More like this
SOLOMON sŏl’ ə mən (שְׁלֹמֹ֔ה, peaceable; LXX Σαλομών). This was the regal name of the third king of Israel. Shortly after his birth, the boy received the private name Jedidiah, “beloved of the Lord,” from Nathan, the Prophet, who had himself received the name from God (
Solomon was the tenth son of King David and the second son of Bathsheba. Six of his half-brothers, Amnon, Chileab, Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah, and Ithream, had been born in Hebron, each of a different mother (
Whereas Saul and David had been born among the common people and grew up among them in village and countryside Solomon was born in the palace at Jerusalem and grew up among men of power. He had seen the heights of royal glory and the chaos of rebellion. He was well educated and never knew Poverty or Hunger. But he did know the consequences of intrigue, jealousy, and murderous hate. Before he grew to maturity several of his older half-brothers had met violent deaths and one half-sister had been raped.
The world situation at the end of David’s death
Solomon never knew other than a unified Hebrew nation which was strong in a chaotic world. True, the rule of David had been shaken several times by internal rebellion, but it was still one nation at the end of David’s life. David’s personal strength and genius contributed greatly to Israel’s unity, but just as important was the weakness of the other nations in the ancient Near East.
Egypt had suffered a serious international setback at the beginning of the 12th century from which she did not recover for two centuries. During this time, Egypt was unable to prevent, militarily, the rise of the kingdoms of Saul and David, or the extensive activities of Solomon. Yet she remained a formidable commercial power and was not above political maneuvers which could embarrass her neighbors.
At the same time, the Hittite empire of Anatolia (modern Turkey) was also eliminated by the same people, the displaced Phrygians and Philistines, who had moved East from western Anatolia, southern Greece, Crete and Cyprus. The same forces had severely crippled a newly rising power, Assyria, with headquarters on the Tigris River. Assyria’s eclipse continued for three hundred years. Babylon was equally impotent.
Solomon reigned over a vital portion of real estate, Palestine, which has been called the land bridge of the ancient Near E. His country was strategically located for maximum political power and for tight control over trade routes which crisscrossed his realm. Solomon had troublesome neighbors, but no true rivals. It was a golden opportunity for Israel to make an optimum impact on her world; it was her “Golden Age.”
Solomon’s accession to the throne
Solomon was not the obvious heir apparent to the throne, for he was far from being David’s oldest son. Most of the older sons of David had been eliminated by violence, but there were others, who, theoretically, could qualify as David’s successor. In fact, the right of succession by age had not been established in Israel as yet, and David was slow to make Solomon known as the next king.
Apparently, David did not personally move to make Solomon’s future position formally legitimate because both he and Saul had been elevated to kingship by manifest acts of God. Surely, God would do the same for Solomon, but God did not so act.
A serious crisis developed. Adonijah was older than Solomon, so he could claim some rights to the throne. Accustomed to having his own way, and an easy prey to the intrigues of important men, Adonijah decided to force the issue by engineering a coup.
Adonijah had powerful backing for his bid to claim the throne. Joab, the general of the regular army, had always been a powerful leader and had control over strong forces to support Adonijah. Abiathar, a leading priest, and, for long, David’s close adviser, provided the appearance of religious blessing.
There were other powerful public figures who were behind Adonijah; hence, clever strategy demanded a surprise take-over under the guise of a normal religious festival at a sacred spring, En-Rogel (a short distance below Jerusalem in the Kidron valley). Emphasis was placed on the Judean faction in the government (
Word got out that the religious festival had an underlying political purpose. Nathan, the prophet, a long-time personal confidant of the king, rushed to Bathsheba with the news. Together, they devised a means to rouse the dying king enough to obtain permission to launch a quick counter-move (
The move caught the backers of Adonijah by surprise. They understood immediately the ramifications of the event. The kind of game in which they were engaged was played for keeps and, normally, the losers seldom survived. With Solomon, reprisal moved more slowly.
Adonijah sought asylum at the horns of the high altar and was granted his life, provided he behaved himself. But Adonijah could not refrain from subtly maneuvering for power. With a show of innocence, he sought Abishag, the most recent member of David’s harem, as a wife. He made his request through Bathsheba, assuming that Solomon could not refuse to grant the wishes of his own mother. Adonijah claimed that he had the right to be king and had the support of the people but God had worked against him. Surely, he should at least have one of the harem girls as his own (
Bathsheba did not comprehend the thrust of this clever ploy, so innocently passed on the request to Solomon, who caught the implications of the tactic immediately. In the ancient Near E, those who had possession of any part of a king’s harem had a basis to make claims against the throne, esp. if the king died.
Solomon reacted drastically, too drastically no doubt, for he immediately ordered Adonijah’s death (
Abiathar was not killed; he was deposed from his high position in the Tabernacle priesthood and confined to his family’s ancestral village, Anathoth.
Joab was not so fortunate. He had been deeply involved in David’s reign, and loyal to him, but he had committed two bloody murders—of Abner and of Amasa (
Joab was now fatally vulnerable. He was openly in the wrong; he had lost public and army support. He fled to cling to the horns of the high altar, but to no avail. He was executed and his body sent home for burial.
Shimei, who had reviled David, soon met a similar fate.
Solomon no longer had opposition from any high ranking officer in David’s government. He was free to reorganize the kingdom according to his own design. Humanly speaking, there were no power checks to his rule except the attitude of his people, the laws of God as summed up in an admonition given by David (
Solomon’s spiritual life as a young king
A significant spiritual experience occurred in Solomon’s life while he was worshiping at Gibeon, an ancient high place where the Mosaic Tabernacle and the bronze altar still stood a few miles NW of Jerusalem (
The initial approach was made by God, with a simple request that Solomon ask what he wanted from God, for Solomon had been worshiping God by means of sacrifices. A wide range of possibility lay before Solomon, but he made a single request based on what God had done for David and his own sense of inadequacy. In spite of Solomon’s quick and decisive treatment of his rivals, his initial diplomatic success with Egypt (
God’s response was positive and generous. He granted Solomon wisdom but added to it other gifts: wealth and fame. There was a condition however. Solomon must live according to God’s commands, even as had David. Solomon’s gratitude was expressed in a public religious service before the Ark in Jerusalem. He began his reign with the blessing of God upon him, motivated by personal commitment to God.
Solomon’s administrative organization
Probably much of Solomon’s organization had its roots in David’s government, and back of that was an Egyp. model, but Solomon placed the stamp of genius upon its final form.
There were two major aspects or divisions to his government: the princes and the twelve officers. The princes are listed in
The princes were headed by Azariah the priest who was prob. the king’s closest adviser. Whereas David had one scribe, Solomon appointed two men, Elihoreph and Ahijah, whose father’s name, Shisha, suggests Egyp. extraction. These seemed to be in charge of private and foreign correspondence. Jehoshaphat was in charge of national records and annals, and, prob., the public relations aspects of court life. Benaiah was promoted to Joab’s position as commander of the standing army. Both Zadok and Abiathar are listed as priests, but the latter had been retired from service due to his complicity with Adonijah’s attempted coup. Another Azariah, Solomon’s nephew, had responsibility over the administrative offices and Zabud, another nephew, was a close adviser to the king. Ahishar was the prime minister of the court, having charge of immediate palace affairs and offices. Adoniram, apparently the Adoram of David’s cabinet (
The twelve officers of
Only N Israelite territories are involved in this list which suggests that Solomon was accepting the animosity between these areas and Judah, so that the latter was administered separately. The LXX says that “there was one officer in the land of Judah” (
Some detail is given of the administration of the corvée (forced labor) gangs.
It has been assumed by some that the military organization set up by David was continued by Solomon with but few changes and additions. There were, first, a regular standing army with a main core of seasoned professionals and a body of mercenaries who served as the king’s bodyguard. Joab had been the leader of the former, but, after his death, Benaiah, head of the mercenaries, became commander of both. Secondly, a militia was drawn from all the tribes for a minimum of one month’s service each year (
There were some chariots, horses, and mules in David’s army and these were greatly expanded under Solomon (
Solomon’s building operations
Israel experienced a sudden spurt of improvement in standard of living and in economic activity. Solomon was extravagant and spared no pains to turn his humble capital into a magnificent city. His first big project was one already started under his father, the construction of the Temple.
Solomon determined that only the best was good enough for God’s house. Already much material had been gathered but the final size, style and ornamentation was left largely to Solomon, who in turn procured the artisans of Tyre to insure high quality work. Basic woods such as cedar and cypress were purchased from Tyre, floated to a port on the coast and hauled to Jerusalem. The fact that craftsmen from Tyre worked on the Temple has led some to believe that the Temple possessed many architectural features common to ancient Phoenicia; yet all that remains to aid our knowledge of the Temple is limited largely to the rather detailed description of it in
The Temple was modeled primarily after the Mosaic Tabernacle, though its measurements were almost double the Tabernacle. It was begun in Solomon’s fourth year and was completed after seven years. It was located on the traditional Mt. Moriah, rocky crest in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (
While the Temple was being built, Solomon built an elaborate palace, comprised of the “House of the Forest of Lebanon,” the “Hall of Pillars” and the “Hall of the Throne” (
Other major projects were the Millo, perhaps a fortification built on an earth fill, and the wall surrounding the new buildings in Jerusalem itself. Three major fortress cities were built at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, several of lesser importance at Balaath, Beth-horon and Tamar, plus a number of store-cities and cavalry forts (
Two prominent characteristics of Solomon’s buildings were the casemate wall and the sixchambered gates with two towers. The casemate wall had been developed several hundred years before Solomon’s time and had been perfected by the Hitt. empire. It is made up of two parallel walls joined regularly by cross walls. The resulting rooms could be filled with rubble or earth. Sometimes they were reserved for storage. All cities in which archeologists have found remains of Solomon’s fortresses had this type of wall. For several decades, it was thought that Megiddo was different but in 1960 a casemate wall found there was related to Solomon’s time. Though discontinued as an outer wall, this type remained popular for inner citadels or isolated forts for many years.
Excellent examples of the Solomonic gate have been identified at Megiddo and at Hazor. Since Gezer is also mentioned with the two above mentioned cities it was suspected that one also existed there. When Macalister dug at Gezer at the turn of the cent. he did not recognize such a gate, but Dr. Yadin reexamined his maps and found one drawn on one map though dated much later than Solomon’s reign. More recent work at Gezer has laid bare this gate much more clearly.
The extent of Solomon’s empire
Solomon inherited from David territory which touched the banks of the Euphrates to the N and the river of Egypt, Wadi al Arish, to the SW. Theserved as the western border, the Arabian desert the eastern border, and the southern anchor was the tip of the .
Direct control of some of this land soon slipped from Solomon’s hands. A young Edomite, Hadad, had escaped to Egypt from David’s conquest of Edom, but returned to wrest Edom from Solomon’s hand (
The fact that Egypt was able to capture Gezer and then give it as a dowry with a daughter of the Pharaoh, strongly suggests that Egypt had taken control of Philistia. Since this area is not mentioned among the twelve districts, this could point to Egypt’s supremacy in the SW corner of Pal. Still, what Solomon lacked in military occupation, he made up by forging a series of treaties and dominating the economic traffic of the Levant.
Solomon’s international relationships
One of Solomon’s first treaties was with Egypt. It was not altogether to his advantage, for he was required to take an Egyp. princess as a queen and to lose control of Philistia. The gain of Gezer was hardly full compensation, but future trade relations with Egypt proved valuable.
A treaty of special worth was forged with Hiram of Tyre, who had been a close friend of David. Hiram was ruler of an extensive maritime domain, possessed rich natural resources and had highly skilled artisans. Solomon drew heavily on all three for his building operations and his own shipping enterprise (
Trade considerations were closely tied to the political alliances which were forged. The king of Israel held a pivotal position because he controlled the main route along the sea and the main route E of Jordan which connected the nations of the S with the nations to the N. Solomon was not only able to tax goods which passed along these routes; he was able to act profitably as a middle man in the trade deals.
Solomon particularly loved horse trading and set up an arrangement in which he procured chariots and horses from Egypt and Kue (Cilicia) and sold them to other nations. Egypt had to get wood for the chariots from areas which Solomon controlled, so he had a virtual stranglehold on the industry (
Solomon’s relationship with Hiram of Tyre was not limited to buying lumber and skills for building projects; Solomon was able to exploit Hiram’s maritime knowledge for his own advantage. Ships and sailors were obtained for a fleet which operated out of Ezion-geber (modern Eilat). This fleet made trade contacts with Arabia and the eastern coast of Africa, bringing many strange and exotic goods and animals to Israel. Closely related to the shipping port was a mining and refinery project which exploited the rich copper deposits near Ezion-geber. Remains of the mining operations have been found there by archeologists. The copper and bronze produced had ready buyers in other parts of the world. It would seem that Hiram’s Mediterranean fleet could distribute widely these metals (
The celebrated visit of the queen of Sheba was as much a trade mission as a trip motivated by a strong curiosity about the reputed wisest man in the world. Her elaborate gifts could serve as “samples” of what her country could offer to aggressive traders (
The combination of fairly peaceful relations with other nations, dominance of the “land bridge” of the ancient near E, and the effective control of the major land trade routes poured wealth into Israel at a spectacular rate. Gold, silver and cedar were no longer rarities in Jerusalem. But Solomon’s extravagance strained the income to the limit; a fiscal deficit was not unknown even in the “Golden Age.”
Solomon’s religious activities
After God’s initial appearance by means of a dream to Solomon, the king plunged immediately into the task of constructing the Temple. The dedication of the Temple was a high occasion in Solomon’s life, and in the life of the nation. The ceremony was elaborate and impressive. Everyone of any importance in Israel came to Jerusalem. The Ark of the covenant was transferred from David’s Tabernacle to the Temple by the priests and the Levites in an impressive procession. The time was the
While numerous sacrifices were being offered, the Ark was placed in theof the new sanctuary. God placed His blessing on the scene by symbolizing His presence by means of a cloud. The king himself gave public recognition to the divine presence and personally pronounced a blessing upon the assembled congregation.
Solomon testified that he understood several important truths about the one true God. He is the Creator, who cannot be seen, but would and did condescend to dwell among His people. God had also acted in the past by giving promises and fulfilling them by delivering the Israelites from Egypt, and by giving them David as king. To David He had granted a promise of a royal lineage which was fulfilled in Solomon. The house of God was for the Ark, the symbol of divine presence and deliverance.
Solomon then offered a remarkable prayer in which a clear monotheistic doctrine is dominant. God was not limited to the Temple nor to the world itself. God’s name was to be honored at the Temple by means of worship and through the Temple and the priests, God was to make His will known to His people, answering the prayers of the people. God was to judge, but also to forgive His people, granting both spiritual and material blessings. Even the stranger and the exiled person were to have the same privilege of petition before God.
After the prayer of dedication, Solomon participated with his leaders in an eight day feast. On the last day he sent a joyful nation home. An event had occurred which was to linger long in national memory.
At the end of Solomon’s building program, the Lord appeared to him again. God expressed His acceptance of the Temple and the king’s act of dedication. But a clear-cut condition was laid before the king that obedience to the laws of God was essential to fulfillment of His promise to David about the continuity of the throne. To be disobedient would mean God’s abandonment of the Temple, and the people to destruction and to captivity.
Solomon’s cultural achievements
There was a marked acceleration of interest in lit. among the Israelites during Solomon’s reign. Apart from the Scripture, little remains of the productions of the time; only a small inscr. called the Gezer Calendar has been found.
