History of Jerusalem, part 7. Solomon becomes king
“Then David rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. He had reigned forty years over Israel--seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem.
So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.” 1 Kings 2: 10- 12. Solomon became king in 967 BCE, when he was only 16 years old. During his 40-year reign the country enjoyed peace and prosperity. Jerusalem was the capital of a vast kingdom that extended from the Euphrates River in the north to Egypt in the south. His crowning achievement was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon initiated many building projects, more than doubling the size of Jerusalem. Above the City of David he built his palace and royal administrative complex, in the area known as the Ophel (which means ‘high’). Above the Ophel, on the site that David purchased from Arvana, he built the Temple. Solomon united the three hills (the Temple Mount, the Ophel and the City of David) into one royal complex, with a wall separated it from the rest of the city.
Like his father, he received technical aid and building materials from the Phoenician king of Tyre; King Hiram I. For that reason, the design of the Temple was similar to that of Canaanite and Phoenician shrines. To construct the Temple King Solomon drafted 3300 people to oversee over 150.000 Jewish workers. It took seven years to complete, and another thirteen to complete his palace, which was twice the size of the Temple. He also built ‘the House of the Forest of Lebanon,’ a porch of pillars, a place of judgment, a house for his wife (Pharaoh's daughter) and many other buildings; all built of the highest quality (and most expensive) materials, and must have been among the most impressive edifices in the Middle East at the time (I Kings ch. 7). He also erected pagan altars for his many foreign wives. There are almost no archaeological remains of Solomon's buildings on or near the Temple Mount. When Herod increased the area of the Temple Mount some 900 years later he destroyed what remained of all previous building.
Solomon accumulated enormous wealth. He controlled the entire region west of the Euphrates and had peace on his borders. Kings I states that he owned 12.000 horses with horsemen and 1400 chariots. Remains of stalls for 450 horses have in fact been found in Megiddo. Solomon strengthened his kingdom through marital alliances. Kings I records that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, although some regard this number as an exaggeration.
“Pharaoh King of Egypt had come up and captured Gezer; he destroyed it by fire, killed the Canaanites who dwelt in the town, and gave it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon's wife.” 1 Kings 9:16.
“At the end of 20 years during which Solomon had built the Lord’s temple and his own palace—Solomon had rebuilt the cities Hiram gave him and settled Israelites there—Solomon went to Hamath-zobah and seized it. He built Tadmor in the wilderness along with all the storage cities that he built in Hamath. He built Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon—fortified cities with walls, gates, and bars—Baalath, all the storage cities that belonged to Solomon, all the chariot cities, the cavalry cities, and everything Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, Lebanon, or anywhere else in the land of his dominion. As for all the peoples who remained of the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who were not from Israel— their descendants who remained in the land after them, those the Israelites had not completely destroyed—Solomon imposed forced labor on them; it is this way today. But Solomon did not consign the Israelites to be slaves for his work; they were soldiers, commanders of his captains, and commanders of his chariots and his cavalry. These were King Solomon’s deputies: 250 who ruled over the people. Solomon brought the daughter of Pharaoh from the city of David to the house he had built for her, for he said, “My wife must not live in the house of David king of Israel because the places the ark of the Lord has come into are holy.” At that time Solomon offered burnt offerings to the Lord on the Lord’s altar he had made in front of the portico. He followed the daily requirement for offerings according to the commandment of Moses for Sabbaths, New Moons, and the three annual appointed festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths. According to the ordinances of his father David, he appointed the divisions of the priests over their service, of the Levites over their responsibilities to offer praise and to minister before the priests following the daily requirement, and of the gatekeepers by their divisions with respect to each gate, for this had been the command of David, the man of God. They did not turn aside from the king’s command regarding the priests and the Levites concerning any matter or concerning the treasuries. All of Solomon’s work was carried out from the day the foundation was laid for the Lord’s temple until it was finished. So the Lord’s temple was completed. At that time Solomon went to Ezion-Geber* and to Eloth** on the seashore in the land of Edom. So Hiram sent ships to him by his servants along with crews of experienced seamen. They went with Solomon’s servants to Ophir, took from there 17 tons of gold, and delivered it to King Solomon.” 2 Chronicles 8.
*Ezion-Geber was a city of Idumea, a biblical seaport on the northern part of the Gulf of Aqaba, in the area of modern Aqaba and Eilat. **Eloth is the nowadays Eilat.
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