Solomon's wisdom is proverbial. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were ascribed to him, as was Wisdom of Solomon, a book of the Old Testament Apocrypha, and the Song of Solomon bears his name. The Psalms of Solomon (1st cent. B.C.) and the Odes of Solomon (early 2d cent. A.D.) are found in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Solomon's original name was Jedidiah.
See biography by N. de M. Bentwick (1938); M. Davis, The Emergence of Conservative Judaism (1963).
See biography by C. Adler (1928).
King Solomon (Ge'ez: ስለሞን, Arabic: سليمان, Sulayman, all from the triliteral root S-L-M, "peace") is a figure described in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the Qur'an. The biblical accounts identify Solomon as the son of David. He is also called Jedidiah in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah split; following the split his patrilineal descendants ruled over Judah alone.
The Bible accredits Solomon as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem, and portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power. Solomon is the subject of many other later references and legends.
Historical evidence of King Solomon, independent of the biblical accounts, is scarce. Nothing indisputably of Solomon's reign has been found. Archaeological excavations at Hazor, Megiddo, Bethshan and Gezer have uncovered structures that Israeli archaeologists Ammon Ben-Tor, Amihai Mazar and US Professor William G. Dever argue all belong to his reign and all were simultaneously destroyed by a raid of Shishaq. but some like Finkelstein argues that these structures are dated to the Omride period, more than a century after Solomon's reign. Excavations on these sites are ongoing.
2 Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. 3 So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not. 1 Kings 1:2-4
When Adonijah, the fourth son of David and heir-apparent to the throne after the death of his elder brothers Amnon and Absalom, heard this he acted to have himself be declared king. But Bathsheba (Solomon's mother) and Nathan induced David to give orders that his younger son Solomon should immediately be proclaimed king. Adonijah fled and took refuge at the altar, and received pardon for his conduct from Solomon on the condition that he showed himself "a worthy man" (1 Kings 1:5-53).
Adonijah asked to marry Abishag the Shunammite, but Solomon denied authorization for such an engagement, although Bathsheba now pleaded on Adonijah's behalf. He was then seized and put to death (1 Kings 2:13-25).
David's general Joab was killed, in accord with David's deathbed request to Solomon, and David's priest Abiathar was exiled. Shimei was confined to Jerusalem and killed three years later when he went to Gath to retrieve some runaway servants.
André Lemaire states in that the principal points of the biblical tradition with Solomon as generally trustworthy as does Kenneth Kitchen who argue that Solomon ruled over a comparatively wealthy 'mini-empire' rather than a small city-state so consider this sum to be a rather modest amount of money. Mr. Kitchen calculates that over a 30 year period such a kingdom might have accumulated from this up to 500 tons of gold which is small when compared to other examples such as the 1,180 tons of gold that Alexander the Great took from Susa . Likewise, the magnitude of Solomon's temple is considered excessively large by some, for example, Finkelstein; however, others such as Kenneth Kitchen consider it a reasonable and typically sized structure for the region at the time.
William G. Dever states "that we now have direct Bronze and Iron Age parallels for every feature of the 'Solomonic temple' as described in the Hebrew Bible".
The archaeological remains that are still considered to actually date from the time of Solomon are notable for the fact that Canaanite material culture appears to have continued unabated; there is a distinct lack of magnificent empire, or cultural development - indeed comparing pottery from areas traditionally assigned to Israel with that of the Philistines points to the Philistines having been significantly more sophisticated. However there is a lack of physical evidence of its existence, despite some archaeological work in the area. This is not unexpected as the area was devastated by the Babylonians, then rebuilt and destroyed several times. Also it should be noted that little archaeological excavation has been conducted around the area known as the Temple Mount; in what is thought to be the foundation of Solomon's Temple as attempts to do so are met with protest from adherents to the Muslim and Jewish faiths (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/temple-mount-excavation.htm).
Solomon is described as surrounding himself with all the luxuries and the external grandeur of an Eastern monarch, and his government prospered. He entered into an alliance with Hiram I, 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 for building a temple in Jerusalem as a permanent abode for the Ark of the Covenant; Solomon is described as completing its construction, with the help of an architect, also named Hiram, and other materials, sent from Hiram king of Tyre. The description of the temple is remarkably similar to that of surviving remains of Phoenician temples of the time, and it is certainly plausible, from the point of view of archaeology, that the temple was constructed to the design of Phoenicians. It has also been suggested that the Phoenicians built it for themselves.
From a critical point of view, Solomon's building of a temple for Yahweh should not be seen as an act resulting from particular devotion to Yahweh, since Solomon is also described as erecting temples for a number of other deities (). Solomon's apparent initial devotion to Yahweh appearing in for example his dedication prayer are seen by textual scholars as a product of a much later writer, Solomon being credited with the views only after Jerusalem had actually become the religious centre of the kingdom (rather than, for example, Shiloh, or Bethel). Textual scholars consider the authorship of passages such as these in the Books of Kings to be separate from the remainder of the text, and consider these passages to be probably the result of the Deuteronomist.
After the completion of the temple, Solomon is described as erecting many other buildings of importance in Jerusalem; for the long space of thirteen years he was engaged in the erection of a royal palace on Ophel (a hilly promontory in central Jerusalem); Solomon also constructed great works for the purpose of securing a plentiful supply of water for the city, and the Millo (Septuagint, Acra) for the defense of the city. However, excavations of Jerusalem have shown a distinct lack of monumental architecture from the era, and remains of neither the Temple nor Solomon's palace have been found (although it should be noted that a number of significant but politically sensitive areas have not been extensively excavated, including the site that the Temple is traditionally said to have been located).
Solomon is also described as rebuilding major cities elsewhere in Israel, creating the port of Ezion-Geber, and constructing Tadmor in the wilderness as a commercial depot and military outpost. Solomon is additionally described as having amassed a thousand and four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen. Though the location of Solomon's port of Ezion-Geber is known, no remains have ever been found. More archaeological success has been achieved with the major cities Solomon is said to have strengthened or rebuilt (for example, Hazor , Megiddo and Gezer- ); these all have substantial ancient remains, including impressive six-chambered gates, and ashlar palaces, as well as trough-like structures outside buildings that early archaeologists have identified as the stables for Solomon's horses.
According to the Bible, during Solomon's reign Israel enjoyed great commercial prosperity, with extensive traffic being carried on by land with Tyre, Egypt, and Arabia, and by sea with Tarshish (Spain), Ophir, and South India.
One of the qualities most ascribed to Solomon is his wisdom. One account, that of Solomon suggesting to divide a baby in two to determine its real mother, is from the Old Testament of the Bible in the book of Kings (chapter 3 verse 16-28) In this often-quoted passage, two prostitutes came before Solomon to resolve a quarrel about which of them was the true mother of a baby. (The other's baby died in the night and each claims the surviving child as hers.) When Solomon suggests dividing the living child in two with a sword, the true mother is revealed to him because she is willing to give up her child to the lying woman rather than have the child killed. Solomon then declares the woman who shows the compassion is the true mother.
Whether the passage is simply to provide a brief token foreign witness of Solomon's wealth and wisdom, or whether there is meant to be something more significant to the queen's visit and her riddles is unknown; nevertheless the visit of the Queen of Sheba has become the subject of numerous stories.
Sheba is typically identified as Saba, a nation once spanning the Red Sea on the coasts of what are now Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen, in Arabia Felix. In a Rabbinical account (e.g. Targum Sheni), Solomon was accustomed to ordering the living creatures of the world to dance before him (Rabbinical accounts say that Solomon had been given control over all living things by God), but one day upon discovering that the mountain-cock or hoopoe (the Hebrew name for the creature is Shade) was absent, he summoned it to him, and the bird told him that it had been searching for somewhere new.
The bird had discovered a land in the east, exceedingly rich in gold, silver, and plants, whose capital was called Kitor and whose ruler was the Queen of Sheba, and the bird, on its own advice, was sent by Solomon to request the queen's immediate attendance at Solomon's court.
