'Ken Ham often says that Genesis shows that "God intended one man for one
woman." While I agree with monogamy, the Bible has many examples of men with
more than one wife, and appears not to condemn this. Could you please
explain how Genesis clearly teaches monogamy as Ken says.'
The clearest evidence that monogamy is God's ideal is from Christ's teaching
on marriage in Matt. 19:3-6. In this passage, He cited the Genesis creation
account, in particular Gen. 1:27 and , saying 'the two will become one
flesh', not more than two.
Another important biblical teaching is the parallel of husband and wife with
Christ and the Church in Eph. 5:22-33, which makes sense only with
monogamy - Jesus will not have multiple brides.
The 10th Commandment '. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
[singular] .' (Exodus 20:17) also presupposes the ideal that there is only
one wife. Polygamy is expressly forbidden for church elders (1 Tim. 3:2).
And this is not just for elders, because Paul also wrote: 'each man should
have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.' Paul goes on to explain
marital duties in terms that make sense only with one husband to one wife.
The example of godly people is also important. Isaac and Rebekah were
monogamous - they are often used as a model in Jewish weddings today. Other
examples were Joseph and Asenath, and Moses and Zipporah. And the only
survivors of the Flood were four monogamous couples.
Polygamy's origins and consequences
A very important point to remember is that not everything recorded in the
Bible is approved in the Bible. Consider where polygamy originated - first
in the line of the murderer Cain, not the godly line of Seth. The first
recorded polygamist was the murderer Lamech (Gen. 4:23-24). Then Esau, who
despised his birthright, also caused much grief to his parents by marrying
two pagan wives (Gen. 26:34).
God also forbade the kings of
the trouble when they disobeyed, including deadly sibling rivalry between
David's sons from his different wives; and Solomon's hundreds of wives
helped lead Solomon to idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-3). Also, Hannah, Samuel's
mother, was humiliated by her husband Elkanah's other wife Peninnah (1 Sam.
What about godly men who were polygamous?
Abraham and Sarah would have been monogamous apart from a low point in their
faith when Hagar became a second wife - note how much strife this caused
later. Jacob only wanted Rachel, but was tricked into marrying her older
sister Leah, and later he took their slave girls at the sisters' urging, due
to the rivalry between the sisters. Jacob was hardly at a spiritual high
point at those times, and neither was David when he added Abigail and
Ahinoam (1 Sam. 25:42-43).
Why did God seem to allow it, then?
It is more like the case of divorce, which God tolerated for a while under
certain conditions because of the hardness of their hearts, but was not the
way it was intended from the beginning (Matt. 19:8). But whenever the Mosaic
law had provisions for polygamy, it was always the conditional 'If he takes
another wife to himself .' (Ex.21:10), never an encouragement. God put a
number of obligations of the husband towards the additional wives which
would discourage polygamy. It is no wonder that polygamy was unknown among
the Jews after the Babylonian exile, and was even the rule among the Greeks
and Romans by New Testament times.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.