Understanding Difficult Texts

Understanding Difficult Texts

Article Index
Understanding Difficult Texts
Abraham marries Keturah
Jacobs’s wives
Moses’ wives
Moses’ wives
Gideon’s wives
Elkanah’s wives
David’s wives
Solomon’s wives
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Understanding Difficult Texts

There are a few texts that we need to consider before we close, to root out all doubts concerning this “puzzling” topic. We need to have a closer look on certain towering personalities in the Bible who had plural wives.

You will notice that they pierced their hearts and their married lives, and God did not lead them into it.

Abraham’s wives:

The father of the Jewish race had a beautiful God-given wife, Sarai, or Sarah as she was later called. From the beginning Abraham had a little problem regarding his wife. When he went to Egypt during the time of the famine he lied to the Egyptians. This is what he told his wife:

Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. (Genesis 12:13)

For a moment he forgot by whose power he was preserved. It was God who led him thus far; but he lost focus and decided to use his “wisdom” to save himself and his wife. In the process they landed in a mess!

He loved his wife dearly—and how they would have loved to have a child of their own! Abraham was one of the richest men alive. But what would that matter to him if he went childless. The God of heaven, actually, promises a child, and a great posterity:He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6)

Abraham waits for ten years, but nothing happens. He is now 85 years and his wife is 75. Probably God forgot His promise? Or God tried his best but Sarah’s womb was beyond function? They both reason out things day-after-day. Finally they “realized” that God needed some “help”. They would have recollected and tried to analyze the exact words of God to Abraham. And they thought they solved the puzzle. God said Abraham would have a child. But by whom he would have it was not mentioned! There they go!

Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.
(Genesis 16:1, 2)

Polygamy was anyway a common practice of that time, they reasoned out; so the society will have no problem in this union. But were they doing the will of God? Abraham, instead of listening to God:

Hearkened to the voice of Sarai. (Genesis 16:2)

Isn’t that the same way in which Adam, the first man, fell? Listening to the voice of his wife, instead of God’s! What a great consequence the sin of Adam had on the whole human race! And what a great consequence the sin of Abraham had on the whole chosen race! Many of his descendents followed his example and pierced their hearts and their family lives.

The next time God appeared to Abraham was when he was ninety-nine years old—that was after fourteen years as far as the Scripture record goes. And the first thing God uttered was a rebuke and an admonition:

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1)

Because he faltered the word came, “Be thou perfect”. And the contents of this chapter are the repetition of the earlier chapter - the birth of the promised child. God makes it very clear to him that it is through his wife Sarah the promised seed would come.

And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:19)

Look at the troubles this holy pair invited. An Egyptian handmaid is now Mrs. Abraham! She is all excited about her future and starts to snub Sarah, the real wife of Abraham. There is confusion and heated exchanges everyday. She begets a child and the trouble bubbles. Both the women are to be blamed - Sarah for suggesting this earthly idea of second marriage to her husband, and Hagar for taunting her mistress. The record declares:

And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. (Genesis 16:4)

Sarah realizes her mistake, but blames Abraham for it. She becomes desperate.

And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee. (Genesis 16:5)

The threefold family breaks. Hagar is forced to leave home with Ishmael her son. Abraham is heartbroken; He is feeling for his little boy. What heartache, what sorrow, what pain!

The great rule is clearly recorded by the apostle Paul:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6: 7, 8)

They sowed to the flesh and were reaping to the flesh. Therefore Abraham had to cut off the foreskin of his flesh, and of every male thereafter was told to do so, as a constant reminder of this faithlessness shown.

 Look at how the angel of the Lord addresses Hagar – not as Abraham’s wife:

And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. (Genesis 16:8, 9)

The above verse clearly indicates that God did not join Abraham and Hagar in marriage. It was Sarah who joined them.


Abraham marries Keturah:

Let us read the passage of Abraham’s third marriage:

Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. (Genesis 25:1)

Is Abraham again deviating from the divine plan of marriage? Not really. Sarah, his wife, is now dead. The death of Sarah is recorded two chapters earlier. It says:

And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjatharba. (Genesis 23:1, 2)

Abraham did not sin in marrying Keturah. The Word of the Lord is clear regarding the freedom the widows and widowers have:

For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. (Romans 7: 2, 3)

We have no news regarding the whereabouts of Hagar. From Genesis chapter 21 we come to know that she has gone back to Egypt with Ishmael soon after Isaac was born.

