Where does Solomon’s wisdom come from and how does it unfold (
The first book of Kings portrays Solomon as an extraordinarily wise king. At the beginning of Solomon’s reign, God appears to him in a dream and grants him a wish. In his response, Solomon asks for a listening heart to carry out his royal duties, and he receives a wise and understanding mind (
How do other biblical books treat Solomon’s wisdom?
This portrait of the wise king is continued in later biblical books. Second Chronicles retells the stories of 1 Kings, but without the critical aspects. Thus Solomon’s wisdom remains unchallenged. The book of Proverbs echoes the image of Solomon as a teacher of wisdom, attributing to him several collections of sayings (
Together, the images of Solomon in the different biblical books offer a complex portrait of the king: both wise but prone to doubt and error. This provides a rich pool of themes and motifs for later traditions, which pick up and embellished these images. Soon Solomon was credited as the author of a number of noncanonical writings (e.g., Odes of Solomon), which attributed to him the knowledge of animal languages and extended his wisdom into the realm of magic. He was even said to have power over demons (e.g., Testamentum Salomonis).
How do artists draw inspiration from the stories of Solomon’s wisdom?
As the prototype of a wise king, Solomon also lives on in works of art throughout the centuries. He is remembered as a wise judge in numerous artistic representations in public buildings (city halls, courthouses) and churches. His legendary judgment lives on in oratorios as well as in numerous novels and dramas (e.g., the oratoria “Salomo” by Georg F. Händel , or the drama “The Judgement of Solomon” by Royall Tyler ). As a doubting and brooding king, he served poets as a model for a tragic human figure (e.g., Friedrich G. Klopstock, “Salomo” ). And even today, the motif of the wise king who engages in profound conversations with queens can still be found in novels (e.g. Inge Merkel, Sie kam zu König Salomo ; India Edghill, Wisdom’s Daughter: A Novel of Solomon and Sheba ; Jay Williams, Solomon and Sheba: A Novel ).