5 Relevant Lessons from the Polygamous Life of King Solomon

Marriage was one of the first institutions, along with family, created and instructed by God even before the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden.

Yet, marriage has been defined in different ways throughout history. From cultures to religions, people have various perspectives on marriage. Today, in our Western society, this basic institution has been the topic of more controversy with the rise of sexual politics and gender fluidity. 

Even in the Bible, we read of odd situations with marriage among the people of God, some of whom we consider heroes in the faith. Solomon is a prime example, a man with hundreds of wives. 

What should we think of Solomon and his many wives? Should we approve of this as Christians today? 

The Story of King Solomon 

King Solomon is renowned for his wisdom, wealth, and the construction of the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. 

Solomon was the son of King David and Bathsheba, and he ascended to the throne of Israel after his father’s death. As a young ruler, Solomon faced the challenge of uniting the twelve tribes of Israel. In a remarkable display of divine wisdom, he famously resolved a dispute between two women claiming to be the mother of the same child. His wise judgment solidified his reputation, and the people recognized that God had granted him exceptional discernment.

One of the defining moments of Solomon’s reign was his encounter with God at Gibeon. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered him a blank check: he could ask for anything. Rather than requesting wealth or a long life, Solomon humbly asked for wisdom to govern the people justly. Pleased with this selfless request, God granted him unparalleled wisdom and bestowed upon him riches and honor.

Solomon’s reign is often depicted as a time of unprecedented prosperity for Israel. He engaged in extensive trade, accumulating great wealth and forming alliances with neighboring nations. The construction of the Temple in Jerusalem became a monumental achievement during his reign. Solomon spared no expense in building a structure that would serve as the permanent dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant.

Despite his wisdom and accomplishments, Solomon’s later years saw a decline in his faithfulness to God. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them from other nations. Influenced by his numerous foreign wives, he allowed the introduction of idolatry into Israel, leading to a gradual departure from God’s commands. In response, God revealed that the kingdom would be torn from Solomon’s descendants, signaling a consequence for his disobedience.

Old Testament Warnings Against Polygamy 

Despite the prevalence of polygamy in the lives of the patriarchs and kings, the Old Testament never affirms the practice. In contrast, there is more evidence to warn against having many wives. 

Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the perfect model was one man and one woman as the basis for a family. God gave Adam one wife, not many, to “be fruitful and multiply.” 

The next major figure in God’s redemptive narrative, one of the most important, Abraham, faithfully stayed with one wife for decades even though Sarah couldn’t bear children. The surrogate situation with Hagar, the Egyptian slave, led to conflict and division. God clearly meant for the plan of the miraculous Isaac to be through Abraham’s one wife. 

Isaac had only one wife, as well, Rebekah. His son, Jacob, had several wives, although this also led to issues due to favoritism and jealousy—Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Moses also faced criticism from his brother and sister when he seemed to marry a second woman after Zipporah (Numbers 12:1-10). 

In Deuteronomy 17:17, Moses specifically addresses the issue of multiple wives in the context of a king, cautioning against the accumulation of wives lest they turn his heart away from God. The warning highlights the potential for distraction from spiritual devotion and the risk of compromise in maintaining fidelity to God’s commands.

This issue plays out in the life of David and his son, Solomon, where polygamy leads to different negative consequences. For David, his many wives produced children who killed each other and rebelled against him and his wishes. 

For these men to participate in polygamy didn’t affirm it. Although the Levitical Law allowed for it, Moses specifically warns against many wives, and the resulting trouble and consequences of polygamy throughout the Old Testament clearly illustrate the foolishness of polygamy and going against God’s ultimate design, one man and one woman. 

King Solomon and His Many Wives 

Beyond the warning against having many wives, the Old Testament also forbade marrying women of other people groups, specifically women who worshipped other gods (Deuteronomy 7:2-5). These laws aren’t against the marriage of two different races. God’s concern is idolatry, not a person’s ethnicity. 

So why did Solomon marry so many women? 

Initially, he unfortunately saw his own father have many wives. David married several women while in exile from King Saul, and once he became king of Israel. Having many wives was a sign of wealth in the ancient Middle East, and this is still the case in some cultures. Perhaps David was influenced by his time with the Philistines or other societies around him. 

Solomon was gifted with great wisdom. However, his wisdom didn’t reveal the foolishness of following David’s example of accruing wives. 

Solomon’s reign began with great promise, marked by divine wisdom bestowed upon him by the Lord. However, as his power and influence grew, so did his desire for political alliances and economic prosperity. Solomon engaged in strategic marriages with foreign princesses and daughters of neighboring kings, using marital alliances to strengthen diplomatic ties and secure peace.

The Scripture mentions one marriage to an Egyptian princess and how Solomon builds her a separate house from his palace in Jerusalem. Interestingly, his reasoning stemmed from her being in the same space as the Ark of the Covenant, obviously recognizing the danger of idolatry and other gods. 

Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, an extremely romantic poem about courtship between a man and a woman. To some degree, he understood the importance of love and affection in the proper context. This comprehension didn’t extend into his personal life, though. 

His marriages were not solely driven by personal affection or love but rather by political and economic considerations. Solomon, pursuing strategic alliances and personal gain, took wives from nations with whom he sought to establish or maintain friendly relations. This practice was common in the ancient Near East, where marriages were often used to form alliances and solidify treaties.

While these marriages initially served political purposes, even for the economic benefit of the whole nation of Israel, they had dire spiritual consequences. 

Spiritual Consequences for King Solomon 

King Solomon’s decision to have several wives had profound spiritual, political, and personal consequences that significantly impacted his reign and legacy. The biblical account, primarily found in as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

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