Solomonic Genius

Image result for genius king solomon


Damien F. Mackey


“Solomon plays the devil’s advocate for every philosophical theory. He describes it, and sometimes even seems to indulge in it, but eventually pulls back and points out its fatal flaw”.

Berel Wein


Part One:

One of first truly great philosophers


At: we read this account of Solomon as possibly the very originator of philosophy (by Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov Astor):




The first major assimilatory threat to the Jewish people was Greek culture. For the first time, the Jews not only encountered a culture that provided an alternative, but, on the surface at least, provided a superior culture. That is why there grew such a great and strong Hellenistic movement within the Jewish people.


Greek Philosophy


Probably the most famous aspect of that culture is Greek philosophy.


It is an oversimplification, but the purpose of philosophy is to try to explain life logically. As such, it is like sleeping in a bed with a blanket that is a little too short. Something is always sticking out. There has never been a philosophy that answers all the questions.


In our time, the value of philosophy has declined. We are more interested in technology; in the how rather than the why. We send our children to advanced schools of education where they will not be required to think about the nature of life or the world. They are only required to think, “How do you build a better computer?” “How do you make more money?” “How do you design a more obsolete car?”


The idea of sitting for 30 years and contemplating the nature of life is not very appealing in our time. Yet, for thousands of years in the Western world that was the ultimate job. A philosopher held an especially high place in the ancient world.


Where did philosophy begin? Jewish tradition says it began with King Solomon. Many wise men from Athens came to him to test his wisdom, and it was he who got them started on these ideas.


Mackey’s comment: There might be anachronism involved here, with the Greek academic schools likely well post-dating King Solomon. According to the Greeks, Thales was the first philosopher, and I would be inclined to accept this within my revised context of “Thales” being just a ghostly Greek recollection of the Hebrew patriarch Joseph. See e.g. my article:


Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy


Berel Wein continues:


We can perhaps understand this better by studying Solomon’s, Ecclesiastes, which is the first [sic] book of philosophy. It takes all the other philosophies at the time – e.g. Hedonism, Fatalism and even what later on would be called Epicureanism – and draws them out to their ultimate illogical conclusion. Solomon examines all the possible philosophical answers that exist in the world and does away with each of them: why this does not work and why that does not work. In effect, he shows you where the blanket is too short. Even the best philosophies.


Solomon plays the devil’s advocate for every philosophical theory. He describes it, and sometimes even seems to indulge in it, but eventually pulls back and points out its fatal flaw. After all is heard, he concludes, the attempts to arrive at a unified philosophy to explain all of life logically is vain and empty.


By extension that naturally leads to the necessity of faith and belief in an Infinite Being whose ways are ultimately beyond the grasp of mere mortals possessed of finite minds.


In the Jewish viewpoint, philosophy is really just an adjunct of Torah. Even though it started its course in Western civilization under Jewish auspices, the Jewish people never really developed it. …. [End of quote]


What was genuinely Greek anyway?

I have previously written:

“Much has been attributed to the Greeks that did not belong to them … e.g. [professor] Breasted … made the point that Hatshepsut’s marvellous temple structure was a witness to the fact that the Egyptians had developed architectural styles for which the later Greeks would be credited as originators”.

Is Aeschylus, the so-called “Father of Tragedy”, yet another of such Greek appropriations, in his case of the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel with whom he is so frequently compared?

Similarly, I strongly suspect that one of the greatest of all the so-called Greek sages, Solon, was – just like Thales – a westernized version of a Hebrew (Jew), in Solon’s case, Solomon himself. I wrote about this in:


Solomon and Sheba






There is a case in Greek ‘history’ of a wise lawgiver who nonetheless over-organised his country, to the point of his being unable to satisfy either rich or poor, and who then went off travelling for a decade (notably in Egypt). This was Solon, who has come down to us as the first great Athenian statesman. Plutarch … tells that, with people coming to visit Solon every day, either to praise him or to ask him probing questions about the meaning of his laws, he left Athens for a time, realising that ‘In great affairs you cannot please all parties’.


According to Plutarch:


‘[Solon] made his commercial interests as a ship-owner an excuse to travel and sailed away … for ten years from the Athenians, in the hope that during this period they would become accustomed to his laws. He went first of all to Egypt and stayed for a while, as he mentions himself


where the Nile pours forth


its waters by the shore of Canopus’.’


We recall Solon’s intellectual encounters with the Egyp­tian priests at Heliopolis and Saïs (in the Nile Delta), as described in Plutarch’s ‘Life of Solon’ and Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ …. The chronology and parentage of Solon were disputed even in ancient times …. Since he was a wise statesman, an intellectual (poet, writer) whose administrative reforms, though brilliant, eventually led to hardship for the poor and disenchantment for the wealthy; and since Solon’s name is virtually identical to that of ‘Solomon’; and since he went to Egypt (also to Cyprus, Sidon and Lydia) for about a decade at the time when he was involved in the shipping business, then I suggest that ‘Solon’ of the Greeks was their version of Solomon, in the mid-to-late period of his reign. The Greeks picked up the story and transferred it from Jerusalem to Athens, just as they (or, at least Herodotus) later confused Sennacherib’s attack on Jerusalem … by relocating it to Pelusium in Egypt …..


Much has been attributed to the Greeks that did not belong to them – e.g. Breasted … made the point that Hatshep­sut’s marvellous temple structure was a witness to the fact that the Egyptians had developed architectural styles for which the later Greeks would be credited as originators. Given the Greeks’ tendency to distort history, or to appropriate inven­tions, one would not expect to find in Solon a perfect, mirror-image of King Solomon.


Thanks to historical revisions … we now know that the ‘Dark Age’ between the Mycenaean (or Heroic) period of Greek history (concurrent with the time of Hatshepsut) and the Archaic period (that commences with Solon), is an artificial construct. This makes it even more plausible that Hatshepsut and Solomon were contemporaries of ‘Solon’. The tales of Solon’s travels to Egypt, Sidon and Lydia (land of the Hittites) may well reflect to some degree Solomon’s desire to appease his foreign women – Egyptian, Sidonian and Hittite – by building shrines for them (I Kings 11: 1, 7-8).


Both Solomon and Solon are portrayed as being the wisest amongst the wise. In the pragmatic Greek version Solon prayed for wealth rather than wisdom – but ‘justly acquired wealth’, since Zeus punishes evil …. In the Hebrew version, God gave ‘riches and honour’ to Solomon because he had not asked for them, but had prayed instead for ‘a wise and discerning mind’, to enable him properly to govern his people (I Kings 3:12-13).

[End of quote]


One will likely find many traces of the real king Solomon in Greco-Roman folklore and pseudo-history. The following rather fanciful article connects Solomon and Salmoneus:

Was Solomon a God? The mythical purpose of “king” Solomon is to build and dedicate the temple to establish that Jerusalem had been associated with a temple founded by a great king called Solomon, not with a god called Solomon. The Solomonic temple to Yehouah did not really exist—the temple was to the god Solomon (Salem, Shalma)—but, having been destroyed by the Babylonians, the Persian administrators could pretend it had always been to Yehouah. No one in Yehud was in a position to deny it because it happened about a hundred years before. So, the second temple set up by the “returners” is not the second temple to Yehouah—it is the second temple all right, but the first to Yehoauh or, at least exclusively to Yehouah. In the bible Solomon has the powers of a Mesopotamian king—he is a melchizedek, in charge of the priesthood and the cult. He conducts the consecration of the temple as High Priest and blesses the qahal—the cultic community or congregation. But Solomon cannot escape the inevitability of the agreed formula that God does not like kings and even he is made to succumb to the temptations of apostasy and is punished as the Deuteronomic Historian makes clear (1 Kg 11). The procedure for building the temple—decision of the king, confirmation by god, securing materials and labour, planning the building, inauguration and the king’s prayer, all followed in 1 Kings 5-8—is that commonly attested in Mesopotamia from Gudea of Lacash on. Because it was common practice, it says nothing about this particular temple.


So, the temple to Solomon did exist, but it was a Pagan temple to a Pagan god!


