Reign of King Solomon
53.—The Wisdom of Solomon.[B.C. 973]
1. In the beginning of his reign Solomon loved the Lord, and walked in his father's footsteps. One night the Lord appeared to him, and bade him ask what he would. Solomon asked for wisdom, that he might rule with justice. When the Lord heard this He was much pleased, and gave Solomon not only the wisdom he had asked for, but also riches and honors and a long life.
2. Besides, God gave him a true knowledge of all things in nature, so that he understood the admirable order of creation, the power of the elements, the course of the seasons, the position of the stars, the instincts of animals, and the thoughts of men, together with a knowledge of the diversity of plants, and the medicinal virtues of their roots. All nature was open to his mind, whence it came to pass that the wise men of the world and the princes of nations stood in admiration at the wisdom of Solomon.
3. One day two women came to him demanding judgment in their case. The first said: "This woman and myself live together in one house. We have each had a child. During the night her son died. When she discovered this she rose, whilst I slept, and took my son from my side, and laid her dead son in his place. In the morning I saw the dead child, but, on a closer examination, I discovered it was not mine."
4. In answer to this the other said, "Surely your son is dead, and mine lives." But the first answered, "It is not so." Thus the two women disputed before the king. Then Solomon ordered a sword to be brought and the living child to be divided, and half to be given to one, and half to the other. When the mother of the child heard this she was filled with dismay and overwhelmed with agony. Torn with a mother's love for her child, she cried out to the king, "My lord, give her the child alive; do not kill it." But the other said, "Let it be divided."
5. Then Solomon ordered the living child to be given to the first: "for," said he, "she is the mother." Soon this judgment was known in all the land of Israel, and the people were filled with admiration for Solomon, because they saw the Spirit of God was in him.
Questions to Consider: 53.— What is said of Solomon? What did God give him? What besides wisdom? What is said of the two women? What was Solomon's decision?
54.—The Building and Dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem.
1. In the fourth year of his reign Solomon began to build, on Mount Moria, in Jerusalem, a Temple to the Lord. During its construction seventy thousand men were employed to cut and bring the wood that was needed, while eighty thousand more were engaged in quarrying and dressing the stone, Besides these, thirty-six hundred overseers were needed to lee that all was done according as it had been planned. Ten thousand Israelites were sent to cut down cedars and pine-trees on the mountains of Libanus.
2. The building itself was of vast and magnificent proportions. Its length was sixty cubits, its height thirty, and its breadth twenty cubits. Besides this there were added porticos that ran round the main building, and also courts for the use of the priests and the people. The interior was lined with cedar, and ornamented with carvings representing cherubim, palm-trees, and all kinds of flowers. Everything deeded in the Temple for the worship of God was of the purest gold, among which are enumerated ten tables, a large number of candlesticks, and a hundred chalices.
3. At the end of seven years the Temple was finished, when the princes and ancients of the people assembled together, and carried the Ark from Mount Sion to the sanctuary prepared for it. The people walked before, while the Levites played upon cymbals and harps, and a hundred priests sounded their trumpets, and all tae multitude sang, "Praise to the Lord, because He is good; and His mercy endureth forever." On the way an innumerable number of oxen and sheep were offered in sacrifice.
4. When the Ark was placed within the sanctuary, a cloud filled the Temple, and the multitude fell upon their knees. Solomon, lifting up his hands towards heaven, said: "Lord, the God of Israel! nothing can be compared to Thee; nor can the heavens contain Thee, much less this house: nevertheless I have built it, that here Thou mayest listen to the prayers of the people, and mayest be merciful to them. "
5. Whilst Solomon was yet praying and the people were round about adoring, fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices. God again appeared to Solomon, and told him his prayer was heard; and this Temple he had built should ever be a place where the prayers of those who came to offer their vows would be heard.
Questions to Consider: 54.—What did Solomon build? How many men were engaged upon it? Describe the Temple and the things needed for the worship of God. Describe the dedication. What happened when the Ark was placed in the sanctuary? What did God promise Solomon I
55.—The Magnificence of Solomon. —His End.
1. For the first twenty years of his reign Solomon walked in the footsteps of his father David. His name and his greatness were known throughout the world. Nations paid him tribute, and his vessels whitened the seas from India to Spain, carrying gold and ebony and precious stones to his capital.
2. In this general prosperity many cities were built through the land, and Jerusalem rose to the highest splendor and magnificence. Solomon built a palace of untold wealth; his throne was of ivory overlaid with gold, while within the palace hung fifty massive bucklers of the same precious metal.
3. The vessels, the chalices, the utensils, and everything necessary for the service of the Lord, were of the purest gold. The people lived in peace, and neighboring nations sought Solomon's friendship. Even the Queen of Saba, dazzled by the splendor of his fame, came to visit him, that she might for herself see his magnificence and prove his wisdom. These were the days of Israel's glory.
4. But Solomon did not end his reign as he began it. When he grew old he was led away from God by the blandishments of pagan women; his heart became corrupted, and he fell into idolatry; nay, to please his women, he built a temple for their idols. When the Lord saw this He became exceedingly angry, and told Solomon, that, for his sins, the kingdom would be divided and given to another: "yet," said the Lord, "for the love I bore thy father David, I will leave two tribes to thy son."
5. Hurried on by his passion, and blinded by his sins, Solomon fell from his greatness. He oppressed his subjects, and scandalized his people, until discontent and revolt showed themselves everywhere. Amid general gloom, Solomon, the wisest of men, died—a sad example of the weakness and fickleness of man and the vanity of life.
Questions to Consider: 55.—What is said of the first years of Solomon's reign? Describe Solomon's magnificence. What is said of the ornaments and vessels of the Temple? Who came to see Solomon? How did Solomon end his days?