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|King of Israel|
Judgment of Solomon
Nineteenth-century engraving by Gustave Doré
|Reign||c. 970 — 931 BCE|
|Place of death||Jerusalem|
|Consort||Naamah, Pharaoh's Daughter, around 700 other wives and 300 concubines|
|Royal House||House of David|
|King of Israel|
Judgment of Solomon
Nineteenth-century engraving by Gustave Doré
|Reign||c. 970 — 931 BCE|
|Place of death||Jerusalem|
|Consort||Naamah, Pharaoh's Daughter, around 700 other wives and 300 concubines|
|Royal House||House of David|
Solomon (Hebrew: שְׁלֹמֹה, Modern Shlomo Tiberian Šəlōmō ISO 259-3 Šlomo; Arabic: سليمان Sulaymān, also colloquially: Silimān; Greek: Σολομών Solomōn), also called Jedidiah (Hebrew יְדִידְיָהּ), was, according to the Book of Kings, the Book of Chronicles, Hidden Words and the Qur'an a king of Israel and the son of David. The conventional dates of Solomon's reign are circa 970 to 931 BC. He is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah split. Following the split, his patrilineal descendants ruled over Judah alone.
The Hebrew Bible credits Solomon as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem and portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power, but ultimately as a king whose sin, including idolatry and turning away from Yahweh, leads to the kingdom's being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam. Solomon is the subject of many other later references and legends, most notably in the 1st-century apocryphal work known as the Testament of Solomon. In later years, Solomon also came to be known as a magician and an exorcist, with numerous amulets and medallion seals dating from the Hellenistic period invoking his name.
According to the biblical First Book of Kings, when David was old, "he could not get warm." "So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not."
While David was in this state, his fourth son Adonijah, heir apparent to the throne after the death of his elder brothers Amnon and Absalom, acted to have himself declared king, but Bathsheba, a wife of David and Solomon's mother, along with the prophet Nathan, convinced David to proclaim Solomon king. Adonijah fled and took refuge at the altar, and received pardon for his conduct from Solomon on the condition that he show himself "a worthy man." (1 Kings 1:5-53)
Adonijah asked to marry Abishag the Shunammite, but Solomon disallowed that, although Bathsheba now pleaded on Adonijah's behalf. He was then seized and put to death (1 Kings 2:13-25). As made clear in the earlier story of Absalom's rebellion, to possess the royal harem was in this society tantamount to claiming the throne; this applied even to a woman who had shared the bed of a king advanced in age, though she had no intimate relations with King David.
David's general Joab was killed, in accord with David's deathbed request to Solomon, because he had killed generals Abner and Amasa during a peace (2 Samuel 20:8-13; 1 Kings 2:5). David's priest Abiathar was exiled by Solomon because he had sided with Adonijah. Abiathar is a descendent of Eli, which has important prophetic significance. (1 Kings 2:27) Shimei was confined to Jerusalem and killed three years later, when he went to Gath to retrieve some runaway servants, in part because he had cursed David when David's son Absalom rebelled against David. (1 Kings 2:1-46)
One of the qualities most ascribed to Solomon is his wisdom. The book of 1 Kings recounts how Solomon prays for wisdom:
"And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar. 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 shewed 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?" (1 Kings 3:4-9)
"So God said to him, 'Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked...'" (1 Kings 3:11-12) The Hebrew Bible also states that: "The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart." (1 Kings 10:24)
In one account, known as the Judgment of Solomon, two women came before Solomon to resolve a quarrel over which was the true mother of a baby. When Solomon suggested they should divide the living child in two with a sword, one woman said she would rather give up the child than see it killed. Solomon then declared the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, and gave the baby to her.
Solomon is also noted as one of many authors of Wisdom literature. The apocryphal/deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon, along with the Book of Sirach, "are the familiar personalities and the events of Israel's history combined with the wisdom tradition. Much of this literature, however, is attributed to Solomon." Solomon became a favorite author and contributor of different kinds of wisdom literature, "including not only the collections of Proverbs, but also of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon and the later apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon."
According to the Bible, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. The wives are described as foreign princesses, including Pharaoh's daughter and women of Moab, Ammon, Sidon and of the Hittites. These wives are depicted as leading Solomon away from Yahweh toward idolatry. The only wife mentioned by name is Naamah, who is described as the Ammonite. She was the mother of Solomon's successor, Rehoboam.
In a brief, unelaborated, and enigmatic passage, the Hebrew Bible describes how the fame of Solomon's wisdom and wealth spread far and wide, so much so that the queen of Sheba decided that she should meet him. The queen is described as visiting with a number of gifts including gold, spices and precious stones . When Solomon gave her "all her desire, whatsoever she asked," she left satisfied (1 Kings 10:10).
Whether the passage is simply to provide a brief token, foreign witness of Solomon's wealth and wisdom, or whether there is meant to be something more significant to the queen's visit is unknown; nevertheless the visit of the Queen of Sheba has become the subject of numerous stories.
Sheba is typically identified as Saba, a nation once spanning the Red Sea on the coasts of what are now Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen, in Arabia Felix. In a Rabbinical account (e.g. Targum Sheni), Solomon was accustomed to ordering the living creatures of the world to dance before him (Rabbinical accounts say that Solomon had been given control over all living things by Yahweh), but one day upon discovering that the mountain-cock or hoopoe (Hebrew name: shade) was absent, he summoned it to him, and the bird told him that it had been searching for somewhere new.
The bird had discovered a land in the east, exceedingly rich in gold, silver, and plants, whose capital was called Kitor and whose ruler was the Queen of Sheba, and the bird, on its own advice, was sent by Solomon to request the queen's immediate attendance at Solomon's court.
An Ethiopian account (Kebra Nagast) maintains that the Queen of Sheba had sexual relations with King Solomon (of which the Biblical and Quranic accounts give no hint) and gave birth by the Mai Bella stream in the province of Hamasien, Eritrea. The Ethiopian tradition has a detailed account of the affair. (See Queen of Sheba.)
The child was a son who went on to become Menelik I, King of Axum, and founded a dynasty that would reign as the Christian Empire of Ethiopia for 2900+ years (less one usurpation episode, an interval of ca. 133 years until a legitimate male heir regained the crown) until Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974. Menelik was said to be a practising Jew who was given a replica of the Ark of the Covenant by King Solomon; and, moreover, that the original was switched and went to Axum with him and his mother, and is still there, guarded by a single priest charged with caring for the artifact as his life's task.
The claim of such a lineage and of possession of the Ark has been an important source of legitimacy and prestige for the Ethiopian monarchy throughout the many centuries of its existence, and had important and lasting effects on Ethiopian culture as a whole. The Ethiopian government and church deny all requests to view the alleged ark.
According to 1 Kings 11: Solomon's "wives turned his heart after other gods", their own national deities, to whom Solomon built temples, thus incurring divine anger and retribution in the form of the division of the kingdom after Solomon's death. (1 Kings 11:9-13)
1 Kings 11 describes Solomon's descent into idolatry, particularly his turning after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. In Deuteronomy 17:16-17, a king is commanded not to multiply horses or wives, neither greatly multiply to himself gold or silver. Solomon sins in all three of these areas. Solomon collects 666 talents of gold each year, (1 Kings 10:14) a huge amount of money for a small nation like Israel. Solomon gathers a large number of horses and chariots and even brings in horses from Egypt. Just as Deuteronomy 17 warns, collecting horses and chariots takes Israel back to Egypt. Finally, Solomon marries foreign women, and these women turn Solomon to other gods.
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon died of natural causes at around 80 years of age. Upon Solomon's death, his son, Rehoboam, succeeded him as king. However, ten of the Tribes of Israel refused to accept him as king, causing the United Monarchy to split and form the northern Kingdom of Israel ruled by Jeroboam, while Rehoboam continued to reign in the southern Kingdom of Judah.
During Solomon's long reign of 40 years, the Israelite monarchy, according to the Bible, gained its highest splendour and wealth. In a single year, according to 1 Kings 10:14, Solomon collected tribute amounting to 666 talents of gold (39,960 pounds).
