King Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba, succeeded his
father to the throne of Israel and reigned for 40 years. After his death, the northern tribes seceded and the country was split into two, often hostile, kingdoms: Judah in the south under King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon; and Israel in the north, whose first king was Jeroboam.
In contrast to his predecessors – Saul and David, who both rose from humble beginnings to kingship and constantly fought wars – Solomon was born and raised as a royal prince and enjoyed a lengthy peace during his reign.
Solomon’s accession to the throne was far from being an assured matter because he had several older half-brothers ahead of him in the line for the succession and all of them were ambitious to become king. Solomon’s chances improved greatly when two of his brothers met with violent deaths. Ammon rapes his sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:11-12). King David was greatly angered by such actions, but even though he was a warrior and had no problem conquering other kingdoms, he could kill his own son. Yet, one of his other sons, Absalom, felt otherwise and two years later kills Ammon. (2 Sam 13a:23-39).
Absalom, didn’t just kill Ammon, he killed all of his brothers because he wanted to take the crown from his father, David. Such actions are asking for death, but David forgave Absalom, he was his only still living child at this time. Yet, David’s top soldier, Joab, didn’t see things the way David did and he executed Absalom (2 Sam 18:9-17).
After the death of the two older brothers, the next son in line as heir to the kingdom was Adonijah, the fourth son of King David by his wife Haggith. Joab, the army’s commander, and Abiathar, the High Priest, supported him in his bid for the throne, but only influential people in the court opposed him, among them Zadok, the older High Priest, and Nathan, the prophet, who sided with Solomon.
When Adonijah invited his brothers, except for Solomon, and the leaders of the tribe of Judah to a sacrificial feast, Nathan realized that the time to act had come (1 Kgs 1:5-9). David’s memory weakened as he aged and had forgotten the promise he had made Bathsheba. Nathan asked Bathsheba to go to King David, tell him what Adonijah was doing, and remind him that he had promised the throne to Solomon (1 Kgs 1:10-11). Bathsheba did as Nathan had told her and crowned Solomon and the people shouted, “God save King Solomon” (1 Kgs 1:39-40).
From the very start of his reign, Solomon showed himself to be an energetic and decisive king, who took vigorous action against opponents and did not shrink from bloody vengeance.
After the death of King David, Adonijah asked Bathsheba to intercede on his behalf with her son, King Solomon, and get his permission to marry Abishag, the beautiful Shunammite girl who had been brought to King David in his old age to minister him. This, in Solomon’s eyes, was tantamount to Adonijah claiming the throne. He didn’t hesitate and immediately ordered Benaiah to kill his older brother (1 Kgs 2:24-25). Benaiah also executed Joab (1 Kgs 2:33-34), who had opposed Solomon’s bid to the throne, and Shimei, who had insulted King David during his flight from Absalom (1 Kgs 2:36).
Solomon, following the instructions that David had given him in his deathbed, sent Benaiah to kill Joab (1 Kgs 2:28-34), in punishment for having murdered Abner and Amasa. Solomon rewarded Benaiah’s loyalty by making him commander of the army loyalty by making him commander of the army (1 Kgs 2:35).
After eliminating his opposition, Solomon concentrated in ruling the country, reforming the court, maintaining peaceful relations with his neighbors, promoting international trade, and embarking in an ambitious building plan, which embellished Jerusalem and fortified several cities.
Early in his reign, while staying in Gibeon to make sacrifices and burn incense in the altar of the city, God appeared to Solomon in a dream. The king asked God to give to him a wise and understanding heart to judge the people, and to be able to discern between good and bad. God, pleased at his request granted him his wish.
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
“And Solomon said, Thou hast shewd unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.
And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants” (1 Kgs 3:4-15).
Solomon became known as the wisest, wealthiest, and most powerful king of the eastern lands. He was the author of 3,000 proverbs and he composed a 1,005 songs. He is also the author of the books of Song of Songs/Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
The most famous example of Solomon’s wisdom, intelligence, and sense of justice was the case of the two harlots disputing a baby.
“Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.
And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.
And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.
And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.
And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
Then spake the woman who’s the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof” (1 Kgs 3:16-27).
King David had wanted to build God a house, a temple, but God told him that he had too much blood on his hands (1 Chr 22:8) so he would have his son, Solomon, build one for Him (1 Chr 22:9-10).
And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment (1 Kgs 3:16-28).
His fame became international and people came from many countries to hear his wisdom. His most famous visitor was the Queen of Sheba (1 Kgs 10:1-13), a kingdom situated in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, which was rich in gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Solomon needed her products and her trade routes for his commercial network; she needed his cooperation for marketing her goods in the Mediterranean via Solomon’s ports.
The kingdom that Solomon inherited from his father extended from the Euphrates to the border of Egypt, although it didn’t include the land of the Philistines. He had dominion over Syria and Transjordan, which meant that he controlled the caravan routes. This brought to him huge commercial benefits, by allowing him to specialize in international trade, such as buying horses in Anatolia and selling them in Egypt and importing chariots from Egypt to sell in other countries.
During his old age, Solomon was influenced by his foreign wives (1 Kgs 11-25), didn’t remain immune to their idolatrous practices and this angered God. Yet, Solomon’s heart was right, but he was weak like his father had been so God punished him (1 Kgs 11:26-40). Solomon died and was succeeded by his son Rehoboam (1 Kgs 11:43).
The story of King Solomon is found in 2 Sam 13:11-12 to 1 Kings 11:43. First and Second Chronicles is basically that, a chronology of the people, but also repeats parts of the books of Samuel and Kings.