SOLOMON BEN DAVID came into possession of a united kingdom, a full treasury, and the rule over various conquered districts. It is probable that he did not seek to carry further the military policy of his father, but that he contented himself with developing and enjoying the resources at his command. Between the lines of the narrative which has come down to us we are able to read that his method was that of the average oriental despot. The first impression made by the record is different. Hebrew writers of a later time, themselves oppressed and impoverished, looked back at Solomon's reign as, in more senses than one, a golden age. They were dazzled by the extent of his kingdom (which indeed they imagined to be greater than it really was) and by the amount of his wealth--he made silver in Jerusalem like stones, and cedar timber like the sycomores of the Shephela. This estimate has passed current to our own times.
Whether the statements of the king's wealth and luxury are more or less exaggerated is a minor matter. The point that interests us, and which the narrative sufficiently brings out, is the mistaken statecraft of the ruler whose motto might well have been: The state--I am the state. In this view, a kingdom is the private estate of the monarch, to be exploited for his personal gain, or according to his personal fancy. Heavy taxes were laid upon the tribes,1 and the free Israelites were made to render unpaid service in the forests and the mines. Trade and commerce were indeed fostered, but they were the king's enterprises, whose profits went into his own treasury. That the personal wealth of the king became enormous need not excite our wonder.
The list of Solomon's officers2 shows at once the greater complexity of his establishment as compared with that of David.____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Old Testament History. Contributors: Henry Preserved Smith - Author. Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1925. Page number: 156.
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