King Solomon ruled all of Israel in an outstanding way from 977 to 937 BCE (12). Despite his wealth and power, Solomon is known to history for his wisdom and as the builder of the Temple of Jerusalem. He has been credited with authoring all or parts of three books of the Bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon).
King Solomon was the ruler of ancient Israel who reigned from 961-922 BC (8). He is the son of David and Bathsheba. Solomon succeeded his father as king and his territory extended from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt. With his wealth he built the great Temple of Jerusalem. In 950 BCE Solomon’s household included 700 wives and 300 other mistresses (1). To insure the future peace and security of his kingdom, Solomon yielded to the custom of the times and made many domestic alliances with subject races and tribes by marrying foreign women.
An able administrator, Solomon kept the kingdom of Israel largely intact, strengthened its protection, and made alliances with several surrounding nations. He united his already strong position and even extended his influence by skillful diplomacy rather than war (8). International commerce and a large copper-mining industry aided in Solomon s wealth. Contact with other nations showed his advanced intelligence. Solomon displayed political and administrative wisdom and showed himself equal to his father by taking full advantage of the chance for economic expansion.
The Song of Solomon is a book of the Old Testament. It is a unique collection of love poetry. In Christian versions of the Bible it usually appears after the Book of Ecclesiastes. In the Hebrew Bible it is found after the Book of Job. It is believed to be written by King Solomon, but the actual author or authors of the book are unknown. It is a non-religious subject so it did not appear in all pre-Christian Jewish literature. The Song of Solomon, also known as the Song of Songs, is quite erotic for the Bible. It was included in the Hebrew Bible despite significant opposition. Some have regarded the book as a dramatic poem, while others see it basically as love lyrics.
Solomon carefully cultivated ties of friendship, which had existed between Israel and the kingdom of Tyre. This had great economic advantages. The biggest bond was with Egypt, which was cemented by his marriage to the daughter of the reigning Pharaoh. Solomon showed outstanding power, since he was able to claim and partially enforce authority over Palestine. The important and strategic Canaanite City of Gezer is said to have revolted against Pharaoh and after being destroyed, to have been handed over to Solomon as a property of marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter when she was given to him in marriage. Solomon took important steps to further prosperity and to move a big portion of the national income into the royal treasury to finance his lifestyle and his buildings. His division of the country into 12 districts must have been a highly efficient thing to do, but it was reformed as one after his reign.
One of the main sources of the enormous revenue required to support Solomon’s brilliant reign was direct taxation in the form of money, goods, or unpaid labor that furnished for his building projects. Besides taxes in money and produce, Solomon required large donations of free labor from the poor whom he practically pushed into slavery.
Another important source of revenue for the royal treasury was that he expanded trade to a remarkable degree. The use of the Arabian camel brought a tremendous increase in trade. Caravans could now travel through deserts because of the camel s ability to go without water for a couple days. Solomon s fleets traded in the Mediterranean and Red seas, and his subjects mined gold in what is now Saudi Arabia. By thus exercising control over virtually all the trade routes both to the east and the west of the Jordan, Solomon increased the revenue by charging tolls from the merchants passing through his territories.
The construction of the copper refinery at ancient Ezion-geber is good, and points to practical knowledge and skill, which was the result of long experience. Copper became the king’s principal export and his merchants’ main stock in trade. Tyrian seamen were able to help Solomon in building his fleet and in furnishing the skill to operate it. Archeology tends to prove that Phoenician seamen and artisans aided Solomon in building and operating his fleet in the Red Sea, and also believed that Phoenician technicians built the seaport of Ezeion-geber for him.
Solomon must have been doing business with, and competing with the famous Queen of Sheba. Her strenuous journey to Jerusalem by camel, traveling over twelve hundred miles of inhospitable terrain, almost certainly dictated business reasons as well as the pleasure of seeing Solomon and hearing his wisdom (5). The visit must have involved trade treaties, which regulated the fair exchange of the products of Arabia for the products of Palestine, particularly copper. The Queen’s visit and conversations with Solomon were evidently highly successful.
On the summit of Mount Moriah, Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem for God himself. This was originally going to be done by David, but was left for Solomon for reasons described in the Bible. The exclusive concentration of religious ritual in the Temple, together with the institutionalization of the biblical injunction regarding the pilgrimage festivals, transformed Jerusalem – despite its unpromising natural features – into an important political and commercial center during Solomon’s reign (6). Solomon’s temple was rectangular, with three rooms, a portico with two columns in front, a main hall, and a cella or shrine with a raised platform. The decorations of the temple included lilies, palmettos, and cherubim, along with a winged lion with human head, a sphinx.
The numerous archeological finds have cast a lot of light on the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, although the temple itself has been utterly destroyed. It is now known that the plan of it was Phoenician, as would be expected since an architect built it from Tyre. Archeology has furnished testimony that Solomon’s building and industrial activities were even more extensive than might be concluded from the vivid account in the Book of Kings. There is, however, evidence to substantiate the biblical notices that Solomon used Phoenician skill in his sea ventures, and in the construction of the magnificent temple at Jerusalem.
One other note of wisdom comes from the Biblical story of two women struggling for the rights to a child. They both lived in the same house and both bore a child on the same day. When one mother lost her child, she claimed that the other child was hers. They went to Solomon to resolve the situation, and he told them to cut the baby in half. Being the wise King, he knew that the real mother of the child would not wish for her child to die. When the other women agreed to cut the child in half, the child was given to the obvious mother.
Although very interesting, it is hard to find hard core evidence of King Solomon s adventures, buildings, and wisdom. Many scholars believe that most of the books and stories of Solomon are greatly exaggerated. He is mentioned in the Bible more than any king is, other than his father David. That is probably why scholars have difficulty believing in him. Whoever the author or authors, Solomon s writings are full of wisdom, and his creation of the Temple of Jerusalem will forever be known.
Ancient pottery lends credence to Bible, King Solomon’s Temple
This pottery piece, believed to be 3,000 years old, may contain the oldest reference to King Solomon’s Temple aside from the Bible.
NEW YORK — Talk about holding on to a receipt.
A recently discovered piece of pottery recording a donation to the “House of Yahweh” may contain the oldest mention outside the Bible of King Solomon’s Temple. The 3 1/2-by-4-inch artifact is nearly 3,000 years old; dating to a time when kings sent messages inscribed on pottery.
It is unclear where it was discovered and how it made its way into the antiquities market and later to London collector Shlomo Moussaieff. But extensive testing has convinced several scholars of its authenticity.
“This doesn’t prove the Bible, but it does vividly provide a context and a reality to the world of the Bible,” said Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, which reported on the find in its November-December issue. “It just provides a reality that is somewhat stunning in its way.”
The Bible frequently refers to the temple by the Hebrew term for “the house of the Lord.” But that term has been found complete in only one inscription other than the Bible: a faded shard of sixth-century BC pottery from Arad, an ancient town now in modern-day Israel, according to Shanks. (7)
3) Elkins, William R. Song of Songs. New York: Vantage Press Inc., 1956.
8) New Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 13, 421-2. 1967.
9) Russell, L. M. God with us The Christian Century Dec. 1991: 108.
11) The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion. 378-9. 1965.