Monday, March 16, 2009

Solomon (Hebrew: שְׁלֹמֹה, Standard Šəlomo or Šlomo Tiberian Šəlōmōh, Arabic: سليمتن‎ Sulaymān) (from Semitic root S-L-M, "peace") is a figure described in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the Qur'an. The biblical accounts identify Solomon as the son of David. He is also called Jedidiah in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah split; following the split his patrilineal descendants ruled over Judah alone.
The Bible accredits Solomon as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem, and portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power, but ultimately as a king whose sin, including idolatry and turning away from God, leads to the kingdom being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam. Solomon is the subject of many other later references and legends.


Solomon's father was David of Bethlehem, the son of Jesse. Solomon's mother was Bathsheba who, before David, had been married to Uriah the Hittite. Solomon's siblings were Absalom, who was killed in the Battle of Ephraim Wood, Amnon, who was killed by order of Absalom for raping Tamar, (2 Samuel 13:1-29) and Adonijah, who was put to death (1 Kings 2:13-25).


Solomon became king after the death of his father David. According to the biblical book of 1 Kings, when David was " old and advanced in years" "he could not get warm." "So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king."

While David was in this state Adonijah, David's fourth son, acted to have himself declared king, he being heir-apparent to the throne after the death of his elder brothers Amnon and Absalom. But Bathsheba, a wife of David and Solomon's mother, along with the prophet Nathan induced David to proclaim Solomon king. Adonijah fled and took refuge at the altar, and received pardon for his conduct from Solomon on the condition that he show himself "a worthy man" (1 Kings 1:5-53).

Adonijah asked to marry Abishag the Shunammite, but Solomon denied authorization for such an engagement, although Bathsheba now pleaded on Adonijah's behalf. He was then seized and put to death (1 Kings 2:13-25). As made clear in the earlier story of Absalom's rebellion, to have sex with the King's wife or concubine was in this society tantamount to claiming the throne; evidently, this applied even to a woman who had shared the bed of an old, impotent king.

David's general Joab was killed, in accord with David's deathbed request to Solomon because he had killed generals Abner and Amasa during a peace (2 Samuel 20:8-13; 1 Kings 2:5). David's priest Abiathar was exiled by Solomon because he had sided with rival Adonijah. Abiathar is a descendent of Eli, which has important prophetic significance. (1 Kings 2:27) Shimei was confined to Jerusalem and killed three years later when he went to Gath to retrieve some runaway servants in part because he had cursed David when Absalom, David's son, rebelled against David. (1 Kings 2:1-46)


One of the qualities most ascribed to Solomon is his wisdom. Solomon prays:
"Give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people and to know good and evil."1 Kings 3:9 [7]
"So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked..."" (1 Kings 3:11-12) The Bible also states that: "The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart." (1 Kings 10:24)

One account, known as the Judgment of Solomon, has two mothers who came before Solomon to resolve a quarrel about which was the true mother of a baby. (The other's baby died in the night and each claims the surviving child as hers.) When Solomon suggests dividing the living child in two with a sword, the true mother is revealed to him because she is willing to give up her child to the lying woman rather than have the child killed. Solomon then declares the woman who shows the compassion is the true mother, and gives the baby back to her.

Historical figure

Historical evidence of King Solomon, independent of the biblical accounts, is scarce. Nothing indisputably of Solomon's reign has been found. Archaeological excavations at Hazor, Megiddo, Bethshan and Gezer have uncovered structures that Israeli archaeologists Ammon Ben-Tor, Amihai Mazar and US Professor William G. Dever argue all belong to his reign and all were simultaneously destroyed by a raid of Shishaq,[16] but Finkelstein and Silberman argues that these structures are dated to the Omride period, more than a century after Solomon's reign, although they believe that David and Solomon were kings in the region. Excavations on these sites are ongoing. Recently researchers have dated a copper smelting plant at Khirbat en-Nahas in southern Jordan to the 10th century BCE.

Buildings and related works

During Solomon's long reign of 40 years, the Hebrew monarchy, according to the Bible, gained its highest splendour. This period has been called the Augustan Age of the Jewish annals. In a single year, according to 1 Kings 10:14, Solomon collected tribute amounting to 666 talents of gold (39,960 pounds). Some feel that based on the archeological evidence, the kingdom of Israel at the time of Solomon was little more than a small city state, so they consider this to be an implausibly large amount of money. According to Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, authors of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, at the time of the Davidic and Solomonic kingdoms, Jerusalem may have been unpopulated, or at most with only a few hundred residents. They consider this insufficient to have ruled an empire stretching from the Euphrates to Eilath. Although both Finkelstein and Silberman do accept that David and Solomon were real kings of Judah about the 10th century BCE[22], they write that the earliest independent reference to the Kingdom of Israel is about 890 BCE, whilst for that of Judah is about 750 BCE. They suggest that due to religious prejudice, later writers (i.e. the Biblical authors) suppressed the achievements of the Omrides (whom the Bible describes as being polytheist), and instead pushed them back to a supposed golden age of godly rulers (i.e. monotheist, and Yahweh worshiping). Some go further like the biblical minimalists, notably Thomas L. Thompson, who state that Jerusalem only became a city and capable of acting as a state capital in the middle of the seventh century.

These views are strongly criticized by William G. Dever, Helga Weippert, Amihai Mazar and Amnon Ben-Tor.

André Lemaire states in that the principal points of the biblical tradition with Solomon as generally trustworthy as does Kenneth Kitchen who argue that Solomon ruled over a comparatively wealthy 'mini-empire' rather than a small city-state so consider this sum to be a rather modest amount of money. Mr. Kitchen calculates that over a 30 year period such a kingdom might have accumulated from this up to 500 tons of gold which is small when compared to other examples such as the 1,180 tons of gold that Alexander the Great took from Susa. Likewise, the magnitude of Solomon's temple is considered excessively large by some, for example, Finkelstein; however, others such as Kenneth Kitchen consider it a reasonable and typically sized structure for the region at the time. William G. Dever states "that we now have direct Bronze and Iron Age parallels for every feature of the 'Solomonic temple' as described in the Hebrew Bible".

The archaeological remains that are still considered to actually date from the time of Solomon are notable for the fact that Canaanite material culture appears to have continued unabated; there is a distinct lack of magnificent empire, or cultural development - indeed comparing pottery from areas traditionally assigned to Israel with that of the Philistines points to the Philistines having been significantly more sophisticated. However there is a lack of physical evidence of its existence, despite some archaeological work in the area. This is not unexpected as the area was devastated by the Babylonians, then rebuilt and destroyed several times. Also it should be noted that little archaeological excavation has been conducted around the area known as the Temple Mount; in what is thought to be the foundation of Solomon's Temple as attempts to do so are met with protest from adherents to the Muslim and Jewish faiths (

Solomon is described as surrounding himself with all the luxuries and the external grandeur of an Eastern monarch, and his government prospered. He entered into an alliance with Hiram I, king of Tyre, who in many ways greatly assisted him in his numerous undertakings. For some years before his death, David was engaged in the active work of collecting materials for building a temple in Jerusalem as a permanent abode for the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon is described as completing its construction, with the help of an architect, also named Hiram, and other materials, sent from Hiram king of Tyre. The description of the temple is remarkably similar to that of surviving remains of Phoenician temples of the time, and it is certainly plausible, from the point of view of archaeology, that the temple was constructed to the design of Phoenicians. It has also been suggested that the Phoenicians built it for themselves.

From a critical point of view, Solomon's building of a temple for Yahweh should not be seen as an act resulting from particular devotion to Yahweh, since Solomon is also described as erecting temples for a number of other deities (1 Kings 11:4). Solomon's apparent initial devotion to Yahweh appearing in for example his dedication prayer (1 Kings 8:14-66) are seen by some textual scholars as a product of a much later writer, Solomon being credited with the views only after Jerusalem had actually become the religious centre of the kingdom (rather than, for example, Shiloh, or Bethel). Some textual scholars consider the authorship of passages such as these in the Books of Kings to be separate from the remainder of the text, and consider these passages to be probably the result of the Deuteronomist. Such views have been challenged by other textual scholars who maintain that there are evidences that these passages in Kings are derived from official court records from the time of Solomon and from other contemporaneous writings that were incorporated into the canonical books of Kings. See also the discussion in "Chronological Notes" below.

After the completion of the temple, Solomon is described as erecting many other buildings of importance in Jerusalem; for the long space of thirteen years he was engaged in the erection of a royal palace on Ophel (a hilly promontory in central Jerusalem); Solomon also constructed great works for the purpose of securing a plentiful supply of water for the city, and the Millo (Septuagint, Acra) for the defense of the city. However, excavations of Jerusalem have shown a distinct lack of monumental architecture from the era, and remains of neither the Temple nor Solomon's palace have been found (although it should be noted that a number of significant but politically sensitive areas have not been extensively excavated, including the site that the Temple is traditionally said to have been located).

Solomon is also described as rebuilding major cities elsewhere in Israel, creating the port of Ezion-Geber, and constructing Tadmor in the wilderness as a commercial depot and military outpost. Solomon is additionally described as having amassed a thousand and four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen. Though the location of Solomon's port of Ezion-Geber is known, no remains have ever been found. More archaeological success has been achieved with the major cities Solomon is said to have strengthened or rebuilt (for example, Hazor , Megiddo and Gezer- 1 Kings 9:15); these all have substantial ancient remains, including impressive six-chambered gates, and ashlar palaces, as well as trough-like structures outside buildings that early archaeologists have identified as the stables for Solomon's horses.
According to the Bible, during Solomon's reign Israel enjoyed great commercial prosperity, with extensive traffic being carried on by land with Tyre, Egypt, and Arabia, and by sea with Tarshish (Spain), Ophir, and South India.

Jewish scriptures

King Solomon is one of the central Biblical figures in Jewish heritage that have lasting religious, national and political aspects. As the constructor of the first temple in Jerusalem and last ruler of the united Jewish Kingdom of Israel from ancient times, until it was re-established in the modern State of Israel, Solomon is associated with the peak "golden age" of the independent Kingdom of Israel as well as a source of judicial and religious wisdom. According to Jewish tradition, King Solomon has written three books of the Bible:

  • Mishlei (Book of Proverbs), a collection of fables and wisdom of life
  • Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), a book of contemplation and his self reflection.
  • Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs), a chronicle of erotic love (there are contrasting opinions whether its subject is a woman or God).

The Hebrew word "To Solomon" (also by Solomon) appears in the title of two hymns in the book of Psalms (Tehillim), suggesting to some that Solomon wrote them.
In modern Israel, the debate about the historical accuracy of the Biblical account of Solomon has political as well as scientific dimensions. In general, those who uphold the Biblical account are identified as nationalists who support an exclusive Israeli-Jewish territorial claim to the whole Land of Israel. Those who doubt this account and assert that the actual Solomon, if he existed, had a far smaller and poorer kingdom than the one depicted in the Bible are identified as those who might be inclined to territorial concessions in present-day politics.