Solomon is described as surrounding himself with all the luxuries and the external grandeur of an Eastern monarch, and his government prospered. He entered into an alliance with Hiram I, king of Tyre, who in many ways greatly assisted him in his numerous undertakings. For some years before his death, David was engaged in collecting materials for building a temple in Jerusalem as a permanent abode for the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon is described as completing its construction, with the help of an architect, also named Hiram, and other materials, sent from King Hiram of Tyre.
After the completion of the temple, Solomon is described as erecting many other buildings of importance in Jerusalem; for the long period of 13 years, he was engaged in the building of a royal palace on Ophel (a hilly promontory in central Jerusalem); Solomon also constructed great works for the purpose of securing a plentiful supply of water for the city, and the Millo (Septuagint, Acra) for the defense of the city. However, excavations of Jerusalem have shown a distinct lack of monumental architecture from the era, and remains of neither the Temple nor Solomon's palace have been found. However, a number of significant but politically sensitive areas have not been extensively excavated, including Temple mount, the site where the Temple is traditionally said to have been located.
Solomon is also described as rebuilding cities elsewhere in Israel, creating the port of Ezion-Geber, and constructing Tadmor in the wilderness as a commercial depot and military outpost. Solomon is additionally described as having amassed 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen. Though the location of Solomon's port of Ezion-Geber is known, no remains have ever been found. More archaeological success has been achieved with the major cities Solomon is said to have strengthened or rebuilt (for example, Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer — 1 Kings 9:15); these all have substantial ancient remains, including impressive six-chambered gates, and ashlar palaces, as well as trough-like structures outside buildings that early archaeologists have identified as the stables for Solomon's horses.
According to the Bible, during Solomon's reign, Israel enjoyed great commercial prosperity, with extensive traffic being carried on by land with Tyre, Egypt, and Arabia, and by sea with Tarshish, Ophir, and South India.
Rabbinical tradition attributes the Wisdom of Solomon to Solomon, although this book was probably written in the 2nd century BC. In this work, Solomon is portrayed as an astronomer. Other books of wisdom poetry such as the Odes of Solomon and the Psalms of Solomon also bear his name. The Jewish historian Eupolemus, who wrote about 157 BC, included copies of apocryphal letters exchanged between Solomon and the kings of Egypt and Tyre.
The Gnostic Apocalypse of Adam, which may date to the 1st or 2nd century, refers to a legend in which Solomon sends out an army of demons to seek a virgin who had fled from him, perhaps the earliest surviving mention of the later common tale that Solomon controlled demons and made them his slaves. This tradition of Solomon's control over demons appears fully elaborated in the early pseudographical work called the Testament of Solomon with its elaborate and grotesque demonology.
The conventional dates of Solomon's reign are from circa 970 to 931 BC. They derive from biblical chronology, mostly from the ancient genealogies in the books, Genesis to Second Kings, spanning the creation of the universe as the ancients understood it to the fall of Jerusalem with the destruction of its Temple in year 586 BC. Regarding the Davidic Dynasty to which King Solomon belongs, its chronology can be checked against datable Babylonian and Assyrian records at a few points, and these correspondences have allowed archeologists to date its kings in a modern framework. According to the most widely used chronology, based on that by Edwin R. Thiele, the death of Solomon and the division of his kingdom occurred in the spring of 931 BC. Thiele does not explicitly date the beginning of Solomon's reign, but according to the First Book of Kings, he ruled for 40 years, thus corresponding to 970 BC according to the Thiele system.
Historical evidence of King Solomon other than the biblical accounts is minimal. Josephus, citing Tyrian court records and Menander in Against Apion, gives a specific year during which King Hiram I of Tyre sent materials to Solomon for the construction of the temple. However, no material evidence indisputably of Solomon's reign has been found. Yigael Yadin's excavations at Hazor, Megiddo, Beit Shean and Gezer uncovered structures that he and others have argued date from his reign, but others, such as Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, argue that they should be dated to the Omride period, more than a century after Solomon.
