Marriage & Religion


Polygamy in the African Christian context

Most African Indigenous Churches (AICs) do not prohibit polygamy. Polygamists are admitted to all sacraments such as the Lord’s Supper and they are allowed to take all offices including the office of a pastor/Prophet. AICs are also distinctive in African Christianity due to the prominent role that they give to women. Women are encouraged to participate in all activities and take up leadership roles in the churches. There are also numerous cases of women who were either founders or co-founders of AICs.

Polygamy is a phenomenon often associated with African people. In almost all African societies, polygamy is an acceptable and valid form of marriage. Proponents of polygamy have claimed that the more wives a man has, the more children he is likely to have, and the more children, the greater the chances that the family will enjoy immortality. This is indicative of the high regard in which the tradition is held by some African people (men in particular). The theological thinking of various Christian denominations is divided on the subject of polygamy.

Many African Christian leaders in the recent years have associated monogamy as a teaching by the European Christian missionaries who preached the gospel of one man-one woman in connection to producing few children. Everyone knows that Europeans produce fewer children commonly one or two in the extreme three children. And they assert that there are many teachings by Europeans that Africa must resist of which the gospel of monogamy is one. In fact, because the Europeans are against production of children is the reason why they are greatly promoting homosexuality, a practice that Africa must resist.

While some churches are reluctant to allow women or the wives of polygamists to occupy prominent positions within the church, others are reluctant to permit a polygamist to occupy a church leadership role. Yet others, mostly the African Independent Churches, accommodate polygamists and allow them full and active participation in the life of the church.

Decisions such as this determine how the church (a particular denomination) will be accommodated or receive support in a particular area, particularly in rural areas where traditions are still held in high esteem.

The meaning of polygamy and its historical roots

Polygamy is not the sole preserve of African people: From its Greek origin, the word polygamy is understood in the broader sense to include any simultaneous multiple marriage unions for one person, such as female polyandry and male polygyny; however, the word polygamy is used throughout this work to describe the state of a man having more than one woman, including the religious, legal and customary aspects of these unions (Yamani, 2008: xi).

According to Gaskiyane (2000:97), the concept is defined as a culturally determined, socially acceptable and legally recognized form of permanent marriage where a man has more than one wife at a time. In this case, the acceptability of the marriage is determined by the social customs of the people concerned. Kahiga (2007:120) observes that different meanings may be inferred contextually, but in essence polygamy refers to marriage where more than one wife is involved. Shahzad (2009) states that polygamy is as old as human society, and cites David and Solomon as just two among many examples; Although it is difficult to say whether polygamy is increasing or decreasing, it remains a significant and widespread phenomenon (Okorie 1995:1).

Kahiga (2007:120) is of the opinion that while polygamy was formalized in Africa, it has taken the form of anonymous polygamy, with partners or concubines incognito in different locations. Kahiga argues that the cycle of divorce and remarriage in the West amounts to successive polygamy, because either partner is welcome to remarry after the divorce. For him it is generally felt that when white people came to Africa, they and the church combined in their endeavors to abolish polygamy. Hillman (1975:182) argues that although some of the Reformers viewed polygamy as not being contrary to the law, Calvin insisted that monogamy was prescribed by natural law. In the words of Maillu (1988:1): “The colonial church in particular, has been fighting against the tradition on the basis that it is incompatible with the Bible.”

Although this may have reflected the views of many, numerous divergent arguments have been put forward by African scholars and missionaries: while Bishop Josiah Kibira of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania acknowledged the difficulties presented by polygamy and called for theological study, the Anglican church in West Africa allowed the wives of polygamists to be baptized -although the same church in South Africa and elsewhere refused to admit them even to the catechumenate without the authorization of the bishop. The Liberian Lutheran church elected to accept polygamists and their wives to baptism and Holy Communion, while in 1967 the regional conference in Nairobi asked the Roman Catholic bishops to reconsider the possibility of adopting new policy regarding polygamy (Hillman 1975:35).

Okonkwo (2003:15) states: If we seek to identify the main distinguishing feature of African customary marriage as compared with European marriage, there will no doubt be general agreement that the most obvious of such features is the toleration and even approval, accorded to polygamy.

