SOLOMON, THE FIRST TEMPLE AND THE QUEEN OF SHEEBA

SOLOMON

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Solomon (961-922 B.C.) was David's and Bath-sheba’ss son. He united the Hebrews in a kingdom that briefly dominated the area and was the third king of Israel. Solomon became king when he was still a young man. According to the Bible, God came to Solomon in a dream at the beginning of his rule and asked him if there was anything he desired. Solomon said he only wanted knowledge so that could rule wisely and judiciously.

Solomon was known for his judicial wisdom and knowing all things. He was able to ferret out the truth in questionable court cases, it was said, due to his deep understanding of human nature. Once when two women claimed to be mother of the same child he suggested that the baby be cut in half and divided among the women. One of the women cried out and begged that the baby be given to the other mother, showing that she was the true mother.

Solomon’s story is featured in The United Kingdom of Israel, II Samuel 5-8; I Kings 4-6, 9-11. Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “ Unfortunately, no biographical data like that pertaining to David have come to us from the reign of Solomon, nor from those rulers that succeeded him. Instead, a history developed by the Deuteronomists is all that remains. The compilers acknowledge some of their sources, including "The Book of the Acts of Solomon" (I Kings 11:41), "The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel" (I Kings 14:19), and "The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah" (I Kings 14:29), but it is difficult to determine what material may have come from these sources, and it is impossible to know what principles guided the Deuteronomists in their selection of data. Within the stories pertaining to Solomon's reign numerous Deuteronomic additions can be recognized1 and, when these are removed, a sketchy literary picture of the monarch's career remains, an account which appears to be relatively correct. Archaeological evidence has helped to fill in other details. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

Solomon ruled for some 40 years. His reign was characterized by brutality, building projects, wealth and class warfare. According to the Bible, Solomon’s empire stretched from Sinai to the Euphrates. There is no evidence of this claim. It seems that if indeed Solomon’s empire was this powerful, there would be some evidence in the Egyptian or Mesopotamian records. The kingdom was more likely of modest size.

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

Solomon’s Achievements

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Solomon Dedicates the
Temple at Jerusalem by Tissot
Under Solomon, national and religious self-consciousness, encouraged by the king and the temple priesthood, resulted in the production of a great body of literature, of which the Davidic record was but a part.

According to the First Book of Kings, Solomon was “sovereign over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the borders of Egypt.” To many Jews the kingdoms of David and Solomon were a golden age for Israel. The period is described in I Kings as a time of great prosperity when “Judah and Israel were as numerous as sand by the seashore? and the people there “ate and drank and were happy.”

Solomon is said to have built the cities of Hazor, Gezer and Megiddo. Based on his work at the archaeological site of Megiddo, which shows major developments only after Solomon’s reign, archaeologist Israel Finklestein has argued that the so-called gold age is a myth concocted in the 7th century, when passages of the Bible were written, to validate Judah’s expansion into the northern territory of Israel.

Major Events and Episodes Featuring Solomon
Solomon, 961-922 B.C.
ca. 970- 931 B.C.: Solomon builds the First Temple on Mount Moriah
Solomon becomes co-regent until David's death.
Solomon builds the temple and palace, Jeroboam revolts and is exiled, The saga of the nation, the Davidic history and law codes are written down
Solomon dies.
Jeroboam returns from exile.

Solomon After David’s Death

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Following David's death Solomon acted quickly to strengthen his position. Those who might have presented a challenge to his rule (I Kings 2:13-46) were eliminated. Adonijah requested Abishag, the young woman who had been David's last concubine, as a wife. It has been noted previously that such a request was tantamount to seeking to take the place of the dead monarch, as Solomon's response clearly indicates:"Ask for him the kingdom also; for he is my elder brother and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah." - I Kings 2:22 [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“This request brought about Adonijah's murder. Abiathar was spared and sent to Anathoth, perhaps because he was a priest. When Joab learned of Solomon's pogrom he fled to a shrine, but even as he clung to the horns of the altar, Solomon's executioner, Benaiah, murdered him. Shimei, whose loyalty to the family of Saul had never wavered, was finally killed when he violated parole. For his services Benaiah was made commander-in-chief of the army. The editors summarize the discussion of the strategic murders with the statement "So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon."<=>

Solomon’s Wisdom


Judgement of Solomon

Solomon was known for his judicial wisdom and knowing all things. He was able to ferret out the truth in questionable court cases, it was said, due to his deep understanding of human nature. Once when two women claimed to be mother of the same child he suggested that the baby be cut in half and divided among the women. One of the women cried out and begged that the baby be given to the other mother, showing that she was the true mother.

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Solomon's wisdom, extolled by the editor of Kings, became the symbol of all wisdom for later Hebrew history. Not only were portions of the book of Proverbs ascribed to him, but Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs and the Wisdom of Solomon were composed in his name. None of these writings are believed to be the work of the Hebrew monarch. According to I Kings 4:29-34 Solomon is supposed to have composed proverbs and songs, but the specific themes which are said to be the subject of these compositions are scarcely mentioned in the writings bearing Solomon's name. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Solomon may have composed wise sayings, but it is more likely that his reputation for wisdom rests upon a different and somewhat more significant base. Within the courts of the ancient Near East, the wise man held an office of special honor. Jeremiah put wise men of Babylon in the same category as princes (Jer. 50:35). The high standing of the wise man is reflected in Egyptian literature, for Amen-em-opet was controller of the land,5 and the "councils of Duauf," which probably come from the fourteenth century, link wisdom with the scribe along with the comment that every court office lay open to such a person. It is possible that Solomon's reputation for wisdom stems from the establishment of a wisdom school par excellence within the royal court, rather than from his own personal contribution to wisdom literature. <=>

“In a kingdom so young and in a court so recently organized, the establishment of such a school with an international reputation was worthy of record. How much support subsequent monarchs gave to the wisdom school cannot be ascertained, but the caption above Chapter 25 of Proverbs indicating that the material was copied by "Hezekiah's men" may have reference to royal patronage. If this interpretation of the scanty references is correct, Solomon's fame as a wise man is, perhaps, justified.” <=>

Wisdom of Solomon: the Biblical Text

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Wisdom of Solomon, like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, is composed in the name of the famous Hebrew monarch. The book was written in Greek, probably by a Jew of Alexandria who was trained in Greek rhetoric and philosophy, and whose knowledge of the LXX is apparent in his writing. The most suitable date for this work is between the beginning of the first century B.C. and the end of the Hasmonean period. The book is an apologia of Jewish belief in God, aimed particularly at apostate Jews. It has three major parts: Chapters 1-5, a poetic contrast of the wise and foolish; Chapters 6-9, a mixture of prose and poetry addressed to kings and judges. Chapters 10-19, for the most part a prose meditation on wisdom and salvation-history. This section is interrupted by a discourse on folly (chs. 13-15). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]


“As a ruler Solomon addresses his peers and as a wise man instructs them, urging them to follow Yahweh to gain wisdom. Something of the style of older wisdom writing appears in the use of parallelism, but the short individual sayings have been replaced by long discourses or treatises. The writer, through Solomon, admonished those who use the arguments of Ecclesiastes concerning the meaninglessness of life to defend pleasure-seeking that includes persecution and baiting of the righteous (ch. 2). Belief in death as the end is countered by a defense of belief in the immortality of the soul (ch. 3). Like Ben Sira, the author questions the merit of large families and the sense of continuity that some expect to find in their heirs (ch. 4).<=>

“The repetition of the opening address to kings marks the start of a new section. The song of praise for wisdom (ch. 6) is followed by Solomon's explanation of his greatness as a gift of wisdom. The meditation on Hebrew history as determined by wisdom and blessed by God, demonstrates that vicissitudes of the past proved to be blessings in disguise. Some of the implications border on the fantastic (cf. 19:1-7).<=>

“The writer appears to have had several reasons for writing his treatise. He is concerned with the question of theodicy, which in his day took the form, "Why, if orthodoxy is the right way, does God not reward his own? Why are the impious in better circumstances?" The author responds to this ancient query on two levels: individual and national. Justice for the individual comes in the afterlife where the scales are balanced. So far as the nation is concerned, he argues that God has always cared for his people, but that at times it is necessary to have the perspective of history to recognize and appreciate the fact.<=>

“He desires to confront the secular Jew who represented the attitudes given in Chapter 2 and who persecuted the pious Jew perhaps in reaction to the rebukes of the righteous. These unorthodox persons are warned of the day of judgment. It is possible that in addressing his words to kings, the writer hoped to influence non-Jewish readers and the contrast between the folly of idolatry and the superiority of Jewish monotheism might have been aimed at such persons.<=>

“Like other wisdom writers, this author speaks of wisdom as a manifestation of God (7:25 f.), existing before the creation of the world (9:9 f.). God is described as the creator, but wisdom is involved in the creation process (7:22; 9:1 f.). The impact of Platonic philosophical concepts is apparent in the writer's view of man. Man consists of a physical body and an indwelling spiritual soul (15:8). The body is a burden to the soul (9:15), and the soul is pre-existent (8:19-20). The soul is immortal (3:1-5) and after death enjoys rewards or suffers punishments. Man was robbed of the eternal life that was his at creation through the "devil's envy" (2:24). Mankind is divided into two groups: those who are of the devil's "party" and those who belong to God. For the first time, we encounter the devil as a personality, a power opposed to God but not identified here as Satan or any other specific angel.<=>

“The Wisdom of Solomon has canonical status in the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, but not among Jews and Protestants.” <=>

Solomon and Women

Solomon reportedly had 700 wives and between 60 and 300 mistresses. The fact he had only one son was seen as a punishment for his polygamy.