ONE MIGHT SAY: Doesn’t the Bible talk about the concubines of Abraham? Let us read that passage:

And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country. And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. (Genesis 25:5 – 7)

The Scripture record of 1 Chronicles 1: 28–33 is clear that Abraham married just three women – Sarah, Hagar and Keturah. Then who are these concubines that Genesis mentions? Let us compare two Scripture texts and it will be unfolded to us:

Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. (Genesis 25:1)

Now the sons of Keturah, Abraham's concubine. (1 Chronicles 1:32)

In one place Keturah is called the “wife” of Abraham and in another place she is called the “concubine” of Abraham. Concubines were also called wives, but wives were never called concubines. Sarah was the first and the real wife of Abraham; she is never called his concubine. So the concubines of Abraham were two—Hagar and Keturah.

 Jacobs’s wives:

Jacob had 4 wives—Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. Leah and Rachel were sisters, also were first cousins to Jacob. Zilpah was the handmaid of Leah, and Bilhah was the handmaid of Rachel. The entire story of Jacob getting his four wives is recorded in Genesis chapters 29 and 30.

 Jacob “buys” Leah and Rachel. He worked to get them. He tells his father-in-law:

Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle. (Genesis 31:41)

On the other hand when you look at the marriage of his father, Isaac, you see it was a “door delivery” parcel that he received. Abraham sought the Lord in prayer, and getting a wife for Isaac was so easy. Only if Jacob had prayed God would have worked things out for him.

The first seven years he worked to get Rachel, whom he loved, but his father-in-law cheated him and gave him Leah. Jacob was very upset, but he actually shouldn’t have been. What can he expect? He cheated his blind father with lies and deception to get the covenant blessing; and he gets back the taste of his own medicine! Again he works for another seven years and finally gets Rachel.

There is rivalry and strife and jealousy between the sisters. Jacob too is drawn into the mess of things. With all the confusion another wife is added:

And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. (Genesis 30:1-5)

Was God leading the affairs? Not at all! God just allowed them to have their own way. Sorrow and heartache followed. When God blesses, leads and directs the affairs there is always peace within. It is written:

The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22)

 There was a spirit of competition between the two sisters. They insisted on Jacob’s third and fourth marriage as they were driven by a spirit rivalry.

When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. (Genesis 30:9, 10)

There were constant arguments between the two sisters over Jacob. Rachel kept Jacob away from Leah. Listen to Leah on one occasion:

And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? (Genesis 30:15)

When Rachel finally bore a child, Jacob decides to leave his father-in-law’s house and return to his own country. And there is great confusion and dissension with his father-in-law over the cattle Jacob worked for. Finally Jacob runs away from his in-law’s place without informing them. He is chased. God intervenes. Otherwise there would have been bloodshed and chaos. Laban, the father-in-law, asks Jacob to make a covenant with him. Listen to what he says:

And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day...The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt thee and me. (Genesis 31:49, 50)

He was concerned about his two daughters. He knew the mess they were in because of the plural union. He said: “If thou shalt afflict my daughters”. Why did he say that? Because afflicting someone is wrong. And then he proceeded to say, “Or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters”. Why did he say that? If polygamy was correct he should not give such an advice. Adding other wives was wrong. He knew that. In fact he was responsible for Jacob’s plural marriage, and now he admonishes his son-in-law about it!

The mess has gone for too long, for 20 years! Jacob realizes the goodness of God and prays a prayer that he never prayed before. He cried and said:

O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. (Genesis 32:9-11)

The goodness of God led him to repentance. But the confusion and scar in his family he has to witness and bear. There is a price to pay when one runs ahead of God.

Moses’ wives:

It appears that Moses took a second wife. But if we notice carefully it becomes clear that Moses married only once! But some insist that the Ethiopian woman was the second wife of Moses. Let us assume that that was the case.

The marriage of Moses is a fascinating one. The way he got his wife, Zipporah, is similar to Isaac getting Rebekah. The difference is that Rebekah drew the water from the well and helped the house of Isaac, but here Moses drew the water and helped the house of Zipporah. Let us read both the passages.

Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink; And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master's son. And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee. And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also. And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands. And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son. (Genesis 24:43-48)

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day? And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. (Exodus 2:16-21)

Moses had a son by his wife Zipporah. The Bible records:

And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom. (Exodus 2: 22)

According to the law that God gave Abraham every male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day. God said:

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. (Genesis 17:12)

We don’t know how Moses forgot to circumcise his son; and God reacted sharply.

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision. Exodus 4:24 – 26

 The law of circumcision was first given to Abraham when he faltered in his married life by taking a second wife, and having a son through her. This law was to constantly remind them of the mistake of Abraham, and the lesson of depending on human wisdom, and the danger of giving-in to the desires of the flesh. When Moses failed to perform this ceremony on his son God saw the danger of him forgetting the issue behind it. And God wanted to kill him for this! This shows that God was serious about the whole issue, and what it stood for.

Moses would never want to repeat the mistake of Abraham in having plural wives. If God wanted to kill him for not circumcising his child (the law that came directly from the result of plural marriage) how would God react if he committed the original mistake itself?

It appears Moses got married again! And we see God supporting him fully, and rebuking Aaron and Miriam, and striking Miriam with leprosy for murmuring at Moses because of his new wife. Is God changing His position on this issue that hits at the root of this holy ordinance? Not at all! God and His Word never change. He said:

For I am the LORD, I change not. (Malachi 3:6)

 The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. (Psalms 89:34)

 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)

 Let us have a closer look at the second marriage of Moses.

And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. (Numbers 12:1)

 The Ethiopian woman or a Cushite, as the Bible margin has it, became Moses’ wife, his second wife. The siblings of Moses were upset and spoke against Moses. When did he marry this woman? Well, the date is not given but the context gives us a clue. It was just before the children of Israel went to spy out the land, as the next chapter talks about it. So it was many years since they left Egypt (and since his first marriage) and a little time before the children of Israel entered Canaan.

The Scripture does not record the death of Zipporah, Moses’ first wife. But we can conclude that she was dead when Moses got married again when we look carefully at the text of the second marriage.

 Who were upset when Moses got married to the Ethiopian woman? It was the brother and sister of Moses. If Zipporah was alive, shouldn’t she be the most upset person, being the first wife, and, one flesh with him? Remember the story of Abraham’s second marriage? Though, at Sarah’s bidding, he got married to Hagar, Sarah was the one upset at the end of it (Genesis 16:1-6). But when Moses chose his second wife the Bible mentions that only two of his loved ones being upset. Obviously Zipporah was dead by then.


 Let us examine the passage closely:

And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. (Numbers 12:1)

The point of controversy was not about Moses marrying again, but about whom he got married to—“an Ethiopian woman”. That was the debate. You can see where the emphasis is. Twice in the text her roots are given - “Ethiopian”! The Bible doesn’t even record her name, but only her country of origin, because that was the issue.

On the other hand the Lord was upset with Miriam and Aaron, and not with Moses in this matter. God calls all the three of them and rebukes the siblings of Moses, and afflicts Miriam with leprosy. Aaron pleads with Moses for forgiveness:

And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. (Numbers 12:11)

Moses did no wrong in marrying an Ethiopian woman; they charged him “foolishly”. They acknowledged their fault. “We have sinned,” said Aaron. Obviously, Moses married the second time when he was a widower.

ONE MIGHT SAY: Didn’t Moses write that a man could take another wife in Exodus chapter 21? Let us read that passage:

If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. (Exodus 21:10)

Well, what does that indicate? Does it mean that God permitted a man to take another wife? Look at another similar passage in that same chapter:

And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed. (Exodus 21:18, 19)

Does the above text mean that God permitted men to strive and smite each other with stones? Not at all! “If men strive together”, means, if that happened (though it was not God’s will), the compensation was—he should pay all the bills! The same way, “If he take him another wife”, does not mean that God intended or encouraged that to happen.

Look at another passage in the same chapter:

And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his. (Exodus 21:33, 34)

Does the above passage of Scripture indicate that God was encouraging such actions? Not at all! These things might happen in a sinful world, and God tells them what to do if that happens. You cannot undo certain things, therefore there has to be compensation.

The rule is clear about marriage in the Old and New Testament:

Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. (Proverbs 5:18)

God did not say, “Let every man have his own wives”, nor, “rejoice with the wives of thy youth”. It is singular—wife. But if man multiplied wives unto him, what should be done then? Should they be cast away when they repent? Who will take care of them if they are sent out?

