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This article is about the Biblical figure. For other uses, see Solomon (disambiguation).
Image:Ingobertus 001.jpg
Artist's depiction of Solomon's court (Ingobertus, c. 880)

Solomon (Latin name) (Hebrew: שְׁלֹמֹה, (Shelomo) Standard Šəlomo Tiberian Šəlōmōh; Arabic: سليمان, Sulayman; all essentially meaning "peace") is a figure described in Middle Eastern scriptures as a wise ruler of an empire centred on the united Kingdom of Israel. He was born in Jerusalem about 1000 BCE and reigned over Israel from about 970 to 928 BCE. He is also considered a prophet by Islam.

The scriptural 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 of the Lord in Jerusalem. Both the Bible and Qur'an portray Solomon as great in wisdom, wives, wealth, and power; however, the Bible criticises permitting his wives to worship statues depicting their own nation's deities – a practice which the Bible condemns as idolatry, and against Israelite law. Solomon is said by the Qur'an and the Talmud to have even had power over demons, a claim that passed into mediaeval Christian folklore, leading to grimoires such as the Lesser Key of Solomon. Solomon is the subject of many other later legends. Some Kabbalah masters claim[citation needed] to be his descendants.


[edit] Historical figure

Evidence of a historical figure comparable to Solomon, independent of religious accounts, is scarce and thus far no substantial evidence has been found. Various inscriptions have been found, with excavations continuing. (See "The Bible Unearthed" by Israel Finkelstein and Niel Asher Silberman.)

[edit] The name Solomon

The name Solomon (Gurdoup) means "peaceful," or "complete", from the Hebrew shalom. The name given by God to Solomon in the Bible is Jedidiah, meaning "friend of God" or, more precisely "beloved of Yah" (as in, Jehovah), (2 Samuel 12:25), and some scholars have conjectured that Solomon is a "king name" taken either when he assumed the throne or upon his death.

Solomon's case is one of the few in the Bible where the name given by God does not stay with the character. Solomon's birth is considered a grace from God, after the death of the previous child between David and Bathsheba.

Feminine forms of the name include Shulamit, Shulamith, and Salome.

[edit] Biblical account

[edit] Succession

Solomon was David's sixteenth son. His mother was Bathsheba. According to the Biblical account, David passed over his first-born son, Adonijah, and instead declared Solomon heir to the throne. When Adonijah tried to seize the throne, Bathsheba and Nathan appealed to David, who immediately had Solomon crowned king.

Before David's death, Adonijah received pardon for his conduct from Solomon on the condition that he showed himself "a worthy man" (1 Kings 1:5-53). However, after David's death he made a second attempt to gain the throne by trying to marry David's last wife, Abishag of Shunam. Solomon denied authorization for this engagement and had Adonijah executed. Joab (David's traitorous general) was also executed. Abiathar (David's traitorous priest) was exiled. Shimei (who had cursed David) was confined to Jerusalem (he was executed three years later when he violated the terms of his confinement).

[edit] Solomon's wisdom

In 1 Kings 3:5-14, God visits the newly crowned King Solomon in a dream, and offers him anything he pleases. Solomon asks for "an understanding heart to judge Your people, to discern between good and evil - for who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" Pleased with his non-materialistic wish, God tells him that not only will he receive a greater intellect than any other man who will ever live, but also great wealth, along with widespread fame and respect, "which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days".

A famous account of Solomon's wisdom is found in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Two "harlots" approach Solomon, bringing with them a single baby boy. Each mother presents the same story - She and the other woman live together. One night, soon after the birth of their respective children, the other woman woke to find that she had smothered her own baby in her sleep. In anguish and jealousy, she took her dead son and exchanged it with the other's child. The following morning, the woman discovered the dead baby, and soon realized that it was not her own son, but the other's. After some deliberation, King Solomon called for a sword to be brought before him. He declared that there is only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy's true mother cried out, "Please, My Lord, give her the live child - do not kill him!" However, the liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, "It shall be neither mine nor yours - divide it!' Solomon instantly gave the baby to the real mother, realizing that the true mother's instincts were to protect her child, while the liar revealed that her only motivation was jealousy.

