Why is Polygamy Wrong?

I know it’s generally opposed, and I’m sure the Church has an official stance in the negative, but does anyone know why? It was practiced by several Old Testament heroes, and there are several societies that still practice polygamy (not just Mormons, but also some Jewish sects I believe, and several African tribal communities). If a man can support two or more wives and their children, and is faithful within his marriages, assuming all spouses are comfortable with the arrangement, why is it wrong? (This is not at all to suggest I’m in favor–I know I for one would not be keen to the idea of my husband bringing home a new wife! But then again, I know that would be my moral fault for being jealous of his spending time with another woman. If I were more spiritually developed and overcame jealousy, would it still be wrong?)

Polygamy, when officially endorsed by religious authorities, is derived from a few unspoken assumptions:

  1. God, who controls the male/female balance at conception, is somehow unable to ensure that there will be enough men for each woman to have her own husband, or
  2. God has trouble making enough men who believe, and women are a bunch of mindless sheep who will believe whatever their husbands say, so the few believing men have to take all the wives they can grab, or
  3. the church leaders, like King Saul so long ago, make exceptions to the established rules as ordained by God from the beginning for their own desires or convenience.

Personally, I believe that polygamy is a statement that men lack faith in the power of God to “grow” a believing people.
Mt 3:7-9 But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

If a man can support two or more wives and their children, and is faithful within his marriages, assuming all spouses are comfortable with the arrangement, why is it wrong?

This “we’re ok with it” argument can and has been used to justify all kinds of irregular and evil behavior. Let me give you an extreme example just to make the point: If I am comfortable with bestiality, :eek: and my spouse sees no harm in it, why is it wrong?

Being comfortable with something is a selfish human notion, and does not make us right with God. Being comfortable with something often takes us away from God.

Polygamy is wrong because in the beginning it was not the form of marriage that God created. Jesus mentions this when he talks about why divorce is not acceptable. Moses allowed certain practices because of the hardness of the hearts of the people, but in the beginning it was not so. We don’t see Adam and Eve and Jane and Nancy.

Also, while there were Old Testament characters with more than one wife, there consistently seems to be strife as a result of that arrangement.

From the Catechism:

1602 Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of “the wedding-feast of the Lamb.” Scripture speaks throughout of marriage and its “mystery,” its institution and the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal “in the Lord” in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church.

1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

2387 However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law." [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive."

Then how do you explain the fact that David had more than one wife? And God didn’t condemn him for it. Did Jacob not Marry Leah and Rachel? God didn’t condemn it. There are numerous other examples.

The Catechism covers this as well. Those in the old testament did many things contrary to God’s original plan-- for example, Jesus tells us that **Moses **allowed divorce because of the “hardness” of the people’s hearts.

Polygamy and divorce are not of God. However, God does not intervene when **men **choose to go against his plan. Therefore, those in the old testament who practiced polygamy did so in opposition to God’s original plan for marriage.

Jesus came to bring us back to God’s original plan for Man.

“and **I gave you **your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more” (2 Sam 12:8)

Look what it says. The Lord says, “I GAVE YOU… your master’s wives.” It does not say that “You chose more than one wife, which was contrary to my plan.”

Also, how do you explain this.

Moses was **married once **(Exodus 2:21) and then he married a Cushite woman (Numbers 12:1). And when Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses, the Lord seems to be defending him! (Numbers 12: 6-9) In fact, the Lord caused Miriam to have leprosy because she spoke against Moses! (Numbers 12:10)

You are asking a bad question.

If you are in the US, you probably cannot conceive of a society that is so primitive that women would probably not survive without a man. Catholics in the US think in terms of our society. But, if you go back in history you are correct, polygamy was accepted by God. Then you ask, rightly so, if something was ok back then how can it possibly be wrong today.

Can God change His mind? Most people would say no. Think about it, murder, theft, not telling the truth have always been wrong. For awhile slavery evidently was ok, polygamy was ok. Used to be you had to wear a hat to go to Church, if you were a woman.

I guess my point is that things change. Maybe God does change His mind. Maybe if you were to marry several wives today and love them as God intended He would be ok with that. Having been married I think you would be a fool to marry more than one woman at a time, but that is just me. I really cannot think of a situation where I would think it was right to take a second wife in our society.

As King, David was responsible for taking care of the household belonging to the predecessor he had vanquished. David did not choose those wives. Saul did. David inherited them.

Also, how do you explain this.

Moses was **married once **(Exodus 2:21) and then he married a Cushite woman (Numbers 12:1). And when Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses, the Lord seems to be defending him! (Numbers 12: 6-9) In fact, the Lord caused Miriam to have leprosy because she spoke against Moses! (Numbers 12:10)

Moses had only one wife.

The “Cushite woman” was Zipporah, who was not a descendent of Jacob. Aaron and Miriam were angry so they insulted his wife, Zipporah, by calling her a Cushite. Of course the Lord was angry. Wouldn’t you be if someone called your wife/husband/dear friend a filthy name?

I read a little bit more about this and I’ve found that it’s a wide topic of debate. What’s the Catholic position?

Also, look at Exodus 21:10

“If he takes **another wife **to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights.”

If polygamy was against God’s will then why would God give such a law? In fact, he should have stated, “Let him not take another wife.”

I should remind you that what you’ve been discussing isn’t really polygamy, but polygyny. Polyandry has also been practiced in several ancient and even modern societies, though hardly as prevalently as polygyny.

I should also point out that there are several forms of polygamy - for example, two married couples could contract to share a household and childrearing/financial support duties, and this would in fact be a type of polygamy, whether or not any sexual relations were relevant. Sometimes, for safety and security reasons, it’s a very viable form of living. Not all families model themselves on the Cleavers, after all.

Polygamy was never “sanctioned by God”. As you pointed out, there examples of polygamy in the Bible, but good things never came of it.

As to what we should do - I’d echo the earlier respondent’s reference to Jesus’ discussion of divorse and distinguishing the Mosaic Law on that v. God’s law today. We were expressly told that if a man divorses his wife and marries another, he commits adultery - how could he not divorse the first and marry another and not commit adultery?

Also, certainly in our society today, polygamy would not be respectful of our wives - and would thus not be a Christian practice. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”.

Blessings,

Brian

I agree with you and with StCsDavid. Just because there were polygamous families in the OT, it doesn’t mean God sanctioned their behavior or intended them to be good marital models for us. Look at the problems polygamy brought for Abram, Jacob, David, and Solomon.

Polygamy was never sanctioned by the Church.

Jewish people today don’t practice polygamy. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, monogamy always was the Jewish ideal, though the law tolerated polygamy.
jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=730&letter=M&search=monogamy

Let’s face it, how many men could afford to keep multiple wives and dozens of children? And, even if they could, who would want to live with the constant strife in the home because of jealously?

God didn’t change his mind on this issue–monagamy was always part of his plan for men and women.

God also intended for people to be vegetarians, but condoned meat eating after the Flood.
So it’s not inconceivable that God would sanction practices that were not part of His original plan because of man’s sinful nature.

Here are the footnotes from Numbers 12:1-2, as printed on the Vatican’s website vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__P3Q.HTM#$DV

1 [1] Cushite woman: apparently Zipporah, the Midianitess, is meant; cf Exodus 2:21. Perhaps the term is used here merely in the sense of “despised foreigner.”

2 [2] The real reason for Miriam’s quarrel with her brother Moses was her jealousy of his superior position; his Cushite wife served only as an occasion for the dispute. Aaron merely followed his sister in her rebellion; hence she alone was punished.

Also, look at Exodus 21:10

“If he takes **another wife **to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights.”

If polygamy was against God’s will then why would God give such a law? In fact, he should have stated, “Let him not take another wife.”

Look at the entire section of Exodus 21:7-11. These are instructions for what needs to be done when a man sells his daughter as a slave, how her new master should treat her, and what rights she has as his slave.

While we’re at it, let’s look at Deuteronomy 24:1-4, wherein Moses gives the people instructions on how to act when getting a divorce. That doesn’t make divorce desirable in God’s plan.

For clarification another reason the balance could be off is the result of war where a large portion of the population’s men are killed.

Another issue is where there may be many men but a limmited number of men who could support fammilies. Unfortunately in today’s society there seems to be a lack of men who are able to support their fammilies.

Not to nit pick, well, yes to nit pick…If one plus one equals one then the resulting one is still one Isn’t it therefore interchangable with the original one and hence eligible to join with one to again become one?

It may be more accurate to say that our interpretation of God’s intent has changed.

And to throw a bit more fuel on the fire…

Matt 25:1
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom."

In those days as many women died in childbirth as men died in battle. The male-female balance remained about equal.

Setting that aside, though, are you saying that we resort to polygamy because A) God is unable to recruit enough believing men, or B) The wealthy believers are unwilling to support the poor believers? I thought the Mormon Church had a HUGE social welfare program dating back to Joseph and Emma Smith. Wasn’t the Relief Society primarily occupied with “looking to the wants of the poor”? Was the Relief Society so ineffective that polygamy had to be used to fill the gaps?

Not to nit pick, well, yes to nit pick…If one plus one equals one then the resulting one is still one Isn’t it therefore interchangable with the original one and hence eligible to join with one to again become one?

Only in mathematical theory. Not in God’s divine plan.

And to throw a bit more fuel on the fire…

Matt 25:1 “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.”

They were bridesmaids. You’ll find them in most modern weddings, too. Scripture says they met the groom. It doesn’t say they were the ones marrying him.

But in the Old Testament times, you didn’t need to get a divorce in order to marry another woman. You could have 2 wives. Why did God not forbid that in any law?

1 man + 1 woman = 1 holy union.
1 holy union + 1 woman = polygyny
1 holy union + 1 man = polyandry

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