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How Many Wives Did David Have?

How many wives did King David have in the Bible?

Short answerKing David, one of the prominent figures in the Bible, indeed had multiple wives. While the exact number is not specified, eight of David’s wives are named in the biblical accounts. These include Michal, Abigail, Maacah, Ahinoam, Eglah, Haggith, Abital, and Bathsheba.

Introduction

One of the more obscure and difficult topics to tackle when it comes to the Bible is the topic of polygamy.

Since some of the most prominent people in the Bible, including King David, the man after God’s own heart, had many wives, it can be difficult to figure out where exactly God stands on this issue.

Does God allow or even promote polygamy?

Or does He regard it as a sin?

How many wives did David even have?

Let’s explore this topic a bit more and see what we can glean from it for our lives today.

How many wives did David actually have?How many wives did King David have

According to the Scriptures, King David had many wives, but only eight of them are actually named.

Of these eight, only three are truly discussed, while the other five are simply named once.

The eight that are named are Michal, daughter of King Saul, Eglah, Abital, Haggith, Maacah, Ahinoam, Bathsheba, and Abigail.

According to 2 Samuel 5:13, David married more wives in Jerusalem, but those are unknown in both name and number.

The three most prominent wives of David are Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba, and each has her own notable story in the context of the Bible as well as within the story of King David himself.

Michal was David’s first wife, given to him by her father, King Saul, after he defeated one hundred Philistines. Michal also helped David to escape when King Saul turned on him and attempted to kill him.

Later on, she was the wife who mocked David when he was seen dancing before the Lord, possibly being the reason why she ended up having no children for David.

Abigail, David’s second notable wife, was originally the wife of a man named Nabal. Nabal was an evil man, according to the Scriptures, who disrespected King David.

In his anger, David sought to attack and kill Nabal and all his household, but Abigail, being a wise woman, bowed to him and convinced him to not seek revenge. However, Nabal was struck by God and died, resulting in Abigail becoming David’s wife instead.

Bathsheba, probably the most famous of David’s wives, unfortunately, was not famous for her own character but rather the lack of David’s character.

david's wives in the bible

Bathsheba, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris Portal of St. Anne

Bathsheba was originally the wife of a trusted soldier in David’s army (Uriah), but while the soldiers were at war and David stayed with the kingdom, King David saw Bathsheba bathing and desired her for himself.

He summoned her, slept with her, and got her pregnant, committing a great sin against God, Uriah, and Bathsheba.

Later, David gave the order for Uriah to be put on the front lines of the battle, where he would be abandoned by his soldiers and murdered by the enemy in order to hide the fact.

David then married Bathsheba to cover up his sin, but the child died shortly after birth.

From this marriage eventually came Solomon, the next wise ruler after King David.

Where do we see polygamy in the Bible?how many wives and concubines did david have

Believe it or not, polygamy does not start and end with King David in the Bible.

We see many instances of it taking place with many of the most prominent and supposedly God-fearing individuals in the Bible.

For example, Esau, Jacob, and perhaps, most notably, Solomon, all had multiple wives.

In fact, the Bible tells us that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, going even further with the sins of his father.

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Does God view polygamy as a sin?how many wives did david have in the bible

Now, the big question with this topic is, why would God allow this to happen?

Why does it seem as though God either approves of polygamy or even promotes those who are involved in it?

If King David was labeled as the man after God’s own heart and he was polygamous, should we not all seek to be polygamous?

This is a great question!

These are the kinds of questions we should be asking. However, the answer is quite simple.

Polygamy is clearly not God’s design for marriage or relationships since the beginning of time.

All we need to do is to go back to creation, where marriage was created in the first place.

According to Genesis 2:24, marriage takes place when a man leaves his father and his mother to hold fast to his wife, not wives, to become one flesh with her. Therefore, polygamy, having multiple wives, does not fit within God’s design for humanity.

So, if this is the case, why does it seem like God allowed some of His most prominent mouthpieces to engage in this act?

There could be a few answers to this question.

Firstly, it may have been to provide protection for these women through the men.

In those days of predominantly patriarchal societies, it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself due to the fact that most women were uneducated and untrained.

Women would rely on their husbands for provision and protection. Therefore, polygamy may have been allowed to provide protection and provision for certain women who could not have found a husband otherwise.

Another reason could have been that polygamy allowed for a quicker fulfillment of God’s command to be fruitful and multiply on the earth.

Since men are capable of having many children at once with many women, this could have allowed for a much quicker population of the earth.

Regardless of the reason, God’s overall plan for humanity is clearly for marriage to consist of one man and one woman.

