Solomon married a whole slew of pagan women. How was this allowed?


A cursory reading of those actions of King Solomon's does seem pretty incriminating. The verse states clearly that these women were of the gentile nations, from which we are warned not to marry.

Yet, in Kings I 3:3, after telling us that King Solomon married the Egyptian princess, the verse tells us that "Solomon loved G‑d, walking in the statutes of David his father." How is one who marries "of the nations about which G‑d had said to the Children of Israel, 'You shall not marry among them (Kings I 11:2)'" described as "a lover of G‑d" who "walks in the statutes of his father"?

This question troubled Maimonides too. The great 12th century philosopher and halachist addressed this in his Mishneh Torah, in the Laws of Forbidden Relationshps (13:14-16). The following is a free translation of his explanation to these seemingly conflicting verses:

"Do not imagine that Samson, the savior of Israel, or Solomon, king of Israel, who was called 'the beloved of the Lord,' married foreign women while they were still Gentiles. Rather, the key to this matter is as follows:

"The correct premise is that when a man or woman shall come to convert, we investigate if perhaps they came to convert for monetary reward, office they will receive, or out of fear. If the would-be convert is a male we investigate if perhaps there is a Jewish woman he has eyed for marriage, and if it is a women we investigate if there is a Jewish man she is eyeing. If we find that they have no ulterior motive, we inform them of the weight of the yoke of Torah and the burden of its fulfillment for a gentile, in order that they should abandon this quest. If they accepted, and did not abandon this quest, and we see that they truly came out of love, we accept them...

"Therefore, in the days of King David and King Solomon, the Jewish courts did not accept proselytes since in the days of David they possibly came out of fear, and in the days of Solomon perhaps they came for the kingdom, material goodness, and greatness that the Jews enjoyed at that time. For anyone who converts for personal gain is not a 'righteous convert' (accepted as a Jew). Nonetheless, numerous converts were made in the days of David and Solomon through ad hoc courts of non-experts. Such converts were neither pushed away – since they had already been immersed (i.e. the mechanics of conversion) – nor brought close by the High Court of Authority until it was seen how they turned out. Since Solomon had women undergo conversion and then married them; and likewise Samson had women undergo conversion and then married them, and it is known that they became Jewish only for an ulterior motive, thus their conversion was in defiance of the official court, therefore, Scripture considered them Gentiles. In addition, their subsequent behavior revealed their original mindset, when they worshiped their alien gods, and they constructed high-places for those gods..."

Best regards,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson