Solomon’s Harem and Idolatry
SOLOMON RAINS FORTH WISDOM. Seeing this, I begged my guides to allow me to see what was going to happen. Mr. Ubiquitous consented at once and we set out with the interpreter. We found Solomon with his retinue in the street of the learned, where he was expounding, to the general astonishment, the nature of plants, beginning with the cedars of Lebanon down to the moss growing on the wall; similarly he taught them about beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes, as well as about the fundamental nature of the world, the power of the elements, the arrangment of the stars, the power of human thought, and so forth. Men from all nations came to listen to his wisdom. He gained surpassing fame thereby, so that he began to feel pride in himself; particularly when Affability and Craftiness, insinuating themselves carefully among his company, began to extol his virtues before all men.
2 HE INVENTS CRAFTSMANSHIP. He then rose up and set out to investigate the other parts of the world; and entering the street of craftsmen and examining their work, he was delighted with their various arts, and, he himself with his great ingenuity invented extraordinary methods pertaining to the scientific care of gardens, orchards, and fishponds as well as to the building of houses and cities. In general, he busied himself with the increase of all human comfort.
3 HE IS ENTANGLED INTO THE STATE OF MATRIMONY. When, however, he finally entered the matrimonial street, crafty Delight met him with a company of the most charming maidens, wearing gorgeous dresses and accompanied with melodious music. A few of the most exquisite beauties welcomed him with great honor, calling him the light of humankind, the crown of the nation of Israel, and the ornament of the world: as the learned class and craftsmen–they continued–had gained much knowledge and enlightenment from the effulgence of his presence, so also the married state hoped to gain benefit from his glory.
Having made a courteous reply, Solomon announced that he decided to honor the matrimonial state by participating in it; thereupon, selecting from the whole group of maidens one who seemed to him the best suited to his station (she was called the Pharaoh’s daughter), he was weighed and fettered with her. But having been fascinated by her beauty, he spent more time dallying and lovemaking with her than in his labors of wisdom.
Moreover (something I should have never expected) he began to cast amorous glances at the crowd of other sportive young maidens, (of whom crafty Delight brought an ever increasing number before his eyes), and having been captivated by the beauty and the charm of one after another, he took to himself the choicest wherever he found them, even dispensing with the weighing ceremony; hence, in a short time seven hundred of them were seen about him, and besides these, three hundred of the unattached; he regarded it part of his glory to surpass even in this regard all who had been before him or were to come after him. Thereafter, nothing but frivolity of all kinds was to be witnessed in his company, so that his own people were soon saddened and sighed over it.
4 HE ENTIRELY LAPSED INTO THE STATE OF IDOLATRY. He and his following then crossed the street to that of the religious; for he permitted himself to be drawn wherever his wretched company to which he was fettered dragged him. There he amused himself, along with his companions among animals and reptiles, dragons and poisonous worms.
–John Amos Comenius, Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart