Solomon (biblical character)

Solomon is a character, described in the Bible as the third king of Israel . His wisdom managed to pacify and unify nearby countries. He reigned forty years, and could have reigned between 970 and 930 a. n. and.


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  • 1 Biographical synthesis
  • 2 Economic development
  • 3 King Solomon’s manuscripts
  • 4 King Solomon as a philosopher
  • 5 Jerusalem Temple Builder
  • 6 Achievements and successes in his reign
  • 7 Sources

Biographical synthesis

Son of King David and Bathsheba . Upon David’s death, Solomon, supported by his mother, by the prophet Nathan , General Banaiah, and the high priest Sadoc, had his two political opponents, Adonijah, and General Joab assassinated, and began a reign characterized by a long period of peace and good relations with neighboring peoples ( Egypt , Arabia , Phenicia , Edom and Damascus ), during which the country experienced great economic and cultural development.

Internal security and control of communication routes facilitated a wide expansion of the Hebrew trade, especially that of the horses, which were transported from Egypt to Cilicia . In addition, in order to promote commercial activity, Solomon ordered the construction of a fleet that had its base in the port of Esionguéber, next to Elat , on the shores of the Red Sea , and consolidated the political power of Israel in the region, marrying one of the daughters of the pharaoh of Egypt and strengthening the bonds of friendship with Hiram I, king of the city of Tire .

Economic development

Economic prosperity, on the other hand, allowed the monarch to raise in Jerusalem the great temple that King David had projected to shelter the Ark of the Covenant (a box where the stone with the ten commandments was kept, which the prophet Moses had affirmed that the god Yahweh himselfhe had written with a finger) and a sumptuous royal palace, constructions in which a large number of foreign technicians participated, such as bricklayers and bronzes from Tire, or carpenters from Gebal, and for which luxurious materials were imported from Phenicia. These and many other public works, as well as the expenses of the court, were borne by a heavy tax regime, based on an administrative reform that divided the country into twelve districts, the extent of which varied according to the greater or lesser fertility of the soil and of ease of communications.

Towards the end of Solomon’s life, however, the high fiscal pressure and the proliferation of cults to foreign deities ( Astarté , Camos , Milcom or Moloc ), introduced by the numerous foreign women of the monarch, created a growing popular unrest, which it exploded during the reign of Roboam , his son and successor, who could not avoid the rebellion of ten of the twelve Hebrew tribes, all except those of Judah and Benjamin , and the subsequent split – in 929 a. n. e.- of the country in two kingdoms: that of Israel (to the north, with capital in Shechem ), and that of Judah (to the south, with capital in Jerusalem), which then followed an independent, if not hostile, evolution.

Despite harshly condemning Solomon’s permissiveness towards the pagan practices of many of his women and considering the division of Israel as divine punishment for its idolatry , the biblical tradition has idealized the figure of the sovereign, presented as a man of great wisdom, paradigm of weight and justice, in various passages of the Old Testament , including the famous “judgment of Solomon”, or the visit of the queen of Sheba. Likewise, he has attributed the authorship of different wisdom books of the Old Testament , such as the Song of Songs , Ecclesiastes , the Book of Wisdom , the Book of Proverbs and thePsalms of Solomon, some of which, however, seem to have been composed well after the Solomonic period.

King Solomon’s manuscripts

Archaeological excavations and the study of texts that were written in the time of King Solomon increasingly undermine his image as a legendary hero. Today it is known that he did not write any Old Testament book : the Book of Proverbs was composed 500 years after King Solomon’s death and derives mainly from the Egyptian manuscripts discovered in the early 20th century.

The Roman author Origen noted that Solomon could not have written the Song of Songs of the Old Testament . One of the best known apocryphal books of the Bible is the so-called “Testament of King Solomon”, written in the 1st century BC. n. and. Even more widely disseminated were the Clavicles of Solomon , a confusing exorcism essay . After the invention of the printing press, this book was increased many times, adding new illustrations and comments, until the 18th century. Today it has been shown that this text was originally written in the 1st century n. and. In addition to King Solomon who is known through the Bible and the TorahIt is clear that over time a legendary Solomon was created, a wealthy, wise and mysterious sovereign who could penetrate the laws of the universe. But the only achievement known to Solomon was that during his reign the Temple of Jerusalem was built , which in 586 a. n. and. It was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar , and has since remained a symbol in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions.

Solomon himself has traditionally been regarded as a prolific and high-quality author. The scriptures attributed to him are the Book of Proverbs , the Song of Solomon , Ecclesiastes , the Book of Wisdom of Solomon , and the Psalms (or Odes of Solomon ). Modern scholars, however, have determined that these books were composed centuries after Solomon by very diverse authors. In fact, the Psalms are possibly by a Gnostic Christian author (after the 2nd century n. E.).

King Solomon as a philosopher

The second characteristic that traditionally stands out from King Solomon is an exceptional “wisdom”. In the Jewish and Christian religious traditions, the “judgment of King Solomon” has become the symbol of the concept of wisdom, related to his great magical knowledge. The Jewish-Roman writer Flavius ​​Josephus related the Old Testament conception of wisdom and the figure of King Solomon in a way similar to that of the Bible .

It also refers to the enigmas that King Solomon exchanged with Hiram of Tire and to the “tests” that the queen of Sheba put on him when he traveled to Israel to prove his great wisdom. Fifth-century Christians went to great lengths to differentiate the idea of ​​King Solomon’s wisdom from his magical knowledge. Thus, they accentuated the wisdom of Solomon as the Hagia Sophia (‘sacred wisdom’). In the year 537  n. and. One of the largest churches of the time, built in Constantinople , was dedicated to this Hagia Sophia.

At its opening ceremony the Emperor Justinian associated it with the Temple of Solomon. The fundamental idea of ​​this church was found in the symbolism of the relationship between Heaven and Earth through sacred wisdom. The lower part of the building is made up of a cube, a symbol of Earth since ancient times. On top of this cube, the hemispherical vaulted roof symbolized Heaven. In Eastern Europe this symbolism can still be found in many churches in Greece and Romania . Plan and section of Hagia Sophia of Constantinople according to Georg Scheja, measures in feet. The interior measurements of the Temple of Solomon (40×20 of the Sancta plus 20×20 of the Sancta Sanctorum) were 60×20 cubits by 30 in height (according to the First Book of Kings 6.2-3).

The original dome was subsequently raised (to points) to improve the system of thrusts on the pillars. But it is especially in the 13th century when the idea that Solomon possessed all the wisdom of his time took hold, making the king a symbol of divine wisdom. This was also expressed in numerous statues and images of the facades and stained glass windows of medieval cathedrals. In Amiens Cathedral(which has suffered little major damage since its completion) we find the statue of King Solomon, right in the center of the western facade, flanked by the two columns of his temple. Above him is a statue of Christ, giving the impression that King Solomon is carrying him on his shoulders. This composition was found in many other cathedrals, although most were demolished during the French Revolution.

In medieval writings it is often pointed out that Gothic cathedrals were built based on the principles of the Jerusalem temple, started by King David and continued by King Solomon. In the French Moralisè Bible , King Solomon is the symbol of divine wisdom. In the encounter with the queen of Sheba, this symbolized the Church that had stopped listening to the words of God in dialogue with King Solomon. The “Judgment of King Solomon” is another theme that we can find on the facades of almost all medieval cathedrals. Normally King Solomon appears seated or standing between the two columns of his Temple, along with two women who fight over the living child, while the soldiers make as if to split him in two.

Jerusalem temple builder

The Temple of King Solomon, unlike other temples of the 10th century BC. n. and. , had no idol inside, only the Ark of the Covenant with the Tablets of the Law that the god Yahweh gave to the prophet Moses . The temple was built on a plateau in Jerusalem, and had the entrance facing east, towards the sunrise on the Mount of Olives. No trace of Solomon’s temple remains: the 50 meters of the Wailing Wall originally belonged to the outer retaining walls of Herod’s temple, which was built in the 1st century BC. n. and.

The location of the Temple of Solomon is well known, near the holy rock known as Moria, where animals were killed and burned as burnt offerings. This stone was approximately 17 meters long and 15 m wide, and is a reliable point of orientation, as it was located near the eastern entrance to the temple. Today the Omar Mosque (Kubat-as-Sachra) covers this place, built in 691 by the Caliph Aw-al-Malik.

The presence of this mosque makes any archaeological investigation of the remains of Solomon’s temple impossible.

The Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem.

Archaeologist Ritmeyer had a hypothesis about the original situation of the Sancta Sanctorum on the Rock. In Jewish tradition, it is supposed that King David received the plans of the temple with the exact information of its shape and measurements, on a parchment delivered by one of the prophets. Moses claimed that this parchment had been given by the god Yahweh to Moses, and since then it was guarded until the time of construction arrived. Also the Christian religion accepted the divine origin of the traces of the Temple.

But Christianity supposed that, after its destruction in 586 a. n. and. , the reconstruction of this ideal temple was not possible due to the absence of the original plans. During the Middle Ages , European cathedrals were considered “reconstructions” of the Temple of Solomon, but limiting this meaning. The medieval architect tried to use the same proportions obtained by divine inspiration, as it was applied in the original temple.

Achievements and successes in his reign

  • According to Hebrew myths, Solomon inherited an “immense kingdom,” conquered by his father David, that stretched from the desert of Egypt to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia ( First Book of Kings4:21; Book of Genesis  15:18; Deuteronomy  1: 7,11: 24; Book of Joshua  1: 4; Second book of Samuel  8: 3; First book of Chronicles  18: 3).
  • He had great wealth and wisdom ( First Book of Kings10:23).
  • He administered his kingdom through a system of 12 districts ( First Book of Kings4: 7).
  • He owned a large harem, which included “Pharaoh’s daughter” ( First Book of Kings3: 1; 11: 1,3; and 9:16).
  • In his old age he converted to another religion, and worshiped other gods ( First Book of Kings11: 1-2,4-5).
  • He devoted his reign to major construction projects ( First Book of Kings9: 15,17-19), including:
    • the Temple ( First Book of Kings6).
    • the Royal Palace ( First book of the kings7: 2-12).
    • the walls of Jerusalem,
    • the Milo, a landfill made to enlarge Jerusalem ( First Book of Kings11:27).
    • the royal cities of Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer
    • the warehouse cities, cities for his horsemen, and cities for his chariots throughout his kingdom


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