King Solomon & His Kingdom

Solomon the Wise, one of King David's three sons, built a truly organized and centralized monarchy.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People edited by Eli Barnavi and published by Schocken Books.

How Solomon Won the Throne

[King] David's old age was not a happy time. As his authority declined, his sons and ministers began fighting over who his successor would be. Several revolts threatened the throne; the most dangerous, and most tragic, was the one headed by Absalom, David's favorite son. Fearing that he would not be appointed heir to the throne, Absalom killed his brother Amnon and raised the banner of revolt. His insurrection was crushed, but the struggle continued. 

king solomon and the queen of sheba

Giovanni Demin's
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Now the principal claimants were David's two other sons: Adonijah, son of Haggith, and Solomon, son of Bath‑Sheba. Adonijah, supported by the old establishment--the army commander, Joab son of Zeruiah, and the priest Abiathar--tried to have himself anointed in his father's lifetime. However, Bath‑Sheba frustrated the attempt with the aid of the prophet Nathan and several army officers headed by Benaiah son of Jehoiadah, and she persuaded David to proclaim Solomon his rightful heir.

After David's death (c. 967 B.C.E) Solomon began to strike out at his opponents. Some were executed (Adonijah, Joab); others were banished from Jerusalem (Abiathar). The key positions in the kingdom were handed to his loyal servants--Benaiah was made commander of the army, and Zadok was installed as high priest to the Lord (and destined to become the forefather of an illustrious line of high priests).

Solomon's Brilliant Reign

Solomon's iron hand soon convinced potential rebels that there was no hope of undermining his absolute rule over all the tribes. Indeed, the internal stability attained by Solomon ensured his dynasty four centuries of rule in Jerusalem. The brilliance of his reign gave birth to the mythic tradition that the House of David ruled by divine will, a tradition which became an integral part of Jewish messianic expectations (and of Christ­ianity as well, since Jesus was accorded a Davidic pedigree). The transi­tion from the portable Tabernacle, associated with the wanderings of Israel in the desert, to the splendid Temple built by Solomon in Jeru­salem, enhanced the sanctity of the city and made it the undisputed capital of the monarchy.

The construction of the Temple was only one of Solomon's great building enterprises. He built fortified towns--Megiddo, Hazor, Gezer, Beth‑Horon--as well as store‑cities and garrison‑towns for his cavalry, together with impressive water conduits which allowed the cities to withstand sieges. In fact, it was Solomon rather than David who built a kingdom which conformed with the international standards of those days--a truly centralized and organized monarchy.

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Yair Hoffman

Yair Hoffman is a Professor of Bible at Tel Aviv University.