Apart from the passage in Genesis, we see in passages like 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 that men who are spiritual leaders should be men of one wife.

Clearly, God desires us to be in monogamous relationships today despite what happened in the past.

READ MORE: What is the meaning of the name Avery?

What should we learn from this as Christians today?king david wives

There are two main takeaways that Christians can learn from this topic of polygamy.

The first is quite obvious: polygamy is not God’s perfect design for humanity.

Those searching to fulfill God’s true and original plan for humanity should strive for monogamy and stick to one husband or wife.

However, the second takeaway is perhaps not as obvious.

When we read the Bible, we should be careful to take descriptions of events as prescriptions for our lives today.

Just because someone in history did something that wasn’t immediately and clearly punished does not mean that we should do it today.

Living the Christian life requires that we gain a holistic and complete perspective of the Bible, and we should do so before jumping to quick conclusions on issues that aren’t quite as clear as others, such as this one.

Why did God allow David to have many wives?

how many wives did david in the bible married

King David monument. Jerusalem. Israel

Polygamy is a sensitive topic.

It is even more sensitive considering that God called David a man after His heart despite having many wives. However, we must understand the difference between allowance and approval.

The fact that God allowed something does not mean He approves it.

There is nowhere in the Bible where God says a man should marry more than one woman. Instead, the Bible’s position on monogamy was clear in the New and Old Testaments.

We must first consider how God operates with man.

His rules are clear, but He never shoves them down our throats. God created man to be able to decide and act independently and bear the consequences of his actions.

In the beginning, God created one man and woman, Adam and Eve, who became the first couple.

In Genesis 2:24, He said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 

Moses specifically stated that the kings of Israel must not have many wives. 

“He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Deuteronomy 17:17).

So, the scripture is clear about the number of wives we should have. At the same time, polygamy was not extensively discussed.

Another thing we must consider about polygamy in the Bible is culture.

In those days, most men were farmers and cattle owners.

They had large flocks that required many shepherds to fend for. So, people had many children to help with these family businesses.

They also had slaves or servants. David, for example, was a shepherd boy.

His father had eight sons and two daughters (1 Samuel 16:10-11, 1 Chronicles 2:16).

There are debates about Jesse having more than one wife. One of the reasons for this practice was to get more hands to handle farm and domestic work. 

Finally, God’s silence over a matter is not an approval.

We must read the Bible and understand God’s explicit directive.

Almost everyone in the Bible who married more than one wife experienced some form of suffering or repercussion for their acts.

Examples are below. 

Biblical examples of the negative impacts of polygamy

We are quick to point to great men in the Bible, like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon, who had more than one wife and still enjoyed God’s favor and blessings.

However, we fail to acknowledge the consequences of their actions, going against God’s original design of being joined to one wife and becoming one flesh.

Here are the challenges, sufferings, and impact of having more than one wife experienced by certain Bible characters.

David

how many wives did david have before bathsheba

Rome – king David from the Maria column by Spain statis

As discussed above, David had many wives, but the Bible names only eight.

Although the Bible did not give details about the lives of other women in David’s life, much was said about Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s soldiers, whom David later killed and married his wife.

David found Bathsheba taking a shower in her compound while taking an afternoon stroll on his roof.

He called for her, slept with her, and she got pregnant. He tried to pin the pregnancy on Uriah, but it didn’t work. However, he resorted to killing him to bury his sin.

David’s plan worked, but God was not pleased with him.

Firstly, the child Bathsheba and David bore died, and their adultery and marriage opened doors to other evil in David’s household.

Amnon, David’s firstborn, raped his step-sister, Tamar. Absalom, Tamar’s brother killed Amnon.

Absalom later revolted against his father, David, organized a coup, and nearly took over his father’s throne before he died.

Solomon, David’s successor, almost lost the throne to his stepbrother, Adonijah.

Solomon later executed him.

All this drama happened under David’s roof, among the children of his different wives.

Perhaps he would have suffered all the heartaches and troubles if he had married only one wife.

Solomon

Solomon

Solomon – Picture from The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments books collection published in 1885, Stuttgart-Germany

Solomon, David’s successor, is another example of someone who suffered the negative consequences of having multiple wives.

The Bible records that Solomon went the extra mile to have 700 wives and 300 concubines. 

He married women from pagan nations, including Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite.

He built shrines for them to worship their foreign gods, and soon began to worship their gods.

His heart was turned against God and went astray, as Moses had warned in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

Perhaps he would not have served other gods if he had maintained God’s divine marriage arrangement by sticking to one wife.

