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Solomon, Servants of

SOLOMON, SERVANTS OF

SOLOMON, SERVANTS OF (Heb. ﬠַבְדֵי שְׁלֹמֹה). The "Servants of Solomon" are mentioned in i Kings 9:27 (cf. ii Chron. 8:18) in an annalistic section (l Kings 9:15–28) that records the grandiose projects undertaken by King Solomon. These included construction within the country and commercial enterprises on an international scale, undertaken in conjunction with Solomon's Phoenician ally, Hiram of Tyre. Solomon's work force, organized to implement his projects, consisted of two major components: corvée labor – large numbers of workers conscripted mainly from the non-Israelite population; and an official, managerial class of army commanders, and some skilled technicians, mostly Israelites. Many scholars assign the "Servants of Solomon" to the non-Israelite corvée, and classify them as royal slaves, hence their name. Supporters of this view cite a later source, the list of returning exiles in the days of Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2ff.), where "the Sons of the Servants of Solomon" are listed together with the *Nethinim, usually assumed to be Temple slaves (ibid. 2:43–58). The slave status of both the Nethinim and the "Servants of Solomon" is to be questioned, however. It is probable that the "Servants of Solomon" were the official class (i Kings 9:27), and not part of the corvée (ibid. 9:20–21). They are, after all, mentioned in connection with the trade in gold, brought from *Ophir (location uncertain). Together with Phoenician sea captains provided by Hiram, they set forth on large sailing ships from the port of Elath (Ezion-Geber). The Hebrew term for "slave, servant," eved, can also mean "courtier, royal official" (Ex. 8:20; Esth. 3:2).

bibliography:

Levine, in: jbl, 82 (1963), 207–12 (incl. bibl.).

[Baruch A. Levine]

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