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Solomon was the third king of Israel and the most famous son of David. Solomon was a profoundly wise sage who ruled Israel with God-given wisdom and wrote many proverbs, as well as two Psalms and probably the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Born of Bathsheba and David after their marriage, Solomon was not the first-born son of David; however, God decreed that Solomon would be the future king. Solomon ruled Israel for forty years, from 970 BC to 931 BC. He would be the last king of the united Israel before Israel and Judah split into two separate countries as a result of Solomon’s own sin in his later years.

As King, Solomon gained enormous wealth, becoming one of the most (if not the most) wealthiest person in history, based upon calculations of the biblical record. Solomon’s most important accomplishment was not his wealth, but the construction of the First Temple of Yahweh. Replacing the mobile Tabernacle, Solomon completed the dream that his father was never allowed to accomplish and set up a permanent house of worship for God. Outside of the temple project, Solomon was a prolific builder creating expansive public works, an elaborate palace complex for himself, major defense structures in Jerusalem and many warehouses for the kingdom’s massive wealth. In order to accomplish his ubiquitous construction projects, Solomon relied on widespread conscripted labor of Israelites, slave labor of foreigners and heavy taxation.

Solomon was very active in foreign relations, creating budding political relationships with major powers such as Egypt, Tyre and Sidon; all the while, having many protectorates and tributaries paying into the royal treasury. In the process of his politics, Solomon accumulated a massive harem consisting of nearly 1,000 foreign women as wives, concubines and maidens. These women brought their own foreign gods from their countries, so they led Solomon to offer sacrifices to gods like Molech, Ashtoreth and Chemosh at high places. As a result of Solomon’s sin towards Yahweh, several enemies rose up against Solomon. After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam suffered the division of Israel into two separate states- the opposition against the house of David, led by Jeroboam led to only the Tribe of Judah remaining faithful to David’s lineage.

The life of Solomon is documented in the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles with supplementary information and commentary found throughout the Old Testament and New Testament.

Biography

Early life

Future King

Even before Solomon was born or conceived, David was promised a son who would complete his vision of a permanent house of worship for Yahweh. While the identity of the future heir was ambiguous, God promised David that his lineage would last forever and that he would have a close relationship with him (similar to that of a father and son). Unlike with Saul, God would allow the future king to remain on the throne, despite disobedience. Furthermore, this son would be disciplined when he disobeyed- a likely prophecy of Israel’s split.[1]

Conception and Birth

After David and Bathsheba’s affair and the resulting death of Uriah the Hittite, David married Bathsheba. Shortly thereafter, a child resultant of the affair was born to them- only to die seven days later. In Bathsheba’s grieving her son’s death, David slept with her in order to comfort her. The result of the union, this in time in the bed of marriage, was the conception of Solomon. After Bathsheba’s pregnancy came to term she gave birth to her son and David named him Solomon. Through the prophet Nathan, Yahweh expressed his own love and blessing of the child, so he was given a blessing name- Jedidiah (meaning loved by Yahweh). [2]

The Chosen Son

Solomon's father had many sons before and many sons after him. Like all of his brothers and step-brothers, Solomon would have been tutored by Jehiel[3] and raised by his mother on a daily basis. However, God told David that Solomon would be his successor and the builder of the Temple.[4] David then swore to Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next King of Israel,[5] which officially bypassed the eldest son becoming King.

Charged with the Temple

When Solomon was young and inexperienced his father began to make preparations so that one day he could build the Temple.[6] Solomon was charged by his father to construct the permanent House for the worship of God and was reminded that if he obeyed God's commandments he would be prosperous. In addition David explained the high expectations of the Temple and that he had great resources at his disposal to one day build it.[7]

In line to the throne

Fight for the Throne

When David became old, Adonijah, one of Solomon's step-brothers, claimed the throne for himself and held several sacrificial offerings, which he invited all of his siblings and steps, except for Solomon.[8] When Nathan heard of this, he realized the promise of Solomon's right to the throne and eventual temple construction was at stake. So Nathan went to Solomon's mother, Bathsheba and asked her to remind her husband the oath he had given, promising Solomon to the throne. Solomon's mother went to her husband and reminded him of the oath. In her plea, Bathsheba also noted that after he died, Solomon would be a wanted fugitive and would be executed.[9]

Anointed King

Then David decided, that on that very day, Solomon would be officially anointed as the next King of Israel. Orders were given and that day Solomon was taken down to the city of Zihon on his father's mule. There Solomon had oil poured on his head and his throne rights were made official. Afterwards loud sounds of chanting and instruments erupted in celebration of the newly anointed King; while Solomon's step-brother Adonijah and his followers fled for their lives.[10]

Succeeding David

Shortly before his father died, his father reminded Solomon about obeying God's commandments. By obeying God's commandments Solomon's throne would be firmly established. Also, David gave instructions to Solomon on how to deal with various people who either wronged or helped him in times of need. Shortly thereafter, David died, thus Solomon became the King.[11]

Early Kingship

Punishing and Rewarding

Now that Solomon was on the throne, Adonijah, who tried to take the throne made a request to Bathsheba. Adonijah asked to have the virgin Abishag the Shunammite, who was in service to Solomon's predecessor. Bathsheba went to her son's court, where she was given a throne to sit at Solomon's right hand. Solomon was asked by his mother if Abishag could be given in marriage to Adonijah. Upon hearing this Solomon was outraged, thinking perhaps it was an attempt by his mother to favor his older brother.Then Solomon swore by God that Adonijah would pay with his life, for his request.[12] So Solomon had Benaiah execute his older brother for his evil[13] deed.[14]

Then Solomon addressed the priest Abiathar, who he decided not to kill because he had carried the Ark, and had gone through many hardships with his father. Solomon did strip him of his position in the priesthood, thus fulfilling[15] the curse Samuel gave Eli.[16] Then Joab, the former commander of Israel's army, fled, because he heard about the punishments given to those who wronged David. Solomon had him executed and then replaced Abiathar with Zadok and Joab with Benaiah. Solomon also put Shimei, who verbally harassed his father, in house arrest. Shimei broke the house arrest when he went to look for some missing servants, three years later. As a result, Solomon had him executed.[17]

Solomon's Wisdom

After all of this, Solomon's reign was firmly recognized and respected throughout Israel. At one point Solomon made an alliance with Egypt and its Pharaoh, with his daughter given to Solomon in marriage as part of the agreement. Solomon faithfully walked and obeyed the instructions of God and his father, excluding that he sacrificed on altars outside of the Tabernacle.

Since he had done this, he went to the city Gibeon, where the Tabernacle was and made one-thousand burnt offerings. Solomon stayed in Gibeon for the night, where during his sleep he had a dream. God appeared to him in the dream and told him to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon told God that he wanted the knowledge and wisdom to be able to discern, in order that he may keep the throne intact and properly govern God's people, Israel.

God was pleased that he had not asked for wealth or power, but for wisdom to govern His chosen people, thus God gave Solomon the wisdom he wished for[18] and also gave him wealth that would surpass anyone before or after him.[19] Then Solomon awoke and realized that God had appeared to him in a dream.

The wisdom Solomon had been given was enormous. His wisdom was greater than anyone east of the Euphrates River, greater than the minds of Egypt, beyond the wisdom of Ethan the Ezrahite and Heman the Ezrahite.[20]

Afterwards Solomon returned home to Jerusalem and gave a feast for his court. Later on two prostitutes came and stood before Solomon. One of them had lied on top of their baby and killed it, but then switched it out with the other's child. This lead them to dispute over who the living child belonged to. So Solomon asked for a sword to be a brought and commanded for the living infant to be cut into two, one half for each prostitute. Before this could be done one fearfully asked the infant be given to the other, and so Solomon knew this was the mother.

The news of this case spread throughout Israel and the people were in awe of Solomon's wisdom. His wisdom became so legendary that many would visit Israel's King from all over the world to hear it.

Solomon's Power

So with Solomon's great wisdom he ruled over the people of Israel, and had oversight of every kingdom from the west of Euphrates River from Philistia to Egypt.[21] This lead to a great many people that Solomon had to be protectorate over, but also a large source of fundraising. Solomon divided all the land under his direct rule or protection into twelve districts. Solomon established a daily amount of food ingredients, cattle and game that an assigned district would collect and then pay for the month. Each district would pay their dues for a certain month of the year, to all together provide food and meat for the entire year. All of the provisions would serve as food for Solomon and his household- his family relatives, his harem, and his officials and servants.[22]

Solomon also accumulated a large holding of horses and chariots, imported from Egypt, in total accumulating fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses. Solomon designated certain cities to hold stables and chariot stations. Some of the monthly provisions also went towards feeding these horses. Horses were also bought in excess to be resold to the Hittites and Arameans.[23]

The mighty King Solomon even had many nations under his rule as client states or protectorates, subject to him by paying tribute and surrendering their military independence to him.

Construction Projects

Now that Solomon had firmly established his Kingdom and applied his wisdom on many fronts he began many construction projects. The industrial innovations Solomon made to Israel would be one of the primary accomplishments of his reign.

The First Temple

The King of Tyre, Hiram, who had been a friend of David heard Solomon was on the throne. Thus he sent some of his envoys to remind Solomon of the good relations he had with his father. In response Solomon wrote a letter to Hiram asking for supplies and a skilled craftsman to build the First Temple. Hiram obliged and in return received wages in food for his royal household. After making a treaty with Hiram, he conscripted workers from Israel, both natives and aliens. Solomon had large amounts of workers from Israel, Tyre, and Byblos who handled and processed all needed metals and woods for the Temple.[24]

In the second month of Solomon's fourth year as king, he began to build the temple. Solomon had heavy personal oversight over the project, because it had great importance in one day becoming the permanent worship house for God. It was vital that all the architectural specifications God had dictated were followed with precise accuracy, since this building would have to be as majestic as a palace to even begin to contain God's might. His personal oversight of the project is noted in the Scriptural accounts of the Temple's construction, because it always refers to Solomon being the builder (this would not mean he built it with his own hands, but rather was heavily involved). Infact, Solomon even personally named two of the pillars, Boaz and Jakin respectively. While building the temple, God gave him a verbal blessing.After seven years, the temple was completed.[25]

Then Solomon had all the necessary furniture crafted or brought in. After the furniture was all complete, he brought in all the treasures his father had donated and had them stored in the temple treasury. Soon afterwards the Feast of Booths came and during this time Solomon had the Ark of the Covenant put inside of the Temple.[26] Solomon gave a speech of dedication followed by a prayer. In this prayer Solomon revealed that he understood that the temple he had built could not contain God.[27] After the speech and prayer, Solomon offered a fellowship offering of twenty-thousand cattle and one-hundred and twenty goats and sheep. He also gave burnt and grain offerings, thus observing the Feast of Booths. God was pleased with this and He sent fire down and burned the sacrifices, confirming the First Temple as His new house.[28]

After Solomon had completed both the temple and his palace, God spoke to him and told him if he deviated from His commandments the temple would no longer be his house.

The Royal Palace

After the seven years of building the First Temple, Solomon began building his Palace while furniture was prepared for the temple. He decided to build himself a palace, so his wife would have a residence to live in that had not experienced the presence of the Ark.[29] The palace was built using lumber from the Forest of Lebanon, thus earning the residence the name "The Palace of the Forest of Lebanon". The Palace complex would've swallowed up the home of his father and it is unknown what happened to David's palace. Solomon's palace consisted of a throne hall, a justice hall where he would judge from and several buildings to house the royal family.

A large house was built for Solomon to live in, as well as for Pharoah's daughter. It took a total of thirteen years to construct this palace, which would've made it a larger building than the First Temple.[30] Infact, this palace was so large, Solomon could see prostitutes at their strolls[31] (implying Solomon could see a far distance out over Jerusalem, or there were strolls nearby the palace because of the amount of space it occupied).

City Projects

During the twenty year period that the Palace and Temple were built, Solomon directed many other construction projects to various cities. Apparently Solomon gifted villages to Hiram and vice versa, which Solomon integrated Israelites into. He had the city of Beth Horon turned into a fortress complete with protecting walls, gates and bar fences. Several storages cities were created and built up to store the treasures of the nation and Solomon's personal goods, with other cities being built for chariot stations. In addition several small towns were either built or rebuilt.[32] After the palace was constructed walls and terraces were built extending around Jerusalem.[33]

Many great gardens and parks were built along with water reservoirs.[34]

All of these construction projects required massive amounts of labor. Solomon conscripted foreigners residing in Israel as slave laborers for his massive construction projects. On the other hand he made Israelite citizens work for his government and supervise the construction labor.[35] This put a heavy burden and yoke on Israel and was considered a very harsh and oppressive burden.[36]

Rise in Power

Priestly and Sacrificial Compliance

During these twenty years, David's successor remained obedient to the LORD, going to the First Temple to make the daily and triannual feast sacrifices. In following his father's actions the King appointed the Levites to be priests in their various roles and divisions.[37]

Solomon's Gold Fleet

The alliance with Hiram strengthened as well. Solomon traveled to the Edomite city of Ezion Geber located on the Red Sea. Here he had a fleet of ships built. Hiram sent many of his own ships along with his own sailors who combined their fleet operations with Solomons. This joint fleet force sailed to Ophir and here collected and brought back four-hundred and fifty talents of gold that were given to Solomon. They would return triennially and bring not only gold but silver, ivory and even apes and baboons.[38]

The Queen of Sheba

Sometime during of after these twenty years the Queen of Sheba heard about the riches of Solomon and came to ask him many questions. Bringing with her a wealthy caravan she told Israel's King everything she had on her mind. Solomon was able to give answer and explain all of her questions with ease. The King's wisdom and riches overwhelmed Sheba's Queen and so she told him that the report she had heard was not even half of his truth wealth. Solomon then received one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and extravagant spices that had never been seen by Israel.

In exchange the ruler of Israel gave her whatever she desired, except for that which she gifted to him. She was then sent on her way back to Sheba.[39]

Tribute and Revenues

At this time Solomon received a yearly income of six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold. This did not include revenue he received from other sources, namely his merchant traders, district taxes and tribute from the Kings of Arabia.[40] He was the richest man to have ever lived at his time,[41] if not in all of history.

Writer of Poetry

About a short time after Sheba visited Solomon he began to write poetry, which would be eventually considered Scripture, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.[42] He wrote[43] three-thousand Proverbs in his lifetime.[44] It is possible he wrote the proverbs as addressed to his son, Rehoboam, whom would've been born from his wife that he wrote his songs to.

Sometime during of after he wrote his Proverbs he began to accumulate many wives as a result of his marriages. He wrote many songs[45] to his most beloved wife. At the time of his songwriting he had at least one hundred and forty in his harem,[46] indicating he wrote the songs before he had his full harem.

There is a possibility that not only was Solomon writing Scripture, but caring for his family by writing his poetry. By the time he wrote Proverbs he could've had several sons by many members of his harem. The phrase "my sons" may be a literal reference to his sons that he had by his harem, which would indicate that the Proverbs may have been written in part to teach wisdom to his numerous sons. This would've made many of the Proverbs personal when referring to a "father" or "mother".

Solomon also wrote some works on biology of plants and animals, many of these facts are found within his proverbs.

The King's Harem

Building the Harem

Throughout his reign Solomon accumulated an extremely large harem. It was against the law for a King to have many wives, for the law warned the King would be led astray.[47] While Solomon would have to had this law memorized,[48] he did not obey this in his marriages.

Beginning with his first wife, the daughter of the Pharaoh, Solomon had many marriages of state. He loved his first wife,[49] however, she was not the favorite wife. Once they were married Solomon lived with his first wife in Jerusalem, until he completed a house for her outside of the city.[50] Over a course of time Solomon acquired many other wives who were the daughters of Kings. Additionally, Solomon had many concubines for his own sexual pleasure.[51]

His favorite wife was a woman from Shulam, so he wrote her songs of love and praised her above all of his harem.[52] During the early days of his marriage to the Shulamite, he only had sixty wives and eighty concubines; not including an numerous amount of virgin servants.[46] This would have been during Solomon's youth

The Forbidden Women

In his older years, Solomon's harem reached its peak, consisting of seven hundred queens and three hundred concubines.[53] Included in his harem were many foreign women from nations that God had forbidden marriage with[54] such as Naamah, an Ammonite.[55]

Turning his heart from God

Once Solomon became old, God's warning from several millennia earlier came true: he was led to the worship of the gods of his foreign wives. His mistresses from Sidon turned him to the the god Molech and the Ammonites to Ashtoreth.[56]

On an hill east of Jerusalem Solomon built many high places and altars for each of the gods of his wives. This greatly displeased God. So God told Solomon that since he had sinned against him he would tear the kingdom away from him, but for the sake of his father's covenant would not do it in his lifetime.[57]

As a result of Solomon's sin God raised up rivalries and threats that would cause hostility between neighbors. Among these rivals were Hadad the Edomite whose father had been killed by Solomon's father David, and Rezon. While it is not explained in detail what trouble they caused Solomon Hadad King of Edom and Rezron king of Aram where hostile and an annoyance to Israel.

Worst of all was Jeroboam, son of Nebat. God fulfilled his promise to Solomon that he would tear the kingdom, by sending a prophet, who literally allowed Jeroboam to "tear" the part of the kingdom he wanted to rule. When Solomon heard of this he had a death charge for Jeroboam, who fled to Egypt.

The Solemn Teacher learns his lesson

After Solomon had experienced his rivalries and God had prepared the division of the kingdom, he was in great despair. In his despair he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes where he considered himself a "Teacher" and wrote it for the masses to read.

In this literature Solomon calls everything meaningless. He chronicles his life and describes how he had pursuits after many things from a great harem to massive wealth. Solomon reveals that his heart began to despair long before he worshipped other gods, but when he began to put all of his work into his wealth.[58] He realized that he was now old and was unable to heed a warning.[59]

Death

After reigning for Israel over forty years,[60] Solomon died- likely somewhere in his seventies (since Rehoboam was forty one when Solomon died and he did not have any children until he was king; he did not become a king until sometime in his adulthood). Solomon died like his ancestors and was buried in Jerusalem, the city of his father David.[61] He probably was buried next to David, in a royal cemetery where each king would have had a large tomb. After this Rehoboam succeeded Solomon.

Though Solomon was advanced in age he may have died due to great stress and depression. Ecclesiastes indicates his dissatisfaction in all his wealth and so his stress and despair probably contributed to his heatlh failing.

Verses

  1. 2 Sam 7:12-16, 1 Chr 17:11-14 (Link)
  2. 2 Sam 12:24-25 (Link)
  3. 1 Chr 27:32 (Link)
  4. 1 Chr 22:7-10, 28:5-7 (Link)
  5. 1 Kings 1:17 (Link)
  6. 1 Chr 22:5 (Link)
  7. 1 Chr 22:6-16 (Link)
  8. 1 Kings 1:5-10 (Link)
  9. 1 Kings 1:11-21 (Link)
  10. 1 Kings 1:38-49, 1 Chr 29:22-24 (Link)
  11. 1 Kings 2:2-10,12 (Link)
  12. 1 Kings 2:23-24 (Link)
  13. 1 Kings 1:52 (Link)
  14. 1 Kings 2:25 (Link)
  15. 1 Sam 2:27-36 (Link)
  16. 1 Kings 2:26-27 (Link)
  17. 1 Kings 3:34-46 (Link)
  18. James 1:5 (Link)
  19. 1 Kings 3:5-14, 2 Chr 1:7-12 (Link)
  20. 1 Kings 4:29-31 (Link)
  21. 1 Kings 4:21,24; 2 Chr 9:26 (Link)
  22. 1 Kings 4:20,22-23, 27 (Link)
  23. 1 Kings 4:26, 28; 1 Kings 10:26-28; 2 Chr 1:14-17; 2 Chr 9:25,28 (Link)
  24. 1 Kings 5, 2 Chr 2 (Link)
  25. 1 Kings 6, 2 Chr 3 (Link)
  26. 1 Kings 7:13-51, 2 Chr 4-5:1 (Link)
  27. 1 Kings 8:1-61 2 Chr 6 (Link)
  28. 1 Kings 8:62-66, 2 Chr 7:4-10 (Link)
  29. 2 Chr 8:11 (Link)
  30. 1 Kings 7:1-8 (Link)
  31. Prov 7:6-23 (Link)
  32. 1 Kings 9:10-14,16-19; 2 Chr 8:2-6 (Link)
  33. 1 Kings 8:24, (Link)
  34. Ecc 2:4-6 (Link)
  35. 1 Kings 9:10-24, 2 Chr 8:1-16 (Link)
  36. 1 Kings 12:4, 2 Chr 10:4 (Link)
  37. 1 Kings 9:25, 2 Chr 8:12-14 (Link)
  38. 1 Kings 9:26-28,10:11,22  ;2 Chr 8:17-18, 9:10,21 (Link)
  39. 1 Kings 10:1-10,13; 2 Chr 9:1-9,12 (Link)
  40. 1 Kings 10:14-15, 2 Chr 9:13-14 (Link)
  41. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named :0 (Link)
  42. 2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21 (Link)
  43. 1 Kings 4:32 (Link)
  44. Prov 1:1, 10:1, 25:1, (Link)
  45. Song of Songs 1:1 (Link)
  46. 46.0 46.1 Song of Songs 6:8
  47. Deut 17:17 (Link)
  48. Deut 17:18-19 (Link)
  49. 1 Kings 11:1 (Link)
  50. 1 Kings 3:1, 7:8 (Link)
  51. Ecc 2:8 (Link)
  52. Song of Solomon 6:9 (Link)
  53. 1 Kings 11:3 (Link)
  54. 1 Kings 11:2, Deut 7:3-4 (Link)
  55. 1 Kings 14:21, 2 Chr 12:13 (Link)
  56. 1 Kings 11:4-5 (Link)
  57. 1 Kings 11:7-13 (Link)
  58. Ecc 2:20 (Link)
  59. Ecc 4:13 (Link)
  60. 1 Kings 11:42, 2 Chr 9:30 (Link)
  61. 1 Kings 11:43, 2 Chr 9:31 (Link)
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