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Outlines Of Jewish History -Rev. Francis E. Gigot D.D.

§ 1. Beginning of Solomon’s Kingdom

1. How Solomon was Prepared and Called to Succeed David. Unlike the first two kings of Israel, Solomon, the second son of David by Bethsabee, was born in the Jewish capital and brought up in the midst of such state and luxury as belonged to his father’s court. Three persons especially had much to do with his early training: his father, his mother and the prophet Nathan. The influence of his father was no doubt of the happiest kind. Matured by years and chastened by sorrow and misfortune, David must have watched over this child of his beloved wife with a special care and set before him examples of personal love and devotion to Jehovah, of strict and constant attention to public affairs. Furthermore, as he knew that Solomon was destined to rule over Israel, he no doubt initiated him gradually into the many details of political government and into his great project of erecting a temple to the Lord.

“But the boy would be also with Bethsabee, his mother—in his childhood almost entirely so; and that must have been a very different influence. The mother’s influence in an Eastern court is almost always bad, for she is not trained to think of anything higher for her child than the merest self-indulgence” (WINTERBOTHAM, Life and Reign of Solomon. p. 14), and in this particular case, a happy motherly influence could hardly be expected on the part of one who had consented to share in a royal adultery, and whose main concern was apparently to secure the throne to her beloved child. Fortunately, therefore, for Solomon, he found in Nathan, the faithful prophet of Jehovah, and a man of great influence with both David and Bethsabee, examples and precepts that would counteract to some extent the softness of his early training by his mother, add considerably to the power of the good example and advice of his father, and prepare him gradually for the great future before him.

Thus Solomon grew up destined to the throne not only by the peculiar love of David and Bethsabee, but also and principally by the solemn decree which Nathan had uttered in his favor on the part of Jehovah (2 Kings 7:12, 15; 3 Kings 2:15, 24). It was most likely in consequence of this Divine decree that David had secretly promised to Bethsabee that her son Solomon would succeed to the kingdom (3 Kings 1:17), and that when Adonias, his eldest surviving son, put up a claim to the throne and was not thereupon rebuked by him, Nathan intervened and requested that the royal dignity should belong to the one chosen by the Supreme King of Israel. It is also probable that the prophet profited by this occasion to make David sensible of the great evils which might arise for his family and nation should he die before the actual coronation of his successor, and this accounts for the fact that the aged monarch lost no time in having Solomon inaugurated King of Israel, and expressed his great joy at seeing the ceremony over (3 Kings 1:48; cfr. also 3 Kings 2:22).

2. Accession and First Acts of Solomon. A few months elapsed when, by the death of his father, Solomon became the sole occupant of the Jewish throne. He was still very young—probably between sixteen and twenty—and whilst he knew he possessed the affectionate loyalty of the nation at large, he could not forget that very near his throne he had several bold and designing enemies. “The pretensions of his own elder brother Adonias still commanded a powerful party; Abiathar swayed the priesthood; Joab the army. The singular connection in public opinion between the title to the crown and the possession of the deceased monarch’s harem has been already noticed. Adonias, in making request for Abisag, a youthful concubine taken by David in his old age, was considered as insidiously renewing his claims to the sovereignty. Solomon saw at once the wisdom of his father’s dying admonition (3 Kings 2:5–9; he seized the opportunity of crushing all future opposition, and all danger of a civil war. He caused Adonias to be put to death, suspended Abiathar from his office and banished him from Jerusalem, and commanded that Joab, though he had fled to the altar, be slain for two murders of which he had been guilty, those of Abner and Amasa. Semei, another dangerous character, was commanded to reside in Jerusalem, on pain of death if he should quit the city. Three years afterwards, he was detected in a suspicious journey to Geth, on the Philistine border, and having violated the compact, he suffered the penalty” (MILMAN, History of the Jews).

