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Solomon, was the third King of Israel and one of the many sons of David, mothered by Bathsheba. Though not the first born, Solomon became the successor to his father. Under his reign, the prosperity of Israel exponentially increased, well beyond that of his father. During his kingship Solomon gained and practiced incredible godly wisdom, leading him to write large portions of Proverbs, and the entire books of Ecclesiastes, and Songs. Solomon also accumulated massive wealth, far surpassing any person in (biblical) history.[1]

One of the major feats of his kingship was the construction of the First Temple, the first actual completion of the idea concepted by his father. Though he followed God, he also stumbled when he acquired a very large harem. Along with polygamy, and likely overindulgence in pleasure with his wives and concubines; his harem led him to worship many other gods aside from the true God, Yahweh .

Biography

Early life

Pre-Birth Promise

Before Solomon was born, his father David was promised by God that his lineage would be the permanent Kings of Israel. This included the promise of being succeeded by one of his own sons and that his successor would construct the First Temple to replace the Tabernacle. Additionally it was foretold that this son would have a close relationship with God and would be disciplined when he would sin. This promise was made before Solomon was even conceived, and was likely thought to apply to the eldest son.[2]

Birth

Solomon was born to David and Bathsheba. Solomon's parents had committed adultery and eventually bore a son. As punishment for their sins, the son they had together died seven days after. Bathsheba became greatly distraught at the death of her infant son. Within a day of the son's death, David comforted Bathsheba of her loss by sleeping with her.

Out of an act of comfort for his mother, Solomon was conceived. After Bathsheba' s pregnancy she gave birth to the son and he was named Solomon.[3] God also loved the child and so he sent word through Nathan the Prophet to call him Jedidiah, meaning loved by the Lord.[4] For an unknown reason the name that Jedidiah is only used once in the entire Bible, when God gave Solomon that name. Even in his young boyhood, Solomon was taught by his father about how important wisdom was,[5] a value he would treasure and practice most of his life.

Swore to be King

Solomon's father had many sons before and many sons after he was born. Like all of his brothers and step-brothers, Solomon would've been cared for by Jehiel[6] (who cared for the King's sons) and raised by his mother on a daily basis.

At one point God told David that Solomon would be his successor and the builder of the Temple.[7] David then swore to Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next King of Israel,[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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 lound 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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] So Solomon had Benaiah execute his older brother for his evil[16] deed.[17]

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[18] the curse Samuel gave Eli.[19] 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.[20]

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[21] and also gave him wealth that would surpass anyone before or after him.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32] 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.[33] Infact, this palace was so large, Solomon could see prostitutes at their strolls[34] (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.[35] After the palace was constructed walls and terraces were built extending around Jerusalem.[36]

Many great gardens and parks were built along with water reservoirs.[37]

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.[38] This put a heavy burden and yoke on Israel and was considered a very harsh and oppressive burden.[39]

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.[40]

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.[41]

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.[42]

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.[43] He was the richest man to have ever lived at his time,[1] 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.[44] He wrote[45] three-thousand Proverbs in his lifetime.[46] 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[47] to his most beloved wife. At the time of his songwriting he had at least one hundred and forty in his harem,[48] 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".

The same could be said about his songs, if Solomon used poetry to educate his family, where he was "educating" his wife or even showing his other women the wife he loved the most.

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

Wives, Concubines and His Harem

"Collecting" the women

Throughout his reign Solomon accumulated innumerous women in his harem, some as queens based on political marriages, some as concubines (for his sexual pleasure), and some as maidens (to serve him; sometimes they are referred to as virgins, so they may not have not been for pleasure).[48] At one point his harem was only a minimum of one hundred and forty and at this time he had a wife whom he loved and revered above the others, for he wrote for her songs of love and sexual pleasure.

Queens and Political Marriages

As Solomon's splendor grew more and more nations gave alliance or tribute to Israel. In result Solomon would often receive the ruler's daughter's hand in marriage to keep a treaty in line, as was the case with his first wife. Sometimes as part of the agreement Solomon would have children with the Queen, who would then belong to the royal family line of the Queen's family. Also, Queens would enjoy the luxury of living with a powerful king and could be collateral if diplomacy ever failed (that is, if diplomacy fails Solomon would lose his wife unless demands were met).

Concubines

Not much is able to be directly inferred by Scripture about Solomon's concubines (less inferrable than his Queens). While it is not known how exactly Solomon gained his concubines, his father David had several concubines. Solomon may have selected women as "he desired them". Another way he gained his concubines was by recruiting virgin Hebrews as candidates and sifting through the ones most attractive to him, similar to the process in which Esther was made Queen to Ahasuerus or how Abishag was brought in for David.

