Solomon, His Wisdom, Women and the Queen of Sheba

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SOLOMON

20120503-King_Solomon_in_Old_Age.jpg 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: Virtual Jewish Library jewishvirtuallibrary.org/index ; Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Bible and Biblical History: ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Bible History Online bible-history.com Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Christianity: BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ;

Solomon’s Achievements

20120503-Solomon_Dedicates_the_Temple_at_Jerusalem Tissot_.jpg
Solomon Dedicates the
Temple at Jerusalem by Tissot
Solomon built the First Temple at Jerusalem. According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon uniting the fractious Israelite tribes into a regional power and forged a kingdom that stretched from Syria in the north to the Red Sea in the south, 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. Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: King Solomon is most popularly known for his wisdom. A story involving his decision in a matter of the contested of an infant has been enshrined in our cultural consciousness as a part-genius and part-fable. But when it came to matters of the heart it appears that Solomon was considerably less savvy.According to 1 Kings 11:1 Solomon “loved many foreign women.” This is despite the fact, the Bible tells us, that God had told the Israelites, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods” (1 Kings 11:1-2). [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, May 12, 2018]

But the heart wants what it wants and Solomon “clung to these in love” all 700 princess-wives and 300 concubines of them. Just as God had predicted, however, these women did sway Solomon’s commitments. And, when he was older, Solomon “turned away his heart… and was not true to the Lord his God.” In addition to following the female goddess Astarte he built religious sites for several deities including one in Jerusalem for the child-sacrifice deity Molech. While we couldn’t exactly describe this as conversion, it is very much an example religious apostasy. And so the great Solomon, the architect of the first temple in Jerusalem, was led astray by matters of the “heart.” It was this incident of disobedience that the author of 1 Kings believes led to the division of the country into Israel and Judah.

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Solomon and Sheba
"The Songs of Solomon" ("The Song of Songs") is regarded as the most sensual — if not sexual — part of the Bible. 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 ]

Queen of Sheba

Patricia S. Daniels wrote in in National Geographic: One of the most intriguing figures in the Old Testament, the Queen of Sheba figures in an array of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tales. In the Old Testament text, the queen hears of King Solomon’s fame and travels to see him “with a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices and very much gold and precious stones.” She tests Solomon’s wisdom with questions and rewards him with her treasures. Later stories are more colorful. In some, Solomon has heard that the queen has one hairy, goatlike leg, and so he has his floors polished to a reflective shine. As she walks across the floor, the queen’s hirsute leg is revealed. [Source: Patricia S. Daniels, National Geographic History, October 11, 2022]

In 1 Kings 10 of the Old Testament the Queen of Sheba travels to Jerusalem with a large retinue and brings spices, gold, and other valuables with her. She tests Solomon’s wisdom and they then exchange gifts — apparently after Solomon meets “every desire she had expressed”. 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.

The Queen of Sheba 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. Historians can’t confirm this queen’s existence. Many link the name “Sheba” to the kingdom of Saba in what is now Yemen (See Below). The spices the queen brought to Solomon, perhaps frankincense and myrrh,could have been grown there. Caravans traveled on trade routes in the first millennium B.C. between Yemen and Palestine.

The Sabaeans or Sabeans were an ancient group of South Arabians.They spoke Sabaic, one of the Old South Arabian languages and founded the kingdom of Saba in modern-day Yemen, which is considered to be the biblical land of Shebaand "the oldest and most important of the South Arabian kingdoms". The exact date of the foundation of Sabaʾ is a point of disagreement among scholars. Kenneth Kitchen dates the kingdom to between 1200 B.C. and A.D. 275 CE, with its capital at Maʾrib, in what is now Yemen.

Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast: The identification of Saba as ancient Sheba is controversial, and not just because there’s a competing claim that Sheba was in Ethiopia. As archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have written, the Sabaean kingdom began to flourish only in the eighth century B.C. — some two hundred years after the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon were said to have known one another. If Saba is the biblical Sheba then it’s unlikely that there ever was a historical Queen of Sheba. Regardless, the story offers evidence of trade relations between Judah and the Arabian peninsula, where the Sabaean Kingdom was located. There are other references to the Sabaeans in prophetic literature that offer further evidence of the relationship. For example, Isaiah tells us that people from the region were tall (Isaiah 45:14) [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, March 23, 2019]

Solomon and Sheba

According to the Biblical scripture 1 Kings 10:1-13, the Queen of Sheba 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 Sheba 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 Sheba’s intelligence, business sense and piety. The Queen of Sheba 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.”

