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The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, [1876], at

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"Seest thou a man that is diligent in his work? Before kings may he place himself; let him not place himself before obscure men." (Prov. 22: 29.)

In this verse Solomon alludes to himself. He built the holy temple in seven years, while he occupied fourteen years in erecting his palace. Not because his palace was more elegant or more elaborate in its workmanship than was the temple, but because he was diligent in his work to finish God's house, while his own house could await time and opportunity.

Four cases of comparative righteousness between fathers and children may be noted:

First. A righteous man begets a righteous son.

Second. A wicked man begets a wicked son.

Third. A wicked man begets a righteous son.

Fourth. A righteous man begets a wicked son.

To each of these cases we may find a Biblical allusion; to each of them we may apply a parable and a proverb.

In reference to the righteous father and the righteous son, we find the following verse (Psalm 45: 17): "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children." And we may apply the parable of the good fig tree which brought forth luscious fruit.

In reference to the wicked father and the wicked son we have in Numbers 32: 14: "And now behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, a new race of sinful men."

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Ancient is the proverb, "From the wicked proceedeth wickedness;" and applicable, the parable of the serpent bringing forth an asp.

In the third case, the wicked father begets a righteous son, as it is written, "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree." And to this can we apply the parable of the rose budding on the bramble bush.

Lastly, a righteous man has a wicked son, as it is written, "Instead of wheat, thorns come forth." (Job 21: 40.) And we have also the parable of the attractive peach tree which brought forth bitter fruit.

Solomon was a king, the son of a king; the wise son of a wise father; a righteous man's righteous child. All the incidents in David's life, all his characteristics were paralleled in the life of Solomon.

David reigned for forty years, as it is written, "And the days that David governed Israel were forty years."

Of Solomon it is written, "And Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years." David expressed himself by "words," as it is written, "And these are the last words of David."

Solomon likewise expressed himself by "words."

"The words of Koheleth the son of David." (Eccles. 1: 1.)

David said, "All is vanity;" as it is written, "For vanity only do all men make a noise." (Psalm 39: 7.)

Solomon expressed himself with the same word, "vanity."

"Vanity of vanities, saith Koheleth." (Eccles. 1: 2.)

David wrote books, viz.: the five books of Psalms; and Solomon wrote three books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.

David composed songs: "And David spoke unto the Lord the words of this song." (Samuel 22: I.)

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Solomon also composed a song: "The song of songs, which is Solomon's."

He was the wise king alluded to in Proverbs 16: 23, "The heart of the wise maketh his mouth intelligent, and upon his lips increaseth information." Meaning that the heart of the wise is full of knowledge and understanding; but this is shown to the world through the words of his mouth. And, by uttering with his lips the thoughts of his mind (or heart) he increases the information of the people. If a man possessing brilliant diamonds and precious stones, keeps his jewels concealed, no one is aware of their value; but if he allows them to be seen, their worth becomes known, and the pleasure of ownership is enhanced.

Applying this comparison to the case of Solomon, while his wisdom was locked up in his own breast it was of value to no one; but when he had given to the world his three books, men became acquainted with his great abilities. "The words of his lips increased the information of his people," and so great was his reputation that any one in doubt concerning the meaning of a Biblical passage sought the king for an interpretation.

Not only in sacred lore did he raise the standard of education. He had mastered and taught the sciences of Natural Philosophy, Physiology, Botany, Agriculture, Mathematics in all its branches, Astronomy, Chemistry, and in fact all useful studies. He also taught Rhetoric and the rules of Poesy. In alliterative and alphabetical versification he was an adept.

"And in addition to this that Koheleth was wise, he continually taught the people knowledge."

If what others said interested the people, how much more readily did they listen to Solomon; with how much more ease did they comprehend him!

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We may illustrate his method of teaching by the following comparison. There was a basket without ears, filled with fine fruit, but the owner was unable to get it to his home on account of the difficulty in carrying it, until a wise man, seeing the predicament, attached handles to the basket, when it could be carried with great ease.

So did Solomon remove difficulties from the path of the student.

Rabbi Huna further illustrated this same thing. "There was once," he said, "a well of most pure and excellent water; but the well was so deep that the people were not able to reach the water, until a man of wisdom taking a bucket attached to it one rope after another until the whole was long enough to reach to the water. So was it with Solomon's teachings. The Bible is a well of truth, but its teachings are too deep for the understanding of some. Solomon, however, introduced parables and proverbs suited to the comprehension of all, through which means a knowledge of the law became readily obtainable."

Rabbi Simon, the son of Chalafta, related the following parable: "A certain king had an officer to whom he was much attached, and whom he took great delight in honouring. One day he said to this favourite, 'Come, express a wish, anything that I can give thee shall be thine.' Then this officer thought, 'If I ask the king for gold or silver or precious stones, he will give what I ask; even though I desire higher honour and more exalted station he will grant it, yet I will ask him for his daughter, for if he grants that, all the rest will be included.'"

When the Lord appeared to Solomon in Gibon, and said to him in a dream, "What shall I give to thee?" Solomon reflected, "If I ask for gold, silver, or jewels, the Lord will give them to me; I will ask, however, for wisdom; if that

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is granted me, all other good things are included." Therefore, he replied, "Give to thy servant an understanding heart."

Then said the Lord:

"Because thou hast asked for wisdom, and requested not wealth or dominion over thy enemies; by thy life, wisdom and knowledge shall be thine, and through them thou shalt obtain wealth and power."

"And Solomon awoke, and behold it was a dream." He wandered into the fields, and he heard the voices of the animals; the ass brayed, the lion roared, the dog barked, the rooster crowed, and behold he understood what they said, one to the other.

An ox, even after being killed and dressed, may be made to stand, provided the sinews are uncut; but if they are severed, cords are required to hold the body together. While Solomon remained free from sin his prayers were granted him for his own sake, but when he departed from the righteous way, the Lord said to him, "For the sake of David, my servant, I will not take the kingdom from thee in thy lifetime."

Solomon said, "Vanity of vanities; vanity, even as a shadow." A shadow of what nature? The shadow of a tower or a tree remains the shadow for awhile, and then is lost, but the shadow of a bird flieth away, and there is neither bird nor shadow. David said, "Our days are as a passing shadow," and Rabbi Huna said, "Our days pass quickly from us, even as the shadow of a flying bird."

With the word vanity, Solomon expresses seven stages of a man's life.

The infant he compares to a king; riding in his little coach, and being kissed, admired, and praised by all. The child of three or four years he compares to a pig, fond of

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the dirt and soiling itself with its food. The child of ten is fond of dress; the youth adorns himself and seeks a wife; the married man is bold as the dog in seeking a livelihood for himself and family; and the old man he likens to an ape.

"God gave wisdom to Solomon."

When Solomon was about building the temple, he applied to the king of Egypt for men to aid him in the work. Pharaoh, consulting his astrologers, selected those men who were to die within the year. When they arrived at Jerusalem the wise king sent them back at once. With each man he sent a shroud, and directed them to say to their master, "If Egypt is too poor to supply shrouds for her dead, and for that purpose sends them to me, behold here they are, the men and the shrouds together; take them and bury thy dead."

He was wiser than all other men, wiser even than Adam, who gave names to all the animals of the world, and even to himself, saying, "From the dust of the ground I was formed, and therefore shall my name be Adam." Rabbi Tanchum said, "Where is thy wisdom and thy understanding, oh king Solomon? Thy words not only contradict themselves, but also the words of David, thy father. He said, 'Not the dead can praise the Lord' (Psalm 115: 17), and thou didst say, 'Thereupon praised I the dead that are already dead, more than the living who are still alive.' (Eccles. 4 2.) And thou didst also say, 'For a living dog fareth better than a dead lion.'" (Ibid. 9: 4.)

These seeming contradictions, however, may be readily explained. David said, "Not the dead can praise the Lord," meaning that we should study God's law during life, as after its cessation ’twould be impossible. Solomon said, "Thereupon praised I the dead that are already

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dead." When the children of Israel sinned in the wilderness, Moses prayed for them for their own sakes, and his prayer was unanswered; but when he said, "Remember Abraham, and Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants," he met with a prompt reply. Therefore did not Solomon speak well in saying, "Praise the dead that are already dead?" Take another instance. A king may decree laws, but many of his subjects may disregard them. Sometimes these laws, even if earnestly observed during the life of the one who made them, may be repealed or become obsolete after his death. Moses, however, made many stringent laws, which have been observed through all generations. Therefore, Solomon said well, "Thereupon will I praise the dead."

