1 Samuel 25:1 - 44
ESV - 1 Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah. Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. 2 And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel.
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Polygamy was widely practiced and accepted in the Jewish culture. Contrary to what we often assume based on modern laws that prohibit polygamy in the U.S. and in other countries, it was not against Jewish law and men who practiced it were not considered sinful in any way. Based on the common practices in David's time, he was committing no sin to take Abigail as his wife, even though he was already married. In fact, we read that he took literally hundreds of wives during his lifetime. Why specifically David would want to marry Abigail when he already had a wife is up for debate, although in the scriptures she is portrayed as a wise, discerning, and virtuous woman. Her prudent--and gutsy--intervention on her husband's behalf prevented a hostile attack upon her husband and their household, and David praised her for her wisdom and actions. The scriptures seem to indicate that David felt responsible for the death of Nabal, Abigail's husband, when he fell ill and died after hearing of how his saftey and welfare had been threatened, and about what Abigail had done to save their estate and their lives. If this was the case, David's taking her as his wife was a gesture of kindness and an act of noble character.
I think polygamy was not a sin, and God did not frown on the marriage. God does not specifically condemn polygamy in the Old Testament, unless it is connected with self-indulgence (Deuteronomy 17 14-20). It's not listed in various Mosaic Law prohibitions, but is, rather, accomadated (Exodus 21:10; Deuteronomy 21:15-17;). In fact, it appears as though God specifically condones it in another account with David (II Samuel 12: 7-9). This is shocking to us because it's culturally so different, and its culturally different because of Christianity and the direction God moves the church and His Spirit-filled people in the New Testament. Jesus speaks in a way that, if not directly stating that polygamy has no place in God's original plan (although that is a completely credible reading), certainly elevates the exclusive relationship between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6). God, through the Apostle Paul, clearly excludes polygamists from serving as pastors or deacons (Titus 1:6-7; 1 Timothy 3:12). Christians have often changed and removed from their communities social practices that were common in their time, often harmful, and even not prohibited or even condoned Biblically--due to seeking after the heart of the Higher Law God is working in the world. There are a few things that are allowed in the Old Testament or even the New Testament, that are shown to be less than what God would desire for His people and the world through both New and Old Testament examples, limited prohibitions, and warnings: slavery is one, drinking alcohol is another, and polygamy as well. So, hopefully that sheds some light on the issue of polygamy in the Bible, and explains why David had a fulfilling and good relationship, in its way, with Abigail, but the practice would not be encouraged by Christians today.
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