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Solomon and Sheba
In the Old testament, Solomon told his future bride:
You are stately as a palm tree.
and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree
and lay hold of its branches.
Oh, may your breasts be like
clusters of the vine.
and the scent of your breath like apples.
And your kisses like the best wine
that goes down smoothly.
gliding over lips and teeth

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Solomon's biographer appears to have been impressed with certain facets of Solomon's career - his marriages, his wisdom, his wealth, his buildings, and his international business dealings. Of Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3a), only Pharaoh's daughter is singled out for specific mention. This marriage demonstrates the wealth and power of the Hebrew monarchy, for Pharaoh's daughters did not ordinarily marry outside of their own family, and perhaps indicates the weakness of the Egyptian kingdom at this time.3 This strategic marriage provided a basis for trade relationships (10:29) and gained for Solomon's empire the city of Gezer as a wedding payment (9:16). How important the marriage was in Solomon's eyes is perhaps demonstrated by the fact that of all his wives only Pharaoh's daughter appears to have had a special apartment built for her within the royal palace (7:8; 9:24). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

Solomon and Sheeba

The Queen of Sheeba ruled over one of five ancient kingdoms that flourished in a region called Arabia Felix, which may have included Ethiopia. Trade in frankincense and myrrh were the mainstays of the economy. According to the Biblical scripture 1 Kings 10:1-13, the Queen of Sheeba visited Jerusalem when Solomon was king, arriving “with a very great train, with camels that bore spices, and very much gold, and precious stones...there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the Queen of Sheeba gave to King Solomon.” Solomon returned the gesture by giving her precious objects and the satisfaction of "very desire she expressed" before she returned to her "own land."

Solomon was impressed by the Queen of Sheeba’s intelligence, business sense and piety. The Queen of Sheeba was equally impressed by Solomon’s wisdom and riches. He answered all the riddles and questions she addressed to him and was awestruck by the riches in his court. “Behold, the half was told me,” she said to Solomon, “thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.” According to legend later she converted to Solomon's monotheistic religion and bore his son after she returned home. Menelik, the son, later visited Jerusalem where, with his fathers approval, he replaced the Ark of Covenant with a copy and took the original home. Afterwards Menelik was crowned the King of Kings.

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Solomon and sheeba

Sheeba's story has been immortalized in works by Shakespeare, Kipling, Yeats, Handel, French cathedral makers, Persian miniatures and Renaissance artists. In the 1959 film Solomon and Sheeba , Yul Brynner played King Solomon and Gina Lollobrigida was cast as the Queen of Sheeba. Advertised as "Behold! The Love Story of the Ages!, its climatic scene shows a badly outnumbered Israelite army polishing their shields and defeating the Egyptian army by blinding them with reflected sunlight.

Solomon's Temple

The first Jewish temple was built on Mt. Moriah on the present-day Temple Mount in the 10th century B.C. by Solomon around a stone altar to thank the Lord for leading the Jews to the Promised Land. The stone altar, which is called the Foundation Stone, is where Jews believe God collected dust to make Adam, Abel was killed by Cain, and Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac.

"Behold, I purpose to build a house unto the name of the Lord my God," King Solomon declared. The Temple itself was believed to be the center of the universe, the holiest place in the world, the destination of prayers, and the place where God lived. It’s focal point was the Holy of Holies, a central sanctuary that only the high priest could enter once a year on the Day of Atonement.

The Holy of Holies contained important treasure including, it is said, the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is a wood-and-gold chest that housed the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. The Ark had been built by Moses and recaptured from the Philistines by David.

Solomon’s Temple was built on Mt. Moriah on on a “threshing floor” on the mountain purchased by David for 50 shekels of silver from the Araunah the Jebusite in 1000 B.C. The temple was designed by Hiram, a Phoenician architect, who is believed to have modeled it after the Ball Melqart in Tyre, which Heredotus said has one pile of "gold, the other of emerald." Solomon’s people were nomads and shepherds and they lacked experience building monuments, which is why he sought the assistance of his ally Hiram.

