Parent Category: Bible
Category: Biblical People
Solomon (soÂ¬l'o\Â®-muÂ¬n). [Heb. Shelomoh, "peaceable." The name is attested in Hebrew on an ancient jar handle. It appears in Moabite as Shlmn, in Akkadian as ShalamaÃ†nu. Among the Arabs it is known as SuleimaÃ†n; Gr. SolomoÂµn.] The son of David and Bathsheba (2 Sa 12:24; 1 Chr 3:5), and the 3d and last king of united Israel, who reigned from c. 971 to c. 931 b.c. In one passage he is called Jedidiah, "beloved of Yahweh" (2 Sa 12:25). This was possibly his personal name and Solomon his throne name; or the reverse may have been true.
I. Accession. Solomon was made king shortly before his father's death, and owed his crown to the watchfulness of the prophet Nathan. Hearing that Solomon's older brother Adonijah, supported by Joab, was to be proclaimed king, the prophet appealed to David through Bathsheba for quick action. In response Solomon, supported by Zadok the priest, Benaiah, a high military officer, and David's bodyguard, was immediately proclaimed king. This prompt action brought a quick end to Adonijah's conspiracy (1 Ki 1:5-40). After David's death Solomon executed his most violent opponents. The less violent he discharged from their office or banished or placed under surveillance (ch 2). About the same time he married an Egyptian princess (ch 3:1), probably a daughter of one of the last kings of the 21st dynasty. During a visit to Gibeon, where the tabernacle of the Lord was at that time, he had a dream in which God asked him to make his desires known, and promised that they would be granted. In response Solomon requested wisdom, which so pleased God that wealth and honour were promised him in addition to the requested wisdom (1 Ki 3:4-15; 2 Chr 1:3-13). His wisdom was later put to a test when he was asked to arbitrate a quarrel between 2 women over the possession of a baby (1 Ki 3:16-28). The judgment pronounced in this case became proverbial, and made such an impression on the ancients that it became an art motif in the ancient world .
II. Reign. Solomon's relations with other countries during his 40-year reign were generally good. Through his marriage with the Egyptian princess he came into possession of the city of Gezer, which had remained in Canaanite hands up to that time (1 Ki 9:16). He waged only one war, that against Hamath-zobah, to make his northern possessions more secure (2 Chr 8:3). With Phoenicia he concluded a trade agreement (1 Ki 5:1-12). Apparently he also had good relations with other neighbouring nations, such as Ammon, Moab, Edom, and the Hittite city-states of northern Syria, countries from which he imported women for his harem (chs 11:1; 14:21). He had contact even with distant Sheba in South Arabia (ch 10:1-13). He built the caravan city of *Tadmor in the desert (2 Chr 8:4), and carried on a flourishing trade with many surrounding nations, buying horses in *Kue (Cilicia), and importing chariots from Egypt, which he then exported to princes from northern regions (1 Ki 10:28, 29, RSV).
He also organized chariot forces as part of his army and built strong garrison cities, among which Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer are specially mentioned (1 Ki 9:19; 10:26). The excavations at *Megiddo uncovered large stables of either Solomon's or Ahab's time , and a gate structure belonging to the time of Solomon that corresponds in size and layout to the Temple gates described by Ezekiel. Other gates of identical style have been excavated at the Solomonic level of Hazor and Gezer.
Explorations carried out by Nelson Glueck in Edom have discovered the copper mines exploited by Solomon. Excavations conducted by Glueck at Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Aqabah proved it to be a storage and port city from which Solomon's ships, partly manned by Phoenician crews, sailed to Ophir, probably Somaliland in eastern Africa, and brought back gold. His "ships of Tarshish" (see Tarshish, 2) brought monkeys, ivory, peacocks, etc. (1 Ki 9:26-28; 10:11, 22; Jos. Ant. viii. 7. 2).
Solomon divided Israel into 12 administrative provinces, which did not in every case correspond with tribal boundaries. They were administered by an able corps of officers, some of whom were bound to the king by marriage ties (1 Ki 4:1-19). For his extensive building enterprises Solomon initiated a system of forced labour, which became very unpopular in the course of time (chs 5:13-16; 9:15, 20, 23). Besides his workmen, he also drafted an immense number of Israelites for his infantry, chariotry, and horsemen (1 Ki 9:22).
