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Polygamy is an inclusive term encompassing polygyny, the practice of having multiple wives, polyandry, the practice of having multiple husbands, and group marriage, the practice of having multiple husbands and wives. Any marriage of 3 or more people is polygamous.

Polygamy, historically, has been wide spread. The most common form of polygamy is polygyny. Polygynous marriages are found throughout the Old TestamentAbraham [1] [2] [3], Jacob [4] [5] [6] [7] , Moses [8] [9], Solomon [10], and David [11], for example, are all described as having more than one wife. The Koran also approves of polygyny [12]. The practice was also known among Eourpean tribes in pre-Christian Europe and in both China and Japan [13]. In the modern world polygyny is practiced to some extent in China[14], among fundamentalist Mormons[15] (the mainstream Mormon Church outlawed the practice in 1890[16]) and in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa [17]

Polyandry is and has been less common around the world, but it has been practiced. Polyandry is part of traditional Tibetan culture[18] and is practiced by some Native American tribes[19].

Group marriage is likely the least common form of polygamy, but it is practiced. In fact a number of Americans purport to practice just this sort of living arrangement[20].


  1. Genesis 16:3 Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gives Hagar to be his wife[1]
  2. Newton Biography[2]
  3. Genesis 25:1 Abraham takes a third wife, [3]
  4. Genesis 29:23 Jacob marries Leah[4]
  5. Genesis 29:28 Jacob marries Rachel[5]
  6. Genesis 30:4, Rachel gives Jacob Bilhah to marry [6]
  7. Genesis 30:9 Leah gives Jacob Zilpah to marry [7]
  8. Exodus 2:21 Moses marries Zippo'rah [8]
  9. Numbers 12:1 Moses’s marriage to an Ethiopian woman[9]
  10. 1 Kings 11:3 Solomon had 700 wives [10]
  11. 1 Samuel 25 – 25:39 David marries Abigail, 25:43 David marries Ahinoam, and 25:44 David marries Michal [11]
  12. Koran 4:3-4http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/004.qmt.html#004.003]
  13. Polygyny in Europe and China[12]
  14. Lang and Smart. “Migration and the Second Wife in South China: Toward cross-border polygyny” The International migration review 2002, vol. 36, no2, pp. 546-569 [13]
  15. News story on Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints[14]
  16. LDS official position[15]
  17. Brown, Judith E. “Polygyny and Family Planning in sub-Saharan Africa” Studies in Family Planning, Vol. 12, No. 8/9 (Aug. - Sep., 1981), pp. 322-326. Abstract. [16]
  18. List of references [17]
  19. Polyandry among the Inuit[18]
  20. Kurtz, Stanley, “Rick Santorum Was Right Meet the future of marriage in America.” New Republic Online 3/23/05 [19]