One upright man among a thousand, but no upright woman. Can that really be? – Ecclesiastes 7:28

Solomon’s regret over not stopping at one.

By Dick Lentz

“While I was still searching but not finding — I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them (Ecclesiastes 7:28, NIV).”

I’ve got to admit that the above verse may be one of the most perplexing in the entire Bible. On the surface it appears that Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, was comparing men with women and that though he could find at least one upright or righteous man among a thousand men, he could not find even one upright woman among that same number of women. I’ve even heard a number of sermons over the years that were consistent with this understanding of the passage;  that men are somehow more upright than women, perhaps because it was Eve who was first tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden.

I believe this understanding of the passage is flawed, that it results from a misunderstanding of the context in which it was written, and that taking into consideration Solomon’s background may give us a better understanding of what this verse means.

Solomon’s Thousand Wives

The first thing to note is that Solomon seems to have had at least one woman in his life who he deeply loved and respected. The Song of Songs, probably written by Solomon early in his life, is a vivid and wonderful expression of the longing he felt for this one woman.  Although we don’t know who this woman was, she could have been the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Kings 3:1). What is apparent is that Solomon had a very high opinion this woman and was totally enamored by her beauty and her charms.

The problem that Solomon may have had with regards to women is that he was not satisfied with having just one in his life. He eventually had a harem that totaled one thousand. 1 Kings 11:1-6 gives some details regarding this and what happened because of it:

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women beside Pharaoh’s daughter — Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. 

1 Kings 11:11 describes God’s response:

So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.” 

Who then was Solomon referring to then when he said, “I found one upright man among a thousand?” I believe he was referring to himself. I don’t think he was saying, “I found one upright man, me, among a thousand men,” however.  I think he was saying, “I found one upright man, me, among a thousand women.” If this is so, then the women he was referring to were most likely the thousand he’d gathered into his harem. And it appears according to I Kings 11 that none of them, including the daughter of Pharaoh, worshipped God.

An Upright Man who Lost His Focus

What then does upright mean in this context? The mistake I believe many make at this point is bringing a New Testament understanding of uprightness into the passage and equating upright with being righteous. This can lead to concluding that the passage is talking about a righteous man who was unable to find a righteous woman. But I think that in the context of Ecclesiastes that being upright has more to do with where a  person decides to look for wisdom regarding how best to live life “under the sun (Eccl. 1:3),” and not the result of that decision.  Solomon was an upright man in the sense that he looked upwards to God for wisdom and guidance, at least early in his life. The same could not be said to be true regarding the thousand women he gathered into his harem. It seems that none of them was upright in their spiritual lives, not in the same sense that Solomon was or should have been. All of them worshipped other gods.

1 Kings 11:4 notes the influence that Solomon’s thousand wives had on his own spiritual focus:

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 

Solomon may have been sharing his feelings about this in Ecclesiastes 7:25-26:

So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly. I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare.

If this verse is referring to how Solomon felt about his decision to have so many women in his harem, then he found the results to be more bitter than death, used words like stupid, madness, and folly to characterize his choice, and acknowledged that these women  became snares, traps, and chains

Solomon may have been an upright man at one point in his life. But because of his decision to have so many wives, he lost his upward focus and his heart turned to other gods.

Solomon concluded this portion of Ecclesiastes with these words:

This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes (Eccl. 7:29). 

If Solomon is referring to himself in this verse, what he’s noting is that his life was characterized at one time by an upward or upright focus but that eventually he quit relying on God’s advice and instead followed his own schemes, a decision he came to regret.

A Better Choice

What would Solomon have done differently if he had an opportunity for a do-over in this area of his life?  I think he would have stopped at one. A clue to this is may be found in the advice he gave in Ecclesiastes 9:9:

Enjoy life with your wife, whom you live, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun.

He also advised this is Proverbs 5:18-19:

May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, and a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. 

The focus of Ecclesiastes 9:9 is what do to when you feel that life is meaningless. The focus of Proverbs 5:18-19 is what to do if you are attracted to the charms of a person other than your own spouse. Both have the same message. They are urging men and women who are married to be satisfied with the spouse they have and to quit looking elsewhere for fulfillment in this area of their lives.

As we grow older and our lives, bodies, and circumstances change, we need to adapt to those changes and reject the notion that “changing models” or “adding to the harem” is somehow better than living in a committed and meaningful way with the spouse we already have.

That’s my understanding of this passage and its implications, at least as I see it today.


  1. hi, i am jewish, my Rebbai thought us this passage as it states in the talmud, and in Chzal, that ,
    A. Kohelesn was talking to men, to better themselves, and stop running after vanity, so
    B. when he said “i found one amond a thousand, but a women among them i did not find”
    C. one among 1000 he found, that means (hope am writing this correct) that 999 were not upright, by women he found none among the 999.
    remember, what he wrote before, “to stay with the wife u love” in other words “STOP LOOKING” , i could go on with more , at the end of the day, keep your word, promises, be happy with ur lot, know who’s in charge, always strive to do ur best and fear G-D, he guides the world, for that bring love in everything,


  2. Lev. 15
    Judges 4
    1 Tim 2
    1 Cor 11:3
    1 Peter 3

    And many more Bible passages introduce a common theme that women are more spiritually indebted than that of their male counter-parts.

    My question is, how do these Bible passages reconcile with your BELIEF that Solomon was the 1 / 1000 and 0 out of 1000 of his WIVES* were considered unrighteous?

    I only wish to know the truth…


    1. My premise is that Solomon wished that he’d stopped with one and that having more than one was a mistake. He wasn’t saying that women in general were unrighteous, just that he should have stopped looking after one. It’s consistent with his statement later that a man should be satisfied with the wife of his youth.


  3. Good post, thank you
    And please those who said David and Solomon were prideful men, do you even know the meaning of pride? How does getting married to many women has anything to do with pride?
    God regarded David as a man after His own heart, told Solomon that he has followed Him completely like His father David and the book of revelation Jesus said “I am the root and offspring of the throne of David”
    Just take Moses for example, wasn’t allowed into the promise land for reasons known to God (If anyone has any insight on this Subject of why God didn’t allow Moses to the promise land, please do well to tell) and often angry as Moses was, he was still regarded a meek infact so meek that the Bible regarded him as someone who was meek and because of his meekness, the two men and their associates who were complaining and gossiping about Moses were destroyed by God himself


  4. I think you have hit the nail on the head. Thank you so much, you’ve cleared much in my head. I hope to read more of your words. Blessings!


    1. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate it. I think my understanding of this passage makes sense when you consider Solomon’s experience with multiple wives and what he learned from this.


  5. Your believe is wrong. Some Christians have a habit of framing religious scriptures out of their boundaries so as to exclude themselves or others into being seen as the subject matter the scripture was intended for. Solomon’s background is not meant for us to disqualify his teachings of wisdom. Just like Jesus’ humble background is not used to disqualify His legitimacy. ‘Can anything good come out of Bethlehem’? Really? SEE IT AS IT IS.

    Solomon said he couldnt find one righteous woman in a thousand…he did NOT say there are no righteous women just that they are extremely rare. Read scripture with a simple heart of faith not clouded with preconceived ideas.


    1. I’m just offering my opinion about what Solomon might have been referring to, not saying that it has to be understood this way. It’s clear when reviewing what happened after Solomon gathered 1000 wives and concubines for himself that he regretted doing so. It’s also apparent when noting Solomon’s advice to others regarding this that he wished he’d stopped with one. I believe my understanding of this passage is consistent with his background and that it’s this that provides the context for what he wrote. The lesson I believe he was trying to teach through this is for us to find contentment in the marriages we already have and not to seek fulfillment outside of the relationships God has designed to meet our needs in this area. Of course I could be wrong about this. But that’s why I’ve titled my blog, “As I see it today,” as others may differ in their understanding of this and the other passages I’ve commented on.


    2. I believe Mr. Lentz is pretty close to accurate here- like he said, don’t get this caught up in New Test. We have to understand what book we are reading in the Bible and study other scriptures before declaring something right or wrong.