The Scripture has left record that Solomon’s wisdom issued in an accumulation of oral and written evidence of his skills and insights.
Various scholars have attributed to the time of Solomon the final organization of several of the historical books, such as Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and the two books of Samuel. Some who reject Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, have even claimed that it was completed in Solomon’s reign. These claims cannot be definitely proved.
Other brief references to literary works in Solomon’s time are “The book of the acts of Solomon” (
All of the literary works of Solomon’s time are permeated with a consistently strong monotheistic doctrine.
Summary of Solomon’s contributions to Israel’s national life
For the first time, under Solomon, Israel experienced a relatively consistent period of peace and prosperity. The internal factions in the nation were balanced in a delicate and, for the most part, workable relationship. The recurrent tribal feudings and court related revolts were a thing of the past. The standard of living in the nation climbed to unprecedented heights and the availability of luxury items and materials was open to a large portion of at least the urban population. International relationships had their tense moments but no serious crises. For the time being a network of treaties effectively kept diplomatic and commercial lines open and functioning. No known wars scarred the landscape or played havoc with the affairs of men.
For the first time the nation had a permanent national worship center, in the capital city. The presence of the Temple was to dominate the religious life and thinking of the Israelites until its destruction in 587/6 b.c. Even then it did not fade out; the structure was rebuilt and later thoroughly remodeled until again destroyed in a.d. 70.
The influence of the priests became more powerful and the festivals became regularized. The presence of the Temple enhanced the city of Jerusalem itself so that it became known as the city of God. The teaching function of the priests helped to disseminate the ancient truths revealed by God more widely in Israel. The Temple became a powerful unifying force.
For the first time in Israel, its leadership had a successful example of passing of power from father to son. The reign of Solomon served to make actual and legitimate the covenant God made to David concerning the continuity of the House of David as a ruling power in Israel. The establishment of this principle of succession was to be the prime stable factor in Israel during the span of over three centuries. The length of time that David’s dynasty ruled had scarcely a parallel in the history of the ancient Near E during the 10th to the 6th centuries b.c.
Costly though it was, Solomon’s building projects gave Israel a sense of national pride and of security which it had never known before. Finally they had constructed something which could stand in the world of the day as both artistic and magnificent. Pomp and ceremony augmented this new sense of nationhood effectively.
Solomon’s contributions to Israel’s culture were profound, but the greatest of these was in the realm of lit. Art in the form of sculpture and painting did not come within the scope of Israel’s skills, in fact the depiction of animal or human forms in visible forms were forbidden by divine law. But the art of human expression through the oral and written word was a different matter.
In comparison with other ancient near eastern languages, the Hebrew tongue was a newcomer, a child of several other languages. Its literary history was limited, but Solomon and those whom he influenced forged the Hebrew language into a highly honed tool of communication. In a very real way, Hebrew became one of the important languages of the world for the propagation of both divine truth and the deepest insights of man, prompted by that truth. Songs, witticisms and riddles had been known in Israel before, but wisdom of the quality which Solomon brought forth was without parallel, even in the pagan lit. of the day. Solomon had sparked a concern to put the truth of God and man into the medium of the written word which never died out in Israel.
Summary of Solomon’s shortcomings in administration
Solomon’s reign was not without blemish, great though he was. His wisdom was profound, but it possessed serious flaws.
Solomon’s powers to judge were impressive; he could tell which of two women was the true mother of a baby (
The administrative structure of Solomon’s government lacked adequate checks and balances to guard against abuses of centralized power. The officials, both in Jerusalem and in the provinces, were so strong that it was exceedingly difficult for the voice of the people to be heard. It was too easy to whitewash mistakes and to smother dissent. The ease with which Jeroboam was forced out of the country is a case in point (
Too much regimentation of the populace not only destroyed individual freedom but begat rank discrimination. Israel’s minority group, the Canaanites, was reduced to a form of slavery, condemned to the labor gangs, but the Israelites were virtually untouched, except in emergency. This provided fertile soil for discontent and future revolt.
There were no proper checks on government spending, no review of taxation policies, of trade policies, of foreign affairs policies, by an independent branch of the government. It is little wonder that in each of these areas, matters got out of control. Solomon had great skill in maintaining delicately balanced agreements among the tribes and among the surrounding nations, but could not, at least did not, cope seriously with the tensions necessitating the “balances of power.” Hence, when he died, chaos broke out on every hand. During his reign the tendency was toward monopoly with no firm economic base in the country, no strong merchant class, and with no real international bonds forged.
The ecclesiastical branch was too firmly under the control of the government. True, Solomon had priests who were close advisers, but they had no truly independent voice. Too easily they could become a tool of the throne to control the people. Significantly, the prophet, so important a person in David’s life, was practically nonexistent, as far as we know, in Solomon’s time. The king had been urged by his father and by God to obey the commandments of God, but human voices to remind him of this charge were largely silent.
Solomon’s government had no real sense of mission to the world. The king allowed foreign gods to be worshiped in and near Jerusalem, but made no apparent effort to spread Hebrew culture and religious viewpoints to the other nations. They could come to Jerusalem and be converted but nothing is heard of Israelites going to them with a message of “One True God” who is the Creator, Judge, and Savior of all mankind.
The nation’s financial resources were strictly limited to secular pursuits or to the rich ornamentation of the Temple. Neither the king nor his subjects had any compulsion to use this wealth to uplift the common people in Israel, or in foreign lands, spiritually. The nation was broadminded. They could tolerate polygamy and idolatry in the royal household; they could also tolerate poverty, with ignorance, in society both at home and abroad.
Solomon and his nation had both the opportunity and the resources to spread the message of the living God throughout the ancient Near E, but let the golden moment slip through their fingers.
Summary of Solomon’s personal life
The young king began his reign with everything for him. He was talented, well-trained, knowledgeable and blessed with a fresh experience with God who had granted him more than his heart desired.
Solomon’s major endeavor, the construction of the Temple, was spiritually oriented. Its dedication was a high hour in his life. The words that he spoke on that occasion reveal spiritual understanding of great depth and breadth.
God’s second appearance to Solomon indicates that he maintained some keenness of spiritual life but it was also a reminder that his obligations under the law of God still were binding on him.
The Scripture seems quite clear that in his latter years Solomon began to move away from the strong ardor of his younger years. The reason is said to be centered in his oversized harem. Solomon had accumulated a total of 700 wives and 300 concubines (
He allowed many of these women to worship their pagan gods, in fact built pagan temples for them. Ironically, Solomon was not diligent in giving witness to the reality of his own God, but his pagan wives were evangelistic in their zeal and turned his heart from the true God (
The pagan temples remained a snare to Israel until destroyed by Josiah (
Granted that Ecclesiastes is the work of Solomon, it could be concluded that Solomon passed through periods of disillusionment, frustration and despair, but that he was able to come through with a basic faith in the one true God. At least, it is true that all works of lit. attributed to him contain a monotheistic stress which is unmistakable. However, his life served more as a spiritual warning to the Israelites in succeeding generations, than as an equal witness with his father of spiritual integrity.
