The biblical King Solomon was known for his
wisdom, his wealth and his writings. He became ruler in approximately
967 B.C.E. and his kingdom extended
from the Euphrates River in the north to Egypt in the south. His
crowning achievement was the building of the Holy
Temple in Jerusalem.
Almost all knowledge of him is derived from the biblical books of Kings
I and Chronicles II.
Solomon was the son of King David and Bathsheba. Solomon was not the oldest son of David, but David promised Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next king. When
Davids elder son Adonijah declared himself king, David ordered his
servants to bring Solomon to the Gihon spring where the priest
anointed him while David was still alive. Solomon inherited a
considerable empire from his father.
At first Solomon was faced with opposition. Two of
Davids closest advisors, Joab son of Zeruiah and the priest
Abiathar, sided with Adonijah. When Adonijah came to Solomon and
requested the kings servant as a wife, Solomon saw that this was a
veiled threat to take over his kingdom and sent a messenger to kill
Adonijah. He banished Abiathar to the city of Anathoth. Solomon then
followed his fathers last instructions in which David had ordered
him to kill both Joab and one of his fathers enemies, Shimei son
of Gera. Solomon thus overcame the last potential threats to his
kingdom. He then appointed his friends to key military, governmental
and religious posts.
Solomon accumulated enormous wealth. He controlled
the entire region west of the Euphrates and had peace on his borders. Kings I states that he
owned 12,000 horses with horsemen and 1,400 chariots. Remains of
stalls for 450 horses have in fact been found in Megiddo.
Solomon strengthened his kingdom through marital alliances. Kings I
records that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, although some
regard this number as an exaggeration.2 He had a large
share in the trade between northern and southern countries. He
established Israelite colonies around his province to look after
military, administrative and commercial matters. The empire was
divided into twelve districts, with Judah constituting its own
political unit and enjoying certain privileges.
Although Solomon was young, he soon became known
for his wisdom. The first and most famous incident of his cleverness
as a judge was when two women came to his court with a baby whom both
women claimed as their own. Solomon threatened to split the baby in
half. One woman was prepared to accept the decision, but the other
begged the King to give the live baby to the other woman. Solomen
then knew the second woman was the mother.
People from surrounding nations also came to hear
Solomons wisdom. He composed 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. He
wrote the Song of Songs, the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
One of the most celebrated visits to Solomon was
that of the Queen of Sheba, who came from southern Arabia.
Historically, Arabia was a country rich in gold, frankincense, and
myrrh. Solomon needed Shebas products and trade routes; the queen
of Sheba needed Solomons cooperation in marketing her countrys
goods. The queen came to Solomon with camels carrying spices, gold
and precious stones. She asked him questions and riddles and was
amazed at his wisdom.
Once Solomons empire was tranquil, he began to
build the Holy Temple. He
received wood from King Hiram of Tyre and imposed a compulsory labor
service on both the Israelites and the foreign nations that were
under his control. His workers built the structure of the Temple, its
decorations and its vessels. The Temple took seven years to complete.
It was built of stone and cedar, carved within and overlaid with pure
gold. When it was done, Solomon dedicated the Temple in a public
ceremony of prayers and sacrifices.
Solomon was also renowned for his other building
projects in which he used slave labor from the Hittites, Amorites,
Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. He spent 13 years building his own
palace, and also built a city wall, a citadel called the Millo, a
palace for the daughter of Pharaoh (who was one of his wives) and
facilities for foreign traders. He erected cities for chariots and
horsemen and created storage cities. He extended Jerusalem to the
north and fortified cities near the mountains of Judah and Jerusalem.
Solomons downfall came in his old age. He had
taken many foreign wives, whom he allowed to worship other gods. He
even built shrines for the sacrifices of his foreign wives. Within
Solomons kingdom, he placed heavy taxation on the people, who
became bitter. He also had the people work as soldiers, chief
officers and commanders of his chariots and cavalry. He granted
special privileges to the tribes of Judah and this alienated the
northern tribes. The prophet Ahijah of Shiloh prophesied that
Jeroboam son of Nebat would become king over ten of the 12 tribes,
instead of one of Solomons sons.
Outside Solomons kingdom, Hadad, of the royal
family of Edom, rose up as an adversary of Israel. Rezon son of
Eliada, ruler of Aram also fought Solomon, and created tension
between the two kingdoms that was to last even after Solomons
Solomon died in Jerusalem after 40 years as ruler
of Israel. He was buried in the City
of David. His son, Rehoboam succeeded him as king. Under
Rehobaums rule, Solomons empire was lost and his kingdom
was divided into two parts.
Encyclopedia Online. "Solomon". The Learning
Company, Inc, 1998; Encyclopedia
Britannica. "Solomon". Volume 10, 15th Edition, 1997; Encyclopedia
Judaica. "Solomon." 1978 Edition; Scriptures: Kings I, Chronicles
II. The Jewish Publication Societys translation, New York: