Twelfth in the Solomon Series
Solomon's favorite wife was a dark-complected beauty from out of Egypt. She was "black, but comely," and entreated, Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; [but] mine own vineyard have I not kept.. (Song 1:6)
Many theologians view that statement as describing the church, and understand the Song of Solomon as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the church. This is a beautiful view.
Other commentators see this Song or poem as Solomon's celebration of his marriage to Pharaoh's daughter and his devotion to this special wife. It can be enjoyed as both a parable and a true love story.
In the description of her as "black, but comely," we see a desire on her part to be acceptable, even though foreign in appearance. Perhaps Solomon enjoyed this striking contrast. Yet, even more, what he found in her was a special match for his spirit, in the sense that she had personality traits that were magnetic to him. She was exuberant, feisty, determined, desirous, confident, alluring, expressive, engaging, lovely, and of course, she was head-over-heels in love with him. And gorgeous.
He could also identify with her love for her family, since he loved his, too. In the poem her brothers are her protectors and she speaks of her desire that Solomon could be as one of them; she would then feel acceptable. (Song 8:1) Yet Pharaoh's daughter was cosmopolitan in her desire to marry outside her realm, to journey to Israel and consort with the most important king of the known world.
Some commentators believe she was a proselyte to the Jewish faith since she is never mentioned as one who drew Solomon's heart away from God; however, the palace he built for her was outside Jerusalem. Why? If she was really a "Ruth," would she not be nestled in the dwelling place of the king?
So, how did this union come about?
In the Song, Solomon notes, There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. (Song 6:8) Does this mean he had 60 wives and 80 concubines and countless maidens at the time he consorted with Pharaoh's daughter? Continuing, he writes, My dove, my perfect one, Is the only one, The only one of her mother, The favorite of the one who bore her. The daughters saw her And called her blessed, The queens and the concubines, And they praised her. (Song 6:9)
It is unclear whether an Egyptian harem or Solomon's approved of her. Perhaps he already had the sizable harem, but Pharaoh's consorts were those who specially approved of this darling daughter. In any case, of all his wives and so forth, Solomon loved her best, at least for a time.
In 1 Kings 3:1 we read, Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh, king of Egypt. His marriage to Pharaoh's daughter was an alliance that recognized Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and slain the Canaanites that dwelt in the city, and Pharaoh then gave it as a dowry for her. (I Ki 9:16)
I have not found why Pharaoh attacked Gezer. Did he know the territory was a city of the Levites that was under occupation by Canaanites? Was it his way of making an alliance with this favored man of God? Suffice to say, Pharaoh helped Solomon to secure his borders and expand his kingdom and in return gained a son-in-law. But it wasn't strictly business for Solomon. He gained a love that was better than all his others — a soulmate: The desire of his heart.
Yet, we know how the story ends: Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. The blood shed in conquering Gezer was not valued over the long term. Gezer was built, the special palace for his Egyptian wife was built, but the seal that was set was broken, even though love ought to be "as strong as death":
Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love [is as] strong as death, Jealousy [as] cruel as the grave; Its flames [are] flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised. (Song 8:6, 7)
In passion many words are spoken, but in Solomon's day, the expectations for the king tended to distract him. He distracted himself, too. Or, as Solomon later would lament, Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. (Ecc 7:29)
Inventions? What are these? Man, upright? How? We will look at these in the next Solomon post.