Thus secured, according to the advice of his father, from internal enemies, Solomon married Pharao’s daughter. This was clearly a political alliance, the chief aim of which was probably to flatter the national pride of the Israelites by making them more fully realize the high standing they actually possessed among the greatest monarchies of the world. Although this alliance with a heathen woman must have appeared contrary to the religious traditions of the people of Jehovah, yet its irregularity was not objected to at the time. Another thing contributed towards rendering this alliance acceptable to the Jewish nation, namely, the splendid and costly sacrifice which the young monarch hastened after his accession to offer on “the great high place” in Gabaon, where the Tabernacle still remained, and which was calculated to prove to all his sincere devotion to the worship of the God of Israel. The sacred writer informs us that this sacrifice was so pleasing to Jehovah that He appeared to Solomon, offered him whatever gift he might choose, and bestowed upon him “an understanding heart to judge his people.” An illustration is then given of the wonderful judicial wisdom of the king in the memorable incident of the two women who contested the right to a child (3 Kings, 3).

§ 2. Commercial Relations

1. Commerce by Land. Solomon is the first Jewish ruler who, having in his hands the great military and commercial roads between the Euphrates and the Nile, felt free enough from foreign foes to start and carry on an active commerce with the nations which surrounded Israel. His principal traffic by land was with Egypt for the horses and chariots for which this country had become famous. He needed them to keep up his own large supply, for he himself possessed horsemen and chariots in great numbers after the manner of the Egyptian and Hittite kings, and more particularly to satisfy the incessant demands for such warlike or splendid equipages by the Hittite and Aramean warriors (3 Kings 10:28, 29). To transport them across his territory he naturally put in good repair the old caravan roads which long centuries of war and confusion had allowed to fall into a miserable condition, and “after a system long established in Egypt, he built towns at suitable points as centres of commerce and depots of goods for sale” (GEIKIE, Hours with the Bible, vol. iii. p. 422). That the Jewish king kept the monopoly of this lucrative trade, as indeed of all his commerce, is most likely from what we know of the customs of Oriental monarchs.

Solomon’s commercial relations with Arabia are less accurately known to us than those he had with Egypt. It is from Arabia that he must have mainly derived the spices which were extensively used during his reign (cfr. 3 Kings 10:25; Prov. 7:17; Cant, 3:6; 4:10, 14, 16, etc.); for although they might have been brought to him by sea, yet they have ever been transported by caravans throughout the East. From the same country he may also have imported many of his precious stones (cfr. 3 Kings 10:2, 10; 2 Paralip. 9:1, 9, 10).

The last country with which Solomon maintained direct commercial relations by land was PHENICIA. His traffic with Hiram, King of Tyre, was chiefly required by his own numerous architectural undertakings; for without the friendly transactions with this pagan prince, Solomon would never have been able to carry out the building of the Temple of Jerusalem and of his various palaces. Phenicia was ever famous in antiquity for its skilled wood-carvers and metal-casters, and the Israelites, at least at this time, were far from having acquired the knowledge in the useful and fine arts which such public constructions required. It may be added in passing that if the Jewish king vanquished many a time his royal brother of Tyre in their contests of wit (JOSEPHUS, Against Apion, i, 17), the Phenician monarch certainly got the better of the son of David in their business transactions (3 Kings 5; 7; 13, sq.; 9:1, sq; 2 Paralip. 2; 8:2).

2. Commerce by Sea. It was his intercourse with Phenicia which suggested to Solomon maritime enterprises which departed entirely from the old traditions of the Jewish people, never much acquainted with the sea. Whilst the Tyrians covered the Mediterranean Sea with their ships, founding numerous colonies, opening trading ports—the chief of which was Tarsis, probably on the southern coast of Spain, then abounding in gold and silver mines—David secured the possession of Asiongaber at the northern end of the eastern arm of the Red Sea and his son and successor, Solomon, bethought himself of procuring a fleet which would cross the Red Sea and trade with the eastern ports of India. This was a bold conception, for to carry it out Solomon could not reckon either on native ship-builders or native sailors. Yet by means of his friendly alliance with Hiram he was able to secure ships which he manned partly with Phenician sailors, partly with his own subjects from Dan and Zabulon, who were somewhat familiar with the sea by their residence near the coast.

