SOLOMON sŏl’ ə mən (שְׁלֹמֹ֔ה, peaceable; LXX Σαλομών). This was the regal name of the third king of Israel. Shortly after his birth, the boy received the private name Jedidiah, “beloved of the Lord,” from Nathan, the prophet, who had himself received the name from God (2 Sam 12:24, 25). The name, Solomon, comes from the Heb. word shalom, and means “peace” or “peaceable.” The name occurs about 300 times in the OT and twelve times in the NT, and became associated with wisdom and wealth.
1. Family. Solomon was the tenth son of King David and the second son of Bathsheba. Six of his half-brothers, Amnon, Chileab, Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah, and Ithream, had been born in Hebron, each of a different mother (2 Sam 3:2-5).
Whereas Saul and David had been born among the common people and grew up among them in village and countryside Solomon was born in the palace at Jerusalem and grew up among men of power. He had seen the heights of royal glory and the chaos of rebellion. He was well educated and never knew poverty or hunger. But he did know the consequences of intrigue, jealousy, and murderous hate. Before he grew to maturity several of his older half-brothers had met violent deaths and one half-sister had been raped.
2. The world situation at the end of David’s death. Solomon never knew other than a unified Heb. nation which was strong in a chaotic world. True, the rule of David had been shaken several times by internal rebellion, but it was still one nation at the end of David’s life. David’s personal strength and genius contributed greatly to Israel’s unity, but just as important was the weakness of the other nations in the ancient Near E.
Egypt had suffered a serious international setback at the beginning of the 12th cent. from which she did not recover for two centuries. During this time, Egypt was unable to prevent, militarily, the rise of the kingdoms of Saul and David, or the extensive activities of Solomon. Yet she remained a formidable commercial power and was not above political maneuvers which could embarrass her neighbors.
At the same time, the Hitt. empire of Anatolia (modern Turkey) was also eliminated by the same people, the displaced Phrygians and Philistines, who had moved E from western Anatolia, southern Greece, Crete and Cyprus. The same forces had severely crippled a newly rising power, Assyria, with headquarters on the Tigris River. Assyria’s eclipse continued for three hundred years. Babylon was equally impotent.
Solomon reigned over a vital portion of real estate, Pal., which has been called the land bridge of the ancient Near E. His country was strategically located for maximum political power and for tight control over trade routes which crisscrossed his realm. Solomon had troublesome neighbors, but no true rivals. It was a golden opportunity for Israel to make an optimum impact on her world; it was her “Golden Age.”
3. Solomon’s accession to the throne. Solomon was not the obvious heir apparent to the throne, for he was far from being David’s oldest son. Most of the older sons of David had been eliminated by violence, but there were others, who, theoretically, could qualify as David’s successor. In fact, the right of succession by age had not been established in Israel as yet, and David was slow to make Solomon known as the next king.
According to 1 Chronicles 22, the Lord had revealed to David several years previously that Solomon would be the next to rule Israel, and, according to 1 Kings 1:13, 17, David had informed Bathsheba. In 1 Chronicles 28:5 and 29:1 he had informed the public that Solomon was picked as the next king.
Apparently, David did not personally move to make Solomon’s future position formally legitimate because both he and Saul had been elevated to kingship by manifest acts of God. Surely, God would do the same for Solomon, but God did not so act.
A serious crisis developed. Adonijah was older than Solomon, so he could claim some rights to the throne. Accustomed to having his own way, and an easy prey to the intrigues of important men, Adonijah decided to force the issue by engineering a coup.
Adonijah had powerful backing for his bid to claim the throne. Joab, the general of the regular army, had always been a powerful leader and had control over strong forces to support Adonijah. Abiathar, a leading priest, and, for long, David’s close adviser, provided the appearance of religious blessing.
There were other powerful public figures who were behind Adonijah; hence, clever strategy demanded a surprise take-over under the guise of a normal religious festival at a sacred spring, En-Rogel (a short distance below Jerusalem in the Kidron valley). Emphasis was placed on the Judean faction in the government (1 Kings 1:9).
Word got out that the religious festival had an underlying political purpose. Nathan, the prophet, a long-time personal confidant of the king, rushed to Bathsheba with the news. Together, they devised a means to rouse the dying king enough to obtain permission to launch a quick counter-move (1:11-27). The plan succeeded. The king revived sufficiently to give orders that Zadok, the other high ranking priest at the Gibeon tabernacle (1 Chron 16:39), anoint Solomon at the nearby spring of Gihon. Benaiah, the trusted commander of David’s personal bodyguard, was to protect the procedures. All went as ordered. A trumpet blast signaled the climactic moment and the crowds lifted the cry, “Long live King Solomon!” (1 Kings 1:34).
The move caught the backers of Adonijah by surprise. They understood immediately the ramifications of the event. The kind of game in which they were engaged was played for keeps and, normally, the losers seldom survived. With Solomon, reprisal moved more slowly.
Adonijah sought asylum at the horns of the high altar and was granted his life, provided he behaved himself. But Adonijah could not refrain from subtly maneuvering for power. With a show of innocence, he sought Abishag, the most recent member of David’s harem, as a wife. He made his request through Bathsheba, assuming that Solomon could not refuse to grant the wishes of his own mother. Adonijah claimed that he had the right to be king and had the support of the people but God had worked against him. Surely, he should at least have one of the harem girls as his own (1 Kings 2:13-17).
Bathsheba did not comprehend the thrust of this clever ploy, so innocently passed on the request to Solomon, who caught the implications of the tactic immediately. In the ancient Near E, those who had possession of any part of a king’s harem had a basis to make claims against the throne, esp. if the king died.
Abiathar was not killed; he was deposed from his high position in the Tabernacle priesthood and confined to his family’s ancestral village, Anathoth.
Joab was not so fortunate. He had been deeply involved in David’s reign, and loyal to him, but he had committed two bloody murders—of Abner and of Amasa (1 Kings 2:5)—in such a way that they appeared to be loyal acts. Hence, David could not punish Joab without losing army support. Yet, David knew they were vile murders and Joab must be punished, so he admonished Solomon to carry out the delayed justice (1 Kings 2:6).
Joab was now fatally vulnerable. He was openly in the wrong; he had lost public and army support. He fled to cling to the horns of the high altar, but to no avail. He was executed and his body sent home for burial.
Shimei, who had reviled David, soon met a similar fate.
Solomon no longer had opposition from any high ranking officer in David’s government. He was free to reorganize the kingdom according to his own design. Humanly speaking, there were no power checks to his rule except the attitude of his people, the laws of God as summed up in an admonition given by David (1 Kings 2:2-4) and Solomon’s personal encounters with God.
4. Solomon’s spiritual life as a young king. A significant spiritual experience occurred in Solomon’s life while he was worshiping at Gibeon, an ancient high place where the Mosaic Tabernacle and the bronze altar still stood a few miles NW of Jerusalem (2 Chron 1:2-5). God appeared to Solomon by means of a dream, the structure of which was a dialogue between God and Solomon (1 Kings 3:5-15).
The initial approach was made by God, with a simple request that Solomon ask what he wanted from God, for Solomon had been worshiping God by means of sacrifices. A wide range of possibility lay before Solomon, but he made a single request based on what God had done for David and his own sense of inadequacy. In spite of Solomon’s quick and decisive treatment of his rivals, his initial diplomatic success with Egypt (1 Kings 3:1), and popular response to his religious assemblies, he felt inferior to his task, internally. In the presence of God, the young king saw his need clearly and confessed it. His request was for wisdom from God so he could rule his people properly and justly.
God’s response was positive and generous. He granted Solomon wisdom but added to it other gifts: wealth and fame. There was a condition however. Solomon must live according to God’s commands, even as had David. Solomon’s gratitude was expressed in a public religious service before the Ark in Jerusalem. He began his reign with the blessing of God upon him, motivated by personal commitment to God.
5. Solomon’s administrative organization. Probably much of Solomon’s organization had its roots in David’s government, and back of that was an Egyp. model, but Solomon placed the stamp of genius upon its final form.
The princes were headed by Azariah the priest who was prob. the king’s closest adviser. Whereas David had one scribe, Solomon appointed two men, Elihoreph and Ahijah, whose father’s name, Shisha, suggests Egyp. extraction. These seemed to be in charge of private and foreign correspondence. Jehoshaphat was in charge of national records and annals, and, prob., the public relations aspects of court life. Benaiah was promoted to Joab’s position as commander of the standing army. Both Zadok and Abiathar are listed as priests, but the latter had been retired from service due to his complicity with Adonijah’s attempted coup. Another Azariah, Solomon’s nephew, had responsibility over the administrative offices and Zabud, another nephew, was a close adviser to the king. Ahishar was the prime minister of the court, having charge of immediate palace affairs and offices. Adoniram, apparently the Adoram of David’s cabinet (2 Sam 20:24) and still in Rehoboam’s group of officers (1 Kings 12:18), was in charge of the labor force.
The twelve officers of 4:7-19 were royally appointed governors of artifically established provinces which largely ignored the old boundary lines of the tribes. They were primarily tax collectors and were responsible for supplying the court with a specified amount of food each having one month of the year (4:7, 22, 23). Each had soldiers and chariots under his control and seemed to provide men for labor or for the general army when needed. They had charge of building projects in their districts and constructed roads. Two of the officers, Ben-abinadab and Ahimaaz, who had the provinces farthest to the N, were sons-in-law to Solomon.
Only N Israelite territories are involved in this list which suggests that Solomon was accepting the animosity between these areas and Judah, so that the latter was administered separately. The LXX says that “there was one officer in the land of Judah” (1 Kings 4:19). If N Israel had to bear the main burden of taxation, it is not difficult to see how the tension between the N and S came to the explosion point at the end of Solomon’s reign.
Some detail is given of the administration of the corvée (forced labor) gangs. 1 Kings 5:13-18 and 2 Chronicles 2:2, 17, 18, note that 70,000 men were assigned as burdenbearers and 80,000 as stonecutters; all of which were non-Israelites. Over these men were 3300-3600 overseers of whom 250-550 were officers (see variant numbers in 1 Kings 9:20-23 and 2 Chron 8:7-10). The strain of the building projects seemed to have become so severe, however, that the king was forced to draft also 30,000 Israelites into the labor gangs. Later, Jeroboam was to gain fame and power by protesting this violation of the freedom of the Israelites.
It has been assumed by some that the military organization set up by David was continued by Solomon with but few changes and additions. There were, first, a regular standing army with a main core of seasoned professionals and a body of mercenaries who served as the king’s bodyguard. Joab had been the leader of the former, but, after his death, Benaiah, head of the mercenaries, became commander of both. Secondly, a militia was drawn from all the tribes for a minimum of one month’s service each year (1 Chron 27:1-15). Under Solomon these seemed to be under the “twelve officers” (1 Kings 4:7).
There were some chariots, horses, and mules in David’s army and these were greatly expanded under Solomon (1 Kings 4:26; 10:26; 2 Chron 9:25). The chariots and horses were mainly quartered in three major fortresses: Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. For several decades it was assumed that the stables at Megiddo belonged to Solomon, but more recent work ties them to Ahab a cent. later, as are the extant stables at Hazor. Solomon, however, did have stables in the three cities, which served as strategic defensive points.
6. Solomon’s building operations. Israel experienced a sudden spurt of improvement in standard of living and in economic activity. Solomon was extravagant and spared no pains to turn his humble capital into a magnificent city. His first big project was one already started under his father, the construction of the Temple.
Solomon determined that only the best was good enough for God’s house. Already much material had been gathered but the final size, style and ornamentation was left largely to Solomon, who in turn procured the artisans of Tyre to insure high quality work. Basic woods such as cedar and cypress were purchased from Tyre, floated to a port on the coast and hauled to Jerusalem. The fact that craftsmen from Tyre worked on the Temple has led some to believe that the Temple possessed many architectural features common to ancient Phoenicia; yet all that remains to aid our knowledge of the Temple is limited largely to the rather detailed description of it in 1 Kings 6:2-36; 7:13-50; 2 Chronicles 3:1-4:22 (cf. Ezek 40:5-16). (See Jerusalem Temple.)
The Temple was modeled primarily after the Mosaic Tabernacle, though its measurements were almost double the Tabernacle. It was begun in Solomon’s fourth year and was completed after seven years. It was located on the traditional Mt. Moriah, rocky crest in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (2 Chron 3:1). The Temple faced E and was surrounded by a spacious courtyard. Most of its brass work was cast at Succoth, by the Jordan River, by Hiram of Tyre. Lavish amounts of gold and silver decorated the interior. The Temple was not for the people to worship in, but was a sanctuary for God. Some would call it a “royal chapel.”
While the Temple was being built, Solomon built an elaborate palace, comprised of the “House of the Forest of Lebanon,” the “Hall of Pillars” and the “Hall of the Throne” (1 Kings 7:1-12). Each was magnificent and costly. The king’s private dwelling, and that of his queen was part of another court nearby (1 Kings 7:8).
Other major projects were the Millo, perhaps a fortification built on an earth fill, and the wall surrounding the new buildings in Jerusalem itself. Three major fortress cities were built at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, several of lesser importance at Balaath, Beth-horon and Tamar, plus a number of store-cities and cavalry forts (1 Kings 9:15-19).
Two prominent characteristics of Solomon’s buildings were the casemate wall and the sixchambered gates with two towers. The casemate wall had been developed several hundred years before Solomon’s time and had been perfected by the Hitt. empire. It is made up of two parallel walls joined regularly by cross walls. The resulting rooms could be filled with rubble or earth. Sometimes they were reserved for storage. All cities in which archeologists have found remains of Solomon’s fortresses had this type of wall. For several decades, it was thought that Megiddo was different but in 1960 a casemate wall found there was related to Solomon’s time. Though discontinued as an outer wall, this type remained popular for inner citadels or isolated forts for many years.
Excellent examples of the Solomonic gate have been identified at Megiddo and at Hazor. Since Gezer is also mentioned with the two above mentioned cities it was suspected that one also existed there. When Macalister dug at Gezer at the turn of the cent. he did not recognize such a gate, but Dr. Yadin reexamined his maps and found one drawn on one map though dated much later than Solomon’s reign. More recent work at Gezer has laid bare this gate much more clearly.
In Ezekiel 40:5-16 the prophet gives a series of measurements of six gates in the Temple compound. The description matches very well the actual size and shape of the three gates at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer, proving that Ezekiel was recording information about Solomonic gates which he would have known as a young boy in Jerusalem. The Temple gates were completely destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 b.c. and never employed afterward as a pattern. This kind of gate was a hallmark of Solomon’s major building projects.
7. The extent of Solomon’s empire. Solomon inherited from David territory which touched the banks of the Euphrates to the N and the river of Egypt, Wadi al Arish, to the SW. The Mediterranean Sea served as the western border, the Arabian desert the eastern border, and the southern anchor was the tip of the Gulf of Aqabah.
Direct control of some of this land soon slipped from Solomon’s hands. A young Edomite, Hadad, had escaped to Egypt from David’s conquest of Edom, but returned to wrest Edom from Solomon’s hand (1 Kings 11:14-22). Likewise to the N, Rezon was able to make Damascus his capital and a center of strong opposition to Israel (11:23-25).
The fact that Egypt was able to capture Gezer and then give it as a dowry with a daughter of the Pharaoh, strongly suggests that Egypt had taken control of Philistia. Since this area is not mentioned among the twelve districts, this could point to Egypt’s supremacy in the SW corner of Pal. Still, what Solomon lacked in military occupation, he made up by forging a series of treaties and dominating the economic traffic of the Levant.
8. Solomon’s international relationships. One of Solomon’s first treaties was with Egypt. It was not altogether to his advantage, for he was required to take an Egyp. princess as a queen and to lose control of Philistia. The gain of Gezer was hardly full compensation, but future trade relations with Egypt proved valuable.
A treaty of special worth was forged with Hiram of Tyre, who had been a close friend of David. Hiram was ruler of an extensive maritime domain, possessed rich natural resources and had highly skilled artisans. Solomon drew heavily on all three for his building operations and his own shipping enterprise (1 Kings 5:1-12; 9:10-14). In course of time, Solomon released twenty cities to Hiram in Galilee, some think to pay a deficit in what Solomon had purchased, but others think that it was for a loan since 2 Chronicles 8:1, 2 seems to say that Solomon got the cities back again.
1 Kings 10:24, 25 and 2 Chronicles 9:23, 24 point to a network of treaties with countries of all sizes, and many of his wives seem to have been sureties for these treaties. One of these wives, an Ammonitess, was the mother of Rehoboam, the next king.
Trade considerations were closely tied to the political alliances which were forged. The king of Israel held a pivotal position because he controlled the main route along the sea and the main route E of Jordan which connected the nations of the S with the nations to the N. Solomon was not only able to tax goods which passed along these routes; he was able to act profitably as a middle man in the trade deals.
Solomon particularly loved horse trading and set up an arrangement in which he procured chariots and horses from Egypt and Kue (Cilicia) and sold them to other nations. Egypt had to get wood for the chariots from areas which Solomon controlled, so he had a virtual stranglehold on the industry (1 Kings 10:28, 29).
Solomon’s relationship with Hiram of Tyre was not limited to buying lumber and skills for building projects; Solomon was able to exploit Hiram’s maritime knowledge for his own advantage. Ships and sailors were obtained for a fleet which operated out of Ezion-geber (modern Eilat). This fleet made trade contacts with Arabia and the eastern coast of Africa, bringing many strange and exotic goods and animals to Israel. Closely related to the shipping port was a mining and refinery project which exploited the rich copper deposits near Ezion-geber. Remains of the mining operations have been found there by archeologists. The copper and bronze produced had ready buyers in other parts of the world. It would seem that Hiram’s Mediterranean fleet could distribute widely these metals (1 Kings 9:26, 28; 10:11, 12, 22).
The celebrated visit of the queen of Sheba was as much a trade mission as a trip motivated by a strong curiosity about the reputed wisest man in the world. Her elaborate gifts could serve as “samples” of what her country could offer to aggressive traders (1 Kings 10:1-10, 13; 2 Chron 9:1-9, 12).
The combination of fairly peaceful relations with other nations, dominance of the “land bridge” of the ancient near E, and the effective control of the major land trade routes poured wealth into Israel at a spectacular rate. Gold, silver and cedar were no longer rarities in Jerusalem. But Solomon’s extravagance strained the income to the limit; a fiscal deficit was not unknown even in the “Golden Age.”
9. Solomon’s religious activities. After God’s initial appearance by means of a dream to Solomon, the king plunged immediately into the task of constructing the Temple. The dedication of the Temple was a high occasion in Solomon’s life, and in the life of the nation. The ceremony was elaborate and impressive. Everyone of any importance in Israel came to Jerusalem. The Ark of the covenant was transferred from David’s Tabernacle to the Temple by the priests and the Levites in an impressive procession. The time was the Feast of Tabernacles, soon after the autumnal equinox (2 Chron 8:13).
While numerous sacrifices were being offered, the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies of the new sanctuary. God placed His blessing on the scene by symbolizing His presence by means of a cloud. The king himself gave public recognition to the divine presence and personally pronounced a blessing upon the assembled congregation.
Solomon testified that he understood several important truths about the one true God. He is the Creator, who cannot be seen, but would and did condescend to dwell among His people. God had also acted in the past by giving promises and fulfilling them by delivering the Israelites from Egypt, and by giving them David as king. To David He had granted a promise of a royal lineage which was fulfilled in Solomon. The house of God was for the Ark, the symbol of divine presence and deliverance.
Solomon then offered a remarkable prayer in which a clear monotheistic doctrine is dominant. God was not limited to the Temple nor to the world itself. God’s name was to be honored at the Temple by means of worship and through the Temple and the priests, God was to make His will known to His people, answering the prayers of the people. God was to judge, but also to forgive His people, granting both spiritual and material blessings. Even the stranger and the exiled person were to have the same privilege of petition before God. 1 Kings 8:42 suggests that one reason for building the Temple was to attract other people to pray to the one true God.
After the prayer of dedication, Solomon participated with his leaders in an eight day feast. On the last day he sent a joyful nation home. An event had occurred which was to linger long in national memory.
At the end of Solomon’s building program, the Lord appeared to him again. God expressed His acceptance of the Temple and the king’s act of dedication. But a clear-cut condition was laid before the king that obedience to the laws of God was essential to fulfillment of His promise to David about the continuity of the throne. To be disobedient would mean God’s abandonment of the Temple, and the people to destruction and to captivity.
According to 2 Chronicles 8:14, 15 Solomon also reaffirmed the divisions of the priests in their duties, but oriented now to the Temple itself. The pattern set by David was followed for both priests and Levites. Beyond this, little is said about other religious acts of Solomon in relation to the Temple.
10. Solomon’s cultural achievements. There was a marked acceleration of interest in lit. among the Israelites during Solomon’s reign. Apart from the Scripture, little remains of the productions of the time; only a small inscr. called the Gezer Calendar has been found.
The Scripture has left record that Solomon’s wisdom issued in an accumulation of oral and written evidence of his skills and insights. 1 Kings 4:29-34 notes that the king became regarded as the most erudite scholar of his day, surpassing the great wise men of Edom. Three thousand proverbs and 1005 songs are credited to him. He was known as a learned lecturer on botany and biology. He easily answered riddles put by the queen of Sheba.
A major portion of the wisdom lit. in the OT is attributed to Solomon. These include Psalms 72 and 127. The Book of Proverbs has three notations which ascribe most of its content to him (1:1; 10:1a; and 25:1). Many have assumed that Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12 refers to Solomon, though others doubt it. The Song of Songs carries a superscription (1:1) which connects the king with its composition.
Various scholars have attributed to the time of Solomon the final organization of several of the historical books, such as Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and the two books of Samuel. Some who reject Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, have even claimed that it was completed in Solomon’s reign. These claims cannot be definitely proved.
Other brief references to literary works in Solomon’s time are “The book of the acts of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:41); and 2 Chronicles 9:29 tabulates “the history of Nathan the prophet,” the “prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite” and the “visions of Iddo the seer.”
All of the literary works of Solomon’s time are permeated with a consistently strong monotheistic doctrine.
11. Summary of Solomon’s contributions to Israel’s national life. For the first time, under Solomon, Israel experienced a relatively consistent period of peace and prosperity. The internal factions in the nation were balanced in a delicate and, for the most part, workable relationship. The recurrent tribal feudings and court related revolts were a thing of the past. The standard of living in the nation climbed to unprecedented heights and the availability of luxury items and materials was open to a large portion of at least the urban population. International relationships had their tense moments but no serious crises. For the time being a network of treaties effectively kept diplomatic and commercial lines open and functioning. No known wars scarred the landscape or played havoc with the affairs of men.
For the first time the nation had a permanent national worship center, in the capital city. The presence of the Temple was to dominate the religious life and thinking of the Israelites until its destruction in 587/6 b.c. Even then it did not fade out; the structure was rebuilt and later thoroughly remodeled until again destroyed in a.d. 70.
The influence of the priests became more powerful and the festivals became regularized. The presence of the Temple enhanced the city of Jerusalem itself so that it became known as the city of God. The teaching function of the priests helped to disseminate the ancient truths revealed by God more widely in Israel. The Temple became a powerful unifying force.
For the first time in Israel, its leadership had a successful example of passing of power from father to son. The reign of Solomon served to make actual and legitimate the covenant God made to David concerning the continuity of the House of David as a ruling power in Israel. The establishment of this principle of succession was to be the prime stable factor in Israel during the span of over three centuries. The length of time that David’s dynasty ruled had scarcely a parallel in the history of the ancient Near E during the 10th to the 6th centuries b.c.
Costly though it was, Solomon’s building projects gave Israel a sense of national pride and of security which it had never known before. Finally they had constructed something which could stand in the world of the day as both artistic and magnificent. Pomp and ceremony augmented this new sense of nationhood effectively.
Solomon’s contributions to Israel’s culture were profound, but the greatest of these was in the realm of lit. Art in the form of sculpture and painting did not come within the scope of Israel’s skills, in fact the depiction of animal or human forms in visible forms were forbidden by divine law. But the art of human expression through the oral and written word was a different matter.
In comparison with other ancient near eastern languages, the Heb. tongue was a newcomer, a child of several other languages. Its literary history was limited, but Solomon and those whom he influenced forged the Heb. language into a highly honed tool of communication. In a very real way, Heb. became one of the important languages of the world for the propagation of both divine truth and the deepest insights of man, prompted by that truth. Songs, witticisms and riddles had been known in Israel before, but wisdom of the quality which Solomon brought forth was without parallel, even in the pagan lit. of the day. Solomon had sparked a concern to put the truth of God and man into the medium of the written word which never died out in Israel.
12. Summary of Solomon’s shortcomings in administration. Solomon’s reign was not without blemish, great though he was. His wisdom was profound, but it possessed serious flaws.
Solomon’s powers to judge were impressive; he could tell which of two women was the true mother of a baby (1 Kings 3:16-28), but he was unable to see that due process of law is a needed check to arbitrary power. His executions of Joab, Adonijah and Shimei could be outwardly justified, esp. to that generation. Solomon showed that he was capable of decisive action. But these men needed their day in court even though they were guilty, for others later may not be manifestly in the wrong. Solomon had too much power over the lives of his subjects.
The administrative structure of Solomon’s government lacked adequate checks and balances to guard against abuses of centralized power. The officials, both in Jerusalem and in the provinces, were so strong that it was exceedingly difficult for the voice of the people to be heard. It was too easy to whitewash mistakes and to smother dissent. The ease with which Jeroboam was forced out of the country is a case in point (1 Kings 11:26-40).
Too much regimentation of the populace not only destroyed individual freedom but begat rank discrimination. Israel’s minority group, the Canaanites, was reduced to a form of slavery, condemned to the labor gangs, but the Israelites were virtually untouched, except in emergency. This provided fertile soil for discontent and future revolt.
There were no proper checks on government spending, no review of taxation policies, of trade policies, of foreign affairs policies, by an independent branch of the government. It is little wonder that in each of these areas, matters got out of control. Solomon had great skill in maintaining delicately balanced agreements among the tribes and among the surrounding nations, but could not, at least did not, cope seriously with the tensions necessitating the “balances of power.” Hence, when he died, chaos broke out on every hand. During his reign the tendency was toward monopoly with no firm economic base in the country, no strong merchant class, and with no real international bonds forged.
The ecclesiastical branch was too firmly under the control of the government. True, Solomon had priests who were close advisers, but they had no truly independent voice. Too easily they could become a tool of the throne to control the people. Significantly, the prophet, so important a person in David’s life, was practically nonexistent, as far as we know, in Solomon’s time. The king had been urged by his father and by God to obey the commandments of God, but human voices to remind him of this charge were largely silent.
Solomon’s government had no real sense of mission to the world. The king allowed foreign gods to be worshiped in and near Jerusalem, but made no apparent effort to spread Heb. culture and religious viewpoints to the other nations. They could come to Jerusalem and be converted but nothing is heard of Israelites going to them with a message of “One True God” who is the Creator, Judge, and Savior of all mankind.
The nation’s financial resources were strictly limited to secular pursuits or to the rich ornamentation of the Temple. Neither the king nor his subjects had any compulsion to use this wealth to uplift the common people in Israel, or in foreign lands, spiritually. The nation was broadminded. They could tolerate polygamy and idolatry in the royal household; they could also tolerate poverty, with ignorance, in society both at home and abroad.
Solomon and his nation had both the opportunity and the resources to spread the message of the living God throughout the ancient Near E, but let the golden moment slip through their fingers.
13. Summary of Solomon’s personal life. The young king began his reign with everything for him. He was talented, well-trained, knowledgeable and blessed with a fresh experience with God who had granted him more than his heart desired.
Solomon’s major endeavor, the construction of the Temple, was spiritually oriented. Its dedication was a high hour in his life. The words that he spoke on that occasion reveal spiritual understanding of great depth and breadth.
God’s second appearance to Solomon indicates that he maintained some keenness of spiritual life but it was also a reminder that his obligations under the law of God still were binding on him.
The Scripture seems quite clear that in his latter years Solomon began to move away from the strong ardor of his younger years. The reason is said to be centered in his oversized harem. Solomon had accumulated a total of 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3), many through political alliances. This procedure was in accord with the common customs of the day, but was in conflict with the law of God as noted in 1 Kings 11:2. The presence of the harem highlighted a general pagan view that the king was the prime sire of the nation and had an obligation to contribute as many children as possible. Implicitly, Solomon accepted this concept with the result that sex played a too dominant role in his life and more and more blurred his perspective.
He allowed many of these women to worship their pagan gods, in fact built pagan temples for them. Ironically, Solomon was not diligent in giving witness to the reality of his own God, but his pagan wives were evangelistic in their zeal and turned his heart from the true God (1 Kings 11:4, 6). So serious was this breach of loyalty that God appeared to him the third time and rebuked him, saying that in his son’s day the kingdom would be torn apart (1 Kings 11:9-13).
The pagan temples remained a snare to Israel until destroyed by Josiah (2 Kings 23:13, 14). Solomon’s sin remained an example of evil in the days of Ezra’s reforms (Neh 13:26), and the place where they were erected has continued to be called the “hill of offense” to the present day.
Granted that Ecclesiastes is the work of Solomon, it could be concluded that Solomon passed through periods of disillusionment, frustration and despair, but that he was able to come through with a basic faith in the one true God. At least, it is true that all works of lit. attributed to him contain a monotheistic stress which is unmistakable. However, his life served more as a spiritual warning to the Israelites in succeeding generations, than as an equal witness with his father of spiritual integrity.
Bibliography F. James, Personalities of the Old Testament (1940), 149-165; N. Glueck, “The Excavations of Solomon’s Seaport: Eziongeber,” The Smithsonian Report for 1941 (1941), 453-478; W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (1942), 130-155; M. F. Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament (1954), 219-234; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1957), 130-146; M. Noth, The History of Israel (1958), 203-223; J. Bright, The History of Israel (1959), 190-208; Y. Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel (1960), 262-270, 323; J. Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament (1962), 344, 345, 365, 366; Y. Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Times (1963), 275-290; H. E. Finley, “I and II Kings,” Beacon Bible Commentary (1965), 344-394; E. W. K. Mould, Essentials of Bible History (1966), 224-252; C. R. Wilson, “I Kings,” Wesleyan Bible Commentary (1967), 241-265; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (1967), 273-280; W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 219-264.
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