Dedicated to Jehovah, the temple took seven years to build and required hundred sof workmen and laborers to complete. According to the Bible’s Book of Kings temple was comprised of a series of courtyards, each one more holy than the one outside it, with holy sanctuary with the Ark in the middle. The main building was made from cut stone and Lebanon cedar timber, and was veiled in purple cloth and overlaid with gold. The doors were gilded olive wood. The entrance was marked by two great pillars of bronze.


Solomon's Temple

Solomon paid for the building with wheat and olive oil, 20 cities in Galilee and 120 tenets of gold. Next to the temple, Solomon built a great palace. According to the Old Testament 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were sacrificed at the dedication of temple. So much money was spent on the temple that it drained money from the treasury which presumably could have been used to beef up the military and keep the kingdom from splitting apart.

Solomon's Temple was partly destroyed and the Ark of the Covenant was lost when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 586 B.C. In a Babylonian chronicle Nebuchadnezzar boasted theat he “captured the city and...took heavy tributes and brought it back to Babylon.” The Bible has a similar account except that the “tributes” are referred to as “all the treasures of the Temple and the royal palace.” The fate of the Ark is not known. According to one legend it was stolen by the illegitimate son of Solomon and Sheeba and taken to Ethiopia and placed in a church in Aksum, where only a guardian monk has access to it. A modest Second Temple was built in 539 B.C.

Details and Biblical Descriptions of Solomon’s Temple

The Building of the First Temple is described in I Kings 6-7; 2 Chronicles 3-4. The Byt Yhwh Ostracon (9th-7th century B.C.) is the oldest mention of Solomon's temple outside the Bible.

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Construction details are set forth in I Kings 6, and the manufacture of the accoutrements is recorded in I Kings 7:9-50. From his sources the editor drew information concerning the trade agreements between Solomon and Hiram, King of Tyre. Twenty Galilean cities, plus Hebrew grain and oil, were exchanged for timber and gold (5:1, 6-12; 9:10-14). Labor was recruited through the corvée or forced labor policy. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“By modern standards the temple was small - ninety by thirty feet and forty-five feet in height.6 The building was modeled after Phoenician-Canaanite temples and was divided into three sections. The porch or ulam served as an entrance hall. Two bronze, free-standing pillars named Jachin and Boaz stood "within" this area. Through "folding doors" entrance was gained to the central chamber or hekal, a room about sixty feet long decorated with pomegranates, lilies and palms. Here were numerous cult objects, such as the incense altar, the table of shew bread, the ten golden candlesticks (five on the right and five on the left), basins, cups, goblets, etc. Beyond this room was "the most holy place" or the "holy of holies" or debir. This cubical room, thirty by thirty by thirty feet, was probably a raised section approached by stairs (although stairs are not mentioned). In this room the sacred ark was placed between two guardian cherubim. Here was the dwelling place of the deity. The appearance of the cherubim is not known. They may have resembled the winged beasts with bearded human faces that acted as guardians in Mesopotamian cities, or the winged sphinx-like figures found in the carved ivories at Megiddo or depicted in the portrait of the king of Byblos. A three-story complex of rooms was constructed against the side and back walls of the temple, but just how these rooms were used is not indicated. It is possible that they were for storage.<=>

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From the Jewish Encyclopedia
“All reconstructions of temples are, of necessity, hypothetical.” One floor plan “suggests that the two free-standing pillars named "Jachin" and "Boaz" stood in front of the temple proper, although it would have been just as feasible to place them within the porch or ulam as in the Tainat shrine. The cross-section (a) portrays the innermost room or debir (described as a perfect cube in I Kings 6:20) with a floor level above that of the rest of the temple. The debir might just as well have been on the same level as the rest of the building and the roof in this part of the building may have been lower. The recessed windows are styled after stone frames found in the excavation at Ramat Rahel, Israel. The crenelations on the roof are based on remnants of structures found at Megiddo and utilized in the Stevens reconstruction of the temple (cf. G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology, p. 139), but no one knows if such battlements were used on shrines. The capitals are styled after one found at Megiddo. The temple faced the east.<=>

“Details of the temple appearing in Chapters 40 to 42 of Ezekial do not parallel in every detail the description of Solomon's temple in II Kings 6 f. The temple stood at the center of the new theocratic state. Ministrants were to be Levitical priests of Zadokite lineage. Now Yahweh's glory ( kabod) returned (43:1-5), symbolizing the restoration of covenant relationships. The picture is idyllic, and paradisiac aspects are emphasized by references to sacred trees and waters reminiscent of the J story of Eden. Springing from beneath the temple was a river with purifying waters so potent that the saline Great (Dead) Sea could be made to sustain marine life and give nourishment to trees whose fruits would never fail and whose leaves would heal (47:1-12). The book closes with the division of land among the tribes and the announcement of a new name for Jerusalem: "Yahweh-shammah," meaning "Yahweh is there."<=>

