The Story of King Solomon
All the three Abrahamic faits (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) portray Solomon as a great Israeli ruler whose wisdom far outweighed that of any other king of his time. His father was King David of Israel. Solomon got his kingship anointment at a young age when David’s health increasing failed him. After a few skirmishes, Solomon ended up ascending to the throne. He used his wisdom and gifts from God to give Israel its Golden Age. However, he later fell out of favor with God due to his misdeeds and idolatry practices. Here is the story of Solomon from a biblical viewpoint.
About 3000 years in the distant past, King David lorded over the Israeli kingdom. With time, David’s health and energy declined significantly, drawing him close to his maker. At that time, it was certain that one of David’s numerous sons would succeed him. But it was difficult to pinpoint which particular son would take over the mantle of leadership.
Words had it that, David confided in his wife Bathsheba that he personally preferred young Solomon (born around 1010 BCE) to be his successor. But he did not publicly announce Solomon as the rightful heir to the throne. The failure of David to officially install Solomon as his successor turned out to be a dangerous mistake, as it created room for infighting to erupt among the potential successors.
In the long run, Adonijah (one of David’s sons), took it upon himself to find his way into power. He connived with the top Israeli elders and got their endorsement for his usurpation of the throne. This plot became a trying time for the Israeli nation as the aged David still sat on the throne.
It was evident that should Adonijah’s plot ever see the light of the day, bloodbath would rain on all David’s loyalists. All David’s descendants who could compete for the throne would have been wiped out.
As the opening chapters of the Book of 1st Kings kept readers in suspense, Solomon finally took what belonged to him and became the King of Israel.
Solomon Asks for Wisdom
As an immature and inexperienced ruler, Solomon displayed utmost humility by confessing to God that he lacked the wisdom to rule the Israelites that were entrusted to his care. He, therefore, beseeched God to bless him with abundant wisdom, so that he could properly rule his people.
God the Father was so moved by Solomon’s humble plea. What surprised God was the fact that Solomon didn’t ask for an increased lifespan, wealth or death upon his foes – he only asked for the spirit of discernment and wisdom to govern his people in a just and Godly manner. God assured Solomon that his wise wishes would be granted.
The Blessings of God Rain on Solomon
The Almighty God took Solomon’s prayer to another step. He decided to bless him abundantly with the wisest wisdom any man could have ever had on earth.
As if the granting of mere wisdom wasn’t enough, God surprised Solomon by climaxing his blessings with a shower of abundant wealth. As you learn further, you would realize that riches weren’t the only bonus God added to Solomon. God went ahead to assure Solomon that his kingship would be unique – and by that, no other king’s reign would ever be like that of his. That’s more than God going the extra mile.
At this juncture, one can conclude that Solomon was already a wise man from the word go. Obviously, an unwise man wouldn’t have put up such an intelligent wish. A self-centered king would have probably demanded riches and longevity.
Solomon Applies His Wisdom in Judgment
Now rich in wealth and wisdom, King Solomon’s reputation soared high as a ruler. His people looked up to him for guidance and counseling. The major test of Solomon’s intelligence was seen in his judgment of a dispute over child ownership, which was brought to him for resolution.
Here was the complex situation the king had to solve: Two women inhabiting the same compound birthed their children around the same time. As they slept overnight in the same room, one careless mother accidentally crushed her baby to death during her sleep.
Upon waking up to realize her baby was dead, she quickly went for the live baby of the innocent mother and argued that the live baby was hers. This led to confusion between the mothers. When the matter was taken to King Solomon, he asked a sharp sword to be brought out.
Solomon then ordered that the live baby be cut into two equal halves, and given to the two women. At the mention of killing the baby, one mother was full of joy as she quickly supported the cutting. However, the other woman showed motherly concern and disapproved of the killing – out of love for the baby, the innocent woman requested that the baby be given to the mother who supported the killing.
At that point, King Solomon drew his conclusion and identified the rightful owner of the live baby – it was the caring mother who didn’t support the killing. The Book of Kings recalls that Israelites were full of amazement at King Solomon’s wise judgment. They believed that God’s wisdom abode in the king.
King Solomon’s Accomplishments
Aside from the display of wisdom through his judgments, Solomon achieved a lot. His early period on the throne was marked with several sound reforms and socio-economic developments. He has been credited with building the Temple of Jerusalem. The First Temple, as it was called, housed the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem. The construction of the temple probably started in the fourth year of his reign; and it took the Israelites about 3 years (some accounts say 7 years) to complete it. Once the temple was completed, Solomon sacrificed several animals (about 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep) to Yahweh (God).
King Solomon also instituted a sound Tax policy that helped him carry out his various infrastructural projects across the kingdom. Helping him steer the affairs of the kingdom was the royal court. The king expanded the court to include knowledgeable and hardworking officials.
On the foreign side, Solomon successfully conscripted people from other tribes and towns to fuel the growth of his kingdom. It was also not uncommon for him to receive generous tributes and offerings from those towns. A great number of chiefs and tribal leaders admired the wisdom and understanding of King Solomon. Hence, gifts from other nations poured into his land. The most famous of such generous offerings came from the Queen of Sheba. As queen of an area that we would now consider Ethiopia and Yemen, the prosperous Queen Sheba took a liking to Solomon and bestowed on him chests of gold and a wide array of spices. Some religious texts state that the two monarchs went on to have a child together. The child became Menitek I, the emperor who established Solomon’s dynasty in Ethiopia.
King Solomon also built a strong Israeli military; he chalked military success in Syria. With such capable defenses and military prowess, Solomon was able to establish viable and secure trading routes to and fro Arabia, India, Africa, etc.
His empire developed Palestine to reach greater heights. Solomon fortified Jerusalem by building walls, palaces, temples, and cities. With this came a very flourishing and relatively stable United Kingdom of Israel.
He is also famous for being a successful writer who produced about 3,000 proverbs and over 1,000 songs. Some famous literary and biblical contributions include the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes.
Solomon was also skilled in the arts and science. Several religious texts have portrayed him as quite knowledgeable in botany and zoology.