El-Amarna letters 74 and 290 mention “Bit-NIN.IB”, at first sight a reference to Assyria (House of Nineveh), but Professor Jules Lewy, an Assyriologist, said it was better read as Bit Shulman—the House of Solomon! The king of Damascus had commanded his chiefs, in letter 74, to attack the king of Jerusalem, ordering them to “assemble in Bit Shulman”. It must be near Jerusalem, or even in it if the plot was an assassination not a field attack. In letter 290, the king of Jerusalem complained to the Pharaoh that the Apiru were invading the land, adding: …and now, in addition, the capital of the country of Jerusalem—its name is Bit Shulman—the king’s city, has broken away… Towns in the ancient near east were often called after the ruling god (or vice versa). Lewy concluded that Jerusalem was also known at that time by the name “Temple of Shulman”—“bit” (“beth” in Hebrew) in this context meaning temple. The text is ambiguous, but Jerusalem here seems not to refer to a city but to a country. The capital city or the king’s city was called Bit Shulman …


Mackey’s comment: For a different interpretation of Bit Shulman, see e.g. my article:


House of Solomon


The Jewish-mythology article continues:


…. It was called Jebus or Salem before David conquered the Jebusites and made it his capital city. Now “salem” is taken to mean “peace” but in view of this information, it looks to be a corruption of Shulman. The biblical story of Solomon begins to look like a rationalization of the traditional name of a city named after Shulman, a god found in Mesopotamian sources as Shelmi, Shulmanu or Salamu. The last of these spellings is “salem!” In the Hebrew Bible, “Solomon” has no terminal “n”, the “n” being added in the Greek Septuagint. Indeed, it is interesting that the Greek Solomon, Salmoneus is the father of Tyro, the founding goddess of Tyre, the Phoenician city—the Phoenicians were Canaanites. More pertinent is that an important Phoenician god was Salim (Salem), the god of the evening, the evening star symbolized by Venus, and the setting sun, representing peace, whence “shalom”. Jerusalem, Absalom and Solomon share this root which appears all over the near east, and is still a popular Moslem name. Was this a reference to Solomon’s temple even at such an early date? ….



Part Two:

Seeking wisdom from youth



‘Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;

I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and

I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her’.


Wisdom 7:7-8



‘You are a man of wisdom’ (I Kings 2:9)


What King Solomon could have been!



Much of what Solomon was early in life was thanks to the foresight of his father, King David (I Kings 2:1-4):


When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.

‘I am about to go the way of all the earth’, he said. ‘So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel’.’


Even Solomon’s magnificent Prayer for Wisdom was likely prompted by King David’s sage advice to him (I Chronicles 22:12): ‘May the Lord give you wisdom and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God’. Solomon was, for his part, painfully aware at that time of his inexperience and inadequacy for the massive task at hand (I Kings 3:7-9):


Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’


Though yet a youth, King Solomon fully recognised where true “wealth” was to be found (Wisdom 7:1-30):


‘I also am mortal, like everyone else,
a descendant of the first-formed child of earth;
and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh,
within the period of ten months, compacted with blood,
from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage.
And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air,
and fell upon the kindred earth;
my first sound was a cry, as is true of all.
I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths.
For no king has had a different beginning of existence;
there is for all one entrance into life, and one way out.


Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepters and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem,
because all gold is but a little sand in her sight,
and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,
because her radiance never ceases.

All good things came to me along with her,
and in her hands uncounted wealth.
I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them;
but I did not know that she was their mother.
I learned without guile and I impart without grudging;
I do not hide her wealth,
for it is an unfailing treasure for mortals;
those who get it obtain friendship with God,
commended for the gifts that come from instruction.


May God grant me to speak with judgment,
and to have thoughts worthy of what I have received;
for he is the guide even of wisdom
and the corrector of the wise.
For both we and our words are in his hand,
as are all understanding and skill in crafts.
For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists,
to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements;
the beginning and end and middle of times,
the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,
the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars,
the natures of animals and the tempers of wild animals,
the powers of spirits and the thoughts of human beings,
the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots;
I learned both what is secret and what is manifest,
for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.


There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
mobile, clear, unpolluted,
distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen,
irresistible, beneficent, humane,
steadfast, sure, free from anxiety,
all-powerful, overseeing all,
and penetrating through all spirits
that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.
For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail’.


The Lord, who loves humility and God-dependence, rather than self-dependence, praised Solomon for this choice of his (I Kings 3:10-15):


The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life’. Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.


Unfortunately Solomon will, later in his life, revert to self-dependence, thereby admixing his renowned wisdom with folly. The example of one so great as the wise King Solomon may have been enough to dissuade souls from pursuing wisdom. But, as St. Louis Grignion de Montfort has explained in his Secret of Mary and his True Devotion to Mary, sincere devotion to Her is the means by which we may become, in a sense, ‘wiser than Solomon’, entrusting all to Her, without giving in to that fatal self-reliance.

The big thing in the world today is to “back yourself”, to “believe in yourself”.

All well and good. But, spiritually speaking, we are no match for the Devil.

Thus St. Louis de Montfort again:


In adopting this devotion, we put our graces, merits and virtues into safe keeping by making Mary the depositary of them. It is as if we said to her, “See, my dear Mother, here is the good that I have done through the grace of your dear Son. I am not capable of keeping it, because of my weakness and inconstancy, and also because so many wicked enemies are assailing me day and night. Alas, every day we see cedars of Lebanon fall into the mire, and eagles which had soared towards the sun become birds of darkness, a thousand of the just falling to the left and ten thousand to the right. But, most powerful Queen, hold me fast lest I fall. Keep a guard on all my possessions lest I be robbed of them. I entrust all I have to you, for I know well who you are, and that is why I confide myself entirely to you. You are faithful to God and man, and you will not suffer anything I entrust to you to perish. You are powerful, and nothing can harm you or rob you of anything you hold.” “When you follow Mary you will not go astray; when you pray to her, you will not despair; when your mind is on her, you will not wander; when she holds you up, you will not fall; when she protects you, you will have no fear; when she guides you, you will feel no fatigue; when she is on your side, you will arrive safely home” (Saint Bernard). And again, “She keeps her Son from striking us; she prevents the devil from harming us; she preserves virtue in us; she prevents our merits from being lost and our graces from receding.” These words of St Bernard explain in substance all that I have said. Had I but this one motive to impel me to choose this devotion, namely, that of keeping me in the grace of God and increasing that grace in me, my heart would burn with longing for it.


This devotion makes the soul truly free by imbuing it with the liberty of the children of God. Since we lower ourselves willingly to a state of slavery out of love for Mary, our dear Mother, she out of gratitude opens wide our hearts enabling us to walk with giant strides in the way of God’s commandments. She delivers our souls from weariness, sadness and scruples ….


With this in mind, youth can begin once again to emulate Solomon, and to pray earnestly for the gift of gifts: Wisdom – especially now in this Age of the Divine Mercy, whose earthly agent, Sr. Faustina Kowalska, prayed for ‘wisdom’ and ‘enlightenment’ (“not attained by one’s own efforts”) as told in her “Diary”:


In it my soul bathes daily…, she wrote, There is not a moment in my life when do not experience Your mercy (Diary 697). It is like the golden thread running through our life, which maintains in good order the contact of our being with God. … My senses are transfixed with joy, she admitted sincerely, when God grants me a deeper awareness of that great attribute of His; namely, His unfathomable mercy (Diary 1466). Sister Faustina realised very clearly that the knowledge of the mystery of Divine Mercy is not attained by one’s own efforts alone but that the work of the human intellect must be strengthened by divine grace. Thus, she pleaded, O My Jesus, give me wisdom, give me a mind great and enlightened by Your light, and this only, that I may know You better, O Lord. For the better I get to know You, the more ardently I will love You (Diary 1030; cf. Diary 1474).





But what exactly is Wisdom?


It is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: namely, Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

(Cf. Isaiah 11:2-3 and I Corinthians 12:1-11).

Being a gift of God, it is therefore created:

“Wisdom, God’s gift, is one of the Lord’s creations; the Bible depicts wisdom in female terms, but also as a being, even a spiritual being as are God and His angels. God did not create Wisdom for Himself; He created her to be shared with everyone else who is willing to receive her”.


“The gift of wisdom”, according to Fr. William Saunders, “perfects the virtue of charity”.  (


“Wisdom empowers a person “to judge and order all things in accordance with divine norms and with a connaturality that flows from a loving union with God.” So while knowledge and understanding enable a person to know and to penetrate the divine truths, wisdom moves us to “fall in love” with them. The Holy Spirit aids the contemplation of divine things, enabling the person to grow in union with God”.


St. Louis de Montfort urges, in his Love of the Eternal Wisdom: “Like Solomon and Daniel we must be men of desire if we are to acquire this great treasure which is wisdom. (cf Dan 9.23). For by asking for Wisdom we ask for all the virtues possessed by incarnate Wisdom”.


Our word “Philosophy” comes from the Greek word for Wisdom, sophia (σοφία).


In the writings of Solomon, in the Greek, Wisdom is depicted as “She”.


King David had also provided enormous impetus (‘I have taken great pains’) for the future Jerusalem for which Solomon would become famous (I Chronicles 22:1-10, 14-19):


Then David said, ‘The House of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel’.

So David gave orders to assemble the foreigners residing in Israel, and from among them he appointed stonecutters to prepare dressed stone for building the house of God. He provided a large amount of iron to make nails for the doors of the gateways and for the fittings, and more bronze than could be weighed. He also provided more cedar logs than could be counted, for the Sidonians and Tyrians had brought large numbers of them to David.

David said, ‘My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it’. So David made extensive preparations before his death.

Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon: ‘My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God. But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever’.


I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workers: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as those skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you’.

Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon. He said to them, ‘Is not the Lord your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the Lord and to his people. Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the Ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the Temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord’.


Less palatable were King David’s further injunctions to Solomon concerning the treatment of those who had made themselves odious to David (I Kings 2:5-9):


‘Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.

But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom. And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood’.


Joab, who had basically remained loyal to King David, will now make the wrong move.

He will go over to the side of David’s rebel son, Adonijah.


Adonijah’s play for the throne


We recall that Adonijah, David’s “fourth” son (I Chronicles 3:2, “… fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith”), but now (with the three brothers dead) his oldest – hence, no doubt, feeling entitled to rule – had begun to act in a manner most like Absalom before him.

And, as with Absalom – but, in Adonijah’s case, far more quickly – it would end very badly.

This time Joab and Abiathar the priest were involved (I Kings 1:7-10):


Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei and Rei and David’s special guard did not join Adonijah.

Adonijah then sacrificed sheep, cattle and fattened calves at the Stone of Zoheleth near En Rogel. He invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon.


King David, by now old and unaware, was still being tended to by Abishag.

So the prophet Nathan will intervene to make sure that David is informed that Adonijah has, against David’s (and the Lord’s) express wish, declared himself king.

Nathan will approach the aged king via Bathsheba (vv. 11-14):


Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, ‘Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David knows nothing about it? Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: “Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and add my word to what you have said’.


Bathsheba, in turn, approaches King David with Abishag in attendance. The situation is serious, because Adonijah’s illicit kingship could mean the death of Bathsheba and her son, Solomon: ‘I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals’ (vv. 15-21):


So Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king.

‘What is it you want?’ the king asked.

She said to him, ‘My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals’.


This will be the last, but one more incident, that we read of Abishag (qua Abishag).

Where she will go after that will become most interesting.


Once King David has been apprised of the dire situation, his vast regal experience kicks in, and he orders the coronation of Solomon, so that Israel now has parallel declarations of kingship (vv. 32-40):


King David said, ‘Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada’. When they came before the king, he said to them: ‘Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah’.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, ‘Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, so declare it. As the Lord was with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord King David!’

So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.


The pattern of this regal ceremony will later be employed by pharaoh Thutmose I, in the case of Hatshepsut (currently assisting David as his nurse, Abishag – as I see it).


I have written on this:


“Comparing the tri-partite parallel crowning ceremonies of Solomon, by King David,

and of Hatshepsut by the 18th dynasty pharaoh, Thutmose (Tuthmosis) I.


The Coronation Ceremonies


The cultural overflow from the Israel of kings David and Solomon went to the very heart of the matter: to the coronation ceremony.

The very ceremonial procedure, in its three phases, that David used for the coronation of his chosen son, Solomon, was the procedure also used by pharaoh Thutmose I in the coronation of Hatshepsut, who is thought to have been the pharaoh’s daughter.

I have followed J. Baikie for the Egyptian texts below (A History of Egypt, A. and C. Black Ltd., London, 1929, Vol. 11, p. 63):




  • The Assembly is Summoned


“David”, we are told, “assembled at Jerusalem all the officials of the tribes, the officers of the divisions that served the king, the commanders of thousands, … of hundreds, the stewards of all the property … and all the seasoned warriors” (I Chronicles 28:1).

Likewise in the case of the young Hatshepsut, Thutmose I: “… caused that there be brought to him the dignitaries of the king, the nobles, the companions, the officers of the court, and the chief of the people.


  • The Future Ruler Presented


Next, David presented his son, Solomon, to the assembly as his successor, saying: ‘… of all my sons … the Lord … has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord, over Israel. He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son …. I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father’.’ (vv. 5-6).

So did Pharaoh present Hatshepsut to the august assembly: “Said His Majesty to them: ‘This my daughter … Hatshepsut …. I have appointed her; she is my successor, she it is assuredly who will sit on my wonderful seat [throne]. She shall command the people in every place of the palace; she it is who shall lead you …’.”


  • The Assembly Embraces King’s Decision


The assembly of Israel concurred wholeheartedly with David’s decision: “And all the assembly blessed the Lord … and bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and did obeisance to the king …. And they ate and drank before the Lord on that day with great gladness” (29:20, 22). Similarly, in the case of the Egyptian officials: “They kissed the earth at his feet, when the royal word fell among them …. They went forth, their mouths rejoiced, they published his proclamation to them”.”


Might not one have imagined that Egypt, so steeped in ceremony and cultic procedure over so many dynasties and centuries would by now have had its own inviolable court system?

How great, therefore, must have been the Israel of King David’s time that even its ceremonial procedures had flowed into Egypt?”

[End of quote]


Adonijah, having learned of Solomon’s enthronement, is now in fear of his life.

But Solomon will spare him for the time being (vv. 49-53):


At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. Then Solomon was told, ‘Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword’.’

Solomon replied, ‘If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die’. Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, ‘Go to your home’.


The throne now secure, King David finally passes away (I Kings 2:10-12): “Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established”.


This meant that the desirable Abishag, consort of King David, was now free to marry.

And Adonijah will make the fatal mistake of asking for her (vv. 13-17):


Now Adonijah, the son of Haggith, went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. Bathsheba asked him, ‘Do you come peacefully?’

He answered, ‘Yes, peacefully’. Then he added, ‘I have something to say to you’.

‘You may say it’, she replied.

As you know’, he said, “the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But things changed, and the kingdom has gone to my brother; for it has come to him from the Lord. Now I have one request to make of you. Do not refuse me’.

‘You may make it’, she said.

So he continued, ‘Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife’.


There is much debate as to whether the sweetheart of Solomon in the Song of Solomon (6:13) is a “Shulammite” or a Shunammite”: ‘Come back, come back, O [Shulammite]; come back, come back, that we may gaze on you! Why would you gaze on the [Shulammite] …’.

“Shulammite” is thought to indicate that she belonged to Solomon (e.g. Solom[-on-]ite).

However, the girl was clearly a Shunammite (I Kings 1:3): “Abishag, a Shunammite”, hailing from the town of Shunem, where may have been the house of her ‘brother’, Absalom.

Adonijah specifically asks, ‘… give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife’.

He would hardly have called her a Shulammite, as belonging to his rival Solomon.


Bathsheba, who appears to be quite tentative in the presence of Adonijah, agrees to approach her son, Solomon, in regard to Adonijah’s request for Abishag.

But it will be the last request that the rebel ever makes (vv. 18-25):


‘Very well’, Bathsheba replied, ‘I will speak to the king for you’.

When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand.

‘I have one small request to make of you’, she said. ‘Do not refuse me’.

The king replied, ‘Make it, my mother; I will not refuse you’.

So she said, ‘Let Abishag the Shunammite be given in marriage to your brother Adonijah’.

King Solomon answered his mother, ‘Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? You might as well request the kingdom for him—after all, he is my older brother—yes, for him and for Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah!’

Then King Solomon swore by the Lord: ‘May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if Adonijah does not pay with his life for this request! And now, as surely as the Lord lives—he who has established me securely on the throne of my father David and has founded a dynasty for me as he promised—Adonijah shall be put to death today!’ So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died.


Bathsheba’s ‘Do not refuse me’, and Solomon’s reply, ‘I will not refuse you’, may simply be standard court protocol. What this incident clearly reveals are (i) Solomon’s own feelings for Abishag, and (ii) her new-found status: for, to have Abishag appears to be synonymous with having the throne: ‘You might as well request the kingdom for him’.


This was the end, too, of Joab, who had sided with Adonijah.

