Israel's Paradoxical King: The Characterization of Solomon in 1 Kings 1–11, 2 Chronicles 1–9, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs
This thesis explores the question of how the figure of Solomon is characterized in the Hebrew Bible. This question arises from the observation of divergent depictions of Solomon in the different books. In 1 Kings 1–11, Solomon is depicted in an ambivalent manner where his wisdom can be used positively for the benefit of all Israel and negatively through focusing on the royal court to the neglect of Israel at large. In contrast, Solomon is presented as a model king of cultic fidelity in 2 Chronicles 1–9 in spite of his failures in 1 Kings 1–11. In Proverbs, Solomon is remembered as the paragon of wisdom in Israel but is also presented in Ecclesiastes as a pessimistic king describing the limitations of his wisdom. Furthermore, Solomon is used as the picture of an ideal lover in the Song of Songs, but it is his romantic exploits that lead to him becoming an idolater turning away from YHWH. In light of these observations, the purpose of this thesis is to examine the characterization of Solomon in 1 Kings 1–11, 2 Chronicles 1–9, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. In order to examine this, a communicative theory of interpretation that benefits from a theory of characterization from narrative-criticism will be utilized. This hermeneutical tool will help establish the integrity of individual books as acts of communication and demonstrate how characterization is a literary technique utilized by authors to depict a character to be imagined by readers. The finding of this thesis is that Solomon’s characterization is well beyond a single attribute as a wise king or even a two-fold attribute as wise king and temple builder. Instead, he is a paradoxical and ambiguous figure that integrates positive and negative features emerging both from the individual accounts and from the relation of these accounts to one another. The accounts associated with describing Solomon’s reign or those books that have a poetic association share significant themes, but these themes are reframed and re-interpreted as a part of an enduring legacy. By re-evaluating the depiction of Solomon in individual parts or wholes of books, as well as considering the unique contributions of the individual accounts in relation to one another, this thesis demonstrates that the figure of Solomon generates ever fresh elaborations.