Bishop Colenso (the English-born Methodist missionary who carried out his work during the 1800s in what is now KwaZulu-Natal) is one of those who raised eyebrows because of his tolerance of polygamy, famously recorded in his “Remarks on the proper treatment of cases of polygamy, as found already existing in converts from heathenism.”

Phiri (2007:75) draws attention to the abuse and violation suffered by women when missionaries from the Roman Catholic and the Dutch Reformed Church in Malawi insisted that polygamists divorce their wives to remain with one upon conversion and baptism; many deserted women were left with the crippling economic burden of caring for their children and household.

In her paper entitled Christene en poligamie, Landman (2010) draws together a range of controversies relating to polygamy from Roman times through to the debates that took place at the World Council of Churches General Assembly of 1988 in Harare, Zimbabwe. For Landman, it is the principle of equality that matters. She acknowledges that polygamy is not condemned in the Bible, and argues that whatever the context of polygamy, the most important consideration is whether the participants in the relationship treat one another equally, and in that way follows the example set by Jesus.

A more recent example involves the South African president, Jacob Zuma, who in 2012 married his sixth wife. Karimi (2012) reported as follows on this event: Zuma, 70, tied the knot with Bongi Ngema in a traditional ceremony Friday in the town of Inkandla. It is the sixth marriage overall for the polygamous president.

The African Christian view of polygamy and its effects

Maillu (1988:1) argues that besides being an entrenched custom in Africa, polygamy features in the oldest historical records. Gold (2007:1) cites the example of an African pastor who taught his church under the title: “Polygamy as a pre-requisite for church membership.” According to Gold (2007:1) the Langham Partnership makes the observation that interpreting and applying the Bible in the light of African culture and realities furnishes powerful and relevant insights into the biblical text that transcend Africa in their significance. Muslims practise polygamy. Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that simultaneous polygamy is not in itself evil, since it was permitted by God in the Old Testament (Hillmann 1975:179); they viewed it as being contrary neither to the law of nature nor to the nature of the Bible.

In the African context, Christian churches were and still are divided into three categories: the missionary-initiated churches (the so-called mainline churches), the African Independent Churches (AICs), and the Pentecostal churches. For the Christian missionaries who first came to Africa, monogamous marriage was the norm.

Western missionary Christianity – with its insistence on monogamy as the only acceptable form of marriage, its emphasis that marriage is primarily a matter of a man or a woman ‘leaving his or her mother and father and the two becoming one flesh’, its largely puritanical if not hypocritical attitude toward human sexuality, and its preference for a more individualistic lifestyle and nuclear families, has created much confusion and anxiety in contemporary African society.

Earlier Western missionaries felt the need to confront polygamy at the point of conversion. In short, a man who wanted to be accepted as a church member was required to bring one wife into the church (where a formal church marriage ceremony would take place) after abandoning all the other wives, in order to remain in monogamous marriage. However, as Mugambi (1989:96) points out, this “common rule” did not bring an easy solution to this problem. In this regard Wunderink (2009:18) quotes Isabel Phiri, who argues that this is an example of where missionaries with good intentions did not have a proper solution to the issue of polygamy, and in fact promoted divorce without responsibility being taken for the children. Bishop John Colenso of Natal recognized this when acknowledging that the practice of separating husbands and wives on their conversion to Christianity is in opposition to God’s teaching (Hillmann 1975:32). As Jenkins (2010:45) remarks: “This policy initially limited the impact of the so-called mission churches, while pushing believers toward new independent congregations, the African Initiated Churches or AICs.”

Jenkins’s (2010) observation gives us some insight into the AICs as churches that accommodated polygamists as full members. In the view of Jerkins James O Kombo, lecturer at Daystar University in Kenya, African-initiated churches are more welcoming, and one would probably find a number of (polygamous) families among the members of their congregations. The same sentiment is expressed by Hillman (1975:33), who states: “On the whole it is the Independent African Churches, composed initially of dissident Christians from Western-based churches that have taken the more lenient positions.”

