The Old Testament devotes an impressive number of chapters to the rule of Solomon in 1 Kings (chapters 1-11). Of these, however, a full four detail Solomon’s construction of the first building dedicated to Yahweh (1 Kings 5-8).
That done, Solomon busied himself building cities: This is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon conscripted to build the house of [Yahweh] and his own house, the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer…, Lower Beth-horon, Baalath, Tamar in the wilderness, within the land, as well as all of Solomon’s storage cities, the cities for his chariots, the cities for his cavalry, and whatever Solomon desired to build…All the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites…these Solomon conscripted for slave labor…(1 Kings 9:15-21).
This construction boom did not witness to Yahweh: the one odd god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality. In pursuing it Solomon, legendary king of Israel, already showed he had given his heart to the false Olympian gods of power.
Solomon used slave labor to construct his cities. He did this even though Yahweh his god had previously forbidden it: You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 23:9). With the Exodus, Yahweh had revealed himself to be the one odd god who frees in liberating contrast to Jupiter the god who controls and enslaves. Solomon forgot this.
Solomon’s ability to build his cities depended in part on a perverse alliance he made with Pharaoh ruler of Egypt and true worshiper of the Olympian gods. Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt; he took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David…(1 Kings 3:1). Earlier Pharaoh had captured and destroyed Gezer. He gave it to Solomon as part of his daughter’s dowry (1 Kings 9:16). Solomon rebuilt it.
Baal was the Canaanite name for Jupiter. Baalath, the name of a city built by Solomon, was the Canaanite name for Jupiter’s wife Hera. Solomon had a single building constructed for Yahweh but built an entire city in honor of an Olympian god.
In truth, his devotion to the Olympian gods of power knew no bounds. Like Pharaohs of old, Solomon proved his devotion to Jupiter, god of politics, by enslaving tens of thousands. He also did it by giving 20 cities full of Israelites over to the control of Hiram, king of Tyre, in payment for help in constructing the temple and palace in Jerusalem (1 Kings 9:10-11).
He proved his devotion to Mars by amassing chariots (1400) and horses (12,000) (1 Kings 10:26).
He proved his devotion to Vulcan, god of technology, by building cities for these chariots and his cavalry (1 Kings 9:19).
He proved his devotion to Venus, goddess of sex, by accumulating at least 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Worse, these women were from the nations concerning which [Yahweh] had said to the Israelites, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods” (1 Kings 11:2).
He proved his devotion to Pluto, god of money, by hoarding possessions in storage cities built especially for the purpose (1 Kings 9:19).
He proved his devotion to Bacchus, god of consumption, through the lavishness of his lifestyle. When the queen of Sheba saw the way in which Solomon, his officials, and their servants lived at court, plus all the offerings made in the temple, she felt overwhelmed (1 Kings 10:5). Solomon had excess gold hammered into hundreds of decorative shields, layered upon his ivory throne, and made into countless goblets for use at royal meals. Fleets of ships brought still more wealth, including apes and peacocks, into the kingdom (1 Kings 10:22). The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedars as numerous as the sycamores of the Shephelah (1 Kings 10:27).
(Today we continued to follow the reflections of Jacques Ellul in his book The Meaning of the City [pp. 30-33]. Biblical quotes came from the New Revised Standard Version Bible).
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