After conquering Jerusalem, David took more wives and concubines. Why did he do this? Does this mean it is ok to practice polygamy? How do we explain such passages in the Bible?
Why did he do this? Well, he is a man. Why does any man want more power, control and many women on his arm? That’s basic in sin 101. Lust of the flesh. We won’t review his son Solomon in this post but Solomon had over 700 wives and concubines. I believe the polygamy issue was born all out of sin and never was condoned by God. I also know that most, if not all the great men of the Bible were destroyed by that very issue. We can name them from David and Solomon to Samson and others. The lust for women and power destroyed them. When it comes to women we (men) are weak minded and easily led.
We are not sure the exact number of wives and concubines David had in Jerusalem and elsewhere. The Bible names the sons born to him because of his actions. “David took more wives and concubines in Jerusalem”, 2 Samuel 5:13-15. From what I see regarding his time in Jerusalem David had 8 wives and at least 10 concubines. Again, I believe David was disobedient to the Lord. Like many men he became obsessed with power and wealth and it caused him to stray from his spiritual life. When we do this we end up in falling into apostasy.
God revealed His will for monogamy right in the beginning. God created one woman for one man. We read in Genesis 1:27; 2:21-25 that this is true. In Deuteronomy 17:17 it says, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” This verse was referenced in relation to David’s son King Solomon but applies to all when we look at God’s word. Please take note too that David realized his sin and was riddled with guilt and shame. He repented for that sin of polygamy.
As is the case with most instances of sin his actions followed him and caused much pain in his life. As we read on we find that David’s desire for those women led to much trouble down the road. We saw one half-sibling defiling another half-sibling, one sibling murdering another and we see the breakup of the Davidic Kingdom. Anywhere we see this polygamy situation in the Bible it always led to big trouble down the road. See for yourself and read about Solomon, Jacob and others.
God didn’t sanction or condone polygamy. God forbade it. He also punished those who did it. Just because instances of plural wives were seen in the Old Testament a lot of people assume it is ok. Assumptions are not always a good policy. I admit that it is true that polygamy became a worldly custom during those times and it was common for kings and men of wealth to take on many wives. We all know that one of the symbols of royalty and power was the size of the king’s harem.
I have not seen any evidence in the Bible anywhere that would allow me to believe God approved, let alone make lawful, more than one wife for any man. The actual truth is that He forbade it and He forbade it to the Kings of Israel and he forbade it for is. It is written!
We all reap what we sow; therefore, these lessons should be heeded by any man. Even though God forgives our sins when we repent there still is a cost to pay.
After David committed the sin of taking Bathsheba and then having her husband murdered, he repented. David had a real heartfelt and wrenching repentance and there was never any further evidence of him committing that sin again. That is an important fact.
Let us look at 2 Samuel 12: 9-12, “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. (See here, David despised God. He despised the person of God! He despised God by taking her as his wife and thus the sword was never to depart from his house. What was his house like at that time? It was all of those plural wives along with his children. God was doling out some major punishment here for some major sin committed by David. Take notice!) Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. (God has just announced that the sword will now come down on his house and on his family. God said it would be done in the sight of this sun. In other words it will be done in daylight for all to see.) For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. (God is saying to David, “you did this thing secretly but I will do this before all of Israel in broad daylight”) And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. (You can see the repentance here. You can read of David’s prayer to God in the 51st Psalm which was a prayer of a true broken and contrite heart. You can see that it was true repentance and that David turned away from polygamy at that point. You will also see in the next verse the cost of that sin to David that was to be sadly borne out.) Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.”
God dished out a tremendous punishment to David. He took away all of his wives leaving only Bathsheba and we see later that when David returned to Jerusalem all the concubines were put into widowhood until they died. No more polygamy for him and no more concubines. He had truly repented. David died with his heart fully to God. He was a “man after God’s own heart,” because his heart was in the right place. His heart was in the love of Christ.
So, yes there was polygamy in Israel and yes, polygamy was a sin. God never sanctioned it and he never condoned it. He condemned it! And “they reaped what they sowed!” Remember, God made one wife for Adam he did not give him a harem. God started out the family as he meant it to be. He created a family of one man and one wife. That is what I would say to a new believer that has questions about polygamy. If we look to the New Testament we see that one of the qualifications to be a Minister in God’s Church is that he have only one wife. 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach”. Let’s also look at 1 Timothy 3:12, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” So we see you cannot even be a deacon if you have more than one wife. So once and for all, Polygamy is and always was a sin!
I think I will conclude by mentioning God’s view of women. Frank Viola recently published a great article about this in one the Christian magazines. Back in ancient Israel the Jews had a very dim view of women. Jewish women were not allowed to receive an education and were expected to raise the kids and keep the house. The women could not even worship God. The women had to stay in the “women’s court” which was below the men’s court and nearer to the gentiles. The men were given the worshipping privileges. Basically women were regarded as inferior to men and treated as property like cattle and slaves were treated. The daily prayer of thanksgiving each Jewish man prayed showed how poorly the Jews looked on women. This is how the prayer is done, “Praise be to God. He has not created me a Gentile. Praise be to God. He has not created me a woman. Praise be to God. He has not created me an ignorant man.” So this was the view of women and it was not much different in other cultures. Ever since the fall of humanity women have been treated as inferior.
But then Jesus came!
Then we can see God’s view of women. All throughout the New Testament we see God’s viewing of women and how beautiful they are n His eyes. The most important thing is that He chose a woman to depict that which He came to earth for, “His very bride”. And He certainly is not ashamed of that!
As Frank Viola said, “So sisters, take your high place… this is God’s view of you. You are fellow heirs in the Kingdom of God. You are fellow priests in the church of god. You are honored. You are cherished. You are valuable. You are needed.”
Now, I want you to remember that Christ will never have but the ONE WIFE! And if you are to marry, you are to be the wife of one husband. Amen!
 Frank Viola in an article published in Christianity magazine. Unknown date (Read online on Crossroads website newsletter in March of 2012)