What Does the Torah Say About Multiple Wives

Title: What Does the Torah Say About Multiple Wives?


The Torah, the sacred text of Judaism, serves as a guiding light for Jewish individuals and communities, providing moral and ethical principles to live . One aspect that often raises questions and sparks debates is the topic of multiple wives. This article aims to explore what the Torah says about this practice, shedding light on its historical context and providing insights into its relevance today.

Understanding the Context:

To delve into the Torah’s perspective on multiple wives, it’s crucial to first consider the historical and cultural context in which it was written. During biblical times, polygamy was a prevalent practice among various ancient societies, and it was a normative part of life. Consequently, the Torah acknowledges and regulates the practice rather than endorsing or condemning it outright.

Biblical References:

1. Abraham: The first mention of polygamy in the Torah is found in the story of Abraham. He had two wives, Sarah and her maidservant Hagar, who bore him children. While Sarah was considered his primary wife, Hagar’s role was recognized, and her children were recognized as Abraham’s offspring.

2. Jacob: Another notable example is Jacob, who was married to both Leah and Rachel, sisters who were also his cousins. However, the Torah makes it clear that Jacob’s decision to have two wives was a consequence of deception and manipulation rather than divine sanction.

3. Kings and Leaders: Throughout the biblical narrative, kings and leaders are described as having multiple wives. This practice was often associated with wealth, power, and political alliances. However, the Torah also highlights the challenges and conflicts that arose due to these arrangements, emphasizing the importance of monogamous relationships.

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The Torah’s Perspective:

While the Torah recognizes polygamy as an existing practice, it also emphasizes the ideal of monogamy, as seen in certain passages:

1. Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This verse indicates the divine intention for a man and a woman to form a committed and exclusive bond.

2. Deuteronomy 17:17: “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.” This verse warns against the accumulation of multiple wives, suggesting that it could lead to a decline in moral and spiritual devotion.

3. Leviticus 18:18: “And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.” This verse prohibits a man from marrying sisters simultaneously, emphasizing the importance of maintaining harmony within the family unit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q1: Is polygamy still practiced among Jewish communities today?
Polygamy is not widely practiced within mainstream Jewish communities today. It has been largely abandoned due to cultural shifts and legal restrictions in many countries.

Q2: If polygamy is not endorsed, why does the Torah regulate it?
The Torah’s regulations regarding polygamy aim to ensure the fair treatment of all wives and their children. It seeks to minimize potential harm and protect the vulnerable members of the family.

Q3: How does the Torah’s stance on multiple wives impact modern Jewish marriages?
While the Torah acknowledges the historical practice of polygamy, modern Jewish marriages predominantly adhere to monogamy. Jewish law and traditions prioritize the commitment and exclusivity of a single marital relationship.

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Q4: Are there any instances of polygamy in Jewish history that have influenced modern practices?
Some Jewish communities, such as certain Sephardic and Mizrahi groups, had historical instances of polygamy. However, these practices have significantly diminished over time, aligning more closely with the monogamous traditions of Ashkenazi Jews.


The Torah’s perspective on multiple wives is complex, as it recognizes the historical reality of polygamy while promoting the ideal of monogamy. Though polygamy was once prevalent, modern Jewish communities predominantly adhere to monogamy, emphasizing the importance of a committed and exclusive marital relationship. Understanding the historical context and the Torah’s nuanced approach allows us to appreciate the evolution of Jewish traditions and their relevance in contemporary society.

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