It is hardly probable that the ships of Solomon sailed in company with those of Hiram and shared in their profits. The Phenicians most likely kept the monopoly and the “Tarsis navy” spoken of in the Hebrew text of 3 Kings 10:22; 2 Paralip. 9:21, was a generic term simply to designate ships of a particular build, just as Englishmen might talk of an “Indiaman” without necessarily implying that the ship sailed only to India (FARRAR, Solomon, his Life and Times, p. 122).

Whatever may be thought of Solomon’s maritime partnership with the King of Tyre in the commerce of the Mediterranean, there is no doubt that he attempted the navigation of the Red Sea, for which Hiram and his Tyrians could feel no sort of jealousy. Sailing from Asiongaber, the Jewish navy went to Ophir, a place the exact site of which has been the subject matter of endless discussions. Some have identified it with the ancient gold mines and extensive ruins recently discovered in Southern Africa; others with a place called El Ophir in the southern part of Arabia (Gen. 10:29); others again with a place at the mouth of the Indus, etc., etc. The last opinion just given seems, on the whole, very probable on the following grounds: (1) all the imports mentioned in the Bible are of Indian origin; (2) the names given them (except of course of gold, silver and precious stones for which there were already Hebrew words) are Sanscrit words; (3) the place at the mouth of the Indus, is named by Ptolemy Abiria, and by Hindu geographers Abhira, a name practically identical with that of Ophir; (4) finally, in the Septuagint, or oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament, Ophir is translated Sophir, which in Coptic means India, and this rendering is adopted by the Arabic versions; the Vulgate itself renders Ophir by India in Job 28:16 (cfr. VIGOUROUX, Bible et Découvertes Modernes, tome iii; FARRAR, Solomon, pp. 123–126).

The principal products brought from Ophir were, besides gold and silver, ivory, precious stones, sandalwood, apes and peacocks, the last of which caused the greatest wonder among the Jewish population (3 Kings 9:28; 10:11, 22; 2 Paralip. 8:18; 9:10).

§ 3. Internal Prosperity

1. Intellectual Life of Solomon and his Times. The prosperous period of Solomon’s reign was not only the best epoch for the development of Jewish industry and commerce, it was also the most favorable time for the development of national intellectual life. In this respect, as in every other, the King of Israel took the lead, and he became very widely known as the “wisest man of his time,” whereby it was probably meant that he was endowed with an extraordinary “faculty of acute observation, shrewdness in discovery or device, cleverness of invention” (DRIVER, Introduction to Old Testament Literature, chapter 8; cfr. also 3 Kings 3:2, 3). Solomon’s wisdom thus understood allowed him to cultivate with great success that gnomic poetry which “consists of acute observations on human life and society, or generalizations respecting conduct and character” (DRIVER, chapter 7); and in fact no less than 3,000 proverbs are ascribed to him (3 Kings 4:32). Of all these proverbs of the Jewish monarch, only a very small number has come down to us embodied in a general collection known as our canonical “Book of Proverbs.” Many times his proverbs assumed the form of “parables from nature,” that is, of shrewd sayings which men could verify for themselves by ordinary observation of natural facts and which contained important lessons. As these sayings were often suggested by a close observation either of animals, such as the lizard, the ant, the lion, the bear, etc.; or of plants, such as the cedar, the hyssop, etc., we find it stated that Solomon “treated about trees from the cedar that is in the Lebanon, unto the hyssop that cometh out of the wall, and discoursed of beasts and of fowls; and of creeping things and of fishes” (3 Kings 4:33).

We are further told that he composed “a thousand and five poems” (3 Kings 4:32), whence it follows that Solomon also cultivated lyric poetry assiduously; but of all the lyric compositions of the Bible, only a few have been ascribed to him, namely: Psalm 72 in the Hebrew (71 in the Vulgate), Psalm 117 in the Hebrew (116 in the Vulgate), the Canticle of Canticles, and Ecclesiastes.

