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Here's the plain truth about old testament polygamy

You may be surprised to learn that Abraham was not
a polygamist — that David completely repented of it — that God's
legal statutes made polygamy illegal in ancient Israel!


GOD did not sanction polygamy in Old Testament times. Contrary to the suppositions many have accepted, God forbade it — and PUNISHED for it!


Abraham Was NOT a Polygamist

Many people recall at once a few Old Testament instances of plural wives, and assume that God sanctioned polygamy. That assumption is absolutely false! God has never approved, nor made lawful, more than one living wife for any man. Quite the contrary, He FORBADE IT, even to the kings of Israel, and that by written STATUTE!

Abraham was not a polygamist. While Sarah, his wife, lived, he never married any other woman.

Abraham had an illegitimate son by Hagar. But that was an adulterous SIN, Although it renders it nonetheless a SIN, I think we can recognize extenuating circumstances.

Sarah was barren. For a wife in ancient times to go childless was felt to be a disgrace. It was Sarah, Abraham's own wife, who brought to Abraham her servant handmaid, asking him to produce a child for Sarah by this servant woman. We can imagine Hagar to have been attractive, and not necessarily lacking in voluptuous charms simply because she was a servant The temptation, under these circumstances, at Sarah's instigation, might have been great. Certainly the very invitation coming from Sarah would have made it harder to resist.

Abraham was a strong man. But this temptation appears to have been stronger. All humans have sinned. Abraham was human. Abraham lied when he twice claimed Sarah was his sister, fearing for his own life.

Abraham was not without sin. But neither this adultery, nor the two lies, were sins of the nature that springs from a wrong attitude of mind or heart. Abraham, in his heart, was always OBEDIENT to GOD. There was no spirit of hostility or rebellion. These sins were of the FLESH, under temptation — not malicious or rebellious sins of the heart. But they were SINS! God forgave Abraham's sins of spiritual weakness, committed under heavy temptation.

Nevertheless, we all must REAP what we sow — even though God forgives our sins upon repentance. God refused to approve this adulterous act of Abraham's. He rejected the illegitimate son, Ishmael, from the birthright. This transgression produced jealousy between the women. It resulted in trouble, controversy, suffering.

How many realize that even the Arab-Jewish strife over Palestine, today, was brought on by this very THREE-CORNERED TRIANGLE, and the ensuing jealousy of the two women, Sarah and Hagar, over the one man, Abraham? The Jews are the children of Sarah, through Isaac, born later by a miracle. The Arabs are the children of Ishmael.

In Genesis 21:8-21 is the record of Hagar's departure from Sarah and Abraham. God ordered Abraham to send away the concubine Hagar and her son, and Abraham obeyed. This was at the time Isaac was weaned. Abraham had, after this, no more relations with Hagar, or his other concubine, Susanna, who is mentioned in the ancient Austrian Chronicle — see Genesis 25:6 where you will read that Abraham's concubines' sons were sent away.

Sarah's death is recorded in Genesis 23:1-2. It was after that (Gen. 25), that Abraham married Keturah. This, of course, was a perfectly legal marriage. There was no polygamy — no divorce.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are termed, in both Old and New Testaments, "the Fathers." Jesus Christ came to confirm the PROMISES made to "the Fathers." The unconditional promises God made to Abraham were repeated to both Isaac and Jacob.


Isaac Had Only One Wife

Isaac was no polygamist!

There is no mention whatever of any wife for Isaac other than Rebekah. There is no mention of any concubines, or of any act of adultery.

In Old Testament types Abraham is the human type of God the Father. He is called, in the human sense, the father of the faithful. In this same system of types, Isaac is the type of Christ, the Son of God. And Isaac's wife, Rebekah, is the type of the CHURCH, which is to marry Christ.

Did you ever realize this type similarity? Just as Rebekah had to become the affianced bride of Isaac, and in a sense come to LOVE HIM, before she ever saw him — while he was still off in another land, so must we in God's true CHURCH come to LOVE CHRIST, who is in a far country — heaven — without ever having seen Him!

Now CHRIST will never have but the ONE WIFE. And, Isaac, being a type of Christ, had only one wife. Apparently Isaac was spotless from sins of lust or sex.