SOLOMON (sŏl'ō-mŭn, Hebrew shelōmōh, peaceable). The third and last king of united Israel. He built the kingdom to its greatest geographical extension and material prosperity. Though a very intelligent man, Solomon in his later years lost his spiritual discernment and for the sake of political advantage and voluptuous living succumbed to apostasy. His policies of oppression and luxury brought the kingdom to the verge of dissolution, and when his son Rehoboam came to the throne the actual split of the kingdom occurred. Solomon was the second son of David and Bathsheba, the former wife of Uriah the Hittite. When he was born, the Lord loved him, so that the child was also called Jedidiah, “because the Lord loved him” (
Solomon then began a series of marriage alliances that were his eventual undoing. He married the daughter of the king of Egypt, who had sufficient power to capture Gezer and to present it as a dowry to his daughter. Early in Solomon’s reign he loved the Lord; he sacrificed at the great high place of Gibeon, where the tabernacle was located; here he offered a thousand burnt offerings. The night he was at Gibeon the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to request of him of whatever he desired. Solomon chose above all else understanding and discernment. God was pleased with this choice, granted his request, and also gave him riches and honor. A demonstration of this gift came when he returned to Jerusalem, where his decision in the case of two harlots caused the people to see that God’s wisdom was in the king. He was an efficient administrator: Each department had its appointed officers and the country was divided into twelve districts, different from the tribal divisions, each responsible for the provisions of the royal household for a month of the year. With taxation and conscription Israel began to see some of the evils of monarchy against which Samuel had warned (
Solomon was a wise and learned man; it is stated that his wisdom was greater than that of the wise men of the East and of Egypt. Expert in botany and zoology, he was also a writer, credited with three thousand proverbs and one thousand songs (
The temple was finished in seven years, and Solomon’s palace was thirteen years in building. The latter consisted of various houses or halls: the House of the Forest of Lebanon, the Hall of Pillars, the Hall of the Throne (also the Hall of Judgment), his royal quarters, and a palace for his Egyptian wife. A great amount of bronze was used for ornamental work, for architectural features such as the two large pillars of the temple vestibule, and for decorative and functional articles, such as the altar, the molten sea, and all sorts of utensils and implements used in the temple service. This part of the project was the responsibility of a craftsman, Huram of Tyre (
When the temple was completed, an impressive dedication service was held. The ark of the covenant was brought up from Zion by the priests and was placed in the
And now Israel no longer had a lack of armaments. Solomon had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen (
The rulers were enriched by this trade with the East. Ophir was a source of gold, almugwood (algumwood), and precious stones. Solomon’s ships also went to Tarshish with the Phoenician fleet and brought back all sorts of exotic things. Immense wealth thus came to Solomon by commerce, mining, tribute (
The rule of Solomon had been quite peaceful, but trouble was brewing. Hadad the Edomite, who as a child had survived a raid by David and had escaped to Egypt, now returned to plague him. In Syria, Rezon was made king at Damascus and became an enemy of Israel. In Israel a capable young man, Jeroboam the son of Nebat, was informed by the prophet Ahijah that he would become ruler of ten tribes of Israel. Solomon attempted to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam took refuge in Egypt until the death of Solomon. The signs of the impending division of the kingdom were evident; when he died in 930 b.c. and his son Rehoboam became king, the break soon became a reality. Other historical records of Solomon’s reign cited in the Bible include “the book of the annals of Solomon” (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. Early Life.
Solomon was the son of David and Bath-sheba, and became the 3rd king of Israel.
1. Name and Meaning:
He was so named by his mother (
3. Birth and Upbringing:
The children of David by Bath-sheba are given in
4. His Accession:
It was not until David lay on his deathbed that Solomon left the women’s quarters and made his appearance in public. That he had been selected by David, as the son of the favorite wife, to succeed him, is pre-supposed in the instructions which he received from his father regarding the building of the Temple. But as soon as it appeared that the life of David was nearing its end, it became evident that Solomon was not to have a "walk over." He found a rival in Adonijah the son of Haggith, who was apparently the eldest surviving son of his father, and who had the support of Joab, by far the strongest man of all, of Abiathar, the leading, if not the favorite, priest (compare
