SOLOMON

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SOLOMON ; son of David by Bathsheba, through whose influence he inherited the Jewish throne, in preference to his elder brothers. During a long and peaceful \'CM, XI. 41 reign, from B. C. 1015 to 975, he enjoyed the fruits of his father's labors. A youth surrounded #vith royal splendors inspired him with a sense of dignity, and he carried with him to the throne, which he ascended, while young, with the cruelty of an Eastern monarch, the wisdom which he had derived from the lessons of his father and his father's counsellors. To confirm his power, he caused his brother Adohijah, and some discontented nobles, to be put to death, and formed alliances with foreign rulers. His remarkable judicial decisions, and his completion of the political institutions of David, showed a superiority of genius, which gained him the respect of the people. By the building of the temple, which, in magnitude, splendor and beauty, exceeded any former work of architecture, he gave to the Hebrew worship a magnificence which bound the people more closely to their national rites. The wealth of Solomon accumulated by a prudent use of the treasi ures inherited from his father by successful commerce, through which he first made the Hebrews acquainted with navigation ; Iw a careful administration of the royal revenues, which he caused to be collected by twelve governors; and by an increase of taxes,enabled him to meet the expense of erecting the temple, building palaces, cities and fortifications, and of supporting the extravagance of a luxurious court. But. while, on the one hand, the prosperity of the people was promoted, and the arts and civilization were improved, on the other, an example of pernicious luxury, and of a gradual relaxation of the severity of the Mosaic religion, was exhibited. Admiration of Solomon's wisdom and regal magnificence, which brought crowds of foreigners to his capita], and, among the rest, a queen of Sheba, easily drowned the few voices of discontent. His justice gained him the respect of his subjects ;o¦ and an army stood at his command, consisting of 12,000 horsemen, armed in the Egyptian manner, and 1400 warchariots, to overawe the Gentile tribes, which had been subjugated by David to the Jewish yoke, and were now forced to labor in the service of Solomon. Fortune long seemed to favor this great king; and Israel, in the fulness of its prosperity, scarcely perceived that he was continually becoming more despotic. Contrary to the laws of Moses, Solomon admitted foreign women i ; o his numerous harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines ; and, from love to these women, lie was weak enough, in his old age, to per init them the free practice of their idolatrous worship, and even to take part in it himself. Still his adversaries, who, towards the close of his life, aimed at his throne, could effect nothing; but, after his death, the discontent of the people broke out into open rebellion, and his feeble son, Rehoboain, could not prevent the division of the kingdom. (See Hebrews,) The forty years' reign of Solomon, the last years of which were less glorious than the first, is still, however, celebrated among the Jews for its splendor and its happy tranquillity, as one of the brightest periods of their hisr tory. Throughout the East it is considered as a golden age. In fact, Solomon belonged more to the East, in general, than to his own nation. His mode of thinking was freer than beseemed a Hebrew. The writings contained under his name in the Bible, though they may have been collected and arranged at a later period, are substantially the work of Solomon. They breathe a philosophical spirit, elevated above the prejudices of his nation. His Proverbs are rich in ingenious and sagacious observations. His Ecclesiastes, or Preacher, savors of the philosophy which men of the world, sated with a long course of pleasure, form from the results of their own experience. It teaches that nothing is permanent, and therefore we should hasten to enjoy present good, and that God is the source of all wisdom. (For the Canticles, see Solomon's Song.) The book entitled the Wisdom of Solomon, though received into the canon by the Roman Catholic cJHirchjis rejected, as apocryphal, by Protestants. Solomon's wisdom and happiness have become proverbial; and the fables of the rabbins, and the heroic and erotic poems of the Persians and Arabians speak of him, as the romantic traditions of the Normans and Britons do of king Arthur, as a fabulous monarch, whose natural science (mentioned even in the Bible), whose wise sayings and dark riddles, whose power and magnificence, are attributed to magic. According to these fictions, Solomon's ring was the talisman of his wisdom and power, and, like the temple of Solomon, in the mysteries of the freemasons and rosicrucians, has a Jeep, symbolical meaning.