Jacob 2:23-24 — LeGrand Baker — wives and concubines
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
Some people have found a conflict between that statement and the one in the D&C which reads,
38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord. (D&C 132:38-39)
It seems to me that the conflict is more apparent than it is real. Let me explain. Having a concubine would be immoral for us, and if we tried it, we would immediately loose our membership in the church. Jacob was saying that it would be equally immoral for his people and that the practice must end (or not get started) among the Nephites.
But having concubines was not immoral for David and Solomon – and the question I wish to address — the question which those two seeming conflicting scriptures ask — is about David and Solomon. It is not about the Nephites or about you and I.
First of all, we need to define our terms:
CONCUBINE . A slave girl who belonged to a Hebrew family and bore children. Concubines were acquired by purchase from poor Hebrew families, captured in war, or taken in payment of debt; A girl in this classification achieved a certain status if she had sons (Gen. 2 1:10; 22:24; 30:3; 31:33; Exod. 23:12; 21:7,10). Her son might become a co-heir; her name was remembered because of her offspring; a barren wife might have a son through her; she might have her own quarters; she was to benefit by the seventh day of rest; and she had the right to food, clothing, and sexual intercourse. She had the affection of her “husband” (Judg. 19:1-3). Eunuchs were put in charge of concubines (Esth. 2:15); they are called “man’s delight” (Ecci. 2:8), along with singers. A king might have many concubines (I Kings 11:3). The faithfulness of the daughter of a concubine induced David to give decent burial to the bones of Saul and Jonathan (II Sam. 21:10-14). [Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (New York, Abingdon Press, 1962), l:666
The phrase “she had the right to” makes it clear that her having children was not what Jacob called “committing whoredoms.” The concubine was a legal wife of sorts. She and her husband were legally married. The major difference between her and the women called “wife” was that under normal circumstances the children of a wife who was a “concubine” could not inherit, but the children of a wife who was a “wife” could inherit. Let me try to explain that in terms of David and Solomon themselves.
Before he became king, David had two wives, Michel, King Saul’s daughter; and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. After he became king, he married Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, whom some scholars believe may have been king of Jerusalem before David captured the city. Several other wives of David are also known by name, (2 Samuel 3, 5) After that, “David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.” (2 Samuel 5:13) But I could not locate a statement about the total number of David’s his wives and concubines.
However, for Solomon, finding that information was easy.
Solomon was apparently more amorous by far than his father David. “But king Solomon loved many strange [non-Israelite] women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:1-4) Notice in the phrase, “he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines,” that the wives are called “princesses.” That is important because it teaches us something about the differences between Solomon’s wives and his concubines.
In the ancient world, a king’s children were of one of three ranks. Their rank was not determined by the rank of their father – all of them had the same father and he was king. The rank of the children was determined by the rank of the mother. If the mother was the queen, her oldest son was heir apparent to his father’s throne. Her other children were also royalty, and could also inherit. If the mother was a “wife,” her children were royalty and could inherit. If the mother was a concubine, her children had the dignity of being the children of the king, but could not inherit.
What determined which women were wives, and which were concubines was apparently the rank of the girl’s father and mother, and the richness of the dowery she brought to her husband. For example, if Solomon makes a treaty with the king of Egypt and that treaty is sealed by exchanging daughters, and the king of Egypt gives Solomon a great dowery for his daughter, and Gazer as a present. That girl is going to be a very important “wife.”
If, on the other hand, a desert chief makes a pact with Solomon, and sends one of his daughters along with whatever little dowery he can afford to ratify that pact, that girl will probably be a concubine.
The statement about how many wives and concubines Solomon had is not so much a statement about his amorous life as it about his prestige among his kingly neighbors. That is, it is probably intended to tell more about the success of his international relations policies, rather than to tell about his love life.
As time passed, Solomon let his wives have more political and religious power then he should have allowed, and the Lord was angry with him for building temples to their gods. But the Lord sustained his kingship, For the sake of the covenant the Lord had made with David, the Lord did not break his promises to Solomon. (See 1 Kings 11:1-12)
That statement is consistent with the one in the D&C. The Lord had made a covenant with the kings of Israel, and he was going to keep it. Therefore he justified their having many wives and concubines as was consistent with the norms and socially accepted values of their times. Indeed, their having many wives and concubines was evidence in their time of the fulfillment of the Lord’s other covenants. And the fact that the kings sanctified their marriages by the prophets, make their marriages acceptable to the Lord.
It appears to me that what Jacob is saying is that his people could not use the fact that the Lord justified David and Solomon, and twist that fact to justify their own actions, when the object of their actions was to satisfy their desires for lust and possession.