Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Many Wives and Concubines of King Solomon

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, "You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to 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. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed o their gods. (1 Kings 11:1-8)

One of the arguments brought against the bible by critics is, "doesn't the Old Testament endorse multiple wives since it does not prohibit it." But as can be seen from this passage, not only does the Old Testament prohibit polygamy it gives warnings as to the consequences of practicing such a defilement of the covenant of marriage first given in Genesis 2:24 with the words,

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
and they shall become one flesh."

Since this passage concerns Adam and Eve we can see from the very beginning marriage was to be between one woman and one man, and as God's revelation was unfolded in Exodus 34 he commands the Israelites, as they on the verge of going into the promised land, to drive out the peoples who live there, "lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare to you." (Exodus 34:12) And "you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. (Exodus 34:16) Marriage was therefore to be between a man and a woman and those who belonged to Israel were not to marry those who belonged to foreign nations, who were outside Israel. This is the very thing which King Solomon, who had begun his reign with great obedience and wisdom, now failed to do. Instead of marrying one woman, as stipulated in Genesis, and marrying a women of his own nation, as stipulated in Exodus, he took multiple wives into his bed and therefore his heart and gave himself over to the very gods that the LORD had commanded him to reject. It is simply not true that the Old Testament does not reject polygamy. It warns against it and whenever it is practiced there are always dire consequences. A primary example of this is king Solomon. 

In 1 Kings 11:9 we read, 

And the LORD was very angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this has been you practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear this kingdom from you and will give it to your servant." 

All the riches, wisdom, and rule that Solomon had was to be stripped from him and given to his servant.  The kingly rule of Israel will be given to him who was once the king's servant. All that he enjoyed, the wealth, the possessions, and his privileges and rights as king were to be taken from him so that he who was beneath him will now rule over him. And as a consequence of Solomon's polygamy, a dynasty of malevolent rulers, dispersed with the exceptionally benevolent, ruled over Israel and far from leading the people closer to God led them into further depths of idolatry and depravity which would result in their being ruled over by a foreign king and being taken into captivity to a foreign land.

So what can we learn from this sad episode in the life of Solomon? How is this biblical account relevant for us today? I believe there are three lessons we can draw from this biblical passage.

1) Marriage is not a social institution created by man but is a covenant created by God between one man and one woman. In this age, when marriage is being redefined and broadened to include same sex relationships, Christians are going to find themselves put under more and more pressure by the surrounding culture to cave in when it comes to what the bible defines marriage to be. Just as Solomon caved in to having multiple wives and so redefined marriage beyond the biblical parameters, which resulted in horrible consequences to the nation of Israel, any person and any ruler who rejects the biblical definition of marriage will reap personal and national catastrophe as has been attested by the Greek  and Roman empires which have long since passed into history.

2) Marriage for the nation of Israel was restricted to within its own people. For the Christian today marriage is restricted to those who confess and possess faith in Jesus Christ. Marriage for the Christian is defined not only as being between one man and one woman but is also defined as being between those who have Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. This is why Paul wrote, "do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)

3) Untold pain and hurt can be avoided if the Christian follows the biblical parameters given to him or her for marriage. I have seen the carnage and havoc caused to the Christian who has a relationship with the non- Christian, and the conflict and tearing away at their beliefs that occur to the point where they deny their faith altogether and prove that they never believed in Christ to begin with. Great sadness, hurt, and sorrow, can be avoided, but even more the protection of a person's faith and salvation is what is at stake.

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