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King Solomon

King Solomon, also known as Solomon Jehoahaz Abraham, Jedidiah, Sulayman or Romani Archaman, who was called the King of Magic, is a fabulously wealthy and wise king of the United Kingdom of Israel who succeeded his father, King David. 

Description

He is described as king of the United Monarchy, which would break apart into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah shortly after his death. Following the split, his patrilineal descendants ruled over Judah alone. According to the Talmud, Solomon is one of the 48 prophets.

In the Quran, he is considered a major prophet. The Hebrew Bible credits him as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem, beginning in the fourth year of his reign, using the vast wealth he and his father had accumulated. He dedicated the temple to Yahweh, the God of Israel. He is portrayed as great in wisdom, wealth and power beyond either of the previous kings of the country, but also as a king who sinned. His sins included idolatry, marrying foreign women and, ultimately, turning away from God, and they led to the kingdom's being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam.

In the New Testament, he is portrayed as a teacher of wisdom excelled by Jesus Christ and as arrayed in glory, but excelled by "the lilies of the field". In later years, in mostly non-biblical circles, Solomon also came to be known as a magician, an Astronomer and an exorcist, with numerous amulets and medallion seals dating from the Hellenistic period invoking his name.

History

Ruler of Israel

A son of David and Bathsheba who was alive from around 1011 BC to 931 BC, he ruled as the third King of ancient Israel, and was said to be a great king who made the country enormously prosper. He was known for making many excellent political measures in his position as king, but also left behind many anecdotes as a magus. He married the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh, but was said to be later visited by God while he was dreaming on his bed. God said to Solomon, "You are qualified. Speak your wishes. I shall grant them", but Solomon only sought wisdom more so than gold or political power. The answer satisfied God, the answer being proof that Solomon possessed the qualifications to obtain "true wisdom." Solomon awoke with ten rings upon both hands, the proof of a wise man recognized by God. Those rings came to be recognized as the Rings of Solomon, the "source of the magic that employs angels and demons."

Solomon came to be known for employing seventy-two demon pillars and the Seven Princes of Hell along with several more demons as his familiars, later leaving behind a manuscript that came to be called the Ars Goetia that tells of the art of controlling and contracting demons.

He was the first individual to build the Temple of Israel. During his tenure, Solomon only accomplished a single miracle, but that was also said to exemplify his prudence. It was said that the people knowing that "the king is receiving God's protection" only a single time was best because more miracles could have served to frighten or corrupt the people. His single revelation established a "phenomena operation technique", Magic that could be preformed by the hands of the common man that previously belonged only to those with connections to the god. Even without needing to utilize magic, he was recognized by his reputation as the King of Magic throughout neighboring countries and was said to have left the world as a wise king.

Some myths also tell that Solomon wedded the Queen of Sheba, who traveled to Jerusalem and tested Solomon's wisdom with three riddles.

Childhood

Solomon was born in Jerusalem, the second born child of King David and his wife Bathsheba, widow of Uriah the Hittite. The first child (unnamed in that account), a son conceived adulterously during Uriah's lifetime, had died as a punishment on account of the death of Uriah by David's order. Solomon had three named full brothers born to Bathsheba: Nathan, Shammua, and Shobab besides six known older half-brothers born of as many mothers.

The biblical narrative shows that Solomon served as a peace offering between God and David, due to his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. In an effort to hide this sin, for example, he sent the woman's husband to battle, hoping that he would be killed there. After he died, David was finally able to marry his wife. As punishment, the first child, who was conceived during the adulterous relationship, died. Solomon was born after David was forgiven. It is this reason why his name, which means peace, was chosen. Some historians cited that Nathan the Prophet brought up Solomon as his father was busy governing the realm. This could also be attributed to the notion that the prophet held great influence over David because he knew of his adultery, which was considered a grievous offense under the Mosaic Law. It was only during Solomon's half-brother Absalom's rebellion that Solomon started spending more time at David's side.

Succession and Administration

According to the First Book of Kings, when David was old, "he could not get warm. So they sought a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunamite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not."While David was in this state, court factions were maneuvering for power. David's heir apparent, Adonijah, acted to have himself declared king, but was outmaneuvered by Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan, who convinced David to proclaim Solomon king according to his earlier promise (not recorded elsewhere in the biblical narrative), despite Solomon's being younger than his brothers.

Solomon, as instructed by David, began his reign with an extensive purge, including his father's chief general, Joab, among others, and further consolidated his position by appointing friends throughout the administration, including in religious positions as well as in civic and military posts. It is said that Solomon ascended to the throne when he was only about fifteen. Solomon greatly expanded his military strength, especially the cavalry and chariot arms. He founded numerous colonies, some of which doubled as trading posts and military outposts.

Trade relationships were a focus of his administration. In particular he continued his father's very profitable relationship with the Phoenician king Hiram I of Tyrel they sent out joint expeditions to the lands of Tarshish and Ophir to engage in the trade of luxury products, importing gold, silver, sandalwood, pearls, ivory, apes and peacocks.

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Israelite monarchy gained its highest splendour and wealth during Solomon's reign of 40 years. In a single year, Solomon collected tribute amounting to 666 talents (18,125 kilograms) of gold. Solomon is described as surrounding himself with all the luxuries and the 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.

Wisdom

Solomon was the biblical king most famous for his wisdom. He sacrificed to God, and God later appeared to him in a dream asking what Solomon wanted from God. Solomon asked for wisdom. Pleased, God personally answered Solomon's prayer, promising him great wisdom because he did not ask for self-serving rewards like long life or the death of his enemies.

Perhaps the best known story of his wisdom is the Judgment of Solomon; two women each lay claim to being the mother of the same child. Solomon easily resolved the dispute by commanding the child to be cut in half and shared between the two. One woman promptly renounced her claim, proving that she would rather give the child up than see it killed. Solomon declared the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, entitled to the whole child.

Solomon was traditionally considered the author of several biblical books, "including not only the collections of Proverbs, but also of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon and the later apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon.

Construction projects

For some years before his death, David was engaged in collecting materials for building a temple in Jerusalem as a permanent home for Yahweh and the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon is described as undertaking the construction of the temple, with the help of an architect, also named Hiram, and other materials, sent from King Hiram of Tyre.

Solomon and the plan for the First Temple.

After the completion of the temple, Solomon is described in the biblical narrative as erecting many other buildings of importance in Jerusalem. For 13 years, he was engaged in the building of a royal palace on Ophel. There was also his own residence and a residence for his wife, Pharaoh's daughter. This complex included buildings referred to as:

The House of the Forest of the Lebanon
The Hall or Porch of Pillars
The Hall of the Throne or the Hall of Justice

Solomon's throne is said to have been a spectacle, seeing that it was one of the earliest mechanical devices built by man. Solomon also constructed great works for the purpose of securing a plentiful supply of water for the city, and the Millo 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.

Solomon is also described as rebuilding cities elsewhere in Israel, creating the port of Ezion-Geber, and constructing Palmyra in the wilderness as a commercial depot and military outpost. Although the location of the 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; however it is no longer the scholarly consensus that these structures date to the time when Solomon ruled.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the Holy Temple in ancient Jerusalem before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BC and its subsequent replacement with the Second Temple in 516 BC. 

Wives and Concubines

Solomon was obsessed with women and fell in love with many. According to the biblical account, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. The wives were described as foreign princesses, including Pharaoh's daughter and women of Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon and of the Hittites. His marriage to Pharaoh's daughter appears to have cemented a political alliance with Egypt whereas he clung to his other wives and concubines "in love".

The only wife mentioned by name is Naamah the Ammonite, mother of Solomon's successor, Rehoboam. The biblical narrative notes with disapproval that Solomon permitted his foreign wives to import their national deities, building temples to Ashtoreth and Milcom.

In a brief, unelaborated, and enigmatic passage, the Hebrew Bible describes how the fame of Solomon's wisdom and wealth spread far and wide, so much so that the queen of Sheba decided that she should meet him. The queen is described as visiting with a number of gifts including gold, spices and precious stones. When Solomon gave her "all her desire, whatsoever she asked", she left satisfied. 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 is unknown; nevertheless the visit of the Queen of Sheba has become the subject of numerous stories.

Sins and Punishments

"Vanity of vanities; all is vanity"

Solomon's "wives turned his heart after other gods", their own national deities, to whom Solomon built temples, thus incurring divine anger and retribution in the form of the division of the kingdom after Solomon's death. Solomon's descent into idolatry, particularly his turning after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. A king is commanded not to multiply horses or wives, neither greatly multiply to himself gold or silver. Solomon sins in all three of these areas. Solomon collects 666 talents of gold each year, a huge amount of money for a small nation like Israel. Solomon gathers a large number of horses and chariots and even brings in horses from Egypt. Just as Deuteronomy 17 warns, collecting horses and chariots takes Israel back to Egypt. Finally, Solomon marries foreign women, and these women turn Solomon to other gods.

Near the end of his life, Solomon was forced to contend with several enemies, including Hadad of Edom, Rezon of Zobah, and one of his officials named Jeroboam who was from the tribe of Ephraim.

Biblical Myths and Legends

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. 

King Solomon sinned by acquiring many foreign wives and horses because he thought he knew the reason for the biblical prohibition and thought it did not apply to him. When King Solomon married the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh, a sandbank formed which eventually formed the "great nation of Rome"—the nation that destroyed the Second Temple (Herod's Temple). Solomon gradually lost more and more prestige until he became like a commoner. Some say he regained his status while others say he did not. In the end however, he is regarded as a righteous king and is especially praised for his diligence in building the Temple.

In Islamic tradition, Solomon is venerated as a prophet and a messenger of God, as well as a divinely appointed monarch, who ruled over the Kingdom of Israel. Solomon inherited his position from his father as the prophetic King of the Israelites. Unlike in the Bible where Solomon was granted an incomparable realm because God was impressed by his wish to have wisdom, the Quran states that Solomon prayed earnestly to God to grant him a kingdom which would be greater than any realm before or after him. As in Judaism, Islam recognizes Solomon as the son of King David, who is also considered a prophet and a king but refuses to accuse Solomon of idolatry, claiming instead that an enslaved demon escaped his captivity and took over his kingdom and posed as Solomon, while others thought indeed that he became a ruthless king.

According to Jewish tradition, King Solomon wrote three books of the Bible;

  • Mishlei (Book of Proverbs), a collection of fables and wisdom of life
  • Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), a book of contemplation and his self-reflection.
  • Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs), an unusual collection of poetry interspersed with verse, whose interpretation is either literal (i.e., a romantic and sexual relationship between a man and a woman) or metaphorical (a relationship between God and his people).
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