“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.” – 1 Kings 11:4
Solomon ruled over a great number of happy people: “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy.” Provisions were plentiful. The Israelites were at peace, but also had “40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen” (1 Kings 4:26) if needed.
And of course he had wisdom. My attention is drawn to Psalm 72, a psalm either written by David to (or on behalf of) Solomon, or written by Solomon himself: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” (Psalm 72:1-4)
But for all of his talents and his wide range of experience, he was no marriage expert. There is no getting around the fact that monogamy was not one of Solomon’s strong points. 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. Whoa. There isn’t a consultant or expert that could help you effectively manage that situation. Do you think he knew all of their names? Or remembered all of their birthdays and anniversaries? Or knew whether he spent some quality time with each of them several times each year?
Proverbs offers men much wisdom related to avoiding the trap of immoral relationships with women. However, Solomon’s greatest personal weakness was with women. Solomon knew what was right. Yet, he didn’t follow his own advice concerning women? One reason sometimes noted for Solomon failing to follow his own advice is that there is a difference between having knowledge and applying knowledge. Solomon knew it was wrong to obtain many wives—in fact, it was against the Mosaic Law. “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) God had warned Solomon specifically against marrying foreign women and, in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.
The thought of such a wise man ignoring a warning from God seems hard to understand. But throughout scripture, we see a definite pattern of God using ordinary, sinful individuals to teach us lessons about how we are to act. In the past few weeks we have learned great lessons from King David, who was an adulterer and murderer. We learned about Abraham and his half-truths. We would also be well served to model parts of our lives after all of these men, despite the fact that each of them had obvious areas of sin in their lives.
We need to remember that Solomon also wrote the Song Of Solomon. This book is a frank discussion of love between a married couple. While The Song of Solomon’s willingness to discuss the topic of physical love within marriage can make people uncomfortable, it is a testament to the beauty of the marriage relationship in its fullness.
When we read the Song of Solomon, we can pause and conclude that yes, Solomon had a lot of wives and made some mistakes. And yes, there were a lot of consequences for his sinful actions. He wasn’t perfect, but in the relationship described in detail in Song of Solomon, he finally got it right. This is how it is supposed to be. This is what marriage should be.
We too will make mistakes. But we too can get it right if we guard our hearts and trust completely on God.
- Why did God allow Solomon to have 1,000 wives and concubines?
- Solomon began building the temple with the aim to draw all the pagan peoples of the world to the one true God, but after time he began to draw the Israelites to false, pagan gods. How do you see that happening?
- Why is it difficult sometimes to follow our own advice?
- Why does the Scripture put such an emphasis on the heart? Humility is God’s prescription for nearly every condition that ails human hearts and relationships. Why do you think this is the case?
- Pray and ask God for wisdom in all your relationships.