King Solomon - Biography

Chart of the Kings King Solomon - Biography God's Judgment Regarding King Solomon
Previous King: David   Next King: Rehoboam



Adonijah's Rebellion
Solomon's Wisdom
A Difficult Legal Case
Solomon's Temple
The Queen of Sheba
Solomon's Apostasy

For Discussion


The time of King David and King Solomon was the golden age of Israel. David's military skill had relieved his kingdom from the constant threat of foreign invasion, and had established an empire over the surrounding region. Solomon's diplomatic skill maintained this empire without the need for further war.

Solomon was prolific in art and science, having written three of the books of our modern Bible — the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and most of the Book of Proverbs. Early in his reign, God promised him great wisdom, and in fact his wisdom was legendary in his own time and today.

However, in spite of the great advantages of his heritage from David, wisdom from God, and the prosperity and security that resulted, late in life Solomon fell away from God and lived a life full of sin. As a result, the glory days of Israel were short-lived. As soon as Solomon died, the kingdom was split, Solomon's heir King Rehoboam retaining the smaller portion, and both kingdoms experienced much trouble that resulted from Solomon's sins.

Where to read Solomon's story: 1 Kings 1 - 11; 1 Chronicles 29:21-25; 2 Chronicles 1 - 9

Adonijah's Rebellion

When Solomon's father King David was aging, he lost his mental sharpness, and his son Adonijah, securing the aid of David's long time right hand man Joab, thought he would take the opportunity to seize the throne for himself. Years ago Adonijah's older brother Absolom had died in an attempt to similarly seize the throne.

Adonijah held a coronation ceremony just outside the capital city, Jerusalem, inviting only his supporters and excluding those not in sympathy with his cause. There were sacrifices, chariots, pomp and circumstance, partying and shouts of “Long live King Adonijah!”

God had chosen Solomon to be David's successor,1 and David had promised accordingly, but David's declining awareness threatened to limit his ability to control who took his throne. During all Adonijah's preparations, David never challenged his actions, and his supporters took this as evidence of David's approval, or at least of his inability to object. But now the case was brought to David's attention by Solomon's supporters, his mother among them. David, coming to his senses, immediately named Solomon king and went into retirement himself — a very unusual arrangement, but one that secured Solomon's successful ascension.

As Adonijah's party returned to Jerusalem, they came upon another coronation ceremony — Solomon's. Since this ceremony was fully endorsed by the king, Adonijah's supporters recognized it as unstoppable, and immediately realized the treasonous nature of their own actions. In alarm, the guests dispersed to their homes.

It would have been normal for Solomon to execute Adonijah and Joab as conspirators and traitors to the throne. To save his life, Adonijah took hold of the LORD's altar and refused to release it until Solomon promised to spare him; the altar was a customary place of refuge for those begging for mercy. Solomon freed Adonijah, with the stipulation that if he offended again, he would be executed for treason.

Some time later Adonijah petitioned for the hand of Abishag, a servant of dead King David, in marriage. In this request Solomon sensed the first steps of a future conspiracy — this marriage would raise Adonijah to a higher station, and was similar to the early steps in his brother Absolom's rebellion. Upon this infraction, Solomon executed his sentence of death, previously stayed, upon Adonijah and Joab.

Source: 1 Kings 1 - 2

  1 1 Chronicles 28:5

Solomon's Wisdom

One night early in his reign, the LORD gave Solomon a dream. In the dream, God told Solomon to ask for something — anything he wanted.

Solomon, young and humble, spoke to God about the great responsibility involved in governing God's people, and he asked for wisdom sufficient for the job.

The LORD was pleased with Solomon's request. He could have asked for wealth, political or military security, long life or fame, but instead he asked for wisdom to carry out the responsibilities God had given him. And so God promised he would give Solomon exceptional wisdom, unlike anyone else before or after him, and he would also give him those things he hadn't asked for — wealth, respect, security.

God kept his promise, for Solomon's wisdom is legendary. He was recognized by his peers, the kings of surrounding kingdoms, as the wisest — wiser also than any philosophers famous in his day. He wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs — a prolific output for any writer or musician. He was the acknowledged expert in botany and biology. He held seminars attended by cabinet members of kings from throughout the region. Even the Queen of Sheba, who traveled 1,000 miles to visit Solomon, was totally wowed by the magnificence of his operations.

Source: 1 Kings 3:1-15, 4:29-34; 2 Chronicles 1

A Difficult Legal Case

God had promised to give King Solomon exceptional wisdom. It wasn't long before God's promise was tested, and Solomon judged a court case of unusual difficulty. Two women, plaintiff and defendant, each had a baby. One baby had died, and each woman claimed to be the mother of the surviving infant.

