1 Kings 3:1 (ESV)

1 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 around Jerusalem.

The opening verses of 1 Kings 3 contain a method of introducing what is perhaps the chief accomplishment of Solomon in the building of the temple. They do this by the knowledge they impart of the rather cramped size of Jerusalem, which was relatively small, as mentioned in the comment on 1 Kings 2:36–37. We ought to understand the language as implying that Solomon brought his new wife into the city of David. Since the building of his palace and the temple lay in the future, the later expansion of the city had not yet taken place.

We need to remember this introductory purpose, for if we do not, there is a danger of being totally captivated by real interpretive questions of an ethical nature that the verse brings to the attention of the reader. These factors are important, but we should not allow them to overshadow the importance of the building of the house of the Lord.

Chapter 3 begins with a report of the marriage between Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter. The ESV uses the phrase made a marriage alliance, and this is more an interpretation than a strict translation. The words in Hebrew literally mean be made the husband of a daughter, or in other words, become the son-in-law of someone, in this case, the son-in-law of Pharaoh. And seeing who Pharaoh was, the idea of an alliance in the formal sense is a near certainty.

More important, however, is how we ought to view this marriage. There are some matters here that should trouble us.

One of these deals with the verb used for the marriage. Whether you say the husband of Pharaoh’s daughter or the more readable son-in-law of Pharaoh, it is not Solomon who has the primary place. This verbal primacy given to Pharaoh probably reflects the nature of the alliance into which Israel entered. Solomon was the junior partner, and we may well meditate on the question of whether this was the proper status for the Lord’s anointed.

A second and even more troubling aspect of the marriage was that it took place outside the covenant between God and his people. Pharaoh’s daughter was a foreign woman from a land that worshipped foreign gods over which Yahweh had triumphed in the exodus. The Law of Moses made it clear that Israel was not to return to Egypt (see Deuteronomy 17:16). The Law also made it clear that Israel was not to intermarry with the foreigners of the land to which they were going, and it is reasonable to believe that they should not intermarry with Egyptians from the land from which they had come. God, therefore, had not blessed the relationship into which the king had entered (see Deuteronomy 7:3–4).

Though there is not any evidence that Solomon succumbed at this time to the worship of his wife’s gods, this practice set an unwholesome example that would, near the end of Solomon’s reign with other foreign wives, lead him into such idolatry that brought judgment upon him and his house.

Terrible things can have very small beginnings. At this point, despite the unfortunate alliance, Solomon did love and worship the Lord. God had great plans for Solomon, especially in building the temple, but Solomon planted the seed that would bear poisonous fruit in the time to come.

The New Testament reinforces the prohibition against being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), yet many Christians for many reasons follow the example of Solomon and sometimes bear fruit as bitter and destructive as his.