Rabbi Judah, in the name of Rab, further explained this verse. He said, "What is the meaning of the following passage? 'Show me a token for good, that they who hate me may see it and be ashamed.' (Psalm 76:17.) David said to God, after his sin with Bathsheba (Samuel 2), 'Sovereign of the Universe, pardon me for my sin.' The Lord answered, 'I will pardon thee.' Then said David, 'Show me the token in my lifetime,' but God said, 'Not in thy lifetime, but in the lifetime of Solomon, thy son, will I show it.' Thus, when Solomon dedicated the temple, though he prayed with fervent devotion, he was not answered until he said, 'O Lord God, turn not away from the face of thy anointed. Remember the pious deeds of David, thy servant.' (2 Chron. 6:42.) Then he was speedily answered, for in the next verse we read, 'And when Solomon had made an end of praying, a fire came down from Heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house.' Then were the enemies of David put to shame, for all Israel knew that God had pardoned David for his sin. Did

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not Solomon say well then, 'Thereupon praised I the dead?' For this reason, further on in the chapter we read, 'And on the three-and-twentieth day of the seventh month he dismissed the people unto their tents, joyful and glad of heart, because of the good that the Lord had done for David, and for Solomon, and for Israel, His people."

Solomon said, "For a living dog fareth better than a dead lion."

Expounding this verse, Rabbi Judah said, in the name of Rab, "What is the meaning of the verse, 'Let me know, O Lord, my end, and the measure of my days, what it is; I wish to know when I shall cease to be.' (Psalm 39: 5.)

"David said to God, 'Let me know, O Lord, my end.' God answered, 'I have decreed that for each one his end must be veiled in the future.' Then David said, 'What is the measure of my days?' Again God replied, 'No man may know the measure of his days.' 'I wish to know when I shall cease to be,' continued David; and God answered, 'Thou wilt die on a Sabbath.'

"'Let me die the day after,' entreated David, but the Lord answered, 'No; then the kingdom will be Solomon's, and one reign may not take away from another reign even so much as a hair's breadth.' 'Then let me die the day before,' exclaimed David, 'for a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere,' and God said, 'One day spent by thee in studying my law is more acceptable than the thousand burnt offerings thy son Solomon will sacrifice.'

"It was David's custom to pass every Sabbath in the study of the Bible and its precepts, and he was thus engaged upon the Sabbath which was to be his last. Back of the king's palace there was an orchard, and David, hearing a noise therein, walked thither to ascertain its cause. On entering the orchard he fell to the ground, dead.

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"The noise in the orchard had been caused by the barking of the king's dogs, who had not that day received their food. Solomon sent a message to the Rabbinical College, saying, 'My father lies dead in his orchard; is it allowable to remove his body on the Sabbath? The dogs of my father are entreating for their food; is it proper to cut meat for them to-day?' This answer was returned by the college: 'Thy father's body should not be removed to-day, but give meat to the dogs.' Therefore said Solomon, 'A living dog fareth better than a dead lion,' justly comparing the son of Jesse to that king of beasts."

Solomon was the chosen of the Lord, who called him, through the mouth of Nathan, the prophet, Yedidiah (the beloved one). He was called Solomon (peace), because in his days peace reigned, as it is written, "And Judah and Israel dwelt in safety." (Kings 5:5.) He was called Ithiel (God with me) because God was his support.

And when Solomon sat upon the throne of his father David, all the nations of the earth feared him; all the people of the earth listened anxiously for his words of wisdom.

Afterwards he had a throne made especially for himself by Hiram, the son of a widow of Tyre. It was covered with gold of Ophir, set with all kinds of precious and valuable stones. The seat of the throne was approached by six broad steps. The right side of the first step was guarded by an ox made of pure gold, and the left side by a lion of the same metal. On the right of the second step stood a bear also of gold, and upon the left a lamb, symbolical of enemies dwelling in peace together. On the right of the third step was placed a golden camel, and on the left an eagle. On the right of the fourth step there was also an eagle with outspread wings, and on the left a bird of prey,

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all of the same precious metal. On the fifth step to the right a golden cat crouching in position; on the left a chicken. On the right of the sixth step a hawk was fashioned, and on the left side a pigeon, and upon the top of the step a pigeon clutched a hawk in her talons. These animals were designed to typify the time when those of adverse natures shall unite in harmony, as it is written in Isaiah (11: 6), "And the wolf shall then dwell with the sheep."

