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Solomon, king of Israel (965 BC - ca. 925 BC), was David's second son by Bathsheba. His name means "peaceful," from the Hebrew "Shelomoh" (Arabic "Suleiman"). The name given by God to Solomon in the Bible was Jedidiah (meaning "loved by God"), and some scholars have conjectured that Solomon was a "king name" taken either when he assumed the throne or upon his death. Interestingly, Solomon's case is one of the few in the Bible where the name given by God does not stay with the character. Solomon was probably born about 1035 BC (1 Chronicles 22:5; 29:1). His birth was considered a grace from God, after the death of the previous child between David and Bathsheba via adultery. He succeeded his father on the throne in early manhood, probably about sixteen or eighteen years of age.
His father chose him as his successor, passing over the claims of his elder sons. His history is recorded in 1 Kings 1-11 and 2 Chr. 1-9. His elevation to the throne took place before his father's death, and was hastened on mainly by Nathan and Bathsheba, in consequence of the rebellion of Adonijah.
During his long reign of forty years the Hebrew monarchy gained its highest splendour. This period has well been called the "Augustan age" of the Jewish annals. In a single year he collected tribute amounting to 666 talents of gold. (1 Kings 10:13) The first half of his reign was, however, by far the brighter and more prosperous; the latter half was clouded by the idolatries into which he fell, mainly from his intermarriages. According to 1 Kings 11:3, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
As soon as he had settled himself in his kingdom, and arranged the affairs of his extensive empire, he entered into an alliance with Egypt by the marriage of the daughter of Pharaoh. He surrounded 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.
After the completion of the temple, Solomon engaged in the erection of many other buildings of importance in Jerusalem and in other parts of his kingdom. For the long space of thirteen years he was engaged in the erection of a royal palace on Ophel.
Solomon also constructed great works for the purpose of securing a plentiful supply of water for the city, Millo (Septuagint, "Acra") for the defence of the city, and Tadmor in the wilderness as a commercial depot as well as a military outpost.
During his reign Palestine enjoyed great commercial prosperity. Extensive traffic was carried on by land with Tyre and Egypt and Arabia, and by sea with Spain and India and the coasts of Africa. This was the "golden age" of Israel. The royal magnificence and splendour of Solomon's court were unrivalled.
Solomon was known for his wisdom and proverbs. People came from far and near "to hear the wisdom of Solomon", including the queen of Sheba, a country in Arabia Felix. His thoughts were enshrined in storytelling, though probably, not all the clever thinking in the stories originated with the one man.
His decline and fall from his high estate is a sad record. Blamed for it were his polygamy and his great wealth, causing him to become decadent and involved in various forms of idol worship which were contrary to the religious law.
Because of this idol worship, a prophet visited Solomon and told him that after his death, his kingdom would be split in two (Israel and Judah). After Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam would suffer because of his sin.
He died, after a reign of forty years, and was buried in the Jerusalem. He was succeeded by his son Rehoboam
"The kingdom of Solomon," says Rawlinson, "is one of the most striking facts in the Biblical history. A petty nation, which for hundreds of years has with difficulty maintained a separate existence in the midst of warlike tribes, each of which has in turn exercised dominion over it and oppressed it, is suddenly raised by the genius of a soldier-monarch to glory and greatness. An empire is established which extends from the Euphrates to the borders of Egypt, a distance of 450 miles; and this empire, rapidly constructed, enters almost immediately on a period of peace which lasts for half a century. Wealth, grandeur, architectural magnificence, artistic excellence, commercial enterprise, a position of dignity among the great nations of the earth, are enjoyed during this space, at the end of which there is a sudden collapse. The ruling nation is split in twain, the subject-races fall off, the pre-eminence lately gained being wholly lost, the scene of struggle, strife, oppression, recovery, inglorious submission, and desperate effort, re-commences."