Bible and Western Culture
Mr. Sean Ross
Week 7, Class 1: Solomon
Solomon is the last king of Israel
• Story is about diplomacy, building projects.
• For once, fighting is not at the focus of the text.
• Solomon has a relatively peaceful reign.
• Concentrates on building up Jerusalem
• Diplomatic relations with other countries
• Substantial expansion of the borders of Israel towards the North
The period of Solomon’s reign covers 4 major themes:
Solomon is best known for his legendary wisdom
• In spite of his later failings, he's a symbol of the wise and just ruler
o A potent symbol in renaissance/early modern Europe
• In a dream, Solomon wishes for wisdom
o God is so impressed that he grants Solomon wisdom AND wealth!
• Has an almost inborn knowledge of the natural world.
• Considered to be the author of the several texts:
o Song of Songs
o Wisdom of Solomon
Israel's repository of learning, philosophy is attributed to Solomon.
Story of Solomon's interaction with the queen of Sheba:
• Queen of a great African Nation
o She is however portrayed as white in European art.
• The royal dynasty of Ethiopia traced its origin to a union between Solomon and The Queen
of Sheba (aka the Empress of Aksum)
o The dynasty was called the House of Solomon.
o Haile Selassie claimed direct descent from Solomon
▪ Contributed to Selassie's treatment as a messianic figure by certain religious
movements such as Rastafarianism. The true cross cycle illustrates "The Golden Legends"
• True cross legend illustrates how Hebrew stories are linked to the New Testament /
Gospel of Christ.
• Gives a history of saints and of the “True Cross” (Jesus' cross)
• Popular stories, accepted as truth.
▪ However, they but non-canonical
• Adam is seen as bad, Christ is good.
• Panels Show:
▪ Adam’s Death.
▪ An angel tells Seth (Adam’s last son) to go to the Garden of Eden, get several seeds,
and put in them in Adams mouth before he is buried.
The seeds grow into a tree whose wood used to make Christ’s cross.
▪ Cross is a revisiting of the tree from which Adam ate the Fruit.
• Solomon uses wood from this the tree to make bridge to his palace
• Sheba reveres the wood and tells Solomon that one day a savior will hang
from a cross made from wood from the bridge.
• On that day, the covenant will end
▪ Solomon is scared, throws wood from the bridge down a well
▪ The wood is latter found. The prophesy comes true.
• A role reversal:
▪ Solomon lacks knowledge & the Queen has wisdom
• The Queen of Sheba has a mystical knowledge, she teaches Solomon.
• Solomon is a symbol of the irrelevant, of what will soon be replaced.
Solomon on the throne of Judgement
• A common representation
• Solomon is shown on a throne, two lions cover the armrests
▪ This throne becomes symbol of judgement
▪ Solomon is a symbol of justice
• A throne with lion armrests is also a common way of representing Christ on judgement day
• Solomon is used as a symbol for justice.
• They are stating that their political system is the ideal one.
• In one statue, Justice is shown sitting on Solomon's Throne.
• A Statue of Venice herself also sits on Solomon's throne
Union of Scotland & England:
• King James is Compared to Solomon
• However, instead of dividing, King James joins two nations together
▪ (Solomon rules to divide a child in half to see who his real mother is) Solomon and mystic knowledge
• Solomon’s knowledge was passed down from master to student through magic & occult
• The Lesser Key of Solomon is a Spell Grimoire
• Recall ambivalence about whether or not Israel should have a king
• Solomon takes advantage of Israel & her resources
• Provides a basis for the split between the kingdoms
▪ The people are worn out from the king exploiting resources
• The Sultan of Turkey was compared to Solomon as he was spending money whil e his people
were starving and rebelling.
Solomon builds a temple
• King David wanted to build a temple for God, but God sent Nathan and forbade the building
of the temple:
▪ David's hands are too bloody to build a holy temple
▪ God had a tent for all these years, why would he need a temple?
• Tabernacle: A tent-like temple, god's home.
• Ambivalence concerning kinship:
• “I'm not like other gods, I don't need a temple”
▪ However, the temple becomes one of primary symbols of the Hebrew Bible
• All temples have similar layouts
• A valuable political tool
After building a house for God, Solomon builds a house for himself
• The city was built on a hill:
▪ Temple: God’s House
▪ Palace: Solomon’s House
▪ Homes of the people.
• Palace of the king reflect god's palace.
▪ King was a middleman between God and the people.
• The one temple allowed for centralization of religious authority.
▪ All other temples are seen as bad.
• When the kingdom splits, other temples are built.
• This is wrong from the perspective of the Hebrew bible.
• Take Away: The temple remains a potent symbol.
Solomon had many wives
• Allowed for many political unions.
• But what about God’s xenophobic message?
▪ Solomon’s wives cause him to lose God’s favor.
▪ He will remain king out of God’s love for David
▪ However, his descendants will lose his power:
• Refers to splitting of kingdom into two parts. Week 7, Class 2: Bad Kings
The Split between Israel and Judah:
• Northern Kingdom – Israel
▪ Capitol – Samaria
▪ Sometimes called Ephraim
• Southern Kingdom – Judah
▪ Capitol – Jerusalem
After Solomon dies, he is replaced by his son.
• Jeroboam leads the 10 Northern tribes into rebellion
• There's a SPLIT between the tribes: