Besides his great wisdom, Solomon is known for the number of wives he had.
“King Solomon fell in love with many foreign women (besides Pharaoh’s daughter), including Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. They came from nations about which the Lord had warned the Israelites, “You must not establish friendly relations with them! If you do, they will surely shift your allegiance to their gods.” But Solomon was irresistibly attracted to them. He had 700 royal wives and 300 concubines; his wives had a powerful influence over him.” (1 Kings 11:1-3 NET)
Perhaps it should not surprise us then, with all this experience of being married, that Solomon’s proverbs talk about husbands and wives and their relationship with each other. Despite his having so many wives, his advice to his son is that he should “rejoice in the wife you married in your youth … may you be captivated by her love always” (Proverbs 5:18-19). Even though he did not practice what he wrote, what he wrote is good wisdom!
A wife should be a blessing to her husband: “The one who has found a good wife has found what goodness is, and obtained a delightful gift from the Lord … A house and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22; 19:14). When a husband takes his wife for granted, he grieves both her and the Lord (who gave her to him). He is to love her and be loyal to her all the days of his life.
A wife can either build up her family or tear it down. “Every wise woman has built her household, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). If she is obedient to the Lord and living that way, she will build up. If she disobey’s God’s wisdom, she will be a tear down.
Some wives cause problems for their husbands. Although husbands can equally cause problems for their wives, Solomon, being a husband, doesn’t mention any of these. But he seems to have known what it was like to live with a wife who argued all the time.
“A foolish child is the ruin of his father, and a contentious wife is like a constant dripping…It is better to live on a corner of the housetop than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife…It is better to live in the wilderness than with a quarrelsome and easily provoked woman…A continual dripping on a rainy day—a contentious wife makes herself like that. Whoever contains her has contained the wind or can grasp oil with his right hand.” (Proverbs 19:13; 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15-16).
Outward beauty seems to have been emphasised for as long as there have been men and women. Many see physical beauty as the most desirable feature when looking for someone to be with. Solomon pointed out that physical attractiveness is not what we need to be looking for and desiring – other features are much more important. Although we probably would not express it in the terms Solomon uses, we realise the truthfulness in the following proverb.
“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who rejects discretion.” (Proverbs 11:22)
Of course the ideal wife is seen in Proverbs 31.
What can we learn from Solomon’s wisdom? Being married is a serious commitment. As a wife we should respect and support our husband. As a husband we should love our wives and never lose our love for them. Both husband and wife should seek to serve the Lord. In this way, we will both be a blessing.
Readings for next week: Proverbs 12-18