Clearly one woman was lying, but which one? Any parent who has faced two children each saying “he did it” can appreciate the difficulty of Solomon's position. And failure to provide justice in this difficult case would set the tone for the rest of his administration.

Solomon ordered that a sword be brought to the courtroom, and a murmur must have rumbled through the crowd. Then he ordered, “Cut the living child in half, and give one part to each woman!” The observers must have been stunned with the bloody cruelty of this court order.

The woman who had filed suit couldn't bear to see her child killed. In a panic she immediately withdrew the suit, asking the king to judge in favor of her opponent, but spare the child's life. The defendant, more interested in winning than in the child's welfare, argued “I like the king's decision — cut him in two!”

Immediately King Solomon stopped the proceedings, rescued the child, and ordered, “Give the living baby to the first woman — she is his mother!”

Solomon's wisdom was immediately obvious to everyone present, and his reputation spread throughout the kingdom. God had indeed kept his promise.

Source: 1 Kings 3:16-28

Solomon's Temple

King Solomon built many houses and palaces, gardens and parks, irrigation projects and public works. But the most famous of all his achievements was the temple that bore his name. For nearly 400 years Solomon's Temple stood as the focal point for worship of the LORD.

The structure, though not over-large — it was about 90 feet by 30, and three stories high — was magnificent. King David, forbidden by God from building the temple, consoled himself by accumulating vast amounts of building materials, including timber, dressed stone, iron and bronze, silver and gold. Solomon followed this up with further imports of lumber and quarried stone. The amount was so great that, to transport the materials, Solomon conscripted a labor force of nearly 200,000 of his own people, not counting the workers of the foreign exporters. The temple's interior walls were dressed with carvings of angels and nature scenes, and were plated with gold throughout — about 23 tons of it. Even with a huge staff of both paid and conscripted labor, its construction had taken seven years.

For the temple's dedication, Solomon hosted a festival, inviting the entire nation. A great parade accompanied the ushering of the Ark of the Covenant from its tent to its new home in the temple's inner sanctuary, the Holy Place. As the Ark was positioned in its place, the LORD showed his approval; the glory of the LORD, in the form of a cloud, at once dark and shining brightly, filled the temple. It was so intense the priests had to abandon their rituals and go outside.

Solomon preached sermons and prayed prayers, asking the LORD to be present in the temple, to use the temple to draw his people to faithfulness, and to bless all who worship him there.

When all was done, the LORD spoke to Solomon, promising that if his people were faithful, he would bless them, but if they turned to sin, he would destroy them. Even so, if they repented of their sin, he would bless them again, rescuing them from the troubles that resulted from their sin.

Source: 1 Kings 5 - 9; 2 Chronicles 2 - 7

The Queen of Sheba

God gave Solomon the great wisdom he had promised him. Solomon's fame spread throughout the region, and the queen of Sheba, 1,000 miles to the south, was deeply impressed with the stories she heard. Resolving to pick Solomon's brain, she gathered gifts fit for a king, assembled a caravan, and traveled to Jerusalem.

Solomon met her. She asked all her difficult questions, and Solomon answered them all to her satisfaction. Furthermore, the queen was overcome with awe for Solomon's wealth, vast dominion and smooth-running administration. The king gave her gifts fit for a queen, and she returned home.

It was this visit to which Jesus later referred when he said, “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”1

Source: 1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12

  1 Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31

Solomon's Apostasy

Though Solomon had long been faithful to the LORD, late in life he fell away.

Part of Solomon's diplomatic success had come through marriages with foreign royalty. In all, he had 1,000 wives, many of them foreign. The LORD had forbidden his people to marry foreigners,1 for fear their religious practices would corrupt the true worship of the LORD. And in fact, this is what happened to Solomon.

Out of love for his wives, Solomon built shrines to their idols. To please his wives, he personally participated in the worship of those idols. This was no small sin, nor a positive expression of religious freedom. Each of these idols was connected with detestable practices. For example, both of the idols Chemosh and Molech required human sacrifice of children or infants in their worship.

And so Solomon, previously pure and committed to the LORD, introduced much sin into Israel in the name of political success. And this apostasy came in spite of God's great blessing to Solomon — God had personally spoken to him on two occasions, and had given him great wisdom, wealth, and security.

For this apostasy, God told Solomon he had decided to remove him from being king. Yet out of respect for Solomon's father, faithful King David, he would not do this during Solomon's lifetime, nor would he remove him completely — Solomon's heir would retain a small portion of the kingdom. This was fulfilled when Solomon's son King Rehoboam foolishly lost most of the kingdom.

Source: 1 Kings 11

  1 Deuteronomy 7:3-4

For Discussion

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