King Solomon and Archaeology
by Rick Dack, Founder and Director of Defending the Bible Int’l.
(All images and text are owned/purchased by Defending the Bible Int'l. and cannot be used without permission)
Temple Architecture and the Temple location
Solomon gave orders to build a temple for the Name of the LORD and a royal palace for himself - 2 Chronicles 2:1 (
Though the temple of Solomon has yet to be revealed, it is interesting to see how accurate the Bible truly is concerning temple architecture and how it parallels with what we know in scripture. 2 Chronicle 3:15-17 speaks of the free standing columns and vestibule that is similar to what we see in Syrian architecture and 1 Kings 6:36 tells us of the use cedar beams in the inner courtyard that once again is supported by archaeological discoveries in Syria (northern) and Phoenicia. The Phoenicians and Egyptians also employed the use of palm trees, flowers, chains and lighting techniques in their architecture similar to those described in 2 Chronicles 3:5. It is true that Solomon's temple has not been recovered but Architect Leen Ritmeyer believes that it was located at the es-Sakhra rock formation over which the Dome of the Rock is built including Zerubbabel's Temple and Herod's (Bible and Spade, Spring 1994, 64).
"…to the House (Temple) of Yahweh."
The antiquities market has produced some rather interesting finds. A direct link to Solomon's Temple was discovered and Hershel Shanks wrote an article about it in an issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (November/December 1997). One of the artifacts is the famed pomegranate scepter head which will be discussed shortly but of equal note is the temple receipt that reads, "Pursuant to the order of you of Ashyahu the king to give by the hand of Zecharyahu silver of Tarshish to the House (Temple) of Yahweh three shekels." The receipt is owned by London Collector Schlomo Moussaief unfortunately, know one knows where it was discovered, but Shanks believes that someone may know but they are not talking. The ostraca measures 4 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall and has the name Tarshish on it. This may be the Tarshish of 1 Kings 10:22 where gold, silver, apes and ivory were acquired by Solomon and Hiram.
UPDATE > There is speculation about this artifacts authenticity. As with all web links, conduct your own investigation.
  The Pomegranate Scepter Head and Solomon's Temple
The ivory pomegranate scepter head was discovered by French Scholar Andre LeMaire in an antiquities shop in Jerusalem in 1979. The artifact, was dated to the 8th century B.C., was eventually purchased by the Israel Museum in 1988. The inscription reads "For the house of Yahweh, holy to the priests," The house of Yahweh is more than likely referring to the Temple or the "House of the Lord." An additional scepter head was discovered that probably also belonged to the Temple or was used for a horses bridle (Assyrian relief depictions) but there was no inscription on it when it was discovered (Price, 1997, 185 - 186).
Solomon's Father-in-Law
Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD , and the wall around Jerusalem. - 1 Kings 3:1 - 2 Chronicles 2:1 (
According to Egyptologist Dr. Charles Aling, the father-in-law of one of Solomon's wives was more that likely the Pharaoh Siamun. 1 Kings 3:1 states that Solomon made an alliance with an Egyptian King which included a treaty in marriage. Aling says that typically Pharaohs would receive daughters of foreign rulers into their harems but this is unique in that Siamun probably considered Solomon an equal and allowed his daughter to join the wealthy King. Kenneth Kitchen states that Siamun was the sixth king of Dynasty Twenty-one and he reigned from 978-959 B.C. Siamun, after conquering Gezer of the Philistines, gave the town to Solomon. Interestingly, a representation was found at the Temple of Amon at Tanis which shows the Aegaean double-axe (Philistine's were more than likely Aegeans) that illustrates Egyptian and Philistine conflict (Aling, 1981, 121).
Hazor, Gezer and Megiddo
Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the LORD's temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. - 1 Kings 9:15 (
Yigael Yadin's excavations of Hazor's massive gate and city wall in the 1950's has come under attack by the critics of the Bible. The critics contend there was no David or Solomon and believe that their reigns should be considered a part of someone's fertile imagination. Fortunately, the Bible also has its defenders. Amnon Ben-Tor has recently continued the work of Yadin and has also come to the conclusion that Hazor was present during the tenth century solidifying the work of Yadin. In a Palace room, the name Hazor was discovered on one of four tablets that were uncovered. Included with this find were multiplication tables, commercial and legal documents.  This is the first time that the name Hazor was found outside of the Bible (Bible and Spade, Spring/Summer 1997, 68-70).
Solomon's Gezer was first excavated by R.A.S. MacCalister in 1902. This 30 acre mound is 15 miles west of Jerusalem and was the dowry that Solomon's wife was given by her father (Siamun) as chronicled in 1 Kings 9:16, 17 (Blaiklock, 1983, 212). What remains of Gezer includes a destruction layer (field III), a monumental city-gate (1/2 of the gate) and a wall from the time of Solomon that was unearthed by a archaeological team from California in 1994 (Bible and Spade, Winter 1982, 20-21. Schoville, 1978, 359).
