1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Solomon

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SOLOMON[1] (10th century b.c.), the son of David by Bathsheba, and his successor in the kingdom of Israel. The many floating and fragmentary notes of various dates that have found a place in the account of his reign in the book of Kings (q.v.) show how much Hebrew tradition was occupied with the monarch under whom the throne of Israel reached its highest glory; and that time only magnified in popular imagination the proportions of so striking a figure appears from the opinions entertained of him in subsequent writings. The magnificence and wisdom of Solomon (cf. Matt. vi. 29; Luke xi. 31) and the splendour of his reign present a vivid contrast to the troublous ages which precede and follow him, although the Biblical records prove, on closer inspection, to contain so many incongruous elements that it is very difficult to form a just estimate of his life and character. A full account is given of the circumstances of the king's accession (contrast the summary notices, I Kings xxii. 41 seq., 2 Kings xv. 1, xxi. 24, xxiv. 18, &c.). He was not the true heir to the throne, but was the son of David by Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, whom David sent to his death “in the forefront of the battle.” The child of the illegitimate union died; the second was called Iedidiah (“ beloved of Yah [weh]”) or Shélomoh (the idea of requital or recompense may be implied); according to 1 Chron. iii. 5, on the other hand, Solomon was the fourth, or rather the fifth, child of Bathsheba and David. The episode forms the prelude to family rivalries., David's first-born, Amnon, perished at the hands of the third son, Absalom, who lost his life in his revolt (2 Sam. xiii.-xx.). The second, Chileab, is not mentioned in the history, and the fate of the fourth, who regarded himself as the future king, is described in 1 Kings i., ii. Bathsheba, relying upon David's promise that Solomon should succeed him, vigorously advanced her son's claims with the support of Zadok the priest, the military officer Benaiah, and David's bodyguard; Adonijah, for his part, had David's old priest Abiathar, the commander Ioab, and the men of Judah. A more serious breach could scarcely be imagined. The adherents of Solomon gained the day, and with his accession a new régime was inaugurated, not, however, without bloodshed.

Solomon's age at his accession is not recorded. The tradition that he was only twelve (1 Kings ii. 12 Septuagint; or fourteen, Jos. Ant. viii. 7, 8) may rest upon iii. 7 (“I am but a little child"; if this is not hyperbole), or upon the chronological scheme embodied in 2 Sam. xiii. 23, 38, xiv. 28, xv. 7. It agrees with his subordinate position in portions of ch. i., but his independent actions in ch. ii. suggest a more mature age, and according to xi. 42, xiv. 21, his son Rehoboam was already born (but contrast again xii. 24 Septuagint, 2 Chron. xiii. 7). See further, Ency. Bib. col. 4681, n. 5.

The acute observation that 2 Sam. ix.-xx.; 2 Kings i. ii. 1-9, 13 sqq., were evidently incorporated after the Deuteronomic re- daction of the books of Samuel (K. Budde, Samuel, p. xi.) is con- firmed by the framework of Kings with its annahstic material similar to that preserved in 2 Sam. v.-viii., xxi.-xxiv.; 1 Kings ii. 10-12. With this may belong iii. 3 (the compiler's judgment); and especially v. 3 sqq., where reference is made to David's incessant wars (2 Sam. viii.). That 2 Sam. ix.-xx., &c, had previously been omitted by the Deuteronomic redactor himself (Budde) cannot be proved. These post-Deuteronomic narratives preserve older material, but with several traces of revision, so that I Kings i. ii. now narrate both the end of David's reign and the rise of Solomon (see I. Benzinger's commentary on Kings, p. xi.; C. Holzhey, Buch d. Könige, p. 17). The latter, however, is their present aim, and some attempt appears to have been made in them to exculpate one whose accession finds a Judaean parallel in Jehoram (2 Chron. xxi. 1-4). Thus it has been held that David's charges (ii. 1-9) were written to absolve Solomon, and there is little probability in the story that Adoniiah after his pardon really requested the hand of Abishag (ii. 13-25), since in Oriental ideas this would be at once viewed as a distinct encroachment upon Solomon's rights as heir (cf. W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage, 2nd ed., p. 110).

Every emphasis is laid on the wisdom of Solomon and his wealth. Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered to grant whatever he might ask. Confessing his inexperience, the king prayed for a discerning heart, and was rewarded with the gift of wisdom together with riches and military glory. There follows an example of his sagacity: the famous story of the steps he took to determine which of two claimants was the mother of a child (iii. 16-28).[2] His wisdom excelled that of Egypt and of the children of the East; by the latter may be meant Babylonia, or more probably the Arabs, renowned through all ages for their shrewdness. Additional point is made by emphasizing his superiority over four renowned sages, sons of Mahol; but the allusion to these worthies (who are incorporated in a Judaean genealogy, 1 Chron. ii. 6) is no longer intelligible. He is also credited with an interest in botany and natural history (iv. 33), and later Jewish legend improved this by ascribing to him lordship over all beasts and birds and the power of understanding their speech. To this it added the sovereignty over demons, from a wrong interpretation of Eccles. ii. 8 (see Lane, Arabian Nights, introd., n. 2i, and ch. 1, n. 25). As his fame spread abroad, people came to hear his wisdom, and costly presents were showered upon him. The sequel was the visit of the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings iv. 29-34; x.). The interesting narrative appears in another light when we consider Solomon's commercial activity and the trading intercourse between Palestine and south Arabia.[3] His wealth was in proportion to his wisdom. Trading journeys were conducted with Phoenician help to Ophir and Tarshish. With the horse-breeding districts of the north he traded in horses and chariots (x. 28 seq.; see Mizraim), and gold accumulated in such enormous quantities that the income for one year may be reckoned at about £4,100,000 in weight (x. 11 seq., 14 sqq.). Silver was regarded as stones; the precious cedars of Lebanon as sycamores. His realm extended from Tiphsah (Thapsacus) on the Euphrates to the borders of Egypt (iv. 21, 24), and it agrees with this that he gains important conquests in the north (2 Chron. viii. 3 seq.; but see 1 Kings ix. 18). He maintained a very large harem (xi.), and among his wives was the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh. For his distinguished consort, who brought Gezer as a dowry, a special palace was built (iii. 1, ix. 16, 24), and this was only one of many building enterprises. The description of the magnificent temple of Jerusalem, which occupies considerable space in Solomon's history (v.-viii.), appears in more elaborate form in the chronicler's later work. The detailed record stands in contrast to the brief account of his other buildings, e.g. the palace, which, from an Oriental point of view, was of the first importance (vii. 1-12). But the Temple and palace were adjoining buildings, separated only by a wall (cf. Ezek. xlii. 20, xliii. 7 seq.), and it cannot be said that the former had originally the prominence now ascribed to it. Nor can the accounts given by Deuteronomic writers of its significance for the religious worship of Israel be used for an estimate of contemporary religion (v. 1-6, viii.). Whatever David had instituted at Jerusalem, it is at Gibeon that Solomon observed the opening sacrificial ceremonies, and there he received the divine revelation, " for that was the great high-place " (iii. 4 sqq.). Though this is justified by a late writer (iii. 2), subsequent history shows that the high-places, like the altars to heathen deities in Jerusalem itself, long remained undisturbed; it was the Deuteronomic reformation, ascribed to Josiah, which marked the great advance in the religion of Yahweh, and under its influence the history of the monarchy has been compiled. Moreover, with the emphasis which is laid upon the Jerusalem Temple is to be associated the new superiority of Zadok, the traditional ancestor of the Zadokites, the Jerusalem priests, whose supremacy over the other Levitical families only enters into the history of a much later age (see Levites).

In fact, Solomon, the pious saint, is not the SoLomon of the earlier writings. Political, commercial and matrimonial alliances inevitably left their mark upon national religion, and the introduction of foreign cults which ensued is characteristically viewed as an apostasy from Yahweh of which he was guilty in his old age.[4] The Deuteronomic writer finds in it the cause of the subsequent separation of the two kingdoms (xi. 1-13), and he connects it with certain external troubles which prove to have affected the whole course of his reign. The general impression of Solomon's position in history is in fact seriously disturbed when the composite writings are closely viewed. On the one side we see genial internal conditions prevailing in the land (iv. 20, 25), or the exalted position of the Israelites as officials and overseers, while the remnant of the pre-Israelite inhabitants serve in labour gangs (ix. 20 sqq.). On the other hand is the mass of toiling Israelites, whose oppressed condition is a prelude to the later dissensions (1 Kings v. 13 sqq.; cf. 1 Kings xii.; see the divergent tradition in 2 Chron. ii.). The description of Solomon's administration not only ignores the tribal divisions which play an important part in the separation of Israel from Judah (xii. 16; cf. 2 Sam. xix. 43-xx. 2), but represents a kingdom of modest dimensions in which Judah apparently is not included. Some north Judaean cities might be named (iv. 9 seq.), but south Judah and Hebron the seat of David's early power find no place, and it would seem as though the district which had shared in the revolt of Adonijah was freed from the duty of furnishing supplies. But the document has intricate textual peculiarities and may be the Judaean adaptation of a list originally written from the standpoint of the north-Israelite monarchy. Further speculation is caused when it is found that Solomon fortifies such cities as Megiddo, Beth-horon and Tamar, and that the Egyptian Pharaoh had slain the Canaanites of Gezer (ix. 15 sqq.). We learn, also, that Hadad, a young Edomite prince, had escaped the sanguinary campaign in the reign of David (2 Sam. viii. 13 seq.), and had taken refuge in Egypt. He was kindly received by Pharaoh, who gave him the sister of his queen Tahpenes to wife. On David's death he returned and ruled over Edom, thus not merely controlling the port of Elath and the trade-routes, but even (according to the Septuagint) oppressing Israel (xi. 14-22, 25, see Septuagint on v. 22).[5] Moreover, an Aramaean dependant of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, to the north of Palestine (see David's war, 2 Sam. viii. 3 sqq., x. 6 sqq.), deserted his lord, raised a band of followers and eventually captured Damascus, where he established a new dynasty. Like Hadad, " he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon " (xi. 23–25). To these notices must also be added the cession of territory in north Palestine to Hiram, king of Phoenicia (ix. 11). It is parenthetically explained as payment for building materials, which, however, are otherwise accounted for (v. 6, 11); or it was sold for 120 talents of gold (nearly £750,000 sterling), presumably to assist Solomon in continuing his varied enterprises—but the true nature of the transaction has been obscured, although the consequences involved in the loss of the territory are unmistakable. If these situations can with difficulty find a place in our picture of Solomon's might, it is clear that some of them form the natural introduction to the subsequent history, when his death brought internal discontent to a head, when the north under Jeroboam refused allegiance to the south, and when the divided monarchy enters upon its eventful career by the side of the independent states of Edom, Damascus and Phoenicia.

