A reader asked: Why were individuals allowed to have many wives and concubines? (Like Solomon- 700 wives) How does this not break the commandment regarding adultery?

Thank you for asking this question, as it is one that many readers have struggled with. For anyone taking part in our Bible study where we read through the entire word in one year, I touch on this several times in our notes, so my first recommendation is to join our whole Bible study by visiting SeekingScripture.com or requesting to join our discussion group by clicking here. The specific incident of Solomon is discussed in the notes that can be found here.

For anyone reading this who is not part of our Bible study, it is important to note that the study begins in Genesis and builds from there. Should you want to go deeper into the Word, the absolute best way is to show the Father the honor of beginning at the beginning, as He did.

Now let’s dive in. An important point to note is that just because something appears in the Bible does not mean that YHWH sanctions or approves of it. Consider Cane murdering Able, David having an affair with Bathsheba, David having Bathsheba’s husband killed, etc. We could spend a good year just studying all of the times people in the Bible do exactly what YHWH said not to do. 

This is why it is so important to read the entire Bible in context and to give reverence and authority to the instructions of the Father so that we are able to notice when people are disobeying Him. The Bible does not whitewash our spiritual ancestry. Rather, YHWH gives us clear instructions and then shows us examples of folks both obeying and disobeying those instructions, along with the consequences of their disobedience. 

In the case of King Solomon, he was specifically warned not to take many wives:

“Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” (Deuteronomy 17:16—17)

So you may ask, “Did Solomon know this?” Yes, because one of the requirements of a newly crowned king was to write out the entire Torah for himself, as we see in the very next verses:

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:18—20)

He was warned that if he took foreign wives for himself, they would cause him to turn away. And we can clearly see as we read of Solomon’s life that it was his wives, with their foreign gods, who prompted his rapid descent into sin in his older years. 

Now, keep in mind that Solomon was given divine wisdom, making him wiser than any other, yet he fell into this sin and disobedience of YHWH’s direct commandments. How much more so are we prone to this very thing? I always remind myself of this as a regular warning that we must seek Him each and every day, lest we fall into our own reasoning and begin to lean on our own understanding.

God’s ideal for marriage is one man and one woman, but there are people even today who use examples of people following their own hearts in scripture to justify having more than one wife. However, I can’t say I know a single person who hasn’t, at one point, cherry-picked, overlooked, or bent scripture to justify following their own judgment rather than the Father’s. 

The fact remains, though, that the Father does have an ideal and His way is always best. He presents that to us but then gives us a choice as to whether or not we follow it. According to His will and for His good purpose, He often shows us grace as we learn, grow, and go through the process of being refined. Like our spiritual ancestors, we are flawed works in progress, but as we seek to grow in His wisdom, He is patient with us. 

Let’s read a few Scriptures that demonstrate the Father’s ideal and that it was understood: 

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:5—7)

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31)

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (1 Timothy 3:2)

“Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.” (1 Timothy 3:12)

However, despite YHWH’s ideal and the evidence from these verses that shows it was understood in Biblical times, there were still noted figures who had multiple wives in scripture. If you look closely at them, you’ll begin to see the negative experiences attached to these situations. 

But often, there was still grace. In our cultural Christianity, we also rely upon YHWH’s grace, as we have also strayed from His word. 

However, I’d like to take a little license here and go off on a bit of a tangent to discuss Solomon’s greater offense, which is one we have all been guilty of at some point and may even be found guilty of now. That is the act of committing adultery against God Himself. 

Solomon turned from the Father’s ways and gave precedence in his life to his wives and their gods. Anytime we give a person or a thing the place of honor and reverence that belongs only to the Father, we have committed adultery against Him. Here are some verses that let us know how the Father views this: 

“They are spiritual prostitutes, committing adultery against me by sacrificing to their gods.” (Exodus 34:15)

“Then they will cause your sons to commit adultery against me by worshiping other gods.” (Exodus 34:16)

“They defiled themselves by their evil deeds, and their love of idols was adultery in YHWH’s sight.” (Psalms 106:39)

“You have committed adultery on the mountaintops by worshipping idols there, and so you have been unfaithful to me.” (Isaiah 57:7)

The Bible gives us clear examples of the havoc and destruction adultery between spouses can cause in our physical lives, and that should cause us to consider the damage it causes in our spiritual lives when we commit it against YHWH. 

There is both a physical and spiritual application to each lesson from the Bible. On this topic, the Father blesses us with two types of examples: the one to strive for and the one to avoid. It is only through careful study of the word that we are able to discern which one is being presented at any given time in our reading. 

Regrettably, the way most of us have been taught to study the word perfectly fits the example of what to avoid. We must be careful not to piecemeal verses, pull stories out at random, or read passages out of context and expect to walk away with the full lesson. This is akin to going to the theater, spending the first thirty minutes of the movie at the snack bar, coming in and watching ten minutes in the middle, leaving to take a phone call, then coming back for the last five minutes before going on a speaking tour to tell everyone what the movie was about. They’d likely think I knew what I was talking about based solely on my having the audacity to give the talk, but that doesn’t change the fact that I would be a blind guide and we’d all end up in the ditch (Matthew 15:14). 

As we take on the responsibility of maturing spiritually and developing our firsthand relationship with the Father and His word, we must step out from under these practices, let go of the milk, and take hold of the meat. When it comes to the Word, we have to let go of subsisting on appetizers and desserts and learn to eat the whole meal. 

We are right to be concerned about Solomon committing adultery. In establishing our concern in that matter, the Father also blesses us with an opportunity to grow in spiritual discernment as He further refines our understanding of our relationship with Him. 

May we be found faithful. 



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About the Seeking Scripture Team: We are a group of believers from all walks of the faith, saved by grace alone through faith in our Messiah. While we are of one accord in many things, we are all works in progress and lifelong learners. Therefore the opinions of one may not always represent the opinions of all.

Christy Jordan
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