Perhaps to this same period of the Golden Age of the Hebrew literature must be ascribed the remarkable poem known under the name of the Book of Job, in which case, it would be necessary to admit that some of the deepest problems offered to the human mind by our mortal existence greatly agitated already the wise men of Solomon’s time (cfr. PELT, Histoire de l’Ancien Testament, tome ii. p. 65–92).

Besides these various inspired poems, it can hardly be doubted, that in Israel, as in any nation which has reached a high literary development, other poetical compositions were written bearing on topics which had no religious or sacred character. Finally, as forming a part of the intellect ual activity of the time, we must mention the public and private diaries which were later utilized by the compilers of our books of Kings and Chronicles (3 Kings 4:3; 11:41; 2 Paralip. 9:29).

2. Military and Political Organization. As might naturally be expected from a monarch who had set before himself the ideal of peaceful wealth and literary culture instead of that of military glory, Solomon left practically untouched the military organization introduced by his father. Like David, he had his standing army, now commanded by Banaias, the son of Joiada; his military order of 600 men, and his body-guard under the command of a captain whose power extended over the king’s household. To these he simply added a comparatively large number of cavalry and charioteers.

The political organization underwent more considerable changes. Having surrounded himself with wise and respected counsellors (3 Kings 4:2), the king did away with the time-honored division of Israel into tribes, and put taxation on a new basis. He preserved indeed the old number of twelve in his new division of the land, but his twelve provinces were made according to population and resources, and over each of these he himself appointed a governor. His aim was clearly to deal a fatal blow at the old tribal jealousies and divisions which he remembered had so terribly shaken the kingdom during the last years of his father, and at the same time to regulate taxation more easily. The financial administration which was intrusted to the provincial governors was in fact of the simplest kind; apparently no direct taxes were levied, but all that was requisite for Solomon’s court and government had to be provided, each province supplying in turn what was required for a month (3 Kings 4).

3. Extension and Peaceful Condition of his States. With such excellent financial organization, it should have been easy for the Jewish king to meet the yearly expenses of his reign, the more so because the various tributary nations—Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Arabians of the desert and Syrians of Damascus—showed themselves faithful in paying him whatever dues had been imposed on them by David (3 Kings 4:21). Solomon’s passion for building soon betrayed him, however, into enormous expenses which he felt unable to cover except by alienating a part of his dominions. So that had the King of Tyre been pleased with the twenty cities on the border of Phenicia, which his royal brother had given him, the kingdom of Solomon would have been actually less extensive than that of his father (3 Kings 9:10, sq.). The only city which was added to Solomon’s dominions, during his long reign, was that of Gazer, which the King of Egypt took from the Philistines and bestowed upon his daughter as a dowry at the time of her marriage with the Jewish monarch.

But if the territory of Israel was not increased during the rule of Solomon, there is hardly any doubt that the population increased rapidly owing to the actual cessation of war, and to the growing material prosperity which the nation enjoyed for many years (3 Kings 4:20). This was indeed a time of peace and plenty “when Juda and Israel dwelt without any fear, every one under his vine and under his fig-tree” (3 Kings 4:25). It was the time of that lavish expenditure of those great architectural and commercial undertakings which at first naturally tended to increase the well-being of the country “by making money more plentiful, by providing employment, creating large demands and arousing ambitions hitherto unknown” (WINTERBOTHAM, Solomon, p. 34). National pride and interest were gratified not only by the most precious and most abundant treasures which foreign nations and chieftains offered to the Jewish king and which were then mostly spent among the people; but also by Solomon’s care to bestow only upon Israelites the posts of honor and profit. It is not therefore to be wondered at that the sacred writers of the books of Kings and Paralipomenon describe with a special delight the riches and glory of the son of David, and the peace and prosperity which the whole nation “from Dan to Bersabee” enjoyed under his rule. Indeed this period of peace, of prosperity and of glory contrasted so strongly with the insecurity of the time of the judges and even of the reigns of Saul and David, and with the misfortunes of later ages, that this glorious period of Solomon’s reign gradually came to be considered as the type of that kingdom of course more prosperous, more lasting than that of Solomon, yet like unto it, which the Messias, the greatest Son of David, would introduce into the world for “the glory of the Jews and the revelation of the Gentiles” (3 King 4; 2 Paralip. 8, 9; Matt. 6:29; Luke 2:25, 32)