Activities at Solomon’s Temple

Dr Edward Kessler at Cambridge wrote for the BBC: “The reason there was a Temple was that people need something tangible. We all need something tangible. Just look at my walls - I have pictures on my children on them. It's a tangible reminder of people who are important in my life. And so for the Children of Israel, the Temple gave them something tangible. The act of sacrifice in a temple was a physical act. It wasn't just a mental or a spiritual act. This is part of our progression as people, moving towards a monotheism, and then moving away from sacrifice and temple cults because that in itself is not necessarily what God wants. It may have been what we thought God wanted thousands of years ago, but once the temple was destroyed, we realised that actually there are other ways to serve God and the service of God may be through the heart rather than through the sacrifice of animals.” [Source: Dr Edward Kessler, executive director and lecturer at the Centre for Jewish Christian Relations, Cambridge, BBC June 25, 2009 |::|]

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Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The temple should not be thought of in terms of a modern church or synagogue. For the most part the people of the land continued to worship at local shrines. The temple was the royal chapel, the center of the national cult of Yahweh. The public did not enter the building, although presumably certain rituals performed within the hekal could be witnessed through the open doors. Public ceremonies were associated with the altar for burnt offerings in the open courtyard before the temple proper. It is clear from Babylonian temple records and from the responsibilities of the priestly class as set forth in Lev. 5, 6, 13, 15, that temples were as much administrative centers for the nation as places of worship. Present-day responsibilities of departments of health, sanitation and social welfare were included in the duties of the priesthood. The fact that Solomon acted as a priest and that he was able to depose Abiathar and appoint individuals of his own choice suggests a bureaucratic administrative pattern (cf. 4:1-2, 5). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“How ritual for temple services developed is not known. Possibly certain rites from local Hebrew and Canaanite shrines were adopted. Festivals accompanying seasonal changes found in Canaanite worship may have become part of the Hebrew agricultural interpretation of religion. The structural design of the temple, planned by Phoenician artisans, was most likely designed to accommodate rituals familiar to Phoenicians and Canaanites, for the Hebrews had had no such building prior to this time. It also seems likely that, having been in the land for more than a century, the Hebrews had developed religious rituals associated with their own sacred symbols. Such a psalm as 24:7-12 may have been sung in a ritual in which the ark was taken into the temple. In addition to the temple for Yahweh, Solomon built shrines for other deities (11:7).<=>

Construction of Solomon’s Temple

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Solomon's palace was a major building operation, requiring thirteen years to complete, as compared to seven for the temple. Standing near the temple, the royal complex must have somewhat overshadowed the building designed for the deity. A construction program of this magnitude required money, some of which Solomon raised by taxation (4:7-19) and some of which came from business profits. Horses were imported and resold at a profit to other nations (10:28). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Simultaneously a strong force of war-chariots and cavalrymen were developed for national security (10:26 and following verses; compare with 4:28), and these forces were stationed throughout the empire in strategically located chariot cities. The excavation of Megiddo has uncovered a stable of five units, each capable of sheltering thirty horses, which was at one time dated in the time of Solomon but is now believed to come from the ninth century. It has been suggested that the House of the Forest of Lebanon (7:2-5) may have been a stable for horses and chariots although the biblical description does not provide support for this idea. <=>

“Additional evidence of Solomon's business activities has been discovered in the Negeb, east of the Arabah, where ancient copper mines and primitive smelters that may belong to his time have been found. Ezion-geber, at the head of the Gulf of Aqabah, was a fortified storehouse and a port which gave Solomon access to the Arabian peninsula, African cities on the Red and Arabian Seas, and possibly also to India if "Ophir" (I Kings 9:28) can be equated with Suppara, India. <=>

Archaeological Evidence of Solomon's Temple

There is no direct archaeological evidence of the existence of Solomon's reign. But in 1997, archaeologists discovered a 13-word scrap of Old Hebrew script on an inscription that mentioned the payment of three shekels of silver to King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. Dated between the 7th and 9th centuries, its is the oldest non-Biblical reference to Solomon's temple ever recorded. The inscription was found on a pottery fragment in a private collection and its source is not known.A shekel was a measure of weight equal to around 11 grams.

