My Spouse and I Are Divided Over Church. What Should We Do?
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My Spouse and I Are Divided Over Church. What Should We Do?

FAQ: Abraham and David Had Several Wives, So Is Polygamy Okay?

God allowed Abraham, David, and other faithful Old Testament men to have several wives. Why was it okay in those days but not today?

We have to distinguish between what God permits and what he prescribes in his word. Polygamy was not part of God’s design for the world. God made Adam and Eve, one man and one woman, and brought them together to become one flesh. In Israel, God warned his people against taking multiple wives. King Solomon’s downfall happened in part because he married so many women. He married foreign women who drew his heart away from the Lord and into idolatry. It’s true, though, that God permitted polygamy for a time.

When Jesus talked about marriage and divorce in Matthew 19:3–9, it was in response to a question from some religious leaders. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Jesus replied, “Have you not read, that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man is separate.” So, Jesus focused on God’s original design for marriage when he created humanity: one man and one woman.

But these religious leaders, responded by appealing to the Old Testament law: “They said to him, Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” Jesus told them, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not.”

Sin makes our hearts hard. At times, God puts up with things—even things he warned against—because he has larger purposes in mind. That’s why he allowed divorce and polygamy for a time. The kings in Israel and patriarchs like Abraham had many wives, but that wasn’t how it was supposed to be, and it’s not what God wants for his people today.

This article is part of our Frequently Asked Questions series. Listen to Pastor Adriel answer this question on Core Radio here.

Dig deeper with these free resources from Core Christianity:

Core QUESTIONS

These clear and concise PDFs answer some of your toughest questions about the Christian faith:
How Can God Use All Things for Our Good?, How Do Christians Relate to the Law?

Core GUIDES

Dive deeper with these lengthier and more thorough guides to difficult topics in the Christian life:
7 Things You Need to Know About Marriage and Sex

Photo of Adriel Sanchez
Adriel Sanchez

Adriel Sanchez is pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, he also serves the broader church as a host on the Core Christianity radio program, a live, daily call-in talk show where he answers listeners' questions about the Bible and the Christian faith. He and his wife Ysabel live in San Diego with their five children.