Solomon's Wisdom and Justice
Solomon was twelve years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. When the mourning period following his father's death ended, Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to G‑d. While Solomon was in Gibeon, G‑d appeared to him and asked him what he desired. Solomon replied that all he asked was an understanding heart to lead and judge his people. Solomon's request pleased G‑d, since Solomon had not asked for long life, nor for riches, nor for the death of his enemies, but for wisdom to rule his people with justice and understanding. G‑d fulfilled his request and, in addition, assured him riches and honor, if he would continue to cling to the ways of the Torah.
Solomon was now gifted with Divine wisdom, which made him the wisest of all men that had ever lived. Soon an occasion arose which made Solomon's wisdom renowned. Two women appeared before him with a live child and a dead one. Both had given birth at the same time, but one mother, having crushed her infant in her sleep, had exchanged the corpse for the living child of the other. It was impossible to determine who the real mother was, for each claimed the living child as hers. Solomon announced that he was going to cut the child in half so that each one of them might have a share in the child. Hearing this judgement, the true mother begged that the child be spared and given to the other woman, whereas the other woman was prepared to see the child cut in two. Solomon then turned the child over to the compassionate mother. The case became the talk of all the people, and they knew that never had there lived a wiser king on earth.
Solomon's Peaceful Reign
Solomon's reign was the golden era of the Jewish Kingdom. Solomon, "the peaceful one," brought fame and glory to the well-established Jewish empire. Under his rule, the kingdom was singularly powerful and prosperous. It comprised all the territories from the river of Egypt, eastward and northward up to the Euphrates. It was disturbed neither by harassing warfare nor by internal feud. It was acknowledged and respected by neighboring kings and chieftains who sought the monarch's favor by presents and homage. Egypt supplied Solomon with horses, till then a very rare luxury in Palestine. From Arabia the caravans came laden with balms and spices for the royal palace. Ships sailed westward to the seaport Tarshish or they ventured to the coast of Ophir, which yielded treasures of gold and silver.
Solomon's own royal state in Jerusalem was of unequaled splendor. Twelve officers were in charge of supplying provisions, each of them for one month in the year. The royal stables numbered forty thousand horses and twelve thousand horsemen, and a large number of men were appointed to supply the necessary food. The vast army was commanded by the vigilant Benaiah. Zadok and Abiathar were the chief priests of the Sanctuary.