Was it Wrong For Solomon to Have a Gazillion Wives?

Well it wasn’t a sin that sent him to hell or anything, but it WAS insane… My term, not God’s.

This is really a good question because we do typically say in our society that polygamy is wrong. Of course the small minority of polygamy-minded Mormons would disagree. (these particular Mormons -not Mormons in general- shall hereafter be referred to as Insane Mormons.)

    Insane Mormons: adj Used to describe the small minority of Mormons who practice polygamy. To be loopy and marry more than one woman at a time

I don’t mean to insult women by calling this insane. All I’m saying is… uh….

It’s just too much of a good thing! …save! *whew*

Anyway, if polygamy is wrong now, why wasn’t it wrong then? Here’s the Gasp Answer:

The Bible doesn’t say polygamy is a sin.

*gasp*

God DID say whoever became king of Israel shouldn’t “multiply wives for himself”:
Deu 17:17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.

And Solomon did just that (and yep, his heart turned away from God just like God said it would), and ol’ Sol got into multiplying silver and gold for himself, too. He was definitely going against God’s instructions in these verses, however, it’s important to realize what God didn’t say. God did not call polygamy “detestable” in His sight, or “wickedness” or use any of the other terms He would normally use when outlawing something as sinful. For instance in the very same chapter:

Deu 17:12 Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel.

Here God called the behavior “evil” and prescribed a punishment: death. When God talked of polygamy however, He didn’t use such terms, nor did God prescribe a good killing, flogging, or any sort of punishment for it. God simply warned that the king’s heart would turn away -which it did in Solomon’s case.

Even in the New Testament, God did not label polygamy as a sin, even though the writers would occasionally provide a list of sins:

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Admittedly, many people will include polygamy with fornication or lewdness or include it with the words “and the like.” I believe that’s a stretch. Polygamy is not mentioned specifically as a sin, nor does it fit very well in the biblical category of sexual immorality because… insane or not… there is still a marriage involved.

So why is it illegal? Why do we regard polygamy as a sin?

Because it’s insane.

Okay you want a better answer? Well, here’s the second best answer:

First, because the Bible CLEARLY teaches that God’s design for marriage was not polygamy -but the marriage between a man and a woman.

Gen 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

That leaves out homosexuality of course, which by the way, the Bible does term a sin.

Second, the Bible CLEARLY teaches that God has often given people grace and leniency when it comes to our behaviors, but that doesn’t make it right or good or the best way. As Jesus said concerning divorce:

Matthew 19:8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

And third, the Bible CLEARLY teaches that polygamy disqualifies someone from being a leader in the Church. It’s a mark against someone: (and that can’t be good)

1Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,

1Timothy 3:12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

Titus 1:5-6 appoint elders in every city as I commanded you —if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.

All the “Insane Mormons,” (refer to definition above) currently reading this probably went ballistic. That’s okay.

What do you expect of insane people?

Back to the original question though… was Solomon wrong? Wrong yes, sinning by having a gazillion wives? Not so much. God never condemned him for polygamy, BUT (and this is important) all the things God warned would happen did happen.

Kinda like when your dad tells you not to stick your knife into the wall outlet, but you do anyway because you’re pretty sure it would fit but your sister tells you it won’t so you have to prove her wrong, despite the fact that your dad told you if you did it, you’d get hurt, but what does he know? and…

okay that was just me, but do you see what I’m getting at?

No, it’s not that electricity hurts, it’s that God warned of real consequences and gave real instructions, but stopped short of condemning polygamy as sin. It was just a bad idea. He gave instructions as a parent would give instructions and advice. “Hey guys this will cause problems.” God warned against polygamy, but he didn’t condemn people for it.

Perhaps God was showing grace and patience with Solomon and others? Even today, the New Testament counts polygamy as a mark against someone -disqualifying them from responsibility in the church in fact, but it does not condemn or send someone to hell for it.