§ 4. Public Works

1. Public Works in Jerusalem. Among the many wonders of Solomon’s reign which struck the imagination of the Jewish people and made them long remember the splendor of his rule, were the public buildings wherewith he embellished the capital of his empire. The first, and by far the most important of these great buildings, was the Temple. Towards the construction of this sanctuary David had gathered great treasures, quantities of brass, iron, stone, timber, etc. (1 Paralip. 22), and had matured a detailed plan which he explained to his son with the solemn charge that he should carry it out with ardor and perseverance (1 Paralip. 28). On coming to the throne Solomon lost no time in taking up a work so dear to his father and to the nation at large. For this purpose he entered into a regular treaty with Hiram, by which he bound himself to supply the Tyrians with large quantities of corn, oil and wine, and received in return their timber which was floated down to Joppe, and a large number of artificers. Besides, Solomon ordered a levy out of Israel, which furnished him with 30,000 workmen, 10,000 of whom were employed at a time to cut timber in Libanus, and he compelled 150,000 strangers, chiefly of Chanaanite descent, to carry burdens and hew stones (3 Kings 5; 1 Paralip. 2).

These preparations completed, the work was begun on the site bought by David from Ornan the Jesubite, on Mount Moriah, an eminence near Jerusalem, at once rendered sacred as the spot where Abraham had offered up Isaac, and where the plague had been stayed during the last reign. The rugged top of Moriah was levelled with great labor; its sides, which to the east and south were precipitous, were faced with walls of great stones, built up on the sloping sides, the interval between being occupied by vaults or filled up with earth. The lower, bevelled stones of the wall remain, the relics of the eastern wall alone being Solomon’s. They bear Phenician red marks on their bottom rows, at the depth of 90 feet, where the foundations rest on the rock itself. No sound of hammer or of axe, or of any tool of iron, was heard as the structure arose (3 Kings 6:7); every beam already cut and squared before being floated down to Joppe, every stone already hewn and bevelled in the quarries recently discovered under the present city of Jerusalem, near the Damascus gate, was laid silently in its appointed place (MACLEAR, Old Testament History, p. 356).

Like the Tabernacle, on the general model of which it was built, the Temple faced the east. It consisted of the “House of Jehovah” or Temple proper, erected on the top of the sacred mount, and of two concentrated enclosures or “Courts of Jehovah’s House” surrounding the Temple proper in such a manner that the inner court stood upon higher ground than the outer one, and the House of Jehovah upon a position highest of all.

The Temple proper was but a small building, a shrine erected to the God of Israel that He might dwell in the midst of His people, not in our sense a church freely open to all. It had three distinct parts: (1) the Vestibule, about 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep, within which arose two pillars of brass, their capitals ornamented with network, chainwork and pomegranates; (2) the Holy Place, the dimensions of which were exactly double those of the Tabernacle, was 60 feet long from east to west, by 30 wide, and 45 high. It was entered from the Vestibule by folding-doors made of cypress overlaid with gold and richly embossed. Every part of this wonderful room was overlaid with gold, and the walls of hewn stone panelled with cedar, were further adorned with beautiful carvings representing cherubim, fruits and flowers. It contained the golden Altar of Incense, on either side of which were five golden tables for the “loaves of proposition” and five golden candlesticks, each seven-branched. (3) the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place was a perfect cube of 30 feet. The entrance was from the Holy Place through folding-doors which were probably always open, though the opening was concealed by a rich veil of the brightest colors. Like the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies was most richly decorated, overlaid with gold in all its parts. It contained but one object, the original Ark of the Covenant overshadowed by two gigantic cherubim likewise overlaid with gold. On three sides of the Temple proper there were side buildings three stories high and so arranged that the Temple proper rose above them like a clerestory rising above aisles, the window-openings being fitted with fixed lattices of boards; the Most Holy Place, however, was apparently without any light or ventilation from the outside. (On the resemblance of Solomon’s Temple to those of Egypt, cfr. VIGOUROUX, Bible et Découvertes Modernes, tome iii.)