De Bruyn (1988) reports that Densen Mafinyani took a stance on behalf of the Zimbabwean Council of Churches (ZCC) against the World Council of Churches (WCC), recommending that the latter should accept as members those churches which tolerate polygamy, because in the African context polygamy is neither wrong nor evil. Not all AICs require a polygamist to dismiss all but one of his wives in order to join the church, because the African epistemology differs from the Western epistemology and recognizes both monogamous and polygamous unions as indissoluble; it also articulates that divorce is not an African, but a Western concept (Kahiga 2007:131). Some AICs opted not to resist polygamy, believing that “official polygamy” was not a great problem, but that “unofficial polygamy” was. It was as a result of this difference in outlook between the missionary churches and the AICs that the latter drew more converts (who felt ill-treated by the former).

In this situation, the first wife is faced with a choice either to choose an acceptable second wife or to leave this entirely up to her husband. This is why in some cultures the wife will usually choose a young woman who is her friend or a relative and recommend her to the husband, because the first wife has a much better chance of commanding respect from a woman she knows than from stranger.

Although some church leaders initially rejected polygamous marriages in their churches, Wunderink (2009:1) reports that many African church leaders regret zero-tolerance policies applied to polygamous families of converts, saying that treating those marriages as invalid gives rise to a number of problems.

Functions served by polygamy in the African context

A number of cultures practice polygamy for the same reasons. While the present study focuses on African people and their practicing of this custom, I will from time to time refer to cultures from outside Africa to illustrate that African people do not live in isolation, and to indicate the commonality between all peoples.

A remedy for the problem of infertility

Mbiti (1969:105) conveys the importance of childbearing in African marriages, stating: “Marriage and childbearing are the medicines against death. While death continues to demolish life, marriage and childbearing keep ahead of it all the time.” One is reminded here of the story of Abraham and Hagar, which suggests the permissibility of polygamy in instances of barrenness. Cairncross (1974:69) cites the argument as follows: “If a wife is barren it is indeed her duty to give such consent, and even to exhort the husband to take another companion as Sarah did of old.” This argument is also favored by Maillu (1988:8), who suggests that polygamy is the kindest solution in the case of a wife who is infertile, because this is preferable to being expelled from the household, and having to look for another husband.

Kofon (1992:52) explains: In Bafut (and other parts of Africa) people marry because they want to have children. This is the principal aim. There is no marrying simply for personal fulfillment or for mutual pleasure of the spouses. Begetting children is a duty to be fulfilled.

This view is echoed by Yamani (2008), who reports: “A wife’s infertility is a valid reason for her husband to polygamously seek another.” Traditionally, marriage and child-bearing had a cause-and-effect order that was difficult to break (Burman 1991:36).

According to Turaki (1999:107), begetting children guaranteed eternal life. A traditional African man needs many children (especially sons) to ensure the survival of the lineage and to increase his power within the clan (Nhlapo 1992:143). Gaskiyane (2000:23) reports:

A few groups within nominal Christendom believe that the bearing of a very large number of physical children brings eternal blessing and that such families continue together forever in Heaven. From this belief some African people believe that polygamy is blessed by God.

These arguments all serve to support Mbiti’s statement (1969:133) that “Marriage and procreation amongst the African communities are a unity; without procreation, such marriage is incomplete”.

Kimathi (1994:12) and Gaskiyane (2000:10) report that some African people invoke polygamy to prevent a possible divorce, particularly in cases where childlessness or barrenness was anticipated. In this context Waruta and Kinothi (2000:105) state: “In traditional African society, it was almost inconceivable that a childless marriage could be sustained monogynously.” This practice also became a solution for marriages where only female children were born, since the importance of male children was emphasized (Kyomo and Selvan 2004:36). Gaskiyane (2000:15) elucidates: “In traditional cultures the greatest desire and requirement is to have children, especially male children, to be heirs of property.” In this context, Waruta and Kinoti (2000:36) further contend that “Not only is the birth of a child important amongst the African people, but the gender of the child is also important. Male children are valued, especially in many patrilineal African societies.”

A solution in the event of menopause

Among some African people it has long been accepted that women may no longer engage in sexual activities once they have entered menopause. Kimathi (1994:13) explains:

Menopause among many ethnic groups brought an end to the need for sexual activities. A woman with married daughters and sons was regarded as somebody who had finished her sexual role in marriage. She now was considered too old for sexual encounters. This was something that was regarded as a duty for the younger wives. It is not surprising; therefore, that an older woman would tell her husband that it was time he got himself a new wife as an indication that she was ready for exemption from her sexual obligations.

This explanation provides a clear indication that, according to some African people, sexual responsibility for women was limited in duration, but that men were allowed to continue to have sexual relations after women were expected to stop. This emphasizes that sexual relations, for African women, were aimed mainly at procreation, which was why, once a woman reached menopause, there was no need for her to continue to engage in sexual intercourse.

Kyomo and Selvan make the same point: “One reason for polygamy seems to be the old taboo of menopause. Many African people believe that a woman should not have sexual intercourse after menopause”. It was believed that a woman who broke this taboo would be physically punished: her stomach would grow bigger and bigger, or else the seminal fluid accumulated in her stomach would flow out through the genital orifice, creating an unpleasant odour (Kyomo and Selvan 2004:35, 36).

A solution during pregnancy and nursing

Some African cultures forbid sexual relations between a husband and wife during pregnancy; in this regard, Labeodan (2007:46) reports: Most of the women confirmed that once they have ‘taken in’ (become pregnant), they cease having sexual relationships with their husbands, resuming only after three years have passed and the baby is weaned. In some Asian and Latin American cultures, too, women abstain from sex during pregnancy (Maldonado, [s.a.]:30).

Kofon (1992:52) makes the observation that some African people believe that when a wife is nursing a child, sexual intercourse is forbidden; because the husband may be unwilling to wait for three years before resuming sexual relations, he might have more than one wife. In some instances the woman herself may suggest that he take another wife, as this may reduce the chance of his being unfaithful during such a long period of abstinence. It was therefore believed in most polygamous cultures that once a man had more than one wife, immorality and divorce would be unlikely to occur. Kofon (1992:56) summarizes this reasoning as follows: “Polygamy is supported in Africa for the reason of sexual gratification when one wife is ill or is delivered.”

A remedy against social exclusion

In many African cultures it is the norm for an adult to be married and to have children. Kimathi (1994:40) goes so far as to term marriage the backbone of African society. Single status in African cultures has a number of negative associations – one being witchcraft (Phaswana 2005:1). The Sotho idiom Lebitla la mosadi ke bohadi (meaning that a woman’s grave lies in her marriage or her in-laws) expresses the requirement that women should remain in their marriage, even if that marriage is life-threatening (Kriel 1991:27). Single women have always been suspected of many evils, such as lack of feeling and a desire to break up other people’s marriages. Phiri (2002:25) notes the belief among Africans that being single is a curse; Kathide (2007:40) articulates the similar view that since it is a disgrace to be unmarried, polygamy offers every woman a chance to be married and thus fit in with the norms of society. Remember, everywhere in the world, women outnumber men.

This puts enormous pressure on unmarried women, and, in fact, remaining a single person in an African context is an extremely difficult choice to make. The belief that every woman must have a husband and every man a wife has created a situation where a woman would prefer to be one of several wives rather than be without a husband, as the latter situation would make her a social outcast (Gaskiyane 2000:17). In the words of Baloyi (2010:3):

Above these arguments, Reynolds (2008:123) points out that there are many reminders to unmarried women that they are not living a ‘normal’ lifestyle.

A wife’s ill health, absence and the phenomenon of working mothers

In a traditional African context, his wife’s ill health is not seen as a reason for a husband to abstain from sex. If his wife was ill for a long period, the husband’s family would encourage him to think of a second marriage, reasoning that this would give the first wife time to recover. It was further reasoned that the second wife would help to nurse the sick woman and ensure that the children were taken care of (Maillu 1988:18). It has also been claimed that if women are regularly absent from home because they work far away, they would ask their husbands to marry a second wife (Modupe [s.a.]:14).

