Scriptures

King Solomon

Introduction

His name means Peaceful, David’s second son by Bathsheba, i.e., the first after their legal marriage, 2 Samuel 12:1 ff. He was probably born about BC 1035, 1 Chronicles 22:5 / 1 Chronicles 29:1. He succeeded his father on the throne in early manhood, probably about sixteen or eighteen years of age.

Nathan, to whom his education was intrusted, called him Jedidiah, “beloved of the Lord” 2 Samuel 12:24+25. He was the first king of Israel “born in the purple.” His father chose him as his successor, passing over the claims of his elder sons:

“Assuredly Solomon my son shall reign after me.”

His history is recorded in 1 Kings 11ff and 2 Chronicles 1:1 ff. His elevation to the throne took place before his father’s death, and was hastened on mainly by Nathan and Bathsheba, in consequence of the rebellion of Adonijah, 1 Kings 1:5-40.

During his long reign of forty years the Hebrew monarchy gained its highest splendour. This period has well been called the “Augustan age” of the Jewish annals.

The first half of his reign was, however, by far the brighter and more prosperous; the latter half was clouded by the idolatries into which he fell, mainly from his heathen intermarriages, 1 Kings 11:1-8 / 1 Kings 14:21-31. Before his death, David gave parting instructions to his son, 1 Kings 2:1-9 / 1 Chronicles 22:7-16+28:1ff.

As soon as he had settled himself in his kingdom, and arranged the affairs of his extensive empire, he entered into an alliance with Egypt by the marriage of the daughter of Pharaoh, 1 Kings 3:1 of whom, however, nothing further is recorded.

He surrounded himself with all the luxuries and the external grandeur of an eastern monarch, and his government prospered. He entered into an alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre, who in many ways greatly assisted him in his numerous undertakings.

For some years before his death David was engaged in the active work of collecting materials, 1 Chronicles 29:6-9 / 2 Chronicles 2:3-7 for building a temple in Jerusalem as a permanent abode for the Ark of the Covenant. He was not permitted to build the house of God, 1 Chronicles 22:8 that honour was reserved to his son Solomon.

Solomon’s temple

Before his death, David had “with all his might” provided materials in great abundance for the building of the temple on the summit of Mount Moriah, 1 Chronicles 22:14 / 1 Chronicles 29:4 / 2 Chronicles 3:1 on the east of the city, on the spot where Abraham had offered up Isaac, Genesis 22:1-14.

In the beginning of his reign Solomon set about giving effect to the desire that had been so earnestly cherished by his father, and prepared additional materials for the building. From subterranean quarries at Jerusalem he obtained huge blocks of stone for the foundations and walls of the temple.

These stones were prepared for their places in the building under the eye of Tyrian master-builders. He also entered into a compact with Hiram II, king of Tyre, for the supply of whatever else was needed for the work, particularly timber from the forests of Lebanon, which was brought in great rafts by the sea to Joppa, then it was dragged to Jerusalem, 1 Kings 5:1-6:38.

As the hill on which the temple was to be built did not afford sufficient level space, a huge wall of solid masonry of great height, in some places more than 200 feet high, was raised across the south of the hill, and a similar wall on the eastern side, and in the spaces between were erected many arches and pillars, thus raising up the general surface to the required level.

Solomon also provided for a sufficient water supply for the temple by hewing in the rocky hill vast cisterns, into which water was conveyed by channels from the “pools” near Bethlehem.

One of these cisterns, the “great sea,” was capable of containing three million gallons. The overflow was led off by a conduit to the Kidron. In all these preparatory undertakings, a space of about three years was occupied; and now the process of the erection of the great building began, under the direction of skilled Phoenician builders and workmen, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, 480 years after the Exodus, 1 Kings 6:1 ff. / 2 Chronicles 3:1 ff.

Many thousands of labourers and skilled artisans were employed in the work. Stones prepared in the quarries underneath the city, 1 Kings 5:17-18 of huge dimension were gradually placed on the massive walls, and closely fitted together without any mortar between, till the whole structure was completed. No sound of hammer or axe or any tool of iron was heard as the structure arose, 1 Kings 6:7.

“Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprang.”

The building was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. The engineers of the Palestine Exploration Fund, in their explorations around the temple area, discovered what is believed to have been the “chief corner stone” of the temple, “the most interesting stone in the world.”

It lies at the bottom of the south-eastern angle, and is 3 feet 8 inches high by 14 feet long. It rests on the solid rock at a depth of 79 feet 3 inches below the present surface.

In examining the walls the engineers were

“struck with admiration at the vastness of the blocks and the general excellence of the workmanship.”

At length, in the autumn of the eleventh year of his reign, seven and a half years after it had been begun, the temple was completed in all its architectural magnificence and beauty. For thirteen years, there it stood, on the summit of Moriah, silent and unused. The reasons for this strange delay in its consecration are unknown.

At the close of these thirteen years’ preparations for the dedication of the temple were made on a scale of the greatest magnificence. The ark was solemnly brought from the tent in which David had deposited it to the place prepared for it in the temple, and the glory-cloud, the symbol of the divine presence, filled the house.

Then Solomon ascended a platform which had been erected for him, in the sight of all the people, and lifting up his hands to heaven poured out his heart to God in prayer, 1 Kings 8:1 ff. / (2 Chronicles 6:1-7:1 ff.

The Feast of Dedication, which lasted seven days, followed by the feast of tabernacles, marked a new era in the history of Israel. On the eighth day of the feast of tabernacles, Solomon dismissed the vast assemblage of the people, who returned to their homes filled with joy and gladness,

“Had Solomon done no other service beyond the building of the temple, he would still have influenced the religious life of his people down to the latest days. It was to them a perpetual reminder and visible symbol of God’s presence and protection, a strong bulwark of all the sacred traditions of the law, a witness to duty, an impulse to historic study, an inspiration of sacred song.”

The temple consisted of

1. The oracle or most holy place, 1 Kings 6:19 / 1 Kings 8:6 called also the “inner house” 1 Kings 6:27 and the “holiest of all” Hebrews 9:3. It was 20 cubits in length, breadth, and height. It was floored and wainscoted with cedar, 1 Kings 6:16 and its walls and floor were overlaid with gold, 1 Kings 6:20+21+30.

There was a two-leafed door between it and the holy place overlaid with gold (2 Chronicles 4:22) also a veil of blue purple and crimson and fine linen, 2 Chronicles 3:14 / Exodus 26:33. It had no windows, 1 Kings 8:12. It was indeed the dwelling-place of God.

2. The holy place, 1 Kings 8:8-10 called also the “greater house” 2 Chronicles 3:5 and the “temple” 1 Kings 6:17.

3. The porch or entrance before the temple on the east, 1 Kings 6:3 / 2 Chronicles 3:4 / 1 Chronicles 29:7. In the porch stood the two pillars Jachin and Boaz, 1 Kings 7:21 / 2 Kings 11:14 / 2 Kings 23:3.

4. The chambers, which were built about the temple on the southern, western, and northern sides, 1 Kings 6:5-10. These formed a part of the building.

Round about the building were

1. The court of the priests, 2 Chronicles 4:9 called the “inner court” 1 Kings 6:36. It contained the altar of burnt offering, 2 Chronicles 15:8 the brazen sea, 2 Chronicles 4:2-5+10 and ten lavers, 1 Kings 7:38+39.

2. The great court, which surrounded the whole temple, 2 Chronicles 4:9. Here the people assembled to worship God, Jeremiah 19:14 / Jeremiah 26:2.

After the completion of the temple, Solomon engaged 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 was engaged in the erection of a royal palace on Ophel, 1 Kings 7:1-12.

It was 100 cubits long, 50 broad, and 30 high. Its lofty roof was supported by forty-five cedar pillars, so that the hall was like a forest of cedar wood, and hence probably it received the name of

“The House of the Forest of Lebanon.”

In front of this “house” was another building, which was called the Porch of Pillars, and in front of this again was the “Hall of Judgement,” or Throne-room, 1 Kings 7:7 / 1 Kings 10:18-20 / 2 Chronicles 9:17-19, “the King’s Gate,” where he administered justice and gave audience to his people.

This palace was a building of great magnificence and beauty. A portion of it was set apart as the residence of the queen consort, the daughter of Pharaoh. From the palace, there was a private staircase of red and scented sandalwood, which led up to the temple.

Solomon also constructed great works for the purpose of securing a plentiful supply of water for the city, Ecclesiastes 2:4-6. He then built Millo for the defence of the city, completing a line of ramparts around it, 1 Kings 9:15+24 / 1 Kings 11:27.

He erected also many other fortifications for the defence of his kingdom at various points where it was exposed to the assault of enemies, 1 Kings 9:15-19 / 2 Chronicles 8:2-6.

Among his great undertakings must also be mentioned the building of Tadmor in the wilderness as a commercial depot, as well as a military outpost. During his reign, Palestine enjoyed great commercial prosperity.

Extensive traffic was carried on by land with Tyre and Egypt and Arabia, and by sea with Spain and India and the coasts of Africa, by which Solomon accumulated vast stores of wealth and of the produce of all nations, 1 Kings 9:26-28 / 1 Kings 10:11+12 / 2 Chronicles 8:17-18 / 1 Chronicles 9:21.

This was the “golden age” of Israel. The royal magnificence and splendour of Solomon’s court were unrivalled. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, an evidence at once of his pride, his wealth, and his sensuality. The maintenance of his household involved immense expenditure. The provision required for one day was

“thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow-deer, and fatted fowl.” 1 Kings 4:22-23

Solomon’s reign was not only a period of great material prosperity, but was equally remarkable for its intellectual activity. He was the leader of his people also in this uprising amongst them of new intellectual life.

“He spoke three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that spring out of the wall: he spoke also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes”. 1 Kings 4:32-33

His fame was spread abroad through all lands, and men came from far and near

“to hear the Wisdom of Solomon.”

Among others attracted to Jerusalem was “the queen of the south” Matthew 12:42 the queen of Sheba, a country in Arabia Felix.

“Deep, indeed, must have been her yearning, and great his fame, which induced a secluded Arabian queen to break through the immemorial custom of her dreamy land, and to put forth the energy required for braving the burdens and perils of so long a journey across a wilderness. Yet this she undertook, and carried it out with safety.” 1 Kings 10:1-13 / 2 Chronicles 9:1-12

She was filled with amazement by all she saw and heard:

“there was no more spirit in her.”

After an interchange of presents she returned to her native land. But that golden age of Jewish history passed away. The bright day of Solomon’s glory ended in clouds and darkness. His decline and fall from his high estate is a sad record. Among the causes of his decline were his polygamy and his great wealth.

“As he grew older he spent more of his time among his favourites”.

The idle king living among these idle women, for 1,000 women, with all their idle and mischievous attendants, filled the palaces and pleasure-houses which he had built, 1 Kings 11:3 learned first to tolerate and then to imitate their heathenish ways. He did not, indeed, cease to believe in the God of Israel with his mind.

He did not cease to offer the usual sacrifices in the temple at the great feasts. But his heart was not right with God; his worship became merely formal; his soul, left empty by the dying out of true religious fervour, sought to be filled with any religious excitement which offered itself.

Now for the first time a worship was publicly set up amongst the people of the Lord which was not simply irregular or forbidden, like that of Gideon, Judges 8:27 or the Danites, Judges 18:30-31 but was downright idolatrous. 1 Kings 11:7 / 2 Kings 23:13. This brought upon him the divine displeasure. His enemies prevailed against him, 1 Kings 11:14-22+23-25+26-40 and one judgement after another fell upon the land. And now the end of all came, and he died, after a reign of forty years, and was buried in the city of David, and

“with him was buried the short-lived glory and unity of Israel.”

“He leaves behind him but one weak and worthless son, to dismember his kingdom and disgrace his name.” “The kingdom of Solomon,” 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.

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.

The ruling nation is split in two, 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.

Solomon’s strengths and accomplishments

1. He was the third king of Israel.

2. He was David’s chosen heir.

3. He was the wisest man who ever lived.

4. He was the author of Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs as well as many of the proverbs and a couple of the Psalms.

5. He built God’s temple in Jerusalem.

6. He was a diplomat, trader, collector and a patron of the arts.

Solomon’s weaknesses and mistakes

1. He sealed many foreign agreements by marrying pagan women.

2. He allowed his wives to affect his loyalty to God.

3. Excessively taxed his people and drafted them into a labour and military force.

Wisdom is only effective when it is put into action. Early in his life, Solomon had the sense to recognise his need for wisdom. But by the time Solomon asked for wisdom to rule his kingdom, he had already started a habit that would make his wisdom ineffective for his own life, he sealed a pact with Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter.

She was the first of hundreds of wives married for political reasons. In doing this, Solomon went against not only his father’s last words, but also God’s direct commands.

It is clear that God’s gift of wisdom to Solomon did not mean hat he couldn’t make mistakes. He had been given great possibilities as the king of God’s chosen people, but with them came great responsibilities; unfortunately, he tended to pursue the former and neglect the latter.

While becoming famous as the builder of the temple and the palace, he became infamous as a leader who excessively taxed and worked his people. Visitors from distant lands came to admire the wise king, while his own people were gradually alienated from him.

Little is mentioned in the Bible about the last decade of Solomon’s reign. Ecclesiastes probably records his last reflections on life. In that book, we find a man proving through bitter experience that finding meaning in life apart from God is a vain pursuit.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

1 John 3:16

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