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Solomon

 

Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Solomon, meaning "peaceable." A son of David who succeeded him as the third king of Israel. Solomon established himself as a king like those of other nations, with a large court and harem, and extensive building programs that demanded forced labor. He taxed the people in order to support his luxurious court. He established international trade and built the house of God that David had wanted to build. At the same time he allowed the worship of gods in Jerusalem for his foreign wives. 2 Sam. 12:24; 1 Kings, chs. 1 to 11 (for some of the details above see 1 Kings 2:12; 4:7; 22-28; 5:2-5, 13-18; 7:2, 6-8; 8:1; 9:26-28; 10:23-25, 26-28; 11:1, 5); Neh.13:26; Jer. 52:20; Matt. 12:42; Luke 12:27; Acts 7:47.


Harperís Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Solomon (also known as Jedidiah, Heb., ĎYahwehís beloved,í 2 Sam. 12:25), Davidís son by Bathsheba and his successor, who reigned for forty years in the second third of the tenth century b.c. Although 1 Samuel 12 implies that Solomon was Bathshebaís second child by David, born after the child conceived during their adulterous affair had died, 1 Chron. 3:5 may indicate that there were intervening children.

As David grew old, his son Adonijah began to take steps to succeed his father with the support of several court officials, including the general Joab and the priest Abiathar. Another faction gained the support of Bathsheba in approaching David on the basis of a previous promise, not recorded in the Bible, that Solomon would be his successor. David affirmed his commitment to Solomon, who was immediately installed by the priest Zadok with the assistance of Nathan, the prophet, and Benaiah from the royal guard. Solomon served as co regent until Davidís death, at which time Adonijah, who had previously agreed to accept Solomonís succession, sought Bathshebaís support in his request to marry Abishag, who had served David in his old age. Solomon saw the request as a threat and had Adonijah executed along with his supporter Joab. The priest Abiathar was expelled from Jerusalem and Shimei, a Benjaminite who had caused problems for David, was restricted from leaving Jerusalem on pain of death, a threat that was later carried out (1 Kings 2).

Reign: Solomon appears to have been responsible for a political consolidation, demonstrated by his creation of administrative districts cutting across the old tribal boundaries (1 Kings 4:7-19). His priestly activities also suggest a substantial expansion of the kingís role (1 Kings 8; contrast 1 Sam. 13). Solomonís reign was also characterized by vigorous activity in the international sphere. His empire included trade routes linking Africa, Asia, Arabia, and Asia Minor, thus generating substantial revenue while supporting widespread commercial activities, including, apparently, participation in the horse trade based in Asia Minor. His fleet sailed from Ezion-geber in the Gulf of Aqaba to Ophir on the coast of the Red Sea (either in eastern Africa or western Arabia). The Bible ascribes to him seven hundred wives, including Moabite, Edomite, Phoenician, and Hittite women (1 Kings 11:1), at least some of whom he doubtless married as part of political alliances. Among these were an Egyptian princess, whose father (probably Pharaoh Siamon) gave Solomon the city of Gezer, and an Ammonite woman, whose son Rehoboam eventually succeeded to the throne. Solomonís extensive building program included store cities as well as fortifications. In Jerusalem, he built an elaborate palace complex, which took thirteen years to complete, and a temple, which took seven, with the assistance of King Hiram of Tyre. The Bibleís description strongly suggests Canaanite influence, as one would expect under the circumstances. Solomon also gave Hiram twenty cities in Galilee.

Wisdom: Such activities brought wealth and a cosmopolitan atmosphere to Solomonís kingdom. His wisdom is said to have Ďsurpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egyptí (1 Kings 4:30, Hebrew 5:10), reflecting the kind of international intellectual activity Solomonís political accomplishments would suggest. According to the ot, this wisdom was Godís response to Solomonís request, when offered whatever he might choose, for an understanding mind (1 Kings 3:5-9; Solomon is already called wise in 2:9). The ot makes much of his wisdom, describing his ability to determine which of two prostitutes was a disputed childís true mother (1 Kings 3:16-27), to answer difficult questions posed by the queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1-3), and to tell fables and sing songs (1 Kings 4:32-33, Hebrew 5:12-13). This tradition is reflected also in the ascription of several sections of the book of Proverbs to him (see Prov. 1:1; 10:1) along with the book of Ecclesiastes (see Eccles. 1:1), where his wealth and wives no doubt served as a useful backdrop for the authorís own purposes. Solomonís many wives and internal references to his wealth (e.g., Song of Sol. 3:8) probably played a role in the traditional ascriptions of Song of Songs to him (Song of Sol. 1:1), just as the tradition that he wrote poetry was doubtless important in the ascriptions of Psalms 72 and 127. His impact, in part as the last Davidic king to rule over a united kingdom, seems also to have served as an inspiration for the activities of Judahís eighth-century b.c. King Hezekiah (see 2 Chron. 30:26; Prov. 25:1).

Policy: The ot does not find all of Solomonís activities praiseworthy. The cosmopolitanism resulting from his participation in international affairs brought many foreign religious practices to Jerusalem along with a less stringent attitude than some biblical authors, at least, found acceptable. Whereas Solomonís policies about worship at some high places prior to the Templeís construction may have been countenanced, he is later condemned for building such shrines and for having married foreign women (e.g., Neh. 13:26). The book of Kings (e.g., 1 Kings 11:9-25) regards these as causing Godís decision, announced by the Shilonite prophet Ahijah, to split the kingdom, removing ten of the twelve tribes from Davidic control.

Solomonís policies were not only religiously offensive. The ot explicitly mentions three political enemiesóHadad, an Edomite prince (1 Kings 11:14), Rezon of Zobah (v. 24), and Jeroboam of Israel (v. 26), each of whom sought refuge in Egypt, adding an international dimension to his opposition. Moreover, Solomonís building activities were expensive in both economic and human resources. (Some scholars consider the warning against royal behavior in 1 Sam. 8:11-17 to have been based on Solomon.) Later complaints suggest a high level of taxation, while the Bible mentions the use of forced labor, limited to non-Israelites according to some sources (1 Kings 9:20-22), but not according to others (1 Kings 5:13). The schism that followed Solomonís death is implicitly ascribed to his policies (1 Kings 12:4). To what extent the invasion by Pharaoh Shishak, which took place five years after Solomonís death, fits into this is less clear (see 1 Kings 11:40).

The otís view of Solomon is thus ambivalent. On the one hand, his reign clearly marks the peak of Israelite success, both politically and religiously (although Chronicles suggests and Kings implies that some credit for initiating the building of a temple should be given to David). It is in Solomonís reign that the promises made to the patriarchs come to their fulfillment (1 Kings 4:20). On the other hand, syncretism and the influx of foreign practices under Solomon mark the beginning of religious decay, accompanied by growth in internal dissent and the emergence of external enemies.

The proverbial nature of Solomonís glory and his wisdom is reflected in sayings of Jesus (Matt. 6:29; 12:42). Matthew also lists Solomon as one of Jesusí ancestors (Matt. 1:6-7)

 

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