This story is in fact exactly paralleled in the judicial decisions of Ooka Tadasuke of Japan and that of Akbar and Birbal of the Mughal Empire in India. The story can be viewed as a deeply veiled allegory for the split in the United Monarchy following the death of Solomon. In the Islamic version of the tale, the incident is transposed to Solomon's childhood, and the women are brought before king David instead; a wolf had carried away the child of one of the women, and David decides in favor of the elder, but Solomon started to divide the child with a knife, whereupon the younger woman protests and received the child. Islamic tradition adds to this that the judges of the realm objected to having one so young as Solomon interfere in their counsel, and so David proposed that Solomon be examined publicly before a tribunal of lawyers; when this was done Solomon not only answered all questions as soon as they were put, but confounded his judges by asking them questions which they could not answer.<ref>ibid: referencing Weil, l.c. pp. 193-196</ref>

The idea that Solomon's wisdom is God-given is very important to a number of Judeo-Christian beliefs and denominations. The Biblical Book of Proverbs, which many Jewish and Christian denominations use as a dogmatic guideline for morality and manners, is traditionally considered to have been written by Solomon, though this is disputed by the majority of textual scholars, who instead see it as an accretion by many different hands (including an Agur son of Jakeh, and a Lemuel (or his mother), who are both named as authors by the text itself). Solomon is also traditionally accredited as the author of the Song of Songs, consequently also known as the Song of Solomon, a large piece of erotic poetry, and sometimes considered to have written the book of Ecclesiastes; again these positions are contested by textual critics who see them as having been written by quite different hands (with Ecclesiastes, for example, which has a large quantity of Persian loan words, being written during the Persian period or later). Jewish tradition holds that the three texts reflect the ages of man; the Song of Songs reflecting Solomon's youth, Proverbs reflecting middle aged wisdom, and Ecclesiastes reflecting cynical old age.

[edit] Buildings and related works

Image:Jerusalem Ugglan 1.jpg
Early elaborated reconstruction of the Temple of Solomon.

During Solomon's long reign of 40 years the Hebrew monarchy, according to the Bible, gained its highest splendour. This period has been called the Augustan Age of the Jewish annals. In a single year, according to 1 Kings 10:14, Solomon collected tribute amounting to 666 talents of gold. Since the majority of archaeologists consider the kingdom of Israel at the time of Solomon to have been little more than a small city state, owing to the archaeological record, this is an implausibly large amount of money<ref>Finkelstein, The Bible Unearthed</ref>

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 is also plausible that the Phoenicians built it for themselves.<ref>ibid</ref>

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<ref>This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.</ref> (1 Kings 11:4+). Solomon's apparent initial devotion to Yahweh appearing in for example his dedication prayer (1 Kings 8:14-66) 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). Indeed, the authorship of passages such as these within the Books of Kings is considered by textual scholars to be separate to the remainder of the text; these passages are seen as most probably the result of the Deuteronomist.<ref>ibid</ref>

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 rebuilt; 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. However, although early scholars attributed these remains to Solomon, modern re-assessment has caused an increasing majority of archaeologists to date them much later, to the era of the Omrides; in addition the so-called troughs are now thought to have actually been vats for distilling opium.

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. 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. The explanation that a number of archaeologists give for these discrepancies is that due to religious prejudice, later writers (i.e. the Biblical authors) suppressed the achievements of the Omrides (whom the Bible describes as being polytheist), and instead pushed them back to a supposed golden age of godly rulers (i.e. monotheist, and Yahweh worshipping).

[edit] Queen of Sheba

Main article: Queen of Sheba

In a brief, unelaborated, and enigmatic passage, the 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 with him. The queen is described as visiting with a number of gifts including rare spices, and bringing with her a number of riddles, but upon meeting Solomon being offered anything by him, whereupon 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 and her riddles is unknown; nevertheless the visit of the queen of sheba has become the subject of numerous legends.

Sheba is typically identified as Saba, a nation once spanning the red sea on the coasts of what are now Eritrea, Ethopia and Yemen, in Arabia Felix. Some modern Arab academics have placed the Queen of Sheba not in Yemen, as older Arab sources did, but rather as a ruler of a trading colony in Northwest Arabia, established by South Arabian kingdoms; modern archeological finds do indeed confirm the fact that such colonies existed, with south Arabian script and artifacts, though there is nothing to indicate the presence of Solomon's queen of Sheba in particular.

In Rabbinical legend (e.g. Targum Sheni), Solomon was accustomed to ordering the living creatures of the world to dance before him (Rabbinical and Islamic legend narrates that Solomon had been given control over all living things by God), but one day upon discovering that the mountain-cock or hoopoe 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. The queen collected together several vessels with all kinds of treasures, selecting 6,000 boys and girls, all of the same age, stature, and dress, and sent all this to Solomon with a letter stating that she would visit three years later; when she finally arrived, Solomon was seated within a glass pavillion, and the Queen, thinking that the king was sitting in water, lifted her dress, causing Solomon to smile. A similar tale is told in Islamic legend, though in many versions the talking bird is replaced by a jinn.

Ethiopian legend - in the Kebra Nagast - maintains that the Queen of Sheba gave birth by the Mai Bella stream in the province of Hamasien, Eritrea, to a son who went on to become Menelik I, Emperor of Abyssinia, and found a dynasty that would reign until Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974. Some classical-era Rabbis, attacking Solomon's moral character, have claimed instead that the child was Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Solomon's temple some 300 years later.<ref>This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.</ref>

[edit] His harem and its consequences

As was the custom, the Bible portrays Solomon as having forged a number of political alliances, by entering into several political marriages. Among these was one with Tahpenes, the daughter of a (unnamed) Pharaoh; from the point of view of critical scholarship, this would be more likely to be the real reason for peace and prosperity in Solomon's empire since it would have gained Egyptian protection.

The Bible gives an elaborate number of wives - 700 wives with 300 concubines - somewhat more than would simply be achieved by political marriages with every nation in the Near East as well as large chunks of India, Africa, and Europe; either these figures are exaggerations, or Solomon had a particularly voracious sexual appetite. The Bible appears to criticise Solomon's behaviour in this way, emphasising how his wives continued to have their own religions, and did not convert to worship of Yahweh; the Bible even goes so far as to say that Solomon's allowing (and possibly taking part in) what it sees as idolatry resulted in God deciding that the United Monarchy would be cleft in two after Solomon's death.

According to some entries in the Talmud, Solomon did not actually sin but rather he was blamed for not stopping the idol worship being done by his wives:<ref>B.T. Shabbat 56b</ref>

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in R. Jonathan's name: Whoever maintains that Solomon sinned is merely making an error... (Talmud Sabbath 56b)

Nevertheless, there are a substantial number of Talmudic entries that do criticise Solomon's moral character; according to these entries Solomon attempted to restrain the polytheism of his wives, but did so only weakly and ineffectually, resulting in the moral degradation of society, and social disintegration. The Tannaim make particular claim that the marriage to Tahpenes was a criminal act: the particular love which he manifested for her is regarded by the Tannaim as depraved passion, and she, more than all his other foreign wives, caused him to sin. According to the Tannaim, he celebrated his wedding at the same time as the temple was completed, and did so raucously that God contemplated destroying the entirety of Jerusalem (including the temple) just to obtain a bit of peace and quiet. The Tannaim also claim that Tahpenes put a gem studded canopy over Solomon's bed so that he would think it still night when he went to awake, and return to sleep, with the consequence that the priests couldn't continue temple sacrifices as the temple keys were kept under Solomon's pillow. The Tannaim even claim that God was so incensed by Solomon's marriage to Tahpenes that an archangel (either Michael or Gabriel) was sent to drive a rod into the sea around which slime would gather until it eventually formed the island on which Rome, the destroyer of Jerusalem (in 70AD), emerged (note that in reality Rome emerged in central Italy).<ref>ibid</ref>

[edit] Jewish Scriptures

King Solomon is one of the central Biblical figures in Jewish heritage that have lasting religious, national and political aspects. As the constructor of the first temple in Jerusalem and last ruler of the united Jewish Kingdom of Israel from ancient times, until it was re-established in the modern State of Israel, Solomon is associated with the peak "golden age" of the independent Kingdom of Israel as well as a source of Judicial and Religious wisdom. According to Jewish tradition, King Solomon has written three books (parts) in the Bible:

  • Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), a book of Philosophy and contemplation
  • Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs), a chronicle of erotic love (there are contrasting opinions whether its subject is a woman or God).

The Hebrew word "To Solomon" appears in the title of two hymns in the book of Psalms (Tehillim), suggesting to some that Solomon wrote them.

[edit] Islamic view of Solomon

Main article Islamic view of Solomon
See also Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an

Solomon also appears in the Qur'an, where he is called Sulayman, which is Solomon in Arabic (Sulaiman or Suleiman) (Arabic: سليمان). The Qur'an refers to Solomon as the son of David, 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 Solomon had under his rule not only people, but also hosts of Jinn. It also states that Solomon 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.

Sulayman (Süleyman, Sulaiman, Suleyman, Suleiman) (Arabic: سليمان) is a prophet in the Qur'an, which assumes that he is King Solomon of the Bible.

[edit] Tradition

In the Qur'an, Solomon (Arabic: Sulayman) is a son of the Prophet David (Arabic: Dawud). He is told to have learned much from his father, and subsequently made a prophet by God and given power over all creatures, including the jinns. Ruling a large kingdom that extended south into Yemen, he was known throughout the lands for his wisdom and fair judgments.

[edit] Solomon's court

Solomon is said to have been given control over various elements, such as the wind and transportation. In addition he had excellent relations with the Jinn as well as animals. Thus the Quran says,

And to Solomon (We made) the Wind (obedient): Its early morning (stride) was a month's (journey), and its evening (stride) was a month's (journey); and We made a Font of molten brass to flow for him; and there were Jinns that worked in front of him, by the leave of his Lord, and if any of them turned aside from our command, We made him taste of the Penalty of the Blazing Fire. [Quran 34:12]
And before Solomon were marshaled his hosts,- of Jinns and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. [Quran 27:17]

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 (a little) of all things: this is indeed Grace manifest (from God)." [Quran 27:16]

[edit] Solomon and Sheba (Arabic: Saba)

A well-known story of Solomon involves his interactions with the Queen of Sheba, Bilqis. Solomon comes to know about the ruler through a hoopoe whose language Solomon knew, states:

"I found (there) a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne.[Quran 27:23]

According to the story, she was a wise ruler, but her people worshipped the sun. Solomon invites her to submit to "God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful". Upon receiving such a letter she requests advise from her chiefs, who are most willing to make war. The Queen, however, responds:

"Kings, when they enter a country, despoil it, and make the noblest of its people its meanest thus do they behave. But I am going to send him a present, and (wait) to see with what (answer) return (my) ambassadors." [Quran 27:34-5]

And so the Queen sends gifts to Solomon. These gifts offend Solomon, who is satisfied with that which God has granted him, and he begins to make preparations for war. Meanwhile the envoys of the Queen return with the gifts, and the Queen decides to personally visit Solomon. At this point Solomon decides to test the Queen. He orders a Jinn to bring the Queen's throne from her palace before she reaches Solomon's court. The Jinn executes the command "within the twinkling of an eye". Upon her arrival, the Queen is asked to identify the throne. The Queen not only identifies the throne but also states that she had known the power of Solomon and his God in advance and had decided to submit to God. Solomon, however, demonstrates to her another miracle of God:

She was asked to enter the lofty Palace: but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water, and she (tucked up her skirts), uncovering her legs. He [Solomon] said: "This is but a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass (and the water in underneath the glass)." She said: "O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul: I do (now) submit (in Islam), with Solomon, to the Lord of the Worlds." [Quran 27:44]

It is said that the Queen married Solomon thereafter.

[edit] Death of Solomon

According to the Quran, the death of Solomon was a lesson to be learned,

Then, when We decreed (Solomon'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). [Quran 34:14]

When Solomon was to die, he stood up in prayer holding his cane. There he silently passed away, but, by God's will, did not fall. He remained in this position, and everyone including the Jinns thought that he was still alive. Finally God ordered a termite to weaken the cane so that the body of Solomon fell. It was thereafter believed that the Jinn (along with all humans) did not know everything and only God had knowledge of all.

[edit] Mention of Solomon in the Qur'an

In the Qur'an a reference is also made to the writings of Solomon, the so called Book(s) of Wisdom. Jesus knew these writing according 5:110: "I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave"

[edit] Later legends

[edit] Demons and Magic

According to the Rabbinical literature, on account of his modest request for wisdom only, Solomon was rewarded with riches and an unprecedentedly glorious realm, which extended over the upper world inhabited by the angels and over the whole of the terrestrial globe with all its inhabitants, including all the beasts, fowls, and reptiles, as well as the demons and spirits. His control over the demons, spirits, and animals augmented his splendor, the demons bringing him precious stones, besides water from distant countries to irrigate his exotic plants. The beasts and fowls of their own accord entered the kitchen of Solomon's palace, so that they might be used as food for him, and extravagant meals for him were prepared daily by each of his thousand wives, with the thought that perhaps the king would feast on that day in her house.

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 (according to the tale), decided that the son with two heads was only one man.

Another 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.

Demons also help out Solomon in building the Temple; not though 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.

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.

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 (with modern vehicles this is quite ordinary, but to classical Judaism was quite remarkable). 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.

[edit] Prophetic Abilities

In legend, Solomon is credited not only with wisdom, but also with the ability to have total prophetic foresight. When Solomon was about to build the Temple he applied to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, for builders and architects, but Pharaoh ordered his astrologers to determine (according to astrology) all the men who would die in the current year, and these men were sent to Solomon. Solomon, however, by simply looking at them, knew what their fate was to be, and consequently provided them with coffins and shrouds; he sent them back to Egypt with a letter for Pharaoh stating that if he was in want of articles required for the dead, it was not necessary for him to send the men, he could just send a request for materials.

Solomon, in his prophetic capacity, according to Rabbinic legend realised that the Temple would be destroyed by the Babylonians, and he therefore built an underground chamber in which the Ark was later hidden. This chamber is said by some to be the Well of Souls, which is the subject of numerous other legends.

[edit] Solomon's Throne

Solomon's throne is described at length in Targum Sheni, which is compiled from three different sources, and in two later midrash. According to these, there were on the steps of the throne twelve golden lions, each facing a golden eagle. There were six steps to the throne, on which animals, all of gold, were arranged in the following order: on the first step a lion opposite an ox; on the second, a wolf opposite a sheep; on the third, a tiger opposite a camel; on the fourth, an eagle opposite a peacock, on the fifth, a cat opposite a cock; on the sixth, a sparrow-hawk opposite a dove. On the top of the throne was a dove holding a sparrow-hawk in its claws, symbolizing the dominion of Israel over the Gentiles. It is claimed in the first midrash that six steps were constructed because Solomon foresaw that six kings would sit on the throne, namely, Solomon, Rehoboam, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah. There was also on the top of the throne a golden candlestick, on the seven branches of the one side of which were engraved the names of the seven patriarchs Adam, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job, and on the seven of the other the names of Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses, Aaron, Eldad, Medad, and, in addition, Hur (another version has Haggai). Above the candlesticks was a golden jar filled with olive-oil and beneath it a golden basin which supplied the jar with oil and on which the names of Nadab, Abihu, and Eli and his two sons were engraved. Over the throne, twenty-four vines were fixed to cast a shadow on the king's head.

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 didn't 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.

[edit] Apocryphal texts

To Solomon are attributed, by rabbinical tradition, the Wisdom of Solomon (Ecclesiasticus), probably written in the 2nd century BCE where Solomon is portrayed as an astronomer, and other books of wisdom poetry such as the Odes of Solomon and the Psalms of Solomon. The Jewish historian Eupolemus, who wrote about 157 BCE, included copies of apocryphal letters exchanged between Solomon and the kings of Egypt and Tyre.

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-Christian work called the "Testament of Solomon" with its elaborate and grotesque demonology.

[edit] Solomon in modern fiction

[edit] Solomon in the arts

Handel composed an oratorio entitled Solomon in 1749. The story follows the basic Biblical plot.

Ernest Bloch composed a Hebraic Rhapsody for cello and orchestra entitled Schelomo, based off King Solomon.

Solomon is included in a depiction of historical lawgivers in a frieze on the south wall of the U.S. Supreme Court building.<ref>"Courtroom Friezes: North and South Walls: Information Sheet." Supreme Court of the United States. [1]</ref>

The Judgment of Solomon is the title of a panel by Lee Lawrie on Bertram Goodhue's Nebraska State Capitol, in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

House of David
Cadet Branch of the Tribe of Judah
Preceded by:
King of the United Kingdom
of Israel and Judah

Albright: c.962 BC – 922 BC
Galil: c.970 BC – 931 BC
Succeeded by:
in Judah
Succeeded by:
Jeroboam I
in Israel

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] Resources

  • Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman: David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition (Free Press, 2006) ISBN 0-7432-4362-5
  • Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman: The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Free Press, 2001) ISBN 0-684-86912-8
  • William G. Dever: Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003) ISBN 0-8028-0975-8

solomon macy

[edit] External links

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ShoaibMusaHarunDhul-KiflDaudSulayman IlyasAl-YasaYunusZakariyaYahya Isa Muhammad
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