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Issue #75 - 04/11
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Solomon- was he the wisest king?

The first eleven chapters in the 1 Kings describe one of the most important characters in the Hebrew Bible, the friend of The Lord, the one who should have had peace in his life- Solomon the King. When you Learn Biblical Hebrew,you can understand the meaning of names like Solomon and understand the connection between the name and the destiny of the figure. When we are reading the first chapters the picture is clear to us. This is an extraordinary king. Though he wasn't the first born of his father, David, he became a king due to a manipulation of Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba his mother. The one who should be the king, Adonijah, meaning: the master of The Lord, was only a master of himself for a short time until Solomon, like every king in his area, killed all his adversaries. In the third chapter of 1 Kings we can learn that Solomon had a vision or a dream, in which he was asked to tell The Lord what he wants from him. The answer is found in 1 Kings 3:5-9.

 Solomon the King

"בְּגִבְעוֹן, נִרְאָה יְהוָה אֶל-שְׁלֹמֹה--בַּחֲלוֹם הַלָּיְלָה; וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, שְׁאַל מָה אֶתֶּן-לָךְ. וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁלֹמֹה, אַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ עִם-עַבְדְּךָ דָוִד אָבִי חֶסֶד גָּדוֹל, כַּאֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ לְפָנֶיךָ בֶּאֱמֶת וּבִצְדָקָה וּבְיִשְׁרַת לֵבָב, עִמָּךְ; וַתִּשְׁמָר-לוֹ, אֶת-הַחֶסֶד הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה, וַתִּתֶּן-לוֹ בֵן יֹשֵׁב עַל-כִּסְאוֹ, כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה. וְעַתָּה, יְהוָה אֱלֹהָי, אַתָּה הִמְלַכְתָּ אֶת-עַבְדְּךָ, תַּחַת דָּוִד אָבִי; וְאָנֹכִי נַעַר קָטֹן, לֹא אֵדַע צֵאת וָבֹא. וְעַבְדְּךָ--בְּתוֹךְ עַמְּךָ, אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרְתָּ: עַם-רָב, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִמָּנֶה וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר מֵרֹב. וְנָתַתָּ לְעַבְדְּךָ לֵב שֹׁמֵעַ, לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת-עַמְּךָ, לְהָבִין, בֵּין-טוֹב לְרָע: כִּי מִי יוּכַל לִשְׁפֹּט, אֶת-עַמְּךָ הַכָּבֵד הַזֶּה"

"At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. “Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

 

After Solomon got the wisdom from The Lord, he needed to prove that he is the one not only with peace but also with wisdom, as we can see in the famous trial with the two women at the end of this chapter. The next verses, which describe Solomon as the man of peace and wisdom can be found in 1 Kings 5:1, 4-5, 9-10-

Peace

"וּשְׁלֹמֹה הָיָה מוֹשֵׁל בְּכָל-הַמַּמְלָכוֹת מִן-הַנָּהָר אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים וְעַד גְּבוּל מִצְרָיִם: מַגִּשִׁים מִנְחָה וְעֹבְדִים אֶת-שְׁלֹמֹה כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּיו... כִּי-הוּא רֹדֶה בְּכָל-עֵבֶר הַנָּהָר מִתִּפְסַח וְעַד-עַזָּה--בְּכָל-מַלְכֵי עֵבֶר הַנָּהָר; וְשָׁלוֹם הָיָה לוֹ מִכָּל-עֲבָרָיו מִסָּבִיב. וַיֵּשֶׁב יְהוּדָה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל לָבֶטַח אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵנָתוֹ מִדָּן וְעַד-בְּאֵר שָׁבַע--כֹּל יְמֵי שְׁלֹמֹה... וַיִּתֵּן אֱלֹהִים חָכְמָה לִשְׁלֹמֹה וּתְבוּנָה הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד וְרֹחַב לֵב כַּחוֹל אֲשֶׁר עַל-שְׂפַת הַיָּם. וַתֵּרֶב חָכְמַת שְׁלֹמֹה מֵחָכְמַת כָּל-בְּנֵי-קֶדֶם וּמִכֹּל חָכְמַת מִצְרָיִם"

"And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt; they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life…For he had dominion over all the region on this side the River, from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings on this side the River; and he had peace on all sides round about him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon…And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea-shore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt"