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Solomon and Sheba

In the Qur’an King Solomon sent ambassadors to Yemen to establish diplomatic relations with Sheba. A hoopoe bird was given as an invitation to the Queen of Sheba. According the Qur’an tribute sought by the Queen included "spices and very much gold, and precious things.”

Sheba'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 Sheba”, Yul Brynner played King Solomon and Gina Lollobrigida was cast as the Queen of Sheba. 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.

Song of Solomon— Sexiest Part of The Bible

The “Song of Solomon”, also known as the “Song of Songs”, or “Canticle of Canticles”, stands out in the Bible because of its extensive and candid sexual imagery and content. It is a work of sensual lyric poetry that portrays scenes of actual and imagined sexual relations between the poem’s female protagonist and her lover. Graphic descriptions of both male and female bodies pervade the work and sensual metaphors such as “grazing among the lilies” and “drinking … from the juice of my pomegranates” suggest sexual practices beyong the missionary position. [Source: Jonathan Kaplan, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism, The University of Texas at Austin, The Conversation, February 10, 2023]

Jay Treat of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: The Song of Songs "appears to be a collection of poetry on the theme of human love. It is often frankly erotic. The poems typically presuppose two primary figures: a male lover and a female lover. Like much poetry, its polysemy makes it both evocative and enigmatic. At some early point before our first explicit citation of it, it was seen as an allegory for God's love. It was "the most frequently interpreted book of medieval Christianity" (Ann Matter) and it inspired a great many medieval Jewish commentaries as well. The Song of Songs has played a fascinating role in Western culture. It has been a test case and a workshop for allegorical method. It has been a mainstay of asceticism and an impetus for mysticism.” [Source: ccat.sas.upenn.edu]

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.

King Solomon’s Mines

“King Solomon’s Mines” are not a product of The Bible but rather of the 1885 novel “King Solomon’s Mines” by British writer H. Rider Haggard. The book was a sensation — a bestseller in its day and still read and still mined for myths and film material today. Matti Friedman wrote in Smithsonian magazine: The book is set not in the Holy Land but in the fictional African kingdom of Kukuanaland. The protagonist is the adventurer Allan Quatermain, whose search for the mines leads him to the African interior and into a cathedral-size cavern, where he finds a trove of diamonds as large as eggs and gold ingots stamped with Hebrew letters. After much peril, including a near-drowning in a subterranean river, Quatermain lives to tell the tale. [Source: Matti Friedman, Smithsonian magazine, December 2021]

In the Bible, King Solomon is said to have been rich in precious metals, and to have used vast quantities of copper for features of his Jerusalem temple, such as the “molten sea,” a giant basin that rested on the backs of 12 metal oxen. But the phrase “King Solomon’s mines” actually appears nowhere in the Bible. It was coined by the novelist.

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Solomon and the Queen of Sheba by Apollonio di Giovanni

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 many foreign 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.

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.”

Did Solomon and His Kingdom Really Exist?

The "Solomonic" buildings excavated by biblical archaeologists over the past several decades at Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo were not constructed in David and Solomon's time, Tel Aviv University's Israel Finkelstein told National Geographic, and so must have been built by kings of the ninth-century B.C.'s Omride dynasty, well after David and Solomon's reign. [Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]


Finkelstein is well-known for debunking claims made in The Bible or at least putting them in different time periods. He told National Geographic: "I think I destroyed Solomon, so to speak. Sorry for that! But take Solomon, dissect it. Take the great visit of the Queen of Sheba — an Arabian queen coming to visit, bringing all sorts of exotic commodities to Jerusalem. This is a story which is an impossibility to think about before 732 B.C., before the beginning of Arabian trade under Assyrian domination. Take the story of Solomon as the great, you know, trainer in horses and chariots and big armies and so on. The world behind Solomon is the world of the Assyrian century." [Source: Robert DraperNational Geographic magazine, December 2010]

There have been a lot of claims regarding Solomon didn’t panned out. In 1940, American rabbi and archaeologist Nelson Glueck proclaimed that he had discovered the Edomite mines controlled by King Solomon. Subsequent British excavators believed they had found evidence that Glueck was off by some three centuries and that Edom actually dated to the seventh century B.C. More recent probing of a copper production site known as Khirbat en Nahas (Arabic for "ruins of copper") has been more favorable to Solomon. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that site was producing copper in the 10th century when Solomon ruled. It was also "the closest copper source to Jerusalem", the archaeologist Yadid Levy said.

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, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; Wikipedia, Live Science, Archaeology magazine, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024


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