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Home: The Toast

We’ve talked a bit about the “Power of Women” motif popular in Renaissance-era European art before. It was a glorious time for art, when every neoclassicist Lowlander worth his salt painted women riding classical scholars like ponies and legendary heroes forced to wear beautiful pink dresses. And one of the more popular scenarios under the “Power of Women” umbrella was that of King Solomon being led into idolatry by his wives.

You are, I assume, roughly familiar with the story of Solomon, son of David, third king of Israel, noted for his wisdom and friendly reception to the Queen of Sheba. Something that’s less frequently mentioned about him is that, towards the end of his life, he sort of ditched the contemplation to marry every woman who walked into the room:

Now king Solomon loved many foreign women, besides the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which The Lord said unto the children of Israel: ‘Ye shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods’; Solomon did cleave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not whole with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. [1 Kings 11:1-5]

So, right-ho, bit of a sad picture there at the end, the wisest king in history abandoning his own religion to please a vast assortment of wives (“But I love them!”). Luckily for us, it’s also very funny, because every time someone painted the scene of Solomon’s wives leading him into idolatry, it looks exactly like every anti-drug D.A.R.E. commercial you’ve ever seen. There’s the old, doddering king, buffeted about by his shapely, long-legged wives in the direction of a smirking statue, and the look on his face is always “I don’t know, my mom said…” and the look on their faces is always “You always do everything your mom tells you to do, Solomon, also called Jedidiah, son of David and flower of the Tree of Jesse, ruler over all twelve tribes of Israel?”

Like, buddy! You are the leader of the Northern and Southern kingdoms, you can do whatever you want, you don’t have to let your wives boss you around just because it’s 1000 to one!

babes1

“All the other nations are doing it.”
“I don’t know. It feels weird.”
[stage-whispered from behind] “I told you he wasn’t going to worship her.”
“Oh, my God, I know.”
“Just one oblation. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to oblate again.”
“Well…”

(c) National Trust, Osterley Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“Do it. Acknowledge Astarte.”
“Yeah, do it.”
“Everyone cool is doing it.”
“Do it to be cool.”
“Don’t you wanna be cool?”

babes3

“Worshiping one god isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Worshiping a million gods.”

babes4

“I’m not really sure about this.”
“What’s to be sure about? God, it’s like prostrating oneself with a baby. If Naamah the Ammonite can do it, surely the king can give it a try.”
“Maybe I’ll just venerate him later.”
“It’s just one little god, Solomon. How much can it hurt?”
“I just don’t feel comfortable.”
“Oh my GOD, it’s not like we’re asking you to venerate DAGON here. Calm down.”
“I…maybe this once.”
“Great. Hold it in your lungs for a minute before you let it out, then pass it.”

babes5

“Solomon…”
“Hey, Solomon…”
“Solomon babe, how come we don’t have an Asherah pole?”
“Yeah, why can’t we have an Asherah pole?”
“All the OTHER Canaanite nations have an Asherah pole, and we don’t even have ONE.”
“Pleeeeease can we have an Asherah pole? We can keep it in my room, you won’t even have to see it.”
“It is SO PATHETIC that we only have one god when everybody else has so many. People laugh at us, you know. They call you One-God Solomon, and it’s the worst. I’m embarrassed to mention that I’m one of your seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines at parties.”
“You might as well just buy us one because otherwise we’re all going to ask you about it when it’s our turn to have sex with you.”

babes6

“HEY FUCKO, WORSHIP THIS OR I’LL PINCH YOU IN THE FUCKING DICK”

babes7

“Okay, you baby. You don’t even have to do anything. We’ll procure the snow-white horse, slay the unblemished lamb, catch the blood in a silver dish, pour it onto a smoking incense, and drape the Goddess’ likeness with flowers and glorious raiment. All you have to do is incline your head respectfully. God. Worship much? [whispered, aside] I told you we should have married Tiglath-Pileser II of Assyria.”

[Images via here and here]

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