King Solomon

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King Solomon

Succession

King David with Prince SolomonSolomon became king during the reign of his father King David, and was a co-regent with him for 3 years. According to the biblical First Book of Kings, when David was “old and advanced in years” “he could not get warm.”[5] “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.”[5]

While David was in this state, Adonijah, David’s fourth son, acted to have himself declared king, he being heir-apparent to the throne after the death of his elder brothers Amnon and Absalom. But Bathsheba, a wife of David and Solomon’s mother, along with the prophet Nathan induced 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 denied authorization for such an engagement, 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;[6] this applied even to a woman who had shared the bed of a king advanced in age, though she had 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 rival Adonijah. Abiathar is a descendent of Eli, which has important prophetic significance. (1 Kings 2:27)[7] 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 Absalom, David’s son, rebelled against David. (1 Kings 2:1-46)[8]

Artist’s depiction of Solomon’s court (Ingobertus, c. 880.)

Wisdom

King SolomonOne of the qualities most ascribed to Solomon is his wisdom. Solomon prays:

“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)[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)[9] 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)[10]

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 suggests dividing the living child in two with a sword, the true mother is revealed to him as she is willing to give up her child rather than see the baby killed. Solomon then declares the woman who shows compassion to be the true mother, and gives 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 books 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.”[11] Solomon became a favorite author and contributor of different kinds of wisdom literature, “including not only the collections of proverbs, but also of Ecclesiates and the Song of Solomon and the later apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon.”[12]

Wives

According to the Bible, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred 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 astray.[13] The only wife that is mentioned by name is Naamah, who is described as the Ammonite.[14] She was the mother of Solomon’s successor,Rehoboam.

The Anointing of Solomon by Cornelis de Vos.
According to 1 Kings 1:39, Solomon wasanointed by Zadok.

Relationship with Queen of Sheba

Queen of Sheba Meets King SolomonMain article: Queen of ShebaRenaissance relief of the Queen of Sheba meeting Solomon – gate ofFlorence BaptistryKing Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, painting by Piero della Francesca

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 and rare jewels to decorate the temple, and also bringing with her a number of riddles. 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 and her riddles 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 (the Hebrew name for the creature is 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.

In an Ethiopian account (Kebra Nagast) it is maintained 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 what became the Christian Empire of Ethiopia for 2900+ years (less one usurpation episode and 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, had been gifted with a replica Ark of the Covenant by King Solomon, but moreover, 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.[15]

Some classical-era Rabbis, attacking Solomon’s moral character, have claimed instead that the child was an ancestor of Nebuchadnezzar II, who destroyed Solomon’s temple some 300 years later.[16]

Solomon’s sins

King SolomonAccording to 1 Kings 11:4 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 theAmmonites. 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.

According to 1 Kings 11:9-13, it was because of these sins that “the Lord punishes Solomon by tearing the kingdom in two”:[4]

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.

Jewish tradition

King Solomon sinned by acquiring too many 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.[17]

Islamic tradition

Main article: Islamic view of Solomon

In contrast to the Christian tradition (taken from the Hebrew readings of the books of Kings and Chronicles) that Solomon (Sulayman) fell into idolatry in his declining years, Islam denies that any such event took place, nor that Solomon ever turned away from Allah in any way prior to his death and views him as famed throughout the lands for his wisdom and fair judgments.

“And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah confirming what was with them, a party of those who were given the scripture threw away the book of Allah behind their backs as if they did not know. And they followed what the devils gave out falsely of magic of the reign of Solomon; for Solomon did not disbelieve but the devils disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angles) taught anyone (such things) until they had said: we are only for trial, so don’t disbelieve. And from them (magicians) people learn that through which they would cause separation between a person and his spouse, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s leave; and they learn that which harms them rather than profits them. And indeed they knew that its practitioner would have no share in the Hereafter. And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own selves if they but knew” (2:101-2).

King Solomon was also a prophet and a messenger from Allah. He was the youngest son of the Prophet David (Dawud). King Solomon was a talented man with versatile gifts, and so his father had made him his heir. After the death of Dawud he ascended the throne of Judia on account of his sagacity, power of judgement, right understanding, and spiritual insight. The Qur’an says: “And We verily gave knowledge to Dawud and Sulayman and they said: praise be to God (Allah) Who has preferred us above many of his believing servants”. (27:15)

Solomon’s enemies

Near the end of his life Solomon was forced to contend with several enemies including Hadad of Edom, Rezon of Zobah, and one of his officials named Jeroboam who was from the tribe of Ephraim.[4]

Death, succession of Rehoboam, and kingdom division

The United Monarchy breaks up, with Jeroboamruling over the northern Kingdom of Israel (blue on the map) and Rehoboam ruling the Kingdom of Judah to the south.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon died of natural causes[18] 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.

Building and other works

King SolomonSolomon and the plan for theFirst Temple, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph CompanyA sketch of Solomon’s Temple, based on descriptions in the Scriptures.

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 space of thirteen years he was engaged in the erection 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 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 a thousand and four hundred chariots and twelve thousand 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 Gezer1 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.

Apocryphal texts

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 anastronomer. 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.[19]

Chronological notes

Main article: Edwin R. Thiele

Solomon’s reign is part of a biblical chronology reaching from the Book of Genesis to the end of the 2nd Book of Kings, or from the Creation to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its Temple in 587/586 BCE. The chronology can be checked against datable Babylonian and Assyrian records at a few points, and these correspondences have allowed scholars to advance various schemes placing the events of the Bible in a modern framework. According to one of the most widely-used of these, that of Edwin Thiele, the death of Solomon and the division of the kingdom occurred in the year beginning in the spring of 931 BC.[35] Thiele does not explicitly date the beginning of Solomon’s reign, but according to the Book of Kings he ruled for 40 years.

Jewish scriptures

King Solomon is one of the central Biblical figures in Jewish heritage that have lasting religious, national and political aspects. As the constructor of the First Temple in Jerusalem and last ruler of the unitedKingdom 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:

  • Mishlei (Book of Proverbs), a collection of fables and wisdom of life
  • Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), a book of contemplation and his self reflection.
  • Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs), a chronicle of erotic love (there are contrasting opinions whether its subject is a woman or Yahweh).

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.

Religions and Solomon

Judaism

King Solomon sinned by acquiring too many 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.[17]

Christianity

Russian icon of King Solomon. He is depicted holding a model of the Temple. (18th century, iconostasis of Kizhimonastery, Russia).

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[36], mentions Solomon’s construction of the Temple (Acts 7:47).

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 thebasilica 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.[37]

Islam

Main article: Islamic view of SolomonFurther information: Biblical narratives and the Qur’anKing Solomon and His Court India (Deccan, Hyderabad)-this fantastic painting, from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, appears to draw on a Turkish prototype.

Solomon also appears in the Qur’an, where he is called سليمان in Arabic, which is transliterated in English variously as Sulayman, Suleiman, Sulaimaan etc. The Qur’an refers to Sulayman as the son of David (Arabic: Dawud, Dawood, or Dawoud), a prophet and a great ruler imparted by Allah with tremendous wisdom, favor, and special powers (like his father). The Qur’an states that Sulayman ruled not only people, but also hosts of Jinn, was able to understand the language of the birds and ants, and to see some of the hidden glory in the world that was not accessible to most other human beings. Ruling a large kingdom that extended south into Yemen, via Queen of Sheba who accepted Solomon’s prophethood and religion. He was famed throughout the lands for his wisdom and fair judgments. In particular, the Qur’an denies that Solomon ever turned away from Allah.

And they followed what the Shayatin(devils) chanted of sorcery in the reign of Sulaiman, and Sulaiman was not an unbeliever, but the Shayatin(devils) disbelieved, they teach people sorcery and such things that came down to the two angels at Babel, Harut and Marut, yet they (the two Angels) taught no person until they had said to them, “Surely, we are only a trial, therefore do not be a disbeliever.” So they learn from them (the two Angels) that by which they might cause a separation between a man and his wife; and they cannot hurt with it any one except with Allah’s permission, and they learned what harmed them and did not profit them, and certainly they know that he who bought it should have no share of good in the hereafter and evil was the price for which they sold their souls, had they but known this. [Quran 2:102]

Solomon is said to have been given control over various things, such as the wind, and transportation. Thus the Qur’an says,

And to Solomon (We subjected) the wind, its morning (stride from sunrise till midnoon) was a month’s (journey), and its afternoon (stride from the midday decline of the sun to sunset) was a month’s (journey i.e. in one day he could travel two months’ journey). And We caused a fount of (molten) brass to flow for him, and there were jinn that worked in front of him, by the Leave of his Lord, And whosoever of them turned aside from Our Command, We shall cause him to taste of the torment of the blazing Fire. [Quran 34:12]

And before Sulayman were marshaled his hosts,- of Jinns and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. [Quran 27:17]

And Solomon, accordingly grateful of Allah, says:

“O ye people! We have been taught the speech of birds, and on us has been bestowed from everything: this is indeed the Grace manifest (from God).”[Quran 27:16]

According to the Qur’an, the death of Solomon held a lesson to be learned:

Then, when We decreed (Solomon’s) death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth, which kept (slowly) gnawing away at his staff: so when he fell down, the Jinns saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating Penalty (of their Task). [Quran 34:14]

Mausoleum of Solomon,Aqsa Mosque compound,Jerusalam

According to Muslim tradition, when Solomon died he was standing watching the work of his Jinn, while leaning on his cane. There he silently died, but did not fall. He remained in this position, and the Jinn, thinking he was still alive watching them work, kept working. But termites were eating the cane, so that the body of Solomon fell after forty days. Thereafter, the Jinn (along with all humans) regretted that they did not know more than Allah had allotted them to know.

Legends of King Solomon

One Thousand and One Nights

Main article One Thousand and One Nights

A well-known story in the 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.

Angels and magic

Main article: Rabbinical literature

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.

Seal of Solomon

Main article: Seal of Solomon

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.

Solomon and Asmodeus

Main article Asmodeus

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 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 earlier appeared in Herodotus‘ account ofPolycrates of Samos).

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.

Artifacts

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 tale is Solomon capturing demons using his ring, and forcing them to explain themselves to him.

Other forms of legend describe Solomon as having had a flying carpet that was 60 miles square, and could travel so fast that it could get from Damascus to Medina within a day. One day, due to Solomon exhibiting pride, the wind shook the carpet and caused 40,000 men to fall from it; Solomon on being told by the wind why this had happened, felt ashamed. Another day Solomon was flying over an ant-infested valley and overheard an ant warning its fellow ants to hide lest Solomon destroy them; Solomon desired to ask the ant a question, but was told it was not becoming for the interrogator to be above and the interrogated below. Solomon then lifted the ant above the valley, but the ant said it was not fitting that Solomon should sit on a throne while the ant remained on the ground, so Solomon placed the ant upon his hand, and asked it whether there was any one in the world greater than he. The ant replied that she was much greater as otherwise Yahweh would not have sent him there to place it upon his hand; this offended Solomon and he threw the ant down reminding it who he was, but the ant told him that it knew Solomon was created from a corrupted drop, causing Solomon to feel ashamed.

Angels

Angels also help out Solomon in building the Temple; though not by choice. The edifice was, according to rabbinical legend, throughout miraculously constructed, the large, heavy stones rising to 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 cock alone, and the cock 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.

Solomon in the Kabbalah

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. Solomon is also portrayed as forcing demons to take Solomon’s friends, including Hiram, on day return trips to hell.

The palace without entrance

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.

Throne

Solomon at his throne, painting by Andreas Brugger, 1777

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 theTemple (I Kings xiv. 26), carried off the throne, which remained in Egypt till Sennacherib conquered that country. After Sennacherib’s fall Hezekiah gained possession of it, but when Josiah was slain by PharaohNecho, 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, who their king Darius was the first to sit successfully on Solomon’s throne since his death, and after that the throne passed into the possession of the Greeks and Ahasuerus.

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