Solomon In All His Glory -- By: Alan R. Millard

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 11:2 (Spring 1982)
Article: Solomon In All His Glory
Author: Alan R. Millard


Solomon In All His Glory

Alan R. Millard

SOLOMON’S name lives today for two reasons, his wisdom and his magnificence. In English the man facing a difficult choice is said to need the wisdom of Solomon, echoing the story of the king who discerned which of two women was a child’s mother (1 Kings 3:16–28). His magnificence was immortalised in the saying of Jesus recorded by Matthew, ‘See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these’ (Matt. 6:28, 29 NIV).

The wisdom of ancient Israel has attracted much discussion and research over recent decades. Scholars have studied the language, form, and thought of Proverbs and other parts of the Old Testament termed ‘Wisdom Literature’. One important area of study has been comparison with similar writings discovered in Egypt and Babylonia.1 It is instructive to learn how much the Israelite thinkers had in common with their neighbours, and also how they differed. As to the wisdom of Solomon, the greater part of the book of Proverbs claims his authorship, and it is hard to find secure reasons for doubting it. Recently Kenneth Kitchen has shown that the literary form of the book is compatible with a Solomonic date.2

Solomon’s wealth has attracted far less detailed study. This is not surprising, for the Wisdom Literature is a more extensive and intellectually rewarding subject. Furthermore, Solomon’s wisdom, it can be argued, survives, whereas his wealth is

lost. Nevertheless, there are descriptions of the Temple at Jerusalem and other royal buildings which speak of, and even quantify Solomon’s riches. The records in 1 Kings 5 to 10 clearly convey an impression of immense wealth, ‘the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills’ (1 Kings 10:27). Even so, there is nothing fantastic in the phrasing of these passages, certainly nothing like the expressions in later rabbinic and Arab tales of Solomon and his powers, the portrayals made familiar to many through Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Story ‘The Butterfly that Stamped’.

Solomon’s wealth is a subject that repays study. Like the Wisdom Literature, it...

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