7.3 Solomon's Wives
7-3-1 Solomon's Wives
There can be no doubt that many
of Yahweh's servants have suffered from an undoubted weakness for women.
Despite the clear one man: one woman standard of Eden,
the heroes of faith like Moses, Abraham and Jacob all
had more than one wife- and, the records hint, suffered
because of it. Samson, Judah, Simeon, David and others
spring to mind as men who got into hot water because of their
unbridled passions. Many a Christian life has
foundered on the same rocks. Solomon is
the supreme example. Solomon's wives were his undoing.
His tragic loss of faith is analyzed by the Spirit
in 1 Kings 11, and the blame is firmly laid on his attitude to women:
" King Solomon loved many strange women,
besides the daughter of Pharaoh...of the nations concerning
which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to
them...for surely they will turn away your heart after their
gods: Solomon clave unto these in love...and his wives turned away his
heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that
his wives turned away his heart" (1 Kings 11:1-4). There is
double emphasis here upon the fact that Solomon's wives did turn
away his heart, as if to prove the truth of God's prophecy
that alien marriage would surely turn away a man's heart
from Yahweh. Solomon knew and loved the Law, he must have
written out his own copy of it as commanded, and his gift of wisdom would
surely have opened his understanding to the many passages which warned
of relationships with the Gentile world. Yet Solomon
went ahead and married a total of 1000 Gentile wives. Surely
he must have reasoned that he could spiritually handle it,
they would not surely turn away his heart, he was strong,
he could handle it. And how often have the children of God
gone running down exactly this road;
in attitudes to careers, relationships of all kinds,
until over the years true spirituality is whittled away;
and nothing, nothing is left.
Solomon failed to mix his wisdom with a true
humility and an awareness of his own proneness to failure.
The teaching of the word remained only within his brain cells.
The words of 1 Kings 11:1-4 have some interesting implications
when analyzed. Even before he built the pagan temples
for his wives, his marriages to them are described as " evil in the
sight of the Lord" (11:6). Those words
are a hard contrast to the minimalizing of marriage out of the Faith which
now afflicts the body of Christ. Solomon's marriages are often explained
away as political manoeuverings. But the record says that Solomon "
clave unto these in love" , surely
alluding to God's definition of marriage as a leaving father and
mother and cleaving to a wife. Solomon really loved
those women; they weren't just political strings to his bow. They would
not have turned away his heart if they were only
political relationships. 1000 seems a rather exorbitant
number of political alliances to have in any case. And Ecc.
2:8 RV says that Solomon sought “the delights of the sons of men, concubines
of all sorts”. He took sex to its maximum extent- he had every possible
type of woman in his harem. Every hair colour, size, type. “Whatsoever
mine eyes desired [this is language elsewhere used about sexual desire]
I kept not from them” (Ecc. 2:10). And yet still, he never found one…
counting one by one, as he put it. If ever there is a warning against
immorality, it is here. The more relationships one has- and our world
glorifies this- the less ultimate satisfaction there can be. God’s way
has to be best.
A Little Of Both - ?
The criticism of Solomon for marrying these women also applies
to his first marriage with the daughter
of Pharaoh; besides marrying her, he
married the others too, and the criticisms which
follow are spoken in the context of both these actions.
Yet Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter in his early days, before
he asked for wisdom. This is another indication that Solomon did
not start off well and then go wrong; right from the
beginning he had this incredible dualism in his spirituality.
The Talmud (Shabbath F, 56,2) records that “When Solomon
married the daughter of Pharaoh she brought to him 1000 kinds of
musical instruments, and taught him the chants to the various idols”.
Even when Solomon was young, he evidently loved wine (Song 1:2,4)-
which was later to be something he (temporarily) abandonned himself
to. He had a child by an Ammonite girl one year before he became
king (1 Kings 14:21)- so his relationships with foreign women cannot
be put down to mere political alliances. If the Song of Solomon
is about her rather than the Egyptian woman he married, one can
only say that one early error, unrepentended of, paved the way for
his later disasters with foreign women. The Song suggests that he
met the foreigner he married whilst walking alone in the countryside-
which again proves it was a love relationship rather than a political
alliance. The record later describes his building of store cities
in the very language used of Pharaoh’s using Hebrew labour to build
treasure cities (2 Chron. 8:4 cp. Ex. 1:11 Heb.). The influence
of his father-in-law was deep, and lasted a long time. Yet in the
early days the record describes him as a
man who " loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of
David his father" (1 Kings 3:3); and the record of his
request for wisdom enables us to almost sense the Divine exaltation
of spirit with Solomon because he so loved wisdom. The influence
of Egypt upon Solomon is reflected by the way in which he is described
as making the people serve him with "hard bondage" (2
Chron.10:4; 1 Kings 12:4). This is the very Hebrew phrase used to
describe what the Egyptians did to Israel (Ex. 1:14; 6:9; Dt. 26:6).
Solomon put his people under a yoke (2 Chron. 10:4), just as Egypt
did to them (Lev. 26:13). And so we see the progression. Solomon
loved an Egyptian woman, came to serve her gods, traded with Egypt...
and the attitude of Egypt to God's people became Solomon's attitude
to them. There is something unique about God's people; and yet the
closer we come to the world, the more we come to see our own community,
God's special family, just as this world sees us. The world's attitude
to us can so easily become our attitude to our brethren- no longer
seeing them as the specially chosen little children of God, sensitive
to them as our very own brothers and sisters.
Solomon's early mistake of thinking that
he could indulge the 'little of both' syndrome brought
his destruction. We all have an element of the
'little of both' syndrome, loving
the spiritual life and the things of Israel, but
laughing off our human side as something we can
handle. The study of Solomon's attitude to
women is therefore a classic
insight into spiritual psychology.
The general characteristics of Solomon
have far too many uncomfortable similarities
with our own lives. We all have the little of both syndrome,
the nonchalant attitude that we can handle a bit of
infringement of the letter of the law, that
God understands, that our spiritual side justifies our unspiritual
side. But this lead one of the finest believers
of all time to crash spiritually, to leave behind one of the most
ineffable spiritual tragedies that could be imagined.