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In Exodus 21:10 and Deuteronomy 21:15-16 (among many other passages), it talks about polygamy as if it were acceptable.

Indeed, there are several holy men (Abraham and Solomon come to mind offhand) that had multiple wives.

It seems pretty clear that God doesn't mind polygamy and that it is allowed.

Why is there a modern-day restriction on such practices?

Edit
As has been pointed out, I'm using "polygamy" in the modern/popular sense (such as "polygamy camps" of the FLDS group). Truly, the actual word is "polygyny", which is a man marrying multiple wives. Other forms of polygamy (polyandry and such) seem pretty clearly against God's word.

Edit 2
Per a comment, I'm seeking any answer from any denomination/doctrine that does not support polygamy. Although there are a few denominations that do, I'm not interested in their history so much.

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you could also say that the Bible "allows" the dissection of a raped and murdered concubine to send it throughout the nation ... don't mistake reporting for condoning or encouraging :) –  warren Aug 23 '11 at 23:01
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@warren No, you're wrong. The passages I used were God given commands on how to handle multiple wives. Your passage was, as you say, simply reporting facts. It would be the same, however, to say that God allows and permits slavery. –  Richard Aug 24 '11 at 12:56
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Indeed, there are several holy men (Abraham and Solomon come to mind offhand) that had multiple wives. Abraham was considered righteous because of his faith and obedience to God, yet he still had his failings. Solomon turned away from God to serve the numerous gods of his idolatrous wives. In fact, there is no such thing as a holy man. The Bible says our righteousness are like filthy rags before Him. Jesus alone was and is the [w]hol[l]y man and [w]hol[l]y God! I think we should always keep in mind that the Bible heroes were not perfect, but God used them in spite of this. –  Jimi Oke Oct 2 '11 at 5:14
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@JimiOke They definitely were not perfect! However, nowhere does it say that having multiple wives was counted as a fault. Instead, it was lust, envy, telling lies, etc. those were the sin that they committed, not having multiple wives.. –  Richard Nov 13 '11 at 13:52
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@RolandTaylor If it said he was lead astray by his one wife, would you claim that having one wife was sinful? –  Brendan Long Sep 11 '12 at 0:55

6 Answers 6

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Note: Throughout, I use the word "polygamy" in place of "polygyny", even though I explicitly mean to polygyny.

In short:

Polygamy is a sin because it goes against the law. The law is in place because it is a carryover from the paganistic societies of ancient Rome. Preventing polygamy was not a biblical concept, but one that came after Jesus, after authorship of the bible, and after the genesis of Christianity.

Why Polygamy is a sin

The reason that polygamy is no longer allowed by the church is because it's no longer allowed by society and is, therefore, against the law.

We Christians are told to uphold the law and subject ourselves to the law

Romans 13:1-2 (NIV)

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Because of this, polygamy is a sin if (and only if) it breaks the law. Similarly, it is a sin in the same manner and degree that breaking a speed limit is a sin: it's something not forbidden by God and solely forbidden by the law.

Why it's illegal

Polygamy was not uncommon among the Jews in biblical times. It wasn't until the the Romans came in that polygamy became outlawed. Even then, it was still allowed; Josephus made notes explaining that polygamy was permitted to Herod because it was permitted by Jewish custom.

Polygamy modelled by Jesus's parable

We can see that polygamy was commonly accepted in the New Testament from the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). In this parable, Jesus tells of a bridegroom that is preparing to marry ten women. This parable was used by Jesus to describes himself. The polygamous bridegroom in the parable is a reference to Jesus.

Fall of polygamy

It was, in fact, the Greek and Roman rules against polygamy that spread (along with the Grecian and Roman empires) and became the culture, forcing out the practice of polygamy.

Monogomy and polygyny by Walter Scheidel, Stanford University (2009)

Thus, even though Greeks and Romans need not have been the first cultures to prescribe monogamy, these are the earliest securely attested cases and, moreover, established a paradigm for subsequent periods that eventually attained global dominance.

...

The true historical significance of Greco-Roman [monogamy] may well lie in its impact on the Christian tradition.

It was these two huge historical forces that established monogamy in our society--not something born of God, but something born of Pagan societies.

