King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women from the nations that the Lord had told the Israelites about, “Do not intermarry with them, and they must not intermarry with you, because they will turn you away ⌊from Me⌋ to their gods.” Solomon was deeply attached to these women and loved ⌊them⌋. He had 700 wives who were princesses and 300 concubines, and they turned his heart away ⌊from the Lord⌋.
When Solomon was old, his wives seduced him ⌊to follow⌋ other gods. His heart was not completely with the Lord his God, as his father David’s heart had been. Solomon followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not completely follow the Lord.
At that time, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the detestable idol of Moab, and for Milcom, the detestable idol of the Ammonites on the hill across from Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who were burning incense and offering sacrifices to their gods. (1 Kings 11:1-8)
Those we love and care about can lead us astray faster than anyone. God knows what peer pressure does to us. We want to be loved, we want to be accepted, we want to do what we can to make those we’re with happy. The fear of losing those we love combines with our desire to make them happy and can lead us to make the wrong choices. It is easy to be more influenced by those we are with—those we can see and touch—than by someone as abstract to us as God usually is. Even a child who loves his parents can be led to make foolish choices when they aren’t around and the right choice would result in social ostracism from the friends they are with, or the child fears that it might. Human beings are social creatures, and we fear losing that connection with those around us.
Solomon’s relationships with many women were more complicated than most. Not only was the social dynamic at work: he genuinely cared for these women—but there was politics at play as well. Marriages with foreign women, the daughters or sisters of neighboring rulers, solidified treaty obligations and guaranteed peace and trade. If he didn’t keep these women happy, not only might he lose their affections, he might also lose a lot of money and prestige—and he might face war.
God understood the problems relationships could cause. That’s why he warned Solomon and the Israelites in general against involving themselves in romantic relationships with non-Israelites who did not accept the exclusive worship of God. Those we are with influence us—for good or bad. How real God is to us makes a big difference in our behavior.