Does Judaism allow polygamy?

Posted by on Aug 15, 2020

Question: Does Judaism allow polygamy?

Answer: Polygamy was a common practice in the ancient world when the marriages of the children were arranged by the fathers. Avraham sent his servant to find a wife for Yitschak (Gen 24:2-61) and Yehudah arranged the marriage of his first born son (Gen 38:6). Following this Biblical tradition the Judaism says it is the father’s duty to find a wife for his son (Kiddushin 29a). In the Scripture we find that even our patriarchs had more than one wife with the exception of Yitschak who was a man of one woman. But does Judaism allow polygamy today?

No, Judaism does not polygamy. Ezra the scribe, who is considered the founder of Judaism (see Ezr 7:10, 25; Neh 8:2-9), upon the return from the Babylonian exile forced the Jews to expel the foreign [unconverted] wives they had taken with them from Babylon (Ezr 10:2, 10), and since then no polygamy has ever been seen in Israel. Polygamy was banned in Ashkenazi communities (one of the branches of Judaism) by Rabbenu Gershom in the year 1000 C.E. This ban was extended to the Sephardi Jews as well, to fulfill the Biblical law that man is to have only one wife (Gen 2:24, Ecc 9:9)

Moreover, Israel was done with the idolatry, too. After the Jews returned from exile, they became so jealous over the Torah that the Rabbis went even further to create “fences around the Torah” (called Talmud or the “Oral Law”), known also as the “tradition of men”, so that no Jew would even come close to break the laws of YHVH. We find references to the “Oral Law” in the Apostolic Scriptures in which Yeshua drew a distinctive line between the Torah of His Father and the “tradition of men”.

To be objective, we need to say, however, that not all traditions are contrary to the Torah. Many of them give further explanations of the laws, while others are just “fences”.

See also “Does Torah allow polygamy?” in Q&A.