Modern Society and Law

Christianity tied itself to the banner of the Roman empire 300 years after Christ (when Constantine established what would become the Roman Catholic church). This organization spread Christianity by using the power and authority of the Roman empire. It was this Roman concept of monogamy (predating Christianity) that carried over from its paganistic roots into the Christian society. It was at that time (and not before) that Christianity became intertwined with the idea of monogamy.

This pagan idea of monogamy from Rome slowly infused into the Christian culture (source); and it was because association with Christianity (and the Roman Catholic Church) that the paganistic, Roman practice remains today.

This Roman practice has tangled itself into the Christian culture (via the early Roman Catholic church) and therefore all "Christian" nations since (founded under Western culture) have adopted the laws prohibiting polygamy from their outset.

Because of this, polygamy is illegal in most parts of the world. Because it's illegal, it is a sin.

Catholicism Today

It should be noted that Catholicism today still carries over this idea from ancient Rome. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states "However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law."

Because of this, polygamy is solidly outlawed within Catholicism. Granted, if you read the last section, this should not surprise anyone.


Answering Aguments Against Polygamy

God tolerated the sin for the time being

Malachi 3:6 says The Lord does not change.

To presume that he would accept something during one time in history that he detests at a different point is crazy--heretical even. It goes against the nature of God (both in the Old Testament and New)

The bible shows it only causes trouble in marriage

This is really a weak argument. The problem is that the Bible only tells us stories that are either edifying or interesting. Yeah, it's going to talk about Abraham's difficulty with his wife and taking up a handmaiden as a wife. But that story is both interesting and edifying. The lesson here isn't against polygamy, but rather that we shouldn't marry a woman unless we marry her properly and with the right intentions.

Jacob's wives competed. But the story there isn't to avoid polygamy, but to focus on God and make your marriages holy and godly. If your marriages are focused on God instead of on selfish ambition, this won't happen!

Etc.

Each argument that says "polygamy is wrong because it leads to dischord" can also be used to say "marriage is wrong" for the same reasons. Those are the marriages not focused on God--that is the source of their dischord.

On the contrary, if we look at the life of David, we see that he was a man highly loved by God and yet had multiple wives. Some, however, use this very example to show how polygamy is wrong because his children fought (with each other and their parents). However, can we blame this on David or his wives? Absolutely not.

God only created one Eve for Adam

Note that this was written by Moses, who had (at least) two wives

This is also a weak argument. When God created Eve, he created her as a helper. Whether or not he intended for this to be a marriage situation is of secondary concern and something that we cannot know 1 2.

On the contrary, though, God has given us a pattern to follow for marriage:

Ephesians 5:22-25

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

We are to model our marriages after the the relationship that Jesus has with the church, not after the helper relationship that Adam had with Eve.

Furthermore, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus describes himself using an analogy of a bridegroom that is preparing to marry ten women. Why would Jesus really compare himself to a polygamist if it were detestable to him?

"Elders should be men of one wife"

Many use Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2,12 against polygamy. They say that these verses talk about how deacons, overseers, and elders should be men of "one wife".

Point 1: Simply because elders should be a "man of one wife", does not prevent polygamy among everyone else in the church.

Point 2: translation of this "one wife" is not as cut-and-dry as it may seem

To fully understand point 2, I want to compare these three passages to 1 Timothy 5:9:

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man

The greek for the word "one" here is heis. From Strongs Concordance 1520, this word is translated as one, single.

However, if we look at Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2,12, the word we see for "one" is mias. This is the same word used in Matthew 28:1 for "first".

While it's not definitive that mias should be translated as "first" instead of "one", it definitely shows that "a man of one wife" can have multiple translations.

In fact, let's look at the NIV version of this:

Titus 1:6 (NIV)

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

"faithful to his wife"? Why did they translate it that way? Is it because they're trying to "please the polygamy crowd"? Absolutely not!

The purpose of this passage is to indicate that the elders should be above reproach, faithful to his wife. If you accept the mias as "first", it changes the translation of this passage to "man of his first wife", which means someone who's never been divorced!

That is the purpose of this passage: not to exclude polygamist, but to find men who should be held up as models for the community. Men who are faithful and can maintain a marriage faithfully.

