According to Deuteronomy 17:14-17, there are limits to a king's possessions:

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me," you may indeed set over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose. One of your own community you may set as king over you; you are not permitted to put a foreigner over you, who is not of your own community. Even so, he must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since the Lord has said to you, "You must never return that way again." And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself. [emphasis added]

King David appears to have had at least seven wives, and King Solomon was said to have 700. 1 Kings 11:4 notes how Solomon's wives did indeed lead him astray:

For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.

This verse seems to imply that 700 is too many, but seven is not. Is that a fair reading? Is there a way to narrow the gap?

  • 1
    What a marriage is in the Christian sense is more narrowly defined than it was prior; if you're trying to ascertain God's judgment on what constitutes a lawful marriage and how He defines the role of a wife, you're looking in the wrong book. There's nothing there for you to apply to your own life, except to see where overfeeding the insatiable appetite that is sex may lead.
    – James Bush
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 20:32

3 Answers 3


There does not seem to be any way to narrow the gap. This might be intentional, the intent being to establish a generally negative moral value to kings gathering harems, but allowing for the necessity of politically expedient marriages with foreign royal families.

The term "many wives" is as specific as the OT gets.

Kings 11:4 is clearly an indictment of King Solomon for infraction of the commandment.

The Deuteronomic writer is usually brief and laconic, which might mean that the lack of a specific number in 17:17 is intended to mean "many" in terms of the time in history of the application of the commandment, or even to the specifics of the king or wives. In our day this might be "more than one". For Israelite King Echov, one particular foreign wife, Isabel, was one too many.

King David is said to have had eighteen wives and concubines, seven mentioned by name in the OT and the others mentioned in the oral tradition. Since there is no statement in the OT that attributes a negative influence to this number of wives on David's piety, the Mishna deduces that at that time "many" was "more than eighteen".

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    of course, David's many wives led to other problems - Absalom's uprising, the rape of his daughter, etc
    – warren
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 15:24
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    Actually, the fact that David did not marry Avishag is taken in halacha to indicate that he was married to the maximum allowable number of wives. Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 23:33

King David had multiple wives - scholars say up to 19 - all of them given to him by the Lord God. In fact, when David committed adultery & murder, the Lord God even told him He would have given him more wives if he would have asked (2 Sam. 12:7-8). In addition, David had an unknown [small] number of concubines.

Wives of King David: a) In 2 Chronicles 3. In a few sentences it lists all descendants of King David, from his 11 children by 7 wives to descendants of King Solomon, some 30 generations. b) I Samuel also mentions another wife. c) Eight wives were named in the Bible, but there were numerous other wives that were not named. Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, Abigail the Carmelitess, Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, Michal, and Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel. d) 1 Samuel 19 ALSO identifies Merab who was given to David by her father Saul.

King Solomon had 700 wives & over 300 concubines.

What did the Lord mean when He commanded Israel's king not to multiply wives?

1) Despite what many claim, this is not a prohibition against polygamy. There is, in fact, no such prohibition in Scripture, EXCEPT for Church LEADERS!

2) Except for Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, ALL of David's wives were from within the nation of Israel. Many of these wives were actually King Saul's wives which David inherited. It is very likely that he had at least one wife from each of the tribes of Israel (12) as a God-ordained way of solidifying the very tribalistic nation around one king. In other words, David's Israelite wives all served a godly purpose.

Geshur was a nation north of Israel, & more importantly is NOT one of the nations which God commanded Israel to totally destroy.

In all likelihood, since David was very much against the enemies of the Lord, all of his concubines were also from the various tribes within Israel as gifts to the king.

3) The overwhelming majority of Solomon's wives, however, were from foreign nations. Just as David's Israelite wives solidified internal relations, Solomon's wives were used to solidify treaties with outside nations. These wives all worshiped the lesser foreign gods Israel was commanded to war against. In the end, Solomon's foreign wives turned his heart from the Lord God, just as He said would happen.

In other words, although David did have multiple wives, with the exception of Maachah, these were all allowed in order for him to solidify his kingdom from within. Even Maachah was allowed by God according to His testimony regarding the multiple wives of David. The point being, David did not multiply wives for HIMSELF - he multiplied wives for the KINGDOM!

David NEVER allowed any of his wives to lead him astray from the Lord God!

Solomon, on the other hand, did the opposite. Even allowing for some treaty marriages, 700 wives is excessive. The only reason for a number this large is selfishness & pride. Add to this the 300+ concubines & it becomes clear Solomon's motivation is himself, not God.

Of course, the final nail in Solomon's coffin is all the temples & idols he constructed for his various wives - the very reason the Lord God commanded the king NOT to multiply his wives.


I would like to add to this comment that Kind David had 7 wives and 10 concubines. In some research that I did, someone also stated that at the time king David had committed adultery, the Lord said to David, He would have given even him more wives.

The Lord, when He spoke of himself as being the bridegroom, we know that He has 10 wives. I have found out Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

It would seem as though men on earth are a Type, of the bridegroom Christ. This would seem to explain why polygamy is loosely regulated under the Law of God and neither forbidden or condemned as a sin.

This may be helpful to us in explaining why certain laws and statutes concerning who a man can and cannot marry may exist.

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