    3. Well said Timekeeper. The first redflag for me was that brother Lentz had to discredit Solomon in order to maintain our contemporary feminist culture. I have my bulitin board hung for all the labels I will receive but all scripture is man written but God breathed. Can we just bow our knee to God and fall in line with His word without fearing what man…or women are going to call us?


  6. Frankly, I think Solomon is bitter and ungrateful in his latter years. I can see that he is very wise in many of his statements . But I don’t admire him at all. He had everything and then some. I believe he was a spoiled brat. I don’t know how else to put it. How about Matthew 19:30 applied to Solomon by Jesus‘ own words. “ many that are first will be last, and the last will be first “. Neither Solomon nor his father David should be much admired by Christians. Of course it is God‘s judgment ultimately, but the clues God has given us do not favor those two prideful men.


  7. I think this is pretty good. I would disagree that Solomon is talking about himself. I think that’s a bit contradictory. It seems he could be saying that finding an upright (righteous in character) man (friend, trusted servant, etc) was very rare (1 in a 1000) according to his personal experience, but finding a righteous wife was something incredibly more rare in his personal experience (0 out of 1000). Chapter 7 begins with the wisdom of a “good name” being better than precious ointment. Solomon continues this chapter it seems to comment on the betterness of living your life for a good reputation(good in more of the objective than subjective of course), and the difficulties we find to living that honorable life which gives us that good reputation. The difficulties are foolishness/surface level living (vv. 2-6), oppressions and injustices that can cause us to throw away wisdom (vv.7-12), the sovereignty of God which at times brings adversity our way (vv.13-19), your sinfulness and the sinfulness of others (vv.20-22), and relational compromise/corruption -with a little emphasis on sexual.(vv.23-29). So, in the context, if I have a correct breakdown, Solomon is describing the pitfalls of living an honorable life which brings a good reputation. And he’s making the point in verse 28 that his personal experience has taught him that upright people and upright relationships with sinful people are rare. I thought your applications were great and loved that you thought to reconcile ecc 7:28 with song of songs and proverbs. Also, song of Solomon could be speaking of abishag I have heard people say. I think whoever she is, she does not have to be included in the 1000. Solomon is simply saying I had 1000 women and they were all corrupt, so be on guard. She could be the “one that got away”. So, either we’ve got the author wrong on one of these books or these are ways to reconcile that they were all written by Solomon…which I think is most probable. Thanks!


    1. “Perturbed” means “unsettled.” Sometimes we read God’s Word and find what we read unsettling; sometimes we find it confusing; sometimes it doesn’t make sense; sometimes we don’t understand it. What my posts (including this one) attempt to do is to make sense of passages we don’t quite understand so that what we read enlightens us. What the writer of the above comment was saying is that something was bothering him about this passage but that he was able to make sense of it once he read my post. Hopefully your reading of my posts will do the same for you.


  8. You’re dead wrong. Don’t put words in Shlomo’s mouth. He’s saying things as they are. Women are inherently amoral. They seek pleasure and resources. that is all. They lie to avoid inconvenience. They have no moral character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t believe I’m putting words into Solomon’s mouth. I’m putting them in context. What that means is that I’m attempting to determine by noting what else I know about Solomon what prompted him to make this statement.

      Your understanding of the passage stands in sharp contrast with what Solomon said in the “Song of Solomon” regarding a woman he deeply loved and respected. He certainly did not consider the woman he was writing about in that book to be amoral or of questionable character. He considered her beautiful and deeply desired to share his love with her. One of the writers of the Proverbs had high regards for women as well (Proverbs 31: 10-31). Dozens of women in the Bible are praised for their devotion, integrity and their commitment to God as well as to their husbands. Very few are depicted the way you’ve described them.

      I’ve found by experience that my understanding of this passage in Ecclesiastes is consistent with Scripture’s high view of women in general . It also passes the test of what works in the real world for the most part and what doesn’t. Your experiences and observations may be different than mine, of course, which would undoubtedly result in a different conclusion.


  9. Sounds reasonable to me that making the best of what you already have to work with is the better choice. After 62+ years with one special lady, that is my best assessment of your question.


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