Saturday, November 8, 2014

Solomon's Government System Over Israel

Solomon was king over all Israel.  The fourth chapter of 1 Kings tells us that Solomon was trying to rectify the lack of government in managing such a large kingdom by the appointing of new positions and by setting up an administration.  This is a system of government that was different than that which Israel had experienced up to that point[1].  Solomon was setting up a labour force and a management plan to deal with the expanding kingdom properly; however, by the account in 1 Kings chapter 9, the kingdom of Israel was falling into a class system and divides among the people were more evident.  The expenses of running the new government and the tax levies that Solomon had against the people were difficult for the common people to bear, and as such a distinction between the rich and the poor was being made[2]. 

From the onset of the chapter dealing with Solomon by Miller and Hayes[3] they are openly against any possible validity of the possibility that the biblical record contains some truth regarding the Solomonic reign.  They make arguments in a mocking fashion, such as with statements like, “The ‘wise’ Solomon”, “The ‘powerful’ Solomon”, and “the ‘wealthy’ Solomon”, and follow these statements with stating that he could not have been these things because of the problems that his government had in functioning[4].  Some arguments that they make are valid and appropriate, such as when they question why a long running reign of forty years would leave behind no written records, as well as why a king that was reputed to do much international trade would leave behind little or no archaeological evidence of the foreign luxury goods that are listed as having been imported[5].  Thus, even though Miller and Hayes come across as being rather petty and judgmental or biased against the biblical record, they at least also pose some good arguments against the biblical account. 

Millard approaches his essay on the analysis of the Solomon Narrative with what appears to be an open mind and an understanding that in the literary narratives there usually some aspect of truth, albeit exaggerated at times[6].  One of the arguments that Millard makes in defence of the Solomon Narrative is concerning the gold gilding of the temple.  Millard says that while it is very doubtful that the interior of the temple was gold plated in its entirety, it is likely that parts of it were, such as the doors, pillars, and alters.  He uses the examples of contemporary Babylon, the Inca and Maya, and Indian architecture to show that the practice was used by other cultures[7].   Some of the other defences that Millard makes are in relation to the use of gold dining-ware, the use of ivory gilded with gold for the throne, and that the lack of archaeological evidence containing Solomon’s name is not unusual[8].  
According to the essay by Wightman[9], there are many things that archaeological evidence has been able to prove about the period around when Solomon was to have lived in Israel.  There are many digs, such as those at Megiddo, that have been attributed to Solomon’s time.  However, it is also stated that one of the problems facing the archaeological evidence’s validity is the concept that a certain style of building has been attributed to a specific time without having any further evidence other than ‘gut feeling’ to go off[10].  Thus, while there is evidence from Solomon’s time period, what can and can’t be trusted from it is still in question.
The overall picture that the Bible paints of Solomon and his reign is that of a good and wise king.  There are parts of Solomon’s rule where it appears that he goes into debt and begins to worship the gods of his non-Israelite wives.  The Biblical account[11] tells that at this time the Lord told Solomon that he was to loose the kingdom to a servant, and it was after this that the kingdom split into two, thus tying together the downfall of the kingdom with the actions of Solomon. 


Holy Bible, The.  King James Version.  1989.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Salt Lake City, UT.

Millard, A.  (1997).  ‘King Solomon in his Ancient Context’, in The Age of Solomon: Scholarship at the Turn of the Millennium (ed., L.K. Handy; Studies in the History and Culture of the Ancient Near East 11; Leiden: Brill).  pp. 30-53.

Miller, J., and Hayes, J. (2006).  A History of Ancient Israel and Judah.  Westminster John Knox Press, London.  Ch. 7

Old Testament: 1 Kings – Malachi.  Religion 302 Student Manual.  Church Educational System, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, UT.   (1982).  pp. 4-9

Wightman, G.J.  (1990).  ‘The Myth of Solomon’, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277/8.  pp. 5-22

[1] Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings - Malachi, p. 4-5
[2] Ibid, p. 8
[3] Miller & Hayes, A History, p. 186
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid, p. 187
[6] Millard, King Solomon in Ancient Context, p. 30-31
[7] Ibid, p. 33
[8] Ibid, p. 34-49
[9] Wightman, The Myth of Solomon
[10] Ibid, p. 8-9
[11] 1 Kings 11:11-38

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