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Jerusalem with Solomon' Temple

In January 2003, the existence a legal-pad-size stone tablet with inscription on running the Jewish Temple was revealed. Dated to the 9th century B.C. and called the Jehoash tablet or Yoash stone, it was heralded as “the most significant archaeological find in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel.” The tablet was inscribed with ancient Hebrew letters and named after a king who ruled Judea from 835 to 796 B.C. and listed repairs needed at the temple and how a person named Jehoash planned to pay for them. Later it was determined that the Yoash stone was a fake based on word usage and the way the letters were inscribed and the composition of the patina.

One of the most important pieces to Jews at the Israel Museum for many was an insignificant-looking ivory pomegranate bearing an ancient Hebrew inscription. Described as the only relic ever recovered from King Solomon's treasures, the thumb-sized piece was said to have topped a scepter carried by a Temple priest. It bears the inscription "Belonging to the Temple of the Lord, holy to the priests" and dates from the mid-8th century B.C., the time of Solomon's Temple. Later it was revealed that ivory pomegranate was a fake.

In December 2004, four antiquities dealers, collectors and dealers were indicted on charges of fraud and forgery in connection with the forged treasures such as the James’ ossuary, the ivory pomegranate from Solomon’s temple and the Yoash stone (Jehoash Tablet), a stone tablet with inscription on running the First Temple of Jerusalem . According to the indictment the men charged took genuine artifacts and added inscriptions and painted the items with a special coating designed duplicate the patina found on very old objects and falsely increase their importance and value.

The fraud was so well executed it fooled many experts and earned the forgers millions of dollars. Many of the object the group forged are believed to be in the collections of private collectors and still regarded as genuine. Among those charged were Israeli collector Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert ay Haifa University.

Digging is forbidden at the site of Solomon’s Temple out of fear it would cause tensions to rise between Jews and Muslim. In 1986, archaeologists discovered a eighth-century B.C. gate in Jerusalem that may have led to Solomon's Temple.

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Archeology Sites Associated with Solomon’s Temple

John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Solomon is credited with building the Millo, a terrace system in Jerusalem, and reconstructing three cities (1 Kings 9:15-17). Excavations at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer have uncovered a tantalizing, tangible suggestion about this biblical passage. Yigael Yadin understood, the verse to refer to the gate and wall systems around the three sites. With some shrewd sleuthing, particularly with the older site report from Gezer, Yadin showed that the tenth-century construction at the three sites follow the "same" plan. Yadin conjectured that this construction was Solomonic. “Since his original idea, some scholars have questioned the credibility of the Solomonic identification due in part to the discovery of more gates at Ashdod and Lachish. The Lachish gate may date to the tenth century if one concludes that Stratum IV falls in this period, though other archaeologists favor dating the gate to the ninth century. [Sources: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature: The Tainat Shrine is an eighth or ninth century shrine found at Tainat (ancient Hattina) between A1eppo and Antioch in Syria. The drawing is based on a sketch appearing in The Biblical Archaeologist, IV (1941). The shrine was built next to the royal palace. Two free-standing pillars stood in the porch area and a raised pediment occupied the inner room. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

"Solomon's Pillars" refers to massive stone outcroppings above are in the Negeb about sixteen miles north of the ancient port city of Ezion-Geber on the Gulf of Aqabah. They have been called "Solomon's pillars" because some scholars believe that copper was mined here in Solomon's time. Smelting furnaces and heaps of slag have been found nearby. The aridity of the area, the burning heat of the summer sun, the distance from central Palestine and the problem of transporting food and equipment necessary for sustaining life in this barren area must have resulted in a high mortality rate.<=>

Slave Hill, Biblical-Era Copper Mine: Solomon’s Mine?

Since 2012, Ben-Yosef Erez Ben-Yosef, an archaeologist from Tel Aviv University, has been overseeing an archaeological expedition in the heart of Israel’s Timna Valley, the second biggest source of copper in the southern Levant region. (The biggest is Faynan, farther north in Jordan.) Megan Gannon wrote in Live Science: “People have taken advantage of the copper deposits at Timna for millennia. There are dozens of smelting sites and thousands of primitive mining pits clearly visible in the region today. And the area is still used for copper production; the Mexican mining giant AHMSA has a stake in the region. [Source: Megan Gannon, Live Science, November 25, 2014 |~|]


Solonin's Temple plan

“Recently, the Timna Valley team has taken a crack at Slaves’ Hill, a smelting factory on top of a mesa that was in operation during the 10th century B.C., the biblical era of King Solomon. Today, there are traces of ancient furnaces at the site and lots of slag, which is the rocky material that’s left over after metal is extracted from its ore. (Essentially, it’s manmade lava.). Nelson Glueck explored the region in the 1930s, he named this hilltop site Slaves’ Hill, assuming that its fortification walls were intended to keep enslaved laborers from running off into the desert. When he saw this very harsh environment, he assumed that the labor force had to be slaves,” Ben-Yosef told Live Science. |~|

