Mark W. Hamilton

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online August 2013 | | DOI:

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According to the Bible, Solomon was the third king of a united Israel, reigning in the latter half of the 10th century bce. The earliest traditions about his reign, concentrated in 1 Kings and in modified form in 1–2 Chronicles, portray him as a builder and organizer of a state who consolidated the gains of his father David. These texts depict him as a builder, administrator, patron of wisdom, and diplomat. According to the literary traditions about Solomon, these instruments of rule, common to ancient Near Eastern monarchs, allowed him to consolidate the power he inherited, although he was unable to pass it to his son. The inherent contradictions of his rule, at least in the literary account in 1 Kings 1–11, led to the ultimate failure of his program of remaking Israel. As a literary character, Solomon endures, in part because 1 Kings weaves together stories about him that render him a complex figure, capable of profound humility and wisdom, but ultimately susceptible to the blandishments of power and sexual gratification. His reign, according to 1 Kings, was in the final analysis a failure, and indeed the precursor of the failures of many of his successors. Later accounts of his reign are often more generous, with the Chronicler (who wrote during the 5th or 4th century bce) recasting Solomon’s reign as primarily a religious revolution marked by the building of the glorious Temple in Jerusalem. During the same period, the editors of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs connected their works to Solomon as the royal patron of wisdom. Later traditions, including those in the Qur’an, transformed Solomon from the tyrant in 1 Kings to a sage or even a wizard of great power. The literary Solomon has thus become a vessel into which successive generations can pour its fascination—and frustration—with power.

Article.  13504 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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