Unfortunately, those are not the only verses that describe Solomon. The book Song of Songs was written, according to the tradition by Solomon, and in the end of this beautiful book it reads:

vineyard

"כֶּרֶם הָיָה לִשְׁלֹמֹה בְּבַעַל הָמוֹן נָתַן אֶת-הַכֶּרֶם לַנֹּטְרִים: אִישׁ יָבִא בְּפִרְיוֹ אֶלֶף כָּסֶף. כַּרְמִי שֶׁלִּי לְפָנָי הָאֶלֶף לְךָ שְׁלֹמֹה וּמָאתַיִם לְנֹטְרִים אֶת-פִּרְיוֹ."

"Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon; he let out his vineyard to tenants. Each was to bring for its fruit a thousand shekels of silver. But my own vineyard is mine to give; the thousand shekels are for you, Solomon and two hundred are for those who tend its fruit” (Song of Songs 8:11-12).

Those two verses combined with the description of the people of Shechem in 1 Kings 12 about the taxes that Solomon took from the Israelites, tell us that Solomon was rich, but he wasn't smart enough to calm down his people, especially from the northern tribes! The sins of Solomon became more active and significant once he chose to marry foreign women as we can read in 1 Kings 11:1-8-

Solomon and the queen of Sheba

 "וְהַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה אָהַב נָשִׁים נָכְרִיּוֹת רַבּוֹת וְאֶת-בַּת-פַּרְעֹה: מוֹאֲבִיּוֹת עַמֳּנִיּוֹת אֲדֹמִיֹּת צֵדְנִיֹּת חִתִּיֹּת. מִן-הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר אָמַר-יְהוָה אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא-תָבֹאוּ בָהֶם וְהֵם לֹא-יָבֹאוּ בָכֶם אָכֵן יַטּוּ אֶת-לְבַבְכֶם אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם--בָּהֶם דָּבַק שְׁלֹמֹה לְאַהֲבָה.וַיְהִי לוֹ נָשִׁים שָׂרוֹת שְׁבַע מֵאוֹת וּפִלַגְשִׁים שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וַיַּטּוּ נָשָׁיו אֶת-לִבּוֹ .וַיְהִי לְעֵת זִקְנַת שְׁלֹמֹה נָשָׁיו הִטּוּ אֶת-לְבָבוֹ אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וְלֹא-הָיָה לְבָבוֹ שָׁלֵם עִם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו כִּלְבַב דָּוִיד אָבִיו.וַיֵּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה אַחֲרֵי עַשְׁתֹּרֶת אֱלֹהֵי צִדֹנִים וְאַחֲרֵי מִלְכֹּם שִׁקֻּץ עַמֹּנִים. וַיַּעַשׂ שְׁלֹמֹה הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה; וְלֹא מִלֵּא אַחֲרֵי יְהוָה כְּדָוִד אָבִיו. אָז יִבְנֶה שְׁלֹמֹה בָּמָה לִכְמוֹשׁ שִׁקֻּץ מוֹאָב בָּהָר אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי יְרוּשָׁלִָם; וּלְמֹלֶךְ שִׁקֻּץ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן. וְכֵן עָשָׂה לְכָל-נָשָׁיו הַנָּכְרִיּוֹת מַקְטִירוֹת וּמְזַבְּחוֹת לֵאלֹהֵיהֶן."

"King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods."

The Lord punished the king, who should have peace with his adversaries as we can see in this chapter. In fact, this chapter together with Nehemiah 13:23-26 contradicts 1 Kings 1-10 and shows us that even the wisest king couldn't have the sense to know that you cannot obey The Lord, who gave you the wisdom!!!

As a Biblical Hebrew teacher I am trying to teach my students that the name is only one of the things that we need to pay attention to before we interpret the text. The other, are its actions!  

 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

 

Hebrew

Transcription

Translation

הִתְחָרָה

hitchārāh

Competed

שָׁלוֹם

šālôm

Peace

אִשָּׁה

'iššāh

Woman

זָר

zār

Foreigner

הַשְׁפָּעָה

Hašpā'āh

Influence

מַס

mas

Tax

מִלְחָמָה

milchāmāh

War 

 
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