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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Solomon

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SOLOMON

1. Sources . 1 Kings 1:1-53; 1 Kings 2:1-46; 1Ki 3:1-28; 1 Kings 4:1-34; 1 Kings 5:1-18; 1 Kings 6:1-38; 1Ki 7:1-51; 1 Kings 8:1-66; 1 Kings 9:1-28; 1 Kings 10:1-29; 1 Kings 11:1-43 (cf. 1 Kings 11:41 ), with parallels in 2 Chronicles 1:1-17; 2 Chronicles 2:1-18; 2 Chronicles 3:1-17; 2Ch 4:1-22; 2 Chronicles 5:1-14; 2 Chronicles 6:1-42; 2 Chronicles 7:1-22; 2Ch 8:1-18; 2 Chronicles 9:1-31 (add references in closing chs. of 1 Ch.). In Chronicles the character of Solomon, as of the period as a whole, is idealized; e.g. nothing is said of the intrigues attending his accession, his foreign marriages and idolatry, or his final troubles, even with Jeroboam. Details are added or altered in accordance with post-exilic priestly conceptions ( 2 Chronicles 5:12-13; 2 Chronicles 7:5; 2 Chronicles 8:11-15 ); 2 Chronicles 1:3 (cf. 1 Kings 3:4 ) makes the sacrifice at Gibeon more orthodox; the dream becomes a theophany; in 2 Chronicles 7:1; 2 Chronicles 7:3 fire comes down from heaven. In 2 Chronicles 9:29 reference is made to authorities, possibly sections of 1Kings.; there is no evidence that the Chronicler was able to go behind 1, 2Kings. for his materials. The books of OT and Apocrypha ascribed to Solomon are of value only as giving later conceptions of his career. Josephus ( Ant. viii. i viii.) cannot be relied on where be differs from OT; the same holds good of the fragments quoted by Eusebius and Clemens Alexandrinus. Later legends, Jewish and Mohammedan, are interesting, but historically valueless; the fact that they have in no way influenced the OT narrative is an evidence of its general reliability; only two dreams and no marvels are recorded of Solomon. Archæology has so far contributed very little to our knowledge of his reign.

2. Chronology . His accession is dated c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 969, i.e. about 50 years later than the traditional chronology. We have unfortunately no exact data, the dates of Hiram and Shishak ( 1 Kings 11:40 ) not having been precisely determined. The origin and interpretation of the 480 years in 1 Kings 6:1 are very doubtful. The ‘little child’ of 1 Kings 3:7 (cf. Jeremiah 1:6 ) does not require the tradition that Solomon was only twelve at his accession (Josephus); the probabilities point to his being about twenty. The 40 years of his reign, as of David’s (cf. Judges 3:11; Judges 3:30; Judges 5:31; Judges 8:28 etc.), would seem to represent a generation.

3. Early years . Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba ( 2 Samuel 12:24-25 ), presumably their eldest surviving child; his position in the lists of 2 Samuel 5:14 , 1 Chronicles 3:5; 1 Chronicles 14:4 is strange, perhaps due to emphasis. The name means ‘peaceful’ (Heb. Shetômoh; cf. IrenÅ“us, Friedrich ), indicating the longing of the old king ( 1 Chronicles 22:9 ); cf. Absatom (‘father is peace’). The name given him by Nathan ( 2 Samuel 12:25 ), Jedidiah (‘beloved of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ,’ the same root as David ), is not again referred to, perhaps as being too sacred. It was the pledge of his father’s restoration to Divine favour. We have no account of his training. ‘The Lord loved him’ ( 2 Samuel 12:24 ) implies great gifts; and 2 Samuel 12:25 and 1 Kings 1:1-53 suggest the influence of Nathan. His mother evidently had a strong hold over him ( 1 Kings 1:1-53; 1 Kings 2:1-46 ).

4. Accession . The appointment of a successor in Eastern monarchies depended on the king’s choice, which in Israel needed to be ratified by the people ( 1 Kings 12:1-33 ); where polygamy prevails, primogeniture cannot be assumed. 1 Kings 1:13 implies a previous promise to Bathsheba, perhaps a ‘court secret’; the public proclamation of 1 Chronicles 22:2-19 , if at all historical, must be misplaced. Adonijah, ‘a very goodly man’ ( 1 Kings 1:6 ), relying on the favour of the people ( 1 Kings 2:15 ) [it is doubtful whether he was the eldest surviving son], made a bid for the throne, imitating the method of Absalom and taking advantage of David’s senility. He was easily foiled by the prompt action of Nathan and Bathsheba; Solomon himself was evidently young, though soon able to assert himself. The careful and impressive ritual of the coronation was calculated to leave no doubt in the people’s mind as to who was the rightful heir. The young king learned quickly to distinguish between his friends and enemies, as well as to rely on the loyalty of the Cherethites, his father’s foreign bodyguard. The sparing of Adonijah ( 1 Kings 1:53 ) suggests that he was not a very formidable competitor; his plot was evidently badly planned. His request to Bathsheba ( 1 Kings 2:13 ) may have been part of a renewed attempt on the kingdom (as heir he claims his father’s wives), or may have been due to real affection. At any rate the king’s suspicion or jealousy was aroused, and his rival was removed; Canticles suggests that Solomon himself was believed to have been the lover of Abishag. The deposition of Abiathar, and the execution of Joab and Shimei, were natural consequences; and in the case of the two last, Solomon was only following the advice of his father ( 1 Kings 2:5; 1 Kings 2:8 ). He thus early emphasized his power to act, and as a result ‘his kingdom was established greatly’ at a cheap cost. We shall hardly criticise the removal of dangerous rivals when we remember the fate which he himself would have met if Adonijah had succeeded ( 1 Kings 1:21 ), and the incidents common at the beginning of a new reign ( 2 Kings 11:1; cf. Proverbs 25:5 ).

5. Policy . The work of Solomon was to develop the ideas of his father. He consolidated the kingdom, welding its disorganized tribal divisions together into a short-lived unity, by the power of an Oriental despotism. The subjugation of the Canaanites was completed ( 1 Kings 9:20 ). The position of Jerusalem as the capital was secured by the building of the Temple and palaces and by the fortification of Millo ( 1 Kings 9:24 , 1 Kings 11:27 ). A chain of garrison and store cities was established ( 1 Kings 9:15 ), together with a standing army which included 12,000 horsemen and 1400 chariots ( 1 Kings 4:26 , 1 Kings 10:26 ). The extent of his dominions ( 1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 4:24 ) may represent the idea of a later age, and Eastern monarchs were ready to claim suzerainty where there was but little effective control. But inscriptions show us how kaleidoscopic were the politics of the period; kingdoms rose and fell very quickly, and the surrounding States were all at the time in a state of weakness. It was this that enabled his reign to be a generation of peace. His troubles ( 1 Kings 11:9-40 ) were very few for so long a life. The hostility of Hadad ( 1 Kings 11:14 ff.) was a legacy from David, but there is no evidence that he became king of Edom. Rezon ( 1 Kings 11:23 ) conquered Damascus and founded a dynasty, but we hear nothing of any serious war. Nothing is known of the Hamath-zobah which Solomon subdued ( 2 Chronicles 8:3 ). More than any other Jewish king, he realized the importance of foreign alliances , which were closely connected with his commercial policy . ( a ) Early in his reign he married Pharaoh’s daughter ( 1 Kings 3:1 ), who brought as her marriage portion Gezer ( 1 Kings 9:16 ). This Pharaoh was apparently the last of the Tanite (21st) dynasty a confused period of which little is known; we have no other notice of the connexion between Egypt and Palestine at this period. Solomon was able to control, and no doubt profited by, the caravan trade between the Euphrates and the Nile. The caravanserai of Chimham ( Jeremiah 41:17; cf. 2 Samuel 19:37 , 1 Kings 2:7 ) may have been established at this period in connexion with that trade. From Egypt (unless a N. Syrian Musri is intended) came horses and chariots for Solomon’s own use, and for the purposes of a Syrian trade ( 1 Kings 10:28-29 ). The alliance was apparently not disapproved at the time (cf. Psalms 45:1-17 ), but it was not continued; Shishak protects Jeroboam ( 1 Kings 11:40 ). ( b ) The alliance with Hiram of Tyre (according to Clem. Alex. [Note: lex. Alexandrian.] , Solomon also married his daughter, cf. 1 Kings 11:1; 1 Kings 11:5 ) was a continuation of the policy of David [but unless this Hiram was the son of David’s ally the building of the palace in 2 Samuel 5:11 is put too early]. This was in connexion with his building operations ( 2 Samuel 5:1-12 ). Timber from Lebanon was brought by sea to Joppa, together with skilled workmen from Tyre, especially the Gebalites ( 2 Samuel 5:18 , cf. Ezekiel 27:8 ); Hiram, a worker in brass, is particularly mentioned ( 1 Kings 7:13 ). The yearly payment consisted of agricultural commodities ( 1 Kings 5:11; note exaggerations in 2 Chronicles 2:10 ). A grant of twenty cities in Galilee was unsatisfactory to Hiram, though he apparently paid for them ( 1 Kings 9:10-14 ). A more substantial return was the security which Solomon was able to offer to PhÅ“nician trade with the E [Note: Elohist.] ., and, above all, access to the port of Ezion-geber on the Red Sea, made possible by his suzerainty over Edom. Tamar ( 1 Kings 9:18 RV [Note: Revised Version.] [AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘Tadmor’]) in S. Judah apparently protected the route to the port. A lucrative trade was carried on by the two kings in partnership, in gold, spices, sandalwood, apes, peacocks, etc. ( 1 Kings 9:26 , 1 Kings 10:11; 1 Kings 10:22 ). The extent of their voyages is a mystery, the situation of both Ophir and Tarshish being unknown. Assuming that there was only one Tarshish, and that in the West, it is still very doubtful whether Solomon can have been allowed any share in the Mediterranean trade; ‘ships of Tarshish’ may be only a name for a particular type of vessel. The Ophir trade must have been connected with S. Arabia; hence no doubt the visit of the queen of Sheba ( 1 Kings 10:1 ); the ‘presents’ exchanged would be really of the nature of barter, as illustrated by the Tell el-Amarna tablets. The Jews never took kindly to the sea, and, except for the abortive attempt of Jehoshaphat ( 1 Kings 22:48 ), Solomon’s policy found no imitators.

6. Internal condition of his kingdom . The impression is given us of great wealth. Though the sums left by David ( 1 Chronicles 22:14 ) are incredible (equal to a thousand million pounds), Solomon’s own revenue (four millions, 1 Kings 10:14 ) is possible for an exceptional year. But the gold was used chiefly in unproductive forms of display ( 1 Kings 10:16 ff.), and probably but little was in circulation among the people; he had a difficulty in paying Hiram ( 1 Kings 9:11 ). His passion for buildings was extravagant; the Temple was seven years in building ( 1 Kings 6:38 ); his own house thirteen ( 1 Kings 7:1 ); there was also the palace for his wife ( 1 Kings 7:8 ). He had an enormous court (note list of officers in 1 Kings 4:2 ) and harem ( 1 Kings 11:1 ), necessitating a luxurious daily provision ( 1 Kings 4:22 ). The country was divided into twelve parts, under twelve officers, each responsible for a month’s supplies ( 1 Kings 4:7 ); these did not coincide with the tribal divisions, and Judah was exempt. For the building operations a mas or forced levy was organized under Adoram ( 1 Kings 5:13 , cf. 2 Samuel 20:24 ) with numerous subordinates ( 1 Kings 5:16 , 1 Kings 9:23 ); 30,000 men were sent to Lebanon, 10,000 a month; there were carriers and hewers ( 2 Samuel 5:15 ), and the aborigines were used as helots ( 1 Kings 9:20 , Ezra 2:55 mentions their descendants). The mas was the very word used of the labour in Egypt, and beneath the apparent prosperity ( 1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25 ) was a growing discontent and jealousy of Judah, which broke out in the rebellion of Jeroboam. By his personal popularity and extravagant display Solomon won a great ‘name’ 1Ki 4:31 , 1 Kings 10:1; 1 Kings 10:7 ), and gave Israel a position among the nations. His reign came to be idealized, but his policy was clearly economically and socially unsound, and could only lead to ruin. From the religious point of view the outstanding feature is the building of the Temple. It is an anachronism to represent it as the centralization of the worship of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] according to the standard of Deut., to the exclusion of the ‘high places,’ and its effect was largely neutralized by the honour paid to other gods (11); none the less its elaborate magnificence was a visible proof of the triumph of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] over the Baal worship of Canaan, and of His exaltation as supreme God of the nation. It cannot be maintained that the material and local conception of the Deity which it suggested made entirely for spiritual religion ( Isaiah 1:13 , Jeremiah 7:4 , Acts 7:48 ); it meant a concentration of power in the hands of the Jerusalem priesthood at the cost of the prophets, who had no influence during Solomon’s reign (Nathan in 1 Kings 4:6 is probably his brother), and the attitude of Nathan, Ahijah, and Shemaiah makes it probable that they looked with suspicion on the new developments. It was, however, a necessary step in the religious history of the nation, and the Psalms prove that it made Zion the centre of its enthusiastic patriotism.

7. His wisdom was the special gift of God ( 1 Kings 3:5 ). His ‘judgment’ ( 1 Kings 3:18 ff.) is the typical instance. It presumably took place early in his reign (cf. the contemptuous laughter of the people in Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant. VIII. ii. 2), and simply shows a shrewd knowledge of human nature; many parallels are quoted. It proves his fitness for judicial functions, and 1 Kings 4:29-34 gives the general idea of his attainments. He was regarded as the father of Jewish proverbial (or gnomic) wisdom; ‘wisdom books’ existed in Egypt long before, but it seems impossible to distinguish in our present ‘Proverbs’ ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 250) what elements may be due to him. Sirach and Wis. have no title to his name. 1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:33 suggest general and poetical culture, parables drawn from nature, rather than the beginnings of science. Psalms 72:1-20 may possibly belong to his age, but not Psalms 127:1-5 or Canticles. Later tradition added much; the solving of ‘riddles’ held a large place in the wisdom of the East, and we hear of the ‘hard questions’ of the queen of Sheba ( Psalms 10:1 ), and of a contest between Solomon and Hiram (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant . VIII. v. 3). Josephus also speaks of his power over demons; Rabbinical legend of his control over beasts and birds, of his ‘magic carpet,’ and knowledge of the Divine name. Examples of the legendary material are accessible in Farrar’s Solomon .

8. Character . Solomon evidently began his reign with high ideals, of which his dream ( 1 Kings 3:5 ) was a natural expression. His sacrifice at Gibeon ( 1 Kings 3:4 ) gives another aspect; his religion was associated with external display. So the magnificence of the Temple, the pageantry and holocausts of its dedication ( 1 Kings 3:8 ), certainly ministered to his own glory, no less than to God’s. His prayer, however, if it he in any sense authentic, is lull of true piety, and he seems to have had a real delight in religious observances ( 1 Kings 9:25 ). His fall is connected with his polygamy and foreign wives ( 1 Kings 9:11 , cf. Nehemiah 13:26 ). He not only allowed them their own worship, a necessary concession, but shared in it; the memory of his ‘high places,’ within sight of his own Temple, was preserved in the name ‘Mount of Offence.’ This idolatry was, in fact, the natural syncretism resulting from his habitual foreign intercourse. Self-indulgence and the pride of wealth evidently played their part in his deterioration. Of his actual end nothing is known; he was an ‘old man’ ( 1 Kings 11:4 ) at sixty years, but Jeroboam’s flight suggests that he could still make his authority felt. Ecclesiastes gives a good impression of the ‘moral’ of his life; but whether he actually repented and was ‘saved’ was warmly debated by the Fathers. Deuteronomy 17:16 f. criticises his Egyptian alliance and harem, his love of horses and of wealth, and Sir 47:12-21 is a fair summary of the career of one whose ‘heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father’ ( 1 Kings 11:4 ). His wisdom could not teach him self-control, and the only legacy of a violated home-life was a son ‘ample in foolishness and lacking in understanding.’

C. W. Emmet.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Solomon'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/s/solomon.html. 1909.

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