“The site has a complicated scholarly history. When Glueck first explored the region, he thought he was looking at Iron Age mines that fueled King Solomon’s fabled wealth. Later research then cast doubt on Glueck’s interpretation. In 1969, an Egyptian temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor was discovered in Timna Valley. Archaeologists at the time took this as evidence that mining in the area was controlled by Egypt’s New Kingdom during the Bronze Age, a few centuries earlier than the supposed reign of King Solomon. |~|

“When Ben-Yosef’s team revisited the site, they took carbon dates at Slaves’ Hill, and found that most artifacts date to the 10th century B.C., when the Bible says King Solomon ruled. Still, there is no evidence linking Solomon or his kingdom to the mines (and little evidence outside of the Bible for Solomon as a historical figure). One theory is that the mines were controlled by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribal confederacy that battled constantly with Israel. |~|

“Last year, the team’s research at Timna Valley added another layer of nuance to the biblical narrative. Ben-Yosef and Sapir-Hen published an analysis of camel bones at Slaves’ Hill and other surrounding sites. The age of the earliest bones supports the theory that camels were not introduced to the region until at least the early Iron Age — in contradiction to the Old Testament, which refers to camels as pack animals as far back as the Patriarchal Age, which is thought to be around 2000 B.C. |~|

“The latest findings of the Central Timna Valley Project were detailed in the September issue of the journal Antiquity and were presented here last week at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. The team will return to Timna Valley in February 2015. Ben-Yosef said that the researchers will investigate the smelting technology of the Egyptians who worked in the region during the Bronze Age, and will explore the actual Iron Age mines.” |~|

Workers at Slave Hill, Seemed to Have Lived Pretty Well


Metalworkers at Slave Hill appear to have been compensated for their work with fairly good meals. Megan Gannon wrote in Live Science: “The metalworkers’ diet included good cuts of sheep and goat, as well as pistachios, grapes and fish brought to the middle of the desert from the Mediterranean, according to an analysis of ancient leftovers at “Slaves’ Hill”...The findings imply that “Slaves’ Hill” might be a misnomer; the people who manned the furnaces probably weren’t slaves, but rather, they held a higher status because of their craft, archaeologists say. ▪ “Somebody took care that these people were eating well,” said Erez Ben-Yosef, an archaeologist from Tel Aviv University. [Source: Megan Gannon, Live Science, November 25, 2014 |~|]

“Ben-Yosef and his colleague Lidar Sapir-Hen, another archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, looked at animal remains from Slaves’ Hill and found mostly sheep and goat bones, many with butchery marks. This supports the idea that this mining camp relied on livestock for food. Bones from the meatiest parts of the sheep and goats were found near the smelting furnaces. |~|

“The archaeologists also found the remains of 11 fish, including catfish, which would have come from the Mediterranean Sea, at least 125 miles (200 kilometers) away. The researchers found pistachios and grapes, too, which would have come from the Mediterranean region. The team also discovered a sea snail known as a cowrie, which would have come from a more local water source, the Red Sea, at least 19 miles (30 kilometers) to the south. |~|

“The archaeologists said they think that whoever was running this mining camp was importing food and saving the best cuts of meat for the metalworkers, not the people who were doing auxiliary tasks, such as cooking the food, crushing the ore and preparing the charcoal, nor slaves who might have been working in the actual mines.“What we found was that the guys working at the furnace, which is supposedly very hard work with very high temperatures above 1,200 degrees Celsius [above 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit], these people were treated the best,” Ben-Yosef said. “They were highly regarded. It goes together with the need for them to be highly specialized and very professional.” |~|

“Metalworkers had to be multitaskers. They controlled nearly 40 different variables, from the temperature to the amount of air to the amount of charcoal in the furnace, Ben-Yosef said. “If they had mistaken something, the entire process would fail,” Ben-Yosef said. “On the other hand, if they do succeed, they are the guys who know how to make metal from rock.” |~|

Solomon's Riches and Demise

Israel was very rich under Solomon's rule. According to the Bible, Solomon “exceeded all the kings...in riches." He once hosted a feast featuring the sacrifice of 22,000 oxen. Some 12,000 horsemen were employed to look for "victual to feed all who came of Solomon’s table." Hartebeest, gazelle and wild goat were also most likely served.