Megiddo was originally excavated by G. Schumacher in 1903. In the 1960's, Yigael Yadin took stratigraphical soundings at the site in order to clarify the level in which Solomon built one of his royal chariot cities and the stables (Blaiklock 1983, 308-309) but the Yadin theory about the fourth stratum (Solomon level of occupation) was later determined to be from the time of Ahab but is still disputed among scholars (Free, 1992, 143). What remains of Solomon's Megiddo is a monumental city-gate, like Gezers, the piers of a podium (Building 338) that covered rough hewn stones, a court yard (313) (Bible and Spade Spring 1972, 44) and a strikingly similar casemate-wall gateway in all three Solomonic cities (Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer). Unfortunately, much was lost to the destruction of these walls by builders after the time of Solomon or the archaeologists would've found more, perhaps homes, offices and palaces (Millard, 1985, 107) but a subsidiary palace may have been found!
Solomon's Palace at Megiddo?
"Hewed stones; sawed with stones" is the 1 Kings 6:9 passage that may have given the archaeologist more confidence in a pre-1972 discovery at Megiddo. The Palace that was unearthed at Megiddo was discovered in an ancient courtyard that measured 194 feet by 187 feet and was surrounded by a stone wall with a 4-room gateway. The lower level of the palace (75 square feet) contained twelve rooms with an additional courtyard. The similarities between the Jerusalem Palace and the Megiddo structure compels scholars to believe that both dwellings follow the same, basic blue print (Bible and Spade, Summer 1972, 68).
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. - 1 Kings 10:1 (
For years, the story of Solomon and Sheba was considered a myth or a "romantic tale" simply because nothing from her homeland had been discovered and that there was no firm connection between the two nations. In the 1870's, two Europeans (Halevy and Glaser) disguised as Bedouins reached Marib (the capital of Sheba) and were able to make some impressions of some inscriptions in the area before they were forced to flee. These inscriptions proved that the Capital of Sheba did exist. In 1951, Marib was partially excavated. An oval shaped temple, over 300 feet long, was found almost buried in the sand. One of the inscriptions on this temple wall showed that the people of the temple worshipped the god of the moon known as ILumquh. The Temple also contained fountains that flowed into the temple courtyard. Excavations have been hampered by the local administration of Marib at least to the date of this source (Bible and Spade, Summer 1972, 70). mmA clay stamp that was used to seal frankincense and myrrh cargo bags was found at Bethel in 1957. This discovery proves that there was a relationship between the two nations at the time of Solomon and Sheba, is probably the earliest South Arabian object ever found in Palestine and clearly shows a direct contact between the two nations early in the first millennium B.C. (Free 1992, 146).
Sheba's Camels
Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan-with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones-she came to Solomon and talked With him about all that she had on her mind. - 1 Kings 10:2 (
Many in the past have been skeptical about the verse in 1 Kings 10:1-2 concerning the Queen of Sheba's Camels because it was assumed that Camels weren't domesticated at the time of Solomon. Archaeology has proven this belief wrong in the fact that the camel was domesticated as early 1200 B.C., at least two hundred years before Solomon. It is also known that the camel is represented on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser and on a sculptured stone relief discovered at Halaf (Free, 1992, 145).
Trade Routes, Solomon and Sheba
It has been discovered that the biblical trade routes that Solomon and Sheba used have been discovered and verified by noted scholars Nelson Gleuck and Yohanon Aharoni through archaeological surveys. The routes ran from Judah to Southern Arabia to the Negev and were controlled by fortresses between the tenth and seventh centuries B.C. Some of these fortresses have been found at Kadesh Barnea, Tel Arad (east of the Dead Sea), Horvat Uza and Ezion Geber where Solomon harbored his fleet for trade with the South (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1972, 107-109).
The Fishpools of Heshbon
Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus. - Song of Solomon 7:4 (
Heshbon was first excavated in 1968 by Andrews University. Heshbon or Tell Hesban is located 47 miles east of Jerusalem and more than likely contains the ruins of the biblical city within the newer metropolis. A large reservoir was found at Heshbon measuring fifty by forty by fifteen and may be the "fish-pools of Heshbon" mentioned by Solomon in Song of Solomon 7:4 (Blaiklock, 1983, 236. Schoville, 1978, 488).
Solomon's Wealth and its final destination
The discussion of Solomon's wealth was intentionally put off to the last moment because there is simply no concrete archaeological evidence that has been produced to support the claims of his enormous wealth or is there? Could it be possible that archaeologists and other scholars have been looking in the wrong places? It is true that Israel has produced little showing Solomon's wealth, but why look specifically to Israel for this support or why is it such an amazing concept that Kings prior to or after Solomon had exorbitant wealth?
King Solomon's dinners of gold
All King Solomon's goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon's days. - 1 Kings 10:21 (
Sir Leonard Woolley, while excavating at Ur, found uncovered golden cups and dishes dated to 2600 B.C., over 1600 years before Solomon. Other gold dishes have also been recovered from Ugarit and still other objects of interest continue to be sold on the antiquities market. So it is possible that items similarly used in Solomon's Temple could have been produced and used by other Kings in antiquity (Bible and Spade, Spring-Summer-Autumn 1982, 64)
Gold-plated Temples, Personal Wealth and Golden Origins
 Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. 22 So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. - 1 Kings 10:21 (
Gold-plated Temples are another area that scholars should've previously looked into in order to compliment the biblical story of Solomon. A few noteworthy examples would have to be Esarhaddon's Ashur Temple that had gold-plated doors, Neo-Babylon's Nabonidas whose Temple of Sin at Harran had walls of silver and gold, Amenophis III's Temple of Amun (Thebes) that had plated gold throughout its interior with floors that were plated with silver and finally Ramses III's Shrine at Medinet Habu which was paved with silver and had gold door posts (Bible and Spade, Spring-Summer-Autumn 1982, 68-69). Personal wealth, some taken by force and others a show of power, has also been recorded for posterity such as Pythius', a subject of Xerxes of Persia who had 7,000 lbs. of gold, Trajan's capture of gold from the Dacian's (500,000 lbs.) and Anastasius' gold that he left upon his death approximately 320,000 lbs. But one may ask, where did this gold originally come from? mm It is believed that the main locations for gold exploration and mining would be from Western Turkey, Egypt, Wawat, Nubia and Western Arabia (Sheba). 1 Kings 10:11 speaks of the "Gold of Ophir" but no one knows exactly where Ophir was, though the name Ophie (presumably Ophir) was discovered on an ostracon from Tell Qasile, Israel, it gave no clues to the location (Bible and Spade, Spring-Summer-Autumn 1982, 68-69. Bible and Spade, Autumn 1994, 107).
Solomon's Gold, Ivory and Wood Throne
Then the king made a great throne inlaid with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. - 1 Kings 10:18, 19 (
The Bible states that Solomon had a throne made that was made of ivory and overlaid it with pure gold (1 Kings 10:18). Is this an exaggerated account from the Bible or is it true that ancient Kings had thrones of almost pure gold and ivory? Archaeology has revealed to us, in more than one case, that Kings did not only have thrones made of gold but also weapons, robes and bedsteads made partially of gold. An ivory bedstead and throne was discovered at Salamis and fragments of ivory and have been recovered from Samaria and Assyria. Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb chair in his excavation in the 1920's. Tut's chair was plated with pure gold and other chairs that were discovered, had the back and legs covered with gold. Queen Hetepheres' tomb contained a bed, carrying-chair and canopy that had gold covered woodwork (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1994, 100).
Objects of War
Other signs of wealth, not limited to chairs or bedsteads, were the decorative objects of war that have been discovered during excavations. Golden items, similar to Solomon's five hundred shields of gold (1 Kings 10: 16, 17), have been discovered. Objects such as golden blades for daggers and a gold axe-head were discovered at Ur, but of more interest to this discussion is the list that Sargon II compiled after his invasion of Musasir (northwest Assyria). Sargon bragged of taking six gold shields (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1994, 102-103).
Where did Solomon's Wealth go?
In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. - 1 Kings 14: 25, 26 (
In 1994, an interesting article appeared in Bible and Spade magazine. The author of the article, Kenneth Kitchen, believes that the Shishak invasion into Israel may hold the answer to this puzzling question. When Shishak (Sheshonq) led his campaign against Israel and Judah, after the split of the Northern and Southern kingdoms, he took the riches of Solomon's Temple with him back to Egypt (1 Kings 14: 25, 26). This incursion probably happened around 925 B.C., a year later, Shishak was dead and his son Osorkon I ruled. Less than four years after Solomon's death, Osorkon I dedicated gifts to the god/goddesses of Egypt and this was recorded on a temple pillar in Bubastis, Egypt which is located in the Eastern Nile Delta. mm Recorded on the Bubastis pillar is a list of riches that he has chose to dedicate to the deities and they include 2,300,000 of deben of gold and silver, 383 tons of precious metals coupled with an inscription that reads, "What his majesty gave to the Temple of Aman-re...a standing statue offering incense...its body of beaten gold and silver, amounting to: gold, 183 deben, silver,19,000 deben,…black copper" "gold, lapis...332,000 deben, total, 594,3000 deben." The question that Kitchen cannot help but ask is how could Osorkon I have acquired so much gold in such a short period of time? Kitchen believes that the gold dedicated to the Egyptian deities may have been part of Solomon's great wealth taken by his father Shishak in 925 B.C. (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1994, 108, 109). mm As this paper meticulously shows, there is substantial evidence for Saul, David and Solomon. Unfortunately, there will be those that will say that conservative archaeologists are trying to "prove the Bible through archaeology." The Bible can stand on its own merits as a sound theological, and yes, historical document without anyone's assistance. I do fear that those that deny the archaeological evidence for early Israel are putting themselves and their readership outside of science. The very thing they presume people-of-faith do.
Bibliography (includes source material for Saul and David from original article)
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Millard, Alan. Treasures from Bible Times. Herts, England: Lion Publishing, 1985.
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