Q&A: Solomons' wives? Song of Solomon 6:8

Solomons' wives? Song of Solomon 6:8

Question

In comparing Song of Solomon 6:8 with 1 Kings 11:3 there seems to be a discrepancy.

Answer

Song of Solomon 6:8 Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number.

Kings 11:3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.

First, these passages may be referring to two different time periods in Solomon's life. Even in the Song there is a suggestion of a potential future growth in the phrase "virgins beyond number."

Second, Kings does not say that Solomon had 700 wives, but 700 wives of "royal birth."

Third, Delitzsch (Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. Commentary on the Old Testament) argues that:

the relatively "small" numbers reflected a period early in Solomon's reign! The rounded numbers, however, indicate that this is an artificial device for the sake of a hyperbolic comparison. The device is similar to the numerical pattern in Wisdom literature, "there are three things , there are four" ("sixty" and "eighty" represent 3 x 20 and 4 x 20). In addition, princesses and concubines are reputedly the most beautiful of women (princesses because they were raised in a pampered setting and concubines because they are chosen specifically for their beauty). In the fashion of Wisdom literature, the man is proclaiming that however many other women of whatever status there may be, his beloved is still by far the best. Other women may be sixty, eighty, or countless in number, but his companion is "one."

Garrett, D. (2004). Vol. 23B: Word Biblical Commentary : Song of Songs/ Lamentations. Word Biblical Commentary (229). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).