God is not shy when it comes to telling us what He considers to be sin. Those things called sin in the Bible always have a penalty associated with them. Let’s look at a few examples.
The Decalogue, colloquially known as The Ten Commandments, is found in Exodus 20:3-17 and is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:7-21.1 (The way far too many Christians act, perhaps a better colloquial designation might be The Ten Suggestions.) We will look at only two of the ten, and then look at a couple of other laws found outside of the Decalogue.
The fifth commandment is found in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16. This is how the commandment is worded in Exodus: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” In Deuteronomy, it has slightly different wording, but the same meaning. The penalty for disobeying this commandment is found in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. After describing a rebellious son in vv. 18-20, v. 21a says, “And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.”
The eighth commandment is found in Exodus 20:15 and Deuteronomy 5:19. Again, the wording is slightly different between Exodus and Deuteronomy, but the meaning is the same: “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). The penalty varies according to what was stolen. In Exodus 22:1, we find the penalty for stealing livestock: “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” And in Exodus 21:16, we find the penalty for kidnapping: “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”
Outside the Decalogue, we find various other laws defining sinful acts, as well as the penalties for committing each of those sins. Because of the recent Supreme Court decision that made same-sex “marriage” the law in our once-great nation, we will look at Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Lev. 18:22 says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” 20:13 says, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” A homosexual lifestyle is called sin by God and the penalty for committing that sin is death.
Another law not found in the Decalogue is called “levirate marriage,” derived from the Latin word “levir,” meaning “husband’s brother.” It is found in Deuteronomy 25:5-6:
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. (6) And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
The penalty for the sin of not obeying law of levirate marriage is found in Deuteronomy 25:7-10:
And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. (8) Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; (9) Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. (10) And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.
All this begs two questions: (1) Where does the Bible call it sin for a man to have more than one wife? and (2) Where does the Bible tell us the penalty for committing that supposed sin?
The answer to both questions is the same: nowhere. Nowhere in Scripture is polygyny called “sin,” and nowhere in Scripture is there any penalty imposed on a man for having more than one wife.2
1 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the King James Version.
2 Romans 7:2-3 calls polyamory (a woman having more than one husband) adultery, which is forbidden by the seventh commandment (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18) and the penalty is death (Leviticus 20:10).