Two become one flesh

Note that this was written by Moses, who had (at least) two wives

Genesis 2:24

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

There are several passages that show that a man becomes "one flesh" with a woman regardless if it is his wife or a prostitute.

The idea of "one flesh" does not mean that the man is exclusive to that woman. It means that they join themselves as if married. This is true regardless of who the man does this with.

This is also clear in Ephisians 6:16-17 (NIV)

16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

It is clear that many believers can unite with the Lord as many prostitutes can unite with one man.

Furthermore, in John Skinner's Genesis: International Critical Commentary (T & T Clarke, Edinburgh, 1930) p. 70, Skinner notes that the word for "flesh" here is synonymous for "clan" or "family group"--both in the Hebrew and Arabic. This word for "flesh", in fact, is the same word used here in Leviticus 25:49

An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or if they prosper, they may redeem themselves.

Clearly, there is no restriction of one man becoming an exclusive single flesh with a woman.

Other Arguments

There are many other arguments that can be heard and answered at BiblicalPolygamy.com

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I think that to say that "polygamy is a sin if (and only if) it breaks the law" is not accurate. There are many times when even monogamous marriage is a sin. Perhaps I'm being too literal, though... –  Flimzy Oct 24 '11 at 7:34
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@Flimzy I think you have an excellent point that shouldn't be played down! It's possible for marriage itself to be a sin! Just like it was possible for climbing into a boat to be a sin for Jonah. I think those are special cases though that should be dealt with separately. (For example: if your wife vehemently refuses to allow a second marriage, it might be a sin to go against her wishes. But dishonoring her is the sin there, not the second marriage.) –  Richard Oct 24 '11 at 11:40
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Who states the ten virgins from Matthew 25 were brides? It always was common that the bride was not the only virgin on the wedding; bride's friends usually play some role in the ceremony. And Bible (apart of Mormon "correct translation" maybe) doesn't explicitely say anything about bride(s). –  Pavel Nov 22 '12 at 14:00
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Excellent! Absolutely one of the best posts on the site. I have a little organization criticism. You should put the "Two become one flesh" section before the "God only created one Eve for Adam" section. First point on that: they are highly related items and you have them separated by an unrelated section. Second point on that: it is common for the phrase 'one flesh' to hold images of lasting, monogamous marriage. I immediately thought of the 'one flesh' verses when starting the "God only made one Eve" section. –  fredsbend the Grinch Sep 30 '13 at 0:52

Titus 1:6 (among other passages) states that one of the requirements for an elder in the church was that he was the husband of one wife.

From Titus 1:6:

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe[a] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

(emphasis mine) - notice it says wife, not wives.

Read up for more info: http://www.gotquestions.org/polygamy.html

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what about non-elders ? –  Pacerier Aug 23 '11 at 22:56
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@Pacerier elders are to be an example for other Christian men to follow. Thus, it is my belief that Christians should strive to meet the requirements for an elder. –  studiohack Aug 23 '11 at 22:58
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@Studiohack: Seems like a very weak argument to me: If God, through Paul, had intended to set a requirement for all believers, then he would have expressed the requirement as pertaining to all believers. –  Lawrence Dol Aug 23 '11 at 23:25
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My understanding of the historical background of this passage is that it is implicitly addressing the case of men who were polygamous prior to conversion. In the absence of a divorce (which is disallowed), the man would be ineligible for eldership. So rather than "elders may not have multiple wives, but Joe Christian can marry as many girls as he wants" this is more like "nobody should have multiple wives, but if someone does, he may not be an elder" –  Ray Aug 23 '11 at 23:38

I think the answer to this question first starts in Genesis 1. When God created man, he created one man and one woman, in his image. One man and one woman who, for all intents and purposes, could be seen as the template for mankind, and a theme of specific terms used to refer to men and women in righteous marriage throughout the bible:

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

God created one man and one woman, and from those two they should be fruitful and multiply. More clarity can be found later in Genesis 2:

18 Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit fort him." 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

God sees that man is alone and needs companionship. He ultimately crafts woman...a single woman, from man himself. He clearly states in verse 24 that a man shall eventually leave his mother and father to join his wife, his single wife, not plural wives...and that the two of them shall become one. I think that statement is rather profound, and one of the first things the bible says: That one man shall join with his one wife and become, in Gods' eyes, one flesh. Very specific.

