Was it right for Jacob to have two wives? Did God choose only one wife for Jacob?

The marrying of sisters was later outlawed in Leviticus, which shows this was never God's plan for Jacob to marry both Leah and Rachel.

"You shall not marry two sisters, for they will be rivals. However, if your wife dies, then it is all right to marry her sister."

- Leviticus 18:18 TLB

Leah was buried at the family grave of Jacob, Isaac, Rebekah, Abraham, and Sarah, while Rachel was buried somewhere on the way to Ephrath / Bethlehem.

"There they buried Abraham and Sarah, his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah, his wife; and there I buried Leah."

- Genesis 49:30-31 TLB

"So Rachel died, and was buried near the road to Ephrath (also called Bethlehem)."

- Genesis 35:19 TLB

Jacob chose Rachel based on appearance. Jacob, upon first laying eyes on Rachel, kissed her and wept. Kissing a woman is only mentioned two times in the Bible, once here and once in Song of Solomon. This was unusual and likely was not culturally acceptable.

"Then Jacob kissed Rachel and started crying!"

- Genesis 29:11 TLB

"Leah had lovely eyes, but Rachel was shapely, and in every way a beauty."

- Genesis 29:17 TLB

The Lord chooses based on the heart, not appearance.

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Don't judge by a man's face or height, for this is not the one. I don't make decisions the way you do! Men judge by outward appearance, but I look at a man's thoughts and intentions."

- 1 Samuel 16:7 TLB

Jesus, the Messiah of the world who came to seek and save the lost, was a descendent of Judah, Leah's son; not a son of Rachel.

"For you will have descendants as many as dust! They will cover the land from east to west and from north to south; and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants."

- Genesis 28:14

Both Mary and Joseph, Jesus' parents, came from the line of Judah, Leah's son. See Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:24-38.

Good explanation upholding the line of the Messiah:

Lines of both Joseph and Mary tracing through Judah to Adam:

Leah's third son, Levi, produced the tribe of Levi which became the priests and Levites chosen to serve God.

The tribe of Levi included Moses, whom received the law of God directly from God and brought the Israelites out of Egypt.

The tribe of Levi also included Aaron, Zachary, and John the Baptist, whom baptizes Jesus at Jesus' insistence.

Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, not Rachel. He chose to marry Rachel after this despite already having been married to Leah.

What Jacob could have learned through this experience, had he chosen to only honor the first marriage, even though he was tricked into it:
1. Humble submission
2. Respect for the culture where the firstborn (Leah) is married first

Is polygamy acceptable in the Bible?

Paul shows in the Book of Romans that a woman married to two men is wrong.

"Let me illustrate: when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he is alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies."

- Romans 7:2-3 TLB

Having multiple wives did not work out for King Solomon. King Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, yet his heart was turned away by his many idol worshiping wives:

"He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines; and sure enough, they turned his heart away from the Lord."

- 1 Kings 11:3 TLB

The word also says that having many wives will turn a man's heart away:

"Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold."

- Deuteronomy 17:17 TLB

The word refers to wife in the singular:

"Be happy, yes, rejoice in the wife of your youth."

- Proverbs 5:18 TLB

"But usually it is best to be married, each man having his own wife, and each woman having her own husband, because otherwise you might fall back into sin."

- 1 Corinthians 7:2 TLB

Qualifications for an elder:

"The men you choose must be well thought of for their good lives; they must have only one wife and their children must love the Lord and not have a reputation for being wild or disobedient to their parents."

- Titus 1:6 TLB

Some will argue regular Christians should not be held to the standards of an elder, that this is taking scripture out of context. I would argue though that the qualifications of an elder are not out of the ordinary. If anything, they are what you would expect to find in any upright, mature, Christian man. I would argue that these are the necessary proofs -- from the perspective of men who can't actually see through to the heart like God can -- that a man is an upright Christian man.

Genesis 2:21-25 shows God's original blueprint -- Adam and Eve -- and God did not give Adam more than one wife.

"Then the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and took one of his ribs and closed up the place from which he had removed it, and made the rib into a woman, and brought her to the man. 'This is it!' Adam exclaimed. 'She is part of my own bone and flesh! Her name is 'woman' because she was taken out of a man.' This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife in such a way that the two become one person. Now although the man and his wife were both naked, neither of them was embarrassed or ashamed"

- Genesis 2:21-25 TLB

Finding websites devoted to defending polygamy has caused me great personal distress and angst. I find this awful and wrong. I believe this is demonically inspired and in error. I believe this based on my own conscience through the Holy Spirit and based on the Word of God. The defences for polygamy are also twisting scripture unfairly. So lets take a closer look at some common misinterpretations, to set the record straight.