Sexual incompatibility

Mbiti (1969:143) and Kathide (2007:40) agree that polygamy, when viewed as a preventive measure against unfaithfulness, allowed a man who worked far from home to take one wife with him to his place of work (possibly a distant city or town) while another wife or other wives continued taking care of children and the household in the rural area. In such a situation the husband would be unlikely to have concubines or frequent female prostitutes in town.

Maillu (1988:9) suggests that if a wife is less interested in sex than her husband, this is a justifiable reason for him to take an additional wife. Okorie (1995:3) expresses a similar sentiment, suggesting that polygamy results in less temptation for a man to commit adultery.

A way of taking care of widows

Okorie (1995:3) cites a widely African belief that levirate marriage constitutes a means of taking care of widows. Levirate marriage is seen as a way of protecting both the widow and her children, who will be taken care of by the younger brother of the deceased. Moreover, it is a way of ensuring stability and that the widow will not become part of another family, taking the wealth of the deceased with her. However, not all widows are receptive to this practice: Nkhwashu (2012) cites the example of a young widow who fled from the prospect of being forced to marry her late husband’s younger brother, taking with her the compensation paid out to her by her late husband’s former employer.

A way of managing disagreement in Marriage:

Where two people are everywhere in society, disagreements will occur; in some extent disagreements that would require separation. Co-operations separate, business partners separate, family members separate, according to history many clans separated and even marriages separate. Therefore, to a big extent polygamy is viewed as a remedy to separation/divorce once a big disagreement exists. The man who would have chosen to divorce and marry another wife feels concern for the children and instead of persistently committing his entire life to a dissatisfying marriage, decides to marry another wife leaving the first wife to remain and take care of the children. Also, a woman who has lived under abusive marriage for years prefers her husband to marry another wife instead of leaving her children to go and marry another man elsewhere. This is a position that many have considered a fair decision in case of family disagreements.

“Polygamy is an exclusive prerogative of African men, and I am one of them”.


Polygamy in the Bible:

This sections covers:

  • A brief look at polygamy in the Old Testament.
  • Polygamy in the New Testament.  Jesus allowed polygamy.
  • Does the Old Testament prohibit Polygamy? Understand Deuteronomy 17:17.
  • Do Paul’s 1Timothy 3:2 and 1Timothy 3:12 prove that polygamy is prohibited in the Bible?
  • Christians are hypocrites for following ONLY 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1Timothy 3:12.
  • 1 Kings 11:1-4 does not condemn polygamy!
  • Christians who agree with polygamy!

There is a widely prevailing misconception about the Bible’s New Testament prohibiting polygamy.  The Bible allows polygamy in both the Old Testament and the New Testament

  1. A brief look at polygamy in the Old Testament:

Let us look at some of the verses from the Old Testament that allow polygamy

In Exodus 21:10, a man can marry an infinite amount of women without any limits to how many he can marry.

In 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, 14:3, King David had six wives and numerous concubines.

In 1 Kings 11:3, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

In 2 Chronicles 11:21, King Solomon’s son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines.

In Deuteronomy 21:15 “If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other and both bear him sons….”

There are a lot more verses from the Old Testament that allow polygamy, but I think that the above are sufficient enough to prove my point.

2- Polygamy in the New Testament:

Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (the Old Testament) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law (the Old Testament) until everything is accomplished.  (Matthew 5:17-18)”

There is not a single verse from the New Testament that prohibits polygamy.   Let us look at the following:

1 Corinthians 7: (10) I instruct married couples to stay together, and this is exactly what the Lord himself taught. A wife who leaves her husband (11) should either stay single or go back to her husband. And a husband should not leave his wife. Notice, no command for the husband to “remain single”.  This is because he can marry another single woman at any time.

Matthew 5:31-32: (31) “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ (32) But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

A man can marry multiple women, while the woman can only marry one man.  Here Jesus warns that unlawful divorces will cause women to commit adultery, because they would still be married to their first husbands.