The old testament is filled with the story of how God raised up man, destroyed man, and formed the nation of Isreal from the survivors of the flood. Much of mankind during the Exodus and Deuteronomy was again sinful, living pagan ways. God allowed polygyny during that time (after all, he did give mankind free will), however there is no mention of his blessing it. On the contrary, it seems that all of the men throughout the old testament who did have multiple wives also had a multitude of problems. Some of the cases of polygyny were due to the treachery of other men, fathers, imposing marriage to multiple women upon individual men. Marriages born out of sin, not Godlieness. The ten commandments, intriguingly enough in the old testament, are also clear about the plurality of righteous marriage (Exodus 20:17):

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."

A man shall not covet his neighbors "wife", single wife. Again a demonstration of God's intent for righteous marriage. He created us to be one man and one woman as one flesh in marriage. This law is codified more clearly in the new testament 1 Corinthians 7:1-5:

1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

For greater emphasis, verse 2: But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. It seems pretty clear from this passage that marriage is still to be between one man and one woman, not simply as a measure to populate the earth, but also as a measure to protect both from sexual immorality. Additionally, later on at verse 10:

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Again the plurality of marriage is very clear, and Gods' intent is for one man to marry one woman, for eternity. The whole passage of 1st Corinthians chapter 7 is pretty enlightening overall.

While I do not know of any specific passages that outright declare one man having multiple wives as sexual immorality, there are numerous passages like in 1st Corinthians that are pretty clear about men and women of salvation having a one man, one woman marriage, and that one of the intents of such a marriage is to stave off sexual immorality.

I think there are also some self-evident truths about polygyny/polygamy, the nature of man and women in regards to their feelings. Jealousy is something that many people experience, even in proper relationships, but particularly in unconventional relationships such as polygamy. There is also the evidence of one man, one woman homes and the stability and cultural viability of the children brought up in such homes, vs. those brought up in unstable or broken homes. While I do not have specific bible verses to quote in that regard (seems to be an area I've been rather lax studying), there are passages that describe children in relation to their mother and father (singular). Taken in context with Corinthians, given one man has his own wife and one wife has her own husband, it stands to reason that each child of a mother and father is the child of a righteously married Christian couple...one man and one woman.


In response to Richards comment:

I don't see how any of those verses above allow for Polygyny, given the lack of plurality in the term used, which is consistently "wife", not wives. Specifically in the case of Corinthians 7, it is explicitly clear about the relationship of a man with his wife and a woman with her husband...each must have their own. In the case of polygyny or any other form of complex marriage, it is impossible for any woman to have her own husband, as her husband is shared amongst every woman the may may be married to. I don't see any loophole or alternative interpretation of the words of 1 Cor 7:2.

Regarding how Jesus loves the church, I believe you are inferring a meaning that is not present nor specified in the bible. The way Jesus loves the church is unconditionally and eternally, and that is the kind of love God expects a husband and wife to have with each other as a single flesh. The fact that God loves many people is consequential, and inferring from that, that God therefor allows or expects us to be polygynysts is not backed up by any other verses of the bible. For further clarity of that, compare proper marriages with polygynyst marriages in the bible. The difference between a righteous marriage and a complex marriage is clear, and in the old testament books where polygyny is present, those marriages, particularly the men, encountered many troubles and strifes.

As for who God is, yes, God is the same God he was and will always be. Its not God that changed, its his law. The laws of the old testament are different from the law of the new testament. God allowed, but did not bless, polygyny in the old testament; he also required that each person make a literal sacrifice to atone for their sins. Thanks to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, our sins are atoned for now simply for the asking, and the nature of marriage has been explicitly specified. The nature of law changed, the nature of God is the same.

The bible must be taken in FULL CONTEXT, not as bits an pieces. If God did explicitly allow, and more importantly bless, the marriage of one man to multiple women, that would be clearly backed up by the bible overall. It would be present and clearly stated with terms that mean exactly that, not some ephemeral idea that because it occurred then its just and right. The new testament books would have directly referenced polygyny as being a normal and righteous form of marriage, and the word "wives" would be used rather than "wife". The bible is not unclear or unspecified in its context.

