Richard H. Ryder, 2017
All Masons hold Solomon’s Temple in high esteem, for the perfection of this edifice symbolizes the internal edifice we all hope to perfect within us. But what do we know about Solomon, this fallible, historical, and biblical figure who built a temple to God?
Some records indicate Solomon lived about 60 years, reining as King of the United Monarchy of Israel from 970 – 931 BC. The son of David and Bathsheba, Solomon was Israel’s third king. David selected Solomon over his older brother, Adonijah, whom Solomon executed, believing him to be a political threat; hardly the expected action of one whose name derives from the Hebrew word ‘shalom’ or peace.
We learn in the Old Testament that God offered Solomon anything, but rather than wealth, respect or good health Solomon chose wisdom to carry out his God given responsibilities. He authored Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, as well as several proverbs and psalms. However, Solomon disobeyed God by living a life of sin. He sealed many foreign agreements by marrying pagan women, allowed his wives to affect his loyalty to God, excessively taxed his people, and drafted his people into a labor and military force.
Marrying the Pharaoh’s daughter (name unknown) in order to seal a pact with Egypt was one of many questionable actions. She was the first of hundreds of wives married for political reasons. Though an effective leader he let his personal life over shadow his successes, thus diminishing his gift of wisdom. It was not until late in his life that he began to repent his sins.
As a business leader Solomon leveraged the commercial aspects of sea transportation and copper. He leveraged the weakness of his neighbors, Assyria and Egypt, and to make up for a trade balance deficit with Hiram, King of Tyre, Solomon ceded him 20 towns in Galilee.
It was with Hiram that Solomon had his biggest achievement, the building of the temple to the most high God, fulfilling his father’s promise to do the same. This was not the first structure associated with Solomon, given he built vast defense structures, public works, and the Porch of Pillars. But it was by far the grandest, eclipsing all other shrines in the land and used more continuously than any other structure of worship, until it was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians.
Like all men, Solomon was not perfect. He was given a gift by God, but tarnished his wisdom through his actions. Best known to Masons as the builder of The Temple, the perfection of that building serves as a symbolic reminder of the elusive internal perfection we all seek.