According to Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, authors of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, at the time of the kingdoms of David and Solomon, Jerusalem was populated by only a few hundred residents or less, which is insufficient for an empire stretching from the Euphrates to Eilath. According to The Bible Unearthed, archaeological evidence suggests that the kingdom of Israel at the time of Solomon was little more than a small city state, and so it is implausible that Solomon received tribute as large as 666 talents of gold per year. Although both Finkelstein and Silberman accept that David and Solomon were real kings of Judah about the 10th century BC, they claim that the earliest independent reference to the Kingdom of Israel is about 890 BC, and for Judah about 750 BC. They suggest that due to religious prejudice, the authors of the Bible suppressed the achievements of the Omrides (whom the Hebrew Bible describes as being polytheist), and instead pushed them back to a supposed golden age of Judaism and monotheists, and devotees of Yahweh. Some Biblical minimalists like Thomas L. Thompson go further, arguing that Jerusalem became a city and capable of being a state capital only in the mid-seventh century. Likewise, Finkelstein and others consider the claimed size of Solomon's temple implausible.
These views are criticized by William G. Dever, Helga Weippert, André Lemaire and Amnon Ben-Tor. Lemaire states in Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple that the principal points of the biblical tradition of Solomon are generally trustworthy. So does Kenneth Kitchen, who argues that Solomon ruled over a comparatively wealthy "mini-empire", rather than a small city-state, and considers 666 gold talents a modest amount of money. Kitchen calculates that over 30 years, such a kingdom might have accumulated up to 500 tons of gold, which is small compared to other examples, such as the 1,180 tons of gold that Alexander the Great took from Susa. Similarly Kitchen, and others consider the temple of Solomon a reasonable and typically sized structure for the region at the time. William G. Dever states "that we now have direct Bronze and Iron Age parallels for every feature of the 'Solomonic temple' as described in the Hebrew Bible".
The archaeological remains that are considered to date from the time of Solomon are notable for the fact that Canaanite material culture appears to have continued unabated; there is a distinct lack of magnificent empire, or cultural development - indeed comparing pottery from areas traditionally assigned to Israel with that of the Philistines points to the Philistines having been significantly more sophisticated. However there is a lack of physical evidence of its existence, despite some archaeological work in the area. This is not unexpected because the area was devastated by the Babylonians, then rebuilt and destroyed several times. Little archaeological excavation has been done around the area known as the Temple Mount, in what is thought to be the foundation of Solomon's Temple, because attempts to do so are met with protest by Muslims.
From a critical point of view, Solomon's building of a temple for Yahweh should not be considered an act of particular devotion to Yahweh because Solomon is also described as building places of worship for a number of other deities (1 Kings 11:4). Some scholars and historians argue that Solomon's apparent initial devotion to Yahweh, described in passages such as his dedication prayer (1 Kings 8:14-66), were written much later, after Jerusalem had become the religious centre of the kingdom, replacing locations such as Shiloh and Bethel. Some scholars believe that passages such as these in the Books of Kings were not written by the same authors who wrote the rest of the text, instead probably by the Deuteronomist. Such views have been challenged by other historians who maintain that there is evidence that these passages in Kings are derived from official court records at the time of Solomon and from other writings of that time that were incorporated into the canonical books of Kings.
King Solomon is one of the central Biblical figures in Jewish heritage that have lasting religious, national and political aspects. As the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem and last ruler of the united Kingdom of Israel before its division into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah, Solomon is associated with the peak "golden age" of the independent Kingdom of Israel as well as a source of judicial and religious wisdom. According to Jewish tradition, King Solomon wrote three books of the Bible:
The Hebrew word "To Solomon" (which can also be translated as "by Solomon") appears in the title of two hymns in the book of Psalms (Tehillim), suggesting to some that Solomon wrote them.
King Solomon sinned by acquiring many foreign wives and horses because he thought he knew the reason for the Biblical prohibition and thought it did not apply to him. When King Solomon married the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh, a sandbank formed which eventually formed the "great nation of Rome" - the nation that destroyed the Second Temple (Herod's Temple). Solomon gradually lost more and more prestige until he became like a commoner. Some say he regained his status while others say he did not. In the end however, he is regarded as a righteous king and is especially praised for his diligence in building the Temple.
Christianity has traditionally accepted the historical existence of Solomon, though some modern Christian scholars have also questioned at least his authorship of those biblical texts ascribed to him. Such disputes tend to divide Christians into traditionalist and modernist camps.
Of the two genealogies of Jesus given in the Gospels, Matthew mentions Solomon, but Luke does not. Some commentators see this as an issue that can be reconciled while others disagree. For instance, it has been suggested that Luke is using Mary's genealogy and Matthew is using Joseph's, but Darrell Bock states that this would be unprecedented, "especially when no other single woman appears in the line". Other suggestions include the use by one of the royal and the other of the natural line, one using the legal line and the other the physical line, or that Joseph was adopted.
Jesus makes reference to Solomon, using him for comparison purposes in his admonition against worrying about your life. This account is recorded in Matthew 6:29 and the parallel passage in Luke 12:27
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Solomon is commemorated as a saint, with the title of "Righteous Prophet and King". His feast day is celebrated on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (two Sundays before the Great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord).
The staunchly Catholic King Philip II of Spain sought to model himself after King Solomon. Statues of King David and Solomon stand on either side of the entrance to the basilica of El Escorial, Philip's palace, and Solomon is also depicted in a great fresco at the center of El Escorial's library. Philip identified the warrior-king David with his own father Charles V, and himself sought to emulate the thoughtful and logical character which he perceived in Solomon. Moreover, Escorial's structure was inspired by that of Solomon's Temple.
In Islamic tradition, Solomon is venerated as a prophet and a messenger of God, as well as a divinely appointed monarch, who ruled over the Kingdom of Israel. As in Judaism, Islam recognizes Solomon as the son of King David, who is also considered a prophet and a king in Islam. Islam attributes to Solomon the saying: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God" (ra's al-hikmah makhafat Allah). Islam tradition ascribes to Solomon a great level of wisdom and knowledge of the unseen, as well as the traditional sciences of cosmology. According to tradition, he knew the "language of the birds" (kalam al-tayr). Solomon was also Known in the Islam to have other supernatural abilities (Bestowed upon him by God) such as controlling the wind, ruling over The Jinn and talking to Ants. [And to Solomon (We made) the Wind (obedient): its early morning (stride) was a month's (journey), and its evening (stride) was a month's(journey);and We made a Font of molten brass to flow for him;and there were Jinns that worked in front of him, by the leave of his Lord,and if any of them turned aside from Our command, We made Him taste of the Penalty of the Blazing Fire. (34:12)] and [At length, when they came to a (lowly) valley of ants, one of the ants said:"O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it." ~ So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said:"O my Lord! so order me that I may be grateful for Thy favors, which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents,and that I may work the righteousness that will please Thee:and admit me, by Thy Grace, to the ranks of Thy righteous Servants." (18~19:27)]. The Qur'an mentions Solomon a total of 17 times.
In the Baha'i Faith, Solomon is regarded as one of the lesser prophets along with David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, along with others. Solomon is seen by Baha'is as a prophet who was sent by God to address the issues of his time. Baha'ullah wrote about Solomon in the Hidden Words. He also mentions Solomon in the Tablet of Wisdom, where he is depicted as a contemporary of Pythagoras.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2013)|
A well-known story in the collection One Thousand and One Nights describes a genie who had displeased King Solomon and was punished by being locked in a bottle and thrown into the sea. Since the bottle was sealed with Solomon's seal, the genie was helpless to free himself, until freed many centuries later by a fisherman who discovered the bottle. In other stories which are found in One Thousand and One Nights, protagonists who had to leave their homeland and travel to the unknown places of the world saw signs which proved that Solomon had already been there. Sometimes, protagonists discovered Solomon's words which aimed to help those who were lost and unluckily reached those forbidden and deserted places.
According to the Rabbinical literature, on account of his modest request for wisdom only, Solomon was rewarded with riches and an unprecedentedly glorious realm, which extended over the upper world inhabited by the angels and over the whole of the terrestrial globe with all its inhabitants, including all the beasts, fowl, and reptiles, as well as the demons and spirits. His control over the demons, spirits, and animals augmented his splendor, the demons bringing him precious stones, besides water from distant countries to irrigate his exotic plants. The beasts and fowl of their own accord entered the kitchen of Solomon's palace, so that they might be used as food for him, and extravagant meals for him were prepared daily by each of his 700 wives and 300 concubines, with the thought that perhaps the king would feast that day in her house.
A magic ring called the "Seal of Solomon" was supposedly given to Solomon and gave him power over demons. The magical symbol said to have been on the Seal of Solomon which made it work is now better known as the Star of David. Asmodeus, king of demons, was one day, according to the classical Rabbis, captured by Benaiah using the ring, and was forced to remain in Solomon's service. In one tale, Asmodeus brought a man with two heads from under the earth to show Solomon; the man, unable to return, married a woman from Jerusalem and had seven sons, six of whom resembled the mother, while one resembled the father in having two heads. After their father's death, the son with two heads claimed two shares of the inheritance, arguing that he was two men; Solomon decided that the son with two heads was only one man. The Seal of Solomon, in some legends known as the Ring of Aandaleeb, was a highly sought after symbol of power. In several legends, different groups or individuals attempted to steal it or attain it in some manner.
One legend concerning Asmodeus goes on to state that Solomon one day asked Asmodeus what could make demons powerful over man, and Asmodeus asked to be freed and given the ring so that he could demonstrate; Solomon agreed but Asmodeus threw the ring into the sea and it was swallowed by a fish. Asmodeus then swallowed the king, stood up fully with one wing touching heaven and the other earth, and spat out Solomon to a distance of 400 miles. The Rabbis claim this was a divine punishment for Solomon's having failed to follow three divine commands, and Solomon was forced to wander from city to city, until he eventually arrived in an Ammonite city where he was forced to work in the king's kitchens. Solomon gained a chance to prepare a meal for the Ammonite king, which the king found so impressive that the previous cook was sacked and Solomon put in his place; the king's daughter, Naamah, subsequently fell in love with Solomon, but the family (thinking Solomon a commoner) disapproved, so the king decided to kill them both by sending them into the desert. Solomon and the king’s daughter wandered the desert until they reached a coastal city, where they bought a fish to eat, which just happened to be the one which had swallowed the magic ring. Solomon was then able to regain his throne and expel Asmodeus. (The element of a ring thrown into the sea and found back in a fish's belly also appeared in Herodotus' account of Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos from c. 538 BC to 522 BC.)
In another familiar version of the legend of the Seal of Solomon, Asmodeus disguises himself. In some myths, he's disguised as King Solomon himself, while in more frequently heard versions he's disguised as a falcon, calling himself Gavyn (Gavinn or Gavin), one of King Solomon’s trusted friends. The concealed Asmodeus tells travelers who have ventured up to King Solomon's grand lofty palace that the Seal of Solomon was thrown into the sea. He then convinces them to plunge in and attempt to retrieve it, for if they do they would take the throne as king.
Other magical items attributed to Solomon are his key and his Table. The latter was said to be held in Toledo, Spain during Visigoth rule and was part of the loot taken by Tarik ibn Ziyad during the Umayyad Conquest of Iberia, according to Ibn Abd-el-Hakem's History of the Conquest of Spain. The former appears in the title of the Lesser Key of Solomon, a grimoire whose framing story is Solomon capturing demons using his ring, and forcing them to explain themselves to him.
Angels also helped Solomon in building the Temple; though not by choice. The edifice was, according to rabbinical legend, miraculously constructed throughout, the large heavy stones rising and settling in their respective places of themselves. The general opinion of the Rabbis is that Solomon hewed the stones by means of a shamir, a mythical worm whose mere touch cleft rocks. According to Midrash Tehillim, the shamir was brought from paradise by Solomon's eagle; but most of the rabbis state that Solomon was informed of the worm's haunts by Asmodeus. The shamir had been entrusted by the prince of the sea to the mountain rooster alone, and the rooster had sworn to guard it well, but Solomon's men found the bird's nest, and covered it with glass. When the bird returned, it used the shamir to break the glass, whereupon the men scared the bird, causing it to drop the worm, which the men could then bring to Solomon.
Early adherents of the Kabbalah portray Solomon as having sailed through the air on a throne of light placed on an eagle, which brought him near the heavenly gates as well as to the dark mountains behind which the fallen angels Uzza and Azzazel were chained; the eagle would rest on the chains, and Solomon, using the magic ring, would compel the two angels to reveal every mystery he desired to know.
According to one legend, while traveling magically, Solomon noticed a magnificent palace to which there appeared to be no entrance. He ordered the demons to climb to the roof and see if they could discover any living being within the building but the demons only found an eagle, which said that it was 700 years old, but that it had never seen an entrance. An elder brother of the eagle, 900 years old, was then found, but it also did not know the entrance. The eldest brother of these two birds, which was 1,300 years old, then declared it had been informed by its father that the door was on the west side, but that it had become hidden by sand drifted by the wind. Having discovered the entrance, Solomon found an idol inside that had in its mouth a silver tablet saying in Greek (a language not thought by modern scholars to have existed 1000 years before the time of Solomon) that the statue was of Shaddad, the son of 'Ad, and that it had reigned over a million cities, rode on a million horses, had under it a million vassals and slew a million warriors, yet it could not resist the angel of death.
Solomon's throne is described at length in Targum Sheni, which is compiled from three different sources, and in two later Midrash. According to these, there were on the steps of the throne twelve golden lions, each facing a golden eagle. There were six steps to the throne, on which animals, all of gold, were arranged in the following order: on the first step a lion opposite an ox; on the second, a wolf opposite a sheep; on the third, a tiger opposite a camel; on the fourth, an eagle opposite a peacock, on the fifth, a cat opposite a cock; on the sixth, a sparrow-hawk opposite a dove. On the top of the throne was a dove holding a sparrow-hawk in its claws, symbolizing the dominion of Israel over the Gentiles. The first midrash claims that six steps were constructed because Solomon foresaw that six kings would sit on the throne, namely, Solomon, Rehoboam, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah. There was also on the top of the throne a golden candelabrum, on the seven branches of the one side of which were engraved the names of the seven patriarchs Adam, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job, and on the seven of the other the names of Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses, Aaron, Eldad, Medad, and, in addition, Hur (another version has Haggai). Above the candelabrum was a golden jar filled with olive-oil and beneath it a golden basin which supplied the jar with oil and on which the names of Nadab, Abihu, and Eli and his two sons were engraved. Over the throne, twenty-four vines were fixed to cast a shadow on the king's head.
By a mechanical contrivance the throne followed Solomon wherever he wished to go. Supposedly, due to another mechanical trick, when the king reached the first step, the ox stretched forth its leg, on which Solomon leaned, a similar action taking place in the case of the animals on each of the six steps. From the sixth step the eagles raised the king and placed him in his seat, near which a golden serpent lay coiled. When the king was seated the large eagle placed the crown on his head, the serpent uncoiled itself, and the lions and eagles moved upward to form a shade over him. The dove then descended, took the scroll of the Law from the Ark, and placed it on Solomon's knees. When the king sat, surrounded by the Sanhedrin, to judge the people, the wheels began to turn, and the beasts and fowls began to utter their respective cries, which frightened those who had intended to bear false testimony. Moreover, while Solomon was ascending the throne, the lions scattered all kinds of fragrant spices. After Solomon's death, Pharaoh Shishak, when taking away the treasures of the Temple (I Kings xiv. 26), carried off the throne, which remained in Egypt until Sennacherib conquered that country. After Sennacherib's fall Hezekiah gained possession of it, but when Josiah was slain by Pharaoh Necho, the latter took it away. However, according to rabbinical accounts, Necho did not know how the mechanism worked and so accidentally struck himself with one of the lions causing him to become lame; Nebuchadnezzar, into whose possession the throne subsequently came, shared a similar fate. The throne then passed to the Persians, whose king Darius was the first to sit successfully on Solomon's throne after his death; subsequently the throne came into the possession of the Greeks and Ahasuerus.
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|King of the United Kingdom|
of Israel and Judah
971 – 931 BC