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+1 for the reference to culture. I believe this is the source and the true answer. For the rest: 1) God allowed polygamy. But, God is the same God today as he was back then. Both now and forever. So does he not allow it now? 2) The "one man one woman" argument is a weak argument. Example: A husband is to love his wife as Jesus loves the church. The church is a group of people. Ergo a husband can love many wives. 3) Coveting your neighbor's wife is wrong. Polygyny though? I don't see the connection. 4) 1 Cor 7:2 does not exclude polygyny. –  Richard Aug 24 '11 at 14:36

Yes, the Law seems to allow polygamy, or at least be fine with it. It also seems to allow divorce, and yet Jesus was clear on the subject in this passage (italic emphasis mine):

Matthew 19:3-9 (KJV)
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

The Old Testament was clear when it stated that a man would "leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they would be one flesh". Jesus answered on this topic of divorce that the Law was given because of the hardness of the hearts of men, and I believe the same goes for having several wives. It is not that God desired or accepted it, but it was allowed because of the hardness of men's hearts.

In both cases of polygyny and divorce, you can refer to God stating that man and his wife will be one. In the case of polygyny, who is one with whom? Are the various wives of a single man one with one another because they are one with him? Clearly, polygyny is against the will of God of uniting a man and woman in such a special way that they become one.

Jesus wasn't specifically asked about polygamy, but I believe His point about divorce being adultery would apply just the same to polygamy.

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If two people can become one through marriage, why not three? –  Brendan Long Sep 11 '12 at 1:06

Polygamy is not currently an acceptable thing to do, previously was an acceptable thing to do, and will again (at least temporarily) be an acceptable thing to do.

Polygamy is useful for multiplying populations... especially when the women outnumber the men dramatically, as frequently happened in wars when all the young and middle aged men would go to war on a yearly basis, and get slaughtered.

Polygamy helped "replenish" the population, and also provided for and sheltered multiple women when there otherwise wouldn't have been enough men to do the job.

In modern times, we are overpopulated, and our male to female ratio is not drasticly overbalanced one way or another, so it'd be selfish for one male to take multiple females or one female to take multiple males potentially depriving others of spouses.

So why do I say it "will again" be acceptable? Well, if you hold with the second return of Christ, regardless of whether you are post-trib or pre-trib, the saints will be raptured sometime during the end times, the vast majority of the earth killed, and a few survivors will repopulate the earth during our reign with Christ (known as the Millennial Kingdom). Because of the nature of warfare and our cultures, the ones doing most of the fighting (especially when Israel is backed up against the wall, and 2/3rds of Israel is killed or captured) is the men - the men will also do most the dying (Yay?).

The Antichrist is a equal-opportunity executor of christians, but for the resistors fighting against the Antichrist (especially around Jerusalem), men typically don't send their wives and daughters into battle - though I'm sure there will be some, and the women will definitely be helping in many other ways (like medical needs).

I'm talking specifically about non-saved gentiles and Jews who resist the Antichrist but who haven't accepted salvation. These are those that are will later be separated into sheeps and goats when all the saints have already been raptured and all the mark-of-the-beast takers have been killed in the final battle. The 'sheep' then accept salvation, in their non-raptured, non-glorified bodies, and are the ones who repopulate the earth. Of these ones, in this time period, the verse specifically addressing post-Second-Coming polygamy comes into play:

(Emphasis mine, in the following verse quotes) Isaiah 3:25 - "Your men shall fall by the sword, And your mighty in the war." (Addressed explicitly to the females, particularily Jewish - verses 16-23 make the gender clear) The majority of the males are dead...

Isaiah 4:1 - "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; Only let us be called by your name, To take away our reproach.”" And the females are saying to those left, we'll provide our own needs, we won't be a burden to you, please "take away our reproach" and "let us be called by your name".

"Let us be called by your name" -> Marriage. Taking the family name of the male. "take away our reproach" -> The reoccurring reproach of women in the Bible is not being unmarried, but being childless.

Most humans are dead: Isaiah 13:12 - "I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir."

Isaiah 17:4-6 "“In that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob will wane, And the fatness of his flesh grow lean. 5 It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, And reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain In the Valley of Rephaim. 6 Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, Like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, Four or five in its most fruitful branches,” Says the Lord God of Israel."