And Joab knew it (vv. 28-35):


When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar. King Solomon was told that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord and was beside the altar. Then Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada, ‘Go, strike him down!’

So Benaiah entered the tent of the Lord and said to Joab, ‘The king says, ‘Come out!’.’

But he answered, ‘No, I will die here’.

Benaiah reported to the king, ‘This is how Joab answered me’.

Then the king commanded Benaiah, ‘Do as he says. Strike him down and bury him, and so clear me and my whole family of the guilt of the innocent blood that Joab shed. The Lord will repay him for the blood he shed, because without my father David knowing it he attacked two men and killed them with the sword. Both of them—Abner son of Ner, commander of Israel’s army, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of Judah’s army—were better men and more upright than he. May the guilt of their blood rest on the head of Joab and his descendants forever. But on David and his descendants, his house and his throne, may there be the Lord’s peace forever’.

So Benaiah son of Jehoiada went up and struck down Joab and killed him, and he was buried at his home out in the country. The king put Benaiah son of Jehoiada over the army in Joab’s position and replaced Abiathar with Zadok the priest.


Shimei, given a reprieve by Solomon (which lasted for three years), will ultimately fail to obey the latter’s command with regard to him (v. 46): “Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck Shimei down and he died.

The kingdom was now established in Solomon’s hands”.


King David, his life filled with trials, and ‘hard roads’, and bloodshed, had laid the seeds for a truly Golden Age of history that would be fully realised during the peaceful reign of Solomon.


Did these two great Israelite rulers become the model kings for the Greeks and Romans?

Plato’s Republic


After church one day, I spoke to a friend and I brought up a thought I had during the service about David and Solomon being the first Philosopher Kings. Everything I heard about Plato’s Philosopher kings was that he led by great wisdom. I started to think if Plato used Solomon as the cornerstone of his work “The Republic”? Solomon, being the wisest man the world has known, brought great wealth and power to Israel and the people were at peace. He would have been the perfect person to base a great leader on. Plus Plato lived in the 4th Century BC. Plus he traveled greatly during the time including a trip to Judea before writing this Classic. This peaked my interest, that perhaps the great Philosopher King that the earthly world is clamoring for is based on Solomon? I had to do more research. I had read many accounts of “The Republic” but I had never read the Dialogue, so I read the work and here is what I found.


The Dialogues of Plato are written almost as plays, that places his old mentor Socrates as the central character. Plato seems to explain his thoughts through the interaction of Socrates with the other characters in the story.

The Republic starts as Socrates and a few friends going to a festival and they start talking about philosophy of a just man, then move into a story of the best government for the people and who should lead it. All through this Dialogue he uses Socrates’ questioning style to maneuver the other characters into his line of thought. He speaks about leaders and being a just ruler by stating that a just ruler does thing for the weak the same way that a Doctor does things for the sick and not the healthy, and the same way a captain does things for the good of the crew not what is good for him.


Then he goes on and describes justice and praises the just man. Socrates’ friend gives a description of the purely unjust man and shows how a perfectly unjust man will [seem] like the most just man of all. They state that the truly unjust man will go about it in the truly right way and gets away with it. The one that is not perfectly unjust will gets caught and is considered incompetent and is not the perfectly unjust, since perfect injustice consists of appearing just when you are not. The perfectly unjust man will have reputation of being the most just man. Then we need to contrast him with the “truly” just man. He is a simple and honorable man that does not appear to be just. We must deprive him of the appearance of justice because the appearance of justice will bring him recognition and rewards and then it will not be clear if his motive for justice was a desire for justice or a desire for the rewards and the recognition. This I disagree with completely, that a perfectly just man will not care of the view of others. He will do what is just and leave it at that, not boasting or using this deed. Plato contends that we must strip him of everything but justice. He must have the worst possible reputation for injustice but truly being just, and have this reputation until his death. This description almost makes me think that Plato has a premonition of the only truly just man. Does not Christ meet every aspect of the truly just man listed above? Was he not given a criminal’s death when he was completely just? They then talk of the life that awaits them both here on earth. The unjust man would ask to rule cities because he has the reputation of justice. He can marry who he likes and make contract and partnership with who he wants. He finds it easy to make himself a rich man because he has no compunction about acting unjustly. And the just man is nothing of the sort. He just receives a cross to bear (These are my words).


Socrates defends the just man. And he gives the just man three elements to being just; Courage, Wisdom, Temperance or Self-discipline. First Socrates changes the subject to a just city but intends to describe the just man with the description of the just city. They start with the origin of a city. He starts stating that the origin of a city is because not one of us is self sufficient and need others. He starts talking about how a city is formed and what makes a just city and come to conclusion that a just city is just because of its rulers are just. At this point, he explains that citizens should be classified into four types, the Gold, the Silver, the Bronze and Iron. Gold should be the ruling class and would be the best of the people. They should be trained to be the most just and wise. They should also be removed from the need for money and therefore not be restrained by greed. They should learn the needs of the people and learn what is best for the people. The Silver would be the warrior class and the other lesser important leader roles like doctors and such. And next would be the Bronze and lower classes. These are the common people that need leaders.


The guardian class or Gold class would live communally and would need for nothing except the needs of their people. They would learn from an early life the philosophy and manager skills to run a city. Socrates finally states that these leaders should be Philosophy Kings, for only the Philosopher can have the wisdom to run such a city. He states that these rulers should do whatever is needed to better the lives of the people. Then a question on the women and the children come up, and he comes to say that the families for the ruling class should be in common, that women should be treated the same as the guardian men, each man with knowledge of each women and not knowing his children. With children he states, that the best class should reproduce and have many children and with the lower classes it would only be best that the embryos never see the light of day. This is also the view of any deformed children; only the best people should be born, not the lesser people.


After defining the just city he returns to the just man and states that the just man would be one that does what he is best suited to do; a hunter being a hunter, a farmer being a farmer, a bronze man being a bronze man and a ruler being a ruler. A hunter should not be a ruler because he does not have the skills to be a ruler. Only one trained to rule should rule.


All in all I came from this book with a greater understanding of the liberal view of today’s society. The leaders of the liberal view feel that they are Philosopher Kings in charge of a great just city, and they are the great defender of this city. These are the same liberals that called for free love and communal living in the 60‘s. They force abortion on the lower classes and try to destroy the common people’s society by degrading the value of marriage. All of this thought came not just from Plato, but also from Rousseau and Voltaire. Rousseau and Voltaire shouted “let us make a heaven here on earth and forget about God. Let us rely on reason and human understanding.” These are the same people that attempted at trying to have Enlighten Despots in many European nations, that would rule a nation like these Philosopher Kings of Plato and Socrates, but they all failed with huge amounts of bloodshed; with the French Revolution the bloodiest of all.


In all of these descriptions of the just man I saw one thing. The just man that they described is the perfectly unjust man of the first part of the story. “…The truly unjust man goes about it in the truly right way and gets away with it. The one that gets caught is considered incompetent since perfect injustice consists of appearing just when you are not. They will have the reputation of being the most just man…” They gave this statement when describing the unjust man. Does the Just man in the second part of the story not sound like he will have the gone about it in the right way? This just man lies to his people because “The end justifies the means” and ends up doing what is not just for all the people; only the ruling class. He does all of this in the guise of making the best choices for the society.


Plato tried to introduce his great leader as a man that uses his great human reasoning ability. He believed that man’s wisdom could create a society that was perfectly just, but he did not want to admit that man could never be perfectly just. That ingrained into him was something that would always move to the evil inside of his spirit. Since he lived only a couple hundred years after the greatest part of Israel‘s history, Plato must of known of the story of how David and Solomon ruled with great wisdom and created a great and just nation. He must have known that with this great wisdom that each man ended up doing unjust things after failing to follow God’s guidance. So in the end even Solomon, whom was considered the wisest man ever to live, that had great courage, and was very self-disciplined, ended up becoming unjust to his people and led them astray.


I will say that at the same time of the Enlightenment and the attempts of Philosopher Kings in Europe, a group of castaways in the new world created a different republic that was not formed in the image of Plato’s Republic, but in the theory that each individual is as great as another and getting representatives from all the people would create a truly just nation. They based there nation on something different then man’s wisdom; God’s wisdom. Thomas Jefferson, who admired the French enlightened leaders as a Deist, still spent many a line on the importance of God in society. As is written in a Memorial dedicated to this man are these words.


God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. That his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between Master and Slave is Despotism. Nothing is more written in the book of fate then that these people are to be free. ….

[End of quote]




Part Three:

Solomon a lover, poet and mystic



‘I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,

as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon’.


Song of Solomon 1:5



Levels of Meaning


The Song of Solomon is also known as the “Song of Songs”, or the “Canticle of Canticles”, which was a way, at that time, of expressing the superlative. In grammar, superlative can be defined as: “The degree of grammatical comparison that denotes an extreme or unsurpassed level or extent”:

Thus Hatshepsut will call her magnificent temple at Deir el-Bahri, Djeserdjeseru, meaning the “Sacred of Sacreds”, or “Holy of Holiest”.

And her great Steward, Senenmut (Senmut), will be referred to as “the greatest of the great, noblest of the nobles” (Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh, Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y., Cat. No. 67).


The Canticle has various layers of meaning, including the level of sublime mystical theology.

  1. Paul Tanner explains it as allegory in “The History of Interpretation of the Song of Songs”:



The Allegorical View


The notion that the Song of Songs should be understood in its plain normal sense has been firmly resisted throughout most of history. Advocates of the allegorical view have been adamant that there must be some “spiritual” message to the book that exceeds the supposed earthly theme of human sexuality. …. As a result, the allegorists have stressed a spiritual meaning that goes beneath the surface reading. The outcome of this method, however, has been a host of interpretations as numerous as those who follow this approach. Jewish interpreters understood the text as an allegory of the love between God and the nation of Israel, and Christian interpreters have suggested that the book depicts love between Christ and His bride, the church. The interpretation of the details, however, became quite varied and fanciful.


Jewish Allegorical View


Traces of the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Songs are found as early as the Jewish Mishnah (Ta’anith 4.8)…. This approach was also followed in the Targum, the Midrash Rabbah … and by the medieval Jewish commentators Saadia, Rashi, and Ibn Ezra. The Targum on the Song interpreted the book as expressing the gracious love of God toward His people manifested in periods of Hebrew history from the Exodus until the coming of the Messiah (these historical periods were supposedly discernible in the Song of Songs)….


Christian Allegorical View (Primary Model)


Christian commentators applied a similar allegorical method in their interpretation of the Song, viewing the bridegroom as Jesus Christ and the bride as His church. This has been the dominant Christian view for most of church history …. Exactly when this view was first embraced by Christians is not known. All one can say is that evidence of it exists as early as Hippolytus (ca. A.D. 200), though only fragments of his commentary have survived…. Interpretations of the details of the Song have been quite varied, but the following examples suffice to give the general sense of how the text was treated. The one who is brought into the king’s chambers (1:4) is said to be those whom Christ had wedded and brought into His church.

The breasts in 4:5 are taken to be the Old and New Covenants, and the “hill of frankincense” in 4:6 is said to speak of the eminence to which those who crucify fleshly desires are exalted.

Not surprisingly, Origen became the grand champion of the allegorical interpretation of Song of Songs. In addition to a series of homilies, he produced a ten-volume commentary on the book…. Origen was influenced by the Jewish interpretation and by his elder contemporary Hippolytus, but he was also a product of several … philosophical forces at work in his day, namely, asceticism and Gnostic tendencies that viewed the material world as evil. “Origen combined the Platonic and Gnostic attitudes toward sexuality to denature the Canticle and transform it into a spiritual drama free from all carnality. The reader was admonished to mortify the flesh and to take nothing predicated of the Song with reference to bodily functions, but rather to apply everything toward the apprehension of the divine senses of the inner man.”. ….


Mackey’s comment: Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI will take a much healthier approach to eros and the Song in his Encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, as explained here by Dr. Anna Silvas:


Deus Caritas Est is a lovely teaching, calm and ordered and readily accessible with a little close attention. Pope Benedict clearly also has a number of other agendas in his encyclical. He reports with candour a series of criticisms and misunderstandings of the Christian position and deals with them by quiet reaffirmations of the genuine Christian and Catholic faith and practice. In the second part he is clearly concerned with some issues internal to the Church, and especially the corruption of her exercise of practical charity by ideological motives, and by the lack of prayer and connection to God, leading to mere social activism.


In the earlier, more ‘theoretical’ part, he is concerned about misunderstandings of the role of eros in Christian theology and anthropology. Years ago in a second-hand book shop in Carlton, I came across and purchased a book, Agape and Eros, by a Swedish Lutheran theologian who became Lutheran Bishop of Lund, Anders Nygren (1890-1978). The book had actually belonged to the former Anglican bishop of Melbourne, David Penman. Nygren’s book created quite a stir in its time. Nygren set up an all too neat and simple dichotomy: Agape is the name for that which is alone Christian love, and it is the opposite of Eros, which is the name for a worldly and pagan concept of love. Agape is descending, self-sacrificial love, only concerned for the good of the other, whereas eros is ascending, self-interested love, possessive of the object of its desire. Plato gets short shrift in Nygren, and so alas, does St Gregory of Nyssa. He builds his hypothesis on a linguistic theory that there are neat distinctions in the various Greek words for love. Let me tell you from long experience in reading Greek, the semantics of the various verbs for love in Greek, agapao, erao, phileo and storgeo, are far from so discrete as Nygren thinks. Without a doubt, Protestant ideas of soteriology affected his thinking, ideas about being saved by faith alone without works, imputed righteousness, and the rejection of the analogia entis (see CCC #50), which together with the analogia fidei is held to be valid and necessary in Catholic life, faith and theology.


Pope Benedict gently corrects the misunderstandings of this thesis. He points to the use of spousal and erotic love used in Scripture as a privileged metaphor for the relationship of God and man.


He even mentions a beautiful myth recorded by Plato, according to which man and woman were originally two halves of a unitary nature, but which was sundered because of pride, and hence each has a deep-seated need to rejoin the other half. This actually comes from Plato’s work, the Symposium, which is of capital importance in the history of the understanding of eros. If you have any pretensions to Catholic intellectual life, you should make sure that you make a reading of it part of your feeding of the mind. Here is the pre-eminent source in classical literature for the concept of a transcendent eros. Diotima of Mantineia, Socrates’ preceptress, probes the real nature of eros.{{1}} She argues that it is a mistake to simply … identify eros with sexual passion. Its essence rather is in yearning for the good and the beautiful. Once this yearning is emancipated from confusion, once one learns to govern it with virtue, it is capable of leading the healthfully erotic soul upward to the ultimately Good and the ultimately Beautiful, what she calls ‘the divine beauty’ … which is easily assimilated to the Christian concept of God.


Then Pope Benedict elucidates the scriptural use of eros, identified with spousal love, as a metaphor for the relationship of God and man. I never tire pointing out in my lectures that this powerful metaphor can be followed like a thread linking the entire Scripture, beginning with the creation of man and woman in the image of God, in Genesis, to the cry of spousal longing on the part of the Bride who is the Church, in the very last verses of the Apocalypse. Benedict insists that the Old Testament ‘in no way rejected eros as such’, but ‘declared war on a warped and destructive form of it’ (p. 10). Debased eros then, ‘needs to be disciplined and purified, if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude from which our whole being yearns.’ In short, he says, ‘Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or “poisoning” eros, they heal and restore its true grandeur.’


Seeking to understand this path of ascent and purification, Pope Benedict turns to the Song of Songs, ‘an Old Testament book’ he says, ‘well known to the mystics’. This book, a series of passionate appeals between bride and groom, glowing with sensuousness and ardour, was nevertheless given a place in the canon. No doubt its inspired redactor and/or those who canonised it, read it as a metaphor of the relationship between God and Israel, a symbolic tradition initiated by the eighth century prophet Hosea. Perhaps the Song is best understood religiously as the presentation of a hoped-for consummation in the future when Israel will no longer be unfaithful to the Lord. Her faithfulness will be proved even when the Lord seems to have vanished and she cannot find him. Her dispositions will have become so purified and steadfast, that she will no more turn aside to another. The experience of absence does not ruin her aspiration, but leads to a redoubling of her fidelity. As Pope Benedict characterises it: ‘Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice’ (p. 13). Without doubt these mysterious passages about the Bridegroom’s absence that have so inspired the apophatic theologians, virgins and mystics over the centuries, are the key to the religious meaning of the Song of Songs, through which we pass from earthly marriage to metaphor to the mystical heights.


In presenting eros and agape as two dimensions of the single reality of love: ‘at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly’ (p. 17), Pope Benedict shows himself in complete accord with those Church Fathers who knew how to use the best of Plato’s hints about a spiritual eros in service of the Christian life and faith rooted in the revealed word of God. Such are Origen, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Pseudo-Dionysius and Gregory of Nyssa (some, but not all of them acknowledged in the footnotes of the Pope’s encyclical). You know that wonderful Latin hymn for Holy Thursday, popularised by the Taize chant: Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus ibi est. If we use the exact Greek equivalents it means: Where there is agape and eros, God is there. There is some scholarly dispute these days as to whether the original words were Ubi Caritas est vera. At any rate, Pope Benedict alludes to another, much earlier source for this saying (p. 18, p. 70 n. 7), namely, Pseudo-Dionysius, a late fifth century Syrian writer, whose books, especially On the Divine Names and Mystical Theology, had huge influence in the development of Christian sacramental  and mystical theology. ….


  1. Paul Tanner continues:


Undoubtedly this diminished view of human sexuality, so prevalent in that day, fanned the flames of the allegorical interpretation of the Song. There were few dissenting voices over the years … and even the greatest Christian leaders succumbed to this approach. As Glickman points out, “No less a theologian than Augustine fell into this error, genuinely espousing the view that the only purpose for intercourse is the bearing of children and that before the fall of Adam it was not necessary even for that.”….

Jerome (331-420), who produced the Latin Vulgate, praised Origen and embraced most of his views. As a result, he was instrumental in introducing the allegorical interpretation into the Western churches. Bernard of Clairvaux (1909-1153) preached eighty-six sermons on the Song of Songs, covering only the first two chapters. He was given to obsessive allegorical interpretation in an attempt to purge it of any suggestion of “carnal lust.” Many others throughout church history approached the book allegorically, including John Wesley, Matthew Henry, E. W. Hengstenberg, C. F. Keil, and H. A. Ironside….


Alternative Christian Allegorical Views


Other types of allegorical interpretations over the years differ from the predominant view in which the main characters represent Christ and the church.


The bride as Mary, the mother of Jesus. Within the Mariology movement of Roman Catholicism, the bride of the Song of Songs has sometimes been allegorically interpreted as Mary, the mother of Jesus. For instance, “you are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you” (4:7), is used to support the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary. While this is an ancient view, it has been given fresh impetus in recent years through the studies of Rivera, who seems to have linked the allegorical view of the church with Mary. He says that what is true of the church is true in a very special way of her who had such a privileged relationship to the church….


The bride as the state under Solomon’s rule. While rejecting the normal allegorical interpretation, Martin Luther was still not able to embrace the literal erotic sense of the book. So he “propounded the theory that the bride of the Song is the happy and peaceful State under Solomon’s rule and that the Song is a hymn in which Solomon thanks God for the divine gift of obedience.”….


The prophetic narrative of church history. Johannes Cocceius (1603-1609), who originally expounded the “federal view” of the imputation of sin for Reformed theology, held a rather novel interpretation of the Song of Songs. He presented the Song as a prophetical narrative of the transactions and events that are to happen in the Church. The divisions of the book correspond to the periods of the history of the Church and to the seven trumpets and the seven seals of the Apocalypse of John…. The exposition becomes particularly full and detailed with the Reformation and culminates with the future triumph of Protestantism….


The mystical marriage view. In addition to the Mariology treatment, another view surfaced within Roman Catholic mystical theology. In this view the Song teaches the “mystical marriage” of the union of the soul with God when the loving awareness of God becomes most transcendent and permanent…. Supposedly, as the Christian soul passes through a series of mystical states in comprehending this “loving awareness of God,” it eventually culminates in a “mystical marriage” in which one is dissolved into the love of God and purified of any self-love.


The eucharistic view. A variation of the preceding view is that the Song refers to the mystical union that takes place between the soul and Christ during Holy Communion.


[End of quotes]


It is not surprising that the Holy Spirit could inspire multiple levels of meaning, from the literal-historical level, the sublime love between the historical Solomon and the “Shunammite”, all the way through to the highest mystical levels, of which St. John of the Cross was a master: the spousal love of Jesus Christ for the soul, as well as for His bride, the Church.


Songs of the Soul

by St. John of the Cross 1. On a dark night,kindled in love with yearnings– oh, happy chance! –I went forth without being observed,my house being now at rest. 2. In darkness and secure,by the secret ladder, disguised– oh, happy chance! –in darkness and in concealment,my house being now at rest. 3. In the happy night,in secret, when none saw me,nor I beheld aught,without light or guide,save that which burned in my heart. 4. This light guided memore surely than the light of noondayto the place where he was awaiting me– well I knew who! –a place where none appeared.  5. Oh, night that guided me,oh, night more lovely than the dawn,oh, night that joinedbeloved with lover,lover transformed in the Beloved! 6. Upon my flowery breast,kept wholly for himself alone,there he stayed sleeping,and I caressed him,and the fanning of the cedars made a breeze. 7. The breeze blew from the turretas I parted his locks;with his gentle handhe wounded my neckand caused all my senses to be suspended. 8. I remained, lost in oblivion;my face I reclined on the Beloved.All ceased and I abandoned myself,leaving my cares

forgotten among the lilies.



Mystics invariably tend to be poets.

Thus Roger Housden writes (“Poems of the Mystics” Christian tradition from ancient to modern”):


If you want to speak of the ineffable and the essential, there is no better medium than poetry. Poetry is the language of the spirit and the soul, not of the discursive mind. It compresses the lived truth of the poet’s experience into a beauty and wisdom that can slip under the skin of the reader and enter their bloodstream. When you don’t know what to say you cry out, and those cries are the beginning of poetry. They are the language informed not only by the mind but by the body and heart as well. Poetry is the language of choice for mystics in all traditions who have tried to communicate their insights and experiences for the benefit of those who will listen.


The youthful King Solomon loved God and was loved by God (2 Samuel 12:25): “… because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah [meaning “Loved by the Lord”]”

The love poetry of Davidic (Solomonic) Israel began to permeate Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt:


Ancient Egyptian Love Poems Reveal a Lust for Life


Cameron Walker

for National Geographic News

April 20, 2004


Pyramids, mummies, tombs, and other icons of aristocracy and the afterlife dominate our images of ancient Egypt. But love poems composed thousands of years ago may provide a more intimate glimpse of the lives of everyday ancient Egyptians.

“Poetry is perhaps the greatest forgotten treasure of ancient Egypt,” said Richard Parkinson, an expert on ancient Egyptian poetry at London’s British Museum, home to the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo.

While historical accounts and biographies inscribed on the insides of tombs often give idealized accounts of ancient Egyptian life, poetry gives real insight into human nature and its imperfections, he said.

A group of love poems have been found in an excavated workers’ village on the outskirts of the Valley of Kings, where many pharaohs are entombed.

The verses allow poetry lovers and Egyptophiles alike to tap into the emotional side of Egyptian daily life. “People tend to assume all ancient Egyptian writing is religious, so the secular nature of these songs and of much other poetry continue to surprise readers,” Parkinson said.

Written during Egypt’s New Kingdom (1539-1075 B.C.) [sic] … these songs are surprisingly direct about love and romance in ancient Egypt, using metaphors, repetition, and other poetic techniques familiar to poetry readers today.


The Flower Song (Excerpt)

To hear your voice is pomegranate wine to me:

I draw life from hearing it.

Could I see you with every glance,

It would be better for me

Than to eat or to drink.

(Translated by M.V. Fox)”


Compare Song of Solomon (4:3, 7; 6:13):


Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;

your mouth is lovely.

Your temples behind your veil

are like the halves of a pomegranate.

You are altogether beautiful, my darling;

there is no flaw in you.

Come back, come back,

O Shunammite; come back, come back,

that we may gaze on you.


Will Groben, has noted the similarity between the Song of Solomon and Egyptian love poetry. “The Song of Songs and Ancient Near East Love Poetry”, he, though, drawing the typical conclusion that the biblical Song “follows the genre of Egyptian love songs”:


The Song of Songs does have similarities with Egyptian love songs which were popular at the time of Solomon. The Egyptian love songs have a similar look and feel to the Song of Songs, with similar imagery [e.g. love being better than alcohol], themes [love sickness], structure [interchange of dialogue between lovers], and metaphors [royal]. Egyptian love songs were secular and literal, not religious and allegorical.

Since the Song of Songs apparently follows the genre of Egyptian love songs, we should interpret the Song of Songs to speak of love between a man and a woman. Its canonicity suggests the sanctification [setting out for God’s purposes] of marital erotic love.


