Why did King Solomon have numerous wives, when Deuteronomy 17:17 prohibited kings from having many wives?
The first part of the verse reads, “Neither shall [a king] multiply wives for himself; lest his heart turn away!” The book of Deuteronomy underscored for the Israelites what had been taught them in the first four books of the Pentateuch. In 16:8—18:22 Moses gave the people commands for civil order after having outlined Israel’s religious duties. Specifically, in 17:14–20 Moses gave laws concerning Israel’s leaders.
First, the leader was to be chosen by the Lord, and a prophet of the Lord would declare God’s choice. Second, the leader was to be an Israelite, not a foreigner. Third, he was not to acquire great numbers of horses but to depend upon the Lord. Fourth, he was to refrain from multiple wives. And, fifth, he was not to amass large amounts of gold and silver. The personal prohibitions were extremely important in that violating them would lure the leader away from the Lord and into idolatry and false religion.
That is exactly what happened to Solomon when he disobeyed (1 Kings 10:11). Why? I believe Deuteronomy 17 not only has the prohibitions, but it also has your answer! Solomon forgot the reading of the law (the Scriptures), and in so doing, disobeyed God’s commands. Verses 18–20 give this prescription for staying out of trouble:
When [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment . . . and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel!
These verses remind me of a motto some people have written in their Bibles and that we all need: “This Book will keep you from sin; sin will keep you from this Book.”
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