In what ways was Soloman a successful king? Essay
In what ways was Soloman a successful king?
John Drane came to the conclusion that ‘Judged by the standards of world powers, Solomon was outstandingly successful, the greatest of all Israel’s rulers. But judged by the moral and spiritual standards of the covenant, he was a miserable failure. ‘ I agree with Drane in this statement because there were indeed many things Solomon did in his reign that were beneficial to the people and the country. However, for a man working for God, he does not seem to apply the covenant of Yahweh very much to the decisions he makes as king.
Previously, during the reign of David, a new kingdom was beginning to be established. The small towns of the tribal confederacy were developing into larger cities throughout the land, noted for their economic and political importance. Israel was growing into a powerful nation, while David’s powerful armies were defeating others around it. Therefore, when Solomon became king, he inherited an already large and stable kingdom in a secure position, with relatively large military forces and a reasonably content population. He also had the great example of his own father to follow, unlike Saul previously.
However, his Father advises him to follow the word of God, which he does not take much heed of. He did many things within his reign that consolidated not only his own position, but also aided the position of Israel. Solomon was ‘born to the purple’ (Anderson), and never knew anything but the sheltered, extravagant life of a king’s palace. However, it was this influence that made him want to demonstrate his power and wealth to the surrounding nations, therefore both building up the strength as well as the image of Israel.
Due to the fact that Solomon was born to kingship, it can be debated whether he was actually chosen by God to be the king. He ruthlessly killed his brother Adonijah, even thought he was the rightful heir, and so it can be argued that he manipulated the circumstances to make himself king instead of being the intention of God. Solomon’s enemies at the time were very weak and because he was a poor military leader, he set up a series of preventative measures as a disincentive for people to even attempt to attack. He increased the size of his army and established chariot stations in major towns and other vulnerable places.
Although the kingdom was kept stable throughout Solomon’s reign, his enemies were weak so this position was never actually challenged. His two main potential enemies were the Philistines and the Egyptians. Due to the discovery of iron by the Philistines, the structure of the chariots were very secure, and so the Philistines had been using them previous to Solomon introducing them. In 1Kings 4:26, we hear that ‘Soloman had 4000 stalls for his chariot horses and 12000 horses. ‘ Recently when archaeologists were excavating in Meggido they found a large number of chariots, which provides evidence for these claims.
Solomon also increased the size of the army by huge numbers; it was made up of two key elements, 12000 permanent men and 4000 chariots. Solomon also introduced conscription. 30000 men were required to serve one month out of three either building/labouring or being in the army out of the population of 750000, as estimated by Albright. This concept of conscription is one which was a warning given by God at the time of the first King-Saul. This forced labour is an issue that made the people at the time unhappy and seems very unfair of Solomon.
However, in order for Solomon to keep to the strict building schedules he had set himself, it was imperative to have this extensive labour. These buildings then added status to Israel because the extravagance could be seen by all. However, despite the huge army, there were actually no major military expeditions during the reign of Solomon. Soloman was very clever in the respect that he made lots of alliances with influential people in order to further develop and expand his country. We are told in 1Kings11: 3 that ‘he had 700 wives who were from royal families and 300 concubines who gave birth to his children.
‘ These marriages were mainly for political and trade alliances, for example when Solomon married the Pharaoh of Egypt’s daughter, as a wedding present he obtained Ezion Geber in the gulf of Aquabah, a port in an arm of water north of the red sea, which he made an extensive fleet of trading ships for. This made Israel even wealthier and made Solomon’s reputation as King much more admired. The main exports from Israel were wheat and olive oil and also possibly copper as well as chariots and horses. The main trading partners were Arabia, East Africa, Syria, and Cilicia.
The most important of Solomon’s alliances was with Tyre, an alliance first initiated by David and later renewed by Solomon. The alliance resulted in a mutually beneficial trade: exports of wheat and olive oil from Israel and Lebanon hardwoods from Tyre. Tyrian workmen were also infamous for their skills in quality craftsmanship, building, and the refinement of copper; the alliance meant Solomon could utilise this source. It also opened up before Solomon new avenues of trade and industry, because it meant that Solomon had greater access to the Mediterranean and so could trade there too.
