And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
- Exodus 34:16
The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
- Deuteronomy 17:16-20
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.
On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
- 1 Kings 11:1-13
[1 Kings 11:1-6] ”Many of Solomon’s marriages were for the purpose of ratifying treaties with other nations, a common practice in the ancient Near East. The practice of multiplying royal wives, prohibited in Deuteronomy 17:17 because the practice would turn the king’s heart away from the Lord, proved to be accurate in the experience of Solomon. His love for his wives (vv. 1, 2) led him to abandon his loyalty to the Lord and worship other gods (vv. 3-6). No sadder picture can be imagined than the ugly apostasy of his latter years (over 50), which can be traced back to his sins with foreign wives. Polygamy was tolerated among the ancient Hebrews, though most in the East had only one wife. A number of wives was seen as a sign of wealth and importance. The king desired to have a larger harem than any of his subjects, and Solomon resorted to this form of state magniﬁcence. But it was a sin directly violating God’s Law, and the very result which that law was designed to prevent actually happened in Solomon’s life.”
- John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary
What Do We Know about their Relationship?
When the Law speaks of too many wives, how many is too many? Regardless, of the number, Solomon violated the Law in Deuteronomy 17:17 and the collapse of his kingdom and the problems that led to the people being cast into exile began with the prophecy embedded in the Law. Too many wives and you spend so much time pleasing them that you forget God.
What Can We Infer about their Relationship?
Did Solomon think that the wisdom that was bestowed upon him by God meant that He no longer needed God? We can look at the Bible Study on Ecclesiastes to discover that at some point in his life, Solomon realized he had done a lot of wasting of his time, that precious moment that any of us has on earth.
One thing that we cannot infer, but many ascribe too the concept that the Queen of Sheba became one of his wives. They did a lot of gift giving back and forth, but 1 Kings 10:13 states that she returned home.
Was Rev. MacArthur’s claim of Solomon marrying so many women due to political liaisons factual or an inference. I have no doubt that his assertion is true, but it is largely an inference based on the customs of the times and how peace was established during Solomon’s reign.
But the greatest inference is that the prophecy embedded in Deuteronomy 17:17 is true, even today.
In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?
There is a great deal of gap filling that could be done, but it serves no good purpose. An entire room of historical fiction could be written when you consider Solomon had one thousand lovers, give or take. I cannot remember the names of a hundred or more women that I have casually met in church. I might remember all the faces of people who visited my Sunday school classes over the past 25 years, but I doubt if I could remember all their names. One thousand lovers? Did Solomon establish the system that doctors use these days? You have a folder on you that is placed outside the examining door. The doctor reads a few sentences to refresh his/her memory on you and your medical history. Then he/she opens the door pretending you are his/her long lost friend. How many patients does the doctor have? Maybe 2,000-3,000, seeing everyone once each year and some much more often than that. Solomon had to have had a system like that or a romantic evening with “Naomi” turns into a nightmare when he calls her “Sarah.”
What Can We Learn from this Relationship?
Some cynics among us would say that one spouse is one too many, but from our past studies, when there was a second wife, there would always be a favorite, or at least a perceived favorite. This does not even skim past the idea that these 1,000 lovers worshipped false gods, roping Solomon into those sins also.
But a comment that I made at the beginning is at the root of this problem. Solomon had so many wives that he had no time for God. C. S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that prosperity knits a man into the world. He might think he is finding his place in it, but the world is finding its place in him. That was Solomon’s problem and we do not need one wife (or one husband) to have things in our lives that distract us from worshipping God. Solomon had prosperity beyond all comprehension.
This is not to say that prosperity is sin. No. But falling prey to the comfort that prosperity brings can lead to many sins. But Solomon had little comfort. When you consider that one wife can make her husband’s life a little on edge by having mood swings, consider 1,000 mood swings at the same time and as soon as you fail to make, at least the 700 princesses, them feel special during those mood swings… Now we know what all those shields of gold were used for… Sorry, I already wrote that gap filling might be easy, but for no good purpose.
What Have We Learned thus far?
We have learned to:
- Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
- Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
- Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
- Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
- Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
- Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
- A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
- Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
- At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
- And to love, love, and love.
- Be trustworthy. Trust is required.
- And don’t worry. God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
- And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
- And never go against what God instructs us to do.
- And truly believe that God can show you mercy and accept the mercy offered. Yet remember that it is indeed mercy.
A Closing Prayer
We look to You for guidance. We are to love You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In having one spouse, we may be complete, two becoming as one, but with that comes distractions. Even in the best of biblical marriages, there can be conflict and times where the spouse distracts us from our worship time. But even in our most intimate times with our spouse, we can glorify You. Help us to remember that You ordained marriage, something between a man and a woman that should be pure and beautiful, where both, individually and together in married bliss, can glorify You.
In Thy Name we pray,
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
Those are some lessons we can learn that you summarized, things that are for sure; we must do the right thing before God’s eyes.
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Thanks for the comments. This study, as many that write, help me along the way as much as I pray that they help others.
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Praise God for that
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