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Wednesday, January 25 2012
A History Of Jerusalem: The Glory Of Solomon
The united kingdom of Israel reached its greatest political and military extent during the time of King Solomon, the son and successor of King David (see A History Of Jerusalem: The City Of David). As such, Jerusalem became an imperial capital, just as, for example, London, and then Washington, took their turns in our present age (the only real difference between the British Empire at the start of the twentieth century and the U.S. Empire at the end of the twentieth century was a century, with the typical irony that the U.S. became a worldwide military and financial empire exactly like the one that it supposedly rebelled against i.e. the so-called "anti-Americanism" used to be called "anti-Britishism" - the principle is the same).
Empires decline for various reasons, however the most-common factor is that the taxpayers, and/or those who have to live with the hometown inadequacies resulting from the classic "guns or butter" rule of economics (e.g. new fleets of warships and fighter jets sent around the world, while roads and bridges are crumbling at home), plus the grievous cost in terms of the blood of their children spent on maintaining rule over other nations, become unwilling to tolerate it any further. Dictatorship empires tend to last a little longer than "democratic" empires, but not by much - the result is always the same. In the end, it was for that very reason that the Israelite people rebelled against the crippling cost of their own empire i.e. "12:3 That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, 12:4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee" (1 Kings 12:3-4 KJV).
Israel became an empire (see the map below) during the time that the LORD patiently waited for Solomon to become a fully-dedicated man of God, as his father David had been. Solomon was naturally wise, even as a young man; the LORD then gave Solomon even more wisdom, in the obvious hope that Solomon would turn wholly to the LORD (something that Solomon never did, as we will read), but like Satan, who corrupted his wisdom when he misdirected it to vanity ("28:17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee" Ezekiel 28:17 KJV) Solomon failed himself - he perverted the Glory of God into personal vanity.
Notice that at the beginning of his reign, Solomon had married an idol-worshipping daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh (who was accustomed to living a lavish palace) and that Solomon himself worshipped at the pagan "high places." Solomon's reign began as it ended.
"3:1 And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. 3:2 Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days. 3:3 And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. 3:4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar. 3:5 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee." (1 Kings 3:1-5 KJV)
The LORD nevertheless blessed Solomon and his kingdom. The LORD gave Solomon every possible means, intellectually and politically, as an incentive to become a wholly-devoted man of God - who destroys idols at every opportunity, not ever bows down to them.
"3:6 And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
Solomon was handed the gift of a united kingdom of Israel (something that his father David had to fight to obtain - see The Civil War Kings) and a nation whereby all of Israel's enemies had learned that Israel was undefeatable, when it was faithful to the LORD - again, as made possible through David. The result was that Solomon wasn't only a king; he was an Emperor i.e. "Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt."
"4:1 So king Solomon was king over all Israel." (1 Kings 4:1 KJV)
Solomon's God-given "wisdom and understanding" made him a world-respected source of teaching in many things i.e. "there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom." In the time of Solomon, Jerusalem became not only a military, political and economic capital, but an intellectual capital as well. During that time, Jerusalem had it all.
"4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. 4:30 And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 4:31 For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. 4:32 And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. 4:33 And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. 4:34 And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom." (1 Kings 4:29-34 KJV)
As we will cover in detail in a subsequent study in this series, Solomon was given to construct the Temple of the LORD that his father David had made the preparations for (see A History Of Jerusalem: The City Of David).
"6:1 And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD." (1 Kings 6:1 KJV)
By that time, Solomon should have become strong enough to no longer be influenced by the vanity and idolatry of other people. He wasn't. Notice that he spent only seven years building the Temple of the LORD, but thirteen years for a palace for himself and the Pharaoh's daughter.
"7:1 But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house." (1 Kings 7:1 KJV)
During the reign of Solomon, Jerusalem had become the economic center of the known world. Economic power is one matter, but gross personal opulence and extravagance became Solomon's wasteful and vain way e.g. pure gold cups and an ivory throne. Solomon still had his great wisdom, but his opportunity to start using it in a wise way was running out.
"10:14 Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, 10:15 Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffic of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country.
The famous visit of the Queen of Sheba (see that Fact Finder question below) occurred at the peak of his reign.