Solomon also had many maidens which could be classified as concubines. Often concubines served housekeeping or cleaning roles, like those of King David. It seems he had many who would act in this role as maiden who cared for the palace or even the other members of the harem. Not only were Solomon's wives for his pleasure, they also gave him the ability to have a wealth of children. They were an immoral symbol of Solomon's wealth and power.

The Forbidden Women

At its peak the harem of Solomon consisted of one-thousand members: seven hundred queens and three hundred concubines.[49] Included in his harem, were many foreign women from nations that God had forbidden intermarriage,[50] such as Naamah an Ammonite.[51] Solomon disobeyed God by loving many other women asides his first wife and held all of these foreign women extremely dear.

Turning his heart from God

Once Solomon became old, what God had wanted to save Solomon from in forbidding his marriages came true. In his old age the love of his wives turned him to worship other gods of the religion of Canaan. His mistresses from Sidon turned him to the the god Molech and the Ammonites to Ashtoreth.[52]

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.[53]

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.[54] He realized that he was now old wand was unable to heed a warning.[55]

Death

After reigning for Israel over forty years,[56] 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.[57] 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. 1.0 1.1 1 Kings 10:23
  2. 2 Sam 7:12-16, 1 Chr 17:11-14 (Link)
  3. 2 Sam 12:24 (Link)
  4. 2 Sam 12:25 (Link)
  5. Prov 4:4-9 (Link)
  6. 1 Chr 27:32 (Link)
  7. 1 Chr 22:7-10, 28:5-7 (Link)
  8. 1 Kings 1:17 (Link)
  9. 1 Chr 22:5 (Link)
  10. 1 Chr 22:6-16 (Link)
  11. 1 Kings 1:5-10 (Link)
  12. 1 Kings 1:11-21 (Link)
  13. 1 Kings 1:38-49, 1 Chr 29:22-24 (Link)
  14. 1 Kings 2:2-10,12 (Link)
  15. 1 Kings 2:23-24 (Link)
  16. 1 Kings 1:52 (Link)
  17. 1 Kings 2:25 (Link)
  18. 1 Sam 2:27-36 (Link)
  19. 1 Kings 2:26-27 (Link)
  20. 1 Kings 3:34-46 (Link)
  21. James 1:5 (Link)
  22. 1 Kings 3:5-14, 2 Chr 1:7-12 (Link)
  23. 1 Kings 4:29-31 (Link)
  24. 1 Kings 4:21,24; 2 Chr 9:26 (Link)
  25. 1 Kings 4:20,22-23, 27 (Link)
  26. 1 Kings 4:26, 28; 1 Kings 10:26-28; 2 Chr 1:14-17; 2 Chr 9:25,28 (Link)
  27. 1 Kings 5, 2 Chr 2 (Link)
  28. 1 Kings 6, 2 Chr 3 (Link)
  29. 1 Kings 7:13-51, 2 Chr 4-5:1 (Link)
  30. 1 Kings 8:1-61 2 Chr 6 (Link)
  31. 1 Kings 8:62-66, 2 Chr 7:4-10 (Link)
  32. 2 Chr 8:11 (Link)
  33. 1 Kings 7:1-8 (Link)
  34. Prov 7:6-23 (Link)
  35. 1 Kings 9:10-14,16-19; 2 Chr 8:2-6 (Link)
  36. 1 Kings 8:24, (Link)
  37. Ecc 2:4-6 (Link)
  38. 1 Kings 9:10-24, 2 Chr 8:1-16 (Link)
  39. 1 Kings 12:4, 2 Chr 10:4 (Link)
  40. 1 Kings 9:25, 2 Chr 8:12-14 (Link)
  41. 1 Kings 9:26-28,10:11,22  ;2 Chr 8:17-18, 9:10,21 (Link)
  42. 1 Kings 10:1-10,13; 2 Chr 9:1-9,12 (Link)
  43. 1 Kings 10:14-15, 2 Chr 9:13-14 (Link)
  44. 2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21 (Link)
  45. 1 Kings 4:32 (Link)
  46. Prov 1:1, 10:1, 25:1, (Link)
  47. Song of Songs 1:1 (Link)
  48. 48.0 48.1 Song of Songs 6:8
  49. 1 Kings 11:3 (Link)
  50. 1 Kings 11:1-2 (Link)
  51. 1 Kings 14:21, 2 Chr 12:13 (Link)
  52. 1 Kings 11:4-5 (Link)
  53. 1 Kings 11:7-13 (Link)
  54. Ecc 2:20 (Link)
  55. Ecc 4:13 (Link)
  56. 1 Kings 11:42, 2 Chr 9:30 (Link)
  57. 1 Kings 11:43, 2 Chr 9:31 (Link)

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