assemblies), jobs or communities, common sense alone should tell us that we should consult with Yahweh before taking another wife into our household. He knows best. If He gives you permission, take another wife. If He doesn't, don't. Technically, you may take a sensible number (the recommended limit is seven - Isaiah 4:1) but you may have weaknesses or other problems that would prevent you from taking more than one or two. Only Yahweh knows. Check with Him first, and get counsel from other mature believers.
True, a man is not allowed to multiply wives - that is, he is not permitted to marry an excessive number, but that does not necessarily mean a man is not entitled to have more than one. The Scriptures are very clear about that.
This page was first created on 1 March 2003
Last updated on 25 February 2009
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