III. Building Activity in Jerusalem. For many years Solomon's main attention was directed toward the beautification of his capital. His father, David, who was not permitted to build a temple, had amassed much building material for such a structure (1 Chr 29:2-8; cf. ch 17:4), and had bought a site north of "David's City," the old Mount Moriah. Solomon's building activities in Jerusalem lasted 20 years, 7 years of which were spent in building the magnificent Temple which brought him great fame (1 Ki 6:37, 38), and 13 years in erecting the palace buildings (ch 7:1). Solomon's architect and some of his builders were from Tyre. The Phoenicians also supplied him with material for the buildings and furnishings (chs 5:1-18; 7:13, 14). New walls were erected for the widely extended city area (ch 9:15), although it is not known whether Solomon's Jerusalem included any part of the city which in later times lay west of the Tyropoeon Valley, or whether his city was confined to the 2 eastern hills-the southeastern hill on which the City of David stood, also called Zion, and the northeastern hill, or Temple Hill. Solomon also carried out building activities at Millo (chs 9:15, 24; 11:27), which was probably a special fortress, mentioned in the time of David (2 Sa 5:9), at the northern side of the old City of David (see The Walls of Jerusalem in Ancient and Modern Times.)
IV. Failure. Solomon was an Oriental monarch who loved luxury, and who unfortunately followed in many of the ways of Oriental despots. Outstanding among his mistakes was his taking many foreign wives. These brought about disloyalty toward God, which in turn resulted in the breakup of his empire after his death. To accommodate these women he erected pagan sanctuaries and shrines and he himself occasionally worshipped at them (1 Ki 11:1-13). Another mistake Solomon made was to tax the people heavily over an extended period. His forced-labour program was especially unpopular and became the most visible cause of the breakup of the kingdom immediately following his death (ch 12:4-16).
One of Solomon's enemies was Hadad of Edom, who had fled to Egypt after David's victory over the Edomites but returned to Edom in Solomon's time (1 Ki 11:14-22, 25b). Another adversary was Rezon, an Aramaean leader of a band of outlaws, who made himself master of *Damascus and founded a dynasty there. He caused Solomon even more trouble than Hadad (vs 23-25). The most dangerous of Solomon's internal opponents was Jeroboam, an Ephraimite overseer of a group of builders employed at the construction project at Millo in Jerusalem. Because of Solomon's apostasy God had promised Jeroboam the greater part of the kingdom. Jeroboam thereupon made an unwise move, with the result that Solomon sought to kill him. But Jeroboam fled to Egypt, where he remained until Solomon's death, after which he returned to become the spokesman of the dissatisfied workmen of the realm and king over the northern tribes (vs 26-40; ch 12:2, 3).
V. Religious Life and Literary Activity. Solomon began his reign as a deeply spiritual leader of his nation, one who desired nothing so much as wisdom adequately to serve God and the interests of his people (1 Ki 3:3-9). His prayer and his counsel to the people at the dedication of the Temple show that he stood close to God (ch 8:22-61). However, his wealth and luxury, but especially his many wives, corrupted him so that he finally became an idolater (ch 11:3-8). In later life he regretted the follies of his way, as statements he made in Ecclesiastes reveal (chs 1:1, 12-17; 2:1-11).
Solomon was known especially for his extraordinary wisdom, the fame of which reached far beyond the national boundaries (1 Ki 4:29-34), and which excelled even that of the traditionally wise Egyptians (v 30) of whom much wisdom literature has been preserved. The 2 books that bear his name as author-Proverbs and Song of Solomon-and the book of Ecclesiastes, which does not bear his name but is traditionally attributed to him because ch 1:1 sets forth the author as "the son of David, king in Jerusalem," have preserved for all times some of his wise utterances and inspired philosophy. The fact that certain sayings contained in Proverbs find close parallels in the Egyptian "Instruction of Amen-em-Opet" (ANET 421-425) has frequently been held to prove that the author of Proverbs borrowed from Amen-em-Opet. However, this cannot be true because Solomon lived in the 10th cent. b.c., whereas Amen-em-Opet's instruction dates from the 8th to the 6th cent. b.c. Hence it is more likely that Solomon's proverbs found their way to Egypt, and were re-edited and rephrased by Amen-em-Opet into the form in which they have come to us in their Egyptian edition -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.