Isaac's wife, Rebekah, like her mother-in-law, Sarah, was barren. But Isaac did not take things into his own hands and have children by her handmaids, or by concubines. Neither did Rebekah do as Sarah had done, and resort to bringing a servant girl to Isaac to produce a son for Rebekah in this proxy manner. Instead of using human reason, taking things into his own hands, Isaac TRUSTED GOD!

"And Isaac entreated the Eternal for his wife, because she was barren: and the Eternal was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived" (Gen. 25:21).

If only we could learn to TRUST GOD to work out our problems!


JACOB: One Wife After Conversion

Jacob is a name that means "Supplanter." It was God's will that Jacob receive the birthright instead of his older brother Esau. But in his earlier life Jacob did not rely on God. He took the matter in his own hands, aided and abetted by his mother.

As he stole the Birthright from Esau by unfair means, and received Isaac's blessing by a lying deception, so his father-in-law, Laban, deceived Jacob. Laban supplanted Jacob's promised and loved wife, Rachel, with his elder daughter Leah. Leah was foisted on Jacob by fraud. According to God's marriage laws, Jacob could have rejected her — put her away as soon as he discovered the deception. In that event, he would never have been truly married to Leah — God would not have bound them as one flesh. But when Jacob accepted her as his wife, she became his ONLY true wife, in God's sight, as long as they both lived.

But Jacob was not yet converted. He leaned to his own understanding. He did not seek wisdom from God, nor did he seek to OBEY God. He did what seemed right to him, in his own selfish interest. So Jacob lived in polygamy with two wives, and also had children by their two personal maids.

But you read of Jacob's conversion in Genesis 32:24-30. He then put idolatry out of his household (Gen. 35:2-4). God appeared to him, changed his name to ISRAEL ("Overcomer", or "Prevailer with God"), and re-confirmed the PROMISES. Then God took Rachel, his second wife (Gen. 35:19), leaving only his first and true wife, Leah.

So, following his conversion, Jacob had but his one original wife. Jacob had repented. He lived no more in polygamy after his conversion.


A Worldly Custom

It is of course true that it was a worldly custom, in patriarchal times, and in the days of the Kingdom of Israel, for kings and wealthy men to take plural wives. A harem was one of the symbols of royalty.

But God FORBADE polygamy for the kings of Israel.

Here is God's LAW respecting polygamy by Israel's kings:

"When thou art come unto the land which the Eternal thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me. . . . Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away" (Deut. 17:14, 17). It is spoken of as "THIS LAW" in verses 18 and 19.

Israel's first king, Saul, had plural wives. But in this he disobeyed God and followed the custom of the kings of the worldly nations around Israel. It was SIN. It was not approved by God.


David REPENTED of Polygamy

David had several wives. But after his tremendous sin of taking Bathsheba and having her husband murdered, David repented, in real heart-rending repentance. And he never repeated the sin. Very few seem to realize what actually happened.

See II Samuel 12:9-12. "Now therefore," said God (Verse 10), "the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hart despised ME, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife." Notice, David despised GOD — not merely the commandment of God, as in Verse 9, but also the very Person of God! He did it by taking this woman as his wife. Therefore the sword was never to depart from his HOUSE.

The HOUSE OF DAVID, at that time consisted solely of these plural WIVES, and his children. This was a tremendous, super SIN. God was metering out tremendous super punishment. Now notice the next verse:

"Thus saith the Eternal, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house. . . ." His own house included his wives and children. What evil? God has just said the sword will now come upon his house — his family. God continues: ". . . and I will take thy wives before thine eyes and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun."

Notice — this was to be done in the sight of THIS sun — before that very day's sunset. God continues: "For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." The Septuagint Version translates it "this sun" here, as in the preceding verse. So a neighbor or neighbors defiled David's wives publicly, in the open sun that very day — ravished them. God said "I will take thy wives before thine eyes and give them unto thy neighbor." This was done publicly that very day.

But at that point, David repented. All that is mentioned, in this particular text, is: "And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Eternal" (Verse 14). But you will read of David's private prayer of repentance to God in the 51st Psalm — the prayer of a really broken and contrite heart. It was real repentance. David turned from polygamy.

The next words in this text in II Samuel 12 are: "And Nathan said unto David, The Eternal also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die." However, the son to be born of this adultery was to die.