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King David Had More Than One Wife: A Prime Example of Polygamy in the Bible


Polygamy in the Bible, at least in the Old Testament, is undeniable and king David is one of the men of God who had more than one wife (I Samuel 25:40-43, 2 Samuel 5:13). The biblical passage of Deuteronomy 17:14-17 speaks of the duties and prohibitions concerning the men who were to rule as king over Israel. Verse 17 says, "Neither shall he (the king) multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away...." Some argue that since this passage in Deuteronomy also forbids the king from multiplying horses, silver and gold, that it can't be taken literally.

They argue that a king can't be expected to govern a nation, which needs a military if he's restricted to one horse, and that he can't be expected to run a nation with insufficient money (silver and gold). What needs to be remembered is that the scripture said that he was not to multiply horses, gold and silver, and wives to HIMSELF. "To himself" is a reminder and warning not to heap riches, represented by the gold and silver, to HIMSELF which has nothing to do with having sufficient money to manage the nation of Israel for the well being of the people. Likewise, he doesn't need to bully the people, but he needs multiple horses for the military to prevent other nations from bullying the people. "To himself" is a reminder that he doesn't need multiple wives to satisfy lust. One wife should take care of that.

But Didn't God Give King David More Than One Wife?

We know that king David committed adultery and murder (II Samuel 11:2-27) and that God sent Nathan to him to confront him concerning those sins. During Nathan's speech to the king, we learn that God said to David, "...I gave thee thy master's house and thy master's wives into thy bosom and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been to little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things" (II Samuel 12:8).

Isn't scripture telling us that the Lord himself gave king David more than one wife? One thing of which man should be extremely careful not to do is take away or add to God's word (Deuteronomy 4:2). In the days of David, an incoming king inherited the property of the former king upon taking the throne. However bad it might sound, Saul's wives were property of the kingdom--property that king David inherited. The scripture does not say that God gave Saul's wives to David and that this made them David's wives. To teach such is to add to God's word. Women in those days were sometimes as good as money. They could be given away for wife to make peace in times of war, to settle debt, and to provide servants.

When God gave Eve to Adam, scripture makes it plain that the Lord was giving Eve as a wife, not simply as property. Adam said, "...This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:23-24).

We know that Adam's words were God inspired because, being the first man created, he didn't have a father or mother to leave. Also, God acknowledged that Eve was indeed Adam's wife (Genesis 3:17). This truth continues to be repeated further on in Genesis. Where does scripture say that when God gave Saul's wives to David that they became David's wives? Nowhere. It might be argued that God was explicit in the case of Adam and Eve because that was the first appearance of woman for Adam and the institution of marriage. It might be argued that such "explanations" were not necessary in the case of king David, but this argument fails in light of scripture.

During Old Testament times, if brothers lived together and one died, having no children, his brother was to have children by his widow. Although this was ordained by God, the dead brother's wife did not automatically become the wife of the living brother. Scripture says that her brother-in-law had to MARRY her (Deuteronomy 25:5). Despite the knowledge of the institution of marriage by this time, and the known fact that the widow was given to the brother-in-law specifically to be wife, there still had to be a marriage in order for her to be wife in God's eyes. What scripture says that king David married any of Saul's wives? What scripture says that David took for wife any of the wives of Saul? Not one.

The bottom line is that scripture records God as having said that he gave Saul's wives to David, period. There is no record of him saying that he gave those women to king David to be HIS WIVES. Yes, David had more than one wife and he is a prime example of polygamy in the Bible. To say that he took multiple wives for himself is correct; however, to say that the Lord gave him multiple wives is to add to the scriptures.

More Than One Wife, Yet a Man After God's Heart

Remember that we learned that a king of Israel was not to multiply wives to himself (Deuteronomy 17:17). Nevertheless, king David did have more than one wife. He's a popular example of polygamy in the Bible, yet he was a man after God's heart (Acts 13:22). The scripture of I Kings 15:5 says, "...David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." This, at first glance, certainly sounds like king David committed only one sin--at least during his reign over Israel. Wouldn't this mean that his having more than one wife was okay? If this is the case, how could David get away with being one of the best examples of polygamy in the Bible even while he was king of Israel and still be a man after God's heart? Did the scripture of Deuteronomy 17:17, which speaks against the king of Israel multiplying wives to himself, not apply to king David?

First, the fact that I Kings 15:5 says that David did what was right in God's eyes except for the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba does not mean that David did not commit other sins. Are we to forget that David sinned when he numbered Israel? We read, "And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned GREATLY in that I have done, and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have done very foolishly" (II Samuel 24:10). There was a great price to be paid for David's sin in numbering the people. Seventy thousand men died from a pestilence sent by God (II Samuel 24:15). Obviously this sin of David was no small matter, yet it is not mentioned in I Kings 15:5. Only the sin he committed in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba is mentioned when speaking of David in retrospect.

Therefore, the fact that it is not mentioned that David had more than one wife in disobedience to Deuteronomy 17:17 does not mean that sin was not committed. The matter of Uriah is the only sin mentioned because it was so horrible that it brought the sword against the house of king David. The reputation of king David was stained by it to the point that it could never fully be restored though he received forgiveness from God. It was because of this particular sin that God would not accept David as the builder of his temple.

Still a Man After God's Heart

He had more than one wife and he's an excellent example of polygamy in the Bible. Nevertheless, king David was a man after God's heart because of the commandments that he did keep (I Kings 14:8, I Kings 15:5) and because of his fear and humility before God when confronted with his sins. He didn't attempt to justify his actions or make any excuse. He truly repented from the heart and fully accepted God's chastisement, even when it was most severe such as the death of his first child with Bathsheba, and the sword in his house for the rest of his life.

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I think it should also be stated, BECAUSE so many try to use the bible an excuse, that those in the bible who commited polygamy, repented of it. David for example, put away all his wives, and was no longer a polygamist during the later parts of his life. If we read the psalms, we can see where davids heart was on the issue-monogamy, which is obvious in his Psalms, and in the wisdom he passed on to his son on the issue-Proverbs 5:18. Men of God, who truly walk after Yeshua(Jesus), will not only have the desire to
walk in purity, but in healthy relationships, especially with their wife(singular). David eventually became a man, and learned from his mistakes and had the
heart for monogamy. He had a heart that sought to do what was right. To say that he had a heart for polygamy and didn't repent of it, is like saying that a believer in Messiah can have a heart for murder, and God will not punish them for it.
Matthew 5:28-it all starts in the heart."
by: brit89
Posted on 2011-10-14 22:12:03

To: Brit89:

You write, "To say that he (David) had a heart for polygamy and didn't repent of it, is like saying that a believer in Messiah can have a heart for murder, and God will not punish them for it." Our question to you: Where did we say that David had a heart for polygamy? We simply said that he had more than one wife, which is accurate. Where did we say that David did not repent? The very last paragraph of this article talks about his repentance. Also, it appears that you attempt to defend David who was NEVER attacked in the first place. To make such a statement makes it appear as though you did not even read the entire article before commenting. Please read before commenting.
by: Heavenly Manna
Posted on 2011-10-16 20:17:19

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