Although all of these political and trade alliances were useful and beneficial to Solomon and Israel, there were many drawbacks to this amount of women living in his household. It meant that there was a complicated web of women, sometimes related, who caused arguments in the palace. For example, there is the well known story in 1Kings3 of the two women who argue over the death of one of their babies, not agreeing on who is the Mother of the living one. In 1Kings3, Solomon seems to be very close to God and follows Him as his father did ‘Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statues of David’.
However in 1Kings11 we are told that ‘his wives caused him to turn away from God. ‘ The alliances that he made with other countries bringing trade to Israel also brought their religions and their Gods. Instead of banishing these Gods and concentrating on Yahweh, he allowed his wives to build temples and worship their Gods and later in his old age, he followed them and also worshiped these Pagan Gods. Not only did this mean that God was angry with Solomon and brought his wrath upon the people of Israel, but the people saw Solomon’s example and also started to turn away from Yahweh.
Solomon was a very wealthy man and liked to demonstrate this through extravagance in both building and his own private luxury. He had a large bureaucracy modelled on the example of neighbouring Egypt. All of these wives and officers required money through food, living costs, wages, administration, clothes etc and because Solomon did not engage in any military expeditions and so retain any loot, he had to charge the people heavy taxes. His father David had always paid special attention to the North, in trying to win their favour, seeing as they were resentful to the south where David was from.
However Solomon ignored his father’s advice and in fact taxed the North more heavily than the rest of the country, which lead to the disintegration of the country after Solomon’s death. He also caused friction by apparently having no regard for the old tribal confederacy and putting up the tax borders geographically, deliberately splitting tribes up. Solomon however did collect a considerable amount of income from the taxes he imposed on the caravans that travelled through Israel from Arabia. Solomon’s true genius lay in the realm of industry and trade.
He was able to recognise the economic significance of his position astraddle the major trade routes. His commercial ventures were numerous and, since foreign trade was largely a royal monopoly, a source of great wealth to the state. Solomon’s projects must have meant that thousands more were employed and although were taxed, would still probably been better off. Bright says that ‘Israel enjoyed a security and material plenty such as she had never dreamed of before and was never to know again’. The living standards of people would have gone up considerably during Solomon’s reign
Solomon was particularly renowned for his building projects. The first major building he constructed was his palace on the hill of Zion, which, in total took thirteen years to build. It was mainly constructed by Tyrian craftsmen due to Solomon’s alliance with Hiram, the King of Tyre, made previously by his Father David. He paid Hiram with 97000 gallons of olive oil and a considerable amount of grain. 80000 men worked in the quarries and 70000 were burden bearers, some of these were employed under conscription.
The palace was often called the ‘House of the forest of Lebanon’ due to the amount of cedar trees taken for the building of Solomon’s home. Although the building was very impressive, and Solomon’s wealth was evident due to this palace, Anderson remarks that ‘Ambitious and selfish by nature, his lavish court in Jerusalem was a hall of mirrors that reflected the glory and reputation of the great king of Israel’. I agree, that indeed, the palace does seem to be excessively furnished and finished.
Hiram provided Solomon with high quality rose tinted limestone and Solomon refused anything but gold goblets to be used in the palace. The throne was inlaid with ivory and plated with the finest gold. He had 600 golden shields made, 200 large ones and the others smaller, all purely designed for display. Although Solomon was meant to be a representative of God he started building his own palace before starting construction of the temple, and within his palace, he also ordered shrines of foreign Gods to be built for his wives. There was a shrine to Molock, the God of Ammon and a shrine to Chemosh, the God of Moab.
The building of the temple was started in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign and took seven years to finish. Boadt comments that ‘while Solomon lived, his temple was the true center of worship for the whole country. ‘ The temple was a very positive thing for Solomon and was a credit to him. It was a reminder of God’s power and was a focal point of worship for the people of Israel. It was a place that brought the people together and it appears that Solomon wanted to give God the best because a lot of gold was used within the making and di?? cor.
It could be argued however, that this was purely put in for show because Solomon did have a habit of using very expensive lavish materials in his buildings. The temple had two key pillars, and contained a bronze sea. This was a very large bowl supported by gourds, the Canaanite fertility symbol. It represented the powers of watery chaos ruled by Yahweh and at the same time provided water for the services and ritual washings. Out of respect for the name of God that was said to be present in the temple, Solomon ensured that the stone was cut in the quarries away from the temple, so that there was no hammering in, or near, the temple.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 July 2017
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