It is now generally recognized in histories of the Old Testament that a proper estimate of Solomon's reign cannot start from narratives which represent the views of Deuteronomic writers, although, in so far as late narratives may rest upon older material more in accordance with the circumstances of their age, attempts are made to present reconstructions from a combination of various elements. Among the recent critical attempts to recover the underlying traditions may be mentioned those of T. K. Cheyne (Ency. Bib., art. " Solomon ") and H. Winckler (Keilinschr. u. d. Alte Test., 3rd. ed., pp. 233 sqq.). But, in general, where the traditions are manifestly in a later form they are in agreement with later backgrounds, and it is questionable whether earlier forms can be safely recovered when it is held; that they have been rewritten or when the historical kernel has been buried in legend or myth. It is impossible not to be struck with the growing development of the Israelite tribes after the invasion of Palestine, their strong position under David, the sudden expansion of the Hebrew monarchy under Solomon, and the subsequent slow decay, and this, indeed, is the picture as it presented itself to the last writers who found in the glories of the past both consolation for the present and grounds for future hopes. But this is not the original picture, and, since very contradictory representations of Solomon's reign can be clearly discerned, it is necessary in the first instance to view them in the light of an independent examination of the history of the preceding and following periods where, again, serious fluctuation of standpoint is found. Much therefore depends upon the estimate which is formed of the position of David (q.v.). See also Jews: History, § 7 seq ; Palestine: Old Testament History.

On Solomon's relation to philosophical and proverbial literature, see Proverbs. Another aspect of his character appears in the remarkable " Song of Solomon," on which see Canticles. Still another phase is represented in the monologue of Ecclesiastes (q.v.) In the Book of Wisdom, again, the composition of an Egyptian Hellenist, who from internal evidence is judged to have lived somewhat earlier than Philo, Solomon is introduced uttering words of admonition, imbued with the spirit of Greek philosophers, to heathen sovereigns. The so-called Psalter of Solomon, on the other hand, a collection of Pharisee psalms written in Hebrew soon after the taking of Jerusalem by Pompey, and preserved to us only in a Greek version, has nothing to do with Solomon or the traditional conception of his person, and seems to owe its name to a transcriber who thus distinguished these newer pieces from the older " Psalms of David " (see Solomon, Psalms of).  (S. A. C.) [6]

  1. Heb. Shělōmōh, as though “his peace"; but the true meaning is uncertain; evidence for its connexion with the name of a god is given by H. Winckler and Zimmern, Keilinschf. u. das Alte Test., 3rd ed., pp. 224, 474 seq. The English form follows the Σολόμον of N.T. and Josephus; the Lat. Salomo agrees with Σολώμον (one of several variant forms shown in MSS. of the LXX.).
  2. For parallels, see R. Flint in Hastings's Dict. Bib. iv. 562, n. 1. For the Pompeian wall-painting representing Solomon's judgment (the figures are pygmies!), see A. Jeremias, Altes Test. im Lichte d. alt. Orients 2nd ed., p. 492 seq. (with illustration and references).
  3. For Mahommedan stories of Solomon, the hoopoe and the queen of Sheba, see the Koran, Sur. xxvii., which closely follows the second Targum to Esther i. 2, where the Jewish fables may be read in full. On this story, see also J. Halevy, École pratique des hautes études (1905), pp. 5-24, and the Chinese parallel in the Mittheilungen of the Berlin Seminar for Oriental Languages (1904), vii. i. pp. 117-172. For the late legends of Solomon see M. Grünbaum, Neue Beiträge zur semit. Sage, pp. 198–237 (Leiden, 1893); G. Salzberger, Die Salome-Sage in der semitischen Literatur (Berlin, 1907).
  4. On the relation between trade and religion in old Oriental life, see the valuable remarks by G. A. Smith, Ency. Bib. col. 5157 seq.
  5. The narrative contains composite features (see the literature cited in article Kings). There is a curious resemblance between one form of the story and the Septuagint account of the rise of Jeroboam (q.v.).
  6. Some sentences from W. R. Smith's article in Ency. Brit., 9th ed., have been retained and in places modified.