Egyptian love songs were for entertainment and sometimes were gathered together into larger collections, which might have a common theme. As the Song of Songs apparently follows the genre of Egyptian love songs, it could be one long song with a narrative or a collection of songs which would have thematic unity but not an ongoing narrative. If the latter is the case, imposing a narrative on the Song of Songs would create false connections between the songs and lead to erroneous inferences. If the former is the case, denying the narrative would obscure some of what the Song is teaching.

There is cohesiveness to the Song of Songs, along with homogeneity of style, consistent refrains, and a consistent setting of spring in the country, all of which suggests this is an integrated unit, not a mere collection of individual parts.


The “Shunammite”


I have multi-identified her:


Abishag: “… a beautiful young woman … a Shunammite” (I Kings 1:3).

Tamar: “Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar” (2 Samuel 13:1).

Shunammite: “… fairest among women” (Song of Solomon 1:8).

Queen of Sheba: “King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for …” (I Kings 10:13).

Pharaoh’s Daughter: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter” (I Kings 3:1).

Hatshepsut: Whose name means “foremost of noble women”.


This can make for some really tricky geography and ethnicity, however.

How can she be, at once, a girl from Shunem in northern Israel; a Queen of exotic “Sheba”; and an Egyptian royal?

And now we read in Song of Solomon 1:5 that she may have been “black”.

But, whilst that appears to be the literal meaning of the Hebrew word here: shechorah  שְׁחוֹרָה

according to 1:6, she became dark from working under the sun


“The word translated looked upon occurs only twice besides (Job 20:9; Job 28:7). The “all-seeing sun” is a commonplace of poetry; but here with sense of scorching. The heroine goes on to explain the cause of her exposure to the sun. Her dark complexion is accidental, and cannot therefore be used as an argument that she was an Egyptian princess, whose nuptials with Solomon are celebrated in the poem”.


Little wonder that Solomon will ask: ‘Who is she …?’ (Song of Solomon 6:10).


Here is my tentative reconstruction of her amazing life:


Our “she” began as a beautiful foreign captive girl, daughter of Maacah (Maakah), possibly an Egyptian (Maat-ka-re), who had become the property, maid-servant, of King Talmai of Geshur, a southern kingdom fronting Egypt.

King David acquired Maacah perhaps during his raids on the “Geshurites” (I Samuel 27:8) – or he may have made a treaty with King Talmai – and subsequently Maacah, now David’s wife, would give birth to Absalom at Hebron (I Chronicles 3:2).

Now, Absalom had a “beautiful sister” called Tamar, according to 2 Samuel 13:1, though some Jewish traditions suggest that Tamar was not Absalom’s actual sister, but, perhaps, a captive girl. She may possibly have been “black”, or, at least, “dark” – an Egyptian, Nubian (or Ethiopian)?

Or just sun-burnt.

She is contrasted with the (presumably fairer skinned) “daughters of Jerusalem”, who may not, though, have had to work out in the sun.

Hebrew-named in 2 Samuel as “Tamar” (“date palm”), the name she is given in I Kings is “Abishag”, an awkward name, that may be a Hebraïsed version of Hatshepsut, which has been given many variations. Sir Alan Gardiner, for instance, in Egypt of the Pharaohs (1960), will name her: Ḥashepsowe.

She lived in the house of Absalom, which I have suggested was situated at Shunem, in the approximate vicinity of Baal-hamon where Solomon had a vineyard (Song of Solomon 8:11).

Joab had a field adjoining Absalom’s (2 Samuel 14:30).

It may actually have been her “mother’s house” (Song of Solomon 6:9).

Her close associations with the royal throne occurred when she was selected to be the nurse-consort of King David after a search had been made “throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman” (I Kings 1:3). This search would have been confined only to noble women.

And perhaps only to noble women who had inherited a special knowledge of nursing-healing (8:2): “I would lead you and bring you to my mother’s house– she who has taught me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the nectar of my pomegranates”.

They “found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her”.

(Later in the time of the prophet Elisha, we read about a Great Woman of Shunem, 2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6, who was – according to Rabbinic tradition – Abishag the Shunammite herself, a chronological impossibility, though the two may have been related).

We next meet her in 2 Samuel 13 as the beautiful virgin Tamar, for whom, dwelling “at the palace”, King David will send (v. 7) in response to his oldest son Amnon’s lovesick request.

Thereupon she is raped by Amnon, treated coldly by her ‘brother’, Absalom – who may actually have conspired with the shrewd adviser, Jonadab (= Achitophel), to bring about this tragic situation. She dwelt “a desolate woman” in the house of Absalom, now back in Shunem.

Her appalling treatment, which even King David may have condoned by his apparent silence, could have been exacerbated by the fact that she was originally a captive girl, or daughter of one (and perhaps even also because of her dark complexion).

When Absalom had murdered Amnon, and fled to the kingdom of Geshur, to his maternal ‘grand-father’, King Talmai, he may have dragged Tamar there with him.

She would later become the queen of Geshur, dwelling at the capital, Beersheba (or Sheba).

Whether she was in Beersheba during Absalom’s revolt, or still at Shunem, or had been re-instated with King David “at the palace”, we do not know.

But she was ministering to King David afterwards, when Adonijah made a play for the throne.


One speculative writer is adamant that Abishag was actually the wife-concubine of King David (“Bible Evidence That David Married 12 Year Old Abishag”):


“After the demise of King David, Solomon took over his father’s place and became the King. Adonijah attempted to seize power once more, this time, went around and asked Solomon’s mother to take Abishag as his wife. Adonijah asked her to tell Solomon if he would give him the green light to go ahead and marry Abishag.

Solomon got furious and seen the scheme of Adonijah. In ancient times, to marry one of your father’s wives was seen as you claiming the Throne i.e., become the King. Solomon seeing this, executed his brother, Adonijah:

“The Death of David

10 David died and was buried in David’s City. 11 He had been king of Israel for forty years, ruling seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 Solomon succeeded his father David as king, and his royal power was firmly established.

The Death of Adonijah

13 Then Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, went to Bathsheba, who was Solomon’s mother. “Is this a friendly visit?” she asked. “It is,” he answered,
14 and then he added, “I have something to ask of you.” “What is it?” she asked.

15 He answered, “You know that I should have become king and that everyone in Israel expected it. But it happened differently, and my brother became king because it was the Lord’s will.
16 And now I have one request to make; please do not refuse me.” “What is it?” Bathsheba asked.

18 “Very well,” she answered. “I will speak to the king for you.”
19 So Bathsheba went to the king to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. The king stood up to greet his mother and bowed to her. Then he sat on his throne and had another one brought in on which she sat at his right.

20 She said, “I have a small favor to ask of you; please do not refuse me.”

“What is it, mother?” he asked. “I will not refuse you.”

22 “WHY DO YOU ASK ME TO GIVE ABISHAG TO HIM?” the king asked. “YOU MIGHT AS WELL ASK ME TO GIVE HIM THE THRONE TOO. After all, he is my older brother, and Abiathar the priest and Joab are on his side!”[c] 23 Then Solomon made a solemn promise in the Lord’s name, “May God strike me dead if I don’t make Adonijah pay with his life for asking this! 24 THE LORD HAS FIRMLY ESTABLISHED ME ON THE THRONE OF MY FATHER DAVID; HE HAS KEPT HIS PROMISE AND GIVEN THE KINGDOM TO ME AND MY DESCENDANTS. I swear by the living Lord that Adonijah will die this very day!”

25 So King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah, who went out and killed Adonijah.” 1 Kings 2:10-25 Good News Translation (GNT)

These verses clearly tell us that Abishag was married to King David and was his wife, otherwise, Solomon would not have put his brother to death for merely asking her hand in marriage.

For Adonijah to attempt to take his father’s wife for marriage, was a declaration of him to take the right to the throne of Solomon. As such, Solomon killed Adonijah (his brother) as the verses reveal.

Biblical scholars have also concluded reading 1 Kings 2:10-25 that Abishag was King David’s wife (or concubine)”.


We do not actually know the girl’s age at any stage.


King Talmai of Geshur, I have suggested, had become pharaoh of neighbouring Egypt due to a marital alliance with pharaoh Amenhotep I.

He then succeeded Amenhotep I as Thutmose I.

This occurred right at the end of King David’s rule.

The “Shunammite”, now as Hatshepsut – an apparent great favourite of Thutmose I, and supposedly his daughter – may have been summoned to Egypt, or may have arranged with Solomon, now king of Israel, to go there for political purposes. The ultimate intention was for marriage between King Solomon and the “Shunammite”, but only after Solomon had finished building the Temple of Yahweh (his Year 11).

The new Pharaoh gave her Gezer, which I have tentatively connected with Beersheba, as a dowry for her marriage to King Solomon.

Israel and Egypt were now united as one, with vast cultural exchanges occurring between the two.

Some time after (chronology is debated) King Solomon had completed the Temple of Yahweh (Year 11), the wide-eyed Queen of Beersheba came to Jerusalem laden with the most exotic gifts, and she marvelled at everything that she saw.

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba were thereupon married, and she lived there until Solomon completed his own palace and a separate one for her (1 Kings 9:24; 2 Chron. 8:11).

The Temple of Yahweh (the site of which needs to be properly located – see below) was an awesome sight to behold:


“He [Solomon] made that Temple which was beyond this a wonderful one indeed, and such as exceeds all description in words; nay, if I may so say, is hardly believed upon sight; for when he had filled up great valleys with earth, which, on account of their immense depth, could not be looked on when you bent down to see them without pain, and had elevated the ground four hundred cubits [600 feet], he made it to be on a level with the top of the mountain on which the Temple was built…This wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man” (Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, 3, 9; XV, 11, 3 — Temples, p. 441)…


Thus Roger Waite quotes from Jewish historian Josephus’s Antiquities in his fine compilation, “The Lost History of Jerusalem”, much of which is, in turn, based on the research of the biblical historian, Dr. Ernest L. Martin (RIP), from his book, The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot.

Waite goes on to write of the Great Eastern Wall of the Temple built by King Solomon, the SE corner of which in later times was the pinnacle of the Temple, to where Satan took the Messiah.


The Great Eastern Wall of Solomons Temple


According to Waite (beginning p. 63):


“Solomon built a great wall on the eastern side from the very base of the Kidron Valley. It rose 300 cubits which is the equivalent of 40 to 45 story modern skyscraper. This can hardly be said about the eastern wall of the Haram [eshSharif, or “Temple Mount”] which at its highest point in the SE corner is only several stories high.

“Solomon built this great eastern wall straight up from the very base of the Kidron Valley which brought the Gihon spring within the city walls and then he had the area between the top of the SE spur known as the City of David and this eastern wall filled in.

“A huge amount of fill was dumped and compacted on the eastern slope between the top of the hill and the eastern wall that shot straight up from the base of the valley.

“All this fill went directly over the Gihon spring and then Solomon built the Temple in an east — west direction from the top of the Ophel summit where Ornan‘s threshing floor was and over this artificial extension that was directly above the Gihon spring.

“Speaking in amazement of Solomon‘s original work that was added to by others Josephus writes:

“He [Solomon] also built a wall below, beginning at the bottom [of the Kidron ravine] which was encompassed by a deep valley. At the south side he laid stones together, and bound them one to another with lead, and included some of the inner parts till it proceeded to a great height, and till both the largeness of the square edifice and its altitude were immense. The vastness of the stones in the front were plainly visible on the outside yet so that the inward parts were fastened together with iron, and preserved the joints immovable for future times.

“When this work was done in this manner, and joined together as part of the hill itself to the very top of it, he wrought it all into one outward surface. He filled up the hollow places that were about the wall, and made it a level on the external upper surface, and a smooth level also.

“[Later in Herod‟s day], this hill was walled all round, and in compass four stades [a stade was 600 feet], each angle [of the square] containing in length a stade [it was a square of 600 feet on each side]. But within this wall and on the very top of all, there ran another wall of stone also having on the east quarter a double cloister [colonnade] of the same length with the wall; in the midst of which was the Temple itself” (Antiquities of the Jews XV, 11, 3 — Temples p. 451).

About this description by Josephus Ernest Martin writes:


“Notice two points in Josephus’ description that I emphasized. He said the stones that made up the wall on the east side of the Temple were “bound together with lead” and on the inside they had “iron clamps” that fused them together with such a bond that Josephus reckoned they would be permanently united together. These bonding features in the east wall that used iron and lead would have been a unique aspect associated with the binding of those stones. But note this: Much of the eastern wall of the Haram (that some attribute to Solomon because they think it is the Temple Mount) DO NOT have any of these features. The stones of the Haram are all placed one on another without any type of cement between them (either of lead, iron or whatever). This fact is, again, a clear indication the walls surrounding the Haram are NOT those that encompassed the Temple of Herod as described by Josephus, our eyewitness historian” (Temples, p. 466).


Notice carefully what Josephus said about the position of this eastern wall. He said that it was begun at the very bottom of the valley.

The eastern wall was built at the very bottom of the valley NOT half-way up! The eastern wall of the Haram does not start from the very bottom of the valley. It starts half-way up and is not anywhere near 300 cubits (450 feet) high!

This eastern wall gave the appearance of great height and impressiveness to the completed structure. Josephus, in the account of the Roman general Pompey‘s attack against the Temple in 63 B.C. before Herod‘s extensions to the Temple complex, says the following:


“At this treatment Pompey was very angry, and took Aristobulus into custody. And when he was come to the city [Jerusalem], he looked about where he might make his attack. He saw the walls were so firm, that it would be hard to overcome them. The valley before the walls was terrible [for depth]; and that the temple, which was within that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall, insomuch that if the city were taken, that temple would be a second place of refuge for the enemy to retire to” (Wars of the Jews, I.7, 1 — Temples p. 439).


Speaking of the incredible height of the eastern wall of the city which was also the eastern wall of the Temple Josephus also writes:


“He [Solomon] made that Temple which was beyond this a wonderful one indeed, and such as exceeds all description in words; nay, if I may so say, is hardly believed upon sight; for when he had filled up great valleys with earth, which, on account of their immense depth, could not be looked on when you bent down to see them without pain, and had elevated the ground four hundred cubits [600 feet], he made it to be on a level with the top of the mountain on which the Temple was built…This wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man (Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, 3, 9; XV, 11, 3 — Temples, p. 441)…

“The Romans also burnt the whole northern portico [colonnade] right up to that on the east, where the angle [northeastern angle of the Temple wall] connecting the two was built over the ravine called the Kidron, the depth at that point being consequently terrific (War of the Jews, VI, 3, 2 — Temples, p. 442).


Notice Josephus says Solomon artificially “elevated the ground 400 cubits (600 feet).” Then he made it level at the top of this artificial extension “on which the Temple was built.”

Josephus‘ figure of 600 feet, if true, would put this work, “the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man”, 120 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The highest point was at the SE corner and was called the pinnacle of the Temple which was built at the top of this extended mountain.

The pinnacle of the Temple, which had a sheer drop between 300 and 600 feet, was the place that Satan took Jesus to and tempted him to jump off and see if angels would catch his fall as promised in the Bible.

Notice further what Josephus said about its great height:


“This cloister [that is, the southeast comer of the southern colonnade] deserves to be mentioned better than any other under the sun. For while the valley was very deep, and its bottom could not be seen, if you looked from above into the depth, this farther vastly high elevation of the colonnade stood upon that height, insomuch that if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both these altitudes, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such a great depth (Antiquities of the Jews XV, 11, 5 — Temples p. 443).


This incredible height from which someone would be giddy looking down from could certainly not be true of the SE corner of the Haram. Ernest Martin has these things to say about Josephus’ descriptions of the Temple:


“While Josephus said in Wars of the Jews V.5, 1 that the top of the eastern wall of Herod’s Temple was 300 cubits’ above the Kidron Valley (or higher in places), he said in Antiquities of the Jews VIII.3, 9 the height was 400 cubits (that is 100 cubits higher). Reading the texts carefully means that the extra 100 cubits (of the 400 cubits’ measurement) remained below ground because “the whole depth of the foundations was not evident; for they filled up a considerable part of the ravines” (Wars of the Jews V.5, 1). And in Antiquities of the Jews VIII.3, 9 Josephus said Solomon “filled up great valleys with earth.” This means Solomon actually filled in with earth the original Kidron Valley (to the height of 100 cubits) and then on top of this foundational “fill-in,” his east wall ascended another 300 cubits exposed to the air up to the top of the Temple wall…”


Matthew 4:5-7


“Then the devil took [the Messiah] to the holy city [Jerusalem] and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”.’

Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the LORD your God to the test’.”


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