The mishna on Sanhedrin 21a teaches us that a king may not have more than 18 wives, and this is also codified by The Rambam (Hilchos Malachim 3:2):

לֹא יַרְבֶּה לוֹ נָשִׁים. מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁהוּא לוֹקֵחַ עַד שְׁמוֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה נָשִׁים בֵּין הַנָּשִׁים וּפִלַּגְשִׁים הַכּל שְׁמוֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה

"He must not have too many women" (Deut. 17:17). By Tradition we have learned that he may have up to eighteen women including wives and concubines.

Now if a king were to marry a 19th wife:

  • Would we say the kiddushin isn't valid?
  • If it is valid, do we make him divorce her?
  • Does the king get a punishment?
  • 2
    Before someone posts this as a partial answer: Yes, מלך לא דן ולא דנין לו. However, that’s only Rabbinic, as a result of the incident with Shimon Ben Shetach’s court attempting to judge King Yannai. On a Torah level (or even a Rabbinic one before Shimon Ben Shetach), however, this question still stands.
    – DonielF
    Mar 27, 2019 at 21:17
  • 1
    @DonielF Not only that, but that rule applies only to מלכי ישראל.
    – Meir
    Mar 28, 2019 at 2:26

1 Answer 1


Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 3:2:

ואם הוסיף אחת ובעלה לוקה

If he adds an extra wife and has relations with her, he gets lashed.

So that answers question #3. As for the others:

  1. On the face of it, kiddushin ought to take effect like in any other case of חייבי לאוין (according to everyone except R' Akiva, and maybe even according to him, since the issur isn't really on marrying her as an individual, just as wife #19). Although Minchas Chinuch 501 understands the Chinuch to be saying that the issur is violated already when the kiddushin is done, and in that case that maybe it doesn't take effect, under the rule כל דאמר רחמנא לא תעביד אי עביד לא מהני.

  2. Would he have to divorce her? Probably, since otherwise he's continuing to do the aveirah. Minchas Chinuch there says she'd need a get because of the safek above, whether the kiddushin took effect.

In a comment on the OP, @heshy asked whether she'd become a chalalah (or rather, a zonah). Minchas Chinuch there says no, because it's not an איסור השוה בכל.

  • 2
    Could he divorce a different wife instead?
    – Double AA
    Mar 27, 2019 at 23:27
  • @DoubleAA The Rambam says there יש לו לגרש ולישא אחרת תחת זו שגירש. So it would seem that yes, he could.
    – Meir
    Mar 27, 2019 at 23:34
  • @doubleaa "Kiymu velo kiymu" if they warn him to divorce and he chooses not to in front of Eidim he gets Malkus Makkos 15b Meir is correct
    – user15464
    Mar 27, 2019 at 23:49
  • @user15464 By the time he's done kiddushin and had relations with wife #19, it's too late for him to get out of malkus by divorcing her (or any of the others), no? It's not a לאו הניתק לעשה.
    – Meir
    Mar 27, 2019 at 23:54
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    @user15464 I'm still not sure that even according to the Kesef Mishna it would be a לאו הניתק לעשה, since the posuk doesn't order him to divorce her (so it's not like ולא תותירו... באש תשרופו or לא תקח... שלח תשלח).
    – Meir
    Mar 28, 2019 at 2:26

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