I am glad you spoke of men being “allowed” to marry many wives, for it surely was not God’s “direct will.” We know God instituted marriage and it was to between ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN. Mark 10:6-8 declares, “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer TWO, but ONE flesh” (NKJV). It wasn’t long before we read of man rebelling against God’s design, for Genesis 4:19 reads, “And Lamech took unto him two wives.” From that point on we read of many cases of polygamy.

While we don’t read of any specific reason why God allowed men to have multiple wives, we do know that “God allowed men to REAP THE CONSEQUENCES of polygamy.” Here is a list of some examples:

*Abraham had two wives (Sarah and Hagar), resulting in constant JEALOUSY and HATRED between them and their children (Genesis chapters 16 & 21, along with Galatians 4:22-31).

*Jacob had two wives and two concubines, resulting in many family problems including ENVY and ATTEMPTED MURDER (Genesis chapters 29-37).

*Gideon had many wives and sons by those wives, resulting in CIVIL WAR (Judges 9).

*David had many wives, resulting in INCEST/RAPE and REBELLION (2nd Samuel 5:13; chapters 13 &14).

Perhaps the worst case on record is that of Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300 concubines, resulting in his heart being turned from the Lord to IDOLATRY. God had actually commanded kings not to have multiple wives or their hearts could be turned away from the Lord. Deuteronomy 17:17, “Neither shall he (the “king”) multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.” These cases all serve to remind us of the truth of Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. He who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” We can be sure in each example listed above that those who chose to have “multiple wives” were indeed “sowing to his flesh” and as a result they “reaped corruption.” So, even though God “allowed men to have multiple wives,” He did “NOT allow them to escape the bitter consequences” of their actions.

There are no examples of polygamy in New Testament times. It seems clear that with the coming of Christ God “raised the bar” when it came to His servants and marriage. An example of this is seen in the qualifications of an elder (an overseer in a local church) and a deacon (a servant in a local church), for in both cases they were to be “the husband of ONE WIFE” (1st Timothy 3:2, 12). In contrast David and Solomon were “allowed” to be the “Kings of Israel” even though they had many wives. So your question is indeed a valid one, “Why were men allowed to marry many wives in the Old Testament, but it was not allowed in the New Testament?” Again, we aren’t told specifically why this change occurred, but one thing comes to mind. God gave the apostle Paul a special revelation about the “church of God” as the “bride of Christ.” In Ephesians 5:22-31 (which I would encourage you to read) Paul brings out the marvelous truth that a “husband and his wife” is a beautiful picture of “Christ and His church.” And because of this, they are to love one another, which would preclude the thought of polygamy. (289.7) (DO)