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The Bible tells us that Saul, the first King of Israel, had 1 wife and 1 concubine. For David, the second king of Israel, we do read about his 7 wives, but the Bible doesn’t give a number about how many concubines.
How many wives did Solomon have?
Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubine. This can be found in 1 King 11:3 where we read that Solomon “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines.” These wives and concubines were from heathen nations that opposed the the worship of the God of Israel. They were, “Of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love” (1Kings 11:2).
In Old Testament times, it was common for kings to have many wives. This practice was called polygamy. History reveals that Solomon was very aggressive in his foreign policy. In ancient days, it was customary for a lesser king to give his daughter in marriage to a king of greater power or authority.
Thus, when king Solomon would enter into a treaty with a nation, it would often end in Solomon taking another wife. These wives and princesses were considered tokens of goodwill between the two kings. Their union in marriage was a symbol of unity between the two nations they represented.
God’s instruction against polygamy
While Solomon, and many other kings, partook in marrying many wives, it was not in harmony with God’s direct instruction. The Lord plainly stated that the kings of Israel “shall not multiply horses to himself… Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).
Solomon was disobedient to God’s clear command. In marrying more than one woman, the king was going against God’s revealed will regarding monogamy. From the very beginning God created one woman for one man (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-25). King David commanded his son Solomon to walk in God’s path saying:
“Be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (1 Kings 2:2-3).
The early days
At the beginning of his reign, King Solomon was humble and obedient. He walked in the path of the Lord and built God a great temple (1 Kings 6). However as time went on, he diverted his attention from God to worldly pursuits.
God gave direct instructions for a king of Israel to abstain from three things: gathering horses, marrying multiple wives and accruing gold and silver for himself (Deuteronomy 17:16-17). God knows the heart of man and warns us of the dangers of three areas of weakness: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).
The areas that God warned the king of addressed these areas exactly. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Some trust in horses…
God’s first command to the king was that, “…he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way” (Deuteronomy 17:16).
This was in fact the first of King Solomon’s sins. “And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt…” (1 Kings 10:28). This seemingly harmless act of gathering horses was the beginning of the king’s downfall.
The act of gathering horses was sinful because it was a means of building an earthly army. In taking a worldly position of great military, it showed reliance on self rather than trust in God. These horses were from Egypt, the epicenter of rebellion. When God’s people left Egypt, the Lord desired to be their defender and shield. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
The gathering of horses from Egypt also made connections with heathen nations which practiced idolatry. God had performed many miracles to deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt. He did not desire them to return to Egypt by any means, as this would hold them in spiritual bondage.
Egypt was a center of spiritual darkness and void of the knowledge of God. Israel was not to return to its ways nor share in their worldly practices or pursuits. “Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deuteronomy 6:12).
Dangers in ungodly marriage
The next warning from God to Israel’s king was, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away…” (Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon’s marriage to many foreign wives and concubines was a direct act of disobedience to God’s command.
“But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites… As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God” (1 Kings 11:1 & 4).
Solomon was influenced by his wives and concubines’ heathen beliefs and sinned grievously against God. “And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father” (1 Kings 11: 6).
Reap what you sow
Solomon reaped the consequences of his disobedience. The kingdom of his father David would be ripped from his posterity. The nation would also be divided and God’s people would suffer.
“For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites…”
“Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (1 Kings 11:4-5, 7-8 ).
“So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel” (1 Kings 11:9)
His seemingly harmless act of taking a heathen wife turned into greater sins that effected not only the nation of Israel in his lifetime, but in generations to come.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
To the third and fourth generation…
The sins made as a result of of marrying multiple wives not only led the nation of Israel away from God in Solomon’s lifetime, but for many generations of Israel.
In the first generation after Solomon, his son Rehoboam reigned (1 Kings 11:43). King Rehoboam did not choose wisdom or the fear of the Lord, as he was raised mainly his heathen mother. Upon being presented with a request from the people, he listened to the counsel his young, prideful friends as opposed to his wise elders (1 Kings 12:6-11).
Due to this one foolish decision, the nation of Israel was torn. It divided into Israel and Judah. Of the twelve tribes of Israel, only Judah and Benjamin served Rehoboam as the nation of Judah. The other ten tribes set a different king over them as the nation of Israel. The kings of Israel all did evil in the sight of the Lord for 20 generations until their destruction by Babylon. The kings of Israel did much to lead God’s people away from Him.
In the realm of Judah, the kings mainly did evil until the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. The high places of false worship set up by Solomon were not fully destroyed until King Josiah. This was sixteen generations of kings in Judah after the reign of Solomon (2 Kings 23:13).
This is a testimony to the effect of just one sin. The pleasure of forbidden companionship may seem harmless, as it is based on what one thinks is love. However, it is deceitful as it leads to compromise with evil. This lesson is clearly seen in the history of Solomon and the nation of Israel. It is sad that the ones who are most often hurt from sin are the children of those commit them.
Deceitfulness of Riches
King Solomon continued in his rebellion as he disregarded the last warning for kings. This was to abstain from gathering gold and silver for himself. Instead, Solomon declares, “I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces…” (Ecclesiastes 2:8).
Solomon’s methods for increasing wealth were made by putting a heavy load on his people (1 Kings 12:4). The king stated that he did not deny himself. He also used the wisdom God had given to pursue treasures on earth, rather than service to God. “So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them…” (Ecclesiastes 2:9-10).
Although Solomon used his wisdom and position to gather riches which the Lord prohibited, it did not lead to happiness or satisfaction. “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
In contrast to the warnings against certain evils, God gave counsel for success for kings. God instructed kings:
“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17: 18-20).
If heeded, king Solomon would have avoided many evils and their sorrows. God is the giver of wisdom and His counsel lasts forever. “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11).
The fate of Solomon
As a result of Solomon’s disobedience, God pronounced a judgement on him:
“Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant” (1 Kings 11:11).
At the end of his life, Solomon saw the folly of his deeds. He admitted that he, “amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces” and “acquired . . . a harem as well–the delights of the heart of man” (Ecclesiastes 2:8). And in spite of that, “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
Therefore, in his wisdom he realized true purpose in life:
“Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Later in his life, Solomon was filled with emptiness and pain. He exclaimed, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8). He repented of all his sins and the years he wasted away from God. And he gave this council, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Solomon ends the book of Proverbs with a special prophecy to kings that would follow after him. “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings” (Proverbs 31:3). And he goes on to state the value of cherishing one godly woman as a man’s wife. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies…Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all” (Proverbs 31:10, 29).
In His service,
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