The History of Solomon
After David, reigned Solomon his son, which was in the beginning a good man and walked in the ways and laws of God. And all the kings about him made peace with him and was king confirmed, obeyed and peaceable in his possession, and according to his father's commandment did justice. First on Joab that had been prince of his father's host, because he slew two good men by treason and guile, that was Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Ithra. And Joab was afeard and dreaded Solomon, and fled into the Tabernacle of our Lord and held the end of the altar. And Solomon sent Benaiah and slew him there, and after buried him in his house in desert. And after this on a night as he lay in his bed after he had sacrificed to our Lord in Gibeon, our Lord appeared to him in his sleep saying to him: Ask and demand what thou wilt that I may give to thee. And Solomon said: Lord, thou hast done to my father great mercy; because he walked in thy ways in truth, justice, and a rightful heart, thou hast always kept for him thy great mercy, and hast given to him a son sitting upon this throne as it is this day. And now Lord thou hast made me thy servant to reign for my father David. I am a little child and know not my going out and entering in, and I thy servant am set in the middle of the people that thou hast chosen which be infinite, and may not be numbered for multitude; therefore Lord give to me thy servant a heart docile and taught in wisdom that may judge thy people, and discern between good and evil. Who may judge this people, thy people that be so many? This request and demand pleased much unto God that Solomon had asked such a thing. And God said to Solomon: Because thou hast required and asked this and hast not asked long life, ne riches, ne the souls of thine enemies, but hast asked sapience and wisdom to discern doom and judgment, I have given to thee after thy desire and request, and I have given to thee a wise heart and understanding insomuch that there was never none such tofore, ne never after shall be. And also those things that thou hast not asked I have given also to thee, that is to say riches and glory, that no man shall be like to thee among all the kings that shall be after thy days. If thou walk in my ways and keep my precepts and observe my commandments as thy father walked, I shall make thy days long. After this Solomon awoke and came to Jerusalem, and stood tofore the Ark of our Lord and offered sacrifices and victims unto our Lord, and made a great feast unto all his servants and household. Then came tofore him two women, of which that one said: I beseech thee my lord hear me; this woman and I dwelled together in one house, and I was delivered of a child in my cubicle [sleeping room], and the third day after she bare a child, and was also delivered, and we were together and none other in the house but we twain, and it was so that this woman's son was dead in the night; for she sleeping, overlaid and oppressed him, and she arose in the darkest of the night privily, and took my son from the side of me thy servant and laid him by her, and her son that was dead she laid by me. When I arose in the morning for to give milk to my son it appeared dead, whom I took beholding him diligently in the clear light, understood well anon that it was not my son that I had borne. The other woman answered and said: It was not so as thou sayest, but my son liveth and thine is dead. And contrary that other said: Thou liest: my son liveth and thine is dead. Thus in this wise they strove tofore the king. Then the king said: This woman saith my son liveth and thine is dead, and this answereth Nay, but thy son is dead, and mine liveth. Then the king said: Bring to me here a sword. When they had brought forth a sword the king said: Divide ye, said he, the living child in two parts, and give that one half to that one, and that other half to that other. Then said the woman that was mother of the living child to the king, for all her members and bowels were moved upon her son: I beseech and pray thee, my lord, give to her the child alive, and slay him not, and contrary said that other woman: Let it not be given to me ne to thee, but let it be divided. The king then answered and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be slain; this is verily the mother. All Israel heard how wisely the king had given this sentence and dreaded him, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him in deeming of rightful dooms.
After this Solomon sent his messengers to divers kings for cedar trees and for workmen, for to make and build a temple unto our Lord. Solomon was rich and glorious, and all the realms from the river of the ends of the Philistines unto the end of Egypt were accorded with him, and offered to him gifts and to serve him all the days of his life. Solomon had daily for the meat of his household thirty measures, named chores, of corn, and sixty of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen of pasture and an hundred wethers, without venison that was taken, as harts, goats, bubals, and other flying fowls and birds. He obtained all the region that was from Tiphsa unto Azza, and had peace with all the kings of all the realms that were in every part round about him. In that time Israel and Judah dwelled without fear and dread, every each under his vine and fig tree from Dan unto Beersheba.
Solomon had forty thousand racks for the horses of his carts, chariots and cars, and twelve thousand for horses to ride on, by which prefects brought necessary things for the table of King Solomon, with great diligence in their time. God gave to Solomon much wisdom and prudence in his heart, like to the gravel that is in the sea-side, and the sapience and wisdom of Solomon passed and went tofore the sapience of all them of the Orient and of Egypt, and he was the wisest of all men, and so he was named. He spake three thousand parables, and five thousand songs, and disputed upon all manner trees and virtue of them, from the cedar that is in Lebanon unto the hissop that groweth on the wall, and discerned the properties of beasts, fowls, reptiles and fishes, and there came people from all regions of the world for to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
And Solomon sent letters to Hiram, king of Tyre, for to have his men to cut cedar trees with his servants, and he would yield to them their hire and meed, and let him wit how that he would build and edify a temple to our Lord. And Hiram sent to him that he should have all that he desired, and sent to him cedar trees and other wood. And Solomon sent to him corn in great number, and Solomon and Hiram confederated them together in love and friendship. Solomon chose out workmen of all Israel the number of thirty thousand men of whom he sent to Lebanon ten thousand every month, and when ten thousand went the others came home, and so two months were they at home, and Adonias was overseer and commander on them. Solomon had seventy thousand men that did nothing but bear stone and mortar and other things to the edifying of the temple, and were bearers of burdens only, and he had eighty thousand of hewers of stone and masons in the mountain, without the prefects and masters, which were three thousand three hundred that did nothing but command and oversee them that wrought. Solomon commanded the workmen to make square stones, great and precious, for to lay in the foundament, which the masons of Israel and masons of Hiram hewed, and the carpenters made ready the timber.
Then began Solomon the temple to our Lord, in the fourth year of his reign he began to build the temple. The house that he builded had seventy cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and thirty in height, and the porch tofore the temple was twenty cubits long after the measure of the breadth of the temple, and had ten cubits of breadth tofore the face of the temple, and for to write the curiosity and work of the temple, and the necessaries, the tables and cost that was done in gold, silver and latten, it passeth my cunning to express and English them. Ye that be clerks may see it in the Second Book of Kings and the Second Book of Paralipomenon. It is wonder to hear the costs and expenses that was made in that temple, but I pass over. It was on making seven years, and his palace was thirteen years ere it was finished. He made in the temple an altar of pure gold, and a table to set on the loaves of proposition of gold, five candlesticks of gold on the right side and five on the left side, and many other things, and took all the vessels of gold and silver that his father David had sanctified and hallowed, and brought them into the treasury of the house of our Lord. After this he assembled all the noblest and greatest of birth of them of Israel, with the princes of the tribes and dukes of the families, for to bring the Ark of God from the city of David, Sion, into the temple. And the priests and Levites took the Ark and bare it and all the vessels of the sanctuary that were in the tabernacle. King Solomon, with all the multitude of the children that were there, went tofore the Ark and offered sheep and oxen without estimation and number.
And the priests set the Ark in the house of our Lord in the oracle of the temple, in sancta sanctorum, under the wings of cherubim. In the ark was nothing but the two tables of Moses of stone which Moses had put in. And then Solomon blessed our Lord tofore all the people, and thanked him that he had suffered him to make an house unto his name, and besought our Lord that he whosomever prayed our Lord for any petition in that temple, that he of his mercy would hear him and be merciful to him. And our Lord appeared to him when the edifice was accomplished perfectly, and said to Solomon: I have heard thy prayer and thine oration that thou hast prayed tofore me. I have sanctified and hallowed this house that thou hast edified for to put my name therein for evermore, and my eyes and heart shall be thereon always. And if thou walk before me like as thy father walked in the simplicity of heart and in equity, and wilt do all that I have commanded thee, and keep my judgments and laws, I shall set the throne of thy reign upon Israel evermore, like as I have said to thy father David, saying: There shall not be taken away a man of thy generation from the reign and seat of Israel. If ye avert and turn from me, ye and your sons, not following ne keeping my commandments and ceremonies that I have showed tofore you, but go and worship strange gods, and honor them, I shall cast away Israel from the face of the earth that I have given to them, and the temple that I have hallowed to my name, I shall cast it away from my sight. And it shall be a fable and proverb, and thy house an example shall be to all people; every man that shall go thereby shall be abashed and astonied, and shall say: Why hath God done thus to this land and to thy house? And they shall answer: For they have forsaken their Lord God that brought them out of the land of Egypt, and have followed strange gods, and them adored and worshipped, and therefore God hath brought on them all this evil: here may every man take ensample how perilous and dreadful it is to break the commandment of God.
