Shlomoh in Hebrew. Second child of David by Bathsheba. Josephus makes Solomon last born of David's sons (Ant. 7:14, section 2). His history is contained in 2 Samuel 12:24-25; 1 Chronicles 22:6-16; 1 Chronicles 22:1 Kings 1-11; 2 Chronicles 1-9. The leading events of his life were selected, under inspiration: namely, his grandeur, extensive commerce, and wisdom, etc. (1 Kings 9:10-10:29), from "the book of the Acts of Solomon"; his accession and dedication of the temple (1 Kings 1 -1 Kings 8:66) from "the book of Nathan the prophet"; his idolatry and its penal consequences (1 Kings 11) from "the book of Ahijah the Shilonite and the visions of Iddo the seer." Psalm 72 was his production under the Spirit. Its objective character accords with Solomon's other writings, whereas subjective feeling characterizes David's psalms. Solomon's glorious and wide kingdom typifies Messiah's. The Nile, Mediterranean, and Euphrates, were then Israel's bounds (1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26) as promised in Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 11:24.
From thence Messiah is to reign to the ends of the earth (Deuteronomy 11:8; Isaiah 9:5-6; Isaiah 11; Zechariah 9:10; see Micah 5:4; Numbers 24:19). "The song of degrees," i.e. for Israelites going up to the great feasts at Jerusalem (Psalm 127), was also Solomon's. It has no trace of the sadness which pervades "the songs of degrees" without titles, and which accords with the post captivity period. The individual comes into prominence here, whereas they speak more of the nation and church. The theme suits Solomon who occupied chiefly the domestic civic territory. The main thought answers to Proverbs 10:22, "so God giveth His beloved sleep," i.e. undisturbed repose and wealth without the anxieties of the worldly, in a way they know not how (Mark 4:27). So God gave to His beloved S. in sleep (Hengstenberg supplies "in"); Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:34. Jedidiah ("beloved of Jehovah," Psalm 127:2) was his God-given name (Psalm 60:5). Solomon evidently refers (Psalm 60:2) to his own experience (1 Kings 3:5-13; 1 Kings 4:20-25), yet in so unstudied a way that the coincidence is evidently undesigned, and so confirms the authenticity of both psalm and independent history. (See PROVERBS; CANTICLES, THE SONG OF SOLOMON; ECCLESIASTES, THE BOOK OF.)
His name Solomon, "peaceful", was given in accordance with the early prophecy that, because of wars, David should not build Jehovah's house, but that a son should be born to him, "a man of rest," who should build it (1 Chronicles 22:9; compare the fulfillment 1 Kings 4:25; 1 Kings 5:4, and the Antitype Matthew 11:29; Psalm 132:8-14; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 9:6; Ephesians 2:14). His birth was to David a pledge that God is at peace with him. Jehovah commissioned Nathan ("sent by the hand of Nathan"), and Nathan called David's son Jedidiah "for Jehovah's sake," i.e. because Jehovah loved him. Jehovah's naming him so assured David that Jehovah loved Solomon. Jedidiah was therefore not his actual name, but expressed Jehovah's relation to him (2 Samuel 12:24-25). Tradition makes Nathan the prophet his instructor, Jehiel was governor of the royal princes (1 Chronicles 27:32). Jehovah chose Solomon of all David's sons to be his successor, and promised to be his father, and to establish his kingdom for ever, if he were constant to His commandments (1 Chronicles 28:5-6-7).
Accordingly David swore to Bathsheba that her son should succeed. She pleaded this at the critical moment of Adonijah's rebellion (1 Kings 1:13; 1 Kings 1:17; 1 Kings 1:30). (See ADONIJAH.) By the interposition of Nathan the prophet, Zadok the priest, Benaiah, Shimei, and Rei, David's mighty men, Solomon was at David's command taken on the king's own mule to Gihon, anointed, and proclaimed king. Solomon would have spared Adonijah but for his incestuous and treasonous desire to have Abishag his father's concubine; he mercifully spared the rest of his brothers who had joined Adonijah. (See ADONIJAH.) Abiathar he banished to Anathoth for treason, thus fulfilling the old curse on Eli (1 Samuel 2:31-35). (See ABIATHAR.) Joab the murderer he put to death, according to his father's dying charge, illustrating Solomon's own words, Ecclesiastes 8:12-13. Shimei fell by breaking his own engagement on oath.
Solomon's reverent dutifulness to his mother amidst all his kingly state appears in the narrative (1 Kings 2:12; Exodus 20:12; Psalm 45:9; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 4:3; Proverbs 6:20; Proverbs 10:1). The ceremonial of coronation and anointing was repeated more solemnly before David and all the congregation, with great sacrifices and glad feastings, Zadok at the same time being anointed "priest"; and Jehovah magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel (1 Chronicles 29:20-25). He was "yet young and tender" (1 Chronicles 29:1; 1 Chronicles 22:5; 1 Kings 3:7; "I am but a little child," Proverbs 4:3); perhaps 20 years of age: as Rehoboam was 41 at his accession and Solomon had reigned 40 years, Rehoboam must have been born before Solomon's accession (1 Kings 11:42; 1 Kings 14:21). Solomon loved the Lord who had first loved him; 1 Kings 3:3. (See JEDIDIAH.)
He walked in David's godly ways but there being no one exclusive temple yet, he sacrificed in high places, especially at the great high place in Gibeon, where was the tabernacle with its altar, while the ark was in Zion. After his offering there a thousand burnt offerings God in vision gave him his choice of goods. In the spirit of a child (see 1 Corinthians 2:14) he asked for an understanding heart to discern between good and bad (compare James 1:5; James 3:17; 2 Timothy 3:17; Proverbs 2:3-9; Psalm 72:1-2; Hebrews 5:14). God gave him, besides wisdom, what he had not asked, riches, honour, and life, because he made wisdom his first desire (James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15; Ecclesiastes 1:16; Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 3:20; Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 3:16; Psalm 91:16). His wise decision as to the owner of the living child established his reputation for wisdom.
His Egyptian queen, Pharaoh's daughter, is distinguished from "the strange women" who seduced him to idolatry (1 Kings 11:1), and no Egyptian superstitions are mentioned. Still he did not let her as a foreigner stay in the palace of David, sanctified as it was by the presence of the ark, but assigned her a dwelling in the city of David and then brought her up out of the city of David to the palace he had built for her (2 Chronicles 8:11; 1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 3:1). Gezer was her dowry. (See GEZER.) Toward the close of his reign God chastised him for idolatry because, beginning with latitudinarian toleration of his foreign wives' superstitions, be ended with adopting them himself; retaining at the same time what cannot be combined with idolatry, Jehovah's worship (Ezekiel 20:39; Ezekiel 20:1 Kings 11). Jeroboam "lifted up his hand against the king, and fled to Shishak (of a new dynasty) of Egypt"; Rezon of Zobah on the N.E. frontier and Hadad the Edomite became his adversaries, Solomon otherwise had uninterrupted peace. (See JEROBOAM; REZON; HADAD.)
Among his buildings were the famous Tadmor or Palmyra in the wilderness, to carry on commerce with inland Asia, and store cities in Hamath; Bethhoron, the Upper and the Nether, on the border toward Philistia and Egypt; Hazor and Megiddo, guarding the plain of Esdraelon; Baalath or Baalbek, etc. (See TADMOR.) (On 1 Kings 10:28, see LINEN, and on 1 Kings 10:29, see HORSE.) Tiphsah ("Thapsacus") on the Euphrates (1 Kings 4:24) was his limit in that direction. On Lebanon he built lofty towers (2 Chronicles 8:6; Song of Solomon 7:4) "looking toward Damascus" (1 Kings 9:19). The Hittite and Syrian kings, vassals of Solomon, were supplied from Egypt with chariots and horses through the king's merchants. Hiram was his ally, and supplied him with timber in return for 20,000 measures (core) of wheat and 20 measures of pure oil (1 Kings 5). Solomon gave him at the end of his great buildings 20 cities in Galilee, with which Hiram was dissatisfied. (See CABUL.)
Solomon had his navy at Ezion Geber, near Eloth on the Red Sea, which went to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold; and a navy of Tarshish which sailed with Hiram's navy in the Mediterranean, bringing every three years "gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks." (See TARSHISH.) For the first time Israel began to be a commercial nation, and Solomon's occupation of Edom enabled him to open to Hiram his ally a new field of commerce. His own interest in it is evidenced by his going in person to Elath and Ezion Geber to view the preparations for expeditions (2 Chronicles 8:17; compare his allusions to seafaring life, Proverbs 23:34-35). Silver flowed in so plentifully that it was "nothing accounted of"; of gold yearly came in 666 (the number of the beast, Revelation 13:18) talents; a snare to him and his people, seducing the heart from God to luxurious self indulgence (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25). Heretofore "dwelling alone, and not reckoned among the nations," Israel now was in danger of conformity to them in their idolatries (1 Kings 10:14). The Temple and his palace were his great buildings. (See TEMPLE.)
Hiram, a widow's son of Naphtali by a Tyrian father, was his chief artificer in brass. Solomon's men, 30,000, i.e. 10,000 a month, the other 20,000 having two months' relief, cut timber in Lebanon; 70,000 bore loads; 80,000 hewed stone in the mountains and under the rock, where the mason's Phoenician marks have been found; chiefly Canaanites, spared on conforming to Judaism; 3,300 officers were over these workmen. The preparation of stones took three years (Septuagint 1 Kings 5:18). The building of the temple began in Zif, the second month of his fourth year; the stones were brought ready, so that no sound of hammer was heard in the house; in seven years it was completed, in the month Bul ('November"), his 11th year (1 Kings 6:37-38); eleven months later Solomon offered the dedication prayer, after the ark had been placed in the holiest place and the glory cloud filled the sanctuary; this was during the feast of tabernacles.
He recognizes in it God's covenant-keeping faithfulness (1 Kings 8:23-26); His being unbounded by space, so that "the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him," much less any temple; yet he begs God to regard the various prayers which should, under various exigencies, be offered there (Isaiah 66:1; Jeremiah 23:24; Acts 7:24). He acknowledges His omniscience as knowing already the plague of each heart which the individual may confess before Him. After kneeling in prayer Solomon stood to bless God, at the same time begging Him to incline Israel's heart unto Himself and to "maintain their cause at all times as the matter shall require" (Hebrew "the thing of a day in its day") 1 Kings 8:59; Luke 11:3. God's answer (1 Kings 9:3) at His second appearance to Solomon in Gibeon was the echo of his prayer (1 Kings 8:29), "Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually" (1 Kings 9:3), but God added a warning that if Israel should apostatize the temple should become "a bye-word among all people." The building of Solomon's palace occupied 13 years, after the temple, which was built in seven. It consisted of
(1) the house of the forest of Lebanon, built of a forest of cedar pillars, and serving also as an armory (1 Kings 10:17), 1 Kings 10:100 cubits long, 50 broad, 30 high, on four rows of cedar pillars and hewn cedar beams over the pillars. There were 45 side rooms, forming three stories of 15 rooms each, built upon the lower rows of pillars in ranges of 15 each; the windows of the three stories on one side were vis a vis to those on the opposite side of the inner open court enclosed between them (Keil on 1 Kings 7). An artificial platform of stones of ten and eight cubits formed the foundation; as in Sennacherib's palace remains at Koyunjik, and at Baalbek stones 60 ft. long, probably laid by Solomon.
(2) The pillar hall with the porch (1 Kings 7:6) lying between the house of the forest of Lebanon and
(3) The throne room and judgment hall (1 Kings 7:7).
(4) The king's dwelling house and that of Pharaoh's daughter (1 Kings 7:8). All four were different parts of the one palace. His throne, targets, stables, harem (both the latter forbidden by God, Deuteronomy 17:16-17), paradises at Etham ("wady Urtas"), men and women singers (Ecclesiastes 2:5-8), commissariat, and officers of the household and state, all exhibit his magnificence (1 Kings 4; 1 Kings 10-11).
His might and greatness of dominion permanently impressed the oriental mind; Solomon is evidently alluded to in the Persian king Artaxerxes' answer, "there have been mighty kings over Jerusalem which have ruled overall countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom was paid unto them." The queen of Sheba's (Arabian tradition calls her Balkis) visit illustrates the impression made by his fame, which led "all the earth to seek to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart"; she "hearing of his fame concerning the name of Jehovah" (i.e. which he had acquired through Jehovah's glorification of Himself in him) brought presents of gold, spices, and precious stones. frontSHEBA (1).)
Josephus attributes to her the introduction of the balsam for which Judaea was afterward famed (1 Kings 10:1-25). Northern Arabia was at this time ruled by queens not kings, but she probably came from southern Arabia or Arabia Felix. Like the wise men coming to the Antitype, she came with a great train, and with camels laden with presents, in search of Heaven-sent wisdom (Proverbs 1:6; Matthew 2:1), "to prove Solomon with hard questions" (chidah, pointed sayings hinting at deep truths which are to be guessed; very common in Arabic literature), and to commune with him of all that was in her heart; compare as to these "hard questions" Proverbs 30:18, etc., Proverbs 30:15-16; Judges 14:12-19; also Josephus (Ant. 8:5, section 3) quotes Phoenician writers who said that Solomon and Hiram puzzled one another with sportive riddles; Hiram at first had to pay forfeits, but was ultimately the winner by the help of a sharp Tyrian lad Abdemon.
The queen of Sheba confessed that she believed not the report until her own eyes saw its truth, yet that half was not told her, his wisdom and prosperity exceeded the fame which she had heard (compare spiritually John 1:46; John 4:42). Her coming to Solomon from so far condemns those who come not to Him who is infinitely greater, Wisdom itself, though near at hand, and needing no long pilgrimage to reach Him (Matthew 12:42; Proverbs 8:34). He is the true "Prince of peace," the Jedid-jah "the well beloved of the Father." "God gave Solomon wisdom (chokmah, "practical wisdom" to discern the judicious course of action), and understanding (tebunah, "keenness of intellect" to solve problems), and largeness of heart ("large mental capacity" comprising varied fields of knowledge) as the sand," i.e. abundant beyond measure (1 Kings 4:29). He excelled the famous wise men of the East and of Egypt (Isaiah 19:11; Isaiah 31:2; Acts 7:22). Of his 3,000 proverbs we have a sample in the Book of Proverbs; of his 1,005 songs we have only the Song of Solomon (its five divisions probably are referred to in the odd five), and Psalm 72 and Psalm 127. frontPROVERBS.)
He knew botany, from the lowly hyssop (probably the tufty wall moss, Orthotrichum saxatile, a miniature of the true and large hyssop) to the stately cedar. He also spoke of the results of his observations in the natural history of beasts, birds, creeping things, and fish. As an autocrat, Solomon was able to carry on his magnificent buildings and works, having an unbounded command of wealth and labour. But the people's patience was tried with the heavy taxes and levies of provisions (1 Samuel 8:15; 1 Kings 4:21-23) and conscriptions required (1 Kings 5:13). Thus by divine retribution the scourge was being prepared for his apostasy through his idolatrous mistresses. God declared by His prophet His purpose to rend the kingdom, except one tribe, from his son (1 Kings 11:9, etc.). One trace of the servitude of the "hewers of stone" existed long after in the so-called children or descendants of "SOLOMON'S SERVANTS" attached to the temple (Ezra 2:55-58; Nehemiah 7:57; Nehemiah 7:60); inferior to the Nethinim, hewers of wood (1 Kings 5:13-15; 1 Kings 5:17-18; 1 Kings 9:20-21; 2 Chronicles 8:7-8; 1 Chronicles 22:2), compelled to labour in the king's stone quarries. (See NETHINIM.)
His apostasy was the more glaring, contrasted with God's goodness in appearing to him twice, blessing him so much, and warning him so plainly; also with his own former scrupulous regard for the law, so that he would not let his Egyptian queen remain in the neighbourhood of the ark; and especially with his devout prayer at the dedication. See the lesson to us, 1 Corinthians 10:12. Solomon probably repented in the end; for Chronicles make no mention of his fall. Again Ecclesiastes is probably the result of his melancholy, but penitent, retrospect of the past; "all is vanity and vexation of spirit": it is not vanity, but wisdom as well as our whole duty, to "fear God and keep His commandments." frontECCLESIASTES, THE BOOK OF.)
God having made him His Jedidiah ("beloved of Jehovah") "visited his transgression with the rod, nevertheless His lovingkindness He did not utterly take from him" (Psalm 89:30-36). As the Song of Solomon represents his first love to Jehovah in youth, so Proverbs his matured experience in middle age, Ecclesiastes the sad retrospect of old age. "Solomon in all his glory" was not arrayed as one of the "lilies of the field": a reproof of our pride (Matthew 6:29). The sudden rise of the empire under David and Solomon, extending 450 miles from Egypt to the Euphrates, and its sudden collapse under Rehoboam, is a feature not uncommon in the East. Before Darius Hystaspes' time, when the satrapial system was introduced of governing the provinces on a common plan by officers of the crown, the universal system of great empires was an empire consisting of separate kingdoms, each under its own king, but "paying tribute or presents to the one" suzerain, as Solomon.
The Tyrian historians on whom Dius and Menander base their histories (Josephus, Apion 1:17) confirm Hiram's connection with Solomon, and state that letters between them were preserved in the Tyrian archives and fix the date as at the close of the 11th century B.C., and the building of the temple 1007 B.C. Menander (in Clem. Alex., Strom. 1:386) states that Solomon took one of Hiram's daughters to wife, so "Zidonians" are mentioned among his wives (1 Kings 11:1). At first sight it seems unlikely Israel could be so great under David and Solomon for half a century in the face of two mighty empires, Egypt and Assyria. But independent history confirms Scripture by showing that exactly at this time, from the beginning of the 11th to the close of the 10th century B.C., Assyria was under a cloud, and Egypt from 1200 B.C. to Shishak's accession 990 B.C. Solomon was prematurely "old" (1 Kings 11:4), for he was only about 60 at death.