Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber
Solomon, as we have seen, was very anxious to secure the most precious materials for the building of the temple. He therefore made an agreement with Hiram, King of Tyre, who promised to furnish him huge timbers from the big cedar trees which grew on Mount Lebanon.
These logs were cut and made ready for their future purpose on the spot where they grew, and were then carried to Jerusalem. The stonecutters, in the meanwhile, had got huge blocks of stone ready for the walls and foundations; and workers in iron, brass, silver, and gold were busy day after day, preparing all that was necessary for the adornment of the costliest edifice that has ever been seen.
We are told that no less than one hundred and eighty thousand men were employed in this work, and the preparation of the material was so complete that no sound of ax or hammer was heard about the building, during the whole seven and a half years needed to finish it.
Solomon, with Hiram his architect, watched this great edifice slowly rise. It was completed one thousand and five years before Christ, and probably cost more than five billion dollars.
The temple which Solomon thus built had a porch supported by Hiramís masterpieces, two great brazen pillars. Then came the Holy Place, where stood the altars for incense, the table for the shew-bread, and the seven branched golden candlestick; and in the courts were the altar of burnt offering, and a great brazen laver which was called the Sea of Brass. A third enclosure, the Holy of Holies, glittered with gold and precious stones, and within it stood the Ark of the Covenant.
The grandest religious ceremony described in the Old Testament is the dedication of this new temple, which took place at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the greatest Jewish festivals. People came to Jerusalem from all directions to see it, and although the Promised Land was a small country, no less than five million persons were present at this great ceremony, where God sent down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice.
Not content with the building of this temple, Solomon also constructed a palace large enough to shelter him, his court, and his seven hundred wives and attendants. The architect Hiram finished it in thirteen years, and hung it around with golden shields which were used for the kingís bodyguard.
Within this palace was the great cedar-wood Judgment Hall, where Solomon sat on a marvelous throne of gold and ivory. It was here that he received the Queen of Sheba, who came from afar to visit him, and to find out whether all the tales she had heard of his wealth, power, and wisdom were quite true.
The Queen of Sheba brought Solomon princely gifts, and soon made sure that none of the stories about his wealth and power were exaggerations. Then she satisfied herself about his wisdom by asking him some problems and riddles, which he solved with the greatest ease.
To please his Egyptian wife, Solomon built a second palace, in the mountains, where he and his court spent the warm summer months. But even his royal income of thirty million dollars was not enough to keep up all this magnificence, and to obtain more money Solomon soon had recourse to taxes, which caused the people much suffering, and which in time made them hate him.
As the Israelites could not raise money enough to supply their needs and pay these heavy taxes, they little by little neglected their farming and cattle raising, and began to engage in trade to get larger profits.
Thus they soon came into close contact with many men of different nations, and they learned from them to worship idols, such as were seen in the Syrian and Phoenician temples. Little by little, they thus forgot the Lord their God, who had released them from slavery in Egypt, had given them the Promised Land, and had blessed them with all the prosperity which they now enjoyed.