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The Reign of Solomon

970-931 BC


Solomon inherited his throne at a young age from his father, David. Unlike his father, Solomon's reign was a peaceful one. By 970 BC, Israel ran all along the Mediterranean in the west, up to the Euphrates River in the north, and down all the way to the desert in the south and east. He did not expand his territory any further, rather he built alliances with surrounding countries and developed trade.

Back to Ancient Israel Chronology

Of all of Solomon's accomplishments, the building of the temple and the palace are significant. They are milestones for the Israelites who feel they are finally becoming a nation on the scale of other nations. It is estimated 80,000 men worked for seven years on the temple and thirteen years on the palace. Solomon exported wheat and oil in exchange for the lumber and gold required for these projects.

Also, women were common objects of trade. Solomon had many, many wives from neighboring countries and from other religions. They brought the worship of their gods to Israel, where religion had been definitively monotheistic and intolerant of other beliefs. Assimilating to other cultures profoundly affected Israelite society, and contributed towards the nation's division as soon as Solomon dies.

Solomon wrote thousands of proverbs and songs commonly known for their wisdom. His father's last advice to him was to obey the Lord above all, if he wished to be a successful ruler. Solomon has a dream, where God offers him anything for the asking. He replies, "Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil." (1 Kings 3:9) God gives him his wisdom and success as well.

As a ruler, he divided his kingdom into 12 districts which were equal in territory and in resources. These districts served as political and economic units. Solomon also organized a cabinet beneath him with specific duties. There was the commanding general, the chief scribe, the prime minister in charge of the palace (and second in command), a chief of forced labor on the building projects, and someone to govern the leaders of each district. Economically, the districts were the mechanism of taxation by the palace. Those who had a lot of land were taxed more, so the wealthy did not necessarily own much land. But there was a large distinction between the poor commoners and riches that surrounded Solomon and his people. The taxes on the commoners went to fund the extravagant temple and the palace, and to support the upper class. The commoners were proud of the big-league status of the kingdom under Solomon, but the taxes were high and the work was hard. The temple and palace turned out to be so costly that the nation went into debt. Solomon died 931 BC, ending his 40 year reign, and his son Rehoboam succeeded him. But with problems mounting the kingdom was destined to divide with Judah in the south and Israel in the north.

Edited by: Jill E. Luckow
Researched by: Erica E. Olson
Written by: Nathan L. Seldomridge
September 26, 1996

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