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 Davidís 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 Davidís closest
advisors, Joab son of Zeruiah and the priest Abiathar, sided with
Adonijah. When Adonijah came to Solomon and requested the kingís 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 fatherís last
instructions in which David had ordered him to kill both Joab and one of
his fatherís 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
People from surrounding nations also came to hear Solomonís 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 Shebaís products
and trade routes; the queen of Sheba needed Solomonís cooperation in
marketing her countryís 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 Solomonís 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.
Solomonís 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 Solomonís 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 Solomonís sons.
Outside Solomonís 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 Solomonís reign ended.
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 Rehobaumís rule, Solomonís empire was lost and his kingdom was
divided into two parts.