I Kings x: 1, to xi: 43.
NDER King Solomon the land of Israel arose to greatness as never before and never afterwards. All the countries around Israel, and some that were far away, sent their princes to visit Solomon. And every one who saw him wondered at his wisdom and his skill to answer hard questions. It was said that King Solomon was the wisest man in all the world. He wrote many of the wise sayings in the Book of Proverbs, and many more that have been lost. He wrote more than a thousand songs. He spoke of trees, and of animals, and of birds, and of fishes. From many lands people came to see Solomon's splendor in living and to listen to his wise words.
In a land more than a thousand miles from Jerusalem, on the south of Arabia, in the land of Sheba, the queen heard of Solomon's wisdom. She left her home, with a great company of her nobles, riding on camels and bearing rich gifts; and she came to visit King Solomon. The queen of Sheba brought to Solomon many hard questions, and she told him all that was in her heart. Solomon answered all her questions, and showed her all the glory of his palace, and his throne, and his servants, and the richness of his table, and the steps by which he went up from his palace to the house of the Lord. And when she had heard and seen all, she said:
"All that I heard in my own land of your wisdom and your greatness was true. But I did not believe it until I came and saw your kingdom. And not half was told me; for your wisdom and your splendor are far beyond what I had heard. Happy are those who are always before you to hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord thy God, who has set thee on the throne of Israel!"
And the queen of Sheba gave to Solomon great treasures of gold, and sweet-smelling spices, and perfumes; and Solomon also made to her rich presents. Then she went back to her own land.
The Queen of Sheba comes to see Solomon.
Solomon's great palace, where he lived in state, stood on the southern slope of Mount Moriah, a little lower than the Temple. Its pillars of cedar were very many, so that they stood like a forest; and on that account it was called "The House of the Forest of Lebanon." From this palace a wide staircase of stone led up to the Temple, and Solomon and his princes walked up these stairs when they went to worship.
But there was a dark side as well as a bright side to the reign of Solomon. His palaces, and the walled cities that he built to protect his kingdom on all sides, and the splendor of his court, cost much money. To pay for these he laid heavy taxes upon his people, and from all the tribes he compelled many of the men to work on buildings, to become soldiers in his army, to labor in his fields, and to serve in his household. Before the close of Solomon's reign the cry of the people rose up against Solomon and his rule, on account of the heavy burdens that he had laid upon the land.
Solomon was very wise in affairs of the world, but he had no feeling for the poor of the land, nor did he love God with all his heart. He chose for his queen a daughter of Pharoah, the king of Egypt, and he built for her a splendid palace. And he married many other women who were the daughters of kings. These women had worshipped idols in their own homes, and to please them, Solomon built on the Mount of Olives a temple of idols, in full view of the Temple of the Lord. So images of Baal, and the Asherah, and of Chemosh, the idol of the Moabites, and of Molech, the idol of the Ammonites, stood on the hill in front of Jerusalem; and to these images King Solomon himself offered sacrifices. How great was the shame of the good men in Israel when they saw their king surrounded by idol-priests, and bowing down upon his face before images of stone!
The Lord was very angry with Solomon for all this, and the Lord said to Solomon, "Since you have done these wicked things, and have not kept your promise to serve me, and because you have turned aside from my commands, I will surely take away the kingdom of Israel from your son, and will give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, who loved me and obeyed my commands, I will not take away from your son all the kingdom, but I will leave to him, and to his children after him, one tribe."
The servant of King Solomon, of whom the Lord spoke, was a young man of the tribe of Ephraim, named Jeroboam. He was a very able man, and in the building of one of Solomon's castles he had charge over all the work done by the men of his tribe. One day a prophet of the Lord, named Ahijah, met the young Jeroboam as he was going out of Jerusalem. Ahijah took off his own mantle, which was a new one, and tore it into twelve pieces. Ten of these pieces he gave to Jeroboam, saying to him:
"Take these ten pieces, for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon's son, and will give ten tribes to you. But Solomon's son shall have one tribe for my servant David's sake, and for the sake of Jerusalem. You shall reign over ten of the tribes of Israel, and shall have all that you desire. And if you will do my will, saith the Lord, then I will be with you, and will give to your children and children's children to rule long over this land."
When King Solomon heard what the prophet Ahijah had said and done, he tried to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam fled into Egypt, and stayed there until the end of Solomon's reign.
Solomon reigned in all forty years, as David had reigned before him. He died, and was buried on Mount Zion, and Rehoboam, his son, became king in his place.
Sometimes the reign of Solomon has been called "the Golden Age of Israel," because it was a time of peace, and of wide rule, and of great riches. But it would be better to call it "the Gilded Age," because under all the show and glitter of Solomon's reign there were many evil things, a king allowing and helping the worship of idols, a court filled with idle and useless nobles, and the poor of the land heavily burdened with taxes and labor. The empire of Solomon was ready to fall in pieces, and the fall soon came.