Whereas Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have proclaimed “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman,”
Whereas the Chick-fil-A company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit” and its president prays “God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”
Whereas, the Pennsylvania legislature has unanimously proclaimed 2012 to be “The Year of the Bible,”
Whereas I began writing this series on the day my wife and I were celebrating 34 years of marriage,
Be it resolved: let’s take a look at biblical marriage.
In the first article we looked at biblical marriages from Adam to Lamech, in the second the Patriarchs. In this article we are going to look at the biblical marriages of the two most beloved kings of Israel, David and his son Solomon.
For the great King David, beloved by God, marriage served two purposes: 1) to cement political alliances with other kings and 2) the Ancient Near East version of the Carlisle Car Show – collect as many as you can, then show ‘em off. Using the above as his definition of marriage, David excelled.
Depending on which scripture you read, David had at least eight wives: Michal, the second daughter of King Saul; Ahinoam the Jezreelite; Abigail the Carmelite; the widow of Nabal; Maacah, daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; Haggith; Abital; Eglah; and Bathsheba.
Ah yes, Bathsheba. She was smokin’ hot. The fact that she was already married to another man was merely the smallest of problems for the greatest of kings. Second Samuel 11 tells the sordid tale: King David sending his men out to battle while he remained safely protected in the walled city of Jerusalem. After arising from an afternoon nap, he peeped at a beautiful woman from his palace roof top and inquired who it was. When told she has married to one of his soldiers, David sent for her anyway, had sex with her, and made her pregnant. Hoping to cover it all up, he ordered the soldier to come home in the hopes he would have sex with her and trick him into thinking it was his child. But the soldier, Uriah the Hittite, was so loyal to David, he lay outside the door of his own home rather than have sex with his wife because King David’s army was in the field.
What did King David do? He ordered Uriah back to the front and then sent secret orders to his hatchet man Joab to set Uriah in the forefront of the battle so that he would be killed. In a final act of wickedness, he sent Uriah’s death warrant with Uriah knowing that the man’s loyalty would never allow him to open the letter and be spared. Uriah was killed in the fighting.
What was David’s sin in all this? Was it betrayal, malfeasance of office, abuse of power, murder? Nope, adultery. And the punishment God visited upon David for his sin? Something from Deuteronomy 28 perhaps – curses, confusion and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, pestilence that cleaves to you, consumption, fever, inflammation and fiery heat with drought, enemies who pursue you till you perish, or at least a cursed basket or kneading-trough? Nope again, God’s wrath was visited upon the child. It lived only seven days.
First Chronicles 3 states David acquired two more wives after he moved the capital to Jerusalem: Bashua, daughter of Ammiel, who bore him four sons and an unnamed wife who bore him nine sons.
Also, as part of the collect-the-entire-set-then-show-‘em-off view of marriage, David had concubines. “All these were David’s sons, besides the sons of concubines; and Tamar was their sister.” (1 Chronicles 3:9)
Lest you think Tamar was David’s only daughter, it should be noted that most often in the Bible, only sons were counted. As in the case of the New Testament miracle story in which Jesus fed the five thousand, females literally did not count (Matthew 14:13-21).
Tamar was included because she was famous for three things. One, she was the most beautiful woman of her time, attested to not once but twice in 2 Samuel 13:1 and 2 Samuel 14:27. If Bathsheba was smokin’ hot, Tamar was smokin’ hot in the superlative. Two, she was sweet. Second Samuel 13 describes her loving, kind, compassionate ways. Three, she was horribly raped by her half brother Amnon. The horror of this crime left Tamar desolate. She never married, had children, or knew the love of a good husband. Her brother Absalom took her in. King David did nothing. His meager response is recorded in 2 Samuel 13:21 “When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry.”
Even in old age, David collected women, though not so much to show them off, but to keep him warm. In 1 Kings 1:1-4 we read:
Now King David was old and advance in year; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young maiden be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait upon the king and be his nurse; let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may be warm. So they sought for a beautiful maiden throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The maiden was very beautiful; and she became the king’s nurse and ministered to him; but the king knew her not.
David’s son Solomon followed in his father’s footsteps – big time. According to 1 Kings 11:3 Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. To get an idea of what marriage to 700 wives and 300 concubines might mean, we turn to A View from the Top, the 1993 autobiography published by Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain. Wilt claimed he had sex with 20,000 women. For this to be true, Wilt would have had to have had sex with 1.37 women per day from the age of 15 up until the year of the autobiography’s publishing, a rate of over 9 women per week.
By comparison, if King Solomon had marital relations with each wife and concubine, only once a year and assuming that sex on the Sabbath was not work, King Solomon would be having sex with 2.74 wives/concubines per day or slightly more than 19 wives/concubines per week.
By my calculation, (2.74 ÷2 = 1.37), that makes Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain only half the man Solomon was.
Even with a 2.74 w.p.d. average, there is an Ethiopian account called the Kebra Nagast that claims King Solomon committed adultery with the Queen of Sheba and fathered a child by her. Though the Bible does not mention the allegation, it does state Solomon and Sheba were, um, certainly in the mutual admiration club. “And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked, besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon.” (1 Kings 10:13).
To summarize, the definition of marriage as “a relationship between one man and one woman” is non-existent for the two greatest kings in the Bible. Biblical marriage was entirely political – to demonstrate the power and prowess of the king in order to advance his interests.
Painting by Francesco Hayez
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