Jacob 2:24. Polygamy Abominable?
Why is it that, in Jacob 2:24, the polygamy of Solomon and David is condemned, while D&C 132:38-39 says that God approved those plural marriages?
In Jacob 2:24, Jacob declares, “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord” (see also Jacob 1:15). From verses 25-28 and 34, it is clear that the Lord had commanded Lehi’s family to have but one wife. But in verse 30, he reserves the right to command his people to take additional wives, which he did through the prophet Joseph Smith. What the Lord condemns in verse 24 is the fact that David and Solomon “had many wives and concubines.” From the Bible, we find that Solomon “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines” (1 Kings 11:3). With so many, he would only be able to spend one day with each wife over the rather lengthy period of three years. We can see why the Lord would not approve of that.
Now let’s look at D&C 132:38-39: “David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.”
The Lord specifically says that David and Solomon and others did not sin in having plural wives except in “those things which they received not of me.” Most of Solomon’s wives were princess, whom he married in order to forge political alliances with their fathers who ruled neighboring countries. As worshipers of pagan gods, he could not have been sealed to them in the sense of what we term a “temple marriage,” and 1 Kings 11:3-4 specifically says that these princesses turned away his heart to the worship of false gods. Consequently, most of Solomon’s wives were not given to him by the Lord, and this is precisely what the Lord condemns in D&C 132:38.
D&C 132:39 is interesting in that it says that “David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets,” but that only “in the case of Uriah [whose death David ordered] and his wife” Bathsheba. This is confirmed in 2 Samuel 12:8, where Nathan, condemning David for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, speaks in the Lord’s name, saying, “And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom.” David’s master, of course, had been Saul, so David, already married to a few other women,[i] inherited Saul’s harem when he replaced Saul as king of Israel.[ii] Another interesting point is that D&C 132:39 says that the Lord had taken away David’s wives and “gave them unto another.” Thus, when Saul proved unworthy, his wives were given to David by the Lord, while David’s subsequent unworthiness resulted in the same thing for him.
[i] David originally married Saul’s daughter Michal (1 Samuel 18:27-28). While fleeing from Saul, he took two other wives (1 Samuel 25:42; 27:3; 30:5, 18; 2 Samuel 2:2). After becoming king and establishing Jerusalem as his capital, he “took him more concubines and wives,” one of them being Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon (2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 14:3). A later tradition indicates that David had 60 wives and 300 concubines; see “The Book of Sir John Maundeville (A.D. 1322-1350),” in Thomas Wright, Early Travels in Palestine (reprint, New York: Ktav, 1968; orig. 1848), 164.
[ii] In the ancient Near east, when a king died, his successor came into possession of his harem (except, of course, for his own mother). This is why, when David’s son Absalom, when he rebelled against his father and chased him and his men from Jerusalem, “went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Samuel 16:21-22).