5. Closing Days of David:
The age of Solomon at his accession is unknown. The expression in
II. Reign of Solomon.
1. His Vision:
It was apparently at the very beginning of his reign that Solomon made his famous choice of a "hearing heart," i.e. an obedient heart, in preference to riches or long life. The vision took place at Gibeon (
2. His Policy:
Solomon was by nature an unwarlike person, and his whole policy was in the direction of peace. He disbanded the above-mentioned foreign legion, the Cherethites and Pelethites, who had done such good service as bodyguard to his father. All his officers seem to have been mediocre persons who would not be likely to force his hand, as Joab had done that of David (
3. Its Results:
Solomon, in fact, was living on the achievements and reputation of his father, who laid the basis of security and peace on which the commercial genius of Solomon could raise the magnificent structure which he did. But he took the clay from the foundations in order to build the walls. The Hebrews were a military people and in that consisted their life. Solomon withdrew their energies from their natural bent and turned them to cornmerce, for which they were not yet ripe. Their soul rebelled under the irksome drudgery of an industry of which they did not reap the fruits. Solomon had in fact reduced a free people to slavery, and concentrated the wealth of the whole country in the capital. As soon as he was out of the way, his country subjects threw off the yoke and laid claim to their ancient freedom. His son found himself left with the city and a territory as small as an English county.
4. Alliance with Tyre:
Solomon’s chief ally was Hiram, the king of Tyre, probably the friend and ally of David, who is to be distinguished from Hiram the artificer of
5. Alliance with Egypt:
Second to Hiram was the Pharaoh of Egypt, whose daughter Solomon married, receiving as her dower the town of Gezer (
6. Domestic Troubles:
It was probably nearer the beginning than the end of Solomon’s reign that political trouble broke out within the realm. When David had annexed the territory of the Edomites at the cost of the butchery of the male population (compare
III. His Buildings.
1. The Temple:
The great undertaking of the reign of Solomon was, of course, The TEMPLE (which see), which was at first probably considered as the Chapel Royal and an adjunct of the palace. The Temple was begun in the 4th year of the reign and finished in the 11th, the work of the building occupying 7" years (
2. The Palace:
To Solomon, however, his own palace was perhaps a more interesting undertaking. It at any rate occupied more time, in fact 13 years (
3. Other Buildings:
Solomon also rebuilt the wall of the city and the citadel (see Jerusalem; Millo). He likewise erected castles at the vulnerable points of the frontiers--Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer (
4. The Corvee:
IV. His Character.
1. Personal Qualities:
In Solomon we have the type of a Turkish sultan, rather than a king of Israel. The Hebrew kings, whether of Israel or Judah, were, in theory at least, elective monarchs like the kings of Poland. If one happened to be a strong ruler, he managed to establish his family it might be, for three or even four generations. In the case of the Judean dynasty the personality of the first king made such a deep impression upon the heart of the people that the question of a change of dynasty there never became pressing. But Solomon would probably have usurped the crown if he had not inherited it, and once on the throne he became a thoroughgoing despot. All political power was taken out of the hands of the sheiks, although outward respect was still paid to them (
2. His Wisdom:
The wisdom for which Solomon is so celebrated was not of a very high order; it was nothing more than practical shrewdness, or knowledge of the world and of human nature. The common example of it is that given in
3. His Learning:
The word "wisdom," however, is used also in another connection, namely, in the sense of theoretical knowledge or book leaning, especially in the department of natural history. It is not to be supposed that Solomon had any scientific knowledge of botany or zoology, but he may have collected the facts of observation, a task in which the Oriental, who cannot generalize, excels. The wisdom and understanding (
4. Trade and Commerce:
5. Officers of State:
The list of Solomon’s officers of state is given in
Solomon is said to have started his reign with a capital sum of 100,000 talents of gold and a million talents of silver, a sum greater than the national debt of Great Britain. Even so, this huge sum was ear-marked for the building of the Temple (
8. Literary Works:
It is not easy to believe that the age of Solomon, so glorious in other respects, had not a literature to correspond. Yet the reign of the sultan Ismail in Morocco, whom Solomon much resembles, might be cited in favor of such a supposition. Solomon himself is stated to have composed 3,000 animal stories and 1,005 songs (
The relative portions of the histories by Ewald, Stanley (who follows Ewald), Renan, Wellhausen and Kittel; also H. Winckler, Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen; and the commentaries on the Books of Kings and Chronicles.