In an Ethiopian account (Kebra Nagast) it is maintained that the Queen of Sheba had sexual relations with King Solomon (of which the Biblical account gives no hint) and gave birth by the Mai Bella stream in the province of Hamasien, Eritrea. The Ethiopian tradition has a detailed account of the affair. (See Queen_of_Sheba#Ethiopian_account)
The child was a son who went on to become Menelik I, King of Axum, and founded a dynasty that would reign in the eventual stalwart Christian Empire of Ethiopia the 2900+ years (less one usurpation episode and interval of ca. 133 years until a "legitimate" male heir regained the crown) until Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974. Menelik was said to be a practicing Jew, had been gifted with a replica Ark of the Covenant by King Solomon, but moreover, the original was switched and went to Axum with him and his mother, and is still there, guarded by a single priest charged with caring for the artifact as his life's task. The Claim of such a lineage and of possession of the Ark has been an important source of legitimacy and prestige for the Ethiopian monarchy throughout the many centuries of its existence, and had important and lasting effects on Ethiopian culture as a whole. The Ethiopian government and church deny all requests to view the alleged ark
Some classical-era Rabbis, attacking Solomon's moral character, have claimed instead that the child was an ancestor of Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Solomon's temple some 300 years later.
The Hebrew word "To Solomon" (also by Solomon) appears in the title of two hymns in the book of Psalms (Tehillim), suggesting to some that Solomon wrote them.
In modern Israel, the debate about the historical accuracy of the Biblical account of Solomon has political as well as scientific dimensions. In general, those who uphold the Biblical account are identified as nationalists who support an exclusive Israeli-Jewish territorial claim to the whole Land of Israel. Those who doubt this account and assert that the actual Solomon, if he existed, had a far smaller and poorer kingdom than the one depicted in the Bible are identified as those who might be inclined to territorial concessions in present-day politics.
Christianity has traditionally accepted the historical existence of Solomon, though some modern Christian scholars have also questioned at least his authorship of those biblical texts ascribed to him, if not his actual existence. Such disputes tend to divide Christians into traditionalist and modernist camps.
Of the two Genealogies of Jesus given in the Gospels, Matthew mentions Solomon, but Luke does not. Jesus mentions Solomon twice: once when teaching his followers about trust in God and again when speaking of the Queen of Sheba's visit to the court of David (). Saint Stephen, in his testimony before the Sanhedrin, mentions Solomon's construction of the Temple ().
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Solomon is commemorated as a saint, with the title of "Righteous Prophet and King". His feast day is celebrated on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (two Sundays before the Great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord).
Solomon also appears in the Qur'an, where he is called سليمان in Arabic, which is transliterated in English variously as Sulayman, Suleiman, Sulaimaan etc. The Qur'an refers to Sulayman as the son of David (Arabic: Dawud), as a prophet and as a great ruler imparted by God with tremendous wisdom, favor, and special powers just like his father, David. The Quran states that Sulayman had under his rule not only people, but also hosts of Jinn. It also states that Sulayman was able to understand the language of the birds and ants, and to see some of the hidden glory in the world that was not accessible to common human beings. Ruling a large kingdom that extended south into Yemen, he was known throughout the lands for his wisdom and fair judgments.
Solomon is said to have been given control over various elements, such as the wind and transportation. Thus the Quran says,
And to Solomon (We subjected) the wind, its morning (stride from sunrise till midnoon) was a month's (journey), and its afternoon (stride from the midday decline of the sun to sunset) was a month's (journey i.e. in one day he could travel two months' journey). And We caused a fount of (molten) brass to flow for him, and there were jinn that worked in front of him, by the Leave of his Lord, And whosoever of them turned aside from Our Command, We shall cause him to taste of the torment of the blazing Fire. 12
And before Sulayman were marshaled his hosts,- of Jinns and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. 17
And Solomon was accordingly grateful of God, he says
"O ye people! We have been taught the speech of birds, and on us has been bestowed from everything: this is indeed the Grace manifest (from God)." 16
Then, when We decreed (Sulayman's) death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth, which kept (slowly) gnawing away at his staff: so when he fell down, the Jinns saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating Penalty (of their Task). 14
When Sulayman was to die, he was standing watching the work of his (Jinn) slaves while reclining on his cane. There he silently passed away, but did not fall. He remained in this position, for days and the Jinns thought that he was still alive watching them work, and so they kept working extra days. But the termites were eating at the cane all these days so that the body of Sulayman fell after forty days. It was thereafter that the Jinn (along with all humans) fell in their hands that they did not know more than God had allotted them to know.
This story is not derived from the Qu'ran.
A magic ring called the "Seal of Solomon" was supposedly given to Solomon, and gave him power over demons. The magical symbol said to have been on the Seal of Solomon which made it work is now better known as the Star of David. Asmodeus, king of demons, was one day, according to the classical Rabbis, captured by Benaiah using the ring, and was forced to remain in Solomon's service. In one tale, Asmodeus brought a man with two heads from under the earth to show Solomon; the man, unable to return, married a woman from Jerusalem and had seven sons, six of whom resembled the mother, while one resembled the father in having two heads. After their father's death, the son with two heads claimed two shares of the inheritance, arguing that he was two men; Solomon, owing to his huge wisdom, decided that the son with two heads was only one man.
The Seal of Solomon, in some legends known as the Ring of Aandaleeb, was a highly sought after symbol of power. In several legends, different groups or individuals attempted to steal it or attain it in some manner.
One legend concerning Asmodeus goes on to state that Solomon one day asked Asmodeus what could make demons powerful over man, and Asmodeus asked to be freed and given the ring so that he could demonstrate; Solomon agreed but Asmodeus threw the ring into the sea and it was swallowed by a fish. Asmodeus then swallowed the king, stood up fully with one wing touching heaven and the other earth, and spat out Solomon to a distance of 400 miles. The Rabbis claim this was a divine punishment for Solomon having failed to follow three divine commands, and Solomon was forced to wander from city to city, until he eventually arrived in an Ammonite city where he was forced to work in the king's kitchens. Solomon gained a chance to prepare a meal for the Ammonite king, which the king found so impressive that the previous cook was sacked and Solomon put in his place; the king's daughter, Naamah, subsequently fell in love with Solomon, but the family (thinking Solomon a commoner) disapproved, so the king decided to kill them both by sending them into the desert. Solomon and the king’s daughter wandered the desert until they reached a coastal city, where they bought a fish to eat, which just happened to be the one which had swallowed the magic ring. Solomon was then able to regain his throne and expel Asmodeus. (The element of a ring thrown into the sea and found back in a fish's belly earlier appeared in Herodotus' account of Polycrates of Samos).
In another familiar version of the legend of the Seal of Solomon, Asmeodeus disguises himself. In some myths, he's disguised as King Solomon himself, while in more frequently heard versions he's disguised as a falcon, calling himself Gavyn (Gavinn or Gavin), one of King Solomon’s trusted friends. The concealed Asmeodeus tells travelers who have ventured up to King Solomon's grand lofty palace that the Seal of Solomon was thrown into the sea. He then convinces them to plunge in and attempt to retrieve it, for if they do they would take the throne as king.
Other magical items attributed to Solomon are his key and his Table. The latter was said to be held in Toledo, Spain during the Visigothic rule and was part of the loot taken by Tarik ibn Ziyad during the Umayyad Conquest of Iberia, according to Ibn Abd-el-Hakem's History of the Conquest of Spain. The former appears in the title of the Lesser Key of Solomon, a grimoire whose framing tale is Solomon capturing demons using his ring, and forcing them to explain themselves to him.
Demons also help out Solomon in building the Temple; though not by choice. The edifice was, according to rabbinical legend, throughout miraculously constructed, the large, heavy stones rising to and settling in their respective places of themselves. The general opinion of the Rabbis is that Solomon hewed the stones by means of a shamir, a mythical worm whose mere touch cleft rocks. According to Midrash Tehillim, the shamir was brought from paradise by Solomon's eagle; but most of the rabbis state that Solomon was informed of the worm's haunts by Asmodeus. The shamir had been entrusted by the prince of the sea to the mountain cock alone, and the cock had sworn to guard it well, but Solomon's men found the bird's nest, and covered it with glass. When the bird returned, it used the shamir to break the glass, whereupon the men scared the bird, causing it to drop the worm, which the men could then bring to Solomon.