Matthew 19:1-12: 1.When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” 4. “Haven’t you read,” he (Jesus) 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.”
7. “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8. Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Below, I’ve amply proven that this verse here, Matthew 19:9, is either a punishment or a restriction for an unauthorized divorce.  It is not a general Law that applies to all believing men as the other sayings from Jesus clearly prove.  Jesus also explained this verse, Matthew 19:9, much better in:

Matthew 5:31-32
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’
32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulterous, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

A man can marry multiple women, while the woman can only marry one man.  Here Jesus warns that unlawful divorces will cause women to commit adultery, because they would still be married to their first husbands.

  1. The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” 11. Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

In the above verses, we see that Jesus was approached with a question about whether or not it is allowed for a man to divorce his wife in Matthew 19:3.  Jesus immediately referred to the Old Testament for the answer in Matthew 19:4. He referred to Adam and Eve, one man and one woman.  The Old Testament does talk about the story of Adam and Eve as one husband and one wife.  However, the Old Testament which Jesus had referred to in Matthew 19:3 does allow polygamy.  Also, when a man becomes a one flesh with his wife in Matthew 19:5-6, this doesn’t mean that the man can’t be one flesh with another woman; He can be one flesh with his first wife, and one flesh with his second wife, and one flesh with his third wife and so on;

Polygamy in not a sin: 

2 Samuel 12:8: 8. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms.  I gave you the house of Israel and Judah.  And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

GOD Almighty here supposedly says that He gave to David Saul’s wives, and GOD would have even given him more wives if he (David) wanted.

To further prove this point, let us look at the following from the New Testament:

Matthew 22:23-32 ” 23. That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. 25. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27. Finally, the woman died. 28. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” 29. Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31. But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you, 32. `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

In Matthew 22:24-28, the Jews referred to Deuteronomy 25:5 from the Old Testament where it states that if a woman’s husband dies, and she didn’t have any kids from him, then she must marry his brother regardless whether he had a wife or not.  When the Jews brought this situation up to Jesus in Matthew 22:24-28, Jesus did not prohibit at all for the childless widow to marry her husband’s brother, even if here were already married.  Instead, Jesus replied to them by saying that we do not marry at the resurrection (before Judgment), and we will be like angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30).

Resurrection or Heaven?

The resurrection is different from being in Heaven.  We will all resurrect.  But this is only the beginning.  Some of us will be Judged by GOD Almighty to Hell, and some will be Judged to Heaven.  In Heaven, will there be:

1- Sex?  Will men have testicles and penises, sperms and semens?  And will women have vaginas, eggs and wombs that can house fetuses?

2- Marriage?  Will Adam and Eve, for example, be a husband and a wife in Heaven?

The Bible is silent about all of this.

If Jesus, during his stay on earth in that Jewish culture, allowed for a widow to marry her former husband’s brother, even if he were already married, then this negates the Christians’ claim about the Bible prohibiting polygamy.  A man can be one flesh with more than one woman.  In the case of Matthew 22:24-28, the man can be one flesh with his wife, and one flesh with his deceased brother’s wife.  Also keep in mind that Exodus 21:10 allows a man to marry an infinite amount of women, and Deuteronomy 21:15 allows a man to marry more than one wife.

Matthew 19:9 is a punishment:  Matthew 19:9 above was clearly either a punishment or a restriction for an unauthorized divorce, because otherwise if the man does marry another woman, – while keeping the first wife, – then he would not be committing adultery.  Remember that Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (the Old Testament) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law (the Old Testament) until everything is accomplished.  (Matthew 5:17-18)”

And we know that the Law does allow polygamy.  GOD Almighty even said that He would’ve given David more wives if the ones he had weren’t enough.

3- Some Christians believe that the Old Testament prohibited Polygamy:

My response to Rachel is below:   

Here is Rachel Thomas asking; I only have one verse to quote from the Bible. Deut 17:17 neither shall he multiply wives for himself. This is a commandment that God gave for the kings of his nation but sadly none of the David, Solomon obeyed it and if u will read the whole of the Bible u will get to see the tragic consequences of their disobedience. So what u re actually using to support your theory is a broken commandment, a source of much grief and trouble. You have used many verses and derivations to support your theory but it is much distorted from the actual truth the Bible contains.

