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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.