1 Kings 11:3
And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
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(3) Seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.—The harem of an Eastern king is simply an adjunct of his magnificence, and the relation of the wives to him little more than nominal. (Comp. Esther 2:14.) Nor does the statement here made necessarily imply that at any one time the whole number existed. Still, the numbers here given, though found also in the LXX. and in Josephus, are not only extraordinarily large, but excessive in comparison with the “three- score queens and fourscore concubines” of Song of Solomon 6:8, and disproportionate in the relative number of the superior and inferior wives. It is possible that, in relation to the former, at any rate, the text may be corrupt, though the corruption must be of ancient date.

1 Kings 11:3. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines — This was multiplying them prodigiously indeed, and pouring contempt on the divine prohibition in the most notorious manner. David had multiplied wives too, although to no such extent as this; but probably the bad example which he had set in this particular, had encouraged Solomon to think it, if not lawful, yet a lesser evil than it really was. One ill act of a good man may do more mischief than twenty of a wicked man. “Without knowing the customs of the princes of the East,” says Dr. Dodd, “their pomp and sumptuousness of living, one might be tempted to wonder of what possible use was this milliad of wives and concubines. But as Solomon was between forty and fifty years old before he ran into this excess, we cannot but think that he kept this multitude of women more for state than otherwise. Darius Codomanus was wont to carry along with him in his camp no less than three hundred and fifty concubines in time of war; nor was his queen offended at it, for the women used to reverence and adore her, as if she had been a goddess. Father Le Compte, in his history of China, tells us that the emperor has a vast number of wives, chosen out of the prime beauties of the country, many of which he never so much as saw in his whole life: and, therefore, it is not improbable that Solomon, as he found his riches increase, might enlarge his expenses, and endeavour to surpass all the princes of his time in this, as well as in all other kinds of pomp and magnificence.” He was guilty, however, of a flagrant violation of the divine law.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.These numbers seem excessive to many critics, and it must be admitted that history furnishes no parallel to them. In Sol 6:8 the number of Solomon's legitimate wives is said to be sixty, and that of his concubines eighty. It is, perhaps probable, that the text has in this place suffered corruption. For "700" we should perhaps read "70." 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).

Seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines; partly for his lust, which being indulged, becomes infinite and unsatiable; and partly from his pride, accounting this a point of honour and magnificence. 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.

And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred {b} concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.

(b) To whom belonged no dowry.

3. seven hundred wives, princesses] The numbers in this verse are far in excess of those in the Song of Solomon, which makes mention (1 Kings 6:8) of threescore queens. But from the instances known of other monarchs there is little reason to question what is stated in this verse. Philippson (die Israelitische Bibel) tells of the wives of the great Mogul as 1000 in number, and in ancient history there are similar examples. Many of these were probably never seen by the monarch in his life, but counted among his household, as an item of magnificence. It was only by the few who were his more constant companions that Solomon’s heart was turned away.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).] 1 Kings 10:26 is simply a repetition of 1 Kings 5:6 (compare also 1 Kings 9:19); and 1 Kings 10:27 is merely a further extension of 1 Kings 10:21. The words of 1 Kings 10:27, "Solomon made silver like stones in Jerusalem, and cedars like the sycamores in the lowland for abundance," are a hyperbolical description of his collection of enormous quantities of precious metals and costly wood. שׁקמים, sycomori, mulberry fig-trees, are very rare in Palestine in its present desolate state (see Rob. Pal. iii. 27), and are only met in any abundance in Egypt; but in ancient times they abounded in the lowlands of Palestine to such an extent, that they were used as common building wood (vid., Isaiah 9:9, on which Theodoret observes, τούτων (συκαμίνων) ἡ Παλαιστίνη πεπλήρωται). According to 1 Chronicles 27:28, the sycamore forests in the lowland of Judah were royal domains.
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