My response: Here is what Deuteronomy 17:17 that you referred me to say in the NIV Bible:

“The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.’  He must not take many wives or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.  (From the NIV Bible, Deuteronomy 17:16-17)”

In no way, does Deut 17:17 prohibit polygamy.  It prohibited the King from marrying MANY WIVES.  I wonder what the limit to that is.  Certainly it doesn’t limit it to just one wife.  “Many wives” clearly proves: (1) The person can have multiple wives, but not too much; and (2) It doesn’t limit marriage to only one wife.  I don’t know where you see the verse limiting marriage to only one wife.

Also, how can you suggest that the Old Testament prohibited polygamy when for instance Deuteronomy 21:15 clearly states: “If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons….”  And also Exodus 21:10 allows a man to marry an infinite amount of women without any limits to how many he can have.

Plus also, you are ignoring the fact that Deuteronomy 17:17 speaks exclusively about kings, or one lone king, and NOT about people in general.  So even if your translation was the correct one, it still doesn’t disprove anything from my argument.

4-  Do Paul’s 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:12 prove that polygamy is prohibited in the Bible?

Let us look at the verses 1Timothy 3:2 and 1Timothy 3:12 from the NIV Bible:

“Now the overseer [some translations have it as “bishop“] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (From the NIV Bible, 1 Timothy 3:2)”

A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.  (From the NIV Bible, 1 Timothy 3:12)”

As we clearly see in those two verses, only church ministers and religious leaders are prohibited from practicing polygamy.  There is no mention for ordinary people or general population.  So unless every Christian in Christianity is considered a “bishop”, “deacon”, “priest” or a “minister”, then these two verses are without a doubt irrelevant!  They do not disprove polygamy in the Bible at all!

Instead, they prove my point about polygamy being allowed in the Bible for the ordinary!  Here we clearly see Paul addressing the practice of polygamy among the “believers”, and he only prohibited it to the religious leaders so that perhaps they can have better time and dedication for the church.  A man with 10 wives would be too busy for the church work.

Have polygamy been really prohibited by Jesus, Paul would not have told his religious leaders to not practice it.

Paul would not have seen the need for it. At any rate, Paul is known to have his own agenda and own words inserted into the Bible.   In the following verses for instance, we see in the Bible Paul’s words and not GOD Almighty’s:

“Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.   (From the NIV Bible, 1 Corinthians 7:25)”

2 Timothy 4:9-13; 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

Titus 3:12-14 12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

He decided to winter there???

Are these verses Paul’s own opinions and commands or are they truly GOD Almighty’s UNCOMPROMISED divine revelation?

The verses above from Paul contradict his other own verse in 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (From the NIV Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16)”

If the Bible was truly GOD Almighty’s Holy Words, and if Paul was truly GOD Almighty’s Apostle, then we wouldn’t have this kind of contradictions in the Bible.

Also another side point, Paul obviously didn’t know much about the Old Testament, because the Bible itself admits that it is corrupted and not perfect.  So it can never be “All God-breathed”:

“`How can you say, “We [the Jews] are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?‘ (From the NIV Bible, Jeremiah 8:8)”

Another corruption from Paul is his disagreements and fights with the other disciples who were more authentic than him, since they lived with and saw Jesus, while he never even once saw Jesus.  Most of the New Testament is nothing but conversations between people, which are clearly not inspirations from GOD Almighty.  For instance, Paul fought with Saint Peter and accused him of being “clearly in the wrong” (Galatians: 2:11-12), and had a huge argument with Saint Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39).   Now one must ask, did GOD for instance favor Paul over Barnabas and Peter and inspired him the words while he was fighting with them?  If so, since Peter was “clearly in the wrong”, then how about his Gospels?  Wasn’t every word that Peter spoke supposedly inspired by GOD?  How then could he be “clearly in the wrong”?  One of them must be in the wrong, which in either case, would also produce another contradiction to 2 Timothy 3:16.  Is Paul GOD Himself?  No Christian believes in that.  So why then take everything he says including 2 Timothy 3:16 as the Words of GOD Almighty when they contain clear contradictions in them?

