During last year’s football season, quarterback Cam Newton made some statements that blew up the internet. He was implying that the Bible condones polygamy. In an interview, he said,
I believe that in our religion, it has got lost in translation. People say, “Oh, that’s in the Old Testament, this is the New Testament and things like that.” There are some high-value men in the Bible that had a lot of favor from God by having multiple wives and multiple concubines. So you can’t sit up here and say you want a man of God and not acknowledge the fact that, oh, in this society it’s socially accepted, but in the Bible—when you talk about David, when you talk about Solomon, the wisest person in all of earth—he had the most wives anybody has ever had, and concubines.
Did David and Solomon have multiple wives? Absolutely. But does the Bible paint this as a good thing? Absolutely not. Here’s why.
In Deuteronomy 17, “multiplying wives” is exactly what God had commanded kings in Israel not to do (presumably this would be more of a danger for the kings because they would have more wealth and power and ability to do this). Deuteronomy 17 gives the ideal, and it’s what Christians might expect: one man, one woman. Period. Even for kings.
But in 2 Samuel 3, as the author tells David’s story, he records a list of David’s wives—Abigail, Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah. What was David doing? Multiplying wives. Was that common in the ancient world? Yep. Was it the biblical command? No, no, and no. Tragically, David followed society more than God’s Word.
The list of wives makes us begin to worry about David’s treatment of women. But later in that chapter, in case we missed it, the author doubles down. There’s a disturbing incident involving David’s wife Michal (King Saul’s daughter and David’s first love). Everything indicates that they had a good marriage, and at one point, she even risked her life to protect David. But David wasn’t satisfied.
A few chapters earlier, David had become infatuated with another woman, Abigail. So even though he was already married to Michal, he took Abigail as a second wife. After David was exiled, King Saul married Michal off to another man. Meanwhile, David married five more wives.
Several years later, where 2 Samuel 3 picks up, David decides he wants Michal back. It’s not that he misses her, but marrying Michal would give David political alliance with the house of Saul. In other words, she would boost his power. So he goes for it: verses 14–16 describe David with nothing but a callous attitude toward Michal, breaking up her marriage to another man so he could add another wife to his collection. Women are nothing but pawns for David.
Nearly all of us know that David committed a horrific sin against Bathsheba. But we don’t usually trace that action backwards to the root patterns. When David took Bathsheba, it wasn’t the first time he had used his power to sinfully multiply wives. It was just the most famous.
David’s despicable pursuit of Bathsheba doesn’t come out of nowhere, but is the fruition of a dark pattern in his life. David, despite being introduced as a man after God’s own heart, had a besetting sin that would ultimately bring him down—him, and so many others.
There’s a lesson for us here concerning polygamy. Cam Newton missed his receiver on this one: The Bible never paints polygamy in a positive light. David wasn’t supposed to multiply wives. And when he did, the text makes it clear that doing so was unjust.
But there’s a broader lesson for us here, too. You see, few of us are likely to pursue polygamy. But we may be more like David than we’d like to admit. We all have some besetting sin, some pattern of disobedience, that has the potential to destroy us. For David, it began with marrying a second wife—and it ended with him taking Bathsheba and murdering others to cover it up.
For you and me, it might begin with a careless word. Or a socially accepted sin. Or a relationship that, while technically “okay,” isn’t wise (and isn’t one we share about openly). Or some legal, but less-than-transparent financial decisions.
If you knew Satan was going to take you down, how would he do it? If you were to commit some heinous sin three to four years from now, what would you look back on today as the seeds of that sin?
Whatever it is, beware. The seeds of compromise are present inside you long before they harvest destruction. Identify those seeds and address them. If left unchecked, you may have your own downfall. It’s like John Owen said, “You must be killing sin or it will be killing you.”