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The Old Testament records many instances of men having concubines or many wives. Why did having concubines not fall under the sin of adultery?

2 Samuel 5:13 - "After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him."

Genesis 25:6 - "But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east." (Abraham)

I suppose the issue here must've been consent between all parties.

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The definition of adultery was a married man having relations with a married woman (and not being married together) or a married woman having relations with an unmarried man. Married men having relations with other women wasn't clearly defined until much later. Mostly it was about men lusting after another man's wife. –  The Freemason Dec 10 '14 at 15:32

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Having multiple wives was permitted (though not exactly endorsed) in the Law of Moses.

Adultery is having (or desiring) an intimate relationship with someone who's already married (to someone else). As it was forbidden in the Mosaic law, it was referring to a man and someone else's wife. It was not really speaking of a married man and another woman. Even then, though, the only occasion in which such a relationship is allowed is within marriage. So, in order for a man to have that kind of relationship with a woman, she would have to be a wife of some kind.

Concubines were essentially wives of lower status. They were still bound to the one man.

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The question was not about why polygamy was permitted, so I didn't attempt to answer it. –  mojo Apr 28 '14 at 3:17
that's covered elsewhere on this site quite thoroughly, so that's totally legit. –  wax eagle Apr 28 '14 at 13:03
@mojo, very nice answer, I have taught for 40yrs and have never seen this line of thought. You have made me pause. Now is this your idea on the interpretation or do you have some points of reference as I would like to study on it. –  rob Apr 30 '14 at 15:28
Where in the Bible under the Law of Moses does it state having multiple wives is permitted? –  Beestocks Dec 10 '14 at 17:13
@Beestocks De 21:15, for example. It's never stated as an official commandment or allowance, but it is regulated, as if it as least permitted. –  mojo Dec 10 '14 at 21:54

Having multiple wives was permitted in the Bible for the same reason disobeying God is. God honors man's free will.

Had God intended that man should have multiple wives, why would he only create one for Adam. Most assuredly since God wanted man to multiply and fill the Land having multiple wives would enhance that program exponentially.

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:21 and 22 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Those Scriptures are not there to tell us what God allows, but to teach us the progression of man's defiance of the rule of God, and the need for extraordinary measure to bring mankind back into God's grace.

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Because of humans sinful nature god in his infinite wisdom made provisions to address certain social and moral issues by allowing polygamy to exist

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Could we get you to elaborate further. Not much of an answer as it is now. –  Neil Meyer Dec 10 '14 at 15:18
Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. The community here prefers longer answers. Please see Guidelines for writing effective answers and What is a well-sourced, dispassionate answer? After that, please edit this post to make it better. I hope to see you post again soon. –  fredsbend Dec 10 '14 at 15:28
You should also see these meta posts about this site to help you learn how we do it here: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) and How we are different than other sites? Please also take the tour and see the help center. Please also keep in mind that I and other users are willing to help you, so ask us anything if you need help. –  fredsbend Dec 10 '14 at 15:29

The definition of sin is found in 1 John 3:4, which is transgression against the Law. If it isn't explicitly stated such as, "man shall not lie with man as with a woman, it is abomination", then to claim something as sin when it isn't is a sin on you. For those claiming polygamy is a sin or disobedience, you are actually in sin based on Deuteronomy 4:2;12:32 since there are explicit instructions governing polygamy as shown in Exodus 21:10-11 and Deuteronomy 21:15-17. If you are reading this and you are doing the claiming, you are placing yourself at risk for judgment.

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The premise of the question is that concubinism is not a sin already. The actual question is Why considering adultery is sin? You barely answered that in the first sentence. If you expand on the part that matters this would be a much better answer. –  fredsbend Jun 13 at 1:47

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