Polygamy and the Scriptures.

A dear brother reached me recently with the following question:

If a man was married to two or more wives BEFORE he met Christ, (now in Christ), will the women remain his wives or does he have to let them go?


I’ll admit that this appears to be quite a dicey situation, and numerous Bible scholars and commentators have taken different positions. This article would attempt to present ours, in a manner consistent with proper Scriptural exegesis.

A simple principle by the Apostle Paul gives us an answer here. This principle is found in 1 Corinthians 7.


1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (NKJV)

17 But as God has distributed to each one, AS the Lord has called each one, SO LET HIM WALK. And so I ordain in all the churches. 18 Was anyone called WHILE circumcised? Let him NOT BECOME UNCIRCUMCISED. Was anyone CALLED WHILE uncircumcised? Let him NOT BE CIRCUMCISED. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 20 Let each one remain IN THE same CALLING in which he was called. 21 Were you called WHILE A SLAVE? DO NOT BE CONCERNED about it; but IF you can be made free, rather use it. 22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, let each one REMAIN with God IN THAT STATE IN WHICH HE WAS CALLED.


The Apostle Paul is simply saying that a believer need not change his SOCIAL STATUS after salvation.

To be “circumcised” implies having a Jewish nationality. While to be “uncircumcised” implies having a non-Jewish nationality (vv. 18-19).

So being saved doesn’t necessitate switching from one nationality to another (vs. 20 tells us).

He also speaks of being a slave (vs. 21). That refers to a socio-economic WORKING status. A person need not change his line of work because he is saved. Paul remained a tent maker (see Acts 18:1-4).

Vs. 24 culminates his point, “Brethren, let each one REMAIN with God IN THAT STATE IN WHICH HE WAS CALLED.

Then the Apostle applies this principle to marriage also, “Are you bound to a wife? DO NOT SEEK TO BE LOOSED. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” (Vs. 27)

He says a wife here (singular) because his audience (Corinthians, non-Jews) were predominantly monogamous. A Roman citizen, by law, could have only one spouse at a time. The practice of monogamy distinguished the Greeks and Romans from other ancient civilizations, in which elite males typically had multiple wives (the Jews for example).

We have reason to believe Moses married TWICE (see Exo 2:21, Num 12:1).

Solomon too had several wives (see 1 Kings 11:3), just like his father David before him (see 2 Sam 3:2-5).

So if Paul were writing to a Jewish nation here, it is our belief that he would say, “Are you bound to your WIVES? Do not seek to be loosed…” (as the Jewish custom allowed for this).

Of course, this is not a pass for polygamy, as the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that monogamy is ideal:


Genesis 2:24 (NKJV)

24 Therefore A MAN (singular) shall leave his father and mother and be joined to HIS WIFE (singular), and they shall become one flesh.


But sometimes, a man, oblivious of this fact, might marry SEVERAL women BEFORE he encounters the Christian faith, as is the case here.

For such persons, Paul’s admonition is that they REMAIN as they were when they were called by God in salvation. (1 Corinthians 7:24).

The man need not let his wives go, as he married them in IGNORANCE of God’s Word. He however is not permitted to CONTINUE in his ignorance since Light has now come. i.e. keep marrying more wives.

This means that God would treat ANY marriage BEFORE salvation as an holy union still, irrespective of the species of that marriage (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-16).

Any marital institution entered into BEFORE the New Birth would yet be regarded as holy before God, the polygamous institution inclusive.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.




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