Is it true that the Bible permits a man to have multiple wives? Is this really the type of family arrangement that God views as ideal?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Biblical law allows a man to be married to more than one wife simultaneously, provided his wives are not sisters and that he can support them. Nevertheless, throughout Jewish history it was always desirable to have only one wife, as clearly demonstrated in the Torah. There were however, certain exceptions, such as Abraham, Jacob, King David and King Solomon. Let's take a look at these cases and see why they were exceptional.
In truth, Abraham never wanted to take a second wife, but only did so to because he was unable to have children with his wife Sarah. In fact, it was Sarah herself that suggested that Abraham marry Hagar, as she thought that "perhaps I will be built up through her." (Genesis 16:2)
Jacob also did not want two wives. It was only after Laban sent him the "wrong bride" that Jacob wound up marrying both Rachel and Leah. (See Genesis ch. 29)
King David and King Solomon had more than one wife for political reasons.
The great sage Rebbenu Gershom (10th century Germany) later created a ban that forbade polygamy for Ashkenazi Jews. This edict has been in force for more than 1,000 years.