However, the temple was designed largely by Tyrian architects, and because they had built many Pagan temples before, the main structure and carvings were modelled on these non-Yahweh structures. Also, due to the slave labour required for the building to be finished reasonably quickly, Anderson says that it was built ‘with the life and liberty of the people. ‘ The temple was built in the south of Israel and so the already unhappy people in the north, were forced to travel a long way to worship in the temple.
This meant that they could not come so often, and gave them even more reason to feel resentment towards the monarchy. Bright says that ‘before Solomon’s death the northern tribes had been completely alienated from the house of David’. I agree that this is how the people probably felt, due to the numerous occasions where Solomon discriminated the north simply because they were far away from him and he didn’t think they would cause trouble for him.
Solomon also embarked on many other building projects, including the city walls around Jerusalem and he fortified the major centers of Megiddo, Gezer and Hazor as military bases for his chariot divisions. He also built several smaller temples around the country, for other Gods as well as Yahweh. Solomon’s glory did not consist in material things alone, for it was attended by an amazing opening of cultural exploration. The period of Solomon’s reign was a time when the arts really flourished, and most people could read – the first time for a long period in history.
The gift of wisdom from God given in 1Kings3 is something that we can admire Solomon for. When asked what one thing he wanted God to give him he answered, ‘I ask that you give me an obedient heart so I can rule the people in the right way and will know the difference between right and wrong’. God then decides that he ‘will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be’. Solomon did not act purely selfishly and ask simply for more riches, he asked for something that would benefit the kingdom as a whole.
His wisdom is then demonstrated in the very same chapter in his decision in the case of the two women who claimed the same baby. The story goes that Solomon proposed to settle the argument by cutting the baby in two, so neither women would have it. At this point the real mother offered to surrender the baby, and Solomon, with the psychological understanding of a mother’s love, rendered the verdict in her favour. However Drane argues that ‘Solomon many have been renowned for his wisdom, but it was not the kind of practical wisdom that led to a sympathetic understanding of his own people’.
Solomon did a lot of writing during his life, and there is a whole book in the Bible dedicated to this writing (Songs of Solomon) as well as other parts of the Bible having inputs from him. He wrote 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs and during his reign a major court history was produced. The writer of Kings says that ‘Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else’. Solomon’s time was the beginning of a wisdom movement and according to Anderson ‘Solomon was regarded as the patron of Israel’s wisdom movement.
‘ We are told in 1Kings4 that he had an extensive knowledge of beasts, birds, reptiles and fish, and wisdom in such topics was very highly regarded. The wisdom of Solomon was so infamous that the Queen of Sheba came to visit him and test him with hard questions to test his knowledge and wisdom. For a variety of reasons, there was ill feeling and resentment against the style of Solomon’s rule. He established a strong central administration system, with tax districts under the control of an officer.
Many people were angered, and felt that they were being led by an elite and privileged group, that went against the notion that all were equal before God. I agree with Drane when he says that ‘the old ways were being eroded; instead of twelve tribes serving God, there were twelve districts serving the king’. In many ways Solomon was a successful king: he brought military strength, strong alliances and trading routes, great wealth and efficient central administration. All of these are imperative to a stable and successful kingdom.
However Anderson argues that all of this glory and security was achieved through ‘harsh measures of exploitation’, which is evident through the evidence of taxation and forced labour Solomon inflicted on the country. Drane and Bright both agree that ‘He had become like the kings of other nations in every bad sense’, and he was ‘the embodiment of all a king ought not to be’. Solomon’s reign is a controversial one, and although he was successful in many ways, his greed and desire for absolute luxury brought out qualities that led to the disintegration of himself and Israel, particularly as a nation that followed Yahweh.