Taming the Unicorn
Chapter Ten - Solomon & the Idol
It creates disaster when we take our eyes off of Yeshua and put them on a person. The unicorn always stands ready with a pair of binoculars to help us focus on his particular specialty, rather than on God.
When I was 20 years old, it finally sunk in that I should attend upon the Lord without distraction while I had the opportunity. I realized that I had been making an idol of marriage, and I needed to stop being so preoccupied about getting married. My commitment to focus entirely on God lasted two weeks. A young man in my church began to pay attention to me, and I found the attraction becoming mutual.
I went to my pastor and asked him to pray for me because I wanted to attend upon the Lord without distraction, and a certain young man was distracting me. He prayed entirely opposite to what I requested, asking the Lord to bless this budding relationship. I went away feeling annoyed and frustrated, but this soon ebbed away in the dizzy delight of hormone rushes.
God knew that I didn't have the self–control to remain single for long, so He let me go ahead and get married to the young Scot who caught my attention. It really was a case of delighting in the Lord and being given the desires of my heart. The man I married was the best spouse that I was capable of receiving at that time, and he was a better choice than a previous boyfriend whom I had been crazy about. In spite of how my marriage didn't work out, I still thank God that I married the man I did, rather than the man I thought I wanted to marry when I was in my teens.
Though there were rough spots, the first four and a half years of my relationship with him (which included the engagement) had a lot of joy. I was so grateful for our good times that I put my husband on a pedestal and raved about him to anyone who would listen. I said that I thought he was just about perfect, but actually I had to ignore clues about some serious weaknesses in order to feel that way. I am sure that part of my adulation was gratitude that he put up with my weaknesses.
When I trace back where my relationship with my ex–husband went wrong, it hinges on one vital point in time. I took my eyes off of Yeshua and fastened them on the young Scotsman whom I had previously ignored for three years.
Before then, I'd had a crush on another young man in the church who was extremely handsome and very tall. Practically all the rest of the girls in the church shared the same interest, but he wasn't interested in any of us. He had a severe drinking problem and was attracted to worldly women.
The drinking problem really bothered me, in spite of how good–looking he was, so I turned my attention to this other guy and I let myself get caught up in his perfect male physique (my ex–husband was a braw figure of a man in his youth), his attentiveness to me, and what I thought he could do for me.
I remember the moment so clearly that I "knew" he was Mr. Right. I was standing behind him in church and suddenly noticed how wide and straight his shoulders were, and how tall and trim he was. I had dated him a few times and thought he was a nice guy, but hadn't paid much attention to how he was built. Bells went off in my head as I thought, "This is it! This is the guy I want to marry!"
After the service, a kind–hearted lady came up to me and tried to put in a good word for some other lad in the church, telling me that he was lonely, etc. I knew that the young man in question had a crush on me, but he wore his hair short, so I thought he was a square. That young man turned out to be more stable and wholesome than the one I married, but my psyche was geared towards being co–dependent on guys who had problems, so I ignored the lady's well–intentioned matchmaking and, during my engagement, I ignored clues that my fiancé had some serious, unresolved problems.
The unicorn in my flesh was prancing and snorting in eager anticipation of marital intimacies. My heart was set on it, and it was outside of my scope of thinking to conceive of denying myself the fulfillment of those desires. I might have been more cool–headed if I hadn't let my boyfriend, later fiancé, get so physically close. We didn't do anything but cuddle and smooch, but oh, we smooched up a storm! When unmarried people engage in physical closeness that they are not entitled to because they haven't taken marriage vows, yet, they form an unhealthy emotional connection that hinders their ability to be rational.
God let me go my own way for a while, and He let us have good times together. The goodness of God should lead us to repentance, but I wasn't swift to catch on that I had placed my husband on a pedestal and needed to repent of it.
My idol eventually did things that I never imagined that he would do. Every time I thought that my husband would never do such and such a thing, a short time later he would do it. I got scared to think about what I thought he would never do because it always happened! Then he went beyond that and did some things that I hadn't even thought of. One of the problems with making idols out of people is that we let them get away with too much, instead of making them suffer appropriate consequences for their misbehaviour.
Solomon fell into the snare of idolizing women, but I think that one particular woman caught his attention more than any other. This was Abishag, the most beautiful woman child in Israel (she was probably only in her mid teens) who was chosen to warm King David in his bed. Because the king was always cold due to his approaching death, Abishag was a fixture in the scene when anyone wanted an audience with him. Solomon needed to talk to his Dad about important stuff, and there was that beauty cuddled up next to David under his blankets, clinging to him skin to skin, unintentionally driving Solomon out of his mind.
By this time, Solomon was married to Princess Naamah, an Ammonitess, who had recently produced his heir. Rehoboam was a one–year–old child when Solomon ascended the throne. He probably should not have married Naamah, seeing as she was an Ammonitess, nor anyone else until he met Abishag, a godly woman of fine character.
The Bible tells us in the Song of Solomon that Solomon was a very handsome man, and the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that he was a genius. He had very quick intelligence, even before God enhanced it. Was the princess his only wife? Not likely.
Prince Yedideyah (Jedidiah a.k.a. Solomon) was a man whom women lusted after, even if he wasn't slated to be the heir to Israel's throne. It could be that, in addition to Princess Naamah, his first wife, Solomon had already begun his hobby of collecting lovely concubines with which to amuse himself. But in Abishag, he was confronted with forbidden fruit.
Intrigued by her beauty, but not at liberty to take her as a concubine, he became even more enamoured with her physical attributes. Restrained from immediately getting involved in a physical relationship with her, Solomon closely observed Abishag to see what he could learn about her personality and character.
The Song of Solomon tells us in verse 8:10 that Abishag was a woman of character who vigilantly guarded her virtue. The verse reads, "I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour." She avoided compromising situations and made men behave themselves if they attempted to take liberties. She was not like a door that had to be closely guarded by others for her own protection.
As she was David's concubine, Abishag knew it was inappropriate to show interest in any other man. This made her stand out from other women who could not conceal their attraction to Solomon and tried to capture his attention with fluttering lashes and welcoming smiles. Men usually take for granted what they can get easily.
Abishag's silent attendance upon David during conferences in his chamber with his ministers and his heir and the rest of his family gave her the added appeal of mystery. Even if she kept her bright eyes courteously averted during David's discussions with his visitors, the modesty that kept her presence from being intrusive was a sure indication of her keen intelligence. The pleasures of an already robust harem could not drive this beautiful, intriguing, forbidden woman out of Solomon's thoughts.
It did Solomon good to be held in suspense over whether his father would consummate his marriage to Abishag, thereby forever keeping her out of Solomon's reach, or whether he would get to marry her after his father died. It tested his character to see what attitude he would take about the situation. Did he wish his Dad would hurry up and die before he could consummate the marriage and not keep Solomon waiting any longer to take Abishag to his bed? He was probably tempted with thoughts like that, but I think that he valiantly fought them down.
Yes, it did him good to go through a period of not having everything he wanted, and it did Abishag a lot of good, too. Solomon would not have been half so interested in her if he had not suffered anxiety about whether he would get to take her into his own harem. She may not have had his lasting love, but the situation gained her more favour with him than what she would have had otherwise. She got to know for a while what it is like to be in love and have it returned. She got to be a princess instead of only a maidservant, and she was entitled to remain a princess, even after Solomon foolishly let his interest in her fade.
Yes, all that anxiety about Abishag and his relief afterwards that he got to marry her made Solomon appreciate her more. Add to that an attempt by his brother Adonijah to steal her out from under his nose. His wrath came down on Adonijah, not only for attempting to gain the throne by marrying a concubine of the deceased king, which would have given him a legal claim to it, but he was also furious with jealousy. No delay was made in sending the executioner after the scheming prince.
Solomon was very irked with his mother for trying to get Abishag married off to someone else. He was a smart man and he would know that his mother was aware of his attraction to Abishag, and that Bathsheba was afraid that Abishag would gain more influence with him that what she had. Besides being so happy about getting Abishag that he wanted to honour her by marrying her, it also set his mother in her place to make Abishag a princess, instead of merely keeping her as a concubine. He wanted to honour his mother, but he had to show her how futile it was to try to control him and be the "power behind the throne."
Abishag's name means "father of error," possibly denoting awkwardness. The Song of Solomon implies that her brothers thought she was likely to be spoiled because of her attractive looks and her place in her mother's doting heart. They made her go out in the vineyards to learn to work hard. I gather from the poem that she was her mother's darling, as Dinah was to Leah after Leah gave birth to six boys. Abishag was her mother's cherished little daughter, and her brothers were jealous.
The brothers likely were very critical of her, which tends to make a person awkward. Abishag was a Shunammite, but she became known as "the Shulamite," which affectionately means "Solomon's girl." Naamah was the Queen for political reasons, but Abishag (at least for a time) was Solomon's special girl out of all his wives and concubines.
Solomon means "peace," and Abishag finally had peace. She had status and respect. She wasn't merely a plaything who would be relegated to doing mundane tasks when her master lost interest in her. Her grumpy brothers capitalized on her looks and sold her for their profit, but she ended up in a better position than what they bargained on.
I think that King David did a lot to help Abishag overcome her awkwardness. He knew what it was like to be picked on by a horde of big brothers. His heart was touched that this young girl who had been brought to his arms was insecure and unsure of herself, though she was so beautiful. I think that when he was left alone with her, he spoke to her encouragingly and built up her self–esteem. David's fatherly tenderness towards Abishag was another factor in Solomon developing such as strong attraction to her. Solomon loved his father, and a beloved parent's attitude can exert a lot of influence with the offspring.
For a while there, Solomon picked up the task of helping Abishag know that she had great value. In fact, he did such a good job of helping her realize her value that she could not be happy about not being his sole bedmate, regardless of the culture. No woman with healthy self–respect is content to share her husband with other lovers.
Why did Solomon get so carried away by Lust after he found the love of his life? It was a major stumbling block before he married her. The Song of Solomon says that he already had sixty queens, eighty concubines, and virgins without number waiting in the wings, aching for him to notice them.
It seems unlikely that he had already made that many political alliances through taking wives before he ascended to the throne. The succession was uncertain; people probably waited to see who would be the king before they offered their daughters for personal advantages, so if Solomon married most of those women before he married Abishag, she must have made him wait a while before he could have her, likely by saying that they should honour King David with a period of mourning. Abishag was no dummy.
I would guess that, in the meantime, she studied intensively to increase her education in all manner of subjects so that Solomon, who was widely educated, would consider her an intelligent listener who could follow his conversation. Sex goes only so far in holding such a man's interest, if that is all a woman has to offer. By the time Bathsheba tried to get her married off to Adonijah, Abishag was a more appropriate age for marriage, she was more elegant and accomplished, and Solomon was panting for her more than ever. Bathsheba made a really bad move when she stepped in front of the unicorn.
Why did Solomon go on to increase his harem to a thousand when he had a wife of noble character whom he should have been happy with, wishing he had only her to please, instead of obligated to schedule time for sixty other queens who were entitled to a night in his bed every two months? Solomon became bitter against God. What made him so bitter? What made him take his eyes off of God and send him galloping off into the mountains of temptation? He built altars to demons in those mountains to oblige the women who snared him.
Where was the beloved Shulamite when he was doing that? We can guess how she felt about his promiscuity. How did she react to it?
I propose that Solomon built an altar in his heart to Abishag, and that was what turned his eyes away from God. Then God took his idol away, and he chose to be bitter about the loss rather than submit to God's chastening.
God promised David He would not take His mercy from Solomon as He had from Saul. In mercy God took from Solomon something that gratified him more than anything else did, because there was so much that was blocking his vision. Somehow God needed to get Solomon's attention.
