The question of Polygamy, unfortunately, has been a dividing wedge in many African churches. Kenyan churches have not been spared from this conundrum concerning holy matrimony. As a Christian, I have heard and witnessed church leaders advocate for polygamy in Christian marriage. These Christian leaders back up their decision to choose polygamy by citing Old Testament prophets and leaders chosen by God. For example
- Abraham. The man Abraham was the father of the Israel nation. Through Him, He begot two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, from two different wives. (Genesis 15, 21)
- King David. He was a leader of Israel handpicked by God and was cited as a man ‘after God’s own heart.’ He had many wives married for royal alliances. (Refer to David’s Genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2:3)
- King Solomon. This is the most famous reference some Christian leaders use to encourage polygamy. This great leader of Israel had 300 concubines and 700 wives. (1 Kings 11)
- Jacob. He had two wives, Leah and Rachel, and two handmaidens, Zilpah and Bilhah, who bore him sons and a daughter. (Genesis 30)
These are the most famous examples these Christian leaders use to justify polygamy. Keep in mind, these references point to the Old Testament and not the New Testament. Moreover, few of the Old Testament ways were ruled out from Christian living once Jesus died on the cross and established a new way of living.
One of the laws abolished is righteousness through the law. Jesus replaced it with righteousness by faith. Another change was on the rule of animal sacrifices for reconciliation between God and man. Jesus was the ultimate blood sacrifice, hence, animal sacrifice is no longer needed by Christians. In addition to this, the law on revenge, an eye for an eye was also abolished (Deuteronomy 19:21, Mathew 5:38-42, Romans 12:19). Not forgetting that polygamy for Christian leaders was also canceled by Paul the apostle in contrary to the ancient practices. Then, why are some Christians polling for polygamy in the Faith?
As African traditions go, having more than one wife was okay. It was a sign of wealth and it showed how capable the man is in providing for his wives and children. Most often than not, young men raised before the ‘80s are strict traditionalists. Many Christian leaders in this age group tend to mix the traditions with Christian faith, thereby, trying to justify polygamy by using those examples up there.
Technically, African culture and traditions are not compatible with the Christian faith in the matters of Polygamy. For this reason, using the bible to cover up the desire of polygamy works in most cases. The following is what makes African culture and traditions a pagan practice, which is against Christian faith
- Circumcision of women (Female Genital Mutilation): This practice has led to the death of thousands of African women as they give birth and as they undergo the cut. Nowhere in the bible supports this practice.
- African traditional gods. The gods our African ancestors worshipped were not the True God. The true God is the God of Jesus Christ, the Father of all Creation. So if anyone tells you that the god who lives in the mountains is whom they worship, close your ears and turn away. That is false.
- Libation and rituals for the dead and ancestors. Many churches are incorporating African traditions in burial ceremonies e.g. sleeping with the corpse in order to appease the deceased, shaving the heads of family members and mixing the hair with certain potions then burying it with the body, caning the body before burial, pouring drinks and food on the ground so that ancestors may be part of a ceremony, etc. All these and other traditional burial rituals are not right by Christian Laws.
- Animal sacrifices. Some tribes in Kenya still sacrifice animals on physical landmarks like Caves, mountains, Valleys, and specific trees like the Fig Trees (Mugumo in Kikuyu). Some churches allow tribe elders in their clergy to conduct sacrifices in such areas.
- Sexual abuse and violence toward women in marriage. In the past, it was right for a husband to beat his wife as a form of discipline. According to traditions, women were considered as children with no rights and no say in a family. The bible does not condone violence or marital rape. Instead, the bible implores husbands to love their wives as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28)
- Polygamy. One thing polygamy shows is greed. When a man marries another woman this indicates he is not satisfied by the one he already has. Plus, is it possible to love two things at the same time? No, it’s not. The degree does matter. This simply shows that one wife will receive more love than the other. For example, Abraham loved Sarah more than the other concubines, Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and David loved Bathsheba more than the other wives, that he made her son, Solomon, king.
- The practice of witchcraft. In African cultures witches and wizards were present. Most took the names of Rainmakers, Medicine men/women, Healer, Seers, Prophets, Diviners, and Finders. Others took witchcraft to the next level by conduct child and human sacrifices to their gods like in Tanzania where some tribes kill albinos for the ‘magic’ in their skin and bones.
So, what does the Christian faith, according to the New Testament, say about polygamy?
- 1 Timothy 3
- A bishop should have one wife
- A deacon should have one wife
- Genesis 2: 18-24
- God fashioned A WOMAN out man’s ribs. God did not create more than one wife for Adam.
- Mathew 19: 4-6, Genesis 2: 24, Mark 10: 6-9
- A man and woman shall leave their families and be joined to each other and the TWO shall become ONE flesh.
- Ephesians 5:21-31
- Apostle uses the example of Jesus Christ being the head of the Church which is like his wife. So, husbands should love the wives as Christ LOVES his CHURCH.
- 1 Corinthians 7:2
- Refers to a WIFE not WIVES or HUSBANDS
- Deuteronomy 17: 17
- This verse FORBIDS men to multiply wives so that his heart won’t turn away from God.
- Leviticus 18:18
- Marrying a woman while your current wife is alive in order to vex/annoy/anger/ make jealous/provoke is not acceptable to God.
There are many other verses in the bible supporting monogamy that’s why I have just listed a few examples. If you are a man of God and very conversant with the Bible, don’t assume the Word of God to fulfill worldly desires. Monogamy is the top priority for any man of God. Therefore, stand by the Saviour and crucify the desires of the flesh so that the devil may not get the chance to condemn you. One wife is enough just like the Church is the one bride for Christ Jesus.