Solomon, the King of Israel, the son of David and Bathsheba, ascended the throne of his kingdom 2989 years after the creation of the world, and 1015 years before the Christian era. He was they only twenty years of age, but the youthful monarch is said to have commenced his reign with the decision of a legal question of some difficulty, in which he exhibited the first promise of that wise judgment for which he was ever afterward distinguished.
The most important accomplishment of Solomon's reign was the erection of a Temple to honor the Lord God Jehovah. Prior to his death, King David had numbered the workmen whom he found in his kingdom, had appointed the overseers of the work, the hewers of stones, and the bearers of burdens; had prepared a great quantity of brass, iron, and cedar; and had amassed an immense treasure with which to support the enterprise. But on consulting with the prophet Nathan, David learned from the holy man, that although his pious intent was pleasing to God, David would not be permitted to build the Temple as he had "shed blood abundantly." The task was reserved for the more peaceful Solomon, his son and successor.
Hence, when David was about to die, he charged Solomon to build the Temple of God as soon as he should have received the kingdom. He also gave him directions in relation to the construction of the edifice, and put into his possession the money, amounting to ten thousand talents of gold and ten times that amount of silver, which he had collected and laid aside for defraying the expense. In today's dollars, it was approximately $4 billion dollars.
Solomon had scarcely ascended the throne of Israel, when he prepared to carry into execution the pious designs of King David. For this purpose, however, he found it necessary to seek the assistance of Hiram, King of Tyre, the ancient friend and ally of his father. The Tyrians and Sidonians, the subjects of Hiram, had long been distinguished for their great architectural skill; and, in fact, many of them, as members of a mystic operative society, the fraternity of Dionysian artificers, had long monopolized the profession of building in Asia Minor. The Jews, on the other hand, were rather more eminent for their military valor than for their knowledge of the arts of peace, and hence King Solomon at once realized the necessity of invoking the aid of these foreign architects if he expected to complete the edifice he was about to erect, either in a reasonable time or with the splendor and magnificence appropriate to the sacred object for which it was intended. He, therefore, contacted Hiram, King of Type, to implore his aid and assistance.
King Hiram, mindful of the former amity and alliance that had existed between himself and Davide, was disposed to extend the friendship he had felt for the father to the son, and provided the workmen, guidance, and assistance requested by Solomon.
King Hiram lost no time in fulfilling the promise of assistance which he had thus given. Accordingly, we are informed that Solomon received 33,600 workmen from Tyre, besides a sufficient quantity of timber and stone to construct his Temple. Hiram also sent him a far more important gift than either men or materials in the person of an able architect, "a curious and cunning workman," whose skill and experience were to be exercised in superintending the labors of the craft, and in adorning and beautifying the Temple. His name was Hiram Abif.
King Solomon commenced the erection of the Temple on Monday, the second day of the Hebrew month Zif, which is the 22nd of April on our calendar, and 1012 years before the Christian era. King Solomon, King Hiram and Hiram Abif constituted the three Grand Masters of the Craft.
To Hiram Abif was entrusted the general superintendence of the building, while subordinate stations were assigned to other eminent artists, whose names and offices have been handed down in the traditions of the Order.
The Temple was at length finished in the month of Bul, our November, in the year of the world 3,000, being seven and one-half years from its commencement.
As soon as the magnificent edifice was completed, and fit for the sacred purposes for which it was intended, King Solomon directed that the Ark of the Covenant be brought up out of Zion where it had been deposited by King David. It would be placed in the special part of the Temple prepared just for that purpose.
Here the immediate and personal connection of King Solomon to the Craft begins to draw to a conclusion. That King Solomon was the wisest monarch that ruled Israel is the unanimous opinion of posterity.
So much was he beyond the age in which he flourished, in the attainments of science, that both ancient Jewish and Arabic writers have attributed to him a thorough knowledge of the secrets of magic. This, of course, is pure fallacy. He did, however, give us in his Proverbs an insight to a deeply religious philosopher, while the long peace and prosperous condition of his empire for the greater part of his reign, the increase of his kingdom in both wealth and refinement, and the encouragement he gave to the architecture, the mechanical arts, and commerce, testify to his profound abilities as a sovereign and a statesman.
After a reign of forty years, he died, and with him expired forever the glory and the power of the Hebrew empire.