What the Bible says about being married to one wife.
I was born in Africa, I am a fifth generation born in Africa, and a Missionary working among the African peoples in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Transkei and South Africa.
I am familiar with the tribal customs of the wonderful African people, and especially their need for multiple wives to work the land. I understand the problems associated with Lobola (Bride Price) especially in the tribal areas. This said, let me share the basic Biblical plan of God. There are many translations of the Bible, but on this subject they all speak the same thing.
The story of Man begins with creation of a man by God.
He then says Genesis 2:18 "And Jehovah God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him."
You can read on how God made the woman from the man's rib.
Genesis 2:23-24 "And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
I encourage you to read the next couple of verses, where we read "the wife" and "the Husband" but not a wife, or the wives.
There is no teaching of 'plurality' in the Genesis account of creation, or in the New Testament.
In their society Jesus was asked about marriage. Here is what He said, quoting from the book of Genesis chapter 2:
"Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." Matthew 19:4-6
The marriage here is of one man and one woman, they become one flesh.
Now in the New Testament, Paul the apostle writes; "But, because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." 1 Corinthians 7:2
One of the real problems we have in Africa, is the spread of life-threatening sexual diseases.
When a man and woman keep themselves only for each other, then there is very little chance of contracting HIV/AIDS, and other like diseases.
Paul had been married, in his early life, but now he is single (probably his wife died). He sees this as a time to be free to do more for God, without family ties.
He advises: 1Corinthians 7:24 "Brethren, let each man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God."
I encourage you to read on through the end of the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, to grasp the full meaning of Pauls message there.
This is the Bible pattern. The Jewish people, practising their faith, have kept to this for thousands of years, and were mostly free from sexual diseases.
When you live and work in the city, or in an Industrial complex, you do not need many wives to cultivate land for you. It is the people, who own large cultivation-acres, that see the need for more wives. Traditionally African tribal men tend cattle, and the women work the fields, planting, hoeing, and reaping.
They use the crops to feed themselves, what we call 'Subsistance Farming'. Commercial farmers grow and sell most of thier produce, which produces income, so they can afford to hire laborers to work their large farms.
Paul also wrote "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." 1Corinthians 6:18 that if you are already married, you should not do anything, but remain the way you were when you found Jesus. He is the one we will one day give account to.
Some Christians teach you must send your other wives away; but that leaves the woman with no way to live, and the lobola must then be returned by her family to the husband. Sometimes this is not possible. In any case a man is to be kind, and having taken a wife, he must provide for her, especially if he is a Christian.
I trust this will help you understand the Christian teaching on one man and one wife.
© 2015 Jim Cole-Rous