Except those in glorified bodies (all the saints throughtout history - possibly several billion) who aren't given in marriage (Matt 22:30), all humans will be scarcer than gold. Of the humans left, there are even fewer males than females.

To repopulate the earth, and also because of the gender imbalance, polygamy will be practiced and permitted again - probably for only a few generations, things will balance out quickly, but the exact duration is speculation on my part.

Polygamy isn't sin in itself (Unless it's in violation of governmental laws) - unfaithfulness is sin, covetousness of another man's wife is sin, lust is sin, and greedily taking more spouses than is fair would be sin. But in a world in need of re-population, where the males are few in number relative to the females, multiple women marrying one man is the intelligent and acceptable thing to do. So while it isn't sin in itself, the actions leading to it in the modern day culture is sin, but in past culture was not.

They just have to be careful that they honor and provide for (emotionally as well as sexually as well as shelter/food-wise) all their wives, which the patriarch Jacob did not (Genesis 29:30-31). Leah was provided for sexually (she was bearing the children during that time) and food and shelter-wise, but not emotionally, calling the lack of emotional provision her "affliction" (verse 32) of which the Lord agreed (verse 31).

(I'm not at all suggesting that currently saved Christians will get multiple wives! I'm also not suggesting that men are better than women, and so one man somehow 'deserves' multiple females, either as some twisted form of 'reward' or otherwise. Infact, once we die, we will not longer be married at all (Matthew 22:30). I'm not supporting polygamy as something desirable - just something that has and will be useful at certain times in history until something perfect comes to replace it)

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I'm torn between wanting to vote this up and not. While this answer is very well supported, Scripturally, it's really a "truthy" answer. meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/692/… and meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1379/… My reason for wanting to upvote is that it's well-reasoned (even though I don't agree with it.) Can you provide a denomination or group that teaches this, or is it purely a personal interpretation? –  David Stratton Jan 21 '13 at 5:23
    
I've heard it (the Isaiah 4:1 interpretation) taught once (not from a pulpit, just in personal conversations with a bible scholar), but I don't believe it's a common belief held by any denomination. The post-rapture and post-armageddon scarcity of humans is well-founded scripturally, and taught by some churches - especially post-trib ones (IHOP-KC for example). Repopulating the earth afterward (by non-raptured saints) is also well-founded scripturally and well-accepted in some post-trib denominations. You are right that the Isaiah 4:1 is not well-accepted, as far as I know. –  Jamin Grey Jan 21 '13 at 16:31
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I'm not torn at all. This is a well-supported answer! –  Affable Geek Jun 12 '13 at 21:05

Catholic Perspective

Polygamy is not allowed throughout the whole Bible. It was not allowed in the beginning, in the OT it was not yet explicitly rejected, and in his Gospel, Jesus restored the Creator's original plan in the beginning.

CCC 1610 [...] In the Old Testament the polygamy of patriarchs and kings is not yet explicitly rejected. Nevertheless, the law given to Moses aims at protecting the wife from arbitrary domination by the husband, even though according to the Lord's words it still carries traces of man's "hardness of heart" which was the reason Moses permitted men to divorce their wives.

The Catholic Church teaches the unity and indissolubility of marriage1, i.e., one man, one woman, for life.

1. cf. CCC 1644 & 1645

Basing her teaching on the words of the LORD, the Church teaches Christ not only restored marriage to the dignity and plan of the Creator had for it from the beginning, he even went further and raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament [cf. CCC 1660].

Therefore in the beginning one man, one woman, and then the Bible states exactly when one man, a descendant of Cain, married more than one wife, and even records the names of the wives

Gen 4:19 (RSVCE) 19 And Lamech took two wives; the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

And then in the Gospels (e.g. Mark passage linked above), Jesus restores marriage to the Creator's original plan and he gives the reason for man's departure from that plan

For [men's] hardness of heart

This is the reason for polygamy - to me less serious than divorce - in the Old Testament not being explicitly rejected.

From CCC 1607, we understand the reason and source of all the disorders associated with marriage

1607 According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations;96 their mutual attraction, the Creator's own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust;97 and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.98

96. Cf. Gen 3:12.
97. Cf. Gen 2:22; 3:16b.
98. Cf. Gen 1:28; 3:16-19.

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