Israel’s Sophomoric Leader

Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall round Jerusalem.

1 Kings 3:1 (ESV)

The word “sophomore” means “wise fool” (from sophos and moros), and King Solomon filled the bill. Though he was wise enough to write Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, he was a fool to marry outside the faith, to usher a devotee of Isis, Atum, and Osiris into the royal household.

At first glance, Solomon’s marriage alliance seemed a positive thing, a sign that Pharaoh had recognized the prosperity of Israel under Solomon, a sign of God’s blessing on the nation. In reality it carried far more negative connotations, transgressing clear commands of God, and threatening to reverse the process of salvation history. While these sinister overtones were only implicit in chapter 3, by chapter 11 they had worked themselves out, and Solomon’s heart had been led astray by his foreign wives (11:1-8).

Yahweh’s warning to His people was clear: those who take foreign wives will be susceptible to their idolatry and likely to face divine wrath (Deut. 7:3-4). Solomon must have thought he was smarter than God on this point. Though he was faithful to condemn idolatry (1 Kings 8:61), he was careless to put himself in a compromising position through marriage.

Pharaoh’s daughter was not just any foreign wife. Egypt was the place from which Israel had been rescued, a place they must shun. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in dismay, and Caleb tore his clothes when the people even suggested returning (Num. 14:3-6). And God later forbade trade with Egypt, lest the contact prove seductive—“You shall never return that way again” (Deut. 17:16). That seemed plain enough, but Solomon missed, or ignored, the implications—and it led to the destruction of his kingdom (1 Kings 9:1-9; 12:15).

The Apostle Paul picked up the theme in his letters to Corinth—widows are to remarry “only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39); “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers . . . What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14a, 16a). The pastor who insists on this standard may seem unnecessarily harsh, for it makes no sense to contemporary society. However, disobedience to God in this area has tragic consequences. Even one who appears wise and godly can be crippled spiritually and led to apostasy by an unbelieving spouse.

“We just want her to be happy.” So many pastors have heard this rationale for an unbiblical marriage. Seldom do they hear, “We just want her to be holy.” But as they preach and counsel that holiness is the only path to blessedness, they may find that their “sophomores” have grown up.