Over the throne was hung a chandelier of gold with seven branches; it was ornamented with roses, knobs, bowls, and tongs; and on the seven branches the names of the seven patriarchs, Adam, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job, were engraven.

On the second row of the branches of the chandelier were engraven the names of the seven pious ones of the world, Levi, Kehath, Amram, Moses, Aaron, Eldad, and Madad. Above all this hung a golden churn filled with pure olive oil, and on this was engraven the names of Eli, the High Priest, and his two sons, Hophni and Phineas, and on the other side the names of the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu.

On the right hand of the throne two chairs were placed, one for the High Priest, and the other for the Vice-High Priest, and upon the left side, from the top to the ground, seventy-one chairs were stationed as seats for the members of the Sanhedrim.

The throne was made upon wheels, that it could be moved easily wherever the king might desire it to be.

The Lord gave Solomon the power of understanding the nature and properties of the herbs of the field and the trees of the forest, as it is written, "And he spoke concerning the trees, from the cedar tree that is upon the Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He spoke

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also concerning the beasts, and concerning the fowls, and concerning the creeping things, and concerning the fishes." (1 Kings 5: 13.)

It is said that Solomon ruled the whole world, and this verse is quoted as proof of the assertion, "And Solomon was ruling over all the kingdoms, which brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life." (1 Kings 5: 1.)

All the kingdoms congratulated Solomon as the worthy successor of his father, David, whose fame was great among the nations; all save one, the kingdom of Sheba, the capital of which was called Kitore.

To this kingdom Solomon sent a letter:

"From me, King Solomon, peace to thee and to thy government. Let it be known to thee that the Almighty God has made me to reign over the whole world, the kingdoms of the North, the South, the East, and the West. Lo, they have come to me with their congratulations, all save thee alone.

"Come thou also, I pray thee, and submit to my authority, and much honour shall be done thee; but if thou refusest, behold, I shall by force compel thy acknowledgment.

"To thee, Queen Sheba, is addressed this letter in peace from me, King Solomon, the son of David."

Now when Queen Sheba received this letter, she sent in haste for her elders and counsellors to ask their advice as to the nature of her reply.

They spoke but lightly of the message and the one who sent it, but the queen did not regard their words. She sent a vessel, carrying many presents of different metals, minerals, and precious stones, to Solomon. It was after a voyage of two years' time that these presents arrived at Jerusalem, and in a letter intrusted to the captain the queen said. "After

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thou hast received the message then I myself will come to thee." And in two years after this time Queen Sheba arrived at Jerusalem.

When Solomon heard that the queen was coming he sent Benayahu, the son of Yehoyadah, the general of his army, to meet her. When the queen saw him she thought he was the king, and she alighted from her carriage.

Then Benayahu asked, "Why alightest thou from thy carriage?" And she answered, "Art thou not his majesty, the king?"

"No," replied Benayahu, "I am but one of his officers."

Then the queen turned back and said to her ladies in attendance, "If this is but one of the officers, and he is so noble and imposing in appearance, how great must be his superior, the king."

And Benayahu, the son of Yehoyadah, conducted Queen Sheba to the palace of the king.

Solomon prepared to receive his visitor in an apartment laid and lined with glass, and the queen at first was so deceived by the appearance that she imagined the king to be sitting in water.

And when the queen had tested Solomon's wisdom, 1 and witnessed his magnificence, she said:

"I believed not what I heard, but now I have come, and my eyes have seen it all; behold, the half has not been told to me. Happy are thy servants who stand before thee continually to listen to thy words of wisdom. Blessed be the Lord thy God, who hath placed thee on a throne to rule righteously and in justice."

When other kingdoms heard the words of the queen of

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[paragraph continues] Sheba they feared Solomon exceedingly, and he became greater than all the other kings of the earth in wisdom and in wealth.

Solomon was born in the year 2912 A.M., and reigned over Israel forty years. Four hundred and thirty-three years elapsed between the date of Solomon's reign and that of the temple's destruction.


203:1 By means of riddles as related in the Bible.

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