Where was Solomon making time in his hectic schedule to develop his intimacy with God with all his governmental responsibilities, building projects, intellectual studies, judicial duties, social obligations, hedonistic investigations, and burgeoning harem? On top of this, there was the gorgeous Abishag in all her winsomeness; not only lovely to look at, but also sweet, affectionate, plucky, intelligent, and humorous. He made time to be with her, and he wrote poetry to her. Solomon's interests all edged God out of the picture.
How did the goddess fall? Was it through mortality? Did Solomon become bitter because Abishag died? Did he rebel against God's desire to regain his attention with the trauma of being separated from his beloved through death? Was his anger towards Abishag caused by the feeling she had abandoned him through dying? Or was it because she was ticked off with him and it made him miserable that his goddess did not thoroughly approve of him?
I think that it stressed Abishag too much to have to share her husband with other women and she became resentful. That possibly led her to turn a cold shoulder to her beloved and drop some sharp words in his ears.
Maybe Solomon resented that Abishag took advantage of his favour to express her resentment beyond what any of his other wives would dare. He refused to accept that she was human and capable of being jealous. He was the king! What right did she have to be jealous? That was his sole prerogative. What right did she have to question anything that her king wanted to do?
Did the unicorn within him add all those other mares to his stable to spite her? His love for God got trampled in the stampede when he opened his gates to those virgins without number. Thank God He didn't let Solomon take on more than a thousand wives. Wife 1001 would have turned him away from God forever.
I think that Solomon was angry with Abishag. Ecclesiastes details the cogitations of Solomon's heart as he wavered between trusting God and indulging his flesh. When he wallowed in immature, self–centred thinking, it led to deep depression. When he turned his eyes back to God, he gained hope and spoke wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 7:28 catches him in one of his carnal swings. He says there that he had not found one woman in a thousand who was not manipulative, that they used their beauty and sexual expertise to get what they wanted. It figures that he was talking about his harem. Solomon felt harassed by his one thousand wives and concubines.
Poor baby. Really, I can't work up any sympathy for him. He had wealth and power and he abused it to collect women just like he collected animals for his zoo and plants for his gardens, and stuff for all the other collections that he had. Women are not inanimate objects, nor are they dumb animals. They are human beings whose needs are as valid as those of the male gender. It was insensitive of him to gather up wives who would inevitably suffer from his neglect and infidelity.
It seems that Abishag was not as wise as Queen Esther was about accepting her lot in life of having to share her husband. It could be Abishag cared more. After all, Esther did not have the same expectations. Her husband was a heathen and had not been nurtured in the Word of God. She was abducted and forced into his harem, and her lot turned out to be better than she had expected.
When it turned out that Ahasuerus picked her to be his queen, Esther was grateful that she wasn't at the mercy of the whims of the pagan eunuchs who ran the harem, or of the other wives and concubines. She was at the top of the heap and it gave her some protection. Ahasuerus may have been a middle–aged man and perhaps not particularly good–looking, but if Esther wasn't physically attracted to him, at least she was grateful for his favour. Even more so when she found that she was able to use her position as Queen to save her family and friends and entire nation from torture and death.
Abishag had actually been eager to marry her king. Solomon gave more of his heart to Abishag than kings normally give their wives, but she craved deeper intimacy with him. She was prepared for it, because he was her only lover.
Solomon was not prepared to give Abishag what she needed, because he had to fulfill obligations to the 140 other women he had married prior to her. Solomon was pulled in 141 different directions all at once and it annoyed him that his favourite wife had joined the melee. It was his own silly fault for over–reaching himself.
Maybe he thought Abishag should have been more understanding. She grew up in a culture where polygamy was practiced and pretty daughters from poor families were traded off as concubines for financial and social gain. And she knew he had all those wives to attend to before she married him.
Okay. So she had to take turns with 140 other women, but if his Dad had not been so considerate, she would not have been getting any turns at all. Regardless of Solomon's justifications and Israel's cultural practice, however, polygamy is cruel and the hearts of the victimized know it.
