King Solomon loved many foreign women from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the Israelites, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will incline your heart to follow their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love. Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. – 1 Kings 11:1-4 (NRSV)
King Solomon was either a sex addict or an ostentatious flaunter of wealth. Or both. He had seven hundred wives, very expensive princess wives, and three hundred concubines.
Ancient Israel knew nothing of today’s “one man, one woman” prescription for so called “traditional” marriage. Back then, it was “one man and as many women as that man could afford.” Solomon, a gazillionaire, could afford plenty.
The Bible doesn’t critique Solomon’s indulgent polygamy and the outrageous sexism in play. The Bible is only concerned that Solomon’s one thousand partners created a multi-faith household that “turned away his heart.” Polygamy, no problem. Poly-religiosity, no way.
That’s hard to reconcile, not only because Americans are increasingly interfaith and multifaith—going to yoga on Thursdays, temple on Friday or Saturday, church on Sunday, and reading a book about mindfulness on Monday (I myself am religiously bi)—but also because God is bigger than any one religion. And all of them.
In short, many a heart has been tuned more closely to God through interfaith exploration than turned away. Yes, the Bible discourages intermarriage, but maybe the real issue is that catering to so many partners left Solomon little or no time for worship. They not only turned his heart away, but turned his heart to stone.
God of all people, give me a heart wide enough to embrace your love wherever it is found and ready enough to worship whenever you are found.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series publishe by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now