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Solomon - Feast Day December 26th

An icon of Solomon

Solomon was David's youngest son, at least by Bath-sheba. He was born at Jerusalem. David named him Solomon, "peaceable," in anticipation of the peace and quietness of his reign in contrast with his own stormy life; but through the Prophet Nathan he was divinely honored with the name Jedidiah, "beloved of Jehovah" (II Sam. 12:25). When David was old and feeble, Adonijah, one of his sons born at Hebron, and probably the eldest now that Amnon and Absalom were dead, planned to rule independently of his father's sanction; but the design was thwarted by the Prophet Nathan with the aid of Zadok the priest and Benaiah the military commander, supported by David's bodyguard. Solomon was proclaimed king and the party of Adonijah at once collapsed. David soon afterward died, and Solomon began his sole reign about the year 970 B.C., being at the time probably about 20 years old. Obedient to the dying charge of its father, he dealt out justice to Abiathar and Shimei; and when Adonijah began a new plot against the king, he put him to death and ordered the execution of Joab likewise, who was implicated in the conspiracy. The young king soon brought to Jerusalem Pharaoh's daughter as his queen. At that time the worship at the sanctuary, which had been broken up when the Lord forsook Shiloh, was still interrupted. The tabernacle was at Gibeon and the Ark at Jerusalem. The people worshiped at high places. Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice. There God appeared to him in a dream by night and bade him ask for anything he chose. He asked for an understanding heart, that he might be able justly to judge the people of God, for it was part of a king's duty in those days to administer justice. His request was granted, as he soon afterward showed by the skillful manner in which he disentangled truth from falsehood when he decided between the two women, each of whom claimed the living babe as her own. Twenty or more years later the Lord appeared to him again, conditionally promised to continue the throne in Solomon's own line, and gave him solemn warning.

His father had subdued the neighboring nations. Against Hamath only is it recorded that Solomon went to war. He was obliged to control that city in order to secure the n.e. portion of his dominions. Hadad the Edomite and Rezon of Damascus were hostile to Solomon, but the Hebrew monarch probably gave himself but little concern about them. He fortified Hazor at the crossing of the upper Jordan and built a tower in Lebanon, in order to hold Damascus in check, and saw to it that the road by Edom to Ezion-geber was open and safe. Otherwise Solomon's relations with neighboring kings were friendly, and he was able to devote himself to the organization of his kingdom and to the arts of peace.

David had amassed a great store of precious metals for the construction of a magnificent temple to Jehovah. Solomon took up the work, and with Tyrian helped finished the Temple in 7 years. Then, after furniture had been made for it, it was dedicated. Next, the monarch erected a palace for himself, which took 13 years in building. He also fortified and built cities in various parts of the country.

Solomon showed sagacity in government. He surrounded himself with eminent officials, among whom the son of the high priest held the 1st place. He maintained the army at full strength. For administrative purposes he divided the kingdom into 12 districts, entirely independent of the old tribal lines. Nor did he fail to take a prominent part in the religion of the state. He led the nation in prayer at they dedication of the Temple, and invoked the divine blessing upon the assembled multitude.

Commerce flourished in his kingdom and brought wealth and voyages were successfully made to Ophir and traffic was conducted with India. For the protection and fostering of trade, he built store cities, among others Palmyra, in the desert midway between Damascus and the Euphrates.

Solomon was interested in literary pursuits: he was a naturalist and wrote treatises on plants, "from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping things, and of fishes" (I Kings 4:33). He collected and composed many proverbs, some of which constitute part of the Old Testament. Two psalms Psalm 72 and 127 are attributed to him by their titles.

The splendor of his court, the magnificence of his table, and his pomp when on excursions corresponded to his wealth and political power. People came from all parts to hear his wisdom. The report of his wisdom was carried even to s. Arabia, and the queen of Sheba journeyed to Jerusalem to test it and to see his magnificence.

Solomon erred in 2 respects. He established a harem, which included from 1st to last about 1,000 members. Doubtless not a few of these were hostages, princesses given him as pledges of political amity. Now many of these women were foreigners by birth and idolatrous in their religion, and he allowed himself to be persuaded by them to erect idol shrines. For this apostasy Solomon was punished. The kingdom in its great extent and power was taken from the dynasty and only a fragment of it left to the family. The example of Solomon's disloyalty to Jehovah had direct influence in producing this penal result. Also influential to this end was the announcement by the Prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam that God would rend 10 tribes from Solomon and give them to him. Jeroboam became a recognized opponent of the king; but not until Solomon's son Jehoboam ascended the throne did Jeroboam secure a kingdom. A second less obvious yet an important error was Solomon's luxury, which imposed a burden on his overtaxed subjects, shook their loyalty to the throne, and sowed the seeds of future rebellion.

Solomon reigned 40 years, dying about 931 B.C. The events of his life and reign were recorded in the Book of the Acts of Solomon, the History of Nathan the Prophet, the Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, the Visions of Iddo the Seer.

Condensed from Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, by John Davis & Henry Gehman, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1944

For a description of this icon and the troparion and kontakion for this saint please click here