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Solomon

SOLOMON

Son and successor of david as king (c. 961-922 b.c.) of all Israel. According to 2 Sm 12.25, his name seems originally to have been Jedidia (Heb. y e dîdyâ, beloved of Yahweh), and the name Solomon (Heb. še lōmōh, often associated with šālôm, peace, but probably an abbreviation of a longer name meaning something like "may Yahweh guard his welfare") was probably adopted on his accession to the throne.

Solomon's mother was Bathsheba, David's partner in adultery (2 Sm 11.2-5), but the precise details of his birth and early life are not clear, because of the complex nature of the Biblical record. For instance, it is usually assumed that he was the second son of David and Bethsabee, the first having died as punishment for the sin of adultery (2 Sm 12.1325); but elsewhere (1 Chr 3.5; 14.4; 2 Sm 5.14) he is listed as their fourth son. In David's time there was no strict rule of primogeniture determining royal succession. Accordingly, David did no one any injury in selecting Solomon as his heir. That he did so is certain, but the details are confused. Solomon, having obtained the crown through the intercession of his mother and of the Prophet nathan, consolidated his position by the ruthless removal of those who stood in his way.

More space in the Bible (1 Kgs 1.111.43; 2 Chr1.19.31) is devoted directly to Solomon than to any other king except David, but curiously he does not emerge as a clearly delineated person. Most of the material deals with the Temple of Jerusalem [see temples (in the bible)] and his building operations; and the rest, partly owing to the complex nature of the literary form, tells relatively little about the man himself. Even his celebrated wisdom, the tradition of which provides the basis for the later ascription to him of most of the sapiential books of the Bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and certain Psalms), is dealt with mostly in general terms. The single specific illustration, the story of the two mothers (1 Kgs 3.1628), is a familiar theme in Oriental folklore. It is unlikely, however, that his reputation as the wise king is entirely without foundation.

Solomon's fabled magnificence, alluded to by Jesus (Mt 6.29), is probably exaggerated; in any case, it was purchased at too high a price in excessive taxation, forced labor, and the destruction of tribal loyaltiesall of which helped pave the way for the division of the kingdom immediately after his death.

All in all, however, Solomon was an outstanding king. Taking advantage of the momentary weakness of Egypt and Assyria, he consolidated his already strong position and even extended his sphere of influence by skillful diplomacy rather than war. It is especially as a peaceful king that Christian tradition sees in him a type of Christ. Despite his very real shortcomings he seems to have been sincerely devoted to the service of God; yet he apparently did not grasp the full implications of uncompromising monotheism.

Many events of Solomon's life as described in the Bible have provided themes for Christian art. These include the encounter between Solomon and Bethsabee (1 Kgs 2.1924), Solomon's dream (3.415), the judgment for the two mothers (3.1628), and the meeting with the Queen of Sheba (10.113), as well as the Temple and its furnishings. Sometimes the motif is given a typological interpretation, as when Solomon's invitation to Bethsabee to share his throne is understood to foreshadow Mary's crowning at the hand of Christ or when his judgment is set in relation to the Last Judgment. The earliest example of Solomon in Christian art is the bas-relief of Solomon's judgment on the silver reliquary of the cathedral of Milan (end of the 4th century).

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 226063. m. rehm and a. legner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 9:272275. j. bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia 1959) 190208. l. rÉau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 6 v. (Paris 195559) 2.1:286299.

[b. mcgrath]

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