Third king over Israel, the second son of David and Bathsheba, who reigned some 40 years (970–930 b.c.). His alternative name was Jedidiah, “beloved of the Lord.”
Ascension to the Throne.
Once Amnon and Absalom were no longer in competition for the throne, the two most likely remaining candidates were Solomon and Adonijah, although the kingship had been assured to the former (1 Chr 22:9, 10). Near the end of David’s life, Adonijah contested the choice of Solomon and took steps to become king; with the help of Joab, general of the army, and Abiathar the priest, he was proclaimed the monarch. Solomon was not invited and neither were Nathan the prophet and Benaiah of the mighty men. Nathan brought word of this plot to Bathsheba who in turn quizzed David as to his intentions. David then ordered Solomon to be proclaimed king over Israel; he was anointed by Zadok amidst the blowing of the trumpets and the shout of the people: “Long live King Solomon.” Adonijah realized his claim had collapsed and asked for mercy, promising to be faithful to the new king.
Quickly, Solomon moved to establish his hold on the government (1 Kgs 1, 2). When Adonijah asked to marry Abishag, David’s companion in his old age (1:1–4), Solomon refused, and ordered his death because of possible claims to the throne (2:22–25). In addition, because Abiathar had joined with Adonijah, he was removed from his service as priest and sent back to Anathoth. Joab fled to the altar, and there took hold of its horns and refused to let go. The king ordered his death at the hand of Benaiah who then became commander-in-chief of the armies. Another contender, Shimei, of the house of Saul, was also executed.
One of Solomon’s earliest recorded acts as king was to go to the high place at Gibeon and sacrifice 1000 burnt offerings. On the following night, the Lord appeared to the king in a dream, asking as to his fondest wish. Solomon asked for wisdom to judge Israel and God was pleased with the request (1 Kgs 3). Israel’s king was given his wish, along with the gifts of long life, riches, and fame. In time Israel held Solomon in high esteem for the wisdom God gave him.
The Government. David’s efforts had brought about a union of the 12 tribes, but Solomon established an organized state with many officials to help him (1 Kgs 4). The entire country was divided into 12 major districts, and each district was to ensure the provisions of the king’s court for one month each year. The system was equitable and designed to distribute the tax burden over the entire country.
Solomon the Builder. One of Solomon’s earliest building attempts was to construct the temple. David had it on his heart to build the temple, but this task was left to Solomon, the man of peace. Hiram, king of Tyre, provided cedar trees from Mt Lebanon for the temple (1 Kgs 5:1–12), and in return he was given an appropriate amount of food. In order to provide the necessary labor for these building projects, the Canaanites became slaves (9:20, 21). Israelis likewise were compelled to work in groups of 10,000 on every third month (5:13–18; 2 Chr 2:17, 18). The workers for the temple alone comprised 80,000 stone cutters, 70,000 common laborers, and 3600 foremen.
It took seven years to finish the temple, which by modern comparison was a rather small building: 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Nevertheless, the gold covering for both walls and furniture made it quite expensive.
In the 11th year of Solomon’s reign, the dedication of the temple was celebrated in a great convocation (1 Kgs 6:38). The presence of the Lord filled the temple, and Solomon then offered his great dedicatory prayer (8:23–53), marking it as one of the great peaks of his devotion to the Lord. Afterward, he offered up 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep, as well as other offerings (vv 62–66), and the people were full of joy because David had so great a successor.
Pillars of Solomon at Eilat.
Solomon built other buildings: the House of the Forest of Lebanon; the Hall of Pillars; a Hall for his Throne; and a house for the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Kgs 7:2–8). Thirteen years were involved in the building of his own house, large enough to take care of his wives and concubines as well as the servants. A great fortress was also built, Millo, used to protect the temple (9:24), as well as other store and fortified cities.
Trade with Other Nations. The king had an agreement with Hiram, king of Tyre, to pay yearly for cedar trees, stone cutters, and other buildings; 125,000 bushels of wheat; and 115,000 gallons of olive oil (1 Kgs 5:11 niv). In addition, Hiram received 20 cities in Galilee to cover all indebtedness. Contrary to the instruction not to trade in horses (Dt 17:16), Solomon bought horses and chariots from the Egyptians and some of these in turn were sold to the Hittites and Aramaeans at a profit (1 Kgs 10:28, 29).
The ruins of Solomon’s stables at Megiddo.
Pools of King Solomon
Furthermore, Solomon carried on trade on the high seas. Ships built at shipyards at Ezion-geber, sailed to points on the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Once in three years, the mariners collected gold, ivory, and peacocks; from Ophir, the traders brought back 420 talents of gold, a considerable fortune.
Solomon wrote 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs (1 Kgs 4:32); most of the Book of Proverbs is attributed to him (25:1), as well as Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Psalms 72 and 127. His obituary notice mentions his literary accomplishments in the book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kgs 11:41).
The Queen of Sheba came to see and hear if the fame and wisdom of Solomn was correct. After viewing all he had in Jerusalem and hearing his wisdom, her final response was a blessing to the Lord God of Israel who raised up such a wise person to sit upon such a magnificent throne (1 Kgs 10).
Solomon made many misjudgments during his reign, and one of them was his excessive taxation of the people. His worst blunder was adding more and more wives to his harem, accommodating their religious preferences with pagan shrines (1 Kgs 11:1–8). The Lord plagued Solomon, permitting Israel to be attacked on all sides. Although the kingdom was not withdrawn from Solomon, his son experienced its division. There is no record that Solomon repented, but it is quite possible that the Book of Ecclesiastes does reveal his realization of his wrong decisions.
Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.