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Solomon
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Solomon

In the Tanach and Old Testament, Solomon or Shlomo (שלמה "Peace", Standard Hebrew Šəlomo, Tiberian Hebrew Šəlōmōh) is the third king of Israel (including Judah), builder of the temple in Jerusalem, renowned for his great wisdom and wealth and power, but also blamed for falling away from worshipping the LORD only. He is the subject of many later legends.

Table of contents
1 The Biblical Account
2 George Rawlinson's Evaluation
3 Later legend

The Biblical Account

Solomon is David's second son by Bathsheba. His name means "peaceful," from the Hebrew "Shelomoh" (Arabic "Suleiman"). The name given by God to Solomon in the Bible is Jedidiah (meaning "loved by God"), and some scholars have conjectured that Solomon is a "king name" taken either when he assumes the throne or upon his death.

Interestingly, Solomon's case is one of the few in the Bible where the name given by God does not stay with the character. Solomon is probably born about 1035 BC (1 Chronicles 22:5; 29:1). His birth is considered a grace from God, after the death of the previous child between David and Bathsheba via adultery.

Succession

He succeeds his father on the throne in early manhood, probably about sixteen or eighteen years of age. His father chooses him as his successor, passing over the claims of his elder sons. His history is recorded in 1 Kings 1–11 and 2 Chr. 1–9. His elevation to the throne takes place before his father's death, and is hastened on mainly by Nathan and Bathsheba, in consequence of the rebellion of Adonijah.

During his long reign of 40 years the Hebrew monarchy gains its highest splendour. This period has well been called the "Augustan age" of the Jewish annals. In a single year he collects tribute amounting to 666 talents of gold. (1 Kings 10:13)

The first half of his reign is, however, by far the brighter and more prosperous; the latter half is clouded by the idolatries into which he falls, mainly from his intermarriages. According to 1 Kings 11:3, he has 700 wives and 300 concubines. As soon as he has settled himself in his kingdom, and arranged the affairs of his extensive empire, he enters into an alliance with Egypt by the marriage of the daughter of Pharaoh.

Buildings and other works

He surrounds himself with all the luxuries and the external grandeur of an Eastern monarch, and his government prospers. He enters into an alliance with Hiram I, king of Tyre, who in many ways greatly assists him in his numerous undertakings. For some years before his death David is engaged in the active work of collecting materials for building a temple in Jerusalem as a permanent abode for the ark of the covenant.

After the completion of the temple, Solomon engages in the erection of many other buildings of importance in Jerusalem and in other parts of his kingdom. For the long space of thirteen years he is engaged in the erection of a royal palace on Ophel. Solomon also constructs great works for the purpose of securing a plentiful supply of water for the city, Millo (Septuagint, "Acra") for the defence of the city, and Tadmor in the wilderness as a commercial depot as well as a military outpost.

During his reign Israel enjoys great commercial prosperity. Extensive traffic is carried on by land with Tyre and Egypt and Arabia, and by sea with Spain and South India and the coasts of Africa. This is the "golden age" of Israel. The royal magnificence and splendour of Solomon's court are unrivaled. Solomon is known for his wisdom and proverbs. People come from far and near "to hear the wisdom of Solomon", including the queen of Sheba, a country in Arabia Felix. His thoughts are enshrined in storytelling, though probably, not all the clever thinking in the stories originates with the one man.

Decline and fall

His decline and fall from his high estate is a sad record. Blamed for it are his polygamy and his great wealth, causing him to become decadent and involved in various forms of idol worship which are contrary to the religious law. Because of this idol worship, a prophet visits Solomon and tells him that after his death, his kingdom would be split in two (Israel and Judah). After Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam would suffer because of his sin. He dies, after a reign of forty years, and is buried in Jerusalem. He is succeeded by his son Rehoboam.

George Rawlinson's Evaluation

"The kingdom of Solomon," says George Rawlinson, "is one of the most striking facts in the Biblical history. A petty nation, which for hundreds of years has with difficulty maintained a separate existence in the midst of warlike tribes, each of which has in turn exercised dominion over it and oppressed it, is suddenly raised by the genius of a soldier-monarch to glory and greatness."

Rawlinson continues, "an empire is established which extends from the Euphrates to the borders of Egypt, a distance of 450 miles; and this empire, rapidly constructed, enters almost immediately on a period of peace which lasts for half a century. Wealth, grandeur, architectural magnificence, artistic excellence, commercial enterprise, a position of dignity among the great nations of the earth, are enjoyed during this space, at the end of which there is a sudden collapse."

Rawlinson concludes, "the ruling nation is split in twain, the subject-races fall off, the pre-eminence lately gained being wholly lost, the scene of struggle, strife, oppression, recovery, inglorious submission, and desperate effort, re-commences."

Later legend

To Solomon are attributed by commentary, but not internally, the Biblical books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Then comes the Wisdom of Solomon, probably written in the 2nd century BCE where Solomon is portrayed as an astrologer. Other books of wisdom poetry attributed to Solomon are the "Odes of Solomon" and the "Psalms of Solomon".

The Jewish historian Eupolemus who wrote about 157 BCE included copies of letters exchanged between Solomon and the kings of Egypt and Tyre.

The Gnostic Apocalypse of Adam which may date to the 1st or 2nd century refers to a reputed legend in which Solomon sends out an army of demons to seek a virgin who had fled from him, perhaps the earliest suviving mention of the later common tale that Solomon controlled the demons and made them his slaves.

This tradition of Solomon's control over demons appears fully elaborated in the early Christian work called the "Testament of Solomon" with its elaborate and grotesque demonology.

Solomon's mastery of demons is a common element in later Jewish and Arabic legends.

Preceded by:
David
King of united Israel Succeeded by:
Rehoboam and Jeroboam