Is Solomon a legendary king or a historic one as a Prophet?
The Knowledge of Solomon:
“We gave (in the past) knowledge to David and Solomon: And they both said: Praise be to Allah, Who has favored us above many of his servants who believe!” (Holy Quran, Chapter 27- verse 15)
When The Quran speaks about Prophet Solomon and David it starts with knowledge and says: And we gave a great knowledge to David and Solomon. The fundamental and basis of the change and revolution in a human society is knowledge. Knowledge here consists of all the science of a divine society.
The Quran points out the great amount of knowledge that God has given to David and Solomon and immediately mentions that they were thankful for God’s blessing of knowledge. O yes! for every blessing we should be thankful to God and the truth behind thanking a blessing is to use it in a way that has been given for. But, what is the meaning of knowledge and science in the above verse? To what kind of knowledge does the verse refer to? What kind of knowledge does it imply that is unrevealed? There are several opinions here:
1) The reason that the word “knowledge” is singular is a sign of its importance. In this verse knowledge has a broad meaning. The formation of a divine government is impossible without having great knowledge. This knowledge consists of all sciences that are required to rule a human society. After Prophet David and Solomon talk about God’s blessing of great knowledge and science, they immediately thank God and summarize their superiority to others in having knowledge.
2) Considering other verses, the knowledge in this verse means the knowledge of judgment. “We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom and sound judgment in speech and decision.” (chapter 38- verse 20), “To each (of them- Solomon and David) We gave Judgment and Knowledge.” (Chapter 21, verse 79)
3) Considering the other verses in this regard, the knowledge in this verse which is about bird’s speech, is the knowledge of communicating to birds. In Jewish culture, Solomon is the symbol of wisdom and skills which are beyond the capabilities of a human being. The connection between wisdom and Solomon is clear in the books of Chronicles and Kings. In these books, Solomon is an indication of wisdom. Solomon, by his wise ruling inside an outside the country, is a representation of his science and knowledge.
In Jewish culture and history, Solomon has more than 3000 proverbs and 1005 poems and some scientific writings. (1) God gave such wisdom to him that people from all other countries would come to listen to his speech, poems and proverbs: And God gave wisdom and insight to Solomon as much as the pebbles of the beach and his wisdom was more than all people in the east and all Egyptians. (2)
“And people from all tribes and kingdoms that heard about his wisdom came to listen to his speech and learn from him.” (3) “And Solomon was greater than all other kings in ruling and wisdom. And all the people of the world, wanted to be with Solomon so they could learn from the wisdom that God has blessed him.” (4) “He spoke about all types of trees, from Cedar to the hyssops that grow on the walls.” (5)
Among the assorted collection of Jewish religious books of Old Testament, the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Songs of Songs are attributed to Solomon. Also in the Biblical Apocrypha series of books, the Wisdom of Solomon is attributed to Solomon. In the book of Pseudepigrapha (6) of Old Testament that means “faked writings” (7) the book of Psalms and Odes of Solomon are attributed to him.
The Hellenistic world of Rome introduced the Greek philosophy to Jewish society. The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are influenced by Platonic philosophy and Citium. (8) The book of Proverbs is a valuable literary collection of wise advises. Doing a critical investigation in the book of Proverbs, shows the current structure of the book belongs to several centuries. Although a big part is related to Solomon, there are some sections that have been added later like in Hezekiah’s time. (770 B.C) or even later. In Hebrew language, the word “proverb” is Mashal. This book consists of 915 proverbs. (9)
Ecclesiastes and Songs of Songs formalized in council of Jamina (10) in 90 A.D. (11)
The reason why Songs of songs has been placed in the collection of books of the Old Testament is a mystery yet. This book is collection of Jewish songs which were sang by lovers to describe each other and Jews read them in wedding ceremonies.
Interpretation of this book is about humans love but Jews interpret its lyrics as relationship between God and Israelites. (12) There are other cases in the Bible that are interpreted as a religious marriage. (13) In the collection of Pseudepigrapha books there are several pages of “Songs of song”.
“Wisdom” is one of the Apocrypha books of Old Testament. Some of the church priests such as Origen, Jerome and Augustine doubted to attribute the “Wisdom” to Solomon. This book has named Solomon’s wisdom in Septuagint and it has named “Wisdom” in Vulgate. Priests believe that the unknown author of the book has used wisdom fame of Solomon and has called his book “Wisdom”. Some people believe that this book has been written about 1 century B.C in Alexandria. There is in “The Muratorian canon” (14) that “Wisdom” is written by Solomon’s fellows in his honor.
One of the Pseudepigrapha books of Old Testament is Psalms. This book is a collection of 18 war anthem. About 100 years ago, Syriac copies of those anthems were found accidentally. In 1909, Doctor Randel Harris translated it to English and published it for the first time. The date of this book is mentioned 100 years B.C to first century after Christ. (15) Another pseudepigrapha books of Old Testament is Odes of Solomon. This book is collection of the most beautiful lyrics. If anybody is in doubt about wisdom of Solomon, everybody will doubt his knowledge and understanding. (16)
“And remember David and Solomon, when they gave judgment in the matter of the field into which the sheep of certain people had strayed by night: We did witness their judgment. To Solomon we inspired the (right) understanding of the matter: to each (of them) we gave Judgment and Knowledge…” (Chapter 21- Verse78-79)
Why did David choose Solomon as his successor? While David was judging in the presence of the scientists of the Israelites and Solomon, a man came and said that someone’s sheep destroyed his grape garden at night. Judicial sentence is clear and guaranteed.
The sheep owner should compensate the damage of grape garden owner. David judged that the sheep owner should give some sheep to garden owner to compensate the loss. Scientists had the same idea too but Solomon had a better solution and said: “It is better to give some sheep of sheep owner for safekeeping to farm owner so that he can use milk and wool of sheep to an extent that his loss is compensated.”
David accepted Solomon’s solution because it was wise and fair and guaranteed the mutual benefits of both sides. Therefore, David found him deserved for kingdom. However, he had other children, he chose Solomon as his successor. Al-shaykh al-saduq has quoted a hadith from Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (PBUH) in this regard: “Solomon and David talked about it with each other and God let Solomon to find the solution.” (17)
Al-shaykh al-kulayni has quoted from Imam Sadiq (PBUH) that:
“If someone is ignorant of his sheep and his sheep destroy someone’s farm in daylight, owner of sheep has no fault because it is the farm owner’s duty to protect his farm in daylight. But, at nights, he has the right to rest and the sheep owner should take them to stable and close door of stable firm. If he does not do so, and his sheep destroy others’ farm, he should compensate the damage.” (18)
According to the Bible, Solomon asked God to give him a wise heart to distinguish bad and good things to judge among people. (19) God granted his wish.
One of the judgments which is mentioned in the Bible is about two women who gave birth to their babies. One of them said: “O my lord, both of us live in the same house and we gave birth to our children, approximately, at the same time, that is, 3 days after I gave birth to my child, she gave birth to her child too. Moreover, we were alone in the house and no one was with us.
This woman’s son died at night and she woke up at midnight and when we were asleep, she took my alive son and put her dead son in my hug. When I woke up early in the morning to feed him, he was dead but at the morning I knew that he was not my son.” The other woman said: “No, the alive son is mine and the dead one is yours.” And the first woman said: “It is not true.”
And they were quarreling at the presence of king. The king said: this woman says that the alive son is mine and the dead one is yours and the other says it is not true and the alive son is mine and the dead one is yours. To solve the problem, the king asked fora sword and said cut the alive son into half and to each of these women give a half. . The real mother loved her son and said: “give him to another woman and don’t kill him”.
But other woman said: “divide the son and kill him. So he is neither yours nor mine”, so the king commanded to give the son to his real mother because her true love to his son stops her from her claim. The Israelites who heard about King’s judgment, were scared from him because they understood he had God’s will inside himself. (20)
1. 1 kings 4: 32-33
2. 1 kings 4: 29-30
3. 1 kings 4: 34
4.1 kings 10: 23-24
5. 1 kings 4: 33
7.The Forggetten Books of Eden, published in 1927
8. Abdolhossein Zarinkoob, Dar Ghalamro Vojdan, page 173
9. Samuel Schultz, The Old Testament speaks, page 264
10. Council of Jamnia.
11.Henry Tissen, Christian theology, page 58
12. Samuel Schultz, The Old Testament speaks, page 264
13. Isaiah 23:12; Jeremiah 31: 4 and 21
14. Muratori Canon
15. Some groups of authors, New Christian theology, page 78
17. Al-shaykh al-saduq, Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih, volume3, page100-101
18. Al-shaykh al-kulayni, Kafi, volume 5
19. 1 kings 8:3
20. 1 Kings 3: 16-28