Leah and Rachel

Jacob

Isaac Blessing Jacob – Picture from The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments books collection published in 1885

Jacob’s family was another example of why polygamy is a bad idea.

Jacob loved Rachel. However, he was shortchanged on the night of his wedding.

His uncle, Laban, gave him Leah, knowing that Rachel was who Jacob wanted.

Seven years later, Jacob married the love of his life. He did not love Leah and was not affectionate toward her.

In fact, Leah had to bribe Rachel to arrange for Jacob to sleep with Leah.

“So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.” (Genesis 30:16)

Leah was an unloved wife in a marriage she did not plan for.

She underwent emotional neglect and torture because her husband’s heart was with the second wife, who happened to be her sister.

Perhaps, if Laban had given Jacob Rachel in the first place, Leah would have found a suitable partner who would love her rightly. Instead, she was forced into a polygamous marriage she never enjoyed.

Haggai

Abraham

The testing of Abraham’s faith – Picture from The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments books collection published in 1885

Haggai is another example of the negative impact of polygamous marriage on women.

Although she was not properly married to Abraham as a second wife, she played the role of the mother of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. 

God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son. But Sarah grew impatient because of her age.

She told Abraham to sleep with her maidservant, Haggai.

He agreed after persuasion, and she gave birth to a son. Sarah later conceived and gave birth to Isaac. 

The Bible records that Sarah started to deal harshly with Haggai and later asked Abraham to send her and her son away. Haggai was sent away with bread and water.

Her situation was like she was used and sent away with nothing but her son. She indeed felt the sharp fangs of polygamy, mostly fueled by jealousy and competition.

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Matthew ajah

Wednesday 19th of July 2023

my question is, if a man is not happy in a marriage due to the wife rudeness, lack of no respect from the wife towards the husband, constant bitterness from the wife towards the husband and above all her unable to bear children after 11yrs of marriage due to health issues like hormonal imbalance, fibroid and genital fungal infection, and have send all he got for her treatment and after 11yrs he made up his mind to marry another woman so he could have children for himself maintain his lineage will he be committed a sin or he should continue in kind of marriage and remain unhappy and childless for the rest of his life.

please I need a candidate advice.

Kathleen

Sunday 10th of September 2023

@Matthew ajah, The Bible states that Adultry is the only way you can get divorce,and to take another wife would be Bigmy. Bible wise it would be adultry you commit and the woman you married be combining it with you or she would be fornicating if she is not married.

B. Anca

Monday 24th of July 2023

Hello Matthew. Thank you for bringing such a sensitive matter here and trusting me to provide you with answers.

Before I start, I would like to inform you that the answers you will get will all be backed by the Bible. So they are not personal opinions.

Firstly, it's difficult to conclude about the woman's character without hearing her story or understanding what triggers her "rudeness, lack of respect and bitterness" toward her husband. However, Ephesians 5:33 says, "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

In simple terms, the scripture above says the man must love his wife, and she, in turn, must respect him. In other words, his love for her can trigger her respect and submission. We often focus on the problem while ignoring its root cause. Is she suffering from a lack of love and affection or neglecte from her husband? These might be a good place to focus on as we trust God to work in her.

However, if he is not in a way responsible for her rude behavior, he should have a heart-to-heart with her, explaining how her actions make him feel. She would put in effort to change if she truly loved him. The man must also be patient as she readjusts and tries to improve because it will take time.

She must be willing to top open her heart for the infilling of the Holy Spirit so she can receive the fruits of the Spirit such as patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

Secondly, living with sickness or disease is a painful experience and financially draining. It is even more devastating knowing that it is responsible for your childlessness. Therefore, I sympathize with the man and his wife. However, God is still in the business of healing people of all kinds of diseases.

If Jesus can heal the woman with the issue for 12 years with one touch, He can also heal her of 11 years of hormonal imbalance, fibroid, and genital fungal infection (Luke 8:43-48). All she has to do is trust God and have faith in Him. There are also many cases of God visiting barren women in the Bible and giving them their children. So, her case is not an exception.

Her healing can come faster if she and her husband can agree together in faith and prayer. The Bible reveals the power of prayer of agreement in Deuteronomy 32:30 and Matthew 18:19.

Above all, the Bible emphasizes the rule of one man to one wife (1 Corinthians 7:2, Matthew 19:5-6). Having a second wife is adultery, a grievous sin against the Lord. Therefore, the man and woman should try to settle their differences. But if that's not working, they should seek counseling from the church and trust God to use their pastor or spiritual leader to give them direction (Proverbs 15:22, Matthew 18:15-17).