Please visit Many famous Historians and Theologians before came to conclusions that Paul was not truthful.

5- Christians are hypocrites for following ONLY 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:12:

Since some Christians are so big on being politically correct to stick to verses such as 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:12 to prove that polygamy is prohibited in the Bible when on the contrary I proved beyond question, in the previous section, that they do allow polygamy to the general public, then I would like to ask them this:

If you’re so big on following Paul’s teachings, then why do you allow your women to preach in churches?! Didn’t Paul himself say:  “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.  (1 Corinthians 14:34)”

Why then do you have popular female church ministers such as Mrs. Joyce Meyer?  Whatever happened to Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:34?!

6- 1 Kings 11:1-4 does not condemn polygamy!

A Christian emailed me telling me that it is true that King Solomon had 100s of wives and concubines in the Old Testament, but that led him astray according to 1 Kings 11:1-4, thus this makes polygamy sinful and condemned in the Bible.  Well, let us look at the verses from the NIV Bible:

1 Kings 11, Solomon’s Wives

1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter-Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 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.

As we clearly see in 1 Kings 11:2, the marriage of multiple wives by itself is not sinful and was never condemned.  It was Solomon’s marriage from the pagan women that was prohibited by GOD Almighty, because they were idol worshipers, and it resulted for him to be led astray and follow their pagan gods.  I don’t see any specific condemnation of polygamy in general in this verse what so ever!  I mean the Bible’s Old Testament (since 1 Kings 11:1-4 exist in the Old Testament) is crystal clear about allowing polygamy: “If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons…. (From the NIV Bible, Deuteronomy 21:15)” How much more clear can it get?

  1. The list of the polygamists found in the Bible.

The conventions used in compiling this list of polygamists are as follows:

This list is intended to include all polygamists to be found in the Bible, as verifiable by the Bible itself. This list includes both holy and unholy men in the Bible in which there appears to be an occurrence of polygamy.

This list does not include those polygamists who are indeed in the Bible, but of whose polygamy cannot be verified by the Bible itself. (That is, for example, they may have been identified as being polygamous via other sources, such as from “Josephus”, etc.)

When listed names are followed by an asterisk (*), that indicates that that man’s polygamy was determined by implication. In cases such as Abdon, having 40 sons, for example, is strong implication of the occurrence of polygamy. Simultaneously, in the case such as with Hosea, the reference to what appears to be another wife, yet lacks other support, is an acknowledged weaker implication of the possibility of an occurrence of polygamy. (Special Note: the double-asterisk (**), for Issachar, indicates that it is a reference to “Issachar’s Tribe”, rather than to Issachar himself.) Use any of these links below as part of this directory of Biblical Polygamists.

Abdon*     Abijah     Abraham     Ahab     Ahasuerus    Ashur     Belshazzar     Benhadad     Caleb     David Eliphaz     Elkanah     Esau     Ezra     Gideon     Heman*    Hosea*     Ibzan*     Issachar**     Jacob     Jair* Jehoiachin    Jehoram     Jerahmeel     Joash Lamech     Machir    Manasseh     Mered Moses     Nahor Rehoboam     Saul    Shaharaim     Shimei*     Simeon     Solomon     Terah*    Zedekiah     Ziba*

  1. Deuteronomy 21:15-17 New International Versions (NIV): The Right of the Firstborn

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.


The Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament does allow polygamy.   Jesus peace be upon him never prohibited polygamy.  Jesus lived for 33 years of his life on earth among a nation who practiced polygamy.  He never even once denounced it!

The Bible does allow men to marry a number of women they want.  Also, women in the Bible are required to marry men in special cases such as making childless widows to marry their brothers in law.

Polygamy has long been the preferred form of marriage in Africa. Nevertheless, the Christian church needs to take a decisive stand with regard to polygamists who want to join the church. Faith is the responsibility of an individual, but church is the responsibility of people, and faith manifests itself in the church. It is my conviction that understanding the constitution of different churches and their structures can enable a polygamist to choose a church which he understands and in which he can be happy; it is not necessary to point fingers at another church that has a different policy.