The First Book of Kings paints an equally prestigious picture of the Kingdom of Solomon Hebrew monarchy under David’s successor. The great monarch who had made the Israelite nation rich. And also powerful state designated his son Solomon, whom he had had by his second wife, Bathsheba, as his successor.
No sooner had young Solomon ascended the throne than God appeared to him in a dream and offered him a favor to choose from. Solomon asked for the inspiration needed to govern his country with equity. God appreciated this request, acceded to it, and promised him a lavish and brilliant reign. The prophecy came true. Solomon enjoyed glory and wisdom even greater than his father. His qualities as a fair judge and his spirit of discernment are illustrated by a famous scene in which he decides between two women who claim the same newborn. By pretending to give the order to have the baby cut in two, he recognizes the birth mother as the one who opposes infanticide.
The great king of Israel was visited by a queen from an enigmatic “land of Sheba,” who had heard of his extraordinary wisdom and wanted to verify it. The sovereign put him to the test by offering him intellectual riddles, which he solved brilliantly. Impressed by his answers, she offered him rich presents, which Solomon honored by showing as much generosity.
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What does the Bible say about The Kingdom of Solomon?
The first book of Kings specifies that the Kingdom of Solomon covered a large area “from Dan to Beersheba.” Dan is north of Lake Tiberias, and Beersheba is west of the southern end of the Dead Sea. Several cities were developed under his reign and equipped with substantial defense systems. The First Book of Kings says that Solomon had several fortresses equipped for his chariots of war (1R. 9, 15-17):
“Here is the business of the corvée that King Solomon raised to build the house of Yahweh. And his own house, the Mello and the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. (…) Solomon built Gezer, Lower Bethoron, Baalath, and Thamar. In the desert, all the cities where Solomon had stores, the cities for the chariots, the cities for the horses. And all that it pleased Solomon to build in Jerusalem, Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.”
There is no shortage of archaeological remains likely to date back to this period. One of the most significant examples is the city of Megiddo, one of Israel’s most important ancient sites. Located southwest of Lake Tiberias, its ruins were excavated in the 1920s. By archaeologists from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, then by Yael Yadin in the 1960s. And finally, by Israel Finkelstein in 1994.
Megiddo in the Kingdom of Solomon
Megiddo occupied a strategic place at the crossroads of several routes linking Assyria and Phoenicia. Egypt, and Arabia. Built on an imposing hill, it yielded more than twenty successive layers of occupation. It ranges from 7000 to 500 BC. Firmly fortified by a 7.50-meter thick wall, the city contains, among other things, a vast wheat silo and an underground spring.
Archaeologists from the University of Chicago unearthed two large buildings containing repetitive rows of pillars, some separated by large hollow-cut stones pierced with holes. They supposed that these stones were managers and these buildings stables and made the connection with the horses and chariots of Solomon mentioned in the first book of Kings. If so, the site should have a capacity of 450 horsepower.
The American team also unearthed the remains of a massive defensive gate on the bases of the Megiddo wall. The entrance was flanked on either side by three small rooms forming a double comb. Twenty years later, the Israeli Yigael Yadin was excavating the ruins of Hazor, another. Another city was built north of Lake Tiberias when he found a live gate created exactly precisely planned as in Megiddo. Struck by the resemblance, he wondered if this type of door wouldn’t also exist elsewhere. He then immersed himself in the archives of the excavations made on the site of Gezer, the third city mentioned in the same biblical verse (1R. 9, 15). Gezer is located thirty kilometers west of Jerusalem.
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David’s son also possessed abundant wealth, which he used to implement an ambitious building program. He built a magnificent temple dedicated to the god Yahweh and intended to house the Ark of the Covenant. Contrary to his father, who had spent a lot of time on the battlefields, Solomon benefited from a long period of peace, which he took advantage of to consolidate the positions acquired. He fortified the cities of the Kingdom of Solomon, which he surrounded with ramparts and equipped with military garrisons (1R. 1-11).
Also endowed with a spiritual radiance worthy of his predecessor, Solomon is still the supposed author of several poetic and sapiential texts, such as the biblical books of Proverbs, Wisdom, and the Song of Songs.
The Kingdom of Solomon and its program included the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem, the interior of which was “covered with gold” (1 R. 6, 20-22). The great monarch also built a fleet on the Red Sea at Ezéon-Géber, at the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba (1 R. 9, 26).
In 1937 AD, the American Nelson Glueck excavated at Tel el-Kheleifeh, very close to Aqaba, in the Araba depression . The site revealed that in ancient times it was a vital mining complex from which copper was extracted. Nelson Glueck attributed it to the reign of Solomon and identified it with the Ezeon-Geber of the Bible. From there, the metal – not gold but copper- would have come – was used to construct the Temple of Jerusalem.
A similar situation arose for another mining site rich in copper, Kihrbet en-Nahas, located further north in the same Araba valley and also excavated by Nelson Glueck. In the 1980s, however, research carried out by a British team concluded that the exploitation of the mines of Kihrbet en-Nahas was not before the 7th century BC. BC, and that a possible link with Solomon was, therefore, anachronistic.