Question: "Why did God allow Solomon to have 1,000 wives and concubines?"
Answer: First Kings 11:3 states that Solomon “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines.” Obviously, God “allowed” Solomon to have these wives, but allowance is not the same as approval. Solomon’s marital decisions were in direct violation of God’s Law, and there were consequences.
Solomon started out well early in his life, listening to the counsel of his father, David, as recorded in 1 Kings 2:2-3, “Be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.” Solomon’s early humility is shown in 1 Kings 3:5-9 when he requests wisdom from the Lord. Wisdom is applied knowledge; it helps us make decisions that honor the Lord and agree with the Scriptures. Solomon’s book of Proverbs is filled with practical counsel on how to follow the Lord. Solomon also wrote the Song of Solomon, which presents a beautiful picture of what God intends marriage to be. So, King Solomon knew what was right, even if he didn’t always follow the right path.
Over time, Solomon forgot his own counsel and the wisdom of Scripture. God had given clear instructions for anyone who would be king: no amassing of horses, no multiplying of wives, and no accumulating of silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). These commands were designed to prevent the king from trusting in military might, following foreign gods, and relying on wealth instead of on God. Any survey of Solomon’s life will show that he broke all three of these divine prohibitions!
Thus, Solomon’s taking of many wives and concubines was in direct violation of God’s Word. Just as God had predicted, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God” (1 Kings 11:4). To please his wives, Solomon even got involved in sacrificing to Milcom (or Molech), a god that required “detestable” acts to be performed (1 Kings 11:7-8).
God allowed Solomon to make the choice to disobey, but Solomon’s choice brought inevitable consequences. “So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates’” (1 Kings 11:11). God showed mercy to Solomon for David’s sake (verse 12), but Solomon’s kingdom was eventually divided. Another chastisement upon Solomon was war with the Edomites and Aramians (verses 14-25).
Solomon was not a puppet king. God did not force him to do what was right. Rather, God laid out His will, blessed Solomon with wisdom, and expected the king to obey. In his later years, Solomon chose to disobey, and he was held accountable for his decisions.
It is instructive that, toward the end of Solomon’s life, God used him to write one more book, which we find in the Bible. The book of Ecclesiastes gives us “the rest of the story.” Solomon throughout the book tells us everything he tried in order to find fulfillment apart from God in this world, or “under the sun.” This is his own testimony: “I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired . . . a harem as well–the delights of the heart of man” (Ecclesiastes 2:8). But his harem did not bring happiness. Instead, “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (verse 11). At the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, we find wise counsel: “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man” (12:13).”
It is never God’s will that anyone sin, but He does allow us to make our own choices. The story of Solomon is a powerful lesson for us that it does not pay to disobey. It is not enough to start well; we must seek God’s grace to finish well, too. Life without God is a dead-end street. Solomon thought that having 1,000 wives and concubines would provide happiness, but whatever pleasure he derived was not worth the price he paid. As a wiser Solomon said, “God will bring every deed into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).