Challenge #1 - Titus 1:6

This challenge claims to refute Titus 1:6 by saying "one wife" is really "a wife" in the original text, i.e. that the elder must have "a wife", i.e. at least one wife, without restricting the number of wives past 1. I am switching to YTL since the originality of the text is being brought into question. I trust Young's Literal Translation and this is what it says:

"If any one is blameless, of one wife a husband, having children steadfast, not under accusation of riotous living or insubordinate (...)"

- Titus 1:6 YLT

This states one wife.

Challenge #2 - Leviticus 18:18

Leviticus 18:18 is also challenged:

"You shall not marry two sisters, for they will be rivals. However, if your wife dies, then it is all right to marry her sister."

- Leviticus 18:18 TLB

The challenge claims that the original text says a man can't take a sister as a rival, meaning with the end of vexing, punishing, shaming, or getting revenge.

Again, this is what YLT, a trusted source, says:

"And a woman unto another thou dost not take, to be an adversary, to uncover her nakedness beside her, in her life."

- Leviticus 18:18 YLT

This is my interpretation of the verse:
You should not take another wife while your first wife is living, because doing so will cause them to be adversaries and will cause the original wife to be shamed.

I believe this is scripturally sound interpretation with the story of Jacob and his wives Leah and Rachel. Jacob taking Rachel as his wife did cause Leah and Rachel to become adversaries. I believe they would have had issues anyways due to Laban tricking Jacob and causing him to marry Leah instead of the girl he really loved, Rachel, but nonetheless I believe him also marrying Rachel made it much, much, much, much severely worse, especially as time went on and children from both of these women and their maids entered the picture. It was a mess!

Leah was also shamed when Jacob took Rachel as his second wife. This shows through in Genesis 30:15 by Leah's own admission in a heated moment; she is basically testifying to the fact that she has been shamed:

"But Leah angrily replied, 'Wasn't it enough to steal my husband? And now will you steal my son's mandrakes too?' Rachel said sadly, 'He will sleep with you tonight because of the mandrakes.'"

- Genesis 30:15 TLB

Challenge #3 - Bible account of Jacob's marriage to Leah and Rachel

This challenge actually points to Jacob's marriage of Leah and Rachel, which I have already and firstly aimed to address as wrong, as the proof! This came in direct opposition. The fact of the matter is that just beause it was recorded in the Bible doesn't mean it is right. The Bible is transparent and honest even capturing the naked reality of events.

Challenge #4 - God himself says he gave wives to David

Probably the most challenging exhortation found here is 2 Samuel 12:7-8.

"Then Nathan said to David, 'You are that rich man! The Lord God of Israel says, 'I made you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. 8 I gave you his palace and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; and if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more.'"

- 2 Samuel 12:7-8 TLB

The Lord speaking here through the prophet Nathan plainly states that He gave David Saul's wives. Unfortunately, I do not believe this scripture can be refuted. In YLT just to make sure:

"And Nathan saith unto David, 'Thou [art] the man! Thus said Jehovah, God of Israel, I anointed thee for king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 and I give to thee the house of thy lord, and the wives of thy lord, into thy bosom, and I give to thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if little, then I add to thee such and such [things]."

- 2 Samuel 12:7-8 YLT

My response to this was received through the Holy Spirit on 12/23/13 and goes like this: God is all powerful, so He can do things that he has instructed us not to do. We can't presume because God did this that man has the authority to also do this. An example of this is that the Angel of the Lord killed all firstborn Egyptian children in Egypt due to His supreme purposes and authority. We would never, ever, presume we had power to do this and murder is explicitly outlawed in the Bible. Now I would say God taking these lives would not technically be considered murder, but the point still stands: God can do things that normal men can't. We should not presume just because God does it though, that this is the rule; instead, I believe this is the exception to the rule.

Challenge #5 - Not right to divorce if in polygamous marriage

This site mentions if you are in a polygamous marriage, it is still not right to divorce. Generally, I agree that the Bible strictly forbids divorce unless infidelity is involved. However, God does not recognize a second+ marriage as a legitimate marriage. These are not marriages in God's sight, they fall under sex outside of marriage, which is sexual immorality, so legal divorce to the second+ husbands/wives in these cases is appropriate and necessary.

Challenge #6 - 1 Kings 11:1-4 does not condemn polygamy

"King Solomon married many other girls besides the Egyptian princess. Many of them came from nations where idols were worshiped-Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from the Hittites- even though the Lord had clearly instructed his people not to marry into those nations, because the women they married would get them started worshiping their gods. Yet Solomon did it anyway. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines; and sure enough, they turned his heart away from the Lord, especially in his old age. They encouraged him to worship their gods instead of trusting completely in the Lord as his father David had done."

- 1 Kings 11:1-4

The weak argument is God only said not to marry idol worshipers, as if marrying multiple women who were believers would be acceptable. Facts being facts, King Solomon had multiple wives and they did turn his heart away from the Lord. So, through the way of having multiple wives, he found himself in sin.

Author: Max Edmiston.
Learn more about God's model for marriage here.
You can find my testimony here.