“Solomon strove to secure his kingdom through political marriages with the daughters of the kings of the region: Moab, Ammon, Sidon and Heth (I Kings 11:1). Altogether he had a total of 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 10:3). His chief wife was the daughter of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt (I Kings 3:1). It was unusual for the pharaohs to marry their daughters to foreigners; the marriage is an indication of the strength of Solomon.”
(10th cent. BCE). Successor of his father David as king of Israel. He was the fourth of David’s sons, son of Bathsheba, and is also called Jedidiah (II Sam. 12:24, 25). Solomon ruled for 40 years between approximately 968 and 928 BCE. Solomon was anointed while his father was still alive; he was chosen in preference to his older brother, Adonijah, who was also a pretender to the throne (l Kings 1).
After David died, Solomon, by his father’s command, killed David’s army general, Joab, and exiled Abiathar the priest. His brother, Adonijah, was eliminated when Solomon suspected that he was planning a rebellion (I Kings 2).
Solomon inherited a large kingdom stretching from Tiphsah on the Euphrates to the Philistine Gaza on the southwestern border. The Bible describes Solomon’s era as one of peace and tranquillity. His control over most of the land west of Mesopotamia was made possible by the temporary weakness of Egypt and Assyria, the major powers in the region.
Solomon strove to secure his kingdom through political marriages with the daughters of the kings of the region: Moab, Ammon, Sidon and Heth (I Kings 11:1). Altogether he had a total of 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 10:3). His chief wife was the daughter of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt (I Kings 3:1). It was unusual for the pharaohs to marry their daughters to foreigners; the marriage is an indication of the strength of Solomon. As a wedding gift, Pharaoh gave his daughter the town of Gezer, which he had conquered and burned to the ground. However, when a political revolution took place in Egypt and Pharaoh Shishak Bel I (Shoshenq; 945-924 BCE), the first Pharaoh of the 22nd Dynasty, ascended the throne, it marked a change in the relations between Egypt and Israel. This pharaoh gave political asylum to Solomon’s enemy Jeroboam (I Kings 11:40).
Solomon had close friendly ties with Hiram, king of Tyre (980-946 BCE), manifested in the latter’s aid to Solomon in building the Temple. In return for wheat, oil, and wine, Hiram supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress wood as well as gold. Hiram also sent Solomon artisans and craftsmen to help him put up the Temple. Solomon and Hiram cooperated in operating a fleet whose home base was Etzion Geber on the Red Sea. Solomon supplied the ships and Hiram supplied the crews (I Kings 10:11). The fleet sailed to Ophir and Tarshish and brought back gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks (I Kings 10:22).
A spectacular event in his foreign relations was the visit by the Queen of Sheba (in southwest or east Africa; I Kings 10:1-13). The background to this visit was probably the control and monopoly of international trade, including trade in spices and sandalwood.
In an attempt to unify the Israelite tribes into a single nation, Solomon divided the country into 12 districts (in addition to Judah), run by governors; the borders of these districts did not coincide with those of the 12 Tribes. Each district had to support the big royal court for one month of the year.
Solomon was a great builder. His projects included the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, which began in the fourth year of his reign and took seven years to complete. The Temple was part of a building complex which also included the house of the forest of Lebanon, the porch for the throne (of judgment), and the king’s palace. All of this took 20 years. Solomon fortified Jerusalem, strengthened its walls, and expanded its area to the north (I Kings 11:27). He built the fortified towns of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, key points of his kingdom. He also built Beth Horon (upper and lower), Baalat, and Tadmor, as well as storage towns for provisions during emergencies and towns for stabling horses and for charioteers.
The massive building projects undertaken by Solomon in Jerusalem and throughout the country and the grandeur of his reign were a heavy economic burden. It required heavy taxes and extensive forced labor. The result wss unrest. Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim, who was in charge of the forced labor of the tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), attempted to revolt against Solomon. The rebellion failed and Jeroboam fled to Egypt. After Solomon’s death, the tribes of the north addressed a request to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, to ease the tax burden (I Kings 12:3-4), which he refused to do. Jeroboam now successfully rebelled and established the northern kingdom of Israel (see Israel. Kingdom of).
Solomon’s legendary wisdom is described in a number of instances. In the political realm, Solomon was able to maintain a large empire at peace and his internal policies enabled the nation to flourish economically. On the judicial plane, he was a wise judge, as seen in his judgment of the two women who claimed to be the mothers of the same child (I Kings 3:16-28). When the Queen of Sheba tested his wisdom with “hard questions” he passed the test handsomely (I Kings 10:1-13). Solomon’s wisdom is described as being greater than that of all the wise men of his time (I Kings 5:9-11). This wisdom stemmed from God’s blessing to him in a dream when he ascended to the throne (I Kings 3:5-14). As a literary figure, he was known for his parables and for his poetry. The Bible relates that he composed 3,000 parables and 1,500 poems (I Kings 5:12). The Bible also attributes to him the writing of Proverbs and the Song of Songs.
The sages also attribute to him the authorship of Ecclesiastes. According to them, Solomon wrote the Song of Songs in his youth, Proverbs when he was a mature adult, and Ecclesiastes in his old age (Song R. 1:11). One Midrash claims that Solomon was one of the ten authors of Psalms (Shoḥer Tov 1:6); another that he knew the language of the animals and birds (Targum Sheni on the Scroll of Esther).