"10:1 And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. 10:2 And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. 10:3 And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not. 10:4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built, 10:5 And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.
Solomon began his reign as an idol worshipper with an unbeliever wife; his reign ended in the same way, multiplied by a thousand. The patience of the LORD expired. The Israelite Empire would not only be deflated, but the kingdom of Israel itself would be divided into two kingdoms (see Rehoboam's Answer).
"11:1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; 11:2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. 11:3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. 11:5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 11:6 And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.
Solomon died and "was buried in the city of David his father."
"11:41 And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon? 11:42 And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 11:43 And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead." (1 Kings 11:41-43 KJV)
This Day In History, January 25
1327: Edward III became king of England after a coup that removed his father Edward II from the throne.
1533: In defiance of the Pope's "authority" over English kings, England's King Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, his second wife.
1554: When Queen Mary announced her intention to marry the Roman Catholic Philip II of Spain (during his lifetime Philip colonized what later became the southern U.S.A.; the Philippines are named after him), a rebellion was led by Thomas Wyatt (who was later hanged for treason).
1579: The Union of Utrecht (Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Friesland, Groningen and Overyssel) formed the Dutch Republic as an independent nation from Spain.
1755: Moscow University was founded.
1791: A Royal proclamation created Upper and Lower Canada. "Upper" and "Lower" Canada were terms based simply on the flow of the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River toward the Atlantic Ocean; "Upper Canada" was present-day southern Ontario, "Lower Canada" was southern Quebec.
1802: Napoleon Bonaparte became President of the Italian (Cisalpine) Republic.
1831: In Poland, the Diet (the name for the legislative assembly in some countries) declared independence, thereby removing Tsar Nicholas from the throne.
1846: The Corn Laws were repealed by the British Parliament. They taxed imported grain (oats, wheat and barley).
1858: German composer Felix Mendelssohn's famous "Wedding March" became a popular choice at weddings after it was played during the marriage ceremony of Queen Victoria's daughter to the crown prince of Prussia.
1878: A Russian boat became the first vessel to sink another with a torpedo after it sunk a Turkish steamer.
1904: A mine explosion in Pennsylvania entombed 200 coal miners.
1918: Russia declared a republic of Soviets (soviet means council in Russian). Hence the origin of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, an empire that lasted 70 years before collapsing due to bankruptcy.
1919: A year after the end of the First World War (listen to our Sermon The European World Wars), the League of Nations (the fore-runner of the United Nations) was founded in Geneva. The United States refused to become a member. The League of Nations was made defunct by the Second World War.
1947: Al Capone, the famous Chicago gangster, died of syphillis at age 48.
1949: The newly-created (modern-day) state of Israel (listen also to our Sermon The Balfour Declaration) held its first general election. Number of seats by party: Labor 57, Center-Right 31, Religious 16.
1949: For her broadcast of Nazi propaganda to U.S. troops in Europe during the Second World War, "Axis Sally" (Mildred Gillars, born Mildred Sisk in Portland, Maine in 1900) was tried as a war criminal in the U.S. She was sentenced to a 10-30 year prison term. Upon her release in 1959, she entered a convent and became a teacher at Catholic schools in Ohio.
1950: During the hysteria of the McCarthy-era communist "witch hunts" in the U.S., Alger Hiss, a State Department official, was convicted of perjury for denying his membership in the communist party.
1959: Church of Rome Pope John XXIII proclaimed the coming Second Vatican Council.
1963: Wilson Kettle died in Canada at age 102. At the time of his death, the Newfoundland man had 582 living descendants - a real-life "Pa Kettle."
1971: A coup made Idi Amin became president of Uganda.
1971: Charles Manson and 3 women followers were found guilty of the murders of actress Sharon Tate (the pregnant wife of film-maker Roman Polanski) and 6 other people, including the Folger coffee company heiress Abigail Folger.
1981: During China's "Cultural Revolution," Jiang Quing (the widow of Chinese communist founder Moa Tse-tung) and other "Gang of Four" members were convicted of "counter-revolutionary" activities.
1990: Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan gave birth to a girl, the first-ever head of government to give birth while still in office. Bhutto was assassinated in 2007.
1996: Billy Bailey became the last person in the U.S. to be executed by hanging.