Early adherents of the Kabbalah portray Solomon as having sailed through the air on a throne of light placed on an eagle, which brought him near the heavenly gates as well as to the dark mountains behind which the fallen angels Uzza and Azzael were chained; the eagle would rest on the chains, and Solomon, using the magic ring, would compel the two angels to reveal every mystery he desired to know. Solomon is also portrayed as forcing demons to take Solomon's friends, including Hiram, on day return trips to hell.
Other forms of Solomon legend describe Solomon as having had a flying carpet that was 60 miles square, and could travel so fast that it could get from Damascus to Medina within a day. One day, due to Solomon exhibiting pride, the wind shook the carpet and caused 40,000 men to fall from it; Solomon on being told by the wind why this had happened, felt ashamed. Another day Solomon was flying over an ant-infested valley and overheard an ant warning its fellow ants to hide lest Solomon destroy them; Solomon desired to ask the ant a question, but was told it was not becoming for the interrogator to be above and the interrogated below. Solomon then lifted the ant above the valley, but the ant said it was not fitting that Solomon should sit on a throne while the ant remained on the ground, so Solomon placed the ant upon his hand, and asked it whether there was any one in the world greater than he. The ant replied that she was much greater as otherwise God would not have sent him there to place it upon his hand; this offended Solomon and he threw the ant down reminding it who he was, but the ant told him that it knew Solomon was created from a corrupted drop, causing Solomon to feel ashamed.
According to one legend, while magically traveling Solomon noticed a magnificent palace to which there appeared to be no entrance. He ordered the demons to climb to the roof and see if they could discover any living being within the building but the demons only found an eagle, which said that it was 700 years old, but that it had never seen an entrance. An elder brother of the eagle, 900 years old, was then found, but it also did not know the entrance. The eldest brother of these two birds, which was 1,300 years old, then declared it had been informed by its father that the door was on the west side, but that it had become hidden by sand drifted by the wind. Having discovered the entrance, Solomon found an idol inside that had in its mouth a silver tablet saying in Greek (a language not thought by modern scholars to have existed 1000 years before the time of Solomon) that the statue was of Shaddad, the son of 'Ad, and that it had reigned over a million cities, rode on a million horses, had under it a million vassals, and slew a million warriors, yet it could not resist the angel of death.
By a mechanical contrivance the throne followed Solomon wherever he wished to go. Supposedly, due to another mechanical trick, when the king reached the first step, the ox stretched forth its leg, on which Solomon leaned, a similar action taking place in the case of the animals on each of the six steps. From the sixth step the eagles raised the king and placed him in his seat, near which a golden serpent lay coiled. When the king was seated the large eagle placed the crown on his head, the serpent uncoiled itself, and the lions and eagles moved upward to form a shade over him. The dove then descended, took the scroll of the Law from the Ark, and placed it on Solomon's knees. When the king sat, surrounded by the Sanhedrin, to judge the people, the wheels began to turn, and the beasts and fowls began to utter their respective cries, which frightened those who had intended to bear false testimony. Moreover, while Solomon was ascending the throne, the lions scattered all kinds of fragrant spices. After Solomon's death King Shishak, when taking away the treasures of the Temple (comp. I Kings xiv. 26), carried off the throne, which remained in Egypt till Sennacherib conquered that country. After Sennacherib's fall Hezekiah gained possession of it, but when Josiah was slain by Pharaoh Necho the latter took it away. However, according to rabbinical accounts, Necho did not know how the mechanism worked and so accidentally struck himself with one of the lions causing him to become lame; Nebuchadnezzar, into whose possession the throne subsequently came, shared a similar fate. The throne then passed to the Persians, who their king Darius was the first to sit successfully on Solomon's throne since his death, and after that the throne passed into the possession of the Greeks and Ahasuerus.
The Gnostic Apocalypse of Adam, which may date to the 1st or 2nd century, refers to a legend in which Solomon sends out an army of demons to seek a virgin who had fled from him, perhaps the earliest surviving mention of the later common tale that Solomon controlled demons and made them his slaves. This tradition of Solomon's control over demons appears fully elaborated in the early Gnostic work called the "Testament of Solomon" with its elaborate and grotesque demonology.