Solomon’s Wives: Parashat Shofetim

“…you shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by the Lord your God… Moreover, he shall not keep many horses or send people back to Egypt to add to his horses, since the Lord has warned you, ‘You must not go back that way again’ And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart go astray…” Deut. 17:15-17

The mention in this passage of Egyptian horses in conjunction with many wives is a clear reference to King Solomon according to most assessments. The comment about horses is probably a covert allusion to Solomon’s political policy toward Egypt, and the diplomatic and trading relationship between the Pharaoh after the king married his daughter. This may also be a critique of Israel’s military alliance with Egypt and Solomon’s overdependence on Egypt’s horses for his own cavalry (Burns). Despite the large number of horses Solomon obtained, ironically his son Rehoboam is defeated by the Egyptian pharaoh Shoshenk with his 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen.

Even though Deuteronomy purports to be Moses’ words, anachronisms, such as this mention of King Solomon, have convinced scholars that many parts of the Bible with the same writing style as Deuteronomy are actually of a more recent origin. For now, what interests me is the admonition in Deut. 17:17 against having many wives. Read more…

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