The Bible Says What? ‘Solomon was not just wise – he was also greedy’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? ‘Solomon was not just wise – he was also greedy’

Student rabbi Lev Taylor takes a controversial topic from Jewish texts and provides a progressive Jewish response

Solomon was a bad king. We are so used to the image of Solomon as the paragon of wisdom and good leadership that many have not heard this version of events. But Solomon’s terrible kingship is the simplest reading of Torah.

In fact, Solomon explicitly does everything a king is not supposed to do. The king, Deuteronomy tells us, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself and he had better not send people to Egypt to increase his number of horses. Solomon did exactly that. Not only did he amass hundreds of horses from Egypt, he sold them on to Israel’s sworn enemies, the Hittites.

Deuteronomy says a king must not take many wives, or his heart will go astray. But according to the book of Kings, Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. They convinced him to worship all their gods in his Temple.

Finally, and most importantly, a king must not accumulate wealth for himself. Solomon collected thousands of talents of gold; he was richer than any ancient Near Eastern king. He did deals with every despot in the region so he could get as rich as possible!

Progressive Jews read the Torah as a composite work, written over many centuries. We think the laws in Deuteronomy were probably written after Solomon had done all these bad things. 

But even the account in Kings says that what Solomon did was evil in the sight of God. The Bible takes a very sceptical approach to powerful people, even when they are our own great kings. 

Far from the fairytale images of royalty, our tradition presents warnings about what the mighty can do with their wealth and power. We should heed them.

  •  Lev Taylor is a student rabbi at Leo Baeck College

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: