Tradition has it that King Solomon knew everything there was to know—the mysteries of nature, of love, of God himself—but what do we know of him? Esteemed biblical scholar Steven Weitzman reintroduces readers to Solomon's story and its surprising influence in shaping Western culture, and he also examines what Solomon's life, wisdom, and writings have come to mean for Jews, Christians, and Muslims over the past two thousand years.
Weitzman's Solomon is populated by a colorful cast of ambitious characters—Byzantine emperors, explorers, rabbis, saints, scientists, poets, archaeologists, trial judges, reggae singers, and moviemakers among them—whose common goal is to unearth the truth about Solomon's life and wisdom. Filled with the Solomonic texts of the Bible, along with lesser–known magical texts and other writings, this book challenges both religious and secular assumptions. Even as it seeks to tell the story of ancient Israel's greatest ruler, this insightful book is also a meditation on the Solomonic desire to know all of life's secrets, and on the role of this desire in world history.
Weitzman (Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity) writes in the tradition of critical biblical scholarship with great clat, which makes his latest effort something of a demolition derby. This is illustrated well by the most familiar story told of King Solomon, finding him judging two women who are vying for the same baby, a sword suspended above it. In some versions of the Bible, a second, dead child exists, "accidentally smothered by its mother and scarcely acknowledged after its death." Likewise, recent archaeological research has not only debunked what was thought to be evidence of the king's construction projects, including his Temple, but also his Kingdom, once thought to be vast. This kind of brush clearing opens the way for a tour de force evaluation of Solomon's wisdom both the practical mastery which brought him to political power and the wisdom which God granted him while he slept a trait that the biblical narrative does "not explain or describe...but only shows in action, leaving us awestruck and puzzled," Claims Weitzman. His effort is organized through successive tales Solomon's Kingdom, his Temple, and so on clearly illustrating the many cultures, including Islam, Rome, and medieval Catholicism, that contributed, creating a foundation story for our culture. A thoroughly entertaining treatment of a controversial topic.