Solomon’s kingdom grew rich in gold and precious stones brought in with Phoenician ships from the legendary King Solomon's mines in the lost biblical city of Ophir. A number of places claim to be the home of Ophir. They include Zimbabwe, the state of or Kerala in India, Israel and Jordan. Horses, linen, ivory and silver came in from other places.

For all his wisdom and riches, Solomon could not hold his kingdom together. He had man wives and they brought their gods to the Jewish kingdom, undermining Solomon’s religious authority. In order to build the Temple and his palace he levied large taxes on his subjects. Resentment grew. After his death the Jewish kingdom split up.

Book: In Search of King Solomon’s Mines by Tahir Shah.

20120503-Solomon Apollonio_di_giovanni_-_queen_of_sheba.jpg
Solomon and the Queen of Sheeba by Apollonio di Giovanni

Collapse of Solomon’s Empire

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “In spite of the mobile army, Solomon was unable to control all parts of the extensive Hebrew kingdom. An Edomite rebellion which appears to have taken place early in his reign is recorded in I Kings 11:14-25. A certain Hadad, exiled in David's time, returned when Solomon became king and became an adversary.15 Unfortunately the text breaks off in the middle of Verse 25. Some scholars suggest that Verses 23 and 24 should be treated as intrusions into the text, and that the difficult Verse 25 should follow after Verse 22 and read in conclusion that Hadad reigned over "Edom" (as certain manuscripts have it). In any event Solomon appears to have retained his hold on Ezion-geber (I Kings 9:26 ff.). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Another rebellion was led by Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, whom Solomon had placed in charge of one section of the corvée (I Kings 11:26 ff.). When Solomon sought to kill him, Jeroboam took refuge with Shishak, king of Egypt. Despite good relations of trade and marriage with Egypt, extradition rights were apparently not observed.<=>

“A figure as colorful as Solomon would naturally attract legends. Folktales developed about his wealth (10:14-25), trade (10:11-12), and international reputation for wisdom (3:16-28; 10:1-10). The final touch was added by Deuteronomists who are responsible for the account as we have it. Stern judgment was passed upon Solomon for his numerous wives who led him to worship other deities beside Yahweh. At the same time, the speeches placed in Solomon's mouth reflect Deuteronomic convictions about the significance of the Hebrew religion and contain interpretations of history that follow the Deuteronomic point of view.” <=>

Creation of the Old Testament in Solomon’s Time

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “It has been noted that Solomon's time was marked by great literary activity and, if one can generalize from the Gezer Calendar, literacy may have been widespread.1 In addition to the material pertaining to the monarchy, the so-called "J" materials came into being. J should not be treated as history, in the modern sense, but rather as a religious saga recounting myths, legends and folktales. How much of J was in written form, gathered and combined prior to this time, cannot be determined. Some legends were probably preserved in oral form as tribal recitations. Certain stories appear to be Hebraized Canaanite shrine legends, for they refer to Canaanite cult objects2 and some designations suggest shrine deities.3 Some stories, such as the flood story, can be traced back to Babylonian and Sumerian accounts and were perhaps drawn from Canaanite versions of these stories. A few passages, such as Gen. 4:23-the song of Lamech-come from specific tribal groups. This is to say that the J writer did not originate the material but compiled, edited and reworked sources into a great schematic framework. Three major themes appear to have been combined: [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Legends and myths pertaining to human beginnings, containing aetiological materials explaining why certain aspects of life are the way they are. 1) Patriarchal narratives demonstrating that Yahweh, the creator of the heavens and earth and all that is within them, was the same deity who miraculously led the fathers of the Hebrew nation and prepared the Hebrew people for their glorious role, rejecting other neighboring groups which became subsidiaries of the Solomonic kingdom (such as the legends about Esau/Edom). 2) The Mosaic tradition leading up to the invasion of Palestine.<=>

“Within this framework, a pattern can be discerned consisting of a series of waves, with each peak symbolizing a new beginning in Yahweh's relationships with man and each trough representing the miscarriage of the experiment. Man is introduced as Yahweh's gardener in Eden, but is expelled when he attempts to become like the deity. Yahweh expunged this poor beginning with the flood and preserved only a righteous remnant, Noah, as the foundation for a new beginning. When Noah's descendants attempted to invade the realm of the divine, Yahweh limited mankind's powers by creating non-co-operating language groups. From one group Yahweh chose Abraham, and when the patriarch's descendants became enslaved in Egypt, a new beginning was made in the Exodus under Moses. Because the people sinned in the desert, they could not enter Palestine. Another new beginning, of which J was a part, is to be seen in the Davidic kingdom, firmly established in J's time in the promised land. If J saw signs portending failure in Solomon's reign, he gives no clear indication in his writings.” <=>

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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