If someone has stolen he can restore it when he repents. But certain sins, like polygamy for instance, cannot be undone. And God gives His rule as to what has to be done. He said:

If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. (Exodus 21:10)

Isn’t that a fair rule? Forgiveness is there when genuine repentance is seen. But remember the consequences and the scar will be deep; the shame and insult and the troubles associated with it they will have to bare all the days of their lives.


Gideon’s wives:

This is what the Bible records of Gideon the famous man of battle:

And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech. (Judges 8:30, 31)

We know that Gideon was a man of God. He did great exploits by the power of God. Paul also mentions his name in the 11th chapter of Hebrews as one of the great men of faith (Hebrews 11:32). Now, that does not mean that he did not commit errors in his life. The Scripture declares:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Consider, for a moment, the story of king David and Bathsheba. When that happened the Scripture says:

But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. (2 Samuel 11:27)

Now look at another passage of Scripture that was recorded later about David. God compares King Hezekiah to David:

And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. (2 Chronicles 29:2)

The text of Chronicles says David did all things right in the sight of the Lord. Does “all” things include his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah? Obviously not! We saw that God was displeased with him. The blanket cover “all", has to be taken in its context. It was not talking about his private life there, but about the reign of David.

The same way Gideon was a man of God. But he too had ups and downs in his life. As many of God’s children today falter along the way, Gideon faltered too. He led Israel to sin at one point of time:

And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house. (Judges 8:27)

Just as Aaron made a golden calf out of all the ornaments that he collected (Exodus 32:1-7), Gideon too did something similar (Judges 8:22-27). Immediately following the narration of verse 27 of Judges chapter 8, the Bible talks about the plural wives of Gideon in verse 30. The context is clear - when he was spiritually low he followed the earthly custom of the times in marrying many wives.

Immediately after his death we see there is confusion as to which of his seventy sons should reign. Abimelech, the son of Gideon’s concubine, killed all the seventy sons except Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon.

And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.  (Judges 9:5)

(Gideon is also called Jerubbaal – Judges 8:35.)

What a high price Gideon had to pay ultimately. Only if he would have adhered to the commandments of God always, what a beautiful family tree he might have had!

When God’s methods are not followed man reaps the consequences. God always speaks out and disapproves all wrong acts that are done, either immediately or a little later, either through the Word of His mouth, or through the judgments that speak louder than words!

God, in His mercy, forgives the wrongdoer when he repents. But He, most of the time, allows them to face the natural consequence of their deeds so that others would see the evil fruit of a wrong action and shy away from repeating it. Gideon obviously would have repented, for we see his name in the list of the champions of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven.


Elkanah’s wives:

Elkanah was the father of the great prophet, Samuel. Elkanah had two wives. The Scripture records:

And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. (1 Samuel 1:2)

The context reveals that Hannah was the first wife, and Peninnah was the second. It is most likely the Elkanah took his second wife, as Hannah was barren, something like Abraham taking Hagar when Sarah was fruitless.

There is always a sure price to pay when an extra member is added in the holy ordinance of marriage. Elkanah loves Hannah more, and gives her more portion of wealth. It reads:

And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. (1 Samuel 1:4, 5)

Strife, jealousy, hatred is the result. What happened between the two wives?

And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. (1 Samuel 1:6)

It was not a one-day issue. It looked like a perennial problem:

Year by year…she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. (1 Samuel 1:7)

God finally blesses the first wife of Elkanah—and Samuel is born.

The family peace and love took a beating because of the two wives!


David’s wives:

Through Moses God gave a specific command to the kings of Israel seeing the danger of them following the customs of the neighboring nations. He said:

But he shall not multiply horses to himself…Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
(Deuteronomy 17:16-20)

Now let us look at what king David did:

And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David. (2 Samuel 5:13)

Was David following the command of God as given through Moses? Does God need to repeat that it was wrong to multiply wives?

BUT ONE MIGHT SAY: Why did not God punish David if it was wrong? But I ask you - Aren’t we too doing so many wrong things even today though we know it is disobedience to the Word of God? And because God does not punish us immediately does that mean God is pleased with our actions? Let us remember that “God is love”, and the first virtue that Paul mentions about love is, patience.