I think Solomon went after more women because he felt it was his right as a king and he was irritated with Abishag's sulks. He did not get this idea from studying God's Word or His ways. Kings were required to copy out the Law so they would know how to govern wisely.
The Law gave newly married couples a year–long honeymoon to get them off to a good start. The husband was told to stay home and "cheer up" his wife. The Law recognized that God has made women in such a way that they need a lot of attention.
This is why so many women complain they don't get enough time with their husbands. Since this is the way God made women, then it must be good for the development of a man's character to stretch himself more to meet this need in his wife.
Also, since Solomon had asked God for wisdom how to govern His people, he would be acquainted with what Samuel had thought about kings taking a lot of wives. He had already messed up in this area before he came to the throne, but he did not need to make things worse.
Abishag may have fallen into further decline, seeking to console her frustrated desire for exclusivity and deeper emotional intimacy with her husband by joining the other wives in artfully wringing favours and presents out of him. Solomon resented that she was not content with the love and privileges and voluntary gifts he gave her.
Both had unreasonable expectations. Abishag had to accept Solomon's limitations and the restrictions of her culture. In the temporal realm she had no other options that met with God's approval, though her culture was in error in the manner it permitted men and women to relate to each other. She was obligated to stick with Solomon and work within her cultural system.
Abishag did not have a place that she could immigrate to and find a better life. The Gentile nations around her had the same practices and often treated their women much worse than what women had to endure within Israel. Having no place to grow outward, people can always grow upwards. We can sink our roots deeper in God and let Him fill the empty places in our hearts as we keep our faces turned to Him.
Solomon was unreasonable in expecting Abishag to be satisfied with having to share him. He was an accomplished lover, but he did not understand, accept, or fully appreciate that God actually prefers for marriage to be monogamous, evidenced by how he made only one wife for Adam, and also by how He says that we are to have no other gods but Him. Marriage is meant to be a visual illustration of how God wants our relationship with Him to be exclusive and intimate and joyful.
Solomon asked God for wisdom how to govern His people. God would have helped him be wise about women, too, so that he could see that it was not unreasonable of a woman to be jealous when her husband does not reserve his lovemaking for her alone. An idol blocked the way. When he saw a woman who interested him, God's message was scrambled by what Solomon had already made up his mind to do. He heard the unicorn's neigh, instead of God's "Nay." Solomon preferred to horse around. He married more mares and the mares became snares, and Abishag became a nag.
The Bible says men are to live with their wives according to knowledge. This means that men are not to despise women for being different from men and that they need to put some effort into finding out how women tick; in particular, make a study of their wives in order to serve them better. Solomon, however, would have had to rein in the unicorn. As long as he wasn't interested in doing that, he was never going to make Abishag happy.
He was never going to be happy either. Lust dangles the bait and deceives people into thinking that they will be satisfied when they get it, but it always leaves a bigger emptiness behind. Solomon kept trying to fill that emptiness with more and more women, but he went too far on the unicorn's trail to ever be able to find true happiness with a woman, which can be fulfilled only within a monogamous relationship.
Solomon had obligations to the women he married to be a husband to each one as much as he could, so that they were not consigned to being totally celibate the rest of their lives. If he gave all of them what they needed sexually, he would have had time for nothing else except a quick meal once or twice a day to keep up his strength. Even so, all that activity would have shattered him. If he had only three wives instead of a thousand, being a good husband to his women would have been a full–time job, because it would have included listening to what they wanted to talk about and spending time with their children. It was quite a hopeless mess.
Ecclesiastes 6:9 indicates that it was beginning to dawn on Solomon that he needed to be thankful for what he already had, rather than following the unicorn. He says, "Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit."
In Ecclesiastes 9:9, Solomon seems to be offering advice he wishes he had taken: to live joyfully with the wife he had loved in his youth by appreciating her strengths more, instead of focussing on her faults.
Click below to read:
Taming the Unicorn, Chapter 11