Twenty years after that Solomon had edified the temple of God and his house, and finished it perfectly, Hiram the king of Tyre went for to see towns that Solomon had given to him, and they pleased him not. Hiram had sent to King Solomon an hundred and twenty besants of gold, which he had spent on the temple and his house, and on the wall of Jerusalem and other towns and places that he had made. Solomon was rich and glorious that the fame ran, of his sapience and wisdom and of his building and dispense in his house, through the world, insomuch that the queen of Sheba came from far countries to see him and to tempt him in demands and questions. And she came into Jerusalem with much people and riches, with camels charged with aromatics and gold infinite. And she came and spake to King Solomon all that ever she had in her heart. And Solomon taught her in all that ever she purposed tofore him. She could say nothing but that the king answered to her, there was nothing hid from him. The queen of Sheba then seeing all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had builded, and the meat and service of his table, the habitacles of his servants, the order of the ministers, their clothing and array, his butlers and officers, and the sacrifices that he offered in the house of our Lord, when she saw all these things, she had no spirit to answer, but she said to King Solomon: The word is true that I heard in my land, of thy words and thy wisdom, and I believed not them that told it to me, unto the time that I myself came and have seen it with mine eyes, and I have now well seen and proved that the half was not told to me. Thy sapience is more, and thy works also, than the tidings that I heard. Blessed be thy servants, and blessed be these that stand always tofore thee and hear thy sapience and wisdom, and thy Lord God be blessed whom thou hast pleased, and hath set thee upon the throne of Israel, for so much as God of Israel loveth thee and hath ordained thee a king for to do righteousness and justice. She gave then to the king an hundred and twenty besants of gold, many aromatics, and gems precious. There were never seen tofore so many aromatics ne so sweet odors smelling as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that ever she desired and demanded of him, and after returned into her country and land. The weight of pure gold that was offered every year to Solomon was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, except that that the merchants offered, and all they that sold, and all the kings of Arabia and dukes of that land. Solomon made two hundred shields of the purest gold and set them in the house of Lebanon; he made him also a throne of ivory which was great and was clad with gold, which had six grees or steps, which was richly wrought with two lions of gold holding the seat above, and twelve small lions standing upon the steps, on every each twain, here and there. There was never such a work in no realm. And all the vessels that King Solomon drank of were of gold, and the ceiling of the house of Lebanon in which his shields of gold were in was of the most pure gold. Silver was of no price in the days of King Solomon, for the navy of the king, with the navy of Hiram, went in three years once into Tarsis and brought them thence gold and silver, teeth of elephants and great riches. The King Solomon was magnified above all the kings of the world in riches and wisdom, and all the world desired to see the cheer and visage of Solomon, and to hear his wisdom that God had given to him. Every man brought to him gifts, vessels of gold and silver, clothes and armor for war, aromatics, horses and mules every year. Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen; he had a thousand four hundred chariots and cars, and twelve thousand horsemen, and were lodged in small cities and towns about Jerusalem by the king. There was as great abundance and plenty of gold and silver in those days in Jerusalem as stones or sycamores that grow in the field, and horses were brought to him from Egypt and Chao. What shall I all day write of the riches, glory and magnificence of King Solomon? It was so great that it cannot be expressed, for there was never none like to him, ne never shall none come after him like unto him. He made the book of the parables containing thirty-one chapters, the book of the Canticles, the book of Ecclesiastes, containing twelve chapters, and the book of Sapience containing nineteen chapters. This King Solomon loved overmuch women, and specially strange women of other sects; as King Pharaoh's daughters and many other of the gentiles. He had seven hundred wives which were as queens, and three hundred concubines, and these women turned his heart. For when he was old he so doted and loved them that they made him honor their strange gods, and worshipped Ashtareth, Chemosh and Moloch, idols of Zidonia, of Moabites, and Ammonites, and made to them Tabernacles for to please his wives and concubines, wherefore God was wroth with him, and said to him: Because thou hast not observed my precepts and my commandments that I commanded thee, I shall cut thy kingdom and divide it and give it to thy servant but not in thy day, I shall not do it for love that I had to David thy father; but from the hand of thy son I shall cut it but not all, I shall reserve to him one tribe for David's love, and Jerusalem that I have chosen. And after this divers kings became adversaries to Solomon, and was never in peace after.
It is said, but I find it not in the Bible, that Solomon repented him much of this sin of idolatry and did much penance therefor, for he let him be drawn through Jerusalem and beat himself with rods and scourges, that the blood flowed in the sight of all the people. He reigned upon all Israel in Jerusalem forty years, and died and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Rehoboam his son reigned after him.