Esor Ben-Sorek

One Thousand Headaches

After the death of King David, his son Solomon ascended to the throne as king of Israel. He was considered a wise man but he had a severe marriage problem. The Bible tells us that Solomon had one thousand wives… seven hundred legal wives and three hundred concubines. In addition he loved the Queen of Sheba and as a politically astute ruler, he married the daughter of Pharoah to create an alliance between the United Monarchy of Israel and the kingdom of Egypt. A father-in-law does not attack his daughter’s husband, nor does his daughter’s husband attack his father-in-law. Thus there was peace during Solomon’s reign.

Yet he violated the commandments of God as recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy 17: 14-20…

“anyone who would be king shall not amass many horses, should not take multiple wives, and should not accumulate much silver and gold”.

Solomon broke all of God’s prohibitions. Yet for David’s sake, God forgave Solomon.

On the humorous side, which wife of the one thousand shared his bed each night? And if the wives were displeased with Solomon they could go on strike, each one of the thousand claiming a headache all on the same night !

Tragically, several of his wives and concubines convinced him to worship their foreign gods and to please them he offered a sacrifice to the god Moloch which God had declared detestable and forbade it. (II Kings 11: 7-8).

God in His righteous anger did not physically punish or harm king Solomon but eventually, following Solomon’s death, his monarchy was divided and the once united monarchy was now split into two nations with two ruling kings in Samaria in the north and Jerusalem in the south. There were now two Jewish kingdoms in Judah and in Israel.

Frequently there were skirmishes between the two kings and battles took place often, lasting until 586 before the common era when the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s holy Temple in Jerusalem and took its people into a long exile in Babylon.

In 721 before the common era, the northern kingdom was invaded by the might of the Assyrians and the kingdom came to an end. The ten tribes of the north were taken into captivity and were never heard from again…. Until the 20th century when an Israeli rabbi went in search of the ten lost tribes and declared that many who were living in Mexico and the Asiatic countries were indeed descendants of the lost tribes of Judah.

This “recognition” is not recognized by most rabbis nor a majority of the Jewish people.

Supremacy went to the two tribes of Israel under the leadership of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah. It was Ezra the scribe who is considered the father of the Jewish religion as we know it today. When the people complained that they could not worship God because the Temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices no longer existed, a major problem arose.

Ezra, in his profound wisdom, taught them to worship in communities (synagogues) in place of the Jerusalem Temple. In place of the priesthood he created wise teachers (rabbis) and in place of sacrifices he taught them how to recite prayers orally, the words of their lips from their hearts. In this way, Ezra preserved Jewish rituals and traditions as we observe them today.

Upon the return to Israel after fifty years in Babylonian exile, the country in which the Babylonian Talmud had been written, Cyrus the Great, ruler of Persia, permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild their Temple.  Under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah, Judaism was born and preserved.

It still does not solve the dilemma of Solomon’s one thousand wives. As there are 365 days in a year, some of his wives had to patiently wait their turn.

Imagine how the Bayer aspirin company could have prospered with one thousand headaches at the same time !


About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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