King Solomon's Wives & Diplomatic Alliances
The Bible recounts that King Solomon, wisest of men and builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. This practice was in direct violation of the Bible's constraint, that should a king reign over the People of Israel, he should not have too many horses or too many wives.
The Bible placed limits on the number of wives and wealth the king could have, so that he would stay focused on his responsibilities and not be distracted and corrupted by materialism and power. Solomon was certainly aware of these prohibitions, but felt that his great wisdom and spirituality would enable him to handle these challenges and be an even greater king. It is far more feasible to imagine that the significance of Solomon's alleged abundance of foreign wives was not necessarily the romance, but rather shrewd politics and empowerment of his empire.
Marriage within royalty and nobility was a common practice for establishing and cementing political alliances. In Solomon's period, the Middle East was made of many city-states and quite likely Solomon's ingenuity enabled him to solidify so many alliances in this way and thus strengthen his kingdom.
In terms of running the empire and maintaining both wealth and power in the region, Solomon's foreign alliances were of great impact since they formed the basis for foreign commercial relations. From the Egyptians he bought chariots and horses, which he sold to the Hittites and other peoples of the North. With the Phoenicians he united in maritime commerce, sending out a fleet once in three years from Etzion-Geber, at the head of the Gulf of Akaba, to Ophir, presumably on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. From this distant port, and others on the way, he derived fabulous amounts of gold and tropical products. These revenues gave him almost unlimited means for increasing the glory of his capital city and palace, and for the perfection of his civil and military organizations.
The Biblical story addresses the serious theological implications relating to Solomon's maintaining so many foreign wives, since these women were considered infidels and idol worshippers, not of the Jewish faith, and would have had to convert in order to marry the king. It is evident from the biblical account, that Solomon was lenient with his wives' religious practices and allowed them to continue to practice idolatry and worship their gods, while living in the palace in the holy city of Jerusalem.
The Bible even states that in his old age, Solomon was influenced by his wives, who turned his heart after other gods. From a theological perspective, this was considered Solomon's greatest mistake and fault. It was a grave violation of the faith and the holiness of Jerusalem. It brought upon him the wrath of God and eventually resulted in the fall of the United Kingdom of Israel:
"I will tear the kingdom away from you ... But I will not do this in your time, for the sake of your father David. Instead, I will tear it away from your son ... I will give your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."
Seals are available at King Solomon Amulet!