In other words, you might still go to Heaven, but God’s not going to give any responsibility to someone who is clearly out of his mind.

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12 thoughts on “Was it Wrong For Solomon to Have a Gazillion Wives?

  1. Just so you’ll know, Mormons are neither insane nor polygamous. They do, however, strive earnestly to follow the second greatest commandment (and the first too!) to love one another. That includes refraining from being judgmental, critical, or mocking towards others (even those with whom they disagree).

  2. There is a small minority of Mormons who are polygamous. It is those Mormons I was making fun of, not the general group. As the article says, I wouldn’t condemn them for being polygamist. I just think they’re nuts. 🙂 I edited the article a bit to try and make sure it doesn’t appear I’m accusing all Mormons of being polygamous.

  3. I should add, for the sake of disclosure, I do worry about the salvation of those who are Mormon. Not because of polygamy, but because they don’t recognize Jesus as God. Perhaps I misunderstand what they believe, but in regards to Christ, they have a confusing doctrine. I should devote a post to this so we can hear from all sides.

  4. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, no Mormons are polygamous today. Period. There may be a reformed or fundamentalist group who practice plural marriage, but they are not LDS. Sorry if I seem a little adamant and overbearing about this, but sometimes I do get more than a little annoyed because of people’s misperceptions about the church.

    You seem like a pretty open-minded person so I’ll briefly address your second comment by saying that the Church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for a reason. We believe that He’s our Savior and Redeemer, the beloved Son of a loving Heavenly Father, who sacrificed His life for us so that we can live eternally. He stands at the head of the Church today, and the 1st Article of Faith (there are 13) is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

    I’ve found that http://www.lds.org is a virtual fount of information…just in case you want to check it out.

  5. Yes a small minority you may classify as “fundamentalist group” or “reformed” or my term “insane” but that would be the minority I poked fun at -not LDS particularly. It is true anyone, regardless of their particular group, would be going against today’s official LDS teaching by having multiple wives. All of us have fringe groups that we don’t like to associate with. Fred Phelp’s church in Topeka comes to mind for me… Anyway, if I still have to fight off comparisons to the Dark Ages (I mean really, WHAT church anywhere is doing that stuff these days? Not even a fundamentalist somewhere is burning people at the stake…. although Fred has probably thought about it…) then Mormons will have to take some ribbing for polygamy. And ribbing the Mormon Church is all I was doing. I have several Mormon friends and I know you all make fun of those fringe groups the way we make fun of Fred…

    ruefully

    And yes the official doctrine on Jesus sounds good, but that’s why I think it’s really confusing. Because I do use many of those same words, but I don’t think we agree at all about Jesus. It sounds Christian, but it isn’t the same as the basic tenet of Christianity concerning Jesus. It just sounds the same at first glance. A person can save my life and I will be eternally grateful to him, but that is not the same as worshiping him as Lord, as God. The Apostles Creed calls Jesus “our Lord, referring to him with God’s title. The Nicaea Creed from 325 explains Jesus as “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” And on and on. These creeds laid out the basic tenets of the faith of Christianity.

    The Bible says, Jesus said, and the early Church fathers all said Jesus is eternal, through Christ everything was created, and Jesus is God. The Mormon Church is free to disagree, but when you part ways on a basic tenet of the Bible and of Christianity, it’s difficult to maintain the Mormon Church is a “Christian” religion. Christian-esque maybe.

    And if God is Spirit, what is the Holy Spirit?

    Personally, I hope these disagreements ultimately don’t matter. I’m fearful they do.

  6. It’s refreshing to engage in dialogue with someone who evidently knows what’s he’s talking about and who appears to be a “truth seeker.” I confess that I’m ignorant about many things, and it seems that the older I get, the more I realize this. However, after reading and pondering your post, I can’t really see anything there that LDS folks would disagree with. Since I’m not a pastor, however (even a “crazy” one), I could be wrong.

    If you truly want to understand the differences (or see if there are any), then checking out the church website will prove rewarding. A relatively new feature is the alphabetical index at the top of the opening page.

  7. I think you present your opinions very well. I have a very large book with small print that writes a history of the Mormon church that I’m currently not finished with. I’ll keep trying to learn, maybe even spend some time on the website you gave me. You’re always welcome to tell me where I’m wrong! 🙂

  8. A couple of items: “And third, the Bible CLEARLY teaches that polygamy disqualifies someone from being a leader in the Church.” Are you certain that polygamy was the context of these passages or was it divorce? Greek culture didn’t practice polygamy so I think it’s unlikely these passages are dealing with polygamy. Divorce however, was a problem addressed often and specifically by Jesus and Paul.

    Secondly, while you mostly rectify it in your subsequent posting, Mormons don’t disagree with the idea that Jesus is God or eternal.

    You might want to take a look at what Nathan the prophet said to David in the voice of God, “I gave thee thy master’s wives into thy bosom” –indicating that God not only tolerated polygamy but in this instance promoted it.

  9. Good questions.

    The passage was emphasizing a principle that polygamy would violate. Husband of one wife, in context with the Greek words themselves, in context with Paul’s other writings in I Corinthians, Jesus in Matthew 5 & 19, the Bible itself including Deuteronomy 24, etc… would make it difficult to pin this solely on divorce. You have leap through some hoops to say this was talking only about divorce. For instance, he could have said divorced, but instead he said the husband of one wife. More a description than a rule. He could have easily written, “who has never been divorced,” but I think he was speaking of a principle broader than just that.

    The Greek words themselves more commonly mean woman and man, not wife and husband, although we do translate them that way when we believe the context is speaking of a wife and a husband. Here, the passage strictly says a man of one woman. This fits with I Corinthians 7 where Paul said each man should have his own woman, and each woman her own man.

    So there are two very obvious meanings. First, a marriage is between one man and one woman, and a polygamous marriage would violate this in regards to Church leadership, regardless of how much it was practiced or not during that time.

    In many cities, especially Corinth, divorce and remarriage was so prevalent and so common, people didn’t need to mess with polygamy. We have records of people divorcing in Corinth for the 26th or 27th time.

    Second, the emphasis in I Corinthians 7, and the emphasis in I Timothy 2, plus the context of the world they lived in at the time, seems to fit very appropriately with the idea that the character of an elder or deacon should reflect fidelity and faithfulnesss to their wife. That is the most obvious and first conclusion a person can come to about the passage. Husband of one woman at least means demonstrating faithfulness and devotion to one, not the promiscuity of the world.

    What I would like to know, is do the Mormons view Jesus any different than they view me? After all, according to Mormon Doctrine aren’t we all eternal? Is Jesus simply the God of this world while I can be a God of my own later? Am I to worship Jesus or simply aspire to be like him someday?

    As for David, as I said, polygamy is not a sin in the Bible. The emphasis on singleness of marriage however, arrives in the New Testament, reinforcing the original intent given in Genesis. The reason I believe, and the difference between David and I, (besides the fact he was king and stuff) is that in Christ we are new creations, and the Spirit of God indwells every believer and simply put, is powerful to change our lives from the inside out. Galatians 5. The standards are higher when God lives in you. The Spirit of God was not poured out on all believers until the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his resurrection.

  10. Me again. I hope that big book with little print was well-researched and written by a person open minded enough to look at all sides to an issue…or in this case, to a history. When I was a child, we were educated to think that all Indians were wild, mean heathens who rode around scalping innocent people. Now we have a different perspective entirely.

  11. Thanks for your humor and insight into this topic…
    just recently i was asked.. “where in the Bible does it say polygamy is wrong?”
    and I couldn’t think of anywhere or any answer… so thanks for the insight again…
    keep seeking Him in all you do…and don’t give into those telling you that your’e wrong..
    you seem to be on the absolute RIGHT path! 🙂
    God’s richest blessings,
    Ren

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