|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:1-8 There is not a more melancholy and astonishing instance of human depravity in the sacred Scriptures, than that here recorded. Solomon became a public worshipper of abominable idols! Probably he by degrees gave way to pride and luxury, and thus lost his relish for true wisdom. Nothing forms in itself a security against the deceitfulness and depravity of the human heart. Nor will old age cure the heart of any evil propensity. If our sinful passions are not crucified and mortified by the grace of God, they never will die of themselves, but will last even when opportunities to gratify them are taken away. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. We see how weak we are of ourselves, without the grace of God; let us therefore live in constant dependence on that grace. Let us watch and be sober: ours is a dangerous warfare, and in an enemy's country, while our worst foes are the traitors in our own hearts.
Verse 3. - And he had seven hundred wives, princesses [These may have been members of royal or princely houses of neighbouring nations. Evidently they enjoyed a distinguished rank], and three hundred concubines [Though not committed to a defence of the accuracy of the figures 700 and 300 (which are clearly round numbers), it must be said that the reasons alleged for reducing them (as from 700 to 70) are not of much weight. It is hardly correct, e.g., to say (as Rawlinson) that the numbers are given in Song of Solomon 6:8 as "threescore queens and fourscore concubines," for it is obvious that too much importance must not be attached to an obiter statement ("there are threescore," etc.) in a poetical book, too, and one descriptive of Solomon's youth. The view of Ewald and Keil, again, that these numbers represent the sum total of the inmates of the harem at different periods of Solomon's long reign, rather than the number present at any one time - they would see in the numbers of Song of Solomon l.c. a statement of the average strength of the seraglio - though not to be described as evasive, is certainly not the natural interpretation of the words. And these numbers, when we compare them with the establishments of other Eastern potentates, are not found to be at all incredible. The commentators all remind us that Dareius Codomannus, e.g., took with him on his expedition against Alexander 360 pellices. Or if ancient history, as Rawlinson affirms, furnishes no strict parallel to these figures, the harems of modern Persia and Turkey at any rate have quite equalled that of Solomon. (See Bahr in loc.) It is true that Rehoboam had only 18 wives and 60 concubines (2 Chronicles 11:21), but then Rehoboam was not Solomon. If his harem was but a tithe of his father's, so also were his wealth and his power]: and his wives turned away his heart. ["Satan hath found this bait to take so well that he never changed since he crept into Paradise" (Bp. Hall).]
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines,.... In all 1000, a prodigious number; though these might not be all for use, but for state after the manner of the eastern monarchs; these were a far greater number than are alluded to in Sol 6:8, unless the virgins without number there, were such of these as were not defiled by him; but the number here seems plainly referred to in Ecclesiastes 7:28,
and his wives turned away his heart; both from his duty to his God, and from attendance to his business as a king, especially the former, as follows.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. he had seven hundred wives, princesses—They were, probably, according to an existing custom, the daughters of tributary chiefs, given as hostages for good conduct of their fathers.
concubines—were legitimate, but lower or secondary wives. These the chief or first wife regards without the smallest jealousy or regret, as they look up to her with feelings of respectful submission. Solomon's wives became numerous, not all at once, but gradually. Even at an early period his taste for Oriental show seems to have led to the establishment of a considerable harem (So 6:8).
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