The building activity of Solomon (1 Kings 9)

Bilderesultat for casemate wall Hazor

Illustration: Casemate wall at Hazor

Royal inscriptions throughout the ancient Near East attest to the building activities of kings who wished to consolidate their military and political gains. While his father had wielded the sword to secure land from the Philistines, Solomon built an administrative and commercial apparatus  for the young kingdom. Beginning with Jerusalem he authorized the construction both of the temple and of his palace, as well as reinforcing the millo, a term meaning “supporting terraces” (1 Kings 9:15). This may have been an artificial landfill of terraces between the temple mount and the eastern side of Jerusalem.

Most scholars concur that there is archaeological evidence for building activity during the tenth century B.C. at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. 1 Kings 9:15 specifies that Solomon fortified these cities, and evidence indicates that he did so through the use of casemate walls (pictured above), a new defensive structure employing a double wall. The work in these cities made use of ashlar masonry and displayed similar facades, dimensions and designs. The cities also featured six-chambered gates, with three chambers on each side of a gateway. This evidence is of enormous importance for establishing the historicity of Solomon’s reign. Today, some scholars argue that the Biblical account is at best an exaggeration and at worst a complete fiction. The excavation of the cities of 1 Kings 9:15 helps to demonstrate that the age of Solomon was precisely as the Bible describes it.

Whereas Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer lay along a north-south axis through Israel’s northern territory, Lower Beth Horon, Baalath and Tadmor (9:17-18) occupied critical positions along important trade routes within the tribe of Judah. Solomon’s building activity crossed traditional boundaries and signalled his intention both to ensure a consolidated nation and to secure a place in international commerce. His fleet of ships at Ezion Geber, located at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, also enabled the king to expand Israelite trade. Both the Bible and archaeology suggest that Solomon’s reign was a time of great prosperity and significant cultural transition. The nation progressed from being a confederation of shepherds and peasants to becoming a nation-state with international trade and urban centres that transcended traditional tribal boundaries.


 

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