Descending from the Vestibule, one would come to the “Inner” (3 Kings 6:36) or “Court of the Priests” (2 Paralip. 4:9) within which—as within the Court of the Tábernacle—was the Altar of Holocausts, 30 feet long and 15 high, and standing on the exact site of the threshing floor of Ornan. In the same court, were also found a great tank or “sea” of molten brass used for the ablutions of the priests, ten lesser movable vessels of brass for the washing of entrails, and all the other utensils necessary for the various Jewish sacrifices. This court was paved with great stones, and enclosed by a low wall of polished stones and a row of beams of cedar. Only the priests and those who offered sacrifices were allowed into the inner court, a part of which—the nearest to the Temple—was actually reserved for the exclusive use of the priests.

From this Inner Court, steps led down to the “Outer Court” where the people gathered to attend the various sacrifices and ceremonies of the Mosaic Ritual (cfr. Jerem. 36:10). This outer court was probably left unfinished by Solomon, but when completed it was surrounded by a strong wall, supplied with four massive gates of brass, and contained within together with colonnades, chambers and rooms used for various purposes. From this court, steps led down to a wide esplanade destined to become later the Court of the Gentiles (cfr. PELT, Histoire de I’Ancien Testament, tome ii. p. 24, sq.; EDERSHEIM, Bible History, vol. v. p. 75, sq.).

As soon as the Jewish monarch had finished the House of Jehovah and the Inner Court (which was indeed necessary for carrying on the Divine service), he dedicated his work to the worship of God in a splendid festival the details of which have been preserved to us by the sacred writers (3 Kings 8; 2 Paralip. 5–7).

Before the Temple was thus completed and dedicated Solomon had begun the erection of his own magnificent palace, to which he devoted thirteen years of labor. It was most likely made up of several different buildings after the manner of the Assyrian palaces, and of these buildings little more than the names has come down to us. The principal building was probably the House of the Forest of Libanus; next in importance was the Porch of Judgment, and finally the Porch of Pillars. He also made a house for the daughter of Pharao, whom he had taken to wife (3 Kings 7:1–12). Solomon’s magnificent palace, for the splendor of which nothing was spared, was below the platform of the Temple, for “he constructed an ascent from his own house to that of Jehovah, that is, a subterranean passage 250 feet long by 42 feet wide, of which the remains may still be traced” (SMITH, Old Testament History, p. 491).

About the same time Solomon supplied Jerusalem with water by means of reservoirs and aqueducts, and completed or simply repaired the fortification of his capital (3 Kings 11:27).

2. Public Works in the Provinces. The public works carried out by the son of David outside Jerusalem regarded chiefly fortresses which he either strengthened or rebuilt with a view to prevent invasion or protect his own caravan roads. Thus he fortified Baalath, Gazer and the two Bethorons to command the pass which led from the coast-plain to the highlands of Benjamin; the post of Heser to defend the northern entrance of Israel’s territory from Syria and Assyria; Mageddo to guard the plain of Esdrælon. Lastly, at some 250 miles northeast of Jerusalem, half-way between Damascus and the Euphrates, he built Tadmor, afterwards called Palmyra, in an oasis of the Syrian wilderness, wherefrom he could overawe the predatory tribes of the desert, and secure his communication with the outlying post of Thapsacus on the Euphrates (WINTERBOTHAM, Solomon, p. 63, sq.).

Besides these fortresses, the names of which are given in the Bible, the king strengthened many other towns, and in particular he provided magazine cities for his chariots and his cavalry (3 Kings 9:19).

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