Charity suffereth long. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

God waits long. None can be patient like our God is! He still showers His blessings hoping that we see His goodness and repent of our wrong deeds. Paul wrote exactly that:

Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Solomon, who experienced the patience of God in his own life, wrote later:

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God. (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13)

The amazing character of God is seen in His dealings with sinful men. When Adam and Eve sinned He drove them out of the Garden, but made coats of skin to shield them from the fluctuating climate outside. (Of course it was a symbol of how He is going to save too). See Genesis 3:21. When the children of Israel asked for a king to rule over them, they hurt God terribly. See 1 Samuel 8:7-9. God was rejected as King. Yet God, in His tender love, still works to bless them and provide them their needs! Who can be like this, but God alone!

In a similar way when David and many other men of God directly disregarded the command of multiplying wives unto themselves, God did not cut them off. He hoped that they would realize their sins and repent, and finally be saved in His eternal kingdom.

David had to face the sure consequence of extending his family in this earthly manner. He saw the hatred, jealousy and bloodshed in his house. Let us read this sad story as recorded in See 2 Samuel 13

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king's son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister. And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand. So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand. Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon's house, and dress him meat. So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes. And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him. And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister. And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone. And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her. Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her. And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying. And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house. But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth. And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar. And it came to pass after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baalhazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king's sons. And Absalom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant. And the king said to Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him. Then said Absalom, If not, I pray thee, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why should he go with thee? But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king's sons go with him. Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant. And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled. And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king's sons, and there is not one of them left. Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent. And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king's sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar. Now therefore let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king's sons are dead: for Amnon only is dead. But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him. And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king's sons come: as thy servant said, so it is. And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that, behold, the king's sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore. But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.


David finally became so bold that it was not tough for him to commit adultery with Bathsheba and murder Uraih, her husband. This tragic story is recorded in see 2 Samuel 11.

And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house. And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die. And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were. And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also. Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, And if so be that the king's wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for. And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate. And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king's servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him. And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

When things go beyond the limit and patience of divine forbearance, God immediately acts. He gives all a long rope, hoping that we make a comeback. When we continue going away, he strikes, not willing that we perish forever. That is exactly what God did to David.

Some take the text recorded in Kings and reason out that David sinned only when he took Bathsheba, and not when he multiplied wives. Let up examine the passage:

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.
(1 Kings 15:5)

The adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah was the most evil thing David did. The above text does not mean that David did no other sin or wrong. Didn’t David do another big blunder that invited the instant wrath of God, by numbering Israel? The writer of Chronicles records it:

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it…And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. (
1 Chronicles 21:1, 2, 7, 8)

The punishment for this faithlessness of David was the slaughter of seventy thousand of his countrymen by pestilence! So the text of 1 Kings 15:5 does not mean that David did no other wrong. The context of it has to be noted. It was talking about king Abijam who did evil after evil all the days of his life. He was always at the height of evil doing. But David, in contrast, was not so. The high point of his sin was that one act. And David repented.

ONE MIGHT SAY: Doesn’t the Bible say that God gave David many wives according to 2 Samuel 12:8? Let us read the passage:

And 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 too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. (2 Samuel 12:8)

Yes, God gave David his master’s wives (King Saul’s wives). But what does it mean? Does that mean God gave David the wives of Saul to be his wives now? No, it doesn’t say that.

Let us get the background of the text. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and murdered Uriah, her husband. He tries to hide from the people, but the all-seeing God catches up with him at last. God sends Nathan the prophet with a parable. David does not realize that it is about him. He pronounces his own curse. The parable is about a poor man and a rich man.

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul. (2 Samuel 12:1-7)

The ewe lamb “lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter”. To lay in his bosom means it was precious to him. In another parable, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, (again we have a rich man and a poor man here), Lazarus was “carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom” (Luke 16:22). That means Lazarus was cared for and loved by Abraham. Isn’t Jesus too pictured as being in the “bosom” of the heavenly Father? John records:

The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father. (John 1:18)

The Father loved and cared for His Son, and vice versa.

What did God tell David?

And I gave thee…thy master's wives into thy bosom. (2 Samuel 12:8)

It doesn’t say I gave thy master’s wives to be thy wives, but I gave them into “thy bosom”. David was to take care of them and love them and provide for them.

“Into thy bosom” does not mean he had a husband-wife relationship with them. The ewe lamb, Lazarus and Jesus too were at the bosom of someone. King Saul being dead, David his successor had the moral responsibility to take care of the welfare of Saul’s wives. This was a God given responsibility.

BUT ONE MIGHT SAY: The context and the verse clearly suggests that God was telling David – “Why did you take Uriah’s wife when you could have satisfied yourself with Saul’s wives which I gave you?” Well, that is surely not what God was saying in the text.

We need to know that David had many of his own wives already - Michal, Abigail, Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, etc. (2 Samuel 3:1-6, 1 Samuel 18:27). So why should God talk only about Saul’s wives at this time? Why didn’t God remind him of his own wives that he had?

By the way, apart from God being upset with David for the adultery with Uriah’s wife and the murder of Uriah, God was upset with him even for taking her as his wife. The prophet said:

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. (2 Samuel 12:9)

If God gave Saul’s wives, after the death of Saul, to be David’s wives, why was God upset with David taking Uriah’s wife to be his wife, after Uriah’s death?

Well, let us analyze the text again to see the context and the verse in its true setting. In the parable king David was the “rich man”. And what were his riches? Nathan the prophet reveals it. He said:

Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel.
(2 Samuel 12:7)

He was the “rich man”. He was the Lord’s “anointed”; he was the “king over Israel”. And who made him king? It was God who picked him from the shepherd’s tent! And when his life was in danger in the presence of Saul, God said:

I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul. (2 Samuel 12:7)

God also gave him the entire kingdom of Saul to be his kingdom. He was the custodian of everything – the riches, the people, the place, etc. God said:

And 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. (2 Samuel 12:8)

And God gave this ordinary shepherd boy all things freely. God even wanted to exalt him more by extending his boundaries and the domain of his rule. God said:

And gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. (2 Samuel 12:8)

God dethroned Saul because of the grave sins he had committed, and now David is departing for the path of righteousness, and God punishes him too.

God was upset with him and his crime. He, being the Lord’s anointed king, was not expected to step so low!

Consider this illustration: A man has a mother and many sisters. And he takes care of them in the place of the father who is dead. One day he commits adultery with a stranger. And everyone in town now knows about it. What will the society say about this man who was taking care of the female members of his family? “Look at this man! He has a mother and many sisters, and he had no shame to spoil another woman’s life!” What were the people of the society actually saying? Were they suggesting that he should have committed that crime with one of the members of his family? Not at all! They were simply saying - How could a man, who is the custodian of female members in the family, commit this act?

That is exactly what God told David. He being the successor of king Saul, who was dead, was given the responsibility to take care of them. And what trust would God have on him, and what trust would Saul’s wives have on him after this heinous crime, of committing adultery, murder, and adding another wife?


Solomon’s wives:  

The Bible records about Solomon:

And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. (1 kings 11:3)

We don’t need to go any further to know whether Solomon was right; the same text gives us the answer—“His wives turned away his heart”.

The wisest man becomes the most foolish one! In his early days he was true to God, and God used him mightily. In one of the proverbs he wrote regarding strange women:

Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:25-27)


Solomon slowly and steadily departed from the paths of righteousness. The sad record of his polygamous life is also recorded:

And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father…And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father…And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods…And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice.        
(1 kings 11:3, 4, 6, 8, and 9).

Much of his kingdom was taken away for all the evil he did.

Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. (1 kings 11:11)

At the end of his life he came to his senses and turned back to God. He wrote Ecclesiastes as a repented man. The manner in which he starts Ecclesiastes shows that he learnt his lesson:

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 2)

In chapter two he gives a gist of all his vanity life. Now he is a preacher; Ecclesiastes means, preacher! He preaches to the young and admonishes them not to follow the path of vanity. Sarcastically he says:

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10)

God permits man to do what he wants to a great extent, but, says Solomon, “know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment”.

Yes, all these great men of faith faltered seriously, even in their married life, and God had to punish them and let them reap their evil sowing. But God did not eternally cast them out in His mercy. They bounced back but their scars remained to taunt them.

That is how Solomon, the most experienced polygamist, when he repented, concluded